I: Excalibur

Yesterday was the last day I will ever compose an Axis & Allies tryptych. In fact, I did 5. The first three were in the morning, walking in glorious sunshine before settling down at the lake. Rhododendron bushes were in full bloom, bluebells were still regnal in visual lucidity, great hosts of insects were covering the lake like clouds of sealike-spray. As I finished my last line I entwined its meaning with Arthur casting Excalibur into a lake after his death at Camlann. It was a bit like Prospero snapping his wand in the Tempest as, after pacing by the lake a few moments & milking the moments, I tossed my pen into the lake & watched the bubbles from its falling slowly pop into nothingness. Getting back to the ranch, I then realised that there were, in fact, two stanzas still to write – both on the 9-11 ‘attacks’ – that I wanted to include to reflect my own studies into the actual events of 9-11, not those force fed us by the media only moments after the towers were hit. Thus, they were duly composed with a new pen, then returning to the lake I repeated my earlier penthrowing ritual.

So, it is done, or at least the research & writing is done. 900 tryptychs, 100 cantos & one long & lovely luxurious epic poem. My work is done. I’ve summarised all history up to my time, & reflected the zeitgeist as best as I can, even projecting into the future in the best epic tradition. All that remains is a singular read through – I’m at Charlemagne at the moment – neatening, improving, etc. I admit this is a process that may take a lifetime – & that is my perogative – but I have to draw the line at some point. With the poem fresh in my mind & having reached its final form, that time is just about now. Plus, I turn 40 in 9 days. As for its validity, who knows, but I have immersed myself in the epic tradition, which leads to a certain passage in Machiavelli.

Men nearly always follow the tracks made by others & proceed in their affairs by imitation, even though they cannot entirely keep to the tracks of others or emulate the prowess of their models. So, a prudent man should always follow in the footsteps of great men & imitate those who have been outstanding. If his own prowess fails to compare with theirs, at least it has an air of greatness about it.

June 2, 2016
Baro Farm Cottages

II Back & Forth & Back Again

I am writing this on a weirdly letter-spread out keyboard at the Le Clos, Notre Dam hotel, Paris, on a fine Sunday morning. Emily is asleep upstairs. After a tres joli walk thro’ Paris we shall be returning to Edinburgh tonight! I feel refreshed & revitalized… Paris is a sensational & serene city – the kind of place folk would build if they actually gave a fuck!

On Wednesday morning, we arrived early in Rome from Edinburgh, & partook a swift walk to the Protestant Cemetery. As I showed Ems the graves of Shelley & Keats & couldn’t help picturing myself in the same spot as a 21-year old at the dawn of my career… now I’m 40 & I’ve outlived them both – & Byron – a strange sensation.

From Rome we idled up the coast to Castiglione by train, a lovely spot with a medieval burgo looking out over the island-dotted Mediterranean. We were met by Dario, an Air B&B guy, who gave us the top room in his lovely house on the outskirts of Castiglione for £50 a night. I got obsessed with his upper terrace floor. After spilling a bit of tuna oil, which I thought I’d clean it up & thus made more stains! This incident began our Bonnie & Clyde style rampage thro’ Europe, leaving a trail of minor breakages & spillages in our wake. Thursday was spent all day on the beach – Ems really needed it, & I got the vibe that this was the Italian Goa. I’ll be back. I also filmed a couple of cantos of A&A in the locality, which was a swell thing to do.

Next day we set off again, calling in Pisa en route for more Damological pilgrimages. I showed Ems scenes from my busking domicile in the Pisa, & wrote a few stanzas for my Honeymoon poem, the finale to the Silver Rose sequence. That evening we arrived, via Lucca, in Pistoia. A lovely medieval-hearted place ran by the lovely Giovanni, in which we took rooms in an amazing room in an ornately antiquated house. We dined out for the first & only time on the tour – delicisoso Tuscan cooking – & reveled in the funky Pistoian ‘everyone-knows-everyone’ vibe. Our rooms were above the city’s main, narrow artery, so Saturday night was echoing til morning. This, & the wine bubbled us up into a romantic glow, & suffice to say our lovemaking was sweet.

The next morning we rose early, breakfasted, then took two trains to Bologona, thro’ extremely pretty & hilly countryside of the most luscious greens. Taking a flight to Paris, we landed 50 miles north at Beauvais, from where we caught a bus into the French capital. Dropping us off near the Arc de Triumph, we both popped our Parisian cherry by conducting an epic walk along the Champs D’Elysee, thro’ the Tuileries Gardens, past the Louvre & onto Place Saint Michael, where our hotel was to be found.

After indulging in the free champagne at the hotel, we stepped out into the Parisian night, full of euphoria & fun. After the mega-busy hustle-bustle streets of the Latin quarter, we paused in front of the impressive Notre Dame cathedral on the Lutetian Isle. Then, the day & the tour hit us, & we went back to our hotel for a much=needed repose. We’ve been acting like a couple of students touring Europe in their gap year, but we are, in fact, in our 40s.

This morning, before dawn, I poured out some left-over red wine & hit the streets. It was at the Pont Neuf Bridge that I found a perfect location for the final stanzas of the Honeymoon poem – & thus the Silver Rose. The idea is I leave two roses on a seat there, which will hopefully inspire future poets to do the same.

For future bards & artists who have felt,
Their passions with my poetry entwine,
Then find themselves in Paris; as I’ve knelt
By Shelley’s tomb, with music & with wine;
Upon this seated moment let them melt
& place a pair of roses as a sign
To passing people, centuries apart –
A poet’s quill still feeds the hushless heart!

September 28, 2016
Paris

III America

I am beginning this blog in an upstairs room in a charming house in the small town of Duvall, Washington State. The Susquehaney River flows in the valley below, a flood plain which has prevented it from joining the eversprawling concrete hive that is the Seattle city area. No soul-less retail parks here, just a few new builds & Emily’s memories. Many of these involve the very tangible presence of her mother, in whose house I am in the now. She shares it with her husband, who also built the house, a very erudite fellow called Matthew Waddington, & a cat who I am allergic to, as I am allergic to all the cats & dogs in every house we have visited during our stay in Seattle. America loves pets, it seems. And big portions, such as the 12 egg-omlette at Beth’s Cafe.

We have been in America a week, starting off at a place called Warm Beach, where Emily’s father, & chief Gigs-4-U honcho, Ed Beeson, rents an amazing waterside house. After a few days we left the girls with pops & me & Emily moved into her dad’s other house at Burien near the airport. Before then we had a night at Duvall & a Christmas party with a load of folk in their sixties, none of whom smoked which was reflected in their youthful vibrancy. For New Year’s Eve, being kindly driven about by Emily’s younger brother Michael, we found ourselves at the house of an opera singer on Queen Anne Hill – via one of his tenants who knew Emily – & it was a moment of pure beauty when we collaborated on Auld Lang’s Eyne for the bells, while the Space Needle erupted in fireworks.

I have also managed to catch two Burnley matches – which kick off at 7AM here. The first was down at Tacoma, a cool seaport whose Doyle’s Bar wasn’t actually showing the game but luckily Emily’s brother-in-law Caleb was nearby & we got the stream for Burnley’s 4-1 thrashing of Sunderland. Two days later we were at the George & Dragon in Fremont, this time with Emily’s other brother, Abe, a local Jazz Radio presenter, where Burnley lost 2-1 to Man City. The Americans loved the vibe, & also the curious idea of having baked beans for breakfast!

On leaving Fremont, we drove to Renton to visit the grave of Jimi Hendrix. A weird gazebo kind of thing, it’s a work in progress. Jimi’s dad had flown his son’s body home from London after its puky denouement, but could only afford a simple grave at first. Then, when he got access to his son’s estate, the tomb sprung up – with a bronze statue still to be put in place. I managed to puke up at Jimmy Hendrix’s grave – with the 7 AM beer & breakfast, the subsequent drive to Renton churned my stomach to chunder.

From Renton we returned to Duvall, where Emily picked up the kids from grans & then set off back to Warm Beach. I, however, stayed on, for Matthew has an amazing library. Yesterday I began to hit it, studying the works of Pacific North West poets such as Caroline Kizer, Gary Snyder & my favorite, Richard Hugo.

I spent yesterday in cat-induced asthmatic meditation, & got a clear plan of action. There is a company in Britain who can publish quite professionally up to ten books of mine, which are printed off as they are ordered. I have resolved upon creating teight texts – the Pendragon Collection – to mark the climax of my literary studies. My recent Chisper Effect & Humanology of course shall be among them. The other 6 would include Axis & Allies, The Silver Rose, my journals, &, well, we’ll just have to see, but a release of 10 volumes en masse transcends the fetid ‘one-book–at-a-time’ attitude of literary agents. Yes, the Pendragon Collection seems ready to be born, perhaps with a rainbow spine motif – first book red, second book orange etc. – so it stands out on a bookshelf!

On our last night at Warm Beach, Emily’s dad stuffed us full of oysters & seafood, & the following morning, while visiting Bruce Lee’s grave, I followed through! An hour later we were driving into a posh gated community where Emily’s rich auntie lived in a lovely house. All the family was there & on realising I was smelling a bit too much, I whipped off mi kecks in the toilet then went for a stroll around said gated community. Eventually I found a garden to stash mi undies & we got out of there with no comeback. Hope they were Trump supporters.

Flying back from Seattle is a bit like jumping into the future & missing a good night’s sleep. Add to that a Tinky Disco gig at Lisa Shaw’s 50th & let’s say I now know what jetlag truly is. I soon shook it off, however, I had to – it was time to move house. We’ve taken a new place in Haddington – I call it the boomerang, a long drive, a semi-detached at the bend, & a long garden.

Yesterday, in an almost empty Baro, I began work on preparing my 8-volume set of my writings – The Pendragon Lectures – which I’m going to self-publish on Completely Novel this year. I’d mused on the project that night in Duvall, & it seems a perfect way forward. The Publishing world is not really ready for me, but I’ve followed the path & this seems the correct thing to do at this time. It’s 2016, & the word ‘circumvent’ is terrifying the establishment

It’s been a cool literary sabbatical up here in the hills, forcing me to focus for weeks on end on projects which should now read extremely well. Today is Axis & Allies day, I have begun cutting the text by two-thirds & I squeez’d in the composition of one more stanza. On finishing I ritually threw my pen into Baro like the previous two times I had completed A&A.’

So, I flung my pen – an orange one – into the lake. This time it didn’t sink, but floated, wafting my sensibilities into bliss. Twenty years ago – maybe to the day – while reading Yeats in Barnsley, I realised I was a poet. Twenty years later, my bardic training is complete, which seems a perfect place to end my diaries, which in turn completes this book of mine, Marching on Parnassus. In it I hope to have tracked the growth of man individual’s poetic persona & projects, & also provided a comprehensive guide to other volumes in the Pendragon Collection. If you haven’t read any, I thoroughly recommend them!

Baro Farm Cottages
19th January 2017

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