As winter unfolds itself upon us,
sunk into thick coats, we become numb moles.
The world is stark naked, undressed,
bleakness seeps to our bones, through to our souls.
Trees raise bare fingers, scratching at the clouds,
to exhume the sun from a sunless sky.
Hedges are dark caterpillars, crawling the fields.
Hazel nuts crack, dry tinder for the pyre.
While we see an earth denuded and only drabness,
bruised pregnant skies let loose their load,
swollen rivers break their icy waters,
unbeknown, there’s quickening underground.
Within the frail leafless twig lies the bud,
what will be most fragrant, lies in the mud.
I spent a very pleasant evening at the Nomad café https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nomad-Cafe/193199400811248 enjoying a performance of poetry (by Felix Hodcroft, http://www.valleypressuk.com/authors/felixhodcroft/ and Tony Howson) and music by First Quarter. It was indeed nourishment for the body and for the soul.
With a mid-winter festival theme, Felix and Tony served up a veritable cornucopia of delights. I was introduced to a Dutch poet/songwriter/singer, Stef Bos, whose line: ‘Nothing is as strong as silence. Nothing as powerful as the word that no-one hears’ is haunting me still. And I love this from Louis MacNeice’s Snow: ‘World is suddener than we fancy it./World is crazier and more of it than we think,/incorrigibly plural.’
However, what suddenly evoked the ghosts of Christmas Past was Thomas Hardy’s The Oxen (I studied him for A Level and haven’t much thought of him since).
…Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
‘Come see the oxen kneel.
‘In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,’
I should go with him in the gloom,
hoping it might be so.’
In that moment, I found his tender yearning for a faith which has gone, very moving.
Unfortunately, we have been turned down for a second time in our bid to get some Arts Council funding for events to celebrate Edith Sitwell in the town of her birth, during 2014, fifty years since she died. I am passionate about reinstating Edith to the literary cannon and having her genius recognised, instead of allowing her eccentricity and dislike of critics to take centre stage. I thought this anniversary would be an excellent time to make the case for her. The Arts Council was obviously not of the same mind.
I could argue the toss about that, but my main gripe is the process of grant awarding – or not, as the case is here. Our first submission was turned down for one reason, and when we righted that, it was then turned down for another. When I questioned this, I was told, ‘We don’t have enough resources to give more than one reason for refusal, even if there are many.’ On being rather assertive (for assertive read cranky), I was finally allowed to speak to an advisor who explained that since mid 2013 grants under £15,000 are assessed by a rota of people, so our submission was probably assessed by different officials each time, each coming up with different reasons for refusal.
Maybe I am just a bit naïve here, but isn’t all this going to be wasting resources – theirs, not to mention mine? So I keep re-writing and keep re-submitting and each time someone different will read it and find an alternative problem with it, and, ah, here’s the rub, they won’t tell me every flaw, just the first one that comes to mind. And this will keep happening until I finally run out of steam.
Wait a moment, something is clattering at my brain. Didn’t we have a recent report which said that for every £69 per resident in London spent on arts by Central Government (to include Arts Council contributions) only £4.60 was spent per person elsewhere in England? This couldn’t have anything to do with a barmy system and grants from the regions being submitted by non-professional dullards like me now could it?