It was fair to say that yesterday was just a little bit stressful. The stress began when a certain Canadian poet rang me at 5.00 on Monday to tell me that one of the four poets hadn't actually left Canada. That stress grew some more when he rang me again yesterday at 3.00 to tell me his bus from Cambridge wouldn't arrive in Oxford till 7.00. For a gig beginning at 8.00pm. Now that might sound like an ample window, but these guys have to sound check and be fed. After racing through the streets of Oxford in my little Micra, cursing at the dedication that the Oxford City Council has to repairing roads (councils should not be allowed to dig up two arterial roads at the same time), I discover that my little micra is not designed for three more people plus their kit. Somehow I squeeze them all in. They are all tall but usefully they have narrow hips. I feed them at 7.30pm. First thanks go to the Red Star noodle bar. The rest of Hammer and Tongue are all assembled there. At 8.10 I decide that I at least best cross the road to the Zodiac. I walk into the downstairs part and I nearly die. There are about fifteen people there, at least half of whom I know have not paid to get in (guest list!!!). I wonder if I can hide under the sound desk and cry. People start to drift in, including my performers. I'm still feeling acutely embarassed. At 8.30 the show gets underway with five of the poets (the three canadian fugitives - Brendan, Mark and Barbara, Steve Larkin and the Naked Mystic) doing individual pieces. By this stage there are about 50 people in the audience and I'm starting to settle down. I start to mingle among the various sets of friends I know there and start to feel pretty relaxed. Barabara Adler (the tall and gangly one) gets it under way by swearing at us and demonstrating her anarchy. The naked mystic gets up and stays clothed, much to our disappointment. By this stage I am sitting on the floor at the back, leaning against the sound desk. At this point I'm beginning to enjoy myself. I spot Evelyn and her friend Tracey walk in. I go to talk to them (in between poems, of course, not while they're being performed). I by them a drink ('cos I'm a good person) and turn around and the audience appears to have doubled. Spotting Steve Larkin I ask "where the hell did this crowd come from?" He shrugs and tells me he doesn't know.
The show passes. Much of it is a blur. There is an open mic session, featuring Rich Brotherton (he used it to talk about haemaroids), Lizzie Mc, Alan Buckley, and Justice. I know I'm biased, but Justice was bloody amazing.
There is a set from the Fugitives using the backing music skills of Inflatable Buddha. Again this passes in a contented haze. I know that I am enjoying myself that the poetry is very very good but I seem incapable of taking much of it in. I remember Steve Larkin being in very fine form. He seems very relaxed and free to express himself in whatever manner seems fit, including miming oral sex. There is then a break and a set from IB. Then there are alternate pieces form the Fugitives and IB. The canucks finish the evening with a fine fine version of 'I'll see you in July'. Then the bouncers tell us to get the hell out of the zodiac 'cos it's midnight.
We go to King Kebab on the Cowley Road where IB and the Fugitives get fed. I then drive them to Larkin's house. Except this time there are five people in the car. Brendan McLeod is sitting on the handbrake. I feel his a*se everytime I need (or want) to change gears. I get to Larkin's house and as I pull in I hear an almighty screech. There are now twin scatches down the side of my car as I have hit a concete lump. Luckily the scratches are low down and shouldn't affect my car's resale value. I say goodbye and go home. I have a brandy on my way to bed.
And now the thanks:
- First and foremost: The performers. You were really really really good.
- Steve Larkin for helping out so much in putting this together.
- Justice and Kate and the two Chris's for being such good friends and for making me feel so damn good about doing this.
- Chris for sorting out the propaganda for me at essentially no notice.
- Sue for making me dance when I so clearly needed to.
- Kate, Ev, Sue, Emma, Jenny amongst others for spreading the word and bringing friends.
- Sophia for emapthy yesterday afternoon.
- God. It wouldn't be an Oscar speech without a mention of him.
Seriously, I am very grateful to everybody who came and helped out, and those didn't come but were with me in spirit. You made me very proud to be associated with such fine people.
And if there is one random observation I have from the night, ones friends make the best heroes.
The canucks will be back in november. But I've seen them in July.