I’ve just been reminded of a quote from a former colleague, a statistician, who said:
“Coincidences are a most paradoxical thing; they should never happen, but they always do.“
What reminded me of that? Simply this – a couple of weeks after posting about Tony Walsh’s poem Up ‘ere (See Quotes that made me laugh #51) I’ve just read in my hometown’s local rag, Kendal’s Wezzy Gezzy, that he has now debuted his latest poem, a commissioned piece on the English Lake District; a part of the country that just happens to have been my childhood backyard.
His poem comprises the narrative to a short film, Reflecting On The Lakes, and his rendition seems typical of his style.
I suppose it was inevitable that Walsh would refer to the (in)famous Alfred Wainwright in his Lakeland verse, but at least he didn’t laud him in the way that seems de rigueur these days when anyone mentions the Lakes (‘AW’ as the ignorant, fawning masses call him lived just up the road from us and was a miserable and grumpy old git!).
If I had to be picky about the poem it would be that it mentions Kendal mintcake (a dentally-challenging confection) even though Kendal is not in the Lake District…
… and fails to touch upon the area’s finest culinary confection, the remarkable Grasmere Gingerbread.
Anyway, there’s now a trio of pivotal ‘northern’ performance pieces by Longfella on the web:
This is The Place
…and Reflecting On The Lakes
Give ’em a shot!
Postscript: For anyone interested in knowing why coincidences occur all the time, I’d recommend the book How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg. Not always the easiest of reads for the non-mathematical (despite what the review, below, states), but sufficiently textual to give anyone an insight (it also covers, among many other things, how to win the lottery and why all electoral systems seem to have a democratic deficit. See a review here for a better insight into the book).
There was a wee bit of a stooshie ahead of this year’s celebration of Burns Night.
Liz Lochhead, Scotland’s former Makar (national poet) accused Burns of being a Weinsteinian sex pest, citing a letter that he once wrote that boasted of what was, at best, a ‘robust’ encounter.
It’s not the first time that Burns’ letter has been highlighted and, as with all these things, commentators take sides. Some agree with Lochhead’s interpretation of the letter’s wording, others disagree. In fact some even point to Lochhead’s current perspective as a contradiction of her earlier defence of Burns’ ribaldry.
So, was Burns a predatory sex pest, or a roguish rapscallion? Either way, he wrote fine verse in Scots about social justice, romance and wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beasties?
The unearthing in recent years of celebrities of the 1970s and 1980s as sex offenders often brought forth the ‘defence’ that ‘things were different in those days’. I cannot recall that excuse being upheld in the courts, but if Lochhead’s interpretation of Burns’ words is correct (and it may not be) can the passage of 200-plus years allow a ‘they were different days’ defence for Burns and should it detract from his poetry today? Can we celebrate the poetry but not the man?
I’ll leave the ‘sex pest or loveable rogue’ argument to the experts; meantime, here’s the belated Burns Night limerick …
There once was a Scotsman called Burns Whose verses, one quickly discerns, Concern a wee mouse Or a walkabout louse Or the couplings for which he so yearns.
Postscript: Despite the debate over Burns’ morality, his perspective in the first verse of The Rights of Woman is admirable, even if ‘the rights’ that its later verses espouse lack modernity!
While Europe’s eye is fix’d on mighty things, The fate of Empires and the fall of Kings; While quacks of State must each produce his plan, And even children lisp the Rights of Man; Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention, The Rights of Woman merit some attention.
Tony Walsh’s rendition of his 2013 poem This is the Place at the recent Manchester vigil is a ‘must watch’ performance. In the modern era of soundbite politicking, it harkens back to the days of true oratory and its message is the more powerful for it: