The last 24 hours have been good. I went to Leeds yesterday and read poems to the audience crammed into the upstairs space of a bar called Strawberry. The journey was long, 4 and a half hours of numb bum cheeks and uncomfortable sleeping positions all to arrive in a strange city where I had one friend. His name is Andy and he organised the gig, the show called 'Sticks and Stones'. We go way back. When I first started this work spoken word artists: Polarbear, John Berkavitch, Andy and I, bonded in a field in Glastonbury because we were called the urban poets. We formed a group called ‘The Urbanian Quarter’, did two gigs and essentially disbanded. They were really good gigs. Anywya, Andy told me to wait for him at a certain location, but I turned down the wrong street and stood opposite a car park, under a ventilator that blew warm air onto my cold neck. The air was pumped out of a kitchen, they were making kebabs. Think I inhaled a meal’s weight in aroma waiting there. Andy, pulled up coincidentally and I got into his car, drove to his to drop a few things and went for the show. It was good, I mean, you could hear a mouse fart - the audience was that attentive. A girl whose name I forget, but who had a dutch surname (don’t ask) stood up and read in a quiet, gorgeous, melancholic voice, poems about her grandmother. Another read a moving poem about a mancunian prostitute and another guy read about quitting smoking after seeing a male relative die of cancer. Then It was my turn.
I read for about 30 minutes and made only two mistakes. Quite proud of that. I sold books and at the end was handed a glasses-case full of the takings at the door. Enough for a couple meals, a couple tees, and the journey to and fro. For talking poems, that’s a good nights work I reckon. We rolled back to Andy’s and talked long into the night about Kevin Spacey, Milton Freidman, a cat that can fetch (video evidence) and the Tsunami in Japan.
On the ride back home to London, I sat beside an old man who had travelled the coach journey to Leeds from London and back again 6 times in as many days. He did not believe in TomToms or maps and was trying to learn the route so that when his wife was released from the hospital, he could drive her back home. He did not want to rely on coaches on trains which would not stop if anything went wrong or if she felt nauseous or unwell. So he’d spent a total of 52 hours, memorising the 200 mile journey, so his wife would be comfortable. The man was 67 and used to be a steel worker. Spent 40 years bending iron, probaby as tough as men come. And they say romance in dead ey?