Saturday, 9 January 2010

bridging the gap

Bridging The Gap
Wednesday 27 January
11.00-11.30am BBC RADIO 4

Bridging The Gap is a vivid sound portrait of the Tyne Bridge. The programme draws on the voices and sounds of the bridge, the river, local people and wildlife, while exploring the history, construction and role of the bridge.

The bridge is hugely symbolic in the North East. As a giant arch, it reflects the changes that have taken place in the North East, including developments on the Tyne and overall changes in lifestyle. Today, wildlife has moved in; where the industrial giants of the past have moved out, salmon and otters can be found in the river.

The bridge is also a nesting site for kittiwakes, a species of ocean-travelling gull. More than 150 pairs have been recorded here, making it the furthest inland breeding site of kittiwakes in the world.

Contributors to the programme include sound recordist Chris Watson; poet Keith Armstrong; Ian Ayris from Newcastle City Council; Steve Lowe of Northumberland Wildlife Trust; Steve Mays, architectural and landscape photographer; and Tommy Proctor, River Tyne guide.

Producer/Sarah Blunt

BBC Radio 4 Publicity

Friday, 8 January 2010

Two Poems by G.F. Phillips

East Wind*

NEWSBOY: Get your papers!
Get your papers!

BYSTANDER: Huh! Them papers!
They make us or break us,
Whatever way they want us t’ be
They just talk doon t’ ye an’ me.

Well, Ta, bonny lad
Aw! Me pins are feelin’ bad
While ye stand cold and snivelling’
I’m gannin’ home a-shiverin.’

CHORUS: In that East Wind
Branches bend west,
Breakin’ what’s old,
Leavin’ what’s best.

TWO SHOPPERS: But we’ve had t’ find shelter
Round this shoe shop corner,

1st SHOPPER: Lookin’ at shoes

2nd SHOPPER: Just for something t’ do.

CHORUS: For that east Wind
It gives us trouble;
But let’s not forget
It’s the same for us all.

• A tempera panel, by Harry Wilson, one of the Pitman Painters of Ashington, Northumberland, 1935.
• ‘In the panel, disposed around a street corner that represents all the essentials of a two-point perspective, saplings whip in the wind, figures are tugged, a newsboy blows on his fingers and, to leeward, three becalmed shoppers look at a shoe display.’ William Feaver, Art Critic of the Sunday Observer.

Bait Time*

Wi’ me pick I have t’ hack away,
Me back and shoulders achin’;
I make black nuggets smash and fall,
It’s grit and sweat I’m tastin’.

Oh, Bait time is a long time comin’.
Bait time is a long way doon.
Bait time is a long time comin’.
Bait time cannot come t’ soon.

And me pony hauls wagons away,
Me marra does his share;
It’s thirsty work – it seems ne end
In this foul and dirty air -.

Oh, bait time, etc.

Me hunger pangs have come on strong
Wi’ me belly’s rumblin’ tark.
I stoop by wagons that we fill,
What I feed keeps us in work.

Oh, bait time, etc.

Me sarnies have their rich fruit seam,
Me pony grabs a bit;
And when it’s broken off for him
He makes short work o’ it.

Oh, bait time was a long time comin’.
Bait time man and beast must choose.
Bait time was a long time comin’.
Bait time there’s ne time t’ lose’.

* based on a painting by Jimmy Floyd, Bait Time, 1946.
‘Experience gives to Jimmy Floyd’s Bait Time its air of complicity as the pony reaches over to take a bit of jam sandwich.’
(from Pitmen Painters: The Ashington Group 1934-1984 by William Feaver, Mid-Northumberland Arts Group, Carcanet Press, 1993).

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Stain & Copper


Dun! Such is the blackbird’s colour,
The female at least. As was the one,
Frantic to escape the pursuance of magpies,
That flew into the kitchen window.
Double glazing is unyielding, it’s bone,
Especially the eggshell skull, that shatters.
All I heard was the thump, dull as dun,
As if some passer-by had knocked just once.
Looking out I witnessed a blackbird, male,
Yellow beak twittering as its agitated head
Jerk from side to side, while on the ridge tile
Of the garage, the burly magpie perched,
Unmoved, pitiless gaze making its assessments
While the frantic accuser bobbed from bough
To fence post and back. An absence of cats,
I suspect, determined the magpie to swoop
And carry off what was now no more
Than carrion. The widower bird, dressed it seems
By nature for mourning, became silent, still,
Before launching on to the air and away,
Seeking, no doubt, for another mate, leaving
Me standing looking out through stained glass
Thinking, I’d better wipe that off
Before it dries on.


The reason these spoil heaps are called spoil heaps
Is that they spoil every child who works them
For a few coppers earned gleaning copper
Nuggets from wasted earth wasting them.
Africa days are tinder days, so slack
Tee shirts and shorts and flip-flops seem just right.
Except, it’s cold before dawn when empty
Bellied walking begins, although sun’s up
By empty bellied arrival at the
Deep depression. Here, rock is more precious
Than life by a long fall, value holding
Every pick blow, shovel full, bead of sweat,
As it’s hauled in sacks out from hollowed ground.
All that labour weighed, recompensed in part,
Leavings left in those heaps where kids scrabble,
Not for fun as the game is for eating.
In this reception class the life lessons
Are hard, just as demanding as they could be.
Eight hours – no playtimes, no lunch break, no lunch!
Afternoons are sand and water, waist deep
In metallic slurry washing away
Impurities soaking in through bare skin,
Elixir, some say, of eternal youth,
Even those who grow up remain child-like.
Come home time and tired tots totter along
The long road home. Village elders,
Who aren’t so old really, hang heads heavy
With all their tribal tales of warriors,
Of mastering lions, of white lies believed,
Told too often beneath the copper sun
Of evening, a sun setting on bellies
Still bloated since precious prices have shrunk.
Each minor miner sleeps uneasily,
Dreaming of gingham frocks or shirts with ties,
And bells ringing out work, ringing in school,
Pennies ringing in pockets to buy books.
Beyond their dreaming stands another boy,
A few coppers cluttering his loose change,
In deep pockets of designer trousers,
Causing unnecessary discomfort.
So he picks out the offending pence
And casts it aside with enough disdain
To merit his mates’ approval. So what!
It’s as useless to him as algebra
And all the school bored days he endures.

                                             Dave Alton