Tapped in the Head.

By Garry Abbott

antique-water-tap-xdl1203

 

I doodled in profile,

Heads with taps leaking into pools

with stick men leaping, bathing and

waving from the mind stuff waters.

 

In margins and backs

of books for learning,

and later for working,

taking notes of notes of minutes of nothing.

I needed something to do.

 

Always taps and wheels,

from necks with no torso,

free to roam, but carbon static.

Stuck behind the lines of the page.

 

Perhaps it was the pressure

that needed letting?

Between skin and skull, swelling,

scalp and mind.

Under eyelids welling.

 

I doodled in profile.

Taps in the back of heads.

Leaking out mind stuff.

Floating still on the page.

 

And then I closed the book,

and just got on with it.

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Pay-per-views.

By Garry Abbott

 

Pay-per-view violence, pay-per-view news,

pay-pay-view silence and pay-per-view views.

Who needs their own opinions when the market’s on the cheap?

Why spend your own time thinking when you’ve such a busy week?

Someone said that God is dead, they announced it just this evening,

now they don’t know what to think because they’ve always had that feeling

in the pit of their stomach where reason drowns our intuition,

and it’s clawing up the walls and it’s reaching for the ceiling.

Now it’s gasping for air in this dark and rancid lair,

it’s drowning in the acrid stench and it can’t reach the stairs.

Exiled and exhausted it starts to slip below.

Prey mercy it’s exalted as the flesh falls from its bones.

The thought was not at fault here, the thought had no agenda,

we buried it in adverts and it choked in our surrender.

It couldn’t get a purchase, but a purchase dug its grave.

It was packaged and diluted, and then sent so far away.

But just think of all the money, time and effort we have saved

by letting little notions get washed out by the waves.

When the oceans stretch so far that they seem to disappear,

What I can’t see can’t hurt me.

What I don’t know I don’t fear.

So pay for your silence and pay for your news.

Pay for peace of mind and pay for someone else’s views.

Pay for the violence and pay for the truth.

Pay to grow old gracefully or pay to keep your youth.

Pay for the payments, just a little service charge,

will pay for the raiment’s of someone else’s garbs.

Pay for the right just to pay, right?

Pay for the right to have your say, right?

Or don’t pay at all, and fall down through the cracks.

Think for yourself, but there’s no coming back.

From the moment we are born

we’re reborn as sheets of paper.

They don’t seek your enlightenment,

It’s the payments they are after.

 

 

Yeah, it’s my end of year thing for 2013 OK?

I know, I know – ‘end of year review’ e-mails, blogs and updates can get a little tiresome. But why? Maybe it’s because they intuitively conjure up lots of words that have the word ‘self’ as a prefix – congratulatory, obsessed, centred. It’s a curious thing that we shy away from sharing our own successes and challenges – maybe it’s cultural – but for whatever reason, I’m not going to let it stop me, this having been a landmark year for me personally and professionally. So you have been warned, this is an end-of-year review and will as a result be tediously reflective and upbeat. So there.

Obviously, it isn’t actually the end of the year yet, but very nearly, and near enough for me to want to clear the decks and not have to worry about doing blogs and such like over the next couple of weeks. So, unless I am struck by an uncontrollable wave of inspiration, I will make this the last blog of 2013, and try to have a ‘holiday’ until the new year.

A new start, long awaited.

In February this year I ended a decade of working in the wrong job. I say ‘the wrong job’ because it was, for me, the wrong job. I worked in a bank (formally a building society) as a ‘thingy’. A ‘thingy’, is a technical term for someone who isn’t able to answer the question “what do you actually do?” with any degree of clarity or precision. It’s not particularly good for your soul that situation, and the world is full of ‘thingies’. I was a kind-of technical specialist, I was a kind-of legal (compliance) specialist, I was a kind-of trainer, a kind-of auditor, a kind-of quality controller, a kind-of project worker, a kind-of data-entry clerk. One day I could be in meetings, discussing requirements for a multi-million pound computer system, all the while thinking “I’m not getting paid enough for this” and the next I could be endlessly tapping numbers into a spreadsheet, thinking “I’m getting paid too much for this”. There were many things I wasn’t quite, and many more things I’m quite sure I shouldn’t have been, but still it took ten years to break away thanks in no small part to the rut/routine that a (fairly) decent wage and a none taxing job can collude to create when you are busy figuring out who you are and what you want to be.

So that was the end of that. I left by my own accord, having hung on for a few years with the possibility of redundancy that never materialised, and unable to ‘get on’ with our new pay-masters: The Co-op, and their shambolic management (an assessment that I feel very much vindicated for, given the events of this year).

When I left, I had a few things lined up, which really helped me to get straight on with my new life as a self-employed writer & musician (you see – that’s much easier to define, isn’t it?) I had been running my creative activities alongside my old job for several years anyway, but I always suspected that I would need to let go of the comfort (and boredom) of the office job if I were to really ever fully embrace my aspirations. So far, I have found that to be true, and long may it continue.

 

Unearthed

The first ‘big’ job, which lasted throughout the year (at intervals), was the ‘Unearthed’ project. This was being drafted in as a supporting artist to help develop and produce community engagement with a new memorial sculpture in my home town of Stoke-on-Trent (specifically in the town of Hanley – if you are confused by that, it’s because we have this whole weird, six towns into one thing going on over here – look it up). As part of this project I got to do several awesome things. I got to write, narrate and score an animation that was then shown at several public locations and continues to be available as an online resource. I got to write my first choral piece (set to the words of my own poem) that was then rehearsed and performed by students of a local sixth form college at a memorial ceremony with city dignitaries in attendance. And I got to work with the real words of the people we engaged with the project to produce an oral sound-piece, used to accompany an original composition and dance routine at the unveiling ceremony of the sculpture. This project took me to places I hadn’t expected, connection with history and communities though art, a sense of integrity and responsibility with story-telling and representation of real world events that I had never considered or encountered before. It was a great experience and I can’t thank Nicola Winstanley and Sarah Nadin enough for involving me in their excellent project – I am a ‘Dashyline’ fan! (Visit the project website, here: http://www.unearthed2013.co.uk/)

The Audio Mill

There was also a continuation (and I fancy a building momentum) of my composition and production work alongside my good friend and collaborator Kieran Williams as part of ‘The Audio Mill’.  This year we have produced several pieces for fashion houses River Island and Mr Porter for use in their viral campaigns. From a professional development point of view, working to brief to compose and produce original music in a variety of styles really helps you to hone your technical and creative abilities. So far (as I know) they have been very happy with all the work we’ve completed for them, and the videos our music accompanies are popular and well received. Obviously, the world of fashion houses feels miles away from me in my small office in Longton, laying down rhythms, bass lines, guitar licks and melodies, but thanks to Kieran’s ever fruitful move to London, the chance to showcase our abilities to a larger audience through an established outlet, is a welcome one, and I look forward to more work like this in the new year. Examples here: http://www.theaudiomill.co.uk/

Newsjack

My first BBC broadcast credits happened this year, in the form of several one-liner jokes and a sketch used as part of Radio 4 Extra’s topical comedy show ‘Newsjack’. There have been two series this year, the first airing while I still worked at the bank. However, I managed to get two one-liners into the first series anyway, and given the extra time and emphasis of self-employment, was able to up that score to 5 one liners and a sketch in the latest series! This is very satisfying work when it happens and takes time and practice to get right – the business of joking seems to be a serious one. This is an aspect of my work that I want to take forwards into 2014 one way or the other. I will, of course, continue to submit to Newsjack when it comes back, but one eye must be kept on ‘where next?’ – building on the successes and reaching for more regular and guaranteed work. I’d be happy if I could find a way to get some one-liners onto other radio 4 programmes (shows like the ‘Now show’ and ‘News quiz’ often have writers that have started through ‘Newsjack’ – it’s just finding the link in or being a persistent bugger I suppose). I have also tickled some light interest with a sit-com script this year – falling short of the mark but getting good feedback and encouragement from an industry insider. If the right idea comes along, I will be writing and pitching new series next year, as well as looking to contribute to more programmes. Watch this space. (well not this space, this space won’t tell you anything new – I’ll be more specific about what space to watch when we come to it).

 

Poetry

Poetry is something I do rarely, and am quite self-conscious about, but that might change following the publication of one of my (very few) poems written this year in a collection. The poem ‘I’m alright Jack’ was chosen out of 600 odd entries to form part of a collection of 50 poems by the publisher mardibooks called ‘The Dance is New’. It is a genuinely good collection, and naturally, I would urge you all to buy a million copies each from here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Dance-New-Michelle-Calvert-ebook/dp/B00FL887N8 (I promise you I am one of the authors! For reasons of Amazon weirdness, my name is not listed at the top of the page, but I am linked at the bottom – I am in there basically).

                This is another area I intend to return to and perhaps ‘force’ a little more poetry out and onto the world (that’s not a bad thing – so much writing takes effort to get down on the page, just waiting for inspiration is not at all conducive to career development).

The Dimension Scales

Did I mention that I gone written a book? No? Well I have. It has been in development all year (and most of last year), a collection of short stories that will be released in 2014. This has been my favourite part of this year’s work. I finished my creative writing studies a few years ago, and this feels like the first piece of work that really puts all my learning together into one collection. I’m sure you’ve heard me go on about this before, and as of yet, there is nothing new to show you, but soon, very soon. I’m hoping that I will learn a lot of lessons from the release of this collection next year, and that a new work will be hot on its heels when I’ve had chance to digest the experience.

Education

I was thrilled and a little shocked to have achieved a distinction in two Open University modules this year: Philosophy and Arts History. Both form part of a BA degree I am working towards. Currently I am studying the last two modules (a higher level philosophy course and social science), and these will complete in 2014, at which point, I will get my degree. I started this education journey with nothing but the desire to learn more about creative writing (the first two modules that I completed three years ago now) – and was overcome by the education bug. I have since chosen subjects that I hope have informed me and my work in a positive way. History, social science and mostly, philosophy, are all helping me to get a deeper understanding of the world and myself. I would recommend to anyone who feels they might have ‘missed out’ somewhat during teenage years to revisit education if they can, or have the inclination. Learning is fun when you’ve chosen to do it and the subjects interest you. I don’t know if I will continue after the degree (I might leave it a year before deciding whether to do a Masters), but I hope to take the subjects I’ve chosen forwards into my work and life at every opportunity. They are already paying dividends.

Gravity Dave

My band ‘Gravity Dave’ have had a solid year as we’ve welcomed a new drummer to our number, written some great tunes, and gigged fairly regularly throughout the year. We have basically written and rehearsed/performed an album’s worth of material this year, and I think 2014 is the year to take this to the next step with quality recordings and more and more gigs. The main thing is that we all still find it really fun, creative and rewarding, so we’re not going to stop, and the music’s gonna keep flowing. I need a band, it is part of who I am and what I do, and I feel privileged to be part of this one with such great musicians. We’ve had a bit of a lull just in the last month or two due to problems with rehearsal space and health, but we will be back next year, and I promise, it will be bigger than ever. www.facebook.com/gravitydave

 

Anything else?

Well, this blog for one thing. When I started this, I didn’t know quite what it was meant to be, and I still don’t. All I know is that I enjoy it, and so do other people it seems. It’s quite a mixed bag as I’m sure you can tell. But it feels very important to me to keep on at it. It’s a bit like a digital sketch pad, a place to vent and experiment, reflect and celebrate. I hope those of you who follow this blog are generally entertained by it, at least enough to keep coming back. I have had some brilliant feedback from people directly, and I want to thank everyone who comes here and reads this. It’s kind of spooky that more people read this than I am aware of (according to the stats), but anonymity is the readers prerogative, and I appreciate your time spent reading my words greatly.

Another unexpected but fun development has been the rise of ‘ADMIN CAT!’ – a silly cartoon I produce to keep myself and some passing social network types entertained for a few seconds each week. This has potentially led onto some exciting developments for 2014…

 

And a happy new year!

I’m sure that as soon as I’ve finished writing this I will remember a whole bunch of other things. I have supported some great people and endeavours this year in a number of other ways not listed here. I occasionally still ‘do the spreadsheet thing’ for small businesses, and special mention has to go here to Misco Chocolates (www.miscoschocolates.co.uk) who are a constant inspiration to me in their attitude to life and work, both as business people and friends (as are all my friends, I must say).

You may notice a lack here of any personal details about the rest of my life! That is for two reasons: this blog isn’t really about that, and it hasn’t changed much (in a good way!). I live happily with my partner and my cats, and I love them all very much (even when they do bring in dead mice – the cats that is, not my partner).

So, all that is left is to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year! Please feel free to drop links to your end of year reviews or any  other work into the comment boxes – it is the least I can do to read yours if you have stuck with this! I do write really long blogs, but I don’t care, this isn’t Twitter. Thanks, as always, for reading. Here is a picture of me in a hat as a Christmas treat:

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Garry Abbott.

We are already there.

A poem today – inspired by our glorious and great leaders in the commons:

 

We are already there.

By Garry Abbott

 

An 11% pay rise? Well, that’s a surprise.

There’s no flies on you, is there?

It’s out of our control! Unlike the hole

You’ve dug for us, the ground’s just opened

and swallowed you poor people up.

Better luck next time,

but that’s the music of the land;

you must play to the tune of seventy grand.

 

And then the reasons fly:

Come on now, be fair!

We’re not all millionaires! (just most of us)

How are we supposed to act  without temptation,

and represent the peoples of this

Pay-freeze nation –

If we’re not riding higher than inflation

and able to ignore the draw of corporations

who want to line our pockets in compensation

For our ears, our laws, our resignations?

Come on now, be fair.

 

We should expect nothing less.

‘Cos nothing less is what we get.

 

And yet, I might suggest,

That you’re competing with the wrong people

If thrice the national average

already can’t attract,

those who would act

with genuine authority

over those who seek to undermine –

not just some weak backbencher –

but basically our sovereignty,

then we have it wrong

and no amount of zero’s, will ever compare,

or repair, this sorry state of affairs.

 

And I lament that it seems,

we’re already there.

 

We are already there.

Don’t wait until.

Hello,

Given the inordinate amount of time my work gives over to silliness (writing gags for radio, making daft cartoons, the occasional sit-com script and spoof article on this here blog), I sometimes forget to write ‘proper’ poems… which is a shame because the last, and only, poem I’ve written in the last few months has recently been published in a collection (which, if you are so inclined, you can buy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Dance-Is-New-ebook/dp/B00FL887N8)

So I should do it more often I think, and below is one that popped up quite naturally the other day. The form isn’t standard, but I like that, it’s like a poem of two halves with a connecting line that marks the change, sitting poignantly (I hope) between white space. The space around lines can be important as the words themselves.

It is called ‘Don’t wait until’ – and if I had to brand it with a theme or meaning, I would guess it would be about being truthful to ones self, or different aspects of ones self, or even to others, if you wish. It’s really up to you.

 

Don’t wait until.

By Garry Abbott

 

Don’t wait until I’m broken down,

dejected, sore and torn in two.

Don’t wait until I’m meekly dimming shadows.

 

Don’t wait until the seeds I’ve sown,

have grown and stretched,

to fill the gaps in air,

and fallen limp with time now spent.

 

Don’t wait until the Earth and I have met again.

 

If time is pressing, press back harder,

with bruised and aching shoulders.

Until it does to you, not does you in.

Until you spiral bound in wholeness.

 

Don’t wait, until I’m broken down,

Don’t bear a weight of torment.

If time is pressing, press back harder,

Until you own the moment.

Barnett’s Few

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Good morning.

I have had the privilege and pleasure this year of being involved in a community arts project in Stoke on Trent to commemorate the tragic destruction of the Czech town Lidice at the hands of the Nazi’s during the WWII. The small village was totally destroyed and most of the inhabitants brutally murdered. Following this atrocity, Stoke on Trent MP Sir Barnett Stross, declared that ‘Lidice Shall Live’, and roused the miners of Stoke to donate one days pay a week until the end of the war in order to rebuild a new town on the site and repatriate the few survivors.

It is a tragic story tempered by the inspirational response that the people of Stoke on Trent made. We can’t always stop terrible things happening, but we can choose how we respond in the most positive way possible. If anything ever demonstrated this principle, it is the story of Lidice.

So my colleagues, the design company ‘Dashy-Line’ have been commissioned to build a sculpture in Hanley (which is now the ‘main-town’ of Stoke on Trent), to commemorate this act of defiance in the face of hatred. They have designed a sculpture that will be clad in ‘miners tags’ showing the initials and day of birth of all the people who have promised to retell this story, and keep the memory alive.

This has involved engagement projects, to spread the story, and this is where I come in. I have written the script for a short animation that has been produced and presented to various groups and on-line, and also I wrote the score for a ‘Miners March Choir’ that was performed at a memorial service last Sunday.

It is the poem for the Miner’s choir that I wrote and used as the lyrics that I want to share with you today. Eventually I will have footage to show, but for now, the words I think, say it all about the choices the Miners made when asked the question, “Would you give up your hard earned pay?”.

After reading, I would urge you to visit http://www.unearthed2013.co.uk and make your pledge to share the story. It is totally free, and by doing so your initials will form part of the cladding on the new sculpture in Hanley that could, for all we know, be there for hundreds of years. Read the info, make your promise. It only takes a few minutes. Thank you.

Barnett’s Few.

by Garry Abbott

Would you give up your hard-earned pay

to keep a strangers memory

alive in lands so far away,

laid ruin by common enemy?

Would you give up your wage for hope

that light will pierce where darkness fell,

where ashes blanket field and slope,

where no-one gathers to the bells?

Would you head down the darkened pit

to pick at seams that lie so deep,

and profit less from toil and risk,

to keep forgotten dreams from sleep?

For Barnett’s few who chose to give,

the memory and Lidice lives.

Please visit http://www.unearthed2013.co.uk to make your promise. Thank you.