Frayling has since gone on record to say that the priority for his successor, Dame Liz Forgan, must be to sort out the the country's cultural contribution to the 2012 Olympics. It would seem that the organisation (if that is the most appropriate word) is currently in the hands of innumerable committees, and he has had no encouraging feedback, nothing to give him a feel of what it will be like when it all comes together - if, indeed, together could be said to be the right word! Sound familiar? He has described how watching the opening ceremony at Beijing one got the distict feel that it was the work of a single intelligence. (Is that an argument for autocracy at the expense of democracy, I wonder?)
Mention of Bollocks reminds me...
Commenting on my blog post Oh, Shit! Ken kinda challenged me to come out and say where I personally stand on the issue of swearing. As it happens I have no written policy on the subject - I trashed all such the day after I retired - but as clearly as I can formulate my stand-point, here it is:-
- I do swear
- Swearing, I believe, can have a cathartic effect, benefitting not only the swearer, but those around.
- I swear only at or about situations, objects, etc. Not people - though I have to admit that at times it is difficult to draw the line.
- I do not swear gratuitously or use obsenities as sustitute punctuation
- I consider that any rationale there might be for swearing to lie in the fact of its taboo. That is to say that I try not to use it where another word will do, but solely where there exists, if only in my fevered imagination, such a depth or revulsion, anger or whatever, that no word by virtue of its meaning alone, could hope to express it. Nothing but the feelings aroused by the fact of society's taboo has the wherewithal to get within striking distance.
- All of the above are the ideal to which I strive, but I am, alas, prone to the sins of the flesh... yawn, yawn.
- I have no qualms about quoting swear words or using them in character in a piece of writing.
Interesting to learn that Sebastian Barry's novel, The Secret Scripture carried off the £25,000 Costa Book of the Year Award despite the judges having considered it flawed and with a bad ending. I find it somewhat cheering to think that they found it possible to make such a presentation whilst admitting the book's imperfections. But then perhaps I wouldn't have found it cheering had I been Adam Fould whose poetry collection, The Broken Word, was running neck and neck with it until the last.
The Secret Scripture was conceived ten years earlier, we learn, when the author was driving through Sligo with his mother. She pointed out to him an old hut in which his great uncle's first wife, a woman of great beauty, had lived before being consigned to a lunatic asylum by the family.
A while back I posted on the fact that the present Poet Laureate's ten year tenure (the first to have had a fixed term) is coming to an end and asking who might be in line for the vacancy. Now, it seems (hush! voice it not around!) that the cognoscenti (or some of them) are asking in all seriousness whether we have need of such a one among us. Perhaps because most of our best poets have made it known (truthfully or not, time will tell) that they would not consider such a position. Wendy Cope is the most recent to have removed herself from the arena, citing the example, among others, of Sir John Betjeman, a good poet who produced bad poetry as Poet Laureate. Others have said the same of Ted Hughs. Cope points out that there is no compulsion, either from The Palace or from Whitehall for the Lareate to produce anything, but there is expectation from the press and from the public. She thinks the post should be discontinued. Interesting, I thought, that The American Laureate was not chosen for the inauguration.
But now it comes to my notice that Andrew Motion's vacant post will not be the only top position to be filled; that the University of Oxford's Professor of Poetry, is also up for grabs. Together they represent Britain's top two poetry jobs. The Oxford chair has in the past been held by Matthew Arnold, W.H. Auden and Seamus Heaney.
Try not to get too excited, though, reasoning that if you apply for them both you are bound to get one or the other, for it has been whispered that Andrew Motion is being considered for the Oxford job. If so, that just leaves the Poet Laureate and the questions: Do we need one, and if so, what should his or her role be? Raising the public profile of poetry, perhaps? Raising the profile of poetry in the world of Education? Surely not just exalting the celebrations of the royal family! Two Brownie points for a truly splendiferous and original suggestion!
Big news overnight: Birmingham Council has banned the use of the apostrophe on all its road signs. King's Square is to become Kings Square, etc. Is this the thin edge of the wedge, scream some, the beginning of the end for the most abused and misapplied mark?
Still thinking of the death of John Updike, I came across the thought that (quoting from memory):- The death of a favorite author leaves a peculiar kind of loneliness. Here, by way of consolation, one of his poems. (He always half-dismissed his poetry as light verse. Not in my book!)
At night—the light turned off, the filament
Unburdened of its atom-eating charge,
His wife asleep, her breathing dipping low
To touch a swampy source—he thought of death.
Her father's hilltop home allowed him time
To sense the nothing standing like a sheet
Of speckless glass behind his human future.
He had two comforts he could see, just two.
One was the cheerful fullness of most things:
Plump stones and clouds, expectant pods, the soil
Offering up pressure to his knees and hands.
The other was burning the trash each day.
He liked the heat, the imitation danger,
And the way, as he tossed in used-up news,
String, napkins, envelopes, and paper cups,
Hypnotic tongues of order intervened.