26 February 2010


Kabul city
Kabul from the air, heading to Kandahar.

Afghan snow
I have settled in Kandahar as much as I can at the moment. The last week has been busy as I have been learning the ropes and meeting the people here. I came down by myself as there is already a group of employees that are working here.
The flight down from Kabul was very scenic, with snow everywhere and great vistas before the clouds blocked it all. Approaching Kandahar the snow disappeared and the dry dusty landscape appeared. There is about 800m difference between Kabul and Kandahar and the temperature is so much warmer. Summer must be unbearable. I have been in shorts and a t-shirt and tomorrow the high is forecast for 23 degrees!
Apparently this is the busiest single runway airport in the world for take-off and landings, mainly due to the military traffic. I have always loved aircraft and in particular jet fighters so as I am new to this region the sound of the jets roaring overhead makes me gaze at the sky to catch a glimpse of them, It's like an airshow everyday!
Kandahar is fairly quiet with most of the fighting occurring in Helmand province which is around 300km away.
The area is not densely populated where I am so I don't have many opportunities to take photos. So far I am enjoying it even though life is very basic and isolated.
Mr Mwezi

Richard French's iPod

American images from Richard French's ipod, but no text.

Tues 23rd Richard emailed the following enigmatic message:
I am told it was Nancy Friskey who sang Freight Train  and Joan Baez who made it famous. Probably so. R
On Wed 24th he emailed again (very tantalising):
Did you get Flagstaff bit – re-sent this am Tues from Tombstone (Tombstone the Town too Tough to Die they call it.) R
I’m afraid, this week we have to imaginatively fill in the blanks until his ipod whirrs into action again (ed)
Saturday eve, good news - Richard's copy finally arrived ....(ed)

It's all in the songs. ‘Get Your Kicks on Route Sixty Six’ Nat Cole used to croon so sweetly. Not any more. R66 is now by-passed by Interstate 40 which is where we are getting our kicks. But not without taking the odd loop off the freeway to places marked ‘Historical 66’. Historical indeed. In this neck of the woods, rip it down and rebuild at the slightest pretext is the rule. So the once little and lively town of Seligman with it's Neon signed motels and gas stations which might have been painted by Edward Hopper or Norman Rockwell died a sudden death when the new road came through in 1976. Now the few remaining locals are trying to keep the road alive with diners and stores reminiscent of the oh- so-long ago 1960's. 
We stopped for coffee at the Road Kill Cafe ("what's on your fender, we make so tender") and photographed peeling signs of the Stars and Stripes with yellow ribbons painted so fondly and proudly fresh during the Viet Nam war. It's not all bad - decaying  America is a snapper’s dream. Nearby a mile-long freight train - ‘Freight Train, Freight Train Going so Fast’ sang Joan Baez - not really.Powered by three mighty red Santa Fe diesel locomotives, it was crawling up a long incline making heavy-weather of its mile-long load and a wondrous deep-throated bellowing as it ran through town. Of course the road of steel came here long before two-lane black-top and its arrival must have signalled ‘welcome prosperity and employment’. Now Interstate 40 speeds us to where want to go faster and with greater convenience but with none of the romance of Route 66.
’I love LA’ sang Randy Newman at a concert we went to at UCLA the night before we left Los Angeles. For us the real thrill was being bang in the middle of a campus - no, a city within a city - which has a student population of 80,00 as well as it's own police, fire department and hospital. And so much of it funded by private donation, such a major factor in the lives of the very rich in the under (public)-funded City of the Angels where so many have so much and so many more live in hope and expectation. Indeed some without either.
’Everything Great In America’ sang the Puerto Rican kids in West Side Story. Just so. In the best stocked supermarket we have ever been in, it was virtually impossible to buy a small pack of anything. We wonder if this a reason why so many Americans are so big. It's a chicken and egg sort of problem. Which came first the Jumbo or the Jumbo pack.
Every thing Great in America. So far, for us, it really is. We have met nothing but good nature, however dumb the question and nobody who admits to have ever having liked Baby Bush. Sure they think Barack should be tougher and so do we. The attempted come-back of the appalling Dick Cheney and the curious rise and rise of Sarah Palin would be  funny if not so very worrying. But it so hard not to like America - warts and all. ‘Born in the USA’. Maybe not so bad after all.
Richard French

Koh Lanta

It is four years since my previous visit to Thailand. I had visited there for 4 consecutive years, prior to this. This of course included the Tsunami year. I have been going to Koh Lanta, staying at a small beach hut resort for the budget conscious. I have to say, until my visit this year I believed Thai people to be the most genuinely friendly people I have ever come across throughout the world. Thailand certainly deserved being known as ‘Land of Smiles’.
As it is one of the cheaper sunshine destinations in the world it also attracts an extremely wide variety of people from all walks of life. When I first went there I must admit I found the large number of dread locked, heavily tattooed people a little disconcerting. In the cheaper beach resorts where many of these people were hanging out, large numbers of Thais in the tourism industry were sporting dreadlocks and were also heavily tattooed. What a strange and warped perception the poor Thais had of western society. Heavy drinking and  sex tourism added another seedy element that made me wonder how on earth the Thai people kept their smile.
Well this time I noticed a few changes. There are fewer of the dreadlocked variety of tourist. Trends might account for a part of this but the Thai government have also made much stricter rules for visas. Entering and long-staying is much harder now.
In Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Lanta, Phuket and Koh Pipi I experienced impatience and even rudeness from some Thai people directly involved with tourism. This reminded me of the graph I saw drawn in Tourism studies at Lincoln University in New Zealand in 1994. It showed the level of ‘content’ of hosts in a tourism environment over a period of time. Of course it starts out positive, improves even more as locals begin to make more money and then drops off and decreases with increased numbers and time. Well I sure noticed it this time. Thai people are still overall friendly and it is a pleasant place to visit but it no longer ranks in my top 5 on that basis alone.
Another thing I noticed could also be directly linked with the contentment of the people. Traffic. Bangkok is now a nightmare to cross by road. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of people who own vehicles. Some of the staff I have known all these years also proudly showed me their newly acquired second hand cars. They then told me about the large loans they had taken out to have these.....Loans, pressure, stress, less smiling. It was all adding up for me.
I don’t blame them. I would be fed up too if I had had to deal with all the unsavoury tourists that flock to Thailand every year, behaving inappropriately.
Gotta go, Mary is calling me to go out for dinner …
Daren Blake

BBC Radio 7

Anyone who enjoys classic comedy might have read about ‘The Garage Tapes’ as reported in several UK newspapers last week. It's a very interesting story about the discovery of lost comedy treasures, which began when  Doreen Wise, widow of Ernie Wise, began to  clear out her garage prior to moving house.
Amongst the piled-up crates and boxes, Doreen  had found some old  fruit boxes and a red suitcase packed with  early Morecambe and Wise recordings on old  acetate discs and  cumbersome reel-to-reel tapes. There were over 45 hours of recordings going back to the early 1950s. These included sketches from Eric and Ernie's first radio show, from 1953,  You're Only Young Once, featuring Bob Monkhouse and Harry Secombe as guests.
Eric and Ernie's comedy partnership began in 1941. In their early radio days  they apparently used to pay the studio engineers a few bob  to be given some of the recordings to sneak out of the studio and keep for themselves. But television soon beckoned the comedy duo and so Ernie's smuggled tapes remained stored in wooden fruit boxes for over 50 years. 
Doreen wisely contacted an independent radio production company, Whistledown, to  find out whether anything could be done with the newly-found  material. Not all of the recordings could be restored to broadcast quality, but there was enough previously unheard material to make about 25 programmes.
Some of the highlights have been packaged initially to make a one-hour programme, to be introduced by  impressionist Jon Culshaw and broadcast on Radio 4 on May 4th.
After that, of course, it is highly probable that Morecambe and Wise - The Garage Tapes will be welcomed as a repeat on Radio 7.
This happy tale of re-discovered tapes reminded me of a similar discovery in which I was involved in 1993. I was working at BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, in the department which was then called the  ‘Radio Collection’ , responsible for releasing archive comedy and drama programmes on cassette and CD.
Comedy tapes were our  best-sellers and we were always on the look-out for ‘new’ classic  radio comedy material to release. One afternoon a very pleasant and rather posh  lady phoned me at the office to say that she had a large, battered  leather suitcase full of old recordings of her late husband's radio shows.  Would I perhaps be interested in them?  When I found out whose radio shows they were, I was certainly interested. Her late husband was the ‘ Sausage-Maker from Salford’  Northern comedian, Al Read, who died in 1987.
In the 1950s and 1960s The Al Read Show was one of the most popular shows in the UK, bringing in about 35 million listeners a week - possibly  more popular than the Clitheroe Kid!
His wry and well-observed humour, mostly about working class domestic situations is still funny and relevant  today -  even although his catch-phrases of "Right Monkey - You'll be lucky, I say you'll be lucky" haven’t really stood the test of time.
Al's charming  widow (a former  model who still looked stunning at seventy) told me that she was leaving Yorkshire to settle in their beautiful second home in Spain and when clearing out the garage she had found this large suitcase stuffed full of tapes. Unfortunately the garage roof had been somewhat leaky, and quite a few tapes had been badly damaged by water.

However, in conjunction with the BBC Sound Archive, we were able to painstakingly  restore a fair amount of the recordings to a high enough standard to make the tapes available commercially on cassette.
There were enough restored programmes for  3 double-cassette  volumes,  all of which sold very well, and as classic comedy fans are aware,  those Al Read Shows, saved from the garage,  are now heard regularly on Radio 7
"You'll be lucky - I say you''ll be lucky"
So if any of you have been tempted by TV reality shows to make a few bob by looking  for Cash in the Attic, don’t forget that treasures can also be found from a Rummage in the Garage.
"Right Monkey?"
Mary Kalemkerian Head of Programmes
BBC Radio 7 Room 4015, Broadcasting House, London W1A 1AA


The Breastplate
Some say they brought the
breastplate of righteousness
with them
from Egypt
I say, “fly free,
take it off.
What can it hold
for you now?
Leave the outworn creed
and modern greed.
Fly free.”
by Joselyn Duffy Morton ©

Roving blogger Jim Corboy emailed this image to me. Evidently one can find out more on www.arrestblair.org (ed)

The Oil Market

The oil market also was watching developments in France, where an open-ended strike by workers at energy giant Total entered a sixth day Monday and gasoline supplies were drying up.
"The sentiment is quite bullish at this time because of the refinery strikes in France and the concerns over Iran's nuclear issues," said Victor Shum, an analyst at Purvin and Gertz energy consultants.
Striking refinery workers sought to choke off the fuel supply to force Total, the world's sixth-largest oil firm by sales, to guarantee their jobs.
The CGT, a key union, has also called for a strike on Tuesday at the two refineries in France run by ExxonMobil, the biggest US oil company.
After the strike sparked a weekend run on petrol pumps, the French Petroleum Industry Union estimated on Monday that France's depots had only seven to 10 days' worth of stocks left, its president Jean-Louis Schilansky told AFP.
Industry Minister Christian Estrosi said in a radio interview Monday that "the government will take measures so that France will not get stuck" without gasoline. Total supplies about half of France's filling stations.
Grues flying north


The Streets of Belfast

Black and Tan
Rosary in hand
My boyfriend ran
the streets of Belfast
Searching for my Da’
He went so fast
I didn’t tell him
My last name.
It’s O’Shane
or O’Shame
These days
It’s all the same.
by Joselyn Duffy Morton ©

Stephen O'R's Sydney

Prince William and Premier of NSW, Kristina Keneally
From Sydney, capital city of the corrupt state of NSW.
The Labour party of NSW of Australia is one of the old worst Governments I have had the displeasure to observe. Anyone who has watched the HBO series The Wire would have been given a glimpse of the type of incompetence and dishonesty which pervades the NSW state government. The conservative opposition enables this disgraceful  state of affairs to continue by focusing on their middle and right factions’ struggle for power by Christian Right instead of simply highlighting the mistakes of Labor (note the new American spelling).
Rule by ‘Press release’ seems to be the norm worldwide and the methodology of the local state government is to announce a major public works project which gives rosy headlines for a week or so. Then the project is not mentioned until about a year later when either it is withdrawn, or more commonly the case, the Premier would re-announce it as if was a new initiative to distract from some scandal or as pretence to governing.
There have been 13 major transport initiatives in the past 15 years. Each one has been either withdrawn or re-announced.
Taking over from ‘garbagehead man’ Rees the latest Labor Premier is a young American migrant who has been in politics for the past few years. http://www.topnews.in/files/images/Kristina-Keneally.jpg. So desperate to quell rising fury the labor right has been reduced to promoting a woman. Kristina flies the state providing photo ops of her touch-footy skills or comments on floods and droughts. Hers has been a traditional substance-free premiership thus far.
Kristina is from an American Polish catholic background who loves Presidential style pronouncements. Her response to the latest report into a traffic plan was (surprise, surprise) to announce a reappraisal of the report. This of course means that she will be able to announce the ‘reappraisal’ at some time in the future when a distraction is necessary.
The only way to find out what the most likely future plans for the state are, would be to track the real-estate purchases of those closely associated with the right wing of NSW state labour.
For an understanding of how this corruption became systemic in NSW one could do worse than reading The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes. This book shows the beginning of corruption in the state
On a federal level the farce that is national government politics continues.  Ex rock singer, Peter Garret the favourite fund raiser for the Labour party has struggled with the number of deaths arising from his policy of ‘free’ insulating of peoples’ houses. I was recently rung by a company offering to insulate our house. When I said that I had been dudded by insulation installers before and that I would not be paying for any shonky work I was reassured that it was ‘free’ so  “no worries cos I had nothing to lose”.
The most dangerous technique employed by these cowboys is to staple large pieces of alfoil to ceiling floors. Four attics were turned into death traps when the staples connected the alfoil to the power supply and killed 4 people in the past month.
The conservative opposition now has a new leader with the ‘mad monk’ Tony Abbott replacing Malcolm ‘the toff’ Turnbull after Turnbull agreed to support Labor’s  anti- global warming  proposals. The mad monk is pork barrelling at a rate not seen recently, offering un-costed plans to subsidising ‘big pollutors’ so that they might change their ways.
On a personal front I am on my third set of antibiotics, which I am sure will provide reassurance to you all.
Stephen O’R

central heating

Finally our central heating is installed -we are running 10 radiators off this efficient wood-burning stove. What a mission. Well done Roger and thanks for your very-welcome visit and help Matthew.
Joselyn Morton


End of the winter weather

19 February 2010

Selection of Roger Morton's photos

Mossy tree in front of church, Thiviers
Misty road
Summer straw people 2009 - it will get warm again ...
All photos by Roger Morton 

Seresin Residency

Photo Roger Morton
As the Auckland Sunday Star Times recently published this photo of  Karl (CKStead) which Roger took last September, I now feel it is ok to put it in my blog.
Novelist and poet, Karl was the first recipient of the Seresin Landfall Residency in Tuscany, Italy. This was in a very beautiful eleventh century millhouse, the Molino a Sesta, Gaiole in Chianti.
Joselyn Morton


Fifth Generation Miners
I’m torn between the virtues
of evolution
versus revolution.
I puzzle over fifth generation
miners who can see better
in the dark than everybody else.
They should be able to see
what they’re doing to themselves. 
by Joselyn Duffy Morton ©

BBC Radio 7

During the recording of Ruby Baby - Joseph Cohen-Cole, producer Fiona Kelcher and Melissa Advani

Short Cuts: Ruby Baby New to Radio 7
This exciting new commission by Louisa Young is a two-part thriller, set during a beautiful summer in Tuscany, where several students are working as volunteers in a castle vineyard. As the holiday continues, dark undertones become increasingly apparent in this idyllic setting. Tessa Nicholson, Joseph Cohen-Cole, Melissa Advani, Rhys Jennings, Kate Layden and Emerald O'Hanrahan star in Fiona Kelcher’s production (pictured above at the recording), a powerful story of emotional conflict and suspense.
In addition to the two main episodes, broadcast a week apart, we will be linking the story with six short dramas by young writers, chosen from our collaboration with the Penguin Books Spinebreakers team, the National Theatre's Discover Programme and Hampstead Theatre's Education Department. These short dramas – written by Indiana Seresin, Rebecca Clee, Amy Deakin, Bridget Minnamore, Lucinda Higgie and Danny Shaw – speculate on the events of part one and can be heard throughout the week.
Episode One: Monday at 1.30pm, 8.30pm and 1.30am – and you can hear the short dramas at the same times from Tuesday to Sunday.
Mary Kalemkerian Head of Programmes, BBC Radio7


Japanese Sighs

The Japanese are in recession
and maybe the depression
I feel
is the result
of all those
Japanese sighs
moving and moaning
across the ocean
to me.
by Joselyn Duffy Morton ©

Edinburgh carries on

St Andrews Square
In the month of the Carry A Poem celebrations, I was in Edinburgh's  St Andrews Square  today, which is delightfully refurbished with trees and diagonal walk -ways  and a coffee shop. Noticed new little trees with tiny laminated cards on each branch .   
They were poetry pieces chosen by all sorts of people who had found the Carry a Poem campaign over the week-end, and added their own favourites.  
One wee boy had written out Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and hung it on a tree.   
Others quoted Alan Spence, Carol Ann Duffy etc. It was absolutely charming, with loads of old codgers like me bending over the trees reading what was hanging on each branch and SMILING!   
Made my day!  
Pam Wardell

Richard French's iPod

NZ sailor

How we travel

How the other half does it.
basic NZ menu

top NZ menu

this says it all

Fijian soap
I was interested in the variation of Kiwi menus from top to pretty basic and the contrast between our van parked on one side of our hotel and the floating Leviathan that parked on the other. I think the NZ navy must be the last in the world that allows its sailors go ashore in uniform (long stopped in UK, USA etc as an anti-terrorist move) and eating pink ice cream to boot. The colours of the bars of soap in Fiji are extraordinary . ‘No Standing or Sitting’says it all about Fiji.

(The following piece arrived late from Perth by which time Richard and Gay had already moved on to NZ, then Fiji ...ed)
What is it about perfection that is so imperfect? I am staying in a small boutique hotel that is spotless. The desk clerks are pretty, multi-sexed and multi-national. The elevator with my own special security card is a pristine and silent stainless steel box. It whisks me from my room to my specially reserved parking space in seconds. My hire car is spotless, automatic, silent, zooms effortlessly to 100 kph and does about a 1000 kilometres to a gallon. I have no idea who made it or where and it will never go wrong. It will glide us along a
traffic-free avenue with empty and clearly marked parking spaces to a cool brunch place where immaculate boy/girl waitstaff will pamper us with fresh orange juice, freshly ground coffee and eggs just however we want them. The sun does nothing but shine from the crack of dawn when everybody rides and runs or hits the gym en route to a perfect office in a clean new air-conditioned building, breaking only for an alcohol free healthy lunch in an immaculate sidewalk cafe. This is Perth, Australia and I think I hate it. I so miss Africa with its reality of heat and lust and just about controlled chaos and France,surely the last bastion of Communism with it's non-service non-economy, mud, closed all day Monday, complaining, old cars, beat- up houses. Scowling French, wind, rain, fire. Real life. I love it.
Richard French

We have left Aussie Macho behind and the Gentle Politesse of New Zealand is in our wake, having jetted to Fiji in the capable hands of a very large lady pilot at the wheel of a Qantas Boeing 767. It is only after adding a few days of real experience of this island to our Rough Guide and Lonely Planet briefing that our own views begin to make sense. Sure, we knew the recent history of four coup d'etats in ten years. Sure, we knew about the ethnic differences  that had enabled just under half the population of so-called non-indigenous Indians, keen on work and education, to get the upper hand on  the 450,000 native Fijians. Many of these people are still selfishly repressed by tribal Chiefs who claim an inherited right to rule, (Speaking of non-electeds, QE 2 decorates the money here. I speak of Her Majesty not the ship). So it seems that almost everybody (but probably excluding the aforementioned Chiefs and their chums , hangers-on and rellies) is in favour of the current top honcho - a non-elected leader of the Army.
We are told that this chap is going about getting rid of discrimination and corruption on a grand scale and I think we believe it. For instance he has done away with kids having to pay bus fares to and from school and for the first time all school books are paid for by the State. Education, education, education as someone (now who was that?) once said. There is a spanking new university, Fiji's second, but there is still a way to go.
It feels curious for an ex-South African escapee, badly and wrongly educated about  the wicked and barbarous ways of the Xhosa and Zulu to realise how much more barbarous were these grass (now plastic) skirt-wearing and gently smiling members of the South Sea brigade. Here, until as late as 1850, eating people was a regular way of life, or death  if it was you that was being eaten. Ritual consumption of the losers in battle in order to obtain their strength was all the rage. Those Chiefs had a lot to answer for and although they have dropped some of their more delicate habits it does not irritate (them at least) to sport a shiny new Toyota 4 x 4 while all around the villagers are just about making it by growing a few scrawny roots and the odd pineapple.
The entire island of Fiji is still something of a beat-up joint. It’s hotter than Hell. Shopping ain’t up to much or anything really. The only International airport is two hundred miles from the capital, Suva. Never mind, it can be reached by choosing one of two narrow and winding roads. The King's Road or the Queens Road, take your choice. But all of the folks seem happy enough. Those we have met anyway. Some of the smarter guys seem to be running the taxi fleets in Auckland which is where we got our first briefing. It’s a curious place here, and we are still battling to reach a concluding point of view. Of course we are (forays apart) in a tourist enclave where saronged and talkative ladies glide past our air-conditioned bungalow and on our bedtime pillow - too hot for the regulation chocolate, appears a hand-picked bunch of hibiscus and frangipani flowers. We are just South of the Equator and the pale blue Pacific laps a few metres from our door. Beleaguered yachties gather in the open air bar to bum free beers and tell tales of the High Seas to Boeing-riding tourists. There was some sort of ghastly phoney show that intruded at dinner last night. Huge men stripped to the waist did a sort of fire dance thing (not sure where those early islanders got hold of paraffin but there you go. (Perhaps they did a fine fire-line in coco-nut oil, ed) and all around us (not us - we scowled under a banyan tree) international travellers and locals alike did a sort of hula thing. Then there was a lot of loud and savage screeching, yelling and foot stamping going on. Not for me. But then I always thought the Haka was a sort of girly thing. (Did you mention that to anyone in NZ? ed)

So where are we - Fiji? Bali? South Coast of Natal. Anywhere in Paradise? Too little money. Too much heat. Too little education. Too few tourists. Number one industry, sugar, loses money. Number two is tourism - too few to make difference. Number three - bottled water. Buy it if you can. Not a great recipe for nation building. But it has been extremely interesting. We are glad we came but may not pass this way again, which is sad because if ever a place needed an injection of foreign cash this be it. We learned last night from the yachties that locals will barter almost anything for electronics, computers, DVD players and the like. It used to be copper wire, mirrors and beads. Not enough changes in this neck of the woods.
Richard French

Rabbie Burns

Last week, in Mary Kalemkerian’s article ‘Edinburgh Carries a Poem’, although I tried and tried until I was demented, I could not get the ‘layout’ to accept the following Rabbie Burns’ poems set out as ‘poems’. It automatically set them out as prose. Hopefully, this time, I will succeed (ed).

My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose
That's newly spring in June
My Love is Like a Melody
That's sweetly played in tune
So fair thou art my bonnie lass (or lad if you like)
Sae deep in love am I
And I will love thee still my dear, till a' the seas gang dry.
 Robert Burns

Oft hae I roved by Bonnie Doon
Tae see the Rose and woodbine twine
And every bird  sang o' its love
As fondly sae did I o' mine.
Wi a lightsome heart I pu'd a rose
Full sweet upon it's thorny tree -
But my false lover stole that rose
And ahh  - he left the thorn wi' me.
Robert Burns

Stephen O'R's Sydney

My middle ear infection continues to ruin my life - I am on my second pack of antibiotics. Can't hear in left ear so I am like real old in the shops. 'what's that dear?' Jack has his licence and has claimed the Jeep which somehow escaped the 'prohibited' list for 'p' platers . A 4 litre engine which gets you into trouble very fast coupled with a 1950's set of brakes (no wonder Detroit failed) is officially safe folks. SO WATCH OUT SYDNEY!!!!!!!
We 'rocked' into the city to get Jack's art work from his old school. Standing in the corridor waiting for him to get it. Nymphs passing so I am like - pervert in the corner waiting to get arrested. I avert my eye but I have to look up occasionally. The plain-clothes security guy checks me out but he must have recognised me because he did not speak. It’s so bad being around young people. PERVERT.
I was in a toilet near a pool I went to when I was four, in 'The Gardens', Christchurch, New Zealand last week (‘Vatican of the South Seas’ reckoned Johnny Ray the American fifties pop idol. “I’m lost” ed.) and there was a young boy getting changed from his swimmers (‘cosie’ in NZ). I did not know whether to run before the police came or stay and protect him until they came. What sinners we were changing in public dressing rooms - and noticing.
Very hot here, beach full even on a school day. Tourists I reckon. Took my old Mercedes into the garage for a service and it was full ‘Mercs’ as far as the eye can see! Is everybody driving a second hand Mercedes? My wife's clk needed a piece that controlled the fuel supply to the carburator when you plant your foot. I thought thats what an accelerator was for - but no! this $600 piece told the carburator what was coming and got its information from the cable passing through a reader. What a magical very expensive thing to have. So now when you want to speed you can relax 'cos your carburator will understand. How could we have lived without this? Does a Hyundi Excel have one? I THINK NOT.
Had planned to meet up with a friend and partake of something soothing but can't make it. 'Its too darn hot its toooooouuu darn hot' (Ella Fitzgerald).
I hear Bright Star is dividing people in France as the great French film finder for Cannes, Pierre Rissient said it would. 75/25 he said. But what if you didn't divide your audience, the film would not be edgy although I think 90/10 is a better spread, but I am a beneficiary so what would I know. ”Copy right rules” said the Courts in the 18th Century and us beneficiaries thank them. The New Yorker criticizes Avatar for running old story lines but where would we be without Shakespeare's recycling. Tossing up pleading with the University to let me continue in spite of my ‘Probationary ' status. I thought I might try French but really, French at 63 living in Australie - maybe not. Off for a swim and a painkiller. Stephen

Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw (Fanny and Keats) in Bright Star


Photo by Roger Morton This week, we had ice on the inside of the kitchen window.

13 February 2010

Meatworks the Musical

There’s nothing like a deadline to rattle our cage. I decided that a ten-year gap was a decent enough mourning for our Meatworks the Musical and so on the 8 February 2010 (easily remembered as it is also our son Matt’s birthday) we put 5 songs from the original 42 songs on Youtube.

These are:

Move on Man, Cut to the Bone, One Man’s Meat, I ain’t saying I’m a Virgin, Whatever Turns you on.

The first friend we showed them to said she thought the show would do well at the Brighton Festival. I had to restrain myself from kissing her to death and nonchalantly said ‘Ah, do you think so?’

Last time round Roger and I co-produced it and Roger directed. I wrote the book and the lyrics and Stephen Small who had worked with Roger on all his theatre productions, composed and arranged the music. Our executive producer was Jan Hay.

Raising the money through private investment and arts sponsorship and commercial sponsorship was a huge and exhausting undertaking.

Right now, there seems to be an interest in musicals again. Curiously that evidently happens in a financial crisis. Although the story is set in small-town NZ, Meatworks has an international flavour and the story-lines are universal. Big boss comes to close down the Meatworks which will kill the small community . The workers unite to fight. Animal Rights activists arrive to stir the mix. There’s women trainee butchers disguised as men, there’s love in the air and a Halal hero butcher ….

Joselyn Morton

Edinburgh carries a poem

With the aim of encouraging literary exchanges and cross-cultural initiatives between cities, a few years ago UNESCO launched a new world-wide award, for a City of Literature. In order to be considered for this accolade, a city had to meet the following criteria: It has to be an urban environment in which literature plays an integral part. It must be a centre with a reputation for hosting literary events and festivals. A wide range of libraries, bookstores and cultural centres must be accessible to all citizens. There should be diversity in publishing initiatives, using new media to promote and strengthen the literary market.

The city which was awarded the first City of Literature, certainly meets all of the criteria and more. It is often described as ‘a city built on books’ and with the first printing press set up there in 1507, it became recognised as a world centre for publishing. It has a rich literary heritage and thriving contemporary book scene.

Many great writers created their best-known characters there:

Arthur Conan Doyle brought us Sherlock Holmes, J.M. Barrie created Peter Pan, and Robert Louis Stevenson delivered Jekyll and Hyde.

The city also nurtures contemporary writers who have made their mark on literature; Muriel Spark, J.K. Rowling, Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin to name only a few.

Ian Rankin said: "I feel part of a tradition which is as vibrant now as ever before. Edinburgh is a city of the mind, a writer's city.” And, yes, in 2004, Edinburgh was the proud city to be granted the status as the world's first UNESCO City of Literature. Since then various campaigns to encourage reading and enjoyment of literature have been set up annually in the city. Throughout February this year, the campaign is ‘Carry a Poem!’ Sparking off a month of poetry events, such fun happenings as Poetree Swaps, Poetry Pub Quizzes and a Poetry Olympics have been planned, and thousands of free books and poetry pocket-cards are being given away. ‘On the Carry a Poem’ website, people are asked to post messages explaining where they carry their poems, and which poems they are carrying. How they are carried vary from such obvious places as in pockets, purses, pinned to jackets, to the more radical and permanent place - a tattoo!

I liked Scottish actor Alan Cumming's response that he carries his poem "in his heart" Awww!

The website also has a lengthy list of ‘the most carried poets’ which includes many of my personal favourites: Carol Anne Duffy, Dylan Thomas, Edwin Morgan, John Betjeman, Johne Dunne, Norman MacCaig, Robert Frost, Wendy Cope - and leaving the best until last - Robert Burns.

Now, with Valentine's Day coming up, I have a suggestion as to how you can impress your object of desire. Forget the supermarket roses, Carry a Poem! Deliver your rose in a love poem, pulled out with a flourish from your pocket. Here’s my recommendation to impress; Burns' most quoted love poem:

My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose That's newly spring in June My Love is Like a Melody That's sweetly played in tune So fair thou art my bonnie lass (or lad if you like) Sae deep in love am I And I will love thee still my dear, till a' the seas gang dry. Should bring a wee thrill to even the most jaded cynic. However, if you're in the unfortunate position of having been ‘dumped’ by the love of your life, well you can pin another Burns poem to your sleeve, this time with added angst. Burns had a poem for every occasion and in these lines he also conjures up a rose, which, sadly, is now no longer a symbol of love. The abandoned lover is wandering by the banks of the River Doon, recalling the good times which have ended in heartbreak:

Oft hae I roved by Bonnie Doon Tae see the Rose and woodbine twine And every bird sang o' its love As fondly sae did I o' mine.

Wi a lightsome heart I pu'd a rose Full sweet upon it's thorny tree - But my false lover stole that rose And ahh - he left the thorn wi' me.

Bastard! (my expression, not the Bard's) Of course Valentine's Day isn’t the only day you could carry a poem, nor do you have to live in Edinburgh to join in this February poetry fest. You can brighten up the chilly grey month by acting on some of the inspirational ideas from the Carry a Poem website www.carryapoem.com

So, who is for setting up a Poetry Olympics? Poem and Spoon Race, Tossing the Poem anyone?

But there is one place where a poem will be carried that must surely top all others - this Sunday, Valentines Day, when dusk falls, to celebrate the importance of love in all its forms, lines from a poem will be projected on the north face of the great rock of Edinburgh Castle.

The chosen lines are from the poem, Disenchantments by the brilliant Scottish poet, Douglas Dunn:

‘Look to the living, love them, and hold on’

Like the castle rock, love endures. Happy Valentine's Day

Mary Kalemkerian, Head of Programmes, BBC Radio 7