March 08, 2018

The Ballad of Agatha Christie



(A Condition of England Murder Comedy In Five Acts)

Now a film - See it here




Above 'Captain Hastings' narrates (screen grab). 
Below. A special birthday performance - note Cluedo board in foreground. 
The solution is in plain sight (if you have a magnifying glass)!



Act 1  The End Of The Line

The squire lounges over the white marble floor,
Savagely roped, kitchen knife in his back,
A candlestick pestling his little grey cells,
His face lead-piped in a frenzied attack.

All the wanna-nobs flocked here the night before
Hob-nobling below feudal chandeliers,
Watching daggers and points under courtesies,
The gentle infusing of feudings and fears.

Now, as still as his statues, their host lies dead,
His white palace frozen and under a cloud:
His Olympian, cut-diamond, snow queen is caught
Red-handed with Murder's Caesarean shroud.

DI Lynn, DS Holt, in Conservatory with malice
Grill Lady Peacock, "sing, bird, where wuz ya?
And don’t say in bed wiv your lover because
He was picked up last night, wiv your diamonds, in Russia."

"Chief Constable Melton!" the lady protests,
"Why would I murder the Last of the Peacocks?
He's the father of half of my children," she sniffs,
"The end of the line," sniffs, "my coke on the rocks."

This Chef White delivers, then bigs herself up,
(Which at 23 stone is somewhat alarming.)
"I runs this place, the toffs is just dressing,
But she's right. Without his title, we're nothing."

Archaeology crime scenes and Great Escape jams
Block the Boudicca Way up the B666. This
Ain't the road to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrn
drobwllllantysiliogogogoch. This is the road to Diss."

The Brown Lady appears with a headless Dr Black,
Ghosts of an Empire this House would like back;
Chef White takes them on in a panic attack:
"Not part of the cult-cha; not part of the pack!"


Act II  A Crime of Passion

"Boss, we need this result, all the Ballrooms of England;
All the Hounds on the hateful Daily Mail;
All the Geist-Creake Sculthorpes of Heritage are cueing
Our balls up for billiards if we f-f-fail."

"Relax, the CC's brought in two of their own,
Lending Library Studies in AC/OCD
Have a night off in Lynn with the Neighbourhood Watch,
Watch the best show in town on your CCTV."

"Enchantez, enfin!" bows old Hercule to Jane
She drops a purled stitch and smooths her church lace,
"Oh dear," going pink, "pleased to meet you, I’m sure;
Hellhoughton Hall… a hell of a place!"

"And a Chaos to me, imbecile that I am,
My ideas as deranged as that rose bed asunder."
"Oh dear me, " she spins round, her blue eyes confused, 
"Of what does that remind me, I wonder?" 

His grey cells detain her woodland-nymph foot
In a slender Paris shoe that mounts a soft stair
Of Victorian passion through seven dropped veils,
L'amour a la mode,  avant la Grand Guerre....

A button exploding from tight city trews
Hits smartly the small of Miss Marple's back,
"Je m'excuse, mademoiselle, je suis dishabille,"
(As she turns) "It's le crime of passion, that."

"Archaeology crime scenes and Great Escape jams
Block the Boudicca Way up the B666. This
Ain't the road to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrn
drobwllllantysiliogogogoch. This is the road to Diss."

The Brown Lady appears with a headless Dr Black,
Ghosts of an Empire this House would like back;
Chef White takes them on in a panic attack:
"Not part of the cult-cha; not part of the pack!"


Act III  The Morning Star

Green eyes meet paled blue. "Mon Dieu!" Jane nods.
They descend as one to the gun room below,
Under all of the ivory storeys and towers,  
Here on real solid ground, at last they know.

Plumski the Prof has Miss Scarlet in chains!
Of big red ideas, tortured evil thought good,
"Your class is the village's vampire, my child,
The dead past sucking its rosy future's blood.

"We have slain the Undead with his own feudal tools,
Old money's relics, old horsepower's reins,
Now set torch to powder keg, doushka, and - boom!
Nothing on earth to lose but your chains."

"All those dead blue and white lies they told me, Aunt Jane!
Their ethical farmer, so reverend green,
Just to ravish my father's GM crops, not me!
Plum's deep-frozen spirit was never so mean."

"Mais, petite, his petrified ideals of stone
Through your broken heart are controlling your brain! - "
"Life is Evil, Professor, Made Good" (Made Old, You Old Maid
Cries the Prof) be the star of her fallen morning!" prays Jane.

Prof remembers that spring on the winter palace, 
The warm youth he was… she still has. And then
He blows out his brains. Poirot ducks. Marple sighs,
"A redemptive, if not quite a happy, end."



"Archaeology crime scenes and Great Escape jams
Block the Boudicca Way up the B666. This
Ain't the road to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrn
drobwllllantysiliogogogoch. This is the road to Diss."

The Brown Lady appears with a headless Dr Black,
Ghosts of an Empire this House would like back;
Chef White takes them on in a panic attack:
"Not part of the cult-cha; not part of the pack!"


Act IV  The Show Goes On

After life's coughs and splutters, the squire sleeps well,
His murder triple-volumed by a heritage boffin,
But the hardback slams shut and England stays unsolved,  
Not coughing in its sleep, but asleep in its coffin.

A school super-head in the clouds of un-doing
Out of office (all) hours … born to run…
'Pops up' in a new post retraining the House guides
For the 'Murder Weekend' Chef's already done.

"It's political correctness gone mad!" rants the Colonel
As his bust of Dr Black is burned. "That pike-lip: it's
An original colonial design!" "Norman, you're political in-
Correctness gone mad," says Miss Scarlet, "like Auschwitz." 

Chief Constable Melton glides over from Burnham
In a shire Chelsea tractor the size of a hearse
Private wealth-cushioned against the pot holes
In frozen public roads, until they get worse,

But his road's blocked by holiday homers who park
Three 4 by 4s each in lanes built for a horse
And a winter roadworks timed by the council
To suit the parish pub not the public, of course,

Which is why his role as Inspector Cluedo
In 'Christie Meets Cluedo In Norfolk' goes wrong.
Instead of The Show Of His Life, life's Show goes on
Without him, and a ghost chorus murders his song.

"Archaeology crime scenes and Great Escape jams
Block the Boudicca Way up the B666. This
Ain't the road to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrn
drobwllllantysiliogogogoch. This is the road to Diss."

The Brown Lady appears with a headless Dr Black,
Ghosts of an Empire this House would like back;
Chef White takes them on in a panic attack:
"Not part of the cult-cha; not part of the pack!"


Act V The Easter Reveal

Superhead 'turned round' The School Of Soft Knocks
With pupil-self-assessed GOOD WRITTING AND SPEELING;
A pro-Jones*Animal Fram, a roll-cull, a brain drain and a Napoleonic
Shortness, but this new post has him reeling.

"There's been another murder!" over-acts a haggard Holt
In the dug up Saxon boneyard... then sees it's for real:
Captain Hastings, dressed in Nordic Noir as Dr Black, death-laid
In his forebear's grisly grave by a flash of Norman steel.

Colonel Mustard, in the Dining Room with smoking revolver,
Asks where any secret passage to Happiness is.
"There's no way out from here," sighs a harrowed Lady Peacock,
"Just the Hall, then run like Hell for the night train to Dis."

Dis appears and announces that he wants Miss Scarlet
"Don’t we all?" says DI Lynn. But Miss Marple demurs,
"Keep your love underground. For everything a season-"
"Winter's over," whispers Poirot, " Let a new life be hers!"

Scenes from the Passion in an Easterly procession
Line the Walsingham Way while heavens above
Turn St Mary's snowdrops through an orientation
To daffodils of fire. Not a road to Dis, to Love.

Dis unclasps the Brown Lady (who wears the dress in that
Marriage) - no House Ghost, its hearth-angel in disguise!
Dr Black blows a trumpet, England's foundations rock.
Poirot dances Miss Marple into the sunrise.

Archaeology crime scenes  and Great Escape jams
Leave the Boudicca Way down the B666. This
Ain't her life-defeated-red-dragon-sundown-white-lady-hazel-chariot-death-charge-into-the-Celtic-gone-West. This is the road to Bliss.

The Brown Lady appears with a heedless Dr Black,
Ghosts of an Empire this Wodehouse laughs back;
Chef White takes them on and pays a good whack:
"All part of the club-cha; all part of the pack!"


* Not only the hero of Animal Fram, but also the author of an excellent book on Fielding.

Notes:

I've read (and serially re-read) more Agatha Christie books than books by any other author (and probably ditto the films and TV adaptations.) 75 of them have pride of place in a smart black hardback edition on my library shelf. This pastiche is the result of being stranded in Sedgeford at the end of the winter by several things: the Beast from the East; a thoughtfully timed winter road works which have for 21 days effectively divided and cut Sedgeford off as if it were Berlin at the end of the war and a beast of a virus which has put me in a bed for a week. Having only recently completed a 10 book Elly Griffiths marathon, I resorted to Agatha as I always do in dark times and then filled the idle bed days with this modern take, set in heritage West Norfolk. I hope it may amuse.

There is a Brown Lady who famously haunts two West Norfolk Halls but that's another story, told here

Hellhoughton Hall is a hellish fiction, existing only in the author's imagination.


February 27, 2018

The Full Phezants Phirst Phlight! - photo gallery (part of the Cambridgeshire Libraries Presents Arts Alive project)

THE PENLAND PHEZANTS AT WISBECH LIBRARY SAT. 24 FEBRUARY 2018
TELLING THE STORY OF THE 1816 LITTLEPORT AND ELY RIOTS
(OUR FIRST GIG AS A THREE PIECE)


Foisting the Hezant! Pholk tales and music.



Phirst night! Looks like a phull house!



Show them the instruments!



Once upon a time, when people might as well be hanged as starved...



Our mime section. Upwardly mobile farmer's daughter Mary Martin plays bad harpsichord.


There's a riot going on around here. (But I don't think it's going to end well, Jack...)



Told you!


That's all pholks!

February 21, 2018

Birth Of A Human Being




My snow soul is slowly taking shape,
Falling from heaven to inherit the earth
And the family features of God and ape,
Angel out of my element from birth.
And this is me, this helpless drop of man,
This perfect mould of bud and mental,
Crawling, fight and every earthly thing.
All if it - nothing.
                               Yet I'll assert I AM
In time by striving upright endlessly,
Inherit here a kiss to milk, like grist,
The love that made me and by which I'm born;
The word that speaks its perfect mind, the fist
That grasps its imaged God, the whole torn
And bleeding web of human history.


This sonnet was written - the author's masculine mind still slightly traumatised with witnessing the full visceral glory of it - to celebrate the birth of our daughter Emma on December 28 1986.  (pictured above, 31 years and 2 months later)

It is now posted in thankful celebration of the birth of her daughter with Tony - Isla Grace Rafferty, 6.4 pounds - at 7.19 am on 21 February 2018. 

Just call me Grandpa.








November 26, 2017

A Very English Resistance - The True Story of Hereward The Wake

As Free As The Waters That Flow Through The Fen - The True Story of Hereward The Wake
(Composed, written and performed by the Penland Phezants)

This is a new project being developed by a new combination - a poet, a folk musician and a harpist. The Penland Phezants. We are seeking dates to add to our existing 2018 festival, folk club, library, theatre and arts centre engagements.
Video clip here

Audio clip here


950 years ago, in 1067, Hereward the Wake returned from outlawry, exile and a gallery of bold and magical adventures in Cornwall, Ireland and Flanders which had established him as a famous warrior and the leading military genius of his age. But he did not come home to rest on his laurels. He came home to join, and quickly to lead, the growing English Resistance against the Norman Conquest, which then was at a critical stage. Hereward first avenged the Norman murder of his brother and theft of his manor in his home town of Bourne in Lincolnshire, then established himself in the Isle of Ely alongside the Earl of Morcar (the dead King Harold's brother) and King Sweyn of Denmark, repeatedly outwitting a desperate siege of the Isle personally led by William the Conqueror himself. So successful was Hereward's defence that William, incredibly, was on the point of offering peace terms when Hereward was betrayed by his erstwhile military allies, the fighting Abbot and monks of Ely Abbey. Thanks to the early warning of one brave monk, the ever-elusive Hereward escaped to further historic triumphs against William's armies in Fenland, at Burgh (Peterborough) and the Bruneswald and Saxon greenwoods of Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.
Gareth Calway's 90 minute narrative tells the full story, from the magical folk tales of Hereward's early career, to the historic defence of Ely and the glittering later rearguard victories against all odds in fenland and greenwood. Based closely on the honest Latin chronicles compiled by 12C monks, this historically-based narrative gives full rein to the Freeborn English humour and derring do of a real life Robin Hood. (The Robin Hood legend borrows much of the spirit and many of Hereward's real-life adventures.) The compelling narrative is given a period flavour by harp music composed and performed by Welsh Romany-influenced harpist Vanessa Wood-Davies and a folk perspective by interweaving a sequence of new real life Robin Hood ballads (written by Bread and Blood team Gareth Calway and Andy Wall.)  Andy Wall's classic and authentic folk performance of these is a particular highlight of and perfect fit for this great English folk tale. A  30 minute showcase will also be available.

The Penland Phezants are:

Gareth Calway (narrative, backing vocals, drum)
Andy Wall (acoustic guitar, lead vocals)
Vanessa Wood-Davies (harp, harmony vocals)




Phezant photoshoot (above) by Bhas Allan
The picture at the top of this blog has been described as follows: "The fen, the belligerent battered tree, the Robin Hood, the elf, the stubborn Freeborn Dane, the moat, the sublime light, the understated majesty: it is the complete realisation of the title of our project: A Very English Resistance, the True Story of Hereward The Wake. Genius."


Screen grab

The following two didn't make the official photographer's cut but I like 'em!




Ely Cathedral through train window by Bhas. 
"Hereward led a wolfish defence of an England before the Normans sank their giant Cathedral-Castles like ring of steel in our land, when that magnificent Norman power bloc of holy terror (pictured) holding a previously unconquerable native fen and first in thrall, was a thinner-walled but better founded Saxon Abbey." 

Fenland photoshoot of the late 1060s Norman-Saxon front line (below) by A Mateur.  Pic 2 is an Ouse bank shot along the old Littleport Road; the rest are just above Ely itself (with a new invader - pennywort!)