I slept in for a while then headed off into town. I had a book to collect from The Book Hive but first wanted to get something from the butcher’s in the city market. I divert into the Ber Street Kitchen to eat as much as I can of a full English breakfast…but fail to eat it all.
As I walked down Westlegate a high wire walker, in cabaret top hat has just finished setting up his show ready to entertain Christmas shoppers. A thick rope, what a sailor might describe as cable is pulled between two sets of poles about 2 metres about the paving slabs. Will people stop to admire his show, or pay anything for his efforts?
Around the city centre there are various buskers at work, Outside Jarrold’s, the city’s long established department store, (250th anniversary this year), a trio playing delta blues, I think something by R L Burnside. Further along London Street, where it curves left to cut across Castle Street, a younger combo are playing something with a different tempo, maybe their own tune. They have caused a few shoppers to pause and listen, some sipping coffee from the street vendor who is parked up midway between the two bands.
The bookshop had customers queued from the till around the seductive curves of the interesting books you may have missed display table and almost to the door. I collect my order and then have to rejoin the distanced queue as I see a copy of I Wanna Be Yours by Dr. John Cooper Clarke on display by the door. At 470pp it turns out to be a surprisingly smooth read, although a little mind-bending as he treads the boards of pre-punk, punk and post-punk spoken word poetry fuelled by his clinically well-informed drug addictions. Some of the venues he writes of performing at regularly were very familiar to me, Barbarella’s (Birmingham) and The Sir George Robey (Finsbury Park).
JCC’s first collection of poetry ‘Ten Years In An Open-neck Shirt’ is on my shelf. It took him years to get someone to get a publisher for it despite having toured the UK, Eire, the USA, Australia and New Zealand to varying levels of acclaim for years. Often as a support act who would entertain, but never over-shadow the main billing as his poetry was incomparable to the music show – like chalk and nails on a board, incomparable. Every band I ever saw seems to have been in his orbit and it was a fascinating book to plough through.
Saved by the love of a good woman it seems, (although he enjoyed the company of many on his travels), the book left me with a sense that I have spent two days on a rock and roll tour with a decent bloke who carried the sickness of addiction for much of his time, an addict with a sense of humour, but the sickness overshadowing his every move. Of course it was not until he cleaned up that he could write new material, so the impression is he simply recycled his earliest work for many years, that he must have lived a life on repeat for long periods. The book is proof, if any was required, that moving towns is no answer to a man’s problems if the problems lie within.
Meanwhile Covid-19 continues to rack up the mortality rate. Cancel Christmas, or at least minimise social contacts to avoid a subsequent New Year spike in deaths we are advised by epidemiologists.
Prime Minister Johnson continues to negotiate with the EU like a kid threatening to tip over the Monopoly board if he has to land on Mayfair and pay the rent, despite the rules of the game having been clear for four and half years. The latest move is to announce that the fleet of Royal Navy boats will be increased to deter EU fishermen from encroaching into “British” territorial waters from 1st January 2021. This will be in addition to the same bathtub sized vessels having to blockade the Straits of Dover to stop the millions of refugees apparently desperate to seek refuge in the economic black hole that is the UK. Pathetic.