where the oyster

I’m very excited. My pamphlets are back from the printers. I’ll be seeing them for the very first time on Thursday.  The collection’s called Where The Oyster Was. Here’s the title poem…

Where The Oyster Was
(Her Serene Highness Makes A Shell Border In Her Hayling Island Garden)

A chap called with a barrowful, wanted
sixpence for the lot. We sealed the deal with
Tio Pepe, toasted Canada’s prince.
See how the outside froths, like my Papa’s
cuffs did once, before they shot him  – and rough
as the storm last week. But stroke your thumb here:
inside it’s silky as a pulse. These lines
are tidemarks in a zinc tub (do you see?)
Or horseshoes of cheap seats, up in the gods,
in a tiny arena, where I’d give
recitals. I’d be exactly there, where
the oyster was. And this cream cumulous,
marble-white and Quink, is my lungs’ shadow.
They’ll make a pretty edging, n’est ce pas?

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Havant flaneusing

Saturday was the final winter wander. And it didn’t disappoint. We flaneused proper. There was Mr Meat, selling off his steaks with a wink and a bit of banter (see Kate’s poem) and a rather good xmas fair at the United Reformed Church Hall, as the chap above said.

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Staunton Park

I can’t get over what luck we’ve had with the weather. Saturday’s Staunton writing safari, ‘Writing The Park’ could have been a wash-out; I’d warned participants to think of it as ‘words and wellies’. It would have been good anyway, it is such a stunning venue, but it was more than that, it was glorious! Autumn leaves, bright late sunshine, and toadstools fit for fairies.

We were a small but perfectly formed band of wordsmiths, and we had ourselves a room with a view: double doors opening out onto a vista of parkland, the occasional peacock or hen wandering in. Truly delightful.

The theme for the day was follies and curiosity cabinets – both features of George Staunton’s time as owner. The words have already begun to arrive, and I’ll be posting contributions from the day on ‘workshopped words’.

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the boat project

LOVE this project! Here’s something I wrote after visiting the boatyard, and then, back in London, finding an old wardrobe with these little plates inside: shirts, pyjamas, etc. It got me thinking about organising emotions, decluttering, finding a good home for things of emotional significance…

Shadow Board

First, gather together all the stuff.
Lay it on the floor, if you like.
Measure it, down to the lolly stick jokes.
See how much space it takes up.
Work out how large a piece of pegboard you’ll need.
Try arranging things into how frequently you use them –
every hour, every day, or maybe never but
you’d be anxious if they weren’t there, within easy reach.

A good wood butcher can
whittle down your mess, plane ribbons off,
glass-paper it to paper smooth
(listen: the airlocks in his knuckles
pop like bubble wrap).
He’ll know towpaths, compass points,
where to walk a dog. He’ll show you tumulus;
sawdust lumped under the rug.

You can use a magic marker
to draw around edges,
whack in a long nail for hanging.
There’s peace in this place for everything
and everything in its placing.
Your wardrobe, slim now as Parma ham
had a compartment for sundry items,
and in your hinged desk, the smell of ink well.

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I see dead people

..that’s the most recent addition to the Havku, which has lately gone a bit Hallowe’en; Jane pitching in with ghostly knitted benches and spooky rashers and me batting back with cross-stitched hassocks.

It’s also what I said to a slightly bemused Terry Powell during a radio interview last week. What I meant was, there are so many extraordinary Havant tales. Not knowing the place until now, I’m walking the streets and mentally rerunning the stories I’ve been gathering – from Canute to Her Serene sherry guzzling Highness on Hayling, from the thousands of Spanish Civil War refugee kids playing football and the one armed auntie knitting in her railway carriage caravan, to the tanks nibbling at the kerb, Neville Shute proposing to Flora Twort, Wodehouse maybe taking the vicar of Warblington as the seed of an idea for the betting on the longest sermon wheeze. The place is in a constant state of All Soul’s night, albeit a very jolly one. Or maybe if I’d done the residency in spring, say, everything would have been different. Less spooky.

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Ken Wood = Kenwood

Who knew? Kenwood was the brainchild of a Mr Kenneth Wood! I love this fact. I think more people have told me that Ken Wood has a Havant connection than any other Havant related fact. Even Mrs Mayor, Hazel, at the launch of my residency said, ‘You do know Kenwood is Havant? And there’s a little shop where you can get parts?’ Well, I do now, and, as if to make certain, just the other day, on my way to my local park in London I came across a Kenwood – I won’t say abandoned, because it had a little Paddington Bear style note attached, inviting me to take it home and, well, blend things. I did. It was a sign. It’s a brown, I’d say Seventies model. It needs a new lid. I might try getting one from the little shop.

Eye appeal is buy appeal.

That was one of Ken’s.

My Kenwood does everything but cook – that’s what wives are for!

There’s another.

I’m hoping to meet Kenwood owners at the Spring this weekend, at the Industry Day on Saturday, where someone who knows Kenwood facts has been promised, to ‘show and tell’. I’m very excited about that.

Before then, at my Museum Mischief workshop on Friday I’m hoping to get some Kenwood words mixing and a blending. I want to hear all about your Kenwood – was it a wedding present? A twenty-first gift? Are you still using it, or does it sit in the back of a cupboard, gathering dust? What about those attachments, the cream maker and K hook? (Is it a coincidence Ken ended his days in Liphook? Is there the makings of a poem here?)

Kenneth Maynard Wood. The middle name was his uncle’s. You’re not going to believe this, he invented the wine gum. It just gets better and better.

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in residence

Hello, this is the place to find writing and such that emerges from my being Writer in Residence at The Spring in Havant.

This Friday I’m going to be reading extracts from my own writing at The Spring 7.30 – 8.30. The following day, I’m kicking off the first of a series of Writing the Town Havant-Style Saturday Writing Safaris. I’ve been running these in Bloomsbury for a number of years (the fruits of which are on the sister blog, Writingbloomsbury, with a detour to Writing the Broken Relationship) – and they have always been a blast. If you’re anywhere nearby, do please come and join me.

I’ll set a treasure hunt of writing clues designed to inspire you into writing something brand new and amazing – the first Saturday will be in Havant itself, then there’s one on Hayling Island, another at Staunton, and then back to Havant for a final wander.

This Thursday is National Poetry Day, so I shall ensure Saturday’s outing includes plenty of juicy prompts to generate poems, although any style of writing is encouraged – and all levels of ability/previous experience are warmly welcome. Details on The Spring’s website, PDF link here:

Let the adventure commence.


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