Sunday, 20 August 2017

An Elephant in Town

The other day I popped into town to buy a few bits and pieces. My first stop was Boots on Leicester's busy Gallowtree Gate but as I approached the store I couldn't help noticing an elephant moving along majestically. It's trunk was swinging and its body swaying as it glided towards me.

Ok, so it wasn't a real elephant but it made me stop and smile. I was intrigued. I was attracted by the sound of Indian music. My purchases from Boots would have to wait. At the Clock Tower a troupe of acrobatic dancers were flipping and flying through the air. Their movements were accomplished. The music was rousing. I stood on tiptoes to see over the heads of the crowd. The atmosphere was good. Everyone was smiling and clapping.

A stage on Humberstone Gate was attracting another crowd. I made my way past the Haymarket and watched as dancers moved their arms, telling stories with their hands. Then the presenter introduced the next act shown in the picture below. He was a singer whose voice was clear and beautiful, leaping up and down the scales in a hypnotic way.

I turned back towards the Clock Tower. Now there were youngsters dancing. They were throwing coloured powder into the air. The wind caught the powder and the crowd became speckled with blue and red. I laughed, cleaned my glasses with a tissue and moved on. In the newly created Market Square there were drummers. I stood and watched, feeling each drumbeat vibrating in the air.

As I returned along Granby Street I was offered Masala tea which was rich and spicy. The first sip caught my throat. The man who had served me smiled. Would I rather have orange juice, he asked, but I persisted and I'm glad I did. The tea gave me a warm glow. I may go and buy some to make at home but I suspect it would never taste as good as it did that afternoon from a paper beaker in the middle of town.
These events were part of Leicester's Night of Festivals to celebrate the spirit of South Asia and mark the 70th anniversary of Pakistan and Indian independence.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

One of my Poems and Virtual Chinese Whispers

Last month I won a poetry competition organised by a local arts festival. My MA Tutor asked me to write about it for the Department blog. He tweeted and posted on Facebook a message of congratulations with a link to the blog post. I shared on Facebook and retweeted on Twitter and didn't think any more about it until friends and family started phoning in varying states of high excitement. How delighted they were to hear that I'd won a National Award. Why hadn't I told them about this amazing achievement?

Don't get me wrong. It was lovely winning the competition but it was NOT a National Award. It took several weeks for the excitement and embarrassment to subside. Now that things have calmed down, I thought I'd share the post with you, so below is what I wrote for the Leicester University Creative Writing Blog with the winning poem at the end:

We All Belong

The programme for this year’s ArtBeat Leicester Festival was packed with activities. They ranged from Israeli dancing to philosophy in the pub to a Gurdwara visit with curry lunch. I ticked off the most appealing events but I knew that it would be impossible to attend them all. I was going to have to be selective.

The festival theme was We All Belong and this was the topic for this year’s ArtBeat poetry competition. I submitted two poems and fully intended to turn up to the prize-giving event but, as I said, it was a busy week. Did I mention the Lindy Hop or the Indian Folk Dancing or the Maypole Dance Workshop? It was a true test of stamina.

Last Tuesday, with all thoughts of Artbeat behind me, I attended my regular poetry group meeting. I settled down to a morning of workshopping, only to find myself the centre of attention. The Festival organiser had chosen that morning to present me with a certificate, or to be more precise two certificates. To my embarrassment I’d scooped not only 1st but also 4th place in the We All Belong poetry competition.

There is a lesson to be learnt here. If you enter a competition, make sure to give top priority to attending the prize-giving event, no matter how busy your week is. This is the poem that won first prize.

The Top Class by Rosalind Adam
Winner of the Artbeat Leicester ‘We All Belong’ Poetry Competition

It was our morning mantra:
Linda. Here, Miss. Andrew. Here, Miss.
Lee. He’s not here, Miss and we knew
the Board Man would be on his way.
He’d not go round the back like us.
He’d knock on Lee’s front door
while Lee hid because that’s what you did
when The Board Man called.

After the register we all lined up
for assembly in the hall.
Cross-legged by the back wall
we flicked paper pellets and sang
about Jerusalem being builded here
in our green and pleasant land
which was really grey and full of soot
from the factory down the road.

In class we sat at desks with lids,
did handwriting with pens that had spiky nibs
and pounds, shillings, pence sums on squared-paper.
We longed for Miss to say, playtime,
and give out bottles of milk from the metal crate.
In the playground we skipped with the long rope,
and we chose the song, jelly on the plate,
because we were the top class.

We stayed out for PE, for the fresh air,
and spun hoops round our waists,
round our necks when Miss wasn’t there,
but games on Friday was the best,
going to the field, clambering onto the bus,
racing for the back seat and us all singing
Ten Green Bottles and falling about laughing
because we always got the numbers wrong.

Soon we’d sit the 11 plus test
and they’d split us up for ever.
We’d be sent to the sec mod down the road
or the big grammar school in town
where we’d be streamed and given homework,
where we’d have to read stuff by Shakespeare,
do logarithms with a book full of numbers
but for now we were the top class.