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Boyhood Memories

Coming down to earth after the excitement of my first book launch, I did a spot of desk-clearing yesterday and came across a couple of memories posted on blogs. They’re memories that capture something of my long lost youth in Farnworth, Lancashire, so I thought it would be nice to start the week by sharing them here:

 

[1] Skid

 

It would have been the late-‘50s, myself 11 or 12. A bright summer’s day in Lancashire.  I was very proud of my Dawes Domino sports bike.  But coming downhill full pelt I overtook a moped then skidded into a cinder track at the bottom.  Of course the wheels went from under me and I was badly grazed.

Bandaged, I enjoyed sitting out in our back garden, sipping dandelion and burdock and reading a book of true-life exploits from the Second World War. All our dads were heroes then and mine had served in the RAF.

 

[2] Message In A Bottle

 

As a 15 year old, on the eve of moving home with my parents and family, I put a message in a bottle and buried it under my dad’s shed. Returning recently after 54 years, I found the shed gone and much else besides.

Probably the house has changed hands several times since those distant days of my childhood when a vista of factory chimneys greeted the eye through our rear leaded panes. Whether my bottle was ever found and the message read, I don’t know.  My message was hardly deathless prose, so I doubt anyone would have been very interested anyway.

Planting the bottle was certainly an emotional moment for me though. And wondering about it occasionally down the decades has always brought a whiff of the old days, something more than nostalgia, something…mystical, perhaps.

 

Paul Beech

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2016

And I joined in with an egg!

We only ever get one first book launch. And for Mike Penney with his brilliant poetry collection Where Silence Deepens, and me with my collection of poetry and prose Twin Dakotas, it was a long time coming, over forty years of serious writing for us both.  And, by gum, we enjoyed it!

Our shared book launch in Chester on Thursday night, so wonderfully compèred by my partner Maureen Weldon, was truly amazing, exceeding even our wildest dreams.

What a venue! Built in 1622, and named after King Charles I, who stayed nearby during the Battle of Rowton Moor on 24th September 1645 (which he lost to the Parliamentarians), Ye Olde King’s Head on Lower Bridge Street is reputedly one of Britain’s most haunted inns, with thirteen resident ghosts!  And our large upstairs room, complete with stag’s head on the wall and suit of armour in the corner, was packed out with a guesstimated 45 people attending.

Mike accompanied me on guitar as I read my title poem ‘Twin Dakotas’, about my dear mum and dad, Bert and Elsie Beech, whose memory my book is dedicated to. Maureen, on mouth organ, played ‘The Sound of Silence’ and ‘Both Sides Now’.  Mike played and sang his song ‘Visitation’ with Maureen singing along and hilariously performing character parts.  The poetry and music went so well together.

And following our readings and a concluding address from Kemal Houghton, our publisher at Cestrain Press and Chair of Chester Poets, I joined in with an egg (of the rattly, musical variety) as Kemal on guitar, accompanied by Maureen on maracas and Mike on spoon-and-bottle, performed his very lively and liberated song ‘Fly’ to great applause.

It was quite a show, great fun for us up front and obviously much enjoyed by our audience too, and was followed by book sales and signings. Thanks for manning the stall, Caroline.

Thank you to all who came and made the evening so special for us. A big hand from us to you.  And thank you to the licensee, management and staff of Ye Olde King’s Head for use of your room – you were great!

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2016

Rehearsals

Yesterday Mike Penney, Maureen and I did another rehearsal for our event at Ye Olde King’s Head, Chester, on Thursday 11th August.  Mike will be launching his first poetry collection Where Silence Deepens and I’ll be launching my first collection of poetry and prose, Twin Dakotas.

Maureen, my partner (Maureen Weldon, actually), will act as compère, something she’s able to do superbly well, having great stage presence as a former professional ballet dancer with the Irish Theatre Ballet, and as a poet herself – a very widely published one!

Mike, who plays guitar, will accompany me when I read my title poem, ‘Twin Dakotas’, about my wonderful late parents, Bert and Elsie Beech, whose memory I’ve dedicated the book to.

Maureen plays the mouth organ and maracas. And Kemal Houghton, Chair of Chester Poets, is also a guitarist.  So there’ll be plenty of music weaving in and out of the readings.

I’ve no musical skills at all but will join the others and have a jolly good go with an egg (of the rattly, musical variety) when the final number, ‘Fly’, is performed.

A lively evening in prospect, to be sure. And with only nine days to go, it’s getting exciting!

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2016

Bandage

Here’s a sneak preview from my book, Twin Dakotas. And my finger really was heavily bandaged at the time of writing!

 

BANDAGE

.

Two sad women waiting,

bloke with iPad fiddling.

Wintry sunshine through a skylight,

landscape on the wall.

.

My turn at last.

A tweedy, jovial doctor:

he examines it,

squashes it,

tells me not to mess with it,

just wait for it to go.

.

And now it has:

my blister has burst,

messily,

and a bulbous bandage

encases my right index finger,

a barrage balloon,

a blue whale,

a flock of starlings

under the moon,

one hundred thousand strong.

.

I cannot bend my finger,

can hardly hold my pen,

yet write this poem I will.

Bet on it, Doc:

for those brave glossy starlings,

I will.

.

Paul Beech

Copyright © Paul Beech 2016

Double Book Launch

My fellow Chester Poet Mike Penney and I both have first collections coming out shortly from Cestrian Press and will be holding a double launch at a most interesting historic venue in Chester with my partner Maureen (a poet also) acting as compère.

 

 

 DOUBLE BOOK LAUNCH

 

The Books: Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose by Paul Beech

Where Silence Deepens by Mike Penney

 

Venue: Ye Olde King’s Head,

Lower Bridge Street, Chester, CH1 1RS

 

Compère: Maureen Weldon

 

Date/Time: Thursday 11th August 2016, 7:30pm

 

 Admission Free

 

ALL WELCOME

 

Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose

“As a lad I dreamt of becoming a writer like Conan Doyle or Ian Fleming, a poet like Dylan Thomas or Louis MacNeice. Well, so much for that!  But I do have a book out now, this first collection of my poetry and prose, Twin Dakotas.  And I’m very pleased.  I’ve been writing seriously for 44 years, so it’s been a long time coming.”

So runs the opening paragraph in the Introduction to my book. It isn’t quite out yet, it’s going to the printers, but shouldn’t be long.  I’ve had work published in magazines, journals and anthologies but this will be my first solo book, and I’m very proud that it will be coming out from Cestrian Press.

Twin Dakotas is arranged in seven sections, each combining poetry and prose – Nature, Times Past, Historical, Displacement, Later Life, Contrasts and Young Ones. And I’ve dedicated the book to the memory of my wonderful parents, Bert and Elsie Beech, with love.  The title piece, a prose-poem, is about them.

Soon I will have to arrange a launch – very exciting! I will post updates as and when.

Paul Beech

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2016

Sputnik

 

In this one, I’m recalling a time in the ‘80s when I worked as a social housing team leader in a notorious inner-city area. “Sputnik” was a type of hashish peddled in the UK back then.

 

SPUTNIK

 

A crescent,

scabrous breasts of wanton concrete.

.

Political posters flap,

the tattered garments of a ravaged whore.

.

Dark shades,

bomber-jackets,

caps back-to-front:

.

“Sputnik you want? Sputnik you want?”

.

Banknotes crackle and packets are passed,

orange-rimmed packets of dreams.

.

Blades in back pockets.

.

Do they ever raise their gaze

above this flabby grey torso

to follow an airliner

in and out of clouds

and over the hills beyond?

.

Doubt it.

.

Paul Beech

.

Copyright © Paul Beech 2016

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