My Name Is Oscar – I’m An Anorak.

A matchbox toy Zephyr 6 – as close as I’ve ever got to a Zodiac

Standard Vanguard

Years ago in the 1950’s folks were not very cool. Simple pleasures such as car spotting were enough to entertain a young poet such as me. In his “Prelude” Wordsworth talks about his young life with beauty and fear. As an urban Anorak child I would only be able to talk about the 1952 Standard Vanguard and also that day when I spotted an Austin Atlantic. In those days the motor car was still unattainable to most working class people. All the same they represented a dream of the future embodied in sculpture. The Vanguard and the Atlantic influenced my young malleable psyche but eventually fell away as the mass production of vehicles presented ever more objects of beauty.

Then, one day I came home from a day of car spotting to our artisan’s terraced home. In the road outside was a fawn coloured Mk.1 Ford Consul, registration number MCR 992. The year was 1955. My father had got a job that needed a car. I only had one thought which has remained unexpressed all these years. “Why Oh why could it not have been a Zephyr Zodiac?” OK – I knew we were plain folk who never expected to win – but a Consul was so close to a Zodiac that we could have crossed that divide. If we had had a Zodiac I would have had an Oboe Of The British Empire and been made Poet Lorry Park by now. That fawn Consul Mk1 set the limits of my aspirations.

Why could it not have been a Zodiac?

Ford Zodiac MK1. Straight 6 leading straight to the stars.

My 1962 Zephyr in 1973

For years this anguished disappointment has festered in the pocket of my anorak. Imagine then my mixed feelings when Emma Calin called me to say that she had book by Terry Ravenscroft called ” Zephyr Zodiac”.  The book is in fact a skilful look at British social attitudes and history from 1962 to 2012. It plots the history of a 1962 Mk 3 Ford Zephyr Zodiac as it passes through a succession of owners. Changing attitudes to sex, race, celebrity and work are interwoven with a series of short plays dealing with everything from teenage pregnancy, the police, retirement and gangsters. The events are often hilariously surreal, yet at other times touched with a sincere pathos and empathy. As an ex cop I did find myself laughing aloud at Mr Ravenscroft’s evident disdain for certain aspects of police behaviour. I would have to concede that he is spot on in his critique.

For fellow younger anoraks who may not be aware of the Zodiac, this vehicle was the top of the range Ford in the UK from 1950. It had four separate manifestations, the best of which were the Mk 2 and the Mk3. The Mk 4 was an ugly brute and for me was not in the same spirit at all. I began work in a Ford dealership in 1964 – the year they introduced the Mk4. My bread and butter work were the Mk 1,2 and 3 cars. Sadly body corrosion was an issue and I have lost count of the number of welding jobs I have done of the sills and front suspension strut mountings. I would have to point out that beyond the Zodiac was the Executive – some options including gold hub caps and bumpers.

Tail fins to beat the Reds

I have owned one Zephyr in my life – a 1962 Zephyr4 – a poor substitute by comparison. It did have a four speed column change gearbox, bench seats and fins. And fins is what the whole concept was about. Was it a coincidence that it was in 1965 that development of the F15 fighter plane began. Just as Ford scrapped the Zodiacs, McDonnell Douglas hit on the design to defeat Communism and the Russian Mig jets. Just check out the photos. It is obvious to me that the Ford Zodiac led directly to the triumph of the West  by inspiring the twin fin back end.

F15 inspiration

And finally – guess what has been on my desk these last 25 plus years. The only 6 cylinder Zephyr I have ever owned. It used to belong to my son but he had no respect for it and I had to repossess it. Now that is sad is it not!

If you are any sort of petrol head or just have a memory of the last fifty years, check out Zephyr Zodiac by Terry Ravenscroft.

Being some kind of poet I cannot leave this subject without a short poem about cars with fins. It is called Independent front suspension strut.

Beatle songs and whitewall Nation

with column change sophistication,

We had arrived in Telstar space,

where there was no welded place

beyond the strut type front suspension..
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Yes – the last finned cars were the end of history. Post modernism and sociology began with the Mk4 Zephyr.  I do know that the above is a exceptionally naff poem, but when you are hoping to be the poet Lorry Park you just have to churn the stuff out.

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Pasta Maldonado

Sponge Bob

I know a bloke called Bob.He was not always called Bob. He was christened as Robert – except that he was was not christened on account of having been accidentally spawned on the back seat of a Ford Capri by unmarried atheists. Last night I saw him in the pub. He works with young disadvantaged kids. After we had downed a pint or six (thereby exceeding the Librium/ Conservatory Government health regulations by a considerable margin),he confessed to his murderous and sadistic tendencies towards children who called him “Sponge Bob” or “Bob the Builder”. To my Latvian,South Sudanese and Azeri fans I must point out that both names relate to TV comedy cartoon characters. After a further pint of Old Cirrhosis Bowel-Buster Ale, I was suffused with shame. A man of my poetic sensitivity and high minded correctness would never entertain a cheap and derisory play on a fellow human’s name just for his own entertainment!

Pasta Maldonado

O.K. I made a mistake. The other day when Pastor Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix I had never seen the hero’s name in print. As far as I knew he had no human features other than his helmet and no body other than his torso de logo. In an orgy of fusion – illusion and filled with passione and hutzpah,  I went to the gas ring at the opening of my poet’s cave and created my latest dish –  “Pasta Maldonado”. In the tradition of our Euro-Feetballing heroes (yes – these days you have to strike it with either foot), I have dedicated this dish to Sir Frank Williams, Renault engine designers and to anyone actually called Pasta. I have added a picture of the dish. It is a tribute to Venezuelan Verve and ASDA hot sauce.

My dear friend, the shameless and adorable Emma Calin (Romantic Novelist and lapsed poet) called me a couple of days ago. As always she wanted something. I agreed of course. Then she told me she wanted me to do the audio for a story she had written. It required being a Londoner and some sort of northern character. I did it of course – but I fink I mighta been a bit Dick Van Dyke wiv the accents. It will be out soon.

Lie in water truth

Since my partner’s mother (not a fan of the godless drunken poet tendency) was popping in today for a familial chat, I went off to be a poet. I have the good fortune to live in rural England, yet with access to industrial dockland. I am revving myself up for some poetry centred around the work of Sara Barnes – a seriously talented visual artist. In the meantime I took a few photos and meditated upon a theme for a haiku. I’m quite new to the haiku form but I appreciate  its idea of focus. I like to play with the idea that a thing is what it is because it is not all those other things around it that define its outline. It’s like the calf sucking at its mother’s teat. The nipple is defined by the sucking  mouth and its need. The mother is defined by the flowing milk and it’s gift. This sense of fit and pattern have always been part of my poetic landscape. Probably, I’m going on a bit but I’ve been wandering as a lonely cloud and you’re the first to get the download. I watched huge cranes unloading a ship in the docks. Here is my humble haiku:

Hull, defiant steel

Imprint of what you are not

Lie in water truth.

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 Oh No! Pastor Maldonado has distressed the kind, humble and moderate Formula Uno Lewis in some kind of shunt in Valencia today. Lewis has thrown his steering wheel from the pram. On the horizon I see a dish delish of Ham-il-tone Baloney. Watch this Renault  Espace.

Shore Thing

That’s done it then! My e book “I Threw A Stone” is out there. They pushed the button last night for the Amazon Kindle  launch and on the basis of two promo sales, I zoomed into the charts at No 42 ahead of some guys called T.S.Eliot and Shakespeare. Now look chaps, try not to get too fed up. There’s loads of writer support groups out there for when you’ve had a bad day. I think I’ve slithered down the ratings now to a depth from which you cannot ascend without a decompression chamber. I am pleased with the presentation of the book. I am hoping that by adding a free audio file that some extra value can be bounced out of the poems. When I read poetry to myself from a book I try to imagine how the writer would have stressed different words. When I go to poetry readings and “performance” events I find that the jingle jangle jostle often defeats my concentration. The judges of course are you ladies and gentlemen who doubtless will be jamming the servers at Amazon as you tear one another to shreds in the lunge to get your copies. This e publishing business has had the effect of winkling me out of my taciturn shell-back  life style. I have found myself performing all sorts of media pirouettes that I would not have imagined possible. In order to do the book trailer I ended up on the sea-shore at Barton on Sea. It is great fun of course and ego-massaging to be the centre of attention. If I’m honest I know that for me creativity does not flow from “performance”. You can see my starring role here.

In this new world of e books and tweets  I do wonder if the media  mincer will allow the whole writer to carry on. The traditional poetic wanderer, stamping the hills and staring out of windows in seedy cafes must still exist. I guess guys like that are not exactly publisher’s PR material. Many of them have smelly feet and ask you for a coin or two for a cup of hot whisky. I am so lucky in that I have my partner, Jill and the technical know how of Gallo-Romano Media. I’m a shambolic old duffer with a pencil. I get so frustrated with all these computers. Sometimes I just start shouting “Control alt number lock 467” and I don’t care who hears me. Apparently it’s very rude. I said it once to a nine year old I.T professor and he nearly died. Here are some links to my book. For Amazon UK here. And for Amazon US here.

As I have said already, the main point of this collection is that it comes with a free 45 minute MP3 audio album. If you buy the book you can easily get the audio onto your Kindle.  There is a web address in the book that you type onto your computer, this downloads a file containing the album.  Connect your Kindle via its lead to your computer and copy the contents of the album into the Kindle Music folder. You can then listen to me performing the poems whilst you follow the words. Gallo-Romano Media commissioned a young talented musician to compose and perform a piece for the title poem – which appears on the trailer and the full album.

Thank you to everyone for everything.  I am now going back into my poet’s cave with my pencil…

Post-Boomerist Angst

Sometimes I wish I were educated. Sometimes I wish I could say I wish I was educated without being aware of the misuse of the subjunctive. The problem is that like most people I’m semi-educated, or probably octo-educated. Being a spiller of words, the whole master plan is to sound like I know what I’m gabbling about.  And that brings me to the subject of French Symbolist Poetry, the works of Stéphane Mallarmé, the painter Manet and the composer Claude Debussy. These titans of the Arts are unified by many things and now another chain of artistic unity binds them even closer together. Yes – I know absolutely nothing about them.

I stumbled across these gentlemen whilst researching the matter of poetry and its links with music. Thanks to Wikipedia, any old bash-along blogger can appear erudite and pulsating with nodes of knowledge. Les poèms de Mallarmé were deeply inspirational to other artists and also had sonic properties so that the words could mean many different things, particularly when read aloud. The composer Debussy wrote his tone poem “Prélude à l’après midi d’un faune”  probably thinking it was about a baby deer wandering about after lunch. To the artist such as myself, the sonic interpretation of the poem is a guy waking up and thinking about decorating his living room with a kind of beige emulsion paint if his missus goes up the bingo later on. Manet gets in on the show by having painted the poet. Do not tell me that you cannot see the hints and reflections of fawn in the flesh tones and the vibrant brush strokes. To the modern Frenchman the word faune could sound like phone and so a unity between Fauvism and Futurism is established. Since the phone did not exist when the poem was written, the sonic symbolism predicted its invention and arrival – almost certainly after a long Gallic lunch. The  iPhone is a first person narrative poem by Bambi in rap-speak.

I know I should not mock because a few days ago I did the audio book for my collection of poems “I Threw A Stone”. A chance reading of a guide to an exhibition of Degas revealed the link between Debussy and Mallarmé. At once I realised that I could walk in the footsteps of giants. I put on my poet’s overalls and an arty expression. I have the fortune to know a very talented young composer and asked her to write and play a small piece to reflect the title poem. The result was beautiful and I rather fear that people will prefer the music to the sound of my voice. I know that’s how I feel about it.

I first came across the notion of post-wotsit intellectualism when I went to an art exhibition by the post-impressionists thinking it was a P.R. initiative by the Royal Mail. This led me to read about being a post-modernist. Seemingly the post modernists came after the futurists who are actually quite ancient, having been around before the modernists. My contribution to the catalogue of intellectual post-isms is the term Post-Boomerism. I define it as a state of realisation that the architects of free love and youth culture will one day soonish suffer the droop, dangle a while and die. The software we wrote had that final glitch. It wouldn’t happen these days.

The Importance Of Being Ernie.

With just a couple of days before my poetry collection “I threw a stone” is released, I know I should be revving up to full poet angst and beauty mode. I should have bought a poet’s cloak or at least a silly hat. I should be displaying my love of Seamus Heaney and William Wordsworth. Then you would all know that I was in the poet’s club. Then I would be sleek and sweet in clique elite. OK – you get the message. I’ve found tears on my cheeks at seeing a swirl of starlings against the cold winter sun. Odds are that I was thinking of a woman and driving a 40 ton truck when it happened. Poetry happens with 3,000 gallons of excrement in a tanker trailer a few feet behind your head on a highway to the sewage farm.

I adore Wordsworth and admire Heaney. I revere and respect that laureate of the milk float – Benny Hill. I guess you guys don’t know what was the  Number One song at Christmas 40 years ago. Yes, it was “Ernie” who drove the fastest milk float in the West. Anyone too young to have known the poetic magic of this Bard of the Bristols dressed in a buffoon’s doublet of entendres can see it here. I am not going to claim that this is great poetry, all the same it is part of a tradition of narrative ribaldry that dates back to Chaucer. A few lines such as “ghostly gold tops” and “all alone at Linley Lane” would not have disgraced the pages of the Greats. If you wish to study the lyrics as a poem see them here. Just be grateful that I have not exposed my tomes of Narrative Verse to posh up my assertions.

Today I made a pilgrimage to Eastleigh in Hampshire where Benny Hill was himself a milkman. I know this place since I used to live there. It is unglamorous and known locally as “Beastly Eastleigh”.

I was a taxi driver working the pubs and ranks of this humble terraced town. The humour of Benny Hill is hard to analyse. It hovers between the naughty and the creepy, the voyeur and the connoisseur, the naif and the perv. At it’s core it is the genius of a guy who knew the contradictions and inconsistencies of the human condition.It was a genius informed by the experience of life.

When they built a new housing estate on the edge of town, the Council named a road after him.The supermarkets have long since killed the milkies who would have served Benny Hill Close. The Market Street into which Ernie galloped, his badge upon his chest is still there. Not many folk would rank Benny Hill with the giants of poetry and he would never have done so himself. As for me – I’d be happy to come up to his chest.

Was Benny a true poet? Tell me your unlikely bards.