Wednesday, April 20

On Observation (at least, it starts out that way....)

Writers have to be observant. Or, writers are observant. Whichever way you put it, this is a truth about writing I learned back in school. I probably mentioned it in one of my GCE examination answers. “One thing which is clear from ‘Middlemarch’ is that George Eliot was a very observant man.” My grades turned out not to be as good as I had expected them to be, but that’s not my point. Nor is how if you come across a writer who has been run over by a bus they didn’t see coming it proves they weren’t a very good writer.

My point is observation: I’ve been doing some. Yesterday on the walk home from work at lunchtime I saw two things. I almost wish I’d had my swish digital (I don’t carry it with me because I can’t be bothered) camera with me.

One thing was the sign outside the church. This church has a big billboard type thing outside it, and it always has an eye-catching slogan on it. You know, like “ A Jesus Isn’t Only For Christmas”, that kind of thing. Currently it says “God Loves Everyone?”. I was completely thrown by that Question Mark, and was still pondering it when I got home. Of course, I worked it out, and I shall be writing to the Vicar to congratulate him on being more eye-catching than usual. But I wonder if everyone will figure it out, or simply remain puzzled. Not everyone is as clever as me.

My puzzlement was briefly interrupted by someone I saw. I’m not sure if he was a chav, strictly speaking, but he was wearing some decidedly chav-type things. He was around twenty, I reckon, although he may have been twelve. I guess the stubble on his chin mitigated against that. He was wearing some spectacularly bad taste trainers, sports bottoms with a stripe down the side and some kind of designer logo on the leg, a hooded fleece-type thing which was too big for him and was also adorned with logos (the sleeves of this were pushed up, to make him look, I think, somewhat ready for anything, preferably a fight), and he had on one of those shapeless hats which probably have a name, but which I don’t know the name of. They are like skull caps but are big enough to get your entire head in. He was a bit grubby looking. He scowled in a very street way. If I’d had my camera and taken a photo of him I suspect I wouldn’t be here now to tell you about it. Anyway, it was the furled umbrella he was carrying which caught my eye. It’s such a simple thing, a black umbrella. You wouldn’t think it could undermine anyone's image so completely and so wonderfully.

Then I went back to thinking about that Question Mark, and I was so wrapped up in my thoughts I almost didn’t see the bus bearing down on me as I crossed the road. It was a narrow escape, but I survived and was able to go to a poetry reading at The Flying Goose in the evening. The readers were Adrian Buckner, who now edits the fast-improving Poetry Nottingham magazine, and Andy Croft. The latter is probably the better known of the two, and his entertaining, fast-moving and (big deep breath) rhyming poetry went down very well. I tended to think that by the time the introductions to and explanations of the poems were over I wasn't all that bothered about hearing the poems, but even I have to admit the poems were funny and well done. But later, in the pub, my cronies and I were in general agreement that we preferred our poetry to be slightly more challenging. Adrian Buckner read really well. The last time I saw him read (the only time I'd seen him read, actually) was in a cold and dispiriting (and closed) library cafe, and he'd been somewhat diffident and quiet. Last night, when I and others had been in fear of him being blown aside by the exuberance of Andy Croft, he delivered a sound, confident and assured reading of some excellent poems. He was serious and funny. I was pretty impressed, and you don't find me saying that very often about poets reading their poems out loud.

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