Thursday, 1 October 2009


The skate really does have wings. It flies through its element. It is a beautiful olive colour when it comes up in the trawl. It can grow to be nine foot long but half of that is always tail. The phrase ‘as big as a dustbin lid’, which I used in my verses just posted, was a gift to me from a local fisherman describing an experience when he was seineing off Exmouth. He was, so runs the yarn, walking through the shallows off a sandbank when he stepped on the famous dustbinlidsized skate and was quick enough to grab it by the gills and add it to his catch.

My verses, ‘The Skate’, that I posted two days ago were written for a competition run by the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery maybe fifteen years ago. The Art Gallery had exhibited paintings by famous couples. Stanhope Forbes’great work was flanked by a wonderful painting by Elizabeth Forbes, his wife. To enter the competition, prize a fifty pound book token, one was invited to write a ‘poem’ inspired by a painting that had been exhibited. I don’t suppose too many people entered but I had the glory of winning joint first prize and was invited to the Gallery to receive my book token. At Plymouth I found that the enterprising gallerists had assembled an audience and I and my co-winner were invited to read our poems. The audience was made up of about twenty old Plymothian ladies and a couple of old Plymothian gentlemen. My opposite number read first and the audience responded with the gravity and applause that his work deserved and I then read my verses. .. Well! I thought I had written a funny poem and I expected at least half a smile from some of the listeners. No! They heard me out agape giving me the respect which they obviously thought that ‘poetry’ merited. Not the flicker of a smile. I somehow felt that I had earned my twentyfive quid.

A Hopeless Dawn, by the way, is a tremendous painting by Frank Bramley hung in the old Tate Gallery. It is a grim spoonful of social reality.

As we drove home I had much to say to my wife about the reception of my wonderful and amusing verses by the Plymothians but over that it might be a good idea for me to skate.

Tomorrow: Tides

No comments:

Post a Comment