Hey, Barbecutie

Posts Tagged ‘storytime

small things ghosts

Having somehow managed to survive a hectic year that revolved mostly around a hospital stay and various other levels of madness, this blog has been neglected in a way that so many blogs have been before. Life and writing and existance in general have been put to one side as I tried to get myself back in one piece. But there are two achievements that make everything seem very lovely indeed. I’m very happy to have pieces published in two rather wonderful titles.

Firstly, I have a story featured in the fabulous charity collection All The Small Things, with an international group of writers presenting diverse tales of childhood in aid of Right To Play UK, an organisation which uses the transformative power of sport and play to teach valuable life lessons to children facing poverty, conflict and disease with the delightful aim of “bulldozing the world with a bit of love”. Many thanks to Pia Hansen, Obi Iheme and the rest of the team for involving me in this project. The book is a real treat, and it’s an honour to be included with such talented storytellers for such a great cause.

Secondly, after 2011’s wordPLAY presents A Flock Of Poets as part of the gorgeous Ghost of Gone Birds exhibition, Bloomsbury very wisely preserved the beautiful artwork by Ralph Steadman, Sir Peter Blake and Billy Childish among so many, many others in a wonderful coffee table book. I was thrilled to hear that some of the pieces written for the event would be published alongside the artwork, including my piece “The Last Free Bird In England”. In addition, there is a photograph of me mid-flow, looking like a goddamn human monster (beware of those plosive consonant, spoken worders…). I’m thrilled that our work could be included in the printed record of Ghost of Gone Birds’ fantastic project, and big thanks to the perfect Rebecca Fenton for too many things to list.

As a mere scribbler who chokes when referring to myself as a “writer”, it is a genuine, stomach-twirling delight to have my works not only published, but in books with ISBNs and available for purchase on Amazon. It probably seems like nothing to non-writers, and something totally minor to actual writers, but for someone in my position, I can barely express the excitement. I appreciate that luck often has more to do with such things then talent, and in that case, I’m the luckiest person in the world. Happy new year, team.

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Our friends at wordPLAY have done it again. As part of the Poetry Parnassus, a week of international rhyming goodness, wordPLAY will be hosting 7 of the most exciting and unique poets and spoken word artists from the Pacific islands (all 10,000 of them). The diverse line-up features artists from the Cook Islands, Guam, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga and I shall be giddly swinging my legs in the audience to hear them all.

The magnificent featured performers are:

Tusiata Avia

Audrey Brown-Pereira

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

Selina Tusitala Marsh

Karlo Mila

Craig Santos Perez

Teresia Teaiwa

wordPLAY London presents Pacifica
White Room, Southbank Centre
London
Thurs 28th June, 7pm
Hosted by Ms wordPLAY
Free Entry

Royal Tenenbaum bought the house on Archer Avenue in the winter of his 35th year. Over the next decade he and his wife had three children and then they separated. They were never legally divorced.

Etheline Tenenbaum kept the house and raised the children and their education was her highest priority. She wrote a book on the subject.

Chas Tenenbaum had, since elementary school, taken most of his meals in his room standing up at his desk with a cup of coffee to save time. In the sixth grade, he went into business breeding Dalmatian mice which he sold to a pet shop in Little Tokyo. He started buying real estate in his early teens and seemed to have an almost preternatural understanding of international finance. He negotiated the purchase of his father’s summer house on Eagle’s Island. The BB was still lodged between two knuckles in Chas’ left hand.

Margot Tenenbaum was adopted at age two. Her father had always noted this when introducing her. She was a playwright, and won a Braverman Grant of fifty thousand dollars in the ninth grade. She and her brother Richie ran away from home one winter and camped out in the African wing of the public archives. They shared a sleeping bag and survived on crackers and root beer. Four years later Margot disappeared alone for two weeks and came back with half a finger missing.

Richie Tenenbaum had been a champion tennis player since the third grade. He turned pro at seventeen and won the U. S. Nationals three years in a row. He kept a studio in the corner of the ballroom but had failed to develop as a painter. On weekends Royal took him on outings around the city. These invitations were never extended to anyone else.

Richie’s best friend, Eli Cash, lived with his aunt in the building across the street. He was a regular fixture at family gatherings, holidays, mornings before school, and most afternoons.

The three Tenenbaum children performed Margot’s first play on the night of her eleventh birthday. They had agreed to invite their father to the party. He had not been invited to any of their parties since. In fact, virtually all memory of the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums had been erased by two decades of betrayal, failure, and disaster.

I can only aspire to write something as lovely as the opening narration from the Royal Tenenbaums.

A winter chill whipped through the castle. Bing, tired of the day, tired of the unstoppable march of time and how festive revelry reminded him of it, resolved to head to the nest in the cellar where he made his bed. The ornate decorations made him feel ill, garish colours mocking him. As he entered the hallway, the doorbell rang. Bing paused as he contemplated ignoring the disturbance, but curiosity provoked him. He opened the door to a waif, sickly in pallor, inadequately dressed against the harsh winds.

‘Hello. You the new butler?’ the stranger asked, stepping inside, his arms tightly crossed to preserve heat. He glanced quickly at the surroundings, all old money and tacky artefacts. Bing stood out awkwardly amongst it, a different type of antique. More at home at the golf course, the stranger thought.

Bing laughed politely, unnerved by the sudden intrusion. ‘Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve been the new anything.’

The stranger tore off his scarf, his body suddenly molten now that he was indoors. Old people’s houses were always so warm. ‘What happened to Hudson?’ he asked, testing Bing’s mettle. He was eager to prolong his stay.

‘I guess he’s changing,’ Bing replied, trying to sound confident.

‘Yeah, he does that a lot, doesn’t he?’ the stranger said. Just as he suspected. The old man was as much a vagrant as he was. He’d be damned if Bing hadn’t snuck in through some rusting grate round the back. Stepping further into the old house, he introduced himself. ‘I’m David Bowie, I live down the road.’ He allowed himself a secret smile. It was almost true. The old man seemed to believe him at least. ‘Sir Percival lets me use his piano if he’s not around,’ he continued, weaving his web, ‘he’s not around, is he?’

‘I can honestly say I haven’t seen him,’ Bing said, suspicious of his visitor’s claims. Bing himself had lived life hard on the circuit, and knew by the teeth and the nervous stance that this poor bastard was in dire straits. ‘But come on in,’ he insisted, ‘come in!’

Bowie was hesitant, but the home comforts were too alluring. He could easily take the old man if he needed to, he supposed. Together they edged past the crudely decorated Christmas tree, stepping on the tinsel as it dripped to the floor, neither certain of where the piano rested, neither able to admit it.

The silence made Bowie anxious. Perhaps there were other old tramps about the castle, ready to strike. He kept his head down, trying to fill the silence. ‘Are you related to Sir Percival?’ he asked. Bowie hoped that by keeping the pressure on the old man’s story, he would be subdued.

‘Well, distantly,’ Bing said, trying not to be drawn. As time went on, he found it more difficult to keep track of stories. It wouldn’t be safe to be caught in a lie.

Awkwardly the pair leant on the piano, unsure of how to proceed. Bowie’s toes were soggy, defrosting from the snowy streets. He fought to resist his paranoia. He was not there to face some mad old geezer, Bowie told himself, but to escape the weather. ‘You’re not the poor relation from America, right?’ he said, his words jumbled, but hoping the old man would participate in the tale.

Bing had been studying the vase of flowers, trying to think up a believable background. Hearing Bowie’s question, he laughed, relieved to receive a lifeline. ‘Gee, news sure travels fast, doesn’t it? I’m Bing.’

They shook hands, feeling the goodwill of the season.

‘Oh, I’m pleased to meet you,’ Bowie said, almost sincere. Looking back to the piano, he added, ‘You’re the one that sings, right?’

‘Well, right or wrong, I sing either way.’

Bowie smiled. ‘Oh well, I sing too.’

‘Oh good! What kind of singing?’ Bing kept a steady demeanour, but was confused by the conversation’s path.

‘Mostly the contemporary stuff,’ Bowie replied, hoping the old man wasn’t up to date. ‘Do you, uh, do you like modern music?’

Bing inhaled sharply. If he deflected enquiries, he would be safe. ‘Oh, I think it’s marvellous! Some of it really fine. But tell me, you ever listen to any of the older fellows?’

Bowie relaxed, noting the old man’s vagueness. ‘Oh yeah, sure,’ he teased, ‘I like, uh, John Lennon and the other one with uh…Harry Nilsson.’

‘You go back that far, huh?’

‘Yeah, I’m not as young as I look,’ Bowie said, pleased that Bing’s retorts were sharp. It had been a while since he had engaged in conversation not relating to alms or criminality. It made him feel close to human again. Almost alive.

‘None of us is these days,’ Bing said, laughing in that gentle manner once more, belying his sadness.

A pall of melancholy befell the pair. Bowie’s eyes glazed. ‘In fact, I’ve got a six year old son,’ he began, feeling able to confide to this empty old man in this empty old house, ‘and he really gets excited around the Christmas holiday thing.’

‘Do you go in for anything of the traditional things in the Bowie household, Christmas time?’

Bowie walked behind him towards the keyboard, concentrating on the sheet music as he choked down regrets. ‘Oh yeah, most of them really,’ he said, pausing to clear his head. ‘Presents, tree, decorations, agents sliding down the chimney…’

‘What?’ Bing asked.

‘Oh, I was just seeing if you were paying attention.’

Bing laughed again. Smug bastard, he thought.

‘Actually, our family do most of the things that other families do,’ Bowie said, his lies interweaving with his dreams. ‘We sing the same songs.’

‘Do you?’

‘Oh, I even have a go at White Christmas,’ Bowie explained, his fractured memory struggling to find a more traditional carol.

‘You do, eh?’ Bing said, willing to let the young man have his moment.

‘And this one,’ Bowie continued, tapping one of the manuscripts, ‘this is my son’s favourite. Do you know this one?’

Bing smiled. There was something about seeing his own isolation reflected back in Bowie’s strange delusions that made him feel kind, almost fatherly. He had not been so different at Bowie’s age. So many mistakes. ‘Oh, I do indeed, it’s a lovely theme,’ he said.

Bowie leant down to the keyboard, pretending to play a few notes as an instrumental chimed from the radio in another room. Bing watched, filled with pity. Bowie moved away, and the radio’s song played on. The two men stood side by side, mimicking each other’s position, resting on the piano with one arm, the other bent at the elbow, so they were almost but not quite touching. The music filled the room, overwhelming the howling winds outside, washing away each man’s loneliness and selfish intent. Separately they were swept up in the melody, lost in reverie, seeing past moments unfurl before them, not observing with regret but with understanding, all but forgetting a stranger stood next to them. Together, they began to sing, not for each other, or for an audience, but for themselves, a song to remind them that unity was possible, that mankind could still extend a kindness to lost men on cold days. A song that said two men alone are at least alone together.


The best part is Beau Brummell at the side there

Good night looters, and commuters,
and watchful nerds on your computers,
soon the embers start to fade
on your rambunctious cavalcade.
The crow bar man with balaclava,
the officer faced with the palaver,
Count you softly each cracked head
as you drift sweetly to your bed.
Think us all what we have proved,
how this has solved each fraying feud.
The sun is forced down by the night
but still this town will stay alight.

Today is Tuesday, when our beloved wordPLAY returns to the whiskey-soaked wonderment of the Good Ship for more wordsmithery, creation, larks and literary spectacle. Doors open at 7pm, show starts at 8pm, it’s £3 in and all proceeds go to Cancer Research UK. And the line-up is mind-bogglingly amazing. We worked very hard on it, and it has been really wonderful getting the opportunity to help organise another event. It would be really, really lovely to see you all there if possible. And afterwards I’ll lead you, Pied Piper-style, to the best chip shop in London.

Two bits of excellent news:
Firstly, the wonderful team at Storm In A Teacup have released issue 2 of their titular zine, once again featuring alternative female artists and writers dealing with female-positive topics and creating delightful things. I am extremely pleased to say that I have a story featured amongst the illustrious company, and even moreso that Bex Massey has created an illustration to accompany my piece. One of the most wonderful things is to have done something that inspires another person to make art, so I’m very excited and humbled. The zine also has a cocktail recipe, so you know you want to get some of that. It’s available from all good zine fairs and by e-mailing storminateacupzine@gmail.com. Big thanks to Elizabeth Martin.

Secondly, wordPLAY is making its triumphant return to the Good Ship in Kilburn on 15th March in aid of Cancer Research UK. We have pulled together a splendiferous array of writers and performers to say words at you until your head explodes with joy and also hydrogen. It’s a line-up so deliriously awesometacular that we aren’t even having music this time around. And it’s hosted by me, and you know how you love to hear me say things in that silly accent of mine, as well as the much more capable and coherent Nancy Clarik with moral support and gentle guidence of the beauteous Becca. So do come and support our charity, and you will be rewarded with an evening of unequable literary lyricism from a group of massively talented peoples:

Booker-longlisted, pioneer of the New Puritans, and thoroughly excellent fellow MATT THORNE

Wickedly wonderful poetry from Carol Ohemaa

and our spectactular guest stars
Liz Adams

Sam Buchan-Watts

Sophie Buchan

Jack Kelly

Leslie Tetteh

then don’t forget to poke me in the face and tell me you love me for letting you know all about the art that’s running wild in the world.