Dinosaur

No video or music this week.  Trawling through my laptop today looking for a lost spreadsheet, I found this piece I wrote in 2004 and I thought I would share it with you. 

Dinosaur

“Jeffrey, spell dinosaur.” said Sister Hewitt, her chill staccato voice echoing around the brown tiled walls of Sacred Heart Primary school.

Often, when I had to spell a word I would try and see it in my head but if it wasn’t there, I would have to guess. The first part, was easy D.I.N.O and but the last syllable was the more difficult part.

“D.I.N.O.S.A.W Sister” I stammered

“What’s the matter boy? Are you stupid? It’s simple, just spell dinosaur”

“D.I.N.O.S.O.R.  Sister?”

“No, no, no, no. Victoria stand up and tell this stupid boy how to spell ‘dinosaur’.”

Did she think I was misspelling the word just to annoy her or because I was lazy? I was as anxious as she was to spell it correctly but I couldn’t. This inability to spell cast a long shadow across my life. I had barely started my education and I was being branded a simpleton. The other kids would laugh at me and the Victoria’s of this world would learn to feel smug and superior to those who were regarded as “thickies”.

The reports of my stupidity got back to my parents. My Father, in his own pragmatic way, had a solution. He gave me a large Chambers dictionary and opened it at page one and told me to learn a page every day. Every night before bed he would test me on the words I had studied.

It must have been a frustrating experience for him. I could learn some words easily because the phonetics made sense but others would slip through my hands like greasy toast.

I never wanted to upset my Father, never mind get a beating, so I would try and learn the words as if I was learning a nursery rhyme, repeating it in my head over and over again.

“D.I.N.O.S.A.U.R”

“Good” my Father would say and I would bathe in rare waters of his approval but by the next day the spelling would have evaporated like a morning mist.

“Jeffrey spell dinosaur.”   

“D.I.N.O.S.O.R.E.” would be followed by a frustrated slap from my Father.

“You spelt it correctly last night, now do it again.” He would say with disappointment in his voice.

I would remember that there was a “U” in there somewhere so I would have a guess.

“D.I.N.O.S.U.A.R.”

This only seemed to increase my Father’s frustration.

From the age of six or seven I would sit with the dictionary looking at the words. I could read well enough to understand what the words meant it was the spelling that eluded me. My brain retained the meanings of words but the spelling alluded me.

After reading the dictionary I could not spell the words any better than before but it introduced me to a lot of new words. I was fascinated by the fact that a word could have many meanings, sometimes literal but also a more metaphorical interpretation could be applied.

‘Haemorrhage: a discharge of blood from the blood vessels; a steady and persistent draining away.’

Those words stayed in my head not as letters but as sounds and images. Sometimes they were feelings. Cold and hot, light and dark all jostled around inside me trying to make sense of my world. I didn’t think I was stupid but it was difficult to ignore the objective evidence.

Despite everything, I enjoyed tucking in to my nightly supper of verbs and adverbs, nouns and adjectives. I savoured the words and I listened to the sounds of the syllables and I discovered that words were linked

Haemorrhoid: dilation of a vein around the anus: piles:

and could have common roots that came from old languages like Greek and Latin.

Haemophilia: a hereditary disease causing excessive bleeding when any blood vessel is even slightly injured. From the Greek ‘haima’ meaning blood and ‘phileein’ meaning to like.

Some words seemed to be jokes. 

‘Palindrome: a word, verse or sentence that spells the same forwards or backwards.’

Why is the word palindrome not a palindrome?

Out of this bizarre contradiction something strange happened. The boy who couldn’t spell fell in love with words and became fascinated by their flexibility and their ability to transmogrify.

Transmogrify: To transform or transmute.

My Father insisted that we go to the public library and once a fortnight on a Wednesday the whole family would make our pilgrimage. I could borrow up to four books and my Father insisted that at least two were novels. I read Dickens and Richmal Crompton even Enid Blyton. Later, I would consume books on philosophy by Hegel and Engels, fiction from Conan Doyle and George Orwell alongside books on dinosaurs and flying saucers. Every time I sat down to read I always had my dictionary by my side.

Literate: able to read and write, a person who is literate; an educated person without a university degree.

Although I passed my 11 plus my education would never be able to compensate for the fact that the world perceived all those who could not spell as stupid. Despite the fact that my grasp of sciences and mathematics was good, I was caught between my love of language and my inability to spell.

My teachers were irritated with me and I was frustrated with them and as I drifted towards my O’levels I became more and more disillusioned and from the age of fifteen I attended school rarely and only managed to notch up one exam pass in Mathematics.

I left school at sixteen and drifted through a variety of jobs as a salesman. I could use words to separate someone from their money even if I could not spell ‘separate’.

In the 1984 I got my first job in the computer industry as a salesman in the Newcastle office of a software company. I was given a computer with a software package called WordPerfect. I would type a letter or a report and press a key and the software then did a miraculous thing, it checked my spelling and offered me the correct word for the one I had misspelled. This was not always a perfect system because if you do not know how to spell a word then if the spellchecker offers you three alternatives it is often difficult to pick the correct answer but it was a huge improvement and gave me more confidence to write.

I bought a PC and a small printer and started to write at home. The words were slow to come. I had been used to writing in my head. There the spelling was always perfect and the stories and poetry flowed like sweat down a nightclub wall. I wrote poetry and prose. I wrote stories about my children and about my life. I wrote poetry about the world I lived in and about my aspirations and disappointments.

Computers taught me something else. For example: no matter how many times I spelt the word ‘point’ I was never certain if it was ‘point’ or ‘piont’ as both looked right (write) on the page. I discovered that there was a pattern to the words on the keyboard. The first three letters of ‘point’ ran from right to left on the keyboard and once I had memorised the pattern I never made a mistake with the spelling again. The more I typed the more I became used to the word patterns on the keyboard, the better my spelling became.

My lack of a formal education did not seem to have any great effect on my career in computing and the world learned to live with my shortcomings. It was only when my oldest daughter went to school and I discovered that she had a similar problem I began to think that there was more to the problem than an inability to spell.

Dyslexia: word blindness, great difficulty in learning to read or spell, unrelated to intellectual competence and of unknown cause.

I talked to the teachers and I talked to education psychologists in an attempt to find out what the problem was and more importantly how to overcome it. I was told that my daughter was Dyslexic and that her reading and writing was in the bottom 30% but her IQ was in the top 5%.

Like me she had developed coping strategies and importantly because of my own experience I had introduced her to computers at a very early age and she was confident in her abilities. I discussed her symptoms of Dyslexia and she said she thought it was a positive thing. She said that she knew that she saw words differently to other people and she liked that. I asked her what she meant and she told how she saw words in her head not as letters or symbols but as pictures and images.

This was a revelation to me. I had always assumed that everyone saw words the way that I did. It was just my stupidity that stopped me from being able to spell. It never occurred to me that other people did not see words in the same way. It also occurred to me that my love of words, my stories and my poetry had come about not despite my spelling problems but because of them. Like my daughter, I should embrace them rather than treat it like an old alcoholic uncle that the family doesn’t want to talk about.

The computer screen gave me images of words that I could recognise, the keyboard gave me patterns and my brain gave me tangential connections between words and phrases.

Tangential: relating to or in the direction of a tangent.

Although my laptop replaced pen and paper many years ago, I still enjoy sitting down in the evening with the Guardian crossword and with my familiar Chambers by my side.

  • All definitions abridged from The Chambers Dictionary.

© Jeff Price September 2004

Waiting for the Gate

Joni Mitchell “Amelia”

This is not one of Joni Mitchell better known tracks but it is a very beautiful and haunting song. It has been requested on the Poetry JukeBox by my friend Stephen joniHatton. The song references aeroplanes and the female aviator Amelia Earhart who was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. During an attempt to circumnavigate the Earth in 1937 she and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean.

The song is a conversation between the two of them as Joni compares life and love and reflects that the things we think as true are not, she calls them “false alarms”. We think love will last forever but it usually doesn’t, we think we will live for ever but we don’t. Our ambitions can often be beyond our reach but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Like a lot of Joni’s lyrics they are unresolved and leave the listener reflecting on their own lives.

I was struck by the images in the song of the vapour trails of aeroplanes crossing the skies, here is the first verse…

I was driving across the burning desert

When I spotted six jet planes

Leaving six white vapour trails across the bleak terrain

It was the hexagon of the heavens

It was the strings of my guitar

Amelia, it was just a false alarm

Each vapour trail tells a hundred stories of people and places, where are the planes going, what are the stories of the people travelling in them? I love sitting in airports and imagining those stories, the lovers reunions, the tired traveller returning home, the young person about to start a great adventure in a new country. They won’t always work out the way they want but we humans often face these challenges with an undeserved optimism. We hope it will all work out and sometimes it does and sometimes it’s just a “false alarm”.

 

Waiting for the Gate

 

Beyond the X-Rays and the groans, moans and the fondling hands

Through the corridor of shimmering floors, Toblerones and Tequila

I find a corner chair and a view of the crowded corridor

Suits and sari’s rub shoulders with shorts and crop tops

Backpacks and trolleys trundle along to the distant hum of headphones

Rowdy stag parties have been drinking Guinness since dawn

Weary and wary parents watch their excited wayward children

You can spot a celebrity or two who still have to queue

Outside on the runway planes heave themselves into the sky

The impossible takes the improbable in to the great beyond

 

© Jeff Price October 2018

Buddy can you spare a rhyme

Buddy Wakefield “Convenience Stores”

On Wednesday night at Cobalt Studios in Newcastle I went to Born Lippy. A night of spoken word, poetry, comedy with a bit of hip hop and Slam thrown in for good luck. The night is run by Don Jenkins and Tom Conway. This month’s was a special supported by Andi D.M.B./NightfallphotoApples and Snakes with as headline poet the three times world Slam champion Buddy Wakefield.

Buddy is a force that I have seen before, the first time was in 2004 at a night I ran at the Cumberland Arms. He had been touring around Europe and arrived in Newcastle suffering from a severe throat and chest infection. Despite the cough he was determined to go on and we loaded him up with throat lozenges and he took to the stage and gave a performance I have never forgotten. He took the room by the scruff of the neck and made it his own. His performance was electric. Last night in Newcastle he gave us an encore. 

It isn’t easy to describe Buddy’s poetry it is part spoken word, part story telling, it is his life written in beats and metre. His poetry takes no prisoners but his command of the stage does not leave you feeling alienated or sidelined. It draws you in to his world. It is clear he enjoys it, he feeds off it, it re-hydrates him.

When he performed the poem featured in the video Convenience Store every hair on my body stood on end, it was electrifying. I have been going to poetry events for a very longtime and you can get a bit cynical sometimes but poets like Buddy re-hydrate me as well. They make we want to be a better writer and make me realise I have a long way to go.

 His three books of poetry have been combined in to one collection called Stunt Walker

 Click here to get a copy of “Stunt Walker”

 

After Buddy left Newcastle in 2004, I wrote the following poem

 

Buddy can you spare a rhyme

 

He came coughing out of the waves of the North Sea

The phlegm of the journey rattling his bones

Blinking in the glaring spotlight

Looking across the stage and in to the interior

He saw the restless natives waiting

He had been told that Northern people

Were hard as cynicism and had eaten strangers

Swallowed them whole

Spat their eyes out, clean as morning

He planted his feet deep in their earth

Rooted like a Joshua tree

Filling his lungs with the vapour of lozenges

He gripped perfection by the throat

Shaking his juju in front of the faces

That peered at him through the smoke

He fired his first salvo across their bows

To the sound of tearing timber

Clawing at the red stained walls

Fusillade after fusillade crack the air like thunder

Soon, they danced the hornpipe to his tune

They were his now

They were his children

 

©Jeff Price Monday, 06 December 2004

 

 

 

Love is …

Elton John “Your Song”

This song has been submitted by poet Steve May. As he and his wife Pauline approach their 50th wedding anniversary he says this would always be “Their Song”. Music can be like that, totally personal. It achieves a meaning never intended by the singer.Elton-John

The music for “Your Song” was written by Elton with lyrics by his longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin. It originally appeared on Elton’s self-titled second studio album (which was released in 1970).  Surprisingly the song only got to number seven on the UK Singles Chart.

Bernie Taupin wrote the song’s lyrics after breakfast one morning on the roof of 20 Denmark Street, London, where Elton worked for a music publishing firm as an office boy, hence the line “I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss”. 

Steve told me about a time when travelling through Spain many years ago, he and Pauline camped out in a remote area. In the wee small hours of the morning, a motorbike suddenly started circling their tent and the pair of them lay terrified insideholding on to each other for dear life, when just as suddenly as it arrived, it disappeared. 

Love grows in many ways, it comes from moments of joy and tenderness and it is also forged in the furnace of adversity.

 

Love is…

Love is winter days and summer nights

Love is five star hotels and Spanish campsites

Love is a gourmet menu and beans on toast

Love is finishing last and a winning post

Love is listening and being heard

Love is rational and often absurd

Love  comes in different shapes and sizes

Love is predictable and full of surprises

 

© Jeff Price October 2018

 

 

Wet Behind the Ears

“Hotel California” The Eagles

Probably the most recognisable opening few chords of any pop song. It also featuresjukebox some classic lines like “You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave” and was released as a single in February 1977. Writing credits for the song are shared by Don Felder (music), Don Henley, and Glenn Frey (lyrics). The Eagles’ original recording of the song features Henley singing the lead vocals and concludes with an extended section of electric guitar interplay between Felder and Joe Walsh.

eagles-grammy-awards-live-2016-a-billboard-1548The song is seven minutes long which made it very popular with DJs on radio stations as it gave them plenty of time to go to the toilet and back before the track ended.

This song was requested by Miriam McCormick. Although Miriam admits that she has never been to California this song still evokes strong emotions. She says “Once heard one of the Eagles trying to explain what it’s about. I don’t think they knew themselves …. He concluded by saying it could best be described as being “a song about going from innocence to experience“. 

I spent a great part of my working life staying in hotels and although they were all comfortable, they weren’t home. You very quickly grow tired of eating alone or getting trapped in a conversation with a bunch of business men discussing their golf handicaps.

On one occasion, I had stayed in the same hotel chain three nights in a row but in different cities. Each room was identical in every respect. On the last night waiting for sleep I became very confused about where I was and I wrote the name of the town I was staying in on a post-it note and stuck it on the alarm clock. Work had left me stressed out and tired. I often spent my weekends in bed plagued by migraine headaches. The pain sometimes so powerful it would make me vomit.

When I got home and told my wife Lynda about the post-it note she said that it was time to pack the job in and find another way of making a living. 

Twelve months later at the age of 53, I was a student starting a Master’s Degree in Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University. I think Lynda supporting me in a new career probably saved my life, I certainly have never been happier and more content then I have been standing in a school hall with 30 kids all fired up and performing their own poetry on a stage in front of the whole school. 

Within a couple of years of leaving work my migraines stopped and the psoriasis that covered my legs cleared up. I have not been bothered by either since.

 

Wet Behind the Ears

 

I have thrown myself off a cliff

Plunging not flying

Stomach nerves knotted

Toes curled

A snake oil salesman

Who has slipped his skin

Demobbed from the rat race

On a tour of duty in Academe

Wet behind my student ears

Striding through the September rain

Behind me

The hotel bedroom door slams shut

 

©Jeff Price October 2018

 

Lush

Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs: Woolly Bully

This weeks’s poetry JukeBox has been sent in by Don Jenkins. Don is the doyen of the Rave scene in Newcastle (can you use the word “Doyen” in relation to Rave?) and one of the hosts of “Born Lippy” an excellent night that combines Spoken Word, Rap and Hip Hop at the Cobalt Studios. His song is Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs “Woolly Bully”. Woolly Bully was released in 1965 and sold 3 million copies.Wooly_Bully

Here is some interesting info from the song’s Wikipedia entry

As the Pharaohs prepared to write their debut album, lead singer “Sam the Sham” (Domingo Samudio) wanted to write a tribute to the Hully Gully dance. His record label’s legal department feared using that title due to the existence of another song with a similar title. The song was given the green light after Sam rewrote the lyrics and replaced “Hully Gully” with “Wooly Bully”.

The lyrics of “Wooly Bully” were hard to understand and describe a conversation between “Mattie” and “Hattie” concerning the “Wooly Bully” (a creature which Mattie describes as “a thing she saw [that] had two big horns and a wooly jaw”) and the desirability of developing dancing skills, although no attempt is made to synthesise these divergent topics. The warning, “Let’s not be L-7”, means “Let’s not be square”, from the shape formed by the fingers making an L on one hand and a 7 on the other. Sam the Sham underscores the Tex-Mex nature of the song by counting out the rhythm in Spanish and English (“Uno! Dos! One, two, tres, cuatro!”), and the characteristic simple organ riffing. “

L7I asked Don about his choice and he tells me that he loves this song because of the simplicity of the lyrics and he says the reference to the L7 reminded him of his school days when they used the sign L7 to describe people they thought were square “uncool”. Going Home from school, he remembered, was all about the bus. Your life at school was about progressing up the bus.The little kids sat at the front and the cool kids were on the back seats. Each year you got a little closer to the cool seats in the last row.

Don also told me a story about when his 9 year old son made the loser sign at  him and it spurred him to write a conversation between him and his son. to read the story  click this link~$N RULES TO BE BROKEN

My poem is inspired more by Don’s story than the song itself.

Lush

 

Written above the back window

Of the number twenty bus

In black felt tip pen

Were the words…

“Jeff Price is Lush”

The black blazered occupants

Of the school bus high table

Were derisory

Laughing at the suggestion

That the author

Could be a girl or even a boy

That the word “Lush”

Was an epithet

That could be applied

Or even implied

About this shy and introverted boy

They all agreed that the writer

Was much more likely

To be Jeff Price himself

Sadly, they were right

 

© Jeff Price September 2018

Please Note. Any resemblance in this poem to any person named “Jeff Price” living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

Pudding Head

 

Big Star “Thirteen”

This weeks Poetry JukeBox hit has been nominated by Chris “The Captain” Moir the drummer and backing vocalist of the legendary “Dikki Hart Orkestra”.jukebox

Big Star was an American rock band formed in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1971 by Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel. The group broke up in early 1975, and reorganised with a new line-up 18 years later following a reunion concert at the University of Missouri.

big star.jpgThe band’s musical style drew on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and The Byrds.  Before they broke up, Big Star created a “seminal body of work that never stopped inspiring succeeding generations” in the words of Rolling Stone, as the “quintessential American power pop band” and “one of the most mythic and influential cult acts in all of rock & roll”.

Chris says the song is about that moment when you are still innocent. The cusp between childhood and adulthood. He calls it a melancholy song. He adds “Teenage Fanclub’s album “Thirteen” is named after it”.

Pudding Head

 

My Father had decided

On for my thirteenth birthday

To treat me to a haircut

At Bartie Wilson’s Barbershop

On Westgate Road

 

Bartie only one style

Learnt when scalping recruits

in his far off Army days

The short back and sides

Or Basin Cut

 

A pudding basin was placed on my head

Everything that stuck out was cut off

By the sheep shears

That ran up  my scalp like a lawn mower

My Elvis quiff hacked off

Until I looked like an escaped convict

 

On 27th November 1961

I walked through the door of

Of St James and St Basil’s Youth Club

A scalped, skinny and self conscious

Clueless teenager with spots and spectacles

 

I don’t recall the gift from my parents

For my thirteenth birthday

But I do remember the giggles of the girls

And the chorus of “slaphead” from the boys

 

On the Youth Club record player

Elvis Presley sang

“Are you lonesome tonight”

 

© Jeff Price September 2018

 

A Geordie Love Poem

Bruce Channel “Hey! Baby”

This is the first of the Poetry JukeBox. The buttons were pressed by Bristol poet David C Johnson.

David has been a regular visitor to Tyneside over the years and will be returning in March 2019 as a guest poet at the Great Northern Slam. I have also some very happy memories of performing in Bristol as part of the Poetry Vandals. During the Bristol Poetry Festival we performed at the Polish Club and the evening was memorable not only for its lovely and appreciative audience but for the large quantities of ultra strong Polish beer we drank after the show.  jukebox

“Hey! Baby”  was released in 1962 by Bruce Channel (real name Bruce McMeans). It sold more than one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. Channel had a couple of other minor hits but his career never really took off and he is considered a one hit wonder.

b7b1b283fc9c4acc813fc608d465ec1bChannel did tour Europe and was supported at one gig by the Beatles, (before they were famous). John Lennon, who had “Hey! Baby” on his jukebox, was fascinated by  the harmonica segment in “Hey! Baby” and if you listen to “Love me Do” you can hear the influence. 

The main appeal of “Hey! Baby” is probably the sustained first note, with a rhythmic pattern in the background. This device was used in 1962 for “Sherry”  by the Four Seasons

Coincidentally Bruce’s  birthday is the day after mine on 28th November.

A love song leads to a love poem and in this case a Geordie love poem.

 

A Geordie Love Poem

 

She’s a diamond, that lass of mine

There were days when she lost her shine

Still the light shone through the dirt and the grime

The difficult days and the uphill days

But we were always rooted in trust

And if you must, in the way we talked

About it all

Until the small hours

On summer’s nights and campsites

In bars and clubs and seedy pubs

Sulks and silence accomplish nothing

But words set us free to be

Who we are

She is better than me in so many ways

I learn to be better when she shows me the way

She is more important to me

Than football

 

© Jeff Price August 2018

Norman

Lambchop “Soaky in the Pooper”

This strange and melancholic song tells the tale of a man dying alone in a toilet and wasjukebox requested on the Poetry JukeBox by crime writer, poet and retired turkey inseminator Alfie Crow. In Alfie’s email he said ” It contains a line about a man’s funeral that ‘all the mourners travelled in one car...” A terribly sad song about a lonely death can be achingly beautiful at the same time.

lambchopLambchop, originally Posterchild, is an American band from Nashville. Never a band with a core lineup, Lambchop has consisted of a large and fluid collective of musicians focused around its creative centre, frontman Kurt Wagner. 

The song reminded me of a guy I knew years ago who was one of the “cool” people of Newcastle but heroin addiction cut his life short and he died a pauper’s death. Although in his last few years he had few friends, there was a large turnout for his funeral. He was not the first and would not be the last to have his life cut short by heroin and to die a lonely death like Soaky.

 

Norman

 

You were always the cool one

With your long black coat and dark hair

You were debonair

With a flare for the outrageous

And a penchant for dangerous drugs

 

“Norman” is not the coolest name

But you gave it mystery

You were dismissive and disdainful

Of those too eager to please

Indulgent and generous to those

Who you considered a friend

 

Years later someone said they saw

You begging on the High Street

Asking strangers for change

Your hair grey and dirty

Your good looks stolen

 

When they buried you

The man from the homeless shelter

Said he was surprised

That so many people turned up

“Usually” he said with a puzzled look

“The mourners come in one car”

 

© Jeff Price August 2018

 

Poetry JukeBox

Blog Update Part Two

It has been a few weeks since I finished my Blog of 70 poems inspired by seventy tracks by seventy artists. Since then I have been doing a bit of editing and have created a book jukeboxof the blog. I am hoping a publisher will take it up.

I also got the chance to perform some of the poems to a select audience (ie not many people turned up) at a venue in France. It occurred to me that if I could find a way of incorporating the music and video into a stage show it would make for an interesting evening.

Lots to think about but in the meantime, I have been missing my Friday morning posting and I’ve given some thought about what to do next. I am going to take inspiration (steal someone else’s idea)  from my friend and fellow poet Rowan McCabe. Rowan is the world’s first Door to Door Poet, he knocks on people doors and asks them what’s

rowan
Rowan McCabe

important in their lives and then he writes a poem about it. Check out his website by clicking on his photo.

So here’s the thing…

What is your favourite track and why is it important to you. Let me know and I will attempt to write a poem based on your track and artist. I will then post it up on the blog.  Like a Juke Box where you request your record but this way you get a poem back. Or do you think there is a classic track I have missed out that deserves the Three Score and Ten treatment? 

Just email your request to me at jeffpricenewcastle@gmail.com and lets see what happens.