The Editor's View June 2004
John Jenkins' monthly column from Writers' Forum magazine
Poetry on the terraces. . . more revelations on English. . . film planned on Katherine Mansfield
ANDREW MOTION never ceases to puzzle me. Is he good enough for the job or is he just a trendy chap whose idea of poetry is something different, never mind whether it is good or not? Perhaps I am being unfair.
Take the latest stories about football chants. Barclaycard, the one the company chief executive will not use because he says it is too expensive, is giving £10,000 to Jonny Hurst, a 37-year-old solicitor who has a second career as a part-time comedian.
Lawyer Hurst has been named Chant Laureate and he will tour football grounds attempting to put a little poetry into the souls of fans on the terraces.
Now anybody who has been exposed to chants from terraces will know they follow a well-worn path. Abuse, foul language and occasionally extraordinary wit.
I think one of the oldest and most popular is sung to the tune of Land of Hope and Glory. It goes like this: We hate Nottingham Forest, we hate Arsenal too,
We hate Manchester United but West Ham we love you.
This adapts to various club names.
Another old timer to the tune of Oranges and Lemons goes:
Play up Millwall, can’t play football.
Oh yes they can,
They beat West Ham.
You can tell that my allegiance to the muddied oafs lies somewhat east of the Aldgate Pump.
Much ruder ones come to mind but it is time to quote Laureate Hurst. To the tune of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana he has penned a chant for Aston Villa
His name is Angel
And he’s a show boy
An Alice band keeps up his hair
Juan Pablo from Col-om-bi-air.
He came to Villa
To be a winner
He succeeded overnight
Our very own Angel Delight
Just hear the Villa roar
With each Juan Pablo score
We’ve got him on a four-year deal
But we still want more.
There’s another verse but enough is enough. The point is that Mr Hurst was chosen with the help of Mr Motion.
As I said, I’m a little worried about Perpetual Motion. A couple of decent poems a year would do, Andrew. One cannot ask for more.
* * *
THERE’S a mini boom in books on the English language, probably reflecting a backlash against the decline in standards which began in the 1960s. Following the masterpiece on punctuation, Eats, Shoots and Leaves comes Blooming English by Kate Burridge.
This is no attempt to present an every man’s guide to grammar but a search through the linguistic heritage of English.
I particularly liked a recipe for rabbit stew. It’s from a recipe book 600 years old, slightly before Delia Smith was making pies for Norwich F.C. or Nigella was substituting cooking for sex. It goes like this:
Conynggys in grauey schul be sodyn and hakkyd in gobettys; and grynd gyngyer, galingale and canel, and temper it vp wys god almand mylk and boyle it. And nym macys and clowys and kest seryn and se conynggis also, and salt hym and serue it forse.(Pause while spell checker does a somersault.)
Roughly this is what you do:
Rabbits in gravy should be boiled and cut into pieces; grind ginger, galingale and cinnamon and mix with good almond milk and boil. Take mace and cloves and add these and also the rabbits; salt and serve.
Sounds pretty good.
Ms Burridge’s book is full of interesting asides on the growth of our language. Take the pronunciation of Dalziel as in Dalziel and Pascoe. How does Dalziel become Diyel? Somewhere it has lost an l, a z and a vowel. It all revolves around a curious little letter ‘yogh.’ This looked a little like a fancy z with a tale and has been replaced in the Middle Ages by y and gh. So we have a misreading of yogh. This also gives a clue to the pronunciation of Menzies as Minges.
Blooming English is a fascinating little book published by the Cambridge University PressPublishing business of the University of Cambridge; granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534 world's oldest publishing house; second largest university press in world; (http://uk.cambridge.org/aboutus/infoforauthors/electronic.htm) tells you how to submit manuscripts electronically, but only deals with non-fiction. at £12.99 in paperback. ISBN 0-521-54832-2.
* * *
STRANGE how good writers move in and out of fashion. One shortly due to be introduced to a new generation is Katherine Mansfield, probably still the most accomplished author produced by New Zealand.
A new film – Unnatural Girl – celebrating her life has been written by Lorrie Sheehy and will be directed by Jude Kelly who has had a distinguished theatre career, including an Olivier Award for an Outstanding Musical Production.
First Look Independent Productions (FLIP) tells us they hope to begin filming this time next year with Michelle Williams in the role of the gifted, sexually ambivalent Katherine.
Katherine Mansfield was born in Wellington, but was educated largely in London.
She married in 1909, left her husband after a few days and became pregnant by another man, giving birth to a stillborn child in Bavaria.
Her first collection of short stories, In a German Pension, drew on her personal background.
In 1911 she met and married John Middleton Murry and through him met D H Lawrence and many of the Bloomsbury Set. Her writing reflected the influence of Chekhov and her death at the early age of 36 from tuberculosis was a huge loss.
Should be quite a film.
FLIP also tells us that a 30-year-old London IT worker, Kevin Ball, has won their script writing competition with a romantic comedy, Searching for Dorothy. The hunt is on for backing to film the script.
Deadline for this year’s competition is 30 July. Details on www.f-i-p.com.
John Jenkins, Publisher, Writers' Forum
© Writers International Ltd 2004. Reproduced from the December-January edition of Writers' Forum magazine by kind permission of the editor.