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Alibis in the Archive 2018

In June last year, I attended a most amazing and enjoyable weekend event at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire. This was ‘Alibis in the Archive’, organised and hosted by Martin Edwards, Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and President of the Detection Club, to mark the opening of the British Crime Writing Archives at the library.

Martin had a terrific line-up of speakers. And, as noted in my review of the event (Grandy’s Landing, 18/06/17), I seemed to spend the whole weekend back in the inter-war Golden Age of crime fiction with the shades of Christie, Sayers and Berkeley for company.

It was all fascinating stuff for a crime buff like me. So when, at 2:15pm on Tuesday 23rd February, tickets went on sale at Gladstone’s Library for the second ‘Alibis in the Archive’ weekend (8th – 10th June 2018), again organised and hosted by Martin Edwards, with a galaxy of top flight crime writers on the programme, you can be sure I rang on the dot to book my place!

We had a spot of Friday evening fun for starters, in the form of a murder mystery, ‘Bannocks and Blood’, written by Ann Cleeves, which had me scratching my head to no avail.

On Saturday morning, Simon Brett entertained us with his one-man show, ‘A Crime in Rhyme’, a Golden Age murder mystery in stanzas of side-splitting wit. This was followed by a riveting talk from Andrew Taylor on three real-life murder cases and how they contributed to the upsurge of interest in crime fiction between the wars.  Andrew then interviewed Martin Edwards about collecting crime fiction and we were able to examine a number of rare books from Martin’s own collection.  I was particularly interested in a copy of Freeman Wills Crofts’ short story collection ‘Many a Slip’ with a revealing inscription by the author.

The mid-day session was a fascinating talk by Sarah Ward on crime fiction in Derbyshire. After lunch, we had Ruth Dudley Edwards on how she enjoys writing satirical crime fiction as light relief from her serious work as an historian followed by Michael Jecks on writing medieval mysteries and getting the period details right!  Professor James Grieve, the eminent Scottish forensic pathologist (who appears as himself in Ann Cleeves’ Shetland novels) then reviewed some famous cases before the day’s proceedings were brought to a close in a panel discussion with questions from the audience.

Asked which crime novel would panel members recommend that we probably hadn’t read, Peter Lovesey’s answer was ‘The Monster of Dagenham Hall’ by James Corbett. He then gave us a taste of Corbett’s prose style…and boy, did we laugh!

Sunday began with Jessica Mann talking about the prominence attained by female crime writers in the Golden Age. Martin Edwards, accompanied by Peter Lovesey and Sheila Mitchell (widow of H.R.F. Keating), discussed the development of the British Crime Writing Archives.  Then Peter Lovesey, on the “genius” of crime writer James Corbett, rounded things off in hilarious fashion.

‘Alibis in the Archive’ 2018 was altogether a most interesting, inspiring and enjoyable event. And how amazing it was for delegates like me, being able to mingle and chat with so many top authors of the genre.  I was delighted to sip coffee or wine with several of my personal favourites.

I shall look forward to ‘Alibis’ 2019 now. I’ve noted the dates in my diary: 22-24 June.  And of course I have a stack of signed books to keep me going in the meantime.

Paul Beech

Copyright © Paul Beech 2018

 

 

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Royal Flush

Here’s a poem I wrote many years ago and revised several times before including it in my collection Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose (Cestrian Press, 2016).

‘Royal Flush’ is not about me. I was definitely one of the Bulging Briefcase Brigade during my time in social housing but there was never any hope of a fortune for me!   Nor is it about my wonderful grandad, who served in the First World War, was mentioned in dispatches and decorated for bravery, though he told me many a tale about life in the trenches.  No, my ambitious war veteran is pure fiction.

I just thought the poem was worth airing again. I’ll include it in my set to read at a poetry meeting tonight.

 

ROYAL FLUSH

 

High flier,

at wits’ end before weekend,

savagely blasphemous on the sly.

 

Friday evening,

blackthorn replacing briefcase,

the slack river slackens his mind.

 

Foliage breaking,

the late sun stabs his eye,

a bursting shell on the Somme.

 

More shells,

through brain-haze wailing,

a cape of carnage poppy-field trailing.

 

L’Estaminet,

bitter coffee, poker, smoky stove,

he spreads a royal flush and wins.

 

Reverie dashed,

he wanders amongst the big watery blooms

of his cottage garden.

 

Indoors again,

brandy, Rachmaninov,

a fragrant wood coils at his chisel’s tip.

 

Patiently, beneath the stair,

within buckled briefcase lair,

awaits the temptress Fortune.

 

Paul Beech

Copyright © Paul Beech 2016, 2018

 

Our Evening of Poetry and Music for SHARE

For the last week, since our ‘Evening of Poetry & Music’ at The Lock Keeper, Chester, on 24th May, I’ve been going around humming and whistling classic folk songs, those sung by our singer/songwriter friend who performed two brilliant sets on guitar, and the 17th century ballad ‘Lavender’s Blue’, part of the mouth organ medley played by Maureen after we’d read our humorous somonka, opening the Second Half.

And what a lively night it was! What a friendly, uplifting, inspiring night, with our two Guest Poets, Morelle Smith and Aled Lewis Evans, performing wonderfully, as did each and every one of our other ten amazing Invited Poets – Margaret Holbrook, David J. Costello, Jan Hedger, Ian Malcolm Parr, Edwin Stockdale, Kemal Houghton, Pat Edwards, David Subacchi, Helen Hill and Mike Penney.

Maureen’s recitation of her lovely poem ‘Midnight Robin’, accompanied by Mike Penney on guitar, brought the proceedings to a perfect close.

Maureen has organised and compèred poetry events before, but this was my first time. And, Gosh, how exciting it was, after all the hard preparatory work, seeing how, as it unfolded, the evening took on a character of its own, a happy, generous character, becoming an event that will surely live long in the memories of all present – performers, helpers and audience.

A success indeed, with a grand sum of £113 made for our chosen charity, SHARE (Supporting Homeless Assisting Refugees Everywhere).

On Tuesday this week (following the Bank Holiday weekend), Maureen and I called at the SHARE Shop in Chester and handed the manager a cheque for this amount. She thanked us very much on behalf of the charity.  At our request, £56 will go towards supporting homeless people on the streets of Chester, and the balance of £57 towards supporting refugees abroad.

A homeless man, who happened to be at the counter, thanked us profusely on behalf of people on the street like him, and shook my hand warmly.

Afterwards, with it being such a fine sunny day, we popped down to The Groves for a celebratory ice cream each, sitting beside the River Dee, watching small motorboats puttering downstream as a juvenile herring gull snatched a fish from the rippling flow…

***

Our heartfelt thanks go to all who performed and assisted at our event, to Kemal Houghton for recording it for Vintage Radio, and to the management and staff of the Lock Keeper for free use of their Function Room and making us so welcome.

Much appreciated.

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2018

 

 

There, but for the grace of God…UPDATE

In my last post, I promised further details about the evening of poetry and music that my partner Maureen Weldon and I, in association with The Chester Poets, will be putting on in Chester on Thursday 24th May 2017 to raise money for SHARE.  So here goes…

 

 

SHARE is a registered charity established in 2015 with a Hub in Mold, Flintshire, and a shop in Chester. The name stands for:

Supporting

Homeless

Assisting

Refugees

Everywhere

From Mold, essential aid is shipped to refugees abroad. The Chester Shop provides a twice-weekly outreach service to homeless people on the streets locally.

 

 

Our event:

 

 

AN EVENING OF POETRY & MUSIC

hosted by

THE FREE RANGE POETS

Maureen Weldon & Paul Beech

in association with

THE CHESTER POETS

 

 

GUEST POETS

Morelle Smith & Aled Lewis Evans

with ten highly accomplished poets

 

THURSDAY 24th May 2018

Commencing 7:30pm

at

The Lock Keeper, Canalside, Chester, CH1 3LH

£3.00 each on the door. Profits to SHARE

 

 

FIRST HALF

Welcome & Introduction to the Evening

– Maureen Weldon & Paul Beech

POETS

Margaret Holbrook

David J. Costello

Jan Hedger

Ian Malcolm Parr

[MUSIC & SONG]

Edwin Stockdale

Kemal Houghton

SPECIAL GUEST – Morelle Smith

 

 

————–INTERVAL & BOOK SALE————–

 

 

SECOND HALF

Welcome Back & Poem – Maureen Weldon & Paul Beech

POETS

SPECIAL GUEST – Aled Lewis Evans

Pat Edwards

David Subacchi

Helen Hill

[MUSIC & SONG]

Mike Penney

Maureen accompanied by Mike Penney

Thank you & Close – Maureen Weldon & Paul Beech

 

 

Maureen and I have been working flat out to get everything ready and, with less than a fortnight to go, we’re getting excited!

Yes, it’ll be quite a show! A lively evening, which we hope will be enjoyed by all with a decent sum made for SHARE.

Please come along if you can!

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2018

 

 

 

There, but for the grace of God…

My following senryu was published in Failed Haiku: A Journal of English Senryu, Issue 21, on 1st September 2017:

 

sleet

a dark form in the shadows

she coughs again

 

Paul Beech

 

Prior to retirement, I was a social housing practitioner for over thirty years, and the work I always loved best was helping the homeless. It was challenging for sure, often gruelling, but uniquely rewarding too.  And I was daily reminded of the old adage that “there, but for the grace of God, go I.”  For it is true: homelessness can come about in so many different ways – unemployment, business failure, relationship breakdown, domestic violence, illness, bereavement, and so on – that it can happen to practically anyone.

My partner Maureen Weldon (a former professional ballet dancer, now a widely published poet) is also deeply concerned over the plight of displaced people. And together, calling ourselves ‘The Free Range Poets’, we are putting together a poetry and music evening in association with Chester Poets, to take place at the Lock Keeper, a canalside pub in Chester, on Thursday 24th May 2018, to raise funds for SHARE, a wonderful charity based in Mold, Flintshire, with a shop in Chester, supporting refugees abroad and homeless people in and around Chester and beyond.

Maureen and I will compère the evening. And our special guests Aled Lewis Evans (the Welsh poet, novelist and playwright) and Morelle Smith (the Scottish poet, novelist and travel writer) will be backed up by ten highly accomplished poets we know well.

I will provide further details in due course.

Have a good Sunday, everyone.

Paul

Copyright © Paul Beech 2018

 

World Poetry Day at Upton Dene

Wednesday last week, 21st March, was World Poetry Day, and Maureen and I, along with our friend and fellow Chester Poet Mike Penney, visited Upton Dene, a beautiful new care home in Chester (opened 2016) to read our work to residents.

We were in the Hazeldene Lounge. And small though our audience was, how bright and appreciative were these ladies of the recently-formed poetry circle.

World Poetry Day was proclaimed by UNESCO in 1999 to promote the writing, reading and teaching of poetry worldwide, reaffirm our common humanity and recognise the linkage with other art forms such as theatre, music and painting. And our very relaxed afternoon session, with much happy chat between poems, certainly felt true to the spirit of the day.

Our distinctive individual styles worked well together, Mike’s dazzling imagery, my narrative approach (I even chanced reading my flash fiction story ‘The Brave’) and Maureen’s engaging intensity and unique ability to “come over the footlights” – you could have heard a pin drop when she read ‘Liverpool to Dublin: 1943’. And when she recited W. B. Yeats’ ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’ to the tune of ‘The Moorlough Shore’ on her mouth-organ then played ‘Danny Boy’, the proceedings were brought to a perfect close.

Homemade scones topped with cream and jam had been laid on along with a glass of sherry each, and, boy, how we enjoyed them now!

A big thank you to Bernie Harding of Sanctuary Care Ltd., the Activities Leader at Upton Dene, for inviting us.

Paul Beech

Copyright © Paul Beech 2018

Shag Tobacco

In a comment on my post ‘The Barmouth Ghost’ (see under True Stories), the Canadian author Cynthia Reyes wrote: “There is much that science can’t explain.  And there are liminal moments when we become awake to the mysterious and the divine.”

I replied: “Those liminal moments, yes… their occurrence for me is only occasional and always unexpected, when I’ve lost myself in admiration of nature and the universe.  I have a poem on this theme…”

‘Shag Tobacco’ was written some years ago following a solitary walk beside the River Weaver in Cheshire…

 

SHAG TOBACCO

 

A wisp of shag tobacco, perhaps?

A balloon adrift in the valley,

self-esteem a snapped mooring.

 

So the willowed water’s edge I wander,

sun glaring from plankton depths,

brain percolating,

florescent fungus twitching with broom.

 

Humble I connect.

Proud and the poetry eludes me,

a wisp of shag tobacco, perhaps?

 

Paul Beech

 

(‘Shag Tobacco’ was first published in The Sons of Camus Writers International Journal, Issue 12, Autumn 2015, and appears in my collection Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose, Cestrian Press, 2016.)

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2018