It’s been a bit of a thin week on here, I’m afraid. My feet have hardly touched the ground. Tuesday was my birthday, Wednesday I spent a lot of time in conversation with Mike Pannett about the Great Yorkshire Show catastrophe. Thursday I was in Hull seeing an old friend, the poet Jules Smith, and yesterday was in Leeds to celebrate my son’s birthday. And throughout I have continued to grapple with the words and pictures that will make up my talk to the U3A on Monday.
Jules Smith, seen above under the statue of Queen Victoria in Hull’s City Square, has recently published a volume of poems entitled Looking For Larkin - a reference to the city’s most famous poet (after Andrew Marvell, that is). Like many an author, Jules gets by on a minuscule income, dedicating his life to scholarship - in his case the life and works of Charles Mason, a man of letters who flourished during the period when Romanticism was starting to challenge Classicism - and to writing reviews for such publications as the Times Literary Supplement. (I should add that the TLS pay abysmally for such work, and that if you take into account the amount of background reading a serious reviewer like Jules undertakes, the hourly rate would make the average jailbird down tools and go back to his cell.)
It was interesting to be back in Hull - the first time I’d walked around town for some years. I lived there in the 1980s, and although I thoroughly enjoyed doing my degree (I took American Studies, 1984-88) and the postgrad work and teaching that followed, I never liked Hull. I found it dreary, at times plain ugly, and somewhat insular. As to the dreariness, one felt some sympathy: large areas of the town had been flattened during the 1939-45 war (there were no fewer than eighty-two air-raids - not to mention several Zeppelin attacks in the Great War), and the re-building in the 1950s reflected the unimaginative, functional architecture of that time. Still, on my visit this time the sun was out and the many relics of the Victorian period (I discount my poet friend) looked rather splendid. Here’s City Hall…
…and here are a couple of other shots to which, I’m afraid, I cannot attach labels: I took these on the hoof as Jules led me first to an exhibit at the Maritime Museum, thence to a show of Andy Warhol’s work at the Ferens Art Gallery.
A propos of Warhol, I have to say that being reminded of his work made me realise that there was far more of the conman/charlatan in him that I realised when I was eighteen and impressionable. He was interesting, innovative, very much of his time, and hugely influential, but… my goodness, some of his efforts look massively inconsequential from this perspective. To my 63-year-old eye, at least. I also suspect that I would have disliked the man intensely.
Well, we have the prospect of a third day without significant rainfall. Is this a record? For this summer, possibly so. We drive to Rothbury (Northumbria) this afternoon and will take the bikes. A ride up to the Cheviots on Sunday looks a distinct possibility.
More from me on Monday, I hope.
P.S. I have finally had confirmation that my US bank account is opened, and that means I can do business with Apple Corp. The Red House On The Niobrara should, therefore, become available in full colour, via the iPad and such gizmos, very soon indeed. Chainsaw Phil is kindly working on it for me. Watch this space.