Posts Tagged ‘twin towers’

For me the most enjoyable modules we deliver on the English curriculum are the poetry ones because they’re a good way for students to play around with language and begin understanding inference not to mention the techniques they will need to espouse for their exams. Of the poets chosen by whoever it is that decides what and who we should be teaching, Wilfred Owen (who would have been a punk poet had he lived in the late 1970’s – imagine ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ spat out by Johnny Rotten – it works!) and Simon Armitage, a contemporary British writer, are my absolute favourites. I’ve been fortunate enough to see the latter in performance. If he turns up at a venue near you, crawl over broken glass to get a ticket – it’ll be worth it.

Here’s an example of his work, an extract from a longer poem which I’ve posted to commemorate today’s sadly memorable, eponymous date. When this was first released in its entirety in 2005, Armitage was criticised by some – unfairly, in my opinion. See what you think.

 

Out of the Blue

You have picked me out.

Through a distant shot of a building burning

you have noticed now

that a white cotton shirt is twirling, turning.

 

In fact I am waving, waving.

Small in the clouds, but waving, waving.

Does anyone see

a soul worth saving?

 

So when will you come?

Do you think you are watching, watching

a man shaking crumbs

or pegging out washing?

 

I am trying and trying.

The heat behind me is bullying, driving,

but the white of surrender is not yet flying.

I am not at the point of leaving, diving.

 

A bird goes by.

The depth is appalling. Appalling

that others like me

should be wind-milling, wheeling, spiralling, falling.

 

Are your eyes believing,

believing

that here in the gills

I am still breathing.

 

But tiring, tiring.

Sirens below are wailing, firing.

My arm is numb and my nerves are sagging.

Do you see me, my love. I am failing, flagging.

*****************************************

Click here if you’d like to watch a short clip of Simon Armitage reading his poem.

 

 

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There’s been much in the media this week about a certain 50 year anniversary – the one that everyone over a certain age professes to know exactly where they were when the event occurred. You know the one I mean – it instantly shocked and rocked the world in a way that Mahatma Ghandi’s assassination didn’t, news not travelling quite so fast or as globally fifteen years earlier.

I was convinced I knew where I was the day the news came through about JFK. My mother disagreed – she said that I couldn’t possibly remember – I would have been far too young. (From where I am on the age scale now, I find that rather comforting). Of course, she was right (mothers always are); it wasn’t JFK’s assassination I remember – it was that of his brother, Robert, some five years later.

I have a vivid memory of standing on a moor somewhere in the West Country while my father listened to the news on his car radio that Kennedy had been shot. I know I was wearing shorts and a navy sweater; the weather was chilly and I remember goose pimples on my legs.

A moor somewhere in the West Country

A moor somewhere in the West Country

To corroborate my memorable tableau of times past, I consulted our holiday diaries, recently passed on to me by Mum during one of her sorting-out fests.

As a family, we kept a holiday diary, the writing of which fell to me from about the age of ten. These diaries have proved invaluable over the years in settling petty family disputes about when and where we may have done something or other while on vacation. So, to prove to myself that the car radio scenario was not a figment of my imagination, I checked to see if our holiday date and venue corresponded with the shooting of Bobby Kennedy in June 1968. No doubt about it. In early June of that year we were indeed on holiday in North Cornwall, as described by my own fair hand in beautiful pre-exam italic style.

While the news item was not mentioned in dispatches exactly, other vaguer memories that I have associated with Robert Kennedy’s death were established. The speedboat ride around Padstow harbour in grey and windy weather bears out the chilliness I experienced on that remembered moor, (must have been Bodmin); followed by knickerbocker-glories in a café.  I am pleased to report that the weather for the rest of our week was hot and sunny and we apparently spent a lot of time on the beach – but of that I have no true memory.

Isn’t it odd how our mind play tricks, selecting what is remembered in crystal clear vision while other things remain lost forever? Reading through some of the old diaries again jogged my memories into believing I had retrieved something from my past – but had I really? Does imagination help in recreating scenes that have slipped away?

Other, more recent world events will always stay with me, just like the memory of JFK does for people slightly older than me. I know exactly where I was when I heard about the twin towers and I know exactly how I felt the morning I woke to the news that John Lennon died, but although our London 7/7 bombings were a recent tragic loss of life – I have no recollection of what I was doing on that day.

As far as earliest memories go, I have a fleeting ghost of a picture in my head of walking along a low brick wall holding Nanna’s hand. It is sunny, there are leafy trees above and to my right is a big white house. I think I am waiting for Dad to drive up in a car. I am convinced it is where we lived briefly before moving to the country – but I would have been less than two years old and the year would definitely be pre-1963. Is this real thought or an imagined picture of my past that I have created because I have since seen that building?

And more to the point – can I ever prove Mum wrong?

Do you have a memory connected to a world event – or I wonder what your earliest memory is? I’d love to know.

***********************

Oh, and just one more thing…

The thought occurred to me that sharp-eyed car connoisseurs will be wondering what make of swanky car my family must have been driving in those days for it to have been fitted with a car radio. Well, let me tell you. It wasn’t.

This was our car:

1968 Morris Traveller

1968 Morris Traveller

And this was Dad’s radio:

or one very similar

or one very similar

And the reason I was standing on chilly Bodmin Moor was because we would have had to drive for miles to high ground so that Dad could get a signal. He was obsessed with the news. Every evening at home he would demand absolute silence while he watched the news on television which was, as I recall, often followed by something called ‘All Our Yesterdays,’ which for my sister and me at that time was just plain dull.

(We were both ace at current affairs though).

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