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

kiki dee
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

 

 

Crashing Out

R.E.M. “Losing my Religion”

Say what you like about REM they can craft a good pop song.

rem
REM Losing my Religion

I was brought up a Catholic but lost my faith when I was a teenager. These days I find the concept of a God and religion as ridiculous as believing in Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy. I accept that many intelligent, good and decent people do not share my view. I do believe that everyone should have the right to worship whatever God they like as long as they do not seek to impose those views and values on other people who do not share them.

My High School was St Cuthbert’s, a Catholic Grammar School in Newcastle, the Head was Father Cassidy a man famous for his temper, his intolerance and his enthusiasm for beating young boys. 

Here is a BONUS addition to the blog. Click below to download a short story called “Docherty”. It is based on an incident that happened at St Cuthbert’s when I was eleven years old.  Click here :docherty

This week’s poem recalls an event when I was an altar boy for a priest called Father Boyle, a person I had a lot of time for. He had a mischievous sense of humour and wasn’t aloof like a lot of the other priests at school.  All CatholicPriests were required to say Mass every day even though they were teachers and had no church. In the basement of the priest’s house in the grounds of the school were a number of small chapels where the priests would say mass to a congregation of none, just me and Father Boyle at seven-thirty in the morning. 

Father Boyle could say the a mass in under fifteen minutes and one morning he told me he was going for a personnel best time. This poem is about that morning.

Postscript… Since the blog was published I had a phone call from fellow poet and St Cuthbert’s old boy Aidan Clarke. Aidan and I had attended a poetry night in Durham the night before I published the blog and I had read out the poem. Aidan contacted me to tell me that he had recently been discussing Father Boyle with some another St Cuthbert’s old boys and he had recalled how Father Boyle had read out a poem he had written when Aidan was in the 6th Form and although it was over fifty years ago he could still 

Photo from Jeff Price

recall what the poem was about. Father Boyle had gone to comfort a couple who had lost their five-year old child and he was questioning how a merciful God could let a five year old die. A few days after that discussion Aidan, who has an unhealthy interest in cemetaries had been walking through Lemington Cemetary on the outskirts of Newcastle when he saw this grave. The latin inscription reads “A Priest Forever”.

Crashing Out

 

I was born a Catholic, the catechism beaten into me by Nuns with bad habits

Faith seeps out of most, even the most devoted, a slow puncture on the road of life

For many, routine and the fear of the hereafter kept them shackled to the Alter

My faith was involved in a head-on shunt on a spring morning when I was thirteen

I was an Alter Boy for Father Boyle saying Mass in an empty chapel

Latin incantations rattled through the liturgy like an express train

Never stopping at the stations in between only focused on getting to the end

The Priest ignored obstructions pausing only to issue instructions

As the final bell rang, he checked his watch, eleven and a half minutes

With a triumphant smile he announced his personal best time

A light went on, if it was a game to him why should it mean something to anyone else

Belief hitched a ride on the breakdown truck, It was never seen again

In the years that followed on dark crisis ridden nights when all hope had vanished

I would call up an instinctive prayer that was always unanswered

It is over fifty years since the last prayer left my lips

 

©Jeff Price November 2017

 

Lost Love

The Streets: Dry Your Eyes

The pain in this song is visceral and it is in the tiny details that you can appreciate the agony that he is going through. I also love the way he combines the spoken word and the music by using a sung chorus to glue the whole piece together.

Mike-Skinner-the-Streets-007
Mike Skinner The Streets

Have you ever had your heart-broken? Of course you have , everybody has at one time in their lives. The first woman to break my heart was called Lynn. I met her when I worked in Bainbridge’s department store where she worked on the beauty counter selling eyelashes. The sixties was all about the eyelashes.

I had never experienced emotions like it before and it was amazing. When we were together I was elated and when we were apart I was anticipating our next date. We could talk for hours and in the way that young people do we explored our emotions and our bodies. 

There was one major problem, both of us lived at home with our families. Today, we would have got a flat together but in those far off days that was not how things were done. We had a wedding in the cathedral in Newcastle with the her looking amazing in her wedding dress and me looking a right idiot in a mourning suit but I didn’t care. I was in love.

I do not remember much about that time, large chunks have disappeared from my memory. All I know is that six months later she left. Later, I understood we were both too young and not emotionally equipped for marriage. Her Father had died not long before we met and she was a little lost and I must have offered some sort of security but she must have realised that I was not the one for her. Like in the song, I remember trying to persuade her not to leave but nothing I said made any difference.

In the immediate aftermath after she left I was devastated, depressed and miserable. However, it taught me some valuable life lessons. I found out who my true friends were. Even when I was miserable they stood by me. I learnt to stand on my own two feet and be independent.  After a particularly disastrous meal consisting of a “cook in the tin” steak pie, instant potato and peas I dug out a recipe book we had been given as a wedding present and I discovered a love of cooking that I still enjoy today.

Except for a brief encounter a short time afterwards I never saw her again. Soon after I heard through the grapevine she was seeing someone else. I have no idea what happened to Lynn but I hope she found love and that she has had a happy life.  

 

Lost Love

The taxi driver drops the small suitcase into the boot

She slips into the back seat and pulls her coat collar up

Water pulses onto the windscreen from a sullen northern sky

All that was found and lost she will leave behind

All that is unknown and terrifying she will face alone

 

© Jeff Price November 2017

 

The Dictionary

The Clash “London Calling”

Released in 1979 this seemed, at the time, as a call to action and a portent of what was to come. There was a darkness to punk that the Clash reflected. I think their music and politics was summed up by critic Sean Egan when he wrote that the Clash were exceptional because: 

clash“They were a group whose music was, and is, special to their audience because that music insisted on addressing the conditions of poverty, petty injustice, and mundane life experienced by the people who bought their records…”

I liked the Clash and in particular the album “London’s Calling” I have spent a great part of my life visiting London either because of work or to meet up with friends and family. It is a sprawling place were even the smallest journey seems to take a life time but it has an energy and vitality that is difficult to beat. Much as I love my home town of Newcastle it can’t rival London for sheer variety and originality. 

Over forty years ago I remember travelling from Hackney to Stepney on a bus late at night when I fell in to conversation with the conductor (this was in the days when you had a person separate from the driver who would collect the fares). He was reading a dictionary and we talked about words and language. English was not his first language and he was fascinated by the sheer number of words in the dictionary. The words had a magic quality to him and I loved the delight he took in discovering new words. Something I still find today, 

My problem was always not the words but the spelling of them but now thanks to software it no longer troubles me since I discovered computers, spellcheckers and word processing software.

This is an old poem of mine from my first collection called “Doors” but it’s a long time since it saw the light of day and finding it was like meeting up with an old friend.

 

Dictionary

 

My father gave me a dictionary

Full of words I did not understand

And could not pronounce

Every vowel was a brawl

Every consonant a skirmish

 

I learned to love the words

That I could not spell

To explore their meanings

Taste their sound on my tongue

Prising them apart

Stitching them back together

 

In my head I wrote poetry

Furtive words about secrets

Never daring to put pen to paper

In case my words would be mocked

And ridiculed

Geordie boys don’t write poetry

 

Thirty years ago

On a Routemaster bus in London

Going from Hackney to Stepney

I shared a dictionary with a conductor

We drooled over the pages

Like schoolboys ogling porn

 

I realised, I was not alone

This was not a fetish

Just a fascination for phonetics

Now, I let the software

Worry about the spelling

While I enjoy creating the lines

 

© Jeff Price August 1998