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Newsletter November 25th 2001

Time passes. The last two months have been enjoyably busy, and blessed with sufficient stimulating variety to keep me out of serious mischief.

All October, and the first week or so of November, was spent in England, dividing my time between Devon, London, Kent and Sussex. There were successful shows in the 12-Bar Club, the Kashmir Klub, Torriano Poets and ten other venues, some of which came in too late for inclusion on the homepage touring list, and I met some very special people along the way.

A visit to the Cheltenham Literature Festival saw me 'slamming' in the elegant town hall, in company with an exuberance of sundry poets, among them many friends, some of whom I hadn't seen for far too long. I think it was Thompson who once described poets as 'the Aonian hive, who praiséd are, and starve right merrily' , and there was certainly a real buzz at Cheltenham, some humdinging good acts, a generous amount of praise, a deal of merriment, and, if you count the fact that most poets were more concerned with their performance than with minor details such as eating properly, starvation of a minor sort also featured from time to time during the day.

The London poetry and music scene is as lively as ever, and there seems to be a slow, but encouraging growth of interest in the combination of the two. Carl Dhiman is continuing, and developing, the good work done by John Citizen down at the Poetry Café in Betterton Street, and you only have to glance through the 'Books' section of Time Out to find a host of similar venues.

One Poetry Café event well worth anyone's time and money was a show (one of several) presented by Sarah Fordham, Sarah de Nordwall and Alex Quinn. A format of excellent original poetry, powerfully presented, and spiced with foxy humour. When they invited me to contribute on November 2nd, reading several parts and adding a poem and a song, I was delighted to do so, and I'll be surprised if that was the last time we take the stage together.

Praveen Manghani and Russell Thompson, otherwise known as 'Project Adorno', run 'Taking the Mike' at the Colour House Theatre in Colliers Wood. To name another of the many first rate venues.

A special favourite of mine is Torriano Poets, up in Kentish Town, where you can hear poets, published and unpublished, in an attentive atmosphere which takes performance seriously but certainly not solemnly (to steal Jill Balcon's apt phrase). On October 28th I was able to give a first performance there of a long poem of mine called 'Stages', helped by Nicola Clarke, Sarah Fordham, Jenny Page and Russell Thompson who read various parts, and in the second half I presented a further half hour of poems and songs.

On the music front it was great to cross paths with Jez Lowe again, and share the stage with him at Bromley Leisure Centre. Sadly that venue will soon be closing, but up to date information can be obtained via Frank Goodman .

Perhaps 'difficult' would be the best way to describe this year financially; but if the money's been thin on the ground, with normally reliable tours self-destructing for reasons generally beyond anyone's comprehension, it's been a great year for contacts and future promise. I always take my helpings of future promise with a good scattering of circumspection, but am cautiously optimistic for developments next year, particularly in England.

The return to Germany on November 9th was bracing, to say the least. Snow over Romney marsh; a loud, wind-battered night in the van on Dover waterfront; delayed ferry sailings due to storms; the final crossing made in blinding sleet; Brussels hit at the height of Friday evening rush hour; and wind and rain the rest of the darkling way. I then had Saturday at home, and was off again on Sunday morning, heading for Austria, and more snow.

In fact the Austrian tour was a success; a good range of widely-spaced school gigs, under the auspices of the English language departments, which kept me pogo-ing from the north-west border with Germany, down to the Slovenian frontier and back. Nine performances altogether, some commencing at the crack of dawn in chilly sports halls, but the audiences - usually a hundred or so students between fifteen and eighteen years of age - were always warmly responsive, and the solo-acoustic show was well-received among those that dwell in the nebulous realms of House and Techno.

Although there was plenty of driving most of it involved spectacular mountain landscapes, with plenty of snow everywhere except on the road itself, which at least helped compensate for all the hours spent behind the wheel, and also put me in a festive frame of mind. So I'm now ready for Christmas bakery, guests, and other such Christmasy delights.

My timing, too, was fortunate. Leaving Austria via Innsbruck and Feldkirch on Thursday 22nd November I just managed to keep ahead of some serious snow, which prevented me going over the Arlberg Pass but didn't seriously effect the rest of the journey. The next morning there were near blizzard conditions on the lakeside road to Zürich, but the weather improved as I headed north.

Usually the release of a CD is followed by a period of creative calm, a lying fallow of the dark earth, but this time the songs have simply kept winging in, so on the way past Baden I dropped in at the studio of Ljubo Majstorovic to record three of them, and also to wonder how anyone can be so supremely skilled in so many disciplines as he is. There's a good chance of us doing a few concerts together next year, and I have to say I can't wait. You'd go a long way to hear more creative, compelling guitar-playing, and as he designs and builds his own guitars, amps etc., it's a truly unique experience all round. I'll be back in Switzerland next April so that might be a good opportunity.

So, now Christmas approaches, and I have the usual wilderness of post-tour paper-pushing to do. I owe I owe, it's off to work I go!

Have a happy and contented time throughout the season of dyspepsia and good will!