The Woman’s Room

Eurythmics, Aretha Franklin “Sisters Are Doin’ If For Themselves.”

In this blog I mentioned before that I am the Father to five daughters. Suzi and Amy to Aretha+Franklin+Annie+Lennox+25th+Anniversary+werbfMbaXB9lmy second marriage and Emma, Hester and Madeleine are my inherited daughters (I don’t like the word “Step”) from my marriage to Lynda. They are my delight and my joy. They have also taught me so much.

I was born into a typical patriarchal Northern family. My Dad was the head of the family and his word was God. My Mother left her job as a nurse when they started a family and brought up myself and my three brothers and my sister. She cooked, cleaned and was responsible for the house. My Dad went out to work and earned the money. This is the way it was and as a youngster I saw that as normal. My friend’s families were like that, the world was like that. 

As I got older I began to notice that things were not as simple as they seemed. My Mother was no docile domestic home keeper, she exercised her own power in the home but it was more discrete than my Father’s “Do as I say” attitude.

My Mother loved musicals and would often drag us along to the cinema to watch films like “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” or “The King and I”. She had a collection of LP’s of the songs and loved to listen to them. The record player broke and she asked my Father to get a new one. She told him to get one of those fancy radiograms that were very popular. My Dad, never one to spend money he didn’t have to, did nothing about it. One day my 

sterer

Mother announced to my Father not to bother getting the stereo-gram as she had ordered one from the Catalogue Lady* and she would pay monthly for it. My Dad was outraged. He said they were overpriced  and he hated the idea of paying all that interest on the catalogue purchase. He stormed out of the house returning a few hours later with a beautiful wooden stereo-gram. My Mother was delighted. Later that day I asked my Mother if she had cancelled the order with the Catalogue Lady. She smiled and said “What order?” and winked at me.

Womens_Room_cover

The Seventies and the rise of the feminist movement would change much. Wielding discrete power, women demanded much more that a supporting role in the family and in society as a whole.

In 1977 I read The Woman’s Room by Marilyn French, it put into words all the things that had been swirling around in my head, it showed me the world from a woman’s perspective in a way that no other book ever had before. It changed me and although it is difficult, if not impossible for a man to be a feminist, I try my best.

This week’s song needs no further introduction but to say although the fight for equality has made much progress there is still so much more to do. 

 

 

The Woman’s Room

 

From the day a man said

“This is mine”

Rather than

“This is ours”

It all went wrong

 

Not that I had any idea

When, why or where

It was the way the world was

The way things had been

The way they would stay

 

“The Woman’s Room” changed me

It asked the questions

It challenged fallacies

In its pages I found a world

I had lived in all my life

And never knew existed

 

I was questioned

I was confronted

I made changes

I made goat’s cheese quiche

I changed dirty nappies

I changed my attitudes

 

©Jeff Price May 2018

*The Catalogue Lady would have a catalogue of products from a company such as Littlewood’s and you could order from the catalogue and pay for them weekly. The prices were high and the interest payments even higher but for working class families it was often the only way to get credit. 

 

Most Hated Things

Madness “One Step Beyond”

There is a salvation in Madness’s songs, they raises you up. I have never seen the band live but I imagine it is one of those gigs where no one can sit down and you come out feeling madness_7ten foot taller.

Music can do so much, it can move you to tears, it can make you angry with the world and it can bring you joy. Writing this blog and looking at the different types and styles of music that I have enjoyed over the years I can see why I love music so much. It’s an every day fix, it can change my mood, it can help me through difficult times. My only regret is that I have no singing voice and can not hold a note to save my life. My wife is in a choir and the people who organise it brag that they can take anyone and get them to sing. They haven’t heard my voice.

This week’s poem is a bit of fun like a Madness single it is designed to put a smile on your face. Save it for one of those days when nothing is going right or when you are feeling a little low. 

Most Hated Things

 

Raindrops on Mondays and Facebook kittens

Headphones on hippies and overweight Britains

Microwave meals and dogs on strings

These are a few of my most hated things

 

Back to front baseball caps and a cold bathtub

smokers in the doorways and deep fried pub grub

Mobiles in cafes and Paul McCartney’s Wings

These are a few of my most hated things

 

Charvers with pitbulls and girls with tattoos

Snowflakes on windscreens and pink Converse shoes

Sub zero winters that never become springs

These are a few of my most hated things

 

When a new born baby grins

when I count my lottery wins

When everything is as it should

I simply remember my most hated things

and then I don’t feel so good

 

© Jeff Price May 2018

 

 

Big Issue

Stranglers “No More Heroes”

It was 1977 when I saw The Stranglers at the City Hall in Newcastle. I remember the

The-stranglers

electrifying power of the band and the fact that so few people could create so much noise was amazing. We were right up in the Gods but I felt pinned against the wall, the bass line hammering into my chest.
Like a lot of the punk bands at the time there seemed little separation between them and the fans. In fact by the end of the gig the stage was full of pogoing fans.
The theme of the song was something I disagreed with. There were heroes, people like Tony Benn, Dennis Skinner and Trade Union leaders like Arthur Scargill plus a little known back bench MP who always seemed to stand up for the marginalised and the oppressed called Jeremy Corbyn (I wonder what happened to him?).
I had also been very involved in supporting the Miners and I had seen the militarisation of the police and the impact that the Tory policies were having on the mining communities. Whilst the Police and the Government did everything they could to defeat the Miners other groups in society came to their support. Ordinary people all over the country gave magnificent support to the Miners in whatever way they could. I remember one Christmas being told by the local Miners Wives Support Group that they didn’t know what to do with all the turkeys they had been given. Sadly they were badly let down by their political leaders who had the chance to back the miners but did not.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been seething with anger about the Home Office treatment of the “Windrush Generation” and I can guarantee that behind the words nothing will change, they are metering the same hard faced treatment to migrants they have been heaping on the unemployed, low paid and the disabled. Their selfishness and greed has no limits and I despair when I see this crippled and broken world we are leaving to our children. If there ever was a time for the heroes to rise up it is now.
My poem this week is one person’s story. I think a big part of the problem is instead of many people seeing problems as statistics i.e too many immigrants, too many unemployed etc. What they need to do is see the person. Many people wanted the government to clamp down on immigrants and the government felt they had the authority to create a hostile environment but when they saw the reality of the damage it has done to peoples lives they are disgusted. See the person, see their problems and ask what we can do to help rather than how do we make the problem go away.

Big Issue

Homeless and rootless
Underclassed and underfed
No permanent address
No crib for a bed

An obstacle between her Father
And his latest girlfriend
Running out of floor space
Going round the bend

No address, no job
No work, no home
No matter, not important
Invisible and alone

Running out of food
Hope and self worth
A government statistic
An accident of birth

© Jeff Price April 2018

Roya Turkhel

Rolling Stones “Ruby Tuesday”

It isn’t often I click on a Rolling Stones track when I am cruising Spotify. They never rolling stonesappealed to me in the way that many other bands have but they are a party favourite and when I ran a disco you couldn’t have a night without them. You were always guaranteed to get everyone up on the dance floor if you played “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or “Let’s spend the night together”. It’s remarkable that they are still touring and even more remarkable  that all of them (except Brian Jones) are still alive.

However the track was playing on the radio recently and I started to think about who Ruby Tuesday was and this week’s poem is her story (although a completely invented one) in her voice. 

Roya Turkhel

I am not Ruby Tuesday

I never was

My name is Roya Turkhel

But no one took the time

To learn how to pronounce my name

They gave me another instead

 

I am a descendant of Ahmad Shah Durrani

The founder of Afghanistan

I am Pashtun

I am a woman of no importance

To them

To them I am an insignificance

The cleaner of plates

The sweeper of floors

 

They robbed me of my name

Made it into a monument

To their hubris and importance

They never asked me

Where I came from

I am generations of yesterdays

Of Princes and Princesses

Lords of mountains

Keepers of history

 

To them I am a dark face

From a dark corner of the world

My name, like my country

Is an asset that enriches them

Yesterday does matter

I cling to yesterday

Because the mountains of the Kush weep bitter tears

That flow through the dusty streets of Kabul

Because in Kandahar the desert blown sand

Covers the tomb of Ahmad Shah Durrani

I am not Ruby Tuesday

I am Roya Turkhel

Great, Great, Great Granddaughter of a King

 

© Jeff Price May 2018

The Fountain

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. “Tears of a Clown”

Another fab track. The group that later became the Miracles was formed in 1955 by five teenage friends from Detroit Michigan under the name the Five Chimes. Three of the founding members, Smokey Robinson, Pete Moore and Ronald White had been singing together since they each were around the age of eleven.  It must be because they know each others voices so well that you get those amazing close harmonies.

The lyrics are great as well. The song was written by Smokey with theundefined music coming from Stevie Wonder. After “Tears of a Clown” became a number one hit for Tamla Motown they toured extensively but Smokey wanted the home life in Detroit and he retired from the band to take up a management role in Motown Records.

Listening to the track it made me think how much I cry these days. When you are getting older you expect that your body will start to slow down and things will not work as well. Whilst you expect your bones to creak and your internal organs to rebel against the years of mistreatment, I was not expecting that my mental health would also begin to suffer. I have always been a bit of a softie and I never went in for that macho posturing that some Northern men think is a sign of manliness but I never thought I would start to cry at adverts or weep listening to a song. 

The Fountain

 

They stream down my face like a waterfall in flood

Brought to the surface by the most trivial of thoughts

I can ball during an advert for a building society

They can spring up at a story about a trapped chicken

Flow unbridled after a failed penalty in extra time

Watch me whimper like a baby at a picture of a distressed dog

My nasal passages snivel and snot in sympathy

I watch “Call the Midwife” through a misty veil of tears

Never stand next to me at a wedding or a funeral

 

©Jeff Price April 2018

The Matrix

Wheatus “Teenage Dirtbag”

This is a song for the outsiders, for the teenagers who are not sporty or a teacher’s pet. Like many of my chosen songs it has a story arc. It is the video as much as the song that sparked the memory recounted here.

In my teenage years there was a religious divide in the West End of Newcastle based around Catholic versus Protestant. Today the tapestry of divisions and misunderstandings is far more complex. Fear of the  “other”, those different to ourselves, led many people to vote for Brexit. Demanding that the “other” be stopped, curbed or banished.
wheatus

When I was growing up in the West-End of Newcastle in the fifties and early sixties I was part of a Catholic community that had its roots in Ireland. We had educational segregation and I was taught by nuns in my primary school and priests in the high school (not all teachers were priests and nuns but they dominated the management and culture of the school).

Our high schools were also divided so that girls went to one school and boys to another. This meant that we boys had little social interaction with girls and non Catholics. Non Catholics largely meant Protestant as at that time there were very few other alternative communities in Newcastle

The Brighton Cinema now a bowling Alley
The Brighton Cinema now a Bowling Alley

Our main opportunity to meet girls was either at the church youth club which meant the steely eyes of the priests would be watching you and if necessary report back to your parents, or there were the two cinemas.

The Plaza and the Brighton Cinema sat on opposite sides of the West Road.  To avoid clashes between the Catholic and Protestant youth there was an unofficial peace line along the West Road and we went to the Plaza on the north side and they went to the Brighton on the south. In 1960 the Plaza closed and this led to a few problems but in 1963 the Brighton changed from a cinema into a bowling alley and that’s when things turned ugly.plaza

After a number of minor clashes including me getting beaten up in the toilets of the bowling alley, a big confrontation took place in a local park. Looking back it seemed like hundreds were involved but it was probably no more than thirty or forty.

I remember there was a lot of posturing and shouting but very few actual clashes but the fighting that did take place was vicious. Later, we got together with our rivals and worked out a deal where we could each use the Brighton Bowling Alley on different nights.

Today there is a lot of talk about gang culture. In the sixties you felt being part of a gang or being seen as part of a community afforded you some protection. The reality was being in a gang lead to more trouble not less and not just with rival gang members but also with the Police.

It did however, teach me a valuable life lesson. Violence only brings more violence and rarely solves anything. By negotiating we found a solution and if we had done it before I would have saved myself a swollen jaw and a few loose teeth.

This weeks poem is about one of my daughters when she was a teenager.

The Matrix

 

In the living room four teenage girls talk

Conducting a complex matrix of interwoven conversations

In the corner of the room the television demands attention

I ask them politely to turn down the volume

My daughter tells me they would miss a favourite TV program

I suggest that watching a television is impossible

When they are all talking at once

My daughter informs me that woman can do this

Easily

I know better than to quibble with her

You can not argue with an article of faith

It forms part of her feminist catechism

Passed down from Mother to Daughter

Since the nineteen eighties

I retreat to the bathroom and wallow in the warm water

Turning up the radio to drown out the sound of the voices in my head

 

© Jeff Price April 2018

 

Freedom’s just another word

Janis Joplin “Me and Bobby McGee”

To call Janis Joplin a legend is not an exaggeration. So many musicians and singers have named her as their role model. Sadly, her moment in the sun was only fleeting but she left a legacy that still echos today.
Janis was born in Port

janis-joplin-05

Arthur Texas in 1943. She first big break was in 1967 when she fronted Big Brother and the Holding Company at the Monterey Pop Festival and then as a solo artist in 1969 at the now legendary Woodstock Festival.
Her hits included this week’s track and “Piece of my Heart”, “Mercedes Benz” and Summertime”. She had a raw earthy blues voice and I picked “Me and Bobby McGee” written by Kris Kristofferson as a wonderful example of her work. Sadly, she died in October 1970 of a heroin overdose at the age of 27.
The song tells the story of two young people hitch hiking across America and contains this amazing line, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose”. It struck me the first time I heard it and I have thought about it a lot over the years.
I was never that freewheeling spirit, travelling where the mood took me. I left school at 16 and started work straight away. Since then, I have been tied to things like my family, my kids, work and the truth is, I like that. To be truly free as an individual can mean being without all the things that have been important to me.
There is a more positive and beneficial side to freedom and that is our collective freedoms. In our country we do have many political freedoms such as the right to vote, the right to the protection of the law and to live in peace without the fear of violence and discrimination. Sadly, today I feel that these rights are under threat and we need to stand together to protect them.

 

Freedom’s just another word

A ship needs a harbour
A boat needs a dock
Trousers need a belt
Shoes need a sock

Sentences need words
You need tyres on a truck
A bathtub needs a plug
Lollies need a suck

A kiss needs lips
Nudists need the sun
Ducks need a puddle
Joggers need to run

Freedom needs limits
Floating voters need to float
Socialism needs planning
Democracy needs a vote

Children need a parent
Northern summers need heating
Problems need a solution
The Tories need defeating

Teresa May needs a backbone
Boris Johnson needs a gag
Jeremy needs our backing
He’s the only hope we have

© Jeff Price April 2018

There is an adult version of this poem Freedom’s just another word (adult version) if you would like to read it click the link

Je Regrette Beaucoup

Edith Piaf  “Non, je ne regrette rien”

The story of Edith Piaf’s life is a remarkable one. Her life amongst the poor of Paris, her rise to fame and the way men ruthlessly exploited her. The film “La Vie en Rose” which tells her life story is well worth a watch. You can watch the trailer for the movie by clicking here.

You can not help as you get older thinking of the things you might have done differently edith_piaf_8294or the things you did and regretted later.  To say that you regret nothing is to say that you have learnt nothing from life and that would be the biggest mistake of all. 

This week’s poem is a look at the things I regret from the past seventy years. Feel free to add your own regrets to the comment section of the blog.

Je Regrette Beaucoup

Missing the Beatles first gig in Newcastle in 1963

Getting married to the first Mrs Price in 1967

Going to see Van Morrison at the City Hall in 1983

 

Not continuing to learn French after I left school

Not having the courage to take up a job in London when I was 19

Starting smoking, giving up was easy, I did it hundreds of times

 

Not going to University until I was 52, I realised what I had missed

Platform shoes, a dodgy moustache, bell bottom hipster jeans and my red leather tie

Playing card games on the computer when I should be writing

 

Believing that all hippies were honest and wouldn’t rip you off

Not telling my Father that I loved him when I had the chance

Not writing a better poem than this for this week’s blog

 

©Jeff Price March 2018

January Blue

The Mamas and the Papas “California Dreamin’ “

Wonderful harmonies from this great Californian band. I have never been to America and I suspect I never will but the music of the Mamas and the Papas always take me to the west coast during a hot endless American summer.

That is how we always remember the seasons of our childhoods as either cold with

mamasandpapas

endless snow or summers of warm days and barmy nights. This winter in the UK all the talk has been about the weather and you know how we Brits like to talk about the weather.

The young people complain about the snow and we older people come back with “Well, the winter of 1964 was much colder than that and we had snow for months

This week’s poem is a celebration of our collective desire to out bid each other with our weather anecdotes.

January Blue

My childhood winters were a wonderland
Each November brought the soft white snow
That stayed until the first daffodils of spring
We would build igloos on the green
Jump from the yard wall into newly fallen snow

Every June brought the summer
Warm balmy nights and sun drenched days in Nuns Moor Park
Sundays swimming in the sultry waters of the North Sea
Building sand castle on the shore line
Rolling down the dunes my underpants full of sand

Of course, it isn’t true it just seems like it now
The reality was snow blackened with soot after a few days
A sea cold enough to cause my testicles to retreat
We rarely went to the coast as it was too expensive
The park was a playground for bullies and perverts

But these are the stories I told my children
Now they long for the glory days of their childhood

© Jeff Price March 2018

Down to the Dozens

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band “Big Eyed Beans from Venus”

The first question I always asked myself about this track and Captain Beefheart in

captain beefheart

particular is “What?” I know the lyrics really well and even after listening over and over again I have still no real idea. There are some obvious sexual references. for example:

Men let your wallets flop out,
And women open your purses

(If you want to read the full lyrics click here)
or just bizarre… how about:

Distant cousins, there’s a limited supply.
And we’re down to the dozens, and this is why:
Big Eyed Beans from Venus! Oh my, oh my.

clear spot

Either way I still loved his albums and “Clear Spot” and “Trout Mask Replica” are two favourites. I like the idea of stitching phrases together or just saying things because you like the way they sound.
Like a lot of writers the Captain (real name Don Van Vliet ) didn’t like to give too much away about the meaning of the lyrics and as he died of Multiple Sclerosis in 2010 we will never know. He was also universally disliked by nearly everyone he worked with and band members would often not get paid or receive credit for song writing. Being talented doesn’t make you a nice person.

The BBC had a program on Radio 4 recently hosted by Jim Moir about Captain Beefheart. Here is a link to the BBC Radio Iplayer or search your BBC Radio Iplayer app.

This song also means a lot to me because it was the name of a wholefood shop in Corbridge run by two friends Hil and Mel McHugh. The shop didn’t last long and then they both left the UK to live in France. It is a long time since I saw either of them but thanks to Facebook I can see that they are both still alive and well.

Down to the Dozens” is a line from the song and I always took it to mean that supplies are low or things are running out. When I was a young man, time seemed endless and ideas and ideology were there to explore, experience and I was trying to gain some understanding of the world I was living in. As I approach seventy, the world is so much more unsure, confusing and full of doubt. Time is running out and I am down to the dozens, I do not want to end up as one of those cynical people who mock the youth for their idealism. I want to be one of those people who still “rage against the dying of the light”

Down to the Dozens

When I was young man
I poured over books
Discussed history and politics
Tub thumped and protested
Waving my clenched fist at the world
But sometimes mistook knowledge for understanding
Now I am an older man
I still scour books for answers
Search web pages for understanding
Marvelling at science and progress
Despair at political indifference
But sometimes I mistake cynicism for wisdom
©Jeff Price March 2018