Monday, August 27, 2007

Richard Skerman 1967 Part Two

(Part 2 - The Dancer)

The journeys start to blur together
but she picked me up in France,
in Strasburg or it might have been Nancy,
she took me ‘cross the border - certainly.

She had a French guy with her at the first.
He was young and very self-assured -
I wondered if he’d already scored -
but he left us soon after I had come aboard.

She was a lecturer in dance - UCLA,
Berkley, maybe, somewhere pretty cool,
off for a year’s sabbatical in Rumania
to study local dance folklore.

She wasn’t that much older than I was, I guessed,
bright, attractive, free,
but the difference and her status held me back -
I was still so very green.

She drove, we talked and got on fine;
she asked me what I thought about the war.
I tried the domino defence;
she thought me quite naïve.

I was, but wasn’t fussed 'bout Viet Nam -
Stalinists have never much appealed to me.
I wasn’t into politics back then, or drugs,
sex was my main need.

We stopped that night close to the river -
which one, I simply can’t be sure -
and found a children’s playground
laid out on the shore.

It had a sculpture in a sandpit -
a lovely touch I still believe -
a totem pole with male and female elements
for small hands to explore.

Most Germans were still very much repressed,
but take their culture seriously
and this was modern, thoughtful, fun -
I wanted to applaud.

We slept out in the car - a rented 404 -
the seats wound down to make a bed;
I considered trying to make a move,
but didn’t, but neither then did she.

She dropped me off in Munich
I found my friends, checked out Oktoberfest -
the beer was overpriced, the fair closed down at ten,
I wasn’t that impressed.

I met another American girl;
she did acid, but didn’t score for me.
I didn’t screw her either -
I s’pose I didn’t pass the test.

I didn’t have much luck that trip,
the next year brought me more success.
I wonder how my dancing friend got on
in Ceauşescu’s vampires' nest.

rs 12 - 15.6.07
[From 'Along for the Ride - a few road movies from the golden age of hitchhiking' by Richard Skerman]

Richard Skerman 1967 Part One

(Part 1 – avec culottes)

After eight weeks on the buses I am ready for a break.
With sub-teens in Woolworth’s beads and bells my goad,
I buy a horse-hide leather jacket, pack a sack,
stick a rose in my lapel and hit the road.

Half way cross the Channel I chuck the flower into the sea,
the summer of love just passed me by, but now at last I’m free,
with money in my pocket I am searching for romance,
with drunkenness and gluttony if I get half a chance.

Coming out of Cherbourg I meet gendarmes on motorbikes
who check my passport just to find out how much cash I’ve got
and, satisfied, decide that I can carry on and hike.
The hippy down the road looks like he doesn’t have a lot.

Paris, during August, is sweaty, hard and sullen;
the CRS are baffled when I ask them for directions.
I find a hotel in the back streets of the Latin Quarter –
and head off out to see what there may be on offer.

A club – I’ve not seen solo dance before,
A girl agrees to chaperone me on the floor.
She isn’t interested but a young black dude
compliments me on my steps. It’s time to move.

I find a little Martiniquais restaurant,
The kitchen’s in the dining room – that’s cool –
try Caribbean-style black pudding and it’s good,
hear Jamaican with a francophone accent.

I end up in a bar with two young women –
the years of study finally pay off –
at last a true French conversation
and discover a real novelty – culottes.

She doesn’t want to consummate that night
and says to come and see her the next day.
It starts off with a row from hotel management
for flooding her untiled shower bay.

Can’t remember how I passed the time
till I pay my would-be mate a call.
She tells me that her husband’s coming round –
I’ve got no argument to counter this at all.

I’ve checked out of my hotel room and it’s late,
she says the clochards sleep beneath Pont Neuf,
it’s crowded, I could get rolled for all my cash.
I suss a building-site, some cardboard boxes and I crash.

The voices of the builders provide an early start,
I do a little tourism – up a tower of Notre Dame,
past Les Tuileries, the staircase of Montmartre,
beneath Le Tour Eiffel and on to La Pigalle.

Another cheap hotel. As I’m waiting to book in,
the African who’s there ahead of me
is asking, can he have a girl to stay?
The boss points out the rates that two guests have to pay.

German tourists, mostly middle-aged,
by the coach-load seem to fill the streets.
I wander round the area quite dazed.
Sex is everywhere, but not the kind I seek.

Young woman in a sports car. Do I dream?
would I like to faire amour? Mais oui!
A thousand francs for her, five hundred for the room.
I tell her that I’m poor. Me too, she says and vroom.

Outside a bar a doorman of my age
boasts how cheap the beer is in his dive.
I know from TV dramas it’s a blague
but what else to expect? I go inside.

He shoots across the room and grabs a girl,
he got a trick for her – it’s me I think.
And then she’s sat beside me with a smile
asking if I’d like to treat her to a drink.

It’s going to be expensive and cold tea,
the sucker in the circus here is me,
she’s really quite good looking, I want company
and round here that surely doesn’t come for free.

I say I’m just a student passing through,
suggest that we could meet when she gets free.
She tells me one o’clock - it could be jive –
there’s hours to go, I don’t think I’ll survive.

I leave her with that hope and split the joint,
the barker joins me and offers me the tour.
Parisian French is fast and to the point,
I keep up with him the best I can. We cruise.

Says he’s looking for his woman
(wife or girlfriend or a whore?).
I think him young to be a pimp
but what do I know? Not been here before.

We call into a bar and drink some wine,
across the room the beauties look demure,
fine-feathered, made up to the nines.
I can’t stop looking – transvestites now I’m sure.

This is where I leave my friendly guide,
I give my bar-hostess a miss,
the hotel door is locked midnight,
after last time I don’t want to take the risk.

The desk clerk rings to wake me up for lunch
with threats to charge me for another day.
I’m out of here. So long and thanks a bunch.
Two days, three nights and I am blown away!

I’m tired of travelling underground,
I cross the city on the platform of a bus,
horse butchers are all over this damn town
with signs like bloody fairground stalls, I suss.

Paris is a meat market for strangers,
like any capital upon this earth,
they chew you up so very nicely
and tell you that you’ve had your money’s worth.

Out of Porte D’Orléans and on to Germany
to visit where I’d been two years before.
Kartoffel-salat and Bratwurst await me,
apart from similar adventures, not much more.

One final footnote, I am stuck again,
stood at a crossroads in the pouring rain,
I’ve got a shorty umbrella,
confuses drivers but, wet, I’ll wait much longer.

Although the junction’s really wide,
two cars pull out from either side,
screech to a standstill eye to eye,
lean out, swear blue and pass on by.

This image is so French I’m forced to smile,
they’re free and equal in their fratricide.
Bavarians in their finery regard my hair
with loathing they don’t try to hide.

rs 17 – 24.6.07
[From 'Along for the ride - a few road movies from the golden age of hitchhiking' by Richard Skerman.]

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sidmouth Folk Festival 2007

Hot and cold running accordians, great sessions in The Ship, more morris men than you can shake sticks at, singing pirates from Exeter and lots of comedy police.I especially liked the plainclothes who were dressed identically and the ten coppers who were guarding a broken shop window on the last night, job well done boys!