<-- Google Analytics START --> <-- Google Analytics END -->

john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, May 21, 2008
    Ferry good
    That's me for a little while. Computer-free, instead I'll be seeing the world on one of these... so long, till next time.
    Tuesday, May 20, 2008
    Fifty and still righteously enraged
    The other punk poet on the bill on Saturday night was Attila the Stockbroker who, like John Cooper Clarke who never mentioned it that night, and Mark E Smith who makes a big issue of it on his new album, is turning fifty and is still as righteously enraged as ever. It was thrilling, and healing, and energising to soak in Attila's anger awhile...

    Monday, May 19, 2008
    Make Lunch Not War
    I'd only put half-an-hour on the meter so couldn't stop, but nevertheless I was delighted to see that Liverpool's finest, Urban Strawberry Lunch, are still serving up ‘Lunch at St Luke’s’ in the bombed-out church, every day between 12 and 3.00.

    Make lunch not war is the playful dub anthem on their myspace site devoted to describing the group's project to provide 'a cultural haven and artistic outlet for the city of Liverpool as a whole'. Judging by the ambient sounds swirling through the glassless windows and the amount of people stepping up through the entrance, their efforts are being well appreciated.
    Sunday, May 18, 2008
    Beasley Boulevard
    Delighted to see John Cooper Clarke on stage in Liverpoool last night. He has updated an all-time classic poem for the Urban Splash regeneration generation. When I was on my M62 walk I couldn't find Beasley Street anywhere in Salford; perhaps I should have been searching the warehouse loft conversions and tasteful terrace makeovers instead, for Beasley Boulevard:
    Low-slung shady basement gaffs
    Rooms of empty sound
    Strip ribbon casements
    With venetians halfway down
    The Hocksten fin
    With a nervous trim
    And a fragrant disregard
    It's an urban splash-art ghetto gym
    Beasley Boulevard

    Slates hung glutted and sated
    Hunger has no home
    Pampered, preened and patinated
    In a multi-cultural tone
    Looking good but lose the 'hood
    Or lose your loyalty card
    Here comes the neighbourhood
    Beasley Boulevard

    Noodle bars and poodle parlours
    Studio bronze and ask
    A street art tart in slashed pyjamas
    And an Alfred E Neuman mask
    Anything could happen
    But it hardly ever does
    There's a pub but the regulars are barred
    Nobody there to harsh your buzz
    On Beasley Boulevard

    The Mall - the Maul - whatever you call it
    Serves those glittering hoardes
    Split decision spoilt for choice
    And, anyway, ignored
    You wanna shop where you don't need a cop
    And nobody swipes your card
    A fair deal and a bit on top it's
    Beasley Boulevard

    The fat man's grocer
    The fop's outfitter
    And the drunkard's licensee
    And the guy who's giving everyone the jitters
    Who's never been on TV.
    'Never been on TV,' you say, 'How very avant garde!'
    Black and white is pink and grey
    Down Beasley Boulevard

    A stringent disinfectant
    With a most intrusive scent
    Wreaking violence on anyone
    Of an olfactorial bent
    While health and safety
    The bete-din
    And the guys at Scotland Yard
    Keep the area free from sin
    Beasley Boulevard

    Ring-a-ding-ding regime change
    A long way overdue
    But the dogs are gone and it's pale and strange
    With a whole new kind of you
    It's better than Paradise
    If you don't look too hard
    Made over nice n nice
    A B&B you wouldn't be without
    The BBC did a DVD about
    BB Keys came to see about
    BB King did a song in E about
    A Garden of Eden in every yard
    A phone box cleared of hookers' cards
    They've got to promenade
    On teasy wheezy easy-peasy
    Beasley Boulevard

    Words transcribed by a JCC fan from a radio performance and posted on
    Manchester Alternative Comedy Forum
    Things come in Threes

    A man I visited recently told me about the last days of his old mum's life. This lady, in her younger days, had loved playing darts in the pub team while her husband was over on the snooker table. Her son told me that the very last thing she did before she slipped away into unconsciousness was this: she took a piece of tissue paper and rolled it up between her fingers, and then she threw it like this (dart-throw motion). Then she did the same thing again. And again, a third time. Her son told me what he thought she was doing: she was going through the motions of playing darts again, remembering the best times she had had in her life.
    From my Trinity Sunday talk, Things come in Threes.

    Pic: Number 3 by Mister Roy (thanks Roy)
    Saturday, May 17, 2008
    A wedding on Cup Final Day

    The only FA Cup Final I've been interested in for many years (in common with most football lovers sick of the Gang of Four Bores) - and I find myself invited to a wedding... Still, win lose or draw, it'll be a great day for Cardiff City (who I watched regularly when I lived there in the eighties). Cross of St David in my buttonhole: come on you Bluebirds.
    Friday, May 16, 2008
    Croxteth dandelions

    On this spot millennia ago the Viking adventurer Croc moored his longboat and set up camp, and Croxteth, Croc's Steath [Croc's Landing Place], was born.

    On this spot centuries ago (back as far as 1425) the worshipping community of St Swithins first celebrated a Mass and four Catholic churches have existed there through the centuries.

    On this spot many people lived, until the death of municipal housing in the 1990s.

    On this spot many youngsters, en-route from home to the leisure park on a path cut by their own feet, have played, fought, shouted, skimmed stones in the River Alt.

    On this spot tomorrow there may be a Tesco, or a re-sited community comprehensive school, or a sports centre, depending which politician is talking it up today.

    On this spot I'd quite like to see the new Goodison (it'd be handy for me). But that's not likely to happen. In which case I prefer it with the dandelions.

    Pic taken on my Rogation walk last week
    Thursday, May 15, 2008
    The Book of Threes
    Trinity Sunday coming up. Delighted to have found The Book of Threes...
    Wednesday, May 14, 2008
    On Terkel and Parker's Providence
    Maybe Studs Terkel started it for me - without me realising what 'it' was, for a very long time. In the late twentieth century United States Terkel was a great master of reportage. What made his work great, for me, was that he reported from grassroots on the issues of the day, his mission was to capture the voice of the ordinary person and his books read as transcripts of what everyday Americans told him about the things which mattered to them.

    Hence titles such as Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do (1974), Race: What Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession (1992), and - the one which sits on my bookshelf, paperback spine cracked through repeated reading over twenty years - The Great Divide: Second Thoughts on the American Dream (1988). Terkel knew how to draw fascinating stories from all sorts of very different people, and to compile them into works of great analysis and insight. And he was most interested in giving voice to those usually most unheard.

    Terkel's work proved as powerful to me as the prose of James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, an unforgettable exploration of the daily lives of sharecroppers in the American South. But in that classic it's Agee's voice you hear, mostly. The genius of Terkel is in letting the people speak.

    Closer to home I've found other writers with this great gift of letting the ordinary person speak. Edward Platt's Leadville which showcases the voices of people living on the murderous A40 Western Avenue, stood out for me recently. And then yesterday I opened The People of Providence, in which Tony Parker limits his own voice to short descriptions of the people he interviews, on a South London housing estate in 1983. The rest is them: most of the time describing what some folks might dismiss as mundane. But it's thoroughly engaging, unputdownable. And it reminds me that if I do go ahead and start six years of research into life in Liverpool 11, I've got some great role models to follow.
    Tuesday, May 13, 2008
    Get Carter
    I premiered a rough-edged version of my Get Carter talk today. Not so much a talk as a radio presenter-style session highlighting many of Sydney Carter's spoken word poems and pieces of music. What wealth we found there. I used the central verse of his poem Interview as the basis of the presentation:

    So what do you believe in?
    Nothing fixed or final,
    all the while I
    travel a miracle. I doubt,
    and yet
    I walk upon the water.
    Our little group learned a great deal about Carter today: a writer with great empathy and compassion for others, a deep sense of mystery and a search for companionship on life's challenging journey. A persuasive, creative critic of the powers which crush the spirit and trample the poor, but no cynic. A jester without a court, dancing on the edge. Astonishing he's so neglected these days, he has so much to say and all in a wonderful life-affirming way.

    As Nicholas Williams noted in his Sydney Carter obituary, Carter's creed 'lay in the question mark, often of a Zen-like paradox'. In 1974, Sydney Carter wrote:
    Faith is more basic than language or theology. Faith is the response to something which is calling us from the timeless part of our reality. Faith may be encouraged by what has happened in the past, or what is thought to have happened in the past, but the only proof of it is in the future. Scriptures and creeds may come to seem incredible, but faith will still go dancing on. Even though (because it rejects a doctrine) it is now described as "doubt". This, I believe, is the kind of faith that Christ commended.
    My Get Carter talk notes / playlist here [PDF, 200KB]

    Music Sources
    Franciscus Henri: Nothing Fixed or Final, FHP Records 2005
    Various artists: Lovely in the Dances: Songs of Sydney Carter, Osmosys 1998
    Various artists: Sydney Carter's Lord of the Dance, Stainer and Bell 1998
    Chris Wood, Trespasser, RUF Records 2007

    Sydney Carter: Green Print for Song, Galliard / Stainer and Bell 1974
    Sydney Carter: Rock of Doubt, Continuum 1978
    Sydney Carter: Sydney Carter's Lord of the Dance and other songs and poems, Stainer and Bell 2006
    Sydney Carter: The Two-Way Clock, Poems, Stainer and Bell 2000

    Sunday, May 11, 2008

    Champions again... and well done Joleon, player of the year, scorer again today.
    (NB: in common with the rest of football, this table ignores the four bores).
    Saturday, May 10, 2008
    Work can wait

    I can't adequately express the peace of mind brought to me each time I read the message on the inside of my favourite jeans. Thanks Howies.
    Friday, May 09, 2008
    TRIP Programme
    Excitement. The provisional programme is out for TRIP (Territories Reimagined: International Perspectives, a psychogeography festival in Manchester, 19th - 21st June) [pdf, 276k]. I'm on the Saturday morning. Better get writing that paper.
    Wednesday, May 07, 2008
    Stuff Theology
    The world is increasingly full of “things” made by people, but many commonplace objects are effectively invisible - according to Stephen Pattison.

    In last year's Gifford Lecture series, Professor Pattison looked into the relationship between humanity and visual artefacts; and 'argue(d) for repositioning artefacts of all kinds at the centre of human perception, responsiveness and responsibility.' 'The movement of these lectures might be summed up as ‘from arrogant, distancing eye to loving appreciative gaze’, he said in his introduction.

    Looks fascinating. Seems close to what I keep calling reading the everyday, but I think elsewhere Pattison has called his research Stuff Theology... love it! The resultant book, Seeing Things: Deepening relations with visual artefacts, is out. But as a taster I'm printing off the lecture pdfs as we speak.

    Thanks Ian for directing me here
    Tuesday, May 06, 2008
    Freedom to Roam?
    Refreshing, occasionally, to read an anarchist text. Particularly one so well researched and readable as Harold Sculthorpe's Freedom to Roam, which describes the mechanisms through which privileged individuals and institutions keep the rest of us off the land. Here he is with an eye-opening paragraph on the National Trust:
    Today the NT is run as an elitist club that has forgotten its plebeian past. It took the name suggested by Robert Hunter of the Commons Preservation Society (CPS), now the Open Spaces Society, when it was set up on 16th July 1894 by members of the CPS and Octavia Hill of the Kyrle Society (which had aims similar to the CPS) to take over land and to safeguard it in trust for everyone freely to use for recreation. Its loss of direction is well illustrated by what happened when it acquired the 16,000 acre Kingston Lacey estate in Dorset on the death of its last private owner in August 1981. Down came the PRIVATE notices. Up went the STRICTLY PRIVATE replacements.
    Monday, May 05, 2008
    How you make is how you will be made
    I've spent the day preparing a Sydney Carter retreat. Which being Sydney Carter, isn't so much a retreat as a very creative confrontation: with the stuff of life, death, doubt, radical protest and mystic faith. So I think the title of the day should be GET CARTER. Here Sydney expresses in poetry what we ought to do with the burden of inspiration.

    Poem from The Two-Way Clock (Stainer and Bell 2000)
    Sunday, May 04, 2008
    Look at the way Kristin Hersh writes about her latest release on CASH Music... read the lyrics ... reflect on the title ... download the song (for free, if you like - but come on, pay the woman, she's a genius).

    Saturday, May 03, 2008
    No Poets Dont Own Words
    Poets Dont Own No Words
    Dont Own No Poets Words
    Own No Words Poets Dont
    Words Poets Dont Own No
    Poets Dont No Own Words
    Dont No Own Words Poets
    No Own Words Poets Dont
    Own Words Poets Dont No
    Words Poets Dont No Own
    Own Words Dont No Poets
    Words Dont No Poets Own
    Dont No Poets Own Words
    No Poets Own Words Dont
    Poets Own Words Dont No
    Words Own Poets Dont No
    Own Poets Dont No Words
    Poets Dont No Words Own
    Dont No Words Own Poets
    No Words Own Poets Dont
    One of Brion Gysin's provocative linguistic 'permutations', No Poets (1962). Amongst the very many riches to be mined on UbuWeb, where you can hear him read it too (MP3, 0:58).
    Friday, May 02, 2008
    Compassion. Empathy. On election night
    Those gigs you go to on election nights: you tend to remember them vividly. For me, Clwb Ifor Bach, 11 June 1987 stands out: the crushing pain of Thatcher's third consecutive victory salved by Clive Gregson and Christine Collister: wonderful, witty and very well-oiled (well, we all were) they turned our mourning into dancing. Good to share long nights like those with the folk singers, with their keen sense of radical politics, comradeship and determined celebration.

    Onstage in Liverpool tonight Billy Bragg recalled being in Belfast on 22 November 1990, celebrating with his audience the night Thatcher resigned. And he said he was glad to be out of London on this awful night (London, Londoners, what have you done?), and especially to be here in Liverpool, our political exceptionalism demonstrated once again in these local elections, as here we've made Labour gains.

    Billy Bragg was glad to be here tonight, he said, because of all British cities he knows that ours particularly understands the meaning of solidarity. It was our strong instinct for communal support which Boris Johnston fatuously described as 'sentimentality' in a nasty attack on a city grieving a death felt by all here four years ago. It's not the worst thing he's said about a particular group of people he dislikes: he reserves most bile for people of other races. But it's the measure of the man and his party.

    Perhaps the Labour movement will be energised by the revival of crass and bigoted conservatism shown in some parts of the country this week. Billy Bragg hopes so. 'I keep faith in you,' he sang, reinforcing his strong identification with the ordinary person, and keen sense of the power which the ordinary person holds.

    And 'When the world falls apart some things stay in place...' Compassion. Empathy. It was good to be again in the company of Billy at the Liverpool Phil tonight.

    Thursday, May 01, 2008
    It's in the detail

    Since James sent me a postcard of a Stephen Walter artwork (a detail from one of his recent The Island - London Series) I've been poring over it with a magnifying glass, thrilling at the delightful discoveries to be found close up to his densely-packed hand drawn map, loving the merging of prehistory, urban slang, pop culture and touristic references which he mixes up all over the canvas [..... Most teenage pregnancy - LAMBETH - Huge Glass Palace Woz Ere 1856 - Don't shout Fire.....].

    Stephen Walter's website is a further delight, and besides the many interesting mapping drawings there are gems like the one above. Fine stuff.

    Artwork: Stephen Walter, Shopping Trolleys, 2005