Thursday, 30 June 2011

Finally home for awhile.

Around 4.30 am two mornings ago i finally paid the cab driver and crawled into my own bed after a nifty 18 hr journey involving..drum roll please.. one speed boat, 3 coaches, three trains, two flights and a final taxi through the devon lanes as dawn broke. Found out the driver went to the same primary school as me, just 20 years before.

I was just back from Norway with Coleman Barks and Lisa Starr, having fun at the Festival of Silence outside Oslo, and then a couple of days on a remote but utterly wonderful island retreat. Fish roasting over open fires, wine, chocolate and hrs and hrs of sea waves and poetic talk. Both Coleman and Lisa read like Lions. We made the most of our time together - Myself and Barks 'liberated' a bottle of Apple Brandy and sat up in the weird half light of a norwegian 3am discussing Wordsworth, John Lee Hooker and a certain kind of Norwegian snail i had found - enormous. I guess you had to be there. I liked the Norwegians though didn't stay long enough to detect the 'Viking' spirit as such, these folk seemed more like the groovy objectors to pillaging that opted out. Played with some of the musicians often associated with the ECM record label - holy moley those cats can burrrn.

So it's ALISTAIR MCINTOSH and myself next wens- (scroll down for details) at the chicken shed, behind Schumacher College, Dartington, and then the final weekend of the Year Programme that weekend after. The tues after that i open for the one and only, main man, folk legend MARTIN CARTHY (alongside Katheryn Williams, Green Garside, Mike Heron and Robyn Hitchcock) at the Eden Project in Cornwall before sprinting back the next night for an evening of storytelling in Mortonhampstead up on Dartmoor.

So just a little note today, self explanatory....

Books that Choose Their Owners
It’s early autumn and I’m in Uptown in Minneapolis, in the American mid-west. Unusually I have an afternoon to spare and am in a favourite bookshop. On a high shelf I spot a book of African myths and folktales.

I reach up to pick it out, but it’s so high it proves difficult. A tiny little volume to its left keeps jutting out instead, trying to attract my attention. I repeatedly push it back in again and grope for the larger book. Finally, almost like an act of defiance, it pops right off the shelf and I catch it. I peer onto its cover. ‘Folk Tales of Devon’ by V. Day Sharman. The cover photo is of a local Devon Blacksmith’s forge from the late 1940’s. My father as a child played by it endlessly, often when he should have been at school. The photo also leads up a lane to a house (just out of eyeline) my family longed to buy. The very world of story and poetry was opened up to me by a dawn walk with my father through that very photo’s scene thirty five years ago. And now, in the land of Cowboy and Indians, Macdonalds and John Coltrane this book had literally leapt into my lap. I pay the man and hurry to my lodgings.

Stories are not repertoire, or glued to the heavy ink of the page. They are promiscuous beings that occasionally elect a particular woman or man to speak through. If they pick you – even in the afternoon in a mid-west bookstore – it’s wise to tell them when they want to be told.

Martin Shaw copyright 2011

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