Daggers Drawn

Dixie Chicks: Travlin’ Soldier

What amazing voices these woman have. Their harmonies give me goose bumps. It was a difficult task picking a Dixie Chicks track and in the end it came down to a toss up between this one and ” Goodbye Earl”. Have a listen yourself to the other choice and let me know what you

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think. Link
Travlin’ Soldier was written by Bruce Robinson and released as a single in 1996. It is another of those story songs I love so much. It tells the tale of a young soldier who strikes up a conversation with a young waitress in an american diner and they become pen pals. It is set in the time of the Vietnam war and gives a voice to the ordinary squaddie.

One Friday night at a football game

The Lord’s prayer said and the anthem sang

A man said “Folks would you bow your heads

For a list of local Vietnam dead” …

One name read and nobody really cared

But a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair

Unless you are some deranged bigot the idea of waging war makes little sense and rarely leads to any resolution, instead it usually increases global tension and creates a generation of embittered and volatile young people who are easy prey to the aforementioned deranged bigots. In the political rhetoric of war the impact on individuals is usually forgotten or simply ignored.
When I was very young maybe seven or eight, I found a box in our house and in it were two daggers. They had very intricately engraved blades with ivory handles. At the top of

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the handle was a swastika. Along with a few medals it was my Father’s war booty.
I remember threatening my little brother with one of the daggers and he held up a rubber hot water bottle to protect himself. Unfortunately it was still full of water which then leaked out all over the bedroom floor. When my Mother saw what had happened she was furious.

The box disappeared and I never saw the daggers again. I presume she told my Dad to get rid of them. After my Dad, died I couldn’t find his medals but did come across a record of his battalion’s part in the Normandy landings and it’s struggle up through France , Belgium and in to Germany. After every encounter with the retreating enemy is a list of casualties and deaths. Every one a shattered life and a family deprived of a loved one. It was very sobering reading.

Daggers Drawn

Along the dusty road are the scattered uniforms of a fleeing army
Soldiers have scoured the homes that lined the road of their retreat
Taking jackets, trousers and coats so they can melt into the countryside
Gone are the goose steps and lines of raised arms, only chaos remains
Their masters have left them hungry, disillusioned and disappointed
They sold them the dream of making Germany great again
But they were only interested in making their profits great again

© Jeff Price February 2018

Farewell to the Jazz Heart

Bob Marley and the Wailers “Jammin”

Reggae Part One

I was always a fan of Reggae music including Bob Marley’s laid back sound. I once had a fantastic bobmarleycollection of 12 inch reggae records including many white label imports. In the 70s I used to run a disco that was mainly used to raise money for left wing causes, named appropriately “The Red Flag Disco”.  I had three versions, a very punky version, a very laid back reggae night and a party big hits night.

I remember doing a night at a farm near Hexham and my friend Mel and I doubled up on the decks. We played Reggae to a bunch of stoned hippies until three in the morning. It was a fabulous night.

After my first daughter was born I gave the equipment and all the records away to a local youth club. Some of those singles would be worth a fortune today.

Reggae Part Two

In September of 2008 I went to see my Doctor and asked him to listen to my heart. Something didn’t feel right. I was quickly diagnosed with Tachycardia and Atrial Fibrillation and rushed into hospital.

What followed was nearly ten years of hospital visits, so many Cardio Versions I have lost count and two heart operations called a Cardiac Ablation. The last one was in December 2016.

A Cardio Version is that scene in ahospital drama when the sick person’s monitor flat lines and the Doctor puts two paddles on a patient’s chest and zaps their heart. You see the body arch and then hopefully the monitor begins it’s reassuring beep. That’s basically a Cardio Version. I like to think of it as the Control Alt Delete thing I do on my computer when it refuses to work properly.

The Cardiac Ablation is a lot more complicated but basically it is a laser blasting the misbehaving bits of your heart from the inside in the hope all will be restored to perfect working order. I am pleased to report that since the last CA in 2016 there have been no more problems. I did a rough calculation based on a price list for a hospital in America and found out if I live in the USA it would have cost me over $700,000 for treatment.

Now you are wondering what is the connection between reggae music and Jeff’s dodgy ticker?

Farewell to the Jazz Heart

 

My heart had a case of the Heebie-Jeebies

Beating out a scat tune like a jazz guitarist on speed

Shaky fingers rattling out discordant chords

 

In hospital my heart is wired as a washing machine

As well connected as a coming out debutante

Paparazzi eyes scrutinising its every peculiar pulse

 

When the Doctor’s drugs don’t do the trick

They charge me up like Frankenstein’s monster

Zapping my chest with a thunderbolt

 

My Reggae heart returns with its stoned Caribbean rhythm

Marley’s ghost pounding out the Rasta man vibration

Beating out the drums of the rhythm of life

 

©Jeff Price February 2018

Slipping in the Sun

Paolo Nutini “Candy”

A beautiful love song from Paolo. It has a wonderful poetic quality which I like and also paolo nutinihis voice lends an extra dimension to the song. When I first heard it I assumed he was much older and was surprised when I saw a picture of him for the first time.

I found this article Link from a fan site. There is much debate about the lyrics, Paolo gives two explanations, one was he wrote the song after an argument with his girlfriend and having realised he was in the wrong, wrote the song as an apology.  The second is much darker.

Here is a clip from the article.

It followed a meeting between Paolo and one of his all-time music heroes, US singer-songwriter Rodriguez. Paolo explains: “When we were teenagers, me and one of my friends would listen to him constantly.

“His stuff was very overlooked, we didn’t know where he was or whether he was alive or dead. But when I played in Detroit, his hometown, he came to see me and we did his song Sugar Man together.

“After the show he gave me a DVD of the film Candy, which features Sugar Man on the soundtrack.

“It stars Heath Ledger as a heroin addict. It’s quite a desperate tale about his addiction, very dark but somehow very beautiful and moving too. Watching it got me thinking about the way that love can be an addiction too. You get hooked on somebody so much that, even when you’re away from home – or on tour – something keeps that person at the forefront of your mind.

“The night I wrote the song, I called my girlfriend and I was about to tell her about the film and what it had meant to me when she told me the news that Heath Ledger had just died, [22 Jan 2008] apparently from an overdose. It was a weird coincidence. Very uncanny.”

It reminds me that when you write something, the reader can put their own spin on the words. People tell me things they have read into my poems that I never intended. We all see what we see depending on our point of view. To slightly misquote Paul Simon “A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest”. I have sat down with my daughters and discussed some incident from the past and other than the names of the people involved nothing else can be agreed on (even the names can sometimes be in contention).

One incident springs to mind. We were on holiday when the girls were small, in a little fishing village in Spain. We were crossing a seaweed covered concrete slipway that was used by the fishing boats to enter the harbour.  My oldest daughter slipped and fell. The water was only inches deep but as she fell she saw a small shoal of fish that scattered as she entered the water. I  grabbed her hand and immediately pulled her up, she suffered no more damage than a wet sun dress. Now, over thirty years later she still claims she has a fear of fish after being attacked after I pushed her into the sea.

 

Slipping in the Sun

Along the harbour tattered bunting sways in a soft Mediterranean breeze

Sun shines indiscriminately on holiday makers and fisherman alike

The harbour slipway is festooned in bladderwrack seaweed and dark green algae

An incoming tide has turned the concrete into a greased water-slide

She is four years old and as bold and brave as a firefighter

Striding along mesmerised by the garish colours of the harbour cafes

She steps onto the slipway and slips into the inch deep water

In an instant I grab her arm lifting her up as a dozen silvery fish scatter

 

Years later she recounts the story of how I pushed her into the harbour

To be attacked by hundreds of hungry man eating fish

She claims she has a fish phobia because of my negligent parenting

I recall how on our way back to the hotel I gave her my t-shirt

To replace the soggy slime covered summer dress she was wearing

I remember thinking how beautiful she was even in a purple man size top  

 

©    Jeff Price February 2018

 

 

The Late Adopter

Queen “Don’t Stop Me Now”

When Queen were at the height of their popularity I didn’t like them. I was into punk and blues. I was tired of over produced and lyrically superficial pop songs.  Later I began to understand the amazing talent of Freddie Mercury and how innovative the band were. It was Queen with “Bohemian Rhapsody” who pioneered the pop video and blurred the lines between pop and opera. Yes, there were some duff ones in the twenty years of recording and they are still not in my favourite band list but despite Freddie’s death in 1991 the band continue to record and tour.freddie mercury

What I like about this track is the sheer exuberance of it. You can not help but feel invigorated by Freddie’s performance and there are a number of Queen tracks that I defy anyone not to want to get up and dance to. 

“Don’t stop me know” makes me realise that life is for living and I just need to get on with it despite the many distractions the world can throw in the way.

On more than one occasion my daughters have enthused about TV programs such as the The Wire, Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad and urged me to watch them. This poem is my response. 

The Late Adopter

Now that the last series of Breaking Bad has finished

I am urged by my daughter to watch this American TV series

I tell her that the five series totalling fifty two episodes

Each lasting fifty minutes will take forty two hours of my life

I am nearly seventy years old and I don’t think I can commit

 

It isn’t that I am running on empty, yet

But the tank is definitely a lot less than a quarter full

There are no refills, no top ups and no reserve tank

There is a lot of road left to travel, a lot of sights still to see

And no time for long running drug related sagas

No matter how motherfucking good they are

 

© Jeff Price January 2018

 

 

Falling under the wheels

Beach Boys “Wouldn’t it be nice”

A change of pace this week as we celebrate the life and times of Andy Lippincott inspired by the Beach Boys track “Wouldn’t it be nice”.

rs-7132-20120917-beachboys-624x-1347915327I am a great fan of Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury cartoon strip. I followed it every day in the Guardian Newspaper, it was something I always looked forward to reading.

Of all the characters Gary Trudeau created the one that touched me the most was Andy Lippincott. This was 1990, a time when the spread of HIV AIDS was beginning its relentless march across the world and the press in the UK was full of homophobic rants and religious fundamentalists were calling it the gay plague. Trudeau’s voice was the voice of compassion and understanding and he helped humanise the victims of this terrible illness.

The strip below is the one I read that morning in 1990 and shows Andy’s last moment as he passes away listening to the Beach Boys track “Wouldn’t it be nice”. 

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Falling under the wheels

 

I cried when I opened the Guardian and read about the last moments of your life,

I had followed the last tragic weeks as AIDS overwhelmed you

Even though you fought back, the disease just got stronger

Still you faced it with a stoicism I couldn’t understand.

I would have been angry and railed against the injustice of it all

You quietly passed away listening to the Beach Boys “Wouldn’t it be Nice”.

A lot of real people that I know have died since that day in 1990

Some I expected to lose, like my parents and aged aunties and uncles

Others, I thought too young to die, fell under the wheels of life

Death surprises us even though we know it is as unstoppable as the tide

As unforgiving as a jilted lover and as predictable as a footballer’s glib commentary cliche

 

 

 

©Jeff Price January 2018

Observations

Joe Jackson. “It’s Different for Girls”

I remember Joe from the late 70s with this track and “Is she really going out with him”

both show a man who is trying to understand relationships but isn’t having much luck. If thI had the insight my seventy years have given me when I was in my twenties, how different my life would have been. But it is the very act of experiencing and learning that helps us grow up and become the people we are today.

I sometimes wish my children would listen to my sage advice culled from those turbulent years and use it to help make their own lives easier but whilst they are happy to ask me for advice on a recipe or how to fix their computers, their love lives are a closed book and I am not allowed to peek at the pages.

On the other hand living with them, watching them grow and mature has been a never ending joy to me. Watching them bringing up their children makes me feel I must have done something right somewhere along the line.

Observations

 

Whatever goes wrong it is not their fault and whatever goes right is down to them

They always complain about looking their worst when they look their best

No matter how much they earn they are always broke

They always seem to arrive at my house just before a meal is served

All boyfriends will at some point be the most selfish, unspeakable disgusting slime balls in the history of boyfriends

All disagreements will eventually be forgotten and all slights and insults forgiven

They can turn rags into designer dresses and designer dresses into rags

The contents of the fridge are their birthright and they can feed themselves and their friends on its contents at anytime

In a pub they never offer to get the first round in. They never say “just make mine a half”

 

Sometimes, they make me feel so proud of them that I want to cry

 

© Jeff Price January 2018

 

 

 

The Cat who Spoke.

Willie Nelson & Lee Ann Womack “Mendocino County Line”

I love this track, Willie Nelson is a legend and Lee Ann Womack has the perfect country voice. The Lyrics talk about a relationship that has failed but still has a pull on the people involved.

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I don’t talk to you too much these days
I just thank the lord pictures don’t fade
I spent time with an angel just passing through
Now all that’s left is this image of you

If I have learned anything from the last seventy years it is that relationships come and go. That isn’t a good or a bad thing it is just the way it is.

There is an ebb and flow to life and friends drift apart or they just move. Over Christmas I met up with an old friend for a drink. He was a regular in my life in the 70/80s but he moved back to Canada when his Mother became ill. It was great to catch up and for a couple of hours the years faded away and and we became lost in our joint memories.

Over Christmas I also met up with a friend who died nearly twenty years ago. It was a very vivid dream and for a moment after I woke up I felt that he was still alive.

This week’s poem is inspired by another occasion shortly after he died when I am sure I heard a cat in the street say his name.

The cat who spoke.

A cat peered through the iron railings

He said your name over and over again

I wondered if the cat had a message from you

 

I did consider striking up a conversation

But there was nothing the cat could have told me

That I didn’t already know

I know you are dead

And that the dead do not come back

And the living miss them

And sometimes in their grief

They hear cats speak

It must have said something like “meow

And instead

In my sorrow I heard 

Brian, Brian, Brian

 

® Jeff Price January 2018

The cheque’s in the post

Kiki Dee “Loving and Free”

Happy New Year and welcome back to Three Score and Ten after our festive break.

To start the new year, a confession and a humorous poem.

Firstly, a little context for those who do not know my story. At the age of 52 I left the

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Kiki Dee

computer industry and became a student  at Newcastle University. With my Master’s Degree in Poetry and Creative writing, I became a full-time poet running writing groups, organising poetry events and working as a poetry tutor in schools.

Over the years before I retired, I must have worked with thousands of students in schools all over the North East. I helped them write poetry and also worked on their performance. At some point I would always tell them a story about a night in Newcastle at the Dolce Vita nightclub when I saw Dusty Springfield sing.

I would tell them how I went with friends and how during the whole performance Dusty sang to me. How her eyes never left mine. Afterwards, when I told my friends they were all amazed because they were all convinced that Dusty had performed just for them, how she had never taken her eyes off them. It is a technique used by performers, politicians and every teacher in every classroom around the world.

Now a confession. The story isn’t true, it never happened, at least not with Dusty. I used Dusty’s name because people would have heard of Dusty and even if the school children hadn’t heard of her then the teachers would have and I wanted them to remember the story. I also, as readers of my blog will know,  had a bit of a crush on Dusty.

The singer was Kiki Dee (real name Pauline Mathews) was born in Bradford in 1947 and had a big hit with Elton John “Don’t go breaking my heart,” she was also the first white UK singer to be signed by Tamla Motown. Kiki still tours and over her fifty year career she has released 39 singles, three EPs and 12 albums. 

That feels better, I have set the record straight, I have confessed and I ask forgiveness from all those students I have deceived and forgiveness from Kiki who deserved the limelight that went to Dusty.

My poem this week is about all the lies we tell when the truth in inconvenient.

The Cheque’s in the Post

 

My phone battery has died, the volume was way down

The taxi is ten minutes away I’m on my way to town

I called you yesterday but no one was at home

We can’t meet up today, I just need to be alone

 

Santa Claus is real, he lives at the North Pole

It is only those who deserve it, who are on the dole

Brexit will be good for the you, we all know that’s true

Everyone will be happier when their passport’s are blue

 

Things will get better soon, the economy is on the mend

The NHS is safe in our hands on that you can depend

My Facebook posts are just to inform, I don’t like to boast

I always pay on time and your cheque’s in the post

 

©Jeff Price January 2018

 

 

Mary’s Girl Child

 

Loudon Wainwright III “Suddenly it’s Christmas”

merry-christmasA Very Merry Christmas to you all.

Three Score and Ten is taking a festive breather but just in case you feel neglected here is christmasa wonderfully seasonal song from the brilliant Loudon Wainwright III. A big thanks to all the visitors to my blog over the last nine months (nearly 2,000 views from 30 different countries) and a Merry Christmas to you all. Three Score and Ten will be back on Friday 5th January.

To keep you going until then here is a festive poem. It isn’t new, I wrote it many years ago but it is about Christmas and it is funny and I hope you enjoy it. It was written for the Christmas Party at the Dharma Banana in the legendary Fighting Cocks pub in beautiful down town Byker in 1999. 

Mary’s Girl Child

The Angel Gabriel:

Mary I am afraid I have to tell you

I know your head’s in a whirl

But it’s not the little boy you expected

You will give birth to a girl

 

Mary:

I was told by the Lord Jehovah

I don’t believe it, it’s not true

He said it was the Messiah

Look! All his clothes are blue

Three wise men cannot be wrong

I am positive, I got it right

They said the Saviour of the World

Would be born here.. tonight

 

Then God the Father spoke:

My gift you would shun

Is this the thanks I get

After everything I’ve done

She is the finest of your race

I am sorry, it has to be said

But if she’s not satisfactory

I’ll send a man instead.

 

©Jeff Price December 1999

Making a Spectacle of Yourself

The Penguin Cafe Orchestra “Perpetuum Mobile”

Something very different this week. The Penguin Cafe Orchestra is a band from the 1980/90’s with their own very different Avant-Pop style led by English guitarist Simon Jeffes and cellist Helen Liebmann.pco

I first came across this band watching the Australian stop animation movie “Mary and Max”. The “based on fact” story is about an unlikely pen-pal friendship between a young Australian girl and a morbidly obese 44-year-old Jewish atheist from New York. It is at times wonderfully funny and a desperately sad film. It is beautifully rendered and well worth a watch. You can see a trailer by clicking here

mary-and-maxOne of the issues the film deals with is the fact that Max is on the Autistic Spectrum. Mary sees that as a disability and Max sees it as an integral part of his personality and not a disability that needs to be cured. It made me think a lot about difference and how we perceive it in a increasingly segmented society.

We all are individuals with our own distinctive personalities, quirks and idiosyncrasies that makes us who we are. For most it makes little difference to our day to day lives, for others it creates huge problems that can make life almost impossibly difficult.

Making a Spectacle of Yourself

 

As a child his fat spectacles would frequently slip from his pustulated face 

Picked last at school sports with a reputation as the world’s worst goalkeeper

 

The cock eyed pictures on the pub wall distract him to the point of anger

He makes a mental note to bring a spirit level to the next boys night out

 

He would prefer a world where beauty was literal and people were honest

Deviousness can catch his ankles and send him crashing to the ground

 

He takes an eternity to be spontaneous and can quickly prevaricate

He can feel awkward and unsure in the company that he so often craves

 

Words dance on book pages and the order of their letters often eludes him

But he loves them with a passion it took him years to acknowledge

 

His world is a one man play were he has many parts, none of them suit him

Yet he is the sum of all of them and an eager apprentice at each one in turn

 

©Jeff Price December 2017