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Prologue

I am writing these words on the 22nd of October, 2018. The future awaits both for the rest of my life – the less youthful portions I’m afraid – & of course Humanity. It is to the Damo sat in his comfy chair on his seventieth birthday, reading through these epistles with the finest brandy, & anybody else who takes an interest in my work, that I leave my travel writings in which, I hope, are stored at least a little portion of my personality & my soul. Yesterday morning I was in Rome. I was there with the family of my American wife, Emily. On the Friday night I returned once more to the Forte Prenestina with her brother. After a vegan feast, I showed him around the fort’s interior, then took him to the theatre where we saw an avant garde physical piece called Double Trouble. It had been twenty years since my first visit to the fort two decades in which my training as a Pendragon had been pursued & quite recently completed.

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Just over a week previous to that trip to the theatre, Emily’s father, Ed Beeson of the famous Gigs4U in Seattle, & his partner Ramona had flown into Edinburgh for the Scottish leg of their continental tour. They were here to see Ed’s grand-daughters, my step-daughters, Roxy & Ivy, & we took them for fare & traditional skittles at the Sheep’s Heid Inn, Duddingston. The next evening, while the girls were with their real dad, we took Ed & Ramona to a night I put on down the Pond in Leith, where of course Victor Pope was regaling them with his unique blend of folk-anarchist pop. This gentleman, & very old friend of mine, is a man who will be popping up from time to time in these epistles. As for Emily, she only arrives at the every end. I’d met her in 2015, after which I wrote the following blog post, which serves as an excellent embodied introduction to these epistles.


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I am currently sat with my fiance – yes fiance – the beautiful miss Beeson, of Seattle. She is scrolling through the text messages we have sent each other these 5 months past in which we have found ourselves in a love of the marital kind. She – we – live in Dalmeny, by the gorgeously scoto-cosmic Dalmeny Estate, a perfect poet’s playground only a few miles from Edinburgh, my choice city of residence for over a decade. I see her love  as a reward for completing Axis & Allies earlier this year, in the same fashion as when my muses spirited me onto a Swiss Air Jet & flew me home to England back in ’98 after dedicating myself to the art of poetry on the continent.

So with this shift in my life, I feel its time to wrap up my blog for the forseeable future. I began it back in 2010, shifting into it my group email journal-making, which in turn had sprung out of the hand-written journals that had accompanied my first poetical composition missions pre-2002 (when I signed up to Hotmail). Between these three methods of life-archiving I have recorded the 15 years spent on writing my epic poems. At present it is unpublished & hardly known – mainly on account of the public taste for poetry at the turn of the 3rd millennium, in which the trend is for short snappy pieces rather than for anything of substance. In spite of this I remain confident that as the years pass, & as the publish taste for poetry evolves, my poems will take their proper place in the pantheon. So, in time-honoured fashion, I shall now take & bow with a cheeky smile leave the stage. It is now time to enjoy the rest of my life with my beautiful wife-to-be my side.

Dalmeny

8-11-2015


I didn’t quite leave the stage, there was still a couple more years of composition & craft to go, which I recorded with the occasional blog, three of which conclude this book. The final of these is set in the US, where I met Emily’s father for the first time. The next time I saw him was yesterday morning, in Italy, the journey to which country had begun a week last Sunday, a couple of days after the concert down the Pond. It was an extremnely early flight, which meant leaving Carfrae in East Lothian at 3.30 AM, with me driving our 7-seater to Edinburgh airport for the 6-30 AM Ryanair flight to Roma Ciampino. It was not my first flight to the airport just south of Rome, as you will see in these epistles. Indeed, the trip was bubbling with the ghosts of a former me, the next one being the first stop-off on our seven hour drive to Italy’s heel.

On arriving at Ciampino, we were met by Emily’s half-brother & Ed’s son, the 28-year old Michael, & off we drove – with Michale at the wheel & me piloting via the satnav. fter an hour or so we pulled into Cassino, which the Americans found fascinating on account of the attack on Hitler’s ‘Soft Underbelly’ instigated & perpetraed by the old imperialist, Winston Churchill, wanting to secure the Meditteranean for the Empire. This gave me a chance to practice my Italian, something I’ve pick’d up over the years, & it went well, ordering up a meal for us all – which I even paid for (85 euros). This is all a far cry from my earliest visits to Italy, as you shall see.

So we continued our drive, with Ed going way to fast on the motorway between Bari & Brindisi in a rush to just get there. There, by the way, was the Masseria Montefalcano, near Supersano. A converted mill with a ‘molto freddo’ swimming pool, this was our luxuriant base for five nights, from where we explored the Salento peninsular. Otranto was wonderful – amazing, serene beach & a sensational old town – as was Gallipoli (minus the beach) on the other side of the Heel. We even returned to the Santa Catarina area, & leaving everyone but Michael at Santa maria al Bagno, I retraced the steps taken seven years ago with Victor Pope & Paul Underwood, part of an adventure recorded in my penultimate epistle. On that trip me & the boys experienced the amazing folk-music/dance craze that is Pizzica, & I was delighted seven years later to take Emily & Michael to a live concert of it in a piazza of Migianno. This is travel – this is culture – this is poetry!

On one occasion I stayed at the Masseria for the day while everyone returned to Otranto. Starting on the red wine at 10 AM, by the early afternoon I was ready for my adventure – a bycycle ride throgh epic olive groves to Scoranno, during which time I completed what appears to be the final sonnet of my Silver Rose sequence. I rather did feel quite poetic during this five day stay, including discovering a new stanza form in Supersano’s local library after asking the librarian for books by a ‘poeta famosa della localita.’ She passed me a series of essays on a certain Rocco De Vitris, among which I found a short-measured stanza rhyming ABABABCCB, which I really should experiment with & call the Supersano. I also began composing a couple of possible poems – on the Senones attack on Rome in 380BC, & the Otranto martyrs. Time will tell if they are ever completed, but as a poet it is a pleasure to at least imagine composing your poetry, & reading thro’ the final version. Indeed, as I write in October 2018, I am happy to say I have very recently completed not one but two epic poems, & a good deal of Epyllia (Little Epics).

If any of you out there are considering the writing of an epic poem. & really mean it that is, then a cautionary word of warning; it takes time, a lot of it. As to my own undertakings in the epic sphere, this book contains just a portion of the record of my journey. It has been quite an adventure writing my epics, Axis & Allies & The Silver Rose, & with proper diligence I recorded my travels for the occasion on which I could collect them all into a single volume, i.e. now. The tri-media form taken by these Epistles to Posterity was decided by the technological evolutions of my age. The first epistles were written as traditional journals while I roamed Europe composing the first few thousand lines of Axis & Allies. The next cluster of epistles were then sent out as group emails to friends & family.

At the turn of the Millennium the world was just beginning to be turned on to the wonders of the internet & in the days before Facebook & other social media, it was used with greater frequency. I also realised that sending off group emails was a more efficient way of keeping a journal. Sitting down for an hour in an internet café in some random corner of your tour was always a pleasant experience, & the central bulk of my epistles were written like this. The later epistles – Savin’ Charlie & Marchin on Parnassus – were taken from my blog, which I began in 2011. This was group emailing taken to its next step of evolution – now all the world could read of your adventures, not just those subscribing to your friendship.

It can be said that I have been a working poet at an incredible evolutionary time for humanity. The changes during my adult lifetime have been profound – when I began my studies in the mid-nineties, nobody really had mobile phones, & people sent letters to one another by post. By the finale of Axis & Allies, global communication has come to the whole of humanity as easy as leaves come to a tree. Despite such advances in society, I have remained dedicated to this planet’s massive historical tradition, & so I feel myself to be something of a cross-fire artist, one connected deeply to the past, but embracing the technologies of the future. Wikipedia, Google, Rhymezone – they have all helped my work at a mouse-click button away; just as the 1825 Hawkin’s edition of Milton’s works has also. I have lived on the crux of two epochs, from which collisional & fermenting energies I have created my epics. The journey, as they say, has been a good one.

In spite of the general disinterest to epic poetry in the English language, I have known for some time now that I am an epic poet, for just as the world needs its plumbers its painters & its pimps, it also happens to need its epics. I am not exactly sure why we pop up from time-to-time, but we most definitely do; it is like a relay race where the baton is dropped for a few hundred years then gets picked up again by the next lucky fellow compelled to spend the better years of their life on a single poem – or even two. The first of mine is Axis & Allies, which details the history of war on Earth, with an especial focus on the Second World War of the 20th century – one whose participants were – & still are in some cases – alive during my composition. Being born in 1976 meant that I moved among people who could remember the First World War, but also lived in age when the loose ends of the global conflicts of the Twentieth Century were finally being tied up, such as the ending of the Cold War. This, of course, would be my Iliad. The Odyssey, then, would be my sonnet sequence, the Silver Rose. This is a semi-autobiographical psuedo-truthful account of my superego’s journey through the world.

Each of the tours I have selected for this book show slight but definitive differences in character & attitude. As the reader follows my progress from the mid-twenties into the late thirties, they may observe the maturing evolutions of both poet & poetry, resulting in a final epilogue in which my epic efforts reach their climax. There has been little in the way of editing; perhaps the most obvious spelling mistakes have been corrected & anything particularly irrelevant; but all-in-all the text preserves the moment I sat tip-tapping at a keyboard in the first decade & a half of the Third Millennium AD.

Carfrae
22-10-18

XVI: Blaggin’ Vizag

Welcome to Andhra Pradesh – India’s number one state for competitive rollerskating. Its second city, the port of Vizag, is a great place to wander about in. A far cry from the the intensity of the BIG FOUR – Calcutta, Delhi, Chennai & Mumbai – with wide streets & smatterings of traffic. However, there still 1.5 million people living here, which would make it Britain’s second city in size – more than Glasgow or Birmingham. It is also a long way off the beaten track. Since I got here I’ve seen five Westerners; two irate Germans who got into my train carriage as I arrived & pointed me in the direction of the hotels, plus two plump American women & a six-year old boy coming out of a hotel. Other than that, its just been me on my own – rather like one of those British officials of the Raj who would find himself ruling two hundred thousand Indians. Those days are long gone, & now there’s just the odd English poet wandering through the dust of empire’s lost.

Talking of plump women, I witness’d a rather funny incident in the street. Two women in their fifties were suddenly halted & slapp’d about by this woman in her twenties. A fight ensued over a golden sari, & one of the plump women had a top ripped open to reveal a rather large granny breast. A large crowd began to gather around the melee, to the side of which a security guard was blowing his whistle to no effect at all. Then the old women were dragged through the street to a shopping mall, where I presumed the sari had been stolen from. They were led underneath it, some large gates being bolted as they passed under. Excited, I tried to climb a wall to see if they were getting a battering, a process which was halted by this security gaurd with a stick who threatened to batter me. So, I slipped down a side street & up a tenement & jumping spiderman like across a couple of rooves managed to get a view of the women pathetically lying down in a carpark, awaiting their fate. Content that they were not being clubb’d to death I went on my way.

One morning I headed out for a walk along the seafront. Its a charming, yet ageing affair, like Brighton in the 90’s before it got trendy. Some of the beach is golden, while some of it is a bit skanky, & the whole lot cool’d by a stiff breeze, pleasantly relieving me of the 30-degree heat. The promenade is full of statues & murals, from Indian freedom fighters to dinosaurs & mermaids. There is even a massive old submarine right on the sea front that you can wander about in for 25 rupees. Not far from there is a wonderful war memorial, far more inspiring than the dull affairs back home. It is testament to the 1971 war with Pakistan, who’d sent a submarine to Vizag to sink India’s only aircraft carrier. The sub ended up being sunk by a depth charge, a model of which creates the centrepiece of a fountain beside the chimney-like marble memorial. In the little garden you can also find a green & red Indian tank & a jet fighter, painted sky blue with a white underbelly, perfectly camaflaug’d for the skies. There are also four quotes on the memorial which I wrote down. I found them quite inspiring, a far cry from the solemn dreary roll-calls of the dead on our memorials, which seem somehow resigned to being places of sadness, unlike this memorial which makes one want to change nationality & join the Indian Army.

The first duty of a soldier is to attend to the safety & interests of his country

A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honours

All a soldier desires to drive him forward is recognition for his work

The nation that forgets its defenders will have no need of ancestors

On the seafront there was this cool indoor market craft world, full of pretty sets of earrings at 10 rupees a pair. I did actually spend some money – there was the ‘Rajasthani Churan stall,’ which had about thirty different sweets in all shapes, colours & sizes. Some were conventional enough, but some were basically curry sweets. I sampled a few & bought 100g worth of two of my favorites. I then found myself at the Rajasthani pickle stall – similar to the charan place, but with about twenty massive plastic see-thru buckets of assorted pickles. I’d just sampled my third lot when I was told I had to buy something now. The problem was, after the first lot of pickle hits your tongue you cannot really use your taste-buds any more, & so cannot make a decisive judgment. I also had no intention of buying any anyway, so swiftly exited left.

On the way out, I was suddenly struck by the beauty of a set of pictures. They had been engraved onto palm leaves & the detail was incredible. I got chatting to the guy & it turns out they stuff is from a village in Orissa. I’ll be heading there next to write some sonnets, & its wicked to pick up a few pointers of where to go en route. I’ll definitely be checking out this village now, along with another place. I got chatting to a young Indian woman on the train to Vizag, who told me the native version of the story of Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism – something the books would never tell me. This is why I love literary archeology – you really do have to travel the world to fill in the inherent gaps contained in libraries & the internet. I got her number by the way, & she’s up for being my guide when I hit Orissa.

It has been getting interesting being in such an indigenous city, & I’m guessing with my new tan I look a bit Indian – I’m getting spoken to in Telegu quite a lot. The place has a lazy air at the momemt. I have arrived in the middle of a festival called Sankaranti, a celebration of the sun beginning its journey into the northern hemisphere (the Uttarayan) & is celebrated across India under different guises – to the Tamils it is Pongal, to the people of Assam it is Bihu. Here in Andhra Pradesh there is a lot of kite-flying going on, plus illegal cock-fighting, where billions of rupees are blown on beer & gambling. Imagine those feathery gladiators having four-inch blades tied to their legs. It is illegal, but it seems the state’s top politicians have ringside seats. As for the beer, I’m guessing theres a problem in AP. Despite the spirits being four times more expensive than in Goa, every morning on my street this guy tunrs up with cardboard boxes full of bottles & sells the hard stuff at 50 rupees a glass – & he’s inundated.

Visakhapatnam
13/01/11