Newsletter October 2000
The leaves of the walnut tree in the garden are beginning to turn yellow and the nuts have started pattering onto the grass. There are apples and pumpkins and cooler evenings. The blue skies and thunderstorms of summer are slowly winding down. Unlike me.
I start the autumn season with a concert down in the Ticino on October 1st. Then I head up to Denmark for ten days. There's a gig in central Germany en route southward on 17th, then Switzerland (again) and Austria throughout much of November.
August and September were great, beginning with a Poetry and Song performance in Torquay, organized by William Oxley, Torbay's Poet in Residence. There were two other poets on the bill and, this being just prior to the fuel crisis, the performance was well attended. Afterwards William and Patricia offered their sunny garden for drinks and snacks and flights of poetry. Christopher J. P. Smith and I started making plans for further joint readings next year, and I drove home along fragrant Devon lanes beneath clear summer stars.
Two days later, in Hastings, I played and sang while rain bucketed down outside at monsoon intensity. The pub was on a street corner at the foot of quite a steep hill, and the water was soon racing down to break over the curb with enough foam and spray to resemble a minor tidal race. The man who supplied Klaus with the wood for my marvellous 'Alchemy' guitar was in the audience, and he and his wife invited me to stay the night at their place. On the way we drove through flooded villages where the locals were at their doors in wellington boots, while others stood in the road probing the water with poles to ascertain the depth.
After a restful night I was off to London where six gigs, situated all over the city and surroundings, followed in fairly rapid succession.
On Sunday 3rd I took part in a stand-up poetry event at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park. This is the brainchild of Laura King, and it happens every five weeks or so. (Anyone interested in participating should contact Laura; or phone her, evenings, at: 01865 435 277.) Not only did we give the assorted barkers and the divinely 'saved' a good run for their money but we also maintained the poetic reputation for idiocy, proving that common or garden rhymsters can be as loopy as the best of them. In addition I had the idea for some song lyrics. (Watch out for 'On the Corner', which will probably feature on the new album planned for next year.)
All the other venues went well, and Gabriele flew over for the weekend, meeting me down in the Kashmir Club just minutes before I was due to go on. Both there and at the 12-bar Club the programme went out 'live' on the internet, so there were 'listeners' as far afield as America and New Zealand.
That weekend we sampled some of the excellent 'London Walks' and also did plenty of our own footslogging. There's no doubt about it; noisy and grimy it may be, and the transport system is often so perverse that a pig's ear would seem neat and orderly by comparison, but London is a special city and I always enjoy every minute of my time there.
I was quick enough to top up with fuel just before the shortages began to bite, and the timing was in my favour, so I made it down to Devon without a hitch, even finding an open petrol station near Wimborne where the bobby on duty greeted me with, "Welcome to the shortest petrol queue in Dorset."By the time I was due to drive up to Llangollen for the 'Jonkers' concert, things were beginning to ease up. This is a great acoustic gig, with a wonderful atmosphere, and an extra fillip was provided by the appearance of my Dutch agent and her husband! They were spending a week or so in the vicinity and decided to spring a surprise visit. I can safely say they were the last people I expected to see in north Wales.
The next day I headed back towards The 'Smoke' and, on Saturday 23rd, opened the season for 'Torriano Poets' with another Poetry and Song presentation. Quite a number of my friends turned out, and it was a great evening with a wide variety of contributions from the floor in the first half.
That weekend happened to coincide with the London Open Days, so I took the tube out to Harrow-on-the-Hill, marched about in the rain, climbed up to the roof and bell tower of St. Mary's, and visited the gravestone where the young Lord Byron used to lie dreaming the summer hours away. In fact the vista, when it isn't raining, is appropriately poetic. Gray's elegaic Stoke Poges, and the town of Wendover mentioned by Rupert Brooke are both in the vicinity.
Waiting for the Seacat at Dover I watched the hovercraft come burbling in off the water in a steam of foam and bulging rubber, and was sad to think that this wonderfully quixotic machine is soon to be taken out of service. However, Time was, as usual, at my back, and two hours later I was in Ostend following the motorway down to Frankfurt.
So there's a sketch of the last couple of months' activity as we glide inexorably towards the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.