David Green

David Green (Books) is the imprint under which I publish booklets of my own poems, when there are sufficient of them. Apart from that, the website has become what it is. I hope you find at least some of it worthwhile.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Sarah Waters - The Paying Guests

Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests (Virago)

I made the mistake of looking at the acknowledgements in the back of this book when only half way through it and that gave away some, at least, of what was going to happen. It's a tremendous novel and I recommend you read it but, if you intend to, then it might be best not to read on from here because it will be hard not to give some essential details away if I'm going to say anything very much at all, so
SPOILER ALERT- Don't read any further unless you don't mind having most of the story revealed.

It didn't spoil the book completely to be made aware that much of the research for it involved reading books on famous 1920's murder trials but, as the novel moves through its slowly unfolding first half, you might not want to know that.
Frances Wray and her mother have been left in precarious financial circumstances by the death of her father and his ill-considered investments and let out half of their house to a married couple as 'paying guests'. There is much of the 'shabby gentility' found in Maupassant in their reduced situation, the nuances of diminished social status and their small, ordinary life. When Leonard and Lilian move in as tenants, Frances is very aware of their intimate nearness, the sounds of their domestic arrangements and there are regular awkward meetings as the lodgers need to pass through the main kitchen to go to the outdoor lavatory. Leonard is immediately just a little bit too forthcoming but Frances and Lilian gradually become friends and then, well, it is a Sarah Waters novel, isn't it.
Ms. Waters has meticulously built in telling detail for the purposes of both for plot and characterisation. It had occurred to me that the attack on Leonard might have been as a result of womanising but it lies dormant for a long time before becoming relevant. Once the crisis point has been reached, it develops with beautifully handled minor shifts and moments that lead onwards to an increasingly complex situation. Eventually, it hardly matters that one knew there was going to be a murder because it could go in a number of directions at any given point and if you think Lilian is going to hang by the end of it then you're still not going to be completely sure at the end.
Just for a while in the middle, one might think one is stuck in the sort of genre novel presumably explored in such books as The Feminine Middlebrow Novel, 1920s to 1950s: Class, Domesticity and Bohemianism which this book is probably homage to but the complexity and possibilities of the case are gripping and the book is an obvious television drama in waiting.
But atmospheric and all period detail as an adaptation would be, it would never satisfactorily reproduce some of Sarah Waters' best passages here, the capturing of Frances' mood when she sees through the veneer of glamour that she had admired in Lilian,
There they all were, the silk forget-me-nots, the slips of paper with the kisses and the hearts: they looked childish, grotesque.
For nearly the last 100 pages, Frances is caught between the rapturous affair she has carried on in secret with Lilian and a new found disgust. She is driven to an emotional limit not only by this ambivalence but so many near misses when minute but telling pieces of evidence are so close to surfacing in the prsence of policemen or, almost as fearfully, her mother.
It is 1922 and so the effects of World War 1 on social conditions are still very pertinent, the character of Spencer Ward, who comes dangerously close to hanging for the murder, mainly on the evidence of his background is for me a brilliantly executed piece of stereotyping, as is much of the working class portraiture, all really a bit beneath Frances in manner but no longer ostensibly in financial terms. And it ends on a precious, delicate moment in which there is still boundless potential.
I have enjoyed the Sarah Waters books I've read previously but not anywhere near as much as I enjoyed this one, which I was glad to get back to whenever I could.

The Saturday Nap

Not the most adventurous selection ever published but Silviniaco Conti (Wetherby 3.15), arguably the best 3 mile chaser in training, has to be this weekend's main investment.
He was probably found out by the hill and the extended 3m 2f of an unsatisfactory Gold Cup but this track is flat and the distance is that crucial bit less. He can win first time out and has won this Charlie Hall Chase before.
Taquin du Seuil will surely improve for his first run, which was nowhere near good enough but 11/10 Silvianiaco as he takes the road to Kempton's King George looks fair enough.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

View from the Boundary

Increased traffic over the last few days at this website has been due to readers arriving from a Facebook address to see the review of Roddy Lumsden's recent book. While the device on my computer allows me that much, it doesn't say from whose Facebook they come.
I have found the review re-twittered on a Tweeting page but that isn't Facebook, is it. I'm afraid my Technical Dept is off sick at the moment and so I can't ask him.
I'd like to know mainly in order to see how it is introduced. It might say, OMG, Look at this. This bloke couldn't review his own gas bill or it might warm to my generous sentiments and endorse them. In either case, I'd probably just explain that such things are often written through a gathering haze of gin-flavoured guesswork and I sometimes have to go back a few days later and see what I wrote.
And so it is that I really don't envy the professional poet who has to show up and withstand the scrutiny of audiences at regular intervals, or the academic who presents papers on arcane topics for the meticulous botherings of their peers. I mean, why would you.
Whereas it really doesn't matter what I think and regular readers come here of their own free will, I hope, and know they can take it or leave it. There is much comfort to be had in taking a view from the boundary and not being out there in the middle.
--
But the gin haze has abated since my birthday 11 days ago. I readily saw off a bottle of tequila by two falls and a submission before washing it down with white wine. But there is really no need of that. I'm sure it isn't doing one as much good as it feels like. It has been a great help to have Sarah Waters' novel to concentrate on and now Don Paterson's book on Michael Donaghy is here. Both are tremendous in their different ways and I am looking forward to explaining why here soon.
--
Calliope, the Portsmouth Poetry Society booklet, went into a second print run and it is good to think of those poems being dispersed across various counties, and perhaps even to other countries. I'm very pleased with it and my part in it and if I didn't agree that pride was a sin, I would perhaps treat myself to being quite proud of it. There is great satisfaction to be had in plans being seen through successfully and I only wish it happened more often. Not poetry booklets, plans. I have actually seen enough of doing poetry booklets for a while.
--
At work this week I was asked how to spell 'separate'. I'm not sure it was me that was being asked but, as chief scribe there, I volunteered the answer. And then, of course, googled it to make sure. And there I found that it is the most commonly mis-spelt word in the English language. And so here is an idea for a poem. Let's see if we can find the 10, or 12, most commonly mis-spelt words in the English language and make a poem out of them, spelling them all correctly, of course.
I'll let you know.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Never (again)

Retrieving a failed poem is never easy and sometimes just not on. I am persevering with Never, however, and have even edited one of the photographs to make it look like night or, more accurately a daytime photo with the exposure adjusted.
I liked 'on the brink of no world at all' but then realized that 'brink' was in another quite recent poem and one can't be using the same words all the time.



Never
 
Possibly because of the churchyard’s remote location watchmen were employed to guard the churchyard and prevent the digging up and selling of the bodies of recently buried parishioners.
The Church of  St Thomas à Becket, Warblington  

The darkness is hypnotic. Every night
gathers desolate sounds one might not hear
that might be something in the trees or yet

could be the soft push of the resentful
spademan’s spade into soil. Without lanterns
on moonless nights, so that their distended 

shadows are not thrown across impassive
headstones, they arrive among the remnants
of silence, perhaps by water with hushed

oarstrokes or comic, hissed admonishments.
It is the freshest flesh they come for, still
young and beautiful sometimes and haunted 

by its recent life. They curse and are cursed
by their line of work, the economics
of supply and demand that turn into 

hallucinations on the edge of no
world at all, the other side of never
and memories of murder  in their eyes.

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Saturday Nap

One bet you could pencil into your diary from the start of the year might be the O'Brien horse in the Racing Post Trophy and so that is where I went to look first and apparently Jacobean could be anything. Very much the sort of thing I like but the odds are giving more credence to Elm Park's form in the book than mere potential. I'll back Jacobean if I'm not broke by 3.50, though.
There is plenty of jump racing interest at Aintree and Chepstow, however, and the Persian War at Chepstow is probably the best novice hurdle so far this season, as it is ever likely to be. Likewise, I'm not getting involved in that unless I'm ahead already, though, as Son du Berlais appears to be the message at the moment but there is more than one in there to put up against it.
Uxizandre (Aintree 3.00) is tempting at 7/2 currently and the main thing putting me off at present is that Paddy was offering 3/1 earlier and following other people's money is one of my main indicators. Mind you, Module is one I like the look of and it also looks like a race with some of those likely looking 10 and 12/1 shots in it and so I can't go there.
Richard Johnson goes to Aintree for Philip Hobbs and you would think he would have a winner. That might be Horizontal Speed but on hurdles form one might not want to oppose Timesremembered.  You can see how nervous the opposition is making me. Your usual newspaper pundit writes up a number of selections as if defeat is out of the question but, then, they are industry insiders and are unlikely to tell their readers if they actually know anything. It might be an idea to combine all the horses I'm worried about in a yankee and be quids in.
But I'll take Johnson, for Hobbs, on Garde La Victoire (Aintree 2.00) so that we know our fate early and, if we do win, there will remain plenty of opportunities to give our winnings back. This is not the most flattering photo one could have as he appears to have hit the top of the hurdle but stable in form, take it up a little way out, run the finish out of the others. Home and hosed, 3/1. Pay, pay.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Danny Baker - Going Off Alarming

Danny Baker, Going Off Alarming (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

The difficult second album sounds like the first one but you just somehow know it isn't quite as good. It's not just that the style is now familiar or the shock of the new has worn off, you know that if they had been releaed the other way round, you would have noticed an improvement.
It is still great stuff, though. Whereas Stephen Fry is routinely apologetic about his privilege and good fortune, Baker relishes the way that his life unfolded with fate just handing him one good turn after another. It surely takes a certain type to be brave enough to take advantage of it each time, nonetheless. If you were always too craven to leave your dull office clerk role then you weren't giving it a chance and that might be because you knew you didn't have it in you anyway.
This is another mixture of domestic chaos and celebrity encounters. Baker's father is central to much of the family action with his own way of dealing with finance, superstition and anybody who upsets him. It was a classic piece of Spud's uncomplicated repartee that made one of volume one's best anecdotes. Used sparingly and appropriately, the 'f' word can be a powerful linguistic effect. However, I don't remember Danny himself using it quite as often in the first book as he does here. Perhaps he is turning into his dad, as we all do, but it becomes tiresome and, all added together, they must add almost a page to the book's length. It doesn't add to the authenticity of an account of life in Deptford and we could do without it.
The celebrity meetings chosen to be included here are Frank Zappa, who is no more boorish than I personally would have expected him to be while Kenneth Williams, Tommy Cooper and Ken Dodd have equally convincing, but likeable, parts before we are treated to some Spike Milligan. However, it is the more extensive passage on Paul Gascoigne that is most entertaining, insightful and ultimately, moving. One would need the resilience and resourcefulness of Baker and Chris Evans to even attempt a day out in such company and Baker's account of one such is easily the highlight of this volume.
Perhaps one expects too much of a celebrity memoir although Danny Baker is a speccially unphased celebrity that comes from no known template, and to expect quite so much from London TV studios as one took from the NME and life with pop groups of the 1970's, well, realistically, it was never going to happen. But the story ends with the television career in front of the camera apparently drawn to an abrupt halt and very soon, the public assume you are finished.
You could, of course, spend a weekend much less pleasurably than catching up with the story to 1996.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Lines for My 55th Birthday

by Thom Gunn

The love of old men is not worth a lot,
Desperate and dry even when it is hot.
You cannot tell what is enthusiasm
And what involuntary clawing spasm.

--

Thanks for that, Thom. Very moving.

So far my own 55th has involved being separated from some of my money by the racing results from Cheltenham and Newmarket but I've treated myself to a bottle of tequila, which might go better with orange than pomegranate juice and then we will see.
It is a date I share with Johnny Haynes, Fulham's maestro from the 1960's, Eminem- slightly less auspiciously- and, because I can barely write a paragraph without mentioning her at the moment, Rosemary Tonks. There were more than 23 people in our office today but none of them shared my birthday which just goes to prove how useful that statistic is.
But the day got off to a great, very early start, at about 2 a.m., when I switched over from some dull talk on Radio 5 to probably Radio 4 Extra and found Maggi Hambling talking about Rembrandt. Then I switched to Radio 3 just in time to hear Buxtehude's Membra Jesu nostri in a recording by Ton Koopman which I take to be from the due box set of Opera Omnia, the Complete Works, the price of which I'm waiting to find out with some trepidation. So it had been a good day before I even got up.
Is it really five years since I met Tim and Gillian and Victoria in Hampstead and went to Keats' house with Selina; or 15 since Fulham beat Bristol Rovers 1-0 during a varied weekend of discrete events with different people; or 37 since I bought my first trilby from Dunn & Co. in Gloucester or 44 since Dinglewell School won 1-0 away in Coventry and, in perhaps an unprecedented football phenomenon, all four of the forward line (from left to right) Kevin Andrews, Peter Wickenden, me and Simon Weston, claimed to have scored the goal. It was my birthday. The goal was credited to me. If you really want to know the full story, you will have to ask one day.
It is unlikely that today is going to be quite as memorable as any of those.

The Saturday Nap

Last week I chose the wrong one to put in bold type, but retrieved the situation on the other one and then backed the Cesarewitch winner. Which is of no comfort to anybody who has decided to follow this dodgy project or to our level stake running total which thus now stands at minus 10 pounds to a level 10 pound stake.
And today's results at Cheltenham and Newmarket do nothing at all to advertise my credentials as a tipster either but it remains true that in the couple of years or so that I've been doing my business with Paddy Power, he has paid me overall. And he is one of the few bookies one can say that about.
Meetings like Cheltenham and other classy affairs are too tempting sometimes. The horses that one knows best seem to suggest themselves so persuasively that one can't help think it is pay day and all you have to do is get on.
Several favourite trainers are in form- Charlie Longsdon and Rebecca Curtis as well as Paul Nicholls- and so they look irresistable but one still needs to know which ones. It is rare for any trainer to maintain a 100% record over more than 2 or 3 races.
It occurs to me that we could go with an old-fashioned punt on Ericht tomorrow in the handicap chase because landing an 8/1 winner now would leave us looking very pretty but that would be contrary to doctrine. The choice in the re-match between Ainsi Fideles and Splash of Ginge would be impossible to get right. Calipto (Cheltenham 3.10) has to be the tip. It might help if I put a picture of him here. I've just availed myself of the 11/8, with Paddy claiming to have already laid 13/8 and 6/4.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Never

The other interesting feature of Warblington Church and its graveyard, apart from the presence of Rosemary Tonks, are the Watch Huts, built in 1822, for the watchmen whose grim job it was to deter graverobbers.
The poem hasn't come as easily as the lurid imaginings that inform it but it is at the very least a work in progress and it must be a good thing to have produced a poem even if it is only once in a while.


Never 

Possibly because of the churchyard’s remote location watchmen were employed to guard the churchyard and prevent the digging up and selling of the bodies of recently buried parishioners.
The Church of  St Thomas à Becket, Warblington  

The darkness is hypnotic. Every night
the atmosphere gathers desolate sounds
that might be something in the trees or yet 

could be the soft push of the resentful
spademan’s spade into soil. Without lanterns
on moonless nights, so that their distended 

shadows are not thrown across innocent
headstones, they arrive among the remnants
of silence, perhaps by water with hushed 

oarstrokes or comic, hissed admonishments.
It is the freshest flesh they come for, still
young and beautiful sometimes and haunted 

by its recent life. They curse and are cursed
by their line of work, the economics
of supply and demand that turn into 

hallucinations on the brink of no
world at all, the other side of never
and the recalcitrant glare in their eyes.


Monday, 13 October 2014

Rosemary Tonks - Bedouin of the London Evening

Rosemary Tonks, Bedouin of the London Evening (Bloodaxe)

I hope I don't come to this book in an attitude of undue reverence. That wouldn't be my usual way. Rosemary Tonks was, after all, only a poet but I still did spend some time in a cemetery yesterday trying to find her grave (without success, perhaps the headstone hasn't been put back yet). Some things become more special than others and the publication of this book, and the legend growing up around the poet, is one of them.
Rosemary Tonks 'disappeared' in the 1970's, having become a bit of a star in the literary world in the 60's after only two books of poems, collected here, six novels (which one hopes might follow) and some acerbic criticism and essays.
Nobody could surely ask for more than the lines on Amazon, sadly not on the cover of the book, that once said,
there is possibly no other poet who has caught with such haughty, self-ironising contempt, the loucheness of the period, or the anger it could touch off in brooding bystanders
but I think there is more to it than that. 
She surely takes her cue from Rimbaud in repudiating poetry, and literature, and explains in an interview here why she might have,
I don't understand why poets are quite ready to pick up on trivialities, but are terrified of writing of passions.
And one would need to check if she meant such poems as Church Going or An Arundel Tomb by that, but her natural anxiety and discomfort, her reluctance to rely on empirical evidence to explain the pain, comes directly from Baudelaire. It is as if it was there already, and 'a priori', and, whether or not it is acknowledged, there is a kinship with the poems of Sylvia Plath (and Laura Riding and Anne Sexton, perhaps) that might go some way to explaining  how or why Rosemary didn't commit suicide but did all she could do to disappear and live not quite as a recluse but, it is fair to say, nobody knew where she was until Neil Astley's excellent introducton, combining some critical assessment with much welcome biographical detail, that sheds some light. She had been in Bournemouth.
 
Of love, she can say, for example,
 
We set about acquiring one another
Urgently! But on a temporaray basis
Only as guests - just guests of one another's senses.
 
which is not a romantic way of describing what it might have been like but, yes.
 
Al Alvarez described her as 'edgy, bristling', as you might have thought he would but that was a few decades before 'edgy' meant 'adopting a well worn, fashionable attitude that suggests difficulty'.
Rosemary Tonks had been selected by Larkin in his Oxford Book of C20th English Verse as well as an old schoolboy stand-by of mine, Edward Lucie-Smith's anthology in which the note on her reads as if she is still at it, reprinted in 1974, but how was he to know.
One can see why Larkin might enjoy lines from The Sofas, Fogs and Cinemas, such as,
 
He partcularly enjoys it, enjoys it horribly, when someone's ill
At the last minute; and they specially fly in
A new, gigantic, Dutch soprano
 
because even he wouldn't have written such a thing. He would just use a few choice 'f' words to unsettle the community. Larkin and Rosemary Tonks were not so far apart. It was only a matter of decorum.
Farewell to Kurdistan is surely more a farewell to London with its
 
         abominable, ludicrous papers...which are so touching
I ought to laugh or cry, instead of gritting my teeth.

But Rosemary is more sensual and gorgeously 'louche'- while we allow ourselves to assume that is a good thing- in some of her more often quoted lines, the 'stolen love behaviour' so astutely claimed by John Stammers,
 
those whose private apartment is the street
 
or
 
I have been young too long, and in a dressing-gown
My private modern life has gone to waste
 
(and with what foresight did she know the phenomenon of the C21st in which mostly women will actually go to Tesco in their pyjamas).
 
Yes, Rosemary Tonks, later known as Mrs. Lightband and buried under that name with her mother with no ceremony, did make a bold bid to become my favourite poet. She almost made it but didn't quite. She is self-conscious enough but just a little too much self-dramatizing, her ennui and self-degradation only equal to the way she saw the world. One has to love her for all of that. But it only led to a search for God, dabblings in mysticism and some dubious faiths. It seems she relented in later life just a litte bit and regretted cutting herself off from family and anybody who slightly offended her. But may God, if she ever found him, rest her restless soul and I will be back to Warblington cemetery next year to try to find her and pay my respects.
  

Ian McEwan - The Children Act


Ian McEwan, The Children Act (Johnathan Cape)

The new McEwan overcame a number of possible objections, for me. While I would usually these days buy any new title by him, this one's theme, the provision of welfare for children, sounded unprepossessing and so I didn't order it. But when someone offers to lend it to you, that is a different matter. There have been any number of titles to buy in recent months and one simply can't buy them all.
Next, it seems to use as its premise a set piece moral dilemma between respecting religious belief and the sanctity of life. And then it almost becomes a case study masquerading as fiction, or vice versa. Fiona May is a high court judge presented with a case of a young Jehovah's Witness who needs a blood transfusion or he will die. His parents and thus the teenager himself are both convinced that the blood transfusion trangresses a commandment.
But we start with the sub-plot in which Fiona's husband wants permission to have one last fling with a younger woman, will that be alright. Well, no, it won't. And so he leaves her in peremptory fashion, presumably to pursue his infatuation.
Adam, the patient in question, turns out to be a bright lad just short of the age of majority but very much convinced that he must die. Fiona suspends court proceedings to go and talk with him to establish his point of view, and she is impressed. But she inevitably provides a beautifully phrased judgement in favour of the hospital and saving the life against its owner's apparent will. Unfortunately, she kisses the boy, almost accidentally but nonetheless significantly.
With 40 pages to go, I will still in doubt about the worth of the book despite McEwan's elegant writing, and thought I'd guessed the ending and that it might turn into Notes on a Scandal. But it didn't and how on earth did I ever imagine I could foresee the end of such a book. McEwan has pulled off some tremendous finishes before now. Not that this one is what you might want it to be or hope for but it has a certain truth about it.
In the first pages of Chapter 4, McEwan provides a view of the state of Britain through Fiona's reflections on her work,
The new coinage was half-truth and special pleading . Greedy husbands versus greedy wives, manoeuvring like nations at the end of a war, grabbing from the ruins what spoils they could before the final withdrawal.
and it gets far worse,
gruesome young stepfathers breaking toddlers' bones while dim compliant mothers looked on, and drugs, drink, extteme household squalor, indifferent neighbours selectively deaf to the screaming
and 'social workers failing to intervene', etc.
It is something of a test of the limits of liberalism, whether that is McEwan using his character as a vehicle for his view or not.
As previously, when a recital of Dover Beach seemed to provide an unlikely resolution to crisis point in a novel, McEwan depends upon the redemptive power of art when music unites Fiona and Adam through his violin study and her singing. And where, in Sweet Tooth, we were treated to a glimpse of the 1970's London pub rock scene and a reference to Roogalator, here, perhaps on a slightly higher level, Fiona and her errant husband had a Keith Jarrett album as one of 'their' records. You can't fault anyone's taste.
It is difficult to find a flaw in Fiona, beleaguered though she seems to be, but dutiful, profound and with a dignity of her own. and yet, look what happens. It is not satisfactory, as the end of Chesil Beach (which was about musicians, too) wasn't, either, and yet it was so resoundingly true. And that is how we are left here, having had so many doubts about the novel, it rode over them all and if it isn't quite another Atonement, Chesil Beach or Sweet Tooth then it is surely a fine novel by most standards and just a good one by his own.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Times Drags By Real Slow

It would be true to say that I haven't written a poem for a few months. I don't mind that at all and, if I don't, then I'm fairly sure nobody else does.
Ideas need to suggest themselves. I'm not in the habit of seeking them out. But this week I did realize that this odd little piece of observation of social interaction could be a poem. I'm not offended that some people give off signals that suggest they find me a dull conversationalist. But I wouldn't be talking if I didn't think it worth saying and, if you wait until the end of the story, it might turn out to have a worthwhile punchline at the end.
But, no matter. This poem is probably no collector's item. You might find yourself checking your watch after the first two lines.


Time Drags By Real Slow 

I start to talk and then they check their watch,
It seems I’ve already kept them too long.
They see eternity begin again. 

How do they know that what I’m going to say
Is going to bore them quite as much as that.
I start to talk and then they check their watch. 

Perhaps what I said last time is enough
For them to know that this time all they’ll do
Is see eternity begin again. 

How can my anecdotes be so mundane
That time drags just as soon as I start one.
I start to talk and then they check their watch. 

Friends, colleagues and strangers have all done it,
One even at a Buxtehude gig
Who saw eternity begin again. 

If they’re not interested, neither am I,
And so I have not rhymed this villanelle.
I start to talk and then they check their watch. 

So, next time I try to tell you something
That you suspect is going to be dull,
When I start to talk, please don’t check your watch.
You’ll see eternity begin again.

The Saturday Nap

And so, here we go with The Saturday Nap from here until Boxing Day. If  'poet' wasn't quite enough of a fantasy job for me to mess about at, then horse racing correspondent is the ultimate one.
I'll suggest a horse here each weekend, usually on a Friday night, you put a shilling on it and then we see how much profit we have made by Christmas. We did badly last year, never quite turned it round, but in 2011 and 2012 showed a slight profit and then a healthy one.
I'm glad I swerved the race at Newton Abbott today which looked like a question I couldn't answer, whether Taquin de Seuil could give the weight away to Colour Squadron and I disregarded one of my favourite horses, Wonderful Charm. And there you go, Wonderful Charm wins at 100/30.
Avoiding a loser is almost as good as backing a winner and that was evidence enough that Paul Nicholls has arrived on time, as usual, with his horses in good order ready for the Chepstow meeting. It also goes some way to restoring confidence in Sam Twiston-Davies as the newly appointed stable jockey. I saw a few races over the summer in which he got beaten on short-priced favourites and, yes, I am talking through my pocket a little bit. Hold up tactics didn't work on a few occasions and I just began to wonder about him.
It doesn't take much imagination to line up the Nicholls horses at this meeting in doubles and trebles and the first four races are the novice hurdlers and chasers that I tend to put the most trust in. Full Blast, Emerging Talent and Southfield Theatre are the ones to look at. I'd rather back a winner than use my imagination. They are unlikely to be big prices but one can't really tip odds on chances forever because even a 1/2 shot has more than a 33% chance of not winning. But Chepstow is a favourite jumping track of mine, one where I feel there are few excuses, stamina gets its due reward and you can see the race develop in easy stages.
And so I will have to wait for some prices to be quoted before deciding where we go with our first shilling's worth. I'll come back and fill this blank in later.
--
Bookies are always ready to put up prices about the next day's big handicaps but are less keen to commit on the novice races, where they seem to want to check out how the land lies. I'd be happy to oppose Colour Squadron with Southfield Theatre if he were to run again tomorrow but, if he was withdrawn then the Nicholls horse would be hardly any price at all.
Emerging Talent might be one for the future more than this time.
There was much to like about Russian Bolero's win at Plumpton but this could prove to be a bit of a  step up in class and so I'm happy to go Full Blast (Chepstow 2.00), in the hope of getting even money, clean up, and re-invest the winnings next week.

Monday, 6 October 2014

View from the Boundary

Here is Autumn and thanks for it. I don't know why we can't have Autumn all year round, I'm sure it would be better if we could.
It's not quite time yet to review the year as there are still things to come but I'm already looking forward to the shortlists for Best Poetry Collection and Best Poem which I usually put here in November before having another look and picking my winners.
The subsidiary awards that have grown up around my very own poetry accolades are Best Event and Best Novel, which again this year are particularly competitive heats. I might add a Best Non-Fiction Book, too, as there is plenty of choice there. But I think I can safely announce my favourite television programme of the year, which was Cilla, with Sheridan Smith - and no disrespect to Cilla- was in some ways better than the real thing.
But not elegible for Best Poetry Collection of the year, and arrived here today, is the Collected Rosemary Tonks, Bedouin of the London Evening. For me, I think, the publishing event of the year, not having been prepared to spend the prohibitive amounts asked for original editions of her books. I dare say there will be things to say about it by next week.
--
The Autumn brings many soi-disant 'great publishing events' which is why it would be more sensible to have Autumn all year round, so that the books could be published at more convenient intervals. And it also brings National Poetry Day and this year was one when Portsmouth Poetry Society held an event.
I'm glad to say it all went very well thanks to all those who did their bits to organize it, take part in it and show up to support it. Everybody, absolutely everybody, was great and it was a privilege to be a part of it.
There is a limit to how far these things can go. The room we had was just the right size as it happened. I had hoped it might become standing room only, we would sell out of the booklet and find several prospective new members. But it's poetry, isn't it, and not even 'Performance Poetry' for PPS, really, and so these days, a minority interest. And I doubt if I'd be doing it with quite such enthusiasm if it wasn't 'minority'.
And so, there will be a few copies of Calliope 2014, still available after the second print run. Including p&p, I'd say a fiver would cover it. So e-mail by all means if you would like one before they run out.
I would only express my own self-doubt by wondering why I think it worthwhile to stand in front of an audience to read my poems. Do these good people really want these precious minutes taken from their lives by listening to me. One only hopes that they find it as intersting to see what I do as I do them but it's hard to believe. I like my own work very much but, there again, I would because I am my only target audience. It is a happy accident if anybody else likes it as well. But it is the reward of the entirely amateur pursuit that one does only have to please oneself, not perform at festivals, go on tour or worry about sales (and the kindle edition of Re-read didn't get very high in Amazon's Free Kindle Poetry chart during its 5 days of being feee to download). But why, exactly, I want to perform is more of a mystery than it ever was. Larkin wasn't keen on the idea, either. I will be reviewing that situation.
--
And Autumn brings us back to The Saturday Nap, my weekend tip for the discerning horse racing student. Admittedly, it all went wrong last year but we showed a healthy profit in 2012 if you stayed with the programme and stayed in front in 2011. My little foray into racing journalism should be here on Friday evenings, quite often advising a novice hurdler trained by Paul Nicholls, no doubt, but if not, I'll be here by 11 a.m. on Saturday.
I did briefly post a tip for Muthmir on Saturday but the ground went against him and he was withdrawn but it was a great weekend's sport and it's one of the very few sports I could say that of these days. Although the very obvious fact that Chelsea were going to beat Arsenal helped, too.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

15 Down

in today's Times crossword

Friday, 3 October 2014

Portsmouth Poetry Society Live in, well, Portsmouth, obviously

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that an evening with Portsmouth Poetry Society would be a marvellous thing but I think last night surpasssed any expectations that any of us had of it.
Everybody was great. Special thanks to Maggie Sawkins who appeared as a special guest and to all those who took part and helped put the show together. Here are some photos. I can't include everyone here. Thanks to Tom Bennett for the photographs.

Here are- Maggie Sawkins, Rosemary Penny, Helen Larham, Ros Griffiths, Denise Bennett, someone who doesn't look like the marathon bike rider he once was any more, John Dean, Diana McCormack and Pauline Hawkesworth.








Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Re-read, Selected Poems - Free kindle download


The kindle edition of Re-read will be free to download from Amazon until the weekend.

It can be found via the Author Page link above. You can't actually Look Inside from here.