Good news! My test flight finished and it was loads of fun. I went to Kyle’s house first with his poem about how crap it is to go surfing in Scarborough.
Having had a chance to think about it, I decided it would be better if I knocked on his door and offered to perform it as well. That would be a bit more personal, wouldn’t it?
As I got ready to go out, I was definitely a lot less nervous than the last time. I also had a fancy new briefcase my girlfriend got me at Tynemouth market, which automatically makes you feel like an official door-to-door poet. But my head was still racing with loads of questions. “What if he says he’s busy and doesn’t want to hear it?” “What if his housemate answers and thinks I’m mental?” “What if he hears it and thinks it’s crap?”
By the time I left the house I thought I’d prepared for every eventuality. Then, as I got close to his door, I realised I couldn’t remember what Kyle looked like at all. If you’re reading this Kyle, I’m sorry. I saw quite a few faces that day and I suppose the nerves stopped my head taking a mental photo. I was now facing the awkward situation of having to say “Hello, my name’s Rowan. Are you Kyle?” Not a good start. But what could I do? I wasn’t backing out now.
It turns out there was nothing to worry about. I knocked on his door but there was no answer! With a slight sense of anti-climax, I took the envelope holding the first ever door-to-door poem in the world and pushed it through his post box.
The Story of the Surfing Yorkshireman
The brochures boast of endless sun,
Waves that break the size of vans:
A paradise for anyone
Who has a surfboard in their hands.
In the sea, porpoises come
To squeak and frolic in the fun
But somewhere sulking, near the harbour,
A surfing Yorkshireman hates Scarborough.
Long since the trawler fishing days
When they swept the North Sea dry
The town, quite rightly, changed its trade
To one that wasn’t doomed to die.
The Beach Boys got it wrong, they say,
They meant ‘The North’ not ‘USA’.
But despite all the rave reviews
A Yorkshireman still sings the blues.
He sits on one bench, constantly,
Wet-suited, surfboard by his side,
But on the beach he won’t be seen
No matter how ideal the tide.
Locals pass, he glares at the sea
Like it’s his lifelong enemy
And if you saw him you might spy
A teardrop running from his eye.
But why Yorkshire-man? Why so sad?
Did you not see the town’s great beauty?
Why don’t its buildings make you glad
With their Victorian majesty?
Or the castle sprinkled on the crags,
Is its wonder not your bag?
What about the dodgems instead?
The Yorkshireman just shakes his head.
He answers: “No, none of the bricks
Of this town made me feel this way.
It’s ‘cos surfing in Scarborough’s shit.
It is… like a Butlins holiday.
The water here’s so full of grit
It’s yellow as a Blue Whale’s piss
(That’s if they could survive out there
In that dead ocean of despair).
Black as a smokers lungs with tar
The clouds rain down their Arctic chill.
But first you need to park your car,
Good luck with that, there’s spaces NIL.
Don’t ask for help, you won’t get far,
The locals just stare like you are
Some kind of freakish Kraken beast
Pulled up from the briny deep.”
But why don’t you just drive away,
Yorkshire-man? I’m so confused.
Go to Cornwall (or Whitley Bay),
Even for an afternoon?
With a deathly voice he says:
“I can never leave this place!
‘Cos I’m the cursed and lonely creature
Who is the local surfing teacher.”
So that was that. Then there was Josh’s poem. This one was totally different to writing ‘The Story of the Surfing Yorkshireman’. With the above, I had to really use my imagination, having never surfed before and not really having any hatred towards Scarborough whatsoever. For me, it turned into a Chaucerian-type piece that had something to do with tourism and disappointment.
Josh wanted a poem about Ouseburn Farm though. It’s a 5 minute bike ride from my house and it seemed lazy not to go down for a few hours and record what I see. But, looking out the window, I noticed it was lashing it down. I considered putting it off for a different day. Then I had second thoughts: Isn’t this the whole point of the project? You can’t control the weather, any more than you can control who answers the door, or what they tell you is important. In the end, the weather itself had a huge influence on the poem. It was a lesson. I remembered how so much of this isn’t about me at all. To vaguely quote William Burroughs: ‘I am not a writer, I’m a recording device.’
When I got to Josh’s there was also no answer. However, the friendly dog I met saw me in the window and started barking. I wondered if he could remember me and hoped he wouldn’t eat the poem when it came through the letterbox…
Something tells me winter’s come to Ouseburn farm.
Sunflowers are hanging upside down in windows.
They’ve put a thicker jacket on the hipster scarecrow.
And someone has stole all the leaves off a sprout plant!
“Imagine Christmas without sprouts” a painted sign asks.
Y’know, I’ve dreamed of that day my entire life…
Inside the barn the urban livestock are sulking.
It’s been raining and it’s too cold now to play out.
The grumpy goats stare comatose at wooden walls
like teenagers who’ve been told to shut up in school.
Babooshka the pig’s teeth show as she yawns in protest.
Nearby, a white sheep fights eight black ones for a trough.
Despite the farmer’s very obvious attempts
to stop ‘Sheep Colour Inequality’, this one
still clearly has some kind of chip on its shoulder.
It butts into the others as if it’s saying:
“Why? Why did we waste the summer arguing about
the best kind of straw!? Or the perfect shade of wool?
(I think that’s probably what sheep argue about)
We could have been outside, making the most of it.”
All of them oink and bleat and moo in agreement;
except the Guinea pigs ‘cos they’re too vain to admit
when they’ve obviously made a massive mistake.
And there’s one more that doesn’t: A newly born cow
with huge chocolate button eyes that are sucking in
the world around them like two miniature black holes.
She’s so young she doesn’t have a name yet- a box
next to her is for putting your suggestions in.
She’s so fresh she can’t remember ice cream melting
or the pub next door spilling people wearing shorts.
To her a piece of string that hangs on the pen gate
is a mystery worth licking for at least an hour;
the straw is hard- like University Challenge.
I smile as two young lads come running past me laughing:
“That baby cow just did a wee!” One tells his Mam.
The brick arches of Byker Bridge are stained blood orange
by the early setting sun. They own the sky
like ancient pyramids. I can smell coffee roasting.