Princess Diana's Bodyguard and Me.
5am wake and within 15 minutes I am sat at the kitchen table to write thepoem which will be broadcast live to the nation at 9.05am. I wrote pages and pages yesterday but I’m not happy with the result. This is my job as a poet on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live. So this morning I need to turn up the heat and see what gives.
Some days ago I heard President Bush was arriving to see Gordon Brown tomorrow,see previous blogs, but it hadn’t been confirmed in the national press or radio. I heard before they did which is always slightly warming. This lack of confirmation makes it a none subjkect for the poem which is very frustrating. There is a tanker strike on so petrol stations are running dry and this could be the subject matter. There is some irony in the visit and the strike and the pumps. The way I write these live poems is to suppose that the poem is somewhere waiting for me to discover it. Therefore it is my job to dig like a pig for the truffle. Somehow that simile just feels wrong wrong wrong.
Whatever the case the first poem (there are two) must last only thirty seconds. Don't get me wrong I know this feels like sacrilege especially to either the uninformed, the unflexible, the inexperienced, or boundary poet, (a boundary poet is one who clings to boundaries without exploring the unknown), but they would be ungracefully wrong, in truth it is truly an exercise in the power of creativity to seek out it's reason.
If I try to match my experience to the process of excavation I am bound to find the poem. All my senses are alerted, cranked up. It is somehow magical. If not the end piece then the concentrated act of seeking the poem is for me, an affirmation of why I'm alive, to seek creativity. And I've found it. It's as if the ink is running a split second ahead of my writing and I am following it with the pen. The poem is called Flashback at The Petrol Pump. It's in the relationship between Oil and War. Who’d have thought it!? As I finish the piece I hear John Humphries announce the presidents visit on BBC Radio 4.
The second poem to be read at about forty minutes into the programme is actually taken from my childrens book The Emperors Watchmaker and is called The Prince Who Has No Family. It’s simply about a prince who happens to have no family. I used this poem because the main interview on the programme was from a father who had been unjustly stopped from seeing his child. I also put this one in cause it’s fathers day tomorrow. The poem too is from the childs' perspective rather than wrapped in the complexities of adulthood law seperation and assumption of what family is.
Fi Glover was off the show today and is replaced by Rev Richard Coles curate of St Paul's, Knightsbridge, chaplain to the Royal Academy of Music and a former member of the Communards. My only spurious link with them is that Sarah the singer of their international hit Don’t leave Me This Way, came to see my band as my co-singer Yvonne Shelton was a friend of hers. The guests were Mike Gayle and Princess Dianas bodyguard, the affable Ken Wharf who runs Diplomatic Security Service, specialistsin personal protection. Here we all are in the studio at broadcasting house
Ken Wharfe was princess Dianas bodyguard. He's sat in the studio and he likes a laugh but you know he is in the serious business. I hear for the first time the term Red Carpet Fever. It is what happens to some people who work with the royals, they start to think they are royals, or that they should be treated like they are. We all mention a national journalist who is well known to have caught the fever. He clearly has not. His stories off air are amazing. Ken began working for the police in 1968 and remembers the old police officers despising the new fangled technology that they were asked to deal with: radio’s. Princess Diana shared everything with him and he has since written books sharing everything about her. At least we assume so. Radio show over, hands are shaken and my car is waiting. you can hear the show here if you read this within a week from today. The poems are there too.
On the way home I get a message from Alice Douglas - you would call her Lady Alice Douglas if you had red carpet fever - the writer and journalist who is writing whatsounds like an incredible book of her friend a black adoptee to an aristocraticfamily closely related to the Queen. The family were written out of the will of their parents because the child they adopted was black and they were white. Also the momentthey made the adoption invites to society events abruptly stopped. On hearing about this the Queen set up a group photo with the family and their new addition, everything changed back to normal after that.
But the call from Alice was more connected to her story in the paper today in the guardian newspaper today, in the family section. You can read it here. It is not as good reading it online cause in the paper there is also an amazing photograph to accompany the article. Mike Gayle the author and guest of the show had a tenuous connection with me in that he auditioned to be the presenter for The Word and lost to Terry Christian, myMancunian mate. I check into the organic café drink coffee catch the sun, go home and lie in the garden. It’s the first time I have relaxed this week and I fall fast asleep until the clouds cloud the sun.