Thursday, 26 November 2009

in blood

In blood I am
an apprentice boy of Newcastle.
Falling foul
of hacks and parkies,
I tipple and prance
and strum my poems at night.
I sing in the Blackie Boy
and tap-dance on tables.
I wear my shoes on my head
like some medieval surrealist,
a Geordie Bosch.
I go fleeing about 
down Pudding Chare
with the company of fools.
Pissing music in the dark,
like a ruffian
I wear curls around my ears.
The City Fathers will rail
at all my gay ribbons and lace,
my gold and silver threads
and shoes of Spanish leather
but give me the pudding-basin treatment if you will,
see if I fucking care you bastard Puritans,
you killjoys.
I’m a Jingling Geordie
and freedom flies nightly
in my flowing hair.



The apprentice boys of Newcastle kept falling foul of the Puritan tendency. An Act of the Merchant Adventurers of 1554 thunders against their gay dress and 'tippling and dancing... what use of gitternes [guitars] by night!' In 1603, the youths are again enjoined 'not to dance or use music in the streets at night': nor are they to deck themselves in velvet and lace - or to wear their 'locks at their ears like ruffians'. All to no avail: in 1649, Newcastle's Puritan elders were still railing against ribbon and lace, gold and silver thread, and coloured shoes of Spanish leather. Nine recalcitrant youths received the pudding-basin treatment for their hair.
Despite this killjoy attitude it is nevertheless the case that the Newcastle corporation was unique among towns in maintaining a 'company of fools' from 1561-1635. Fools were otherwise confined to courts or noble families.