Oh God, It’s The Conservatives

Oh God, it’s the Conservatives
Dear, must we have them round for tea?
They’re such a shifty bunch of spivs
Oh God, it’s the Conservatives
As slimy as and armed with shivs
For stabbing those who disagree
Oh God, it’s the Conservatives
Dear, must we have them round for tea?

Oh God, it’s Johnson and McVey
and Sayid Javid. He’s a cock
And Gove and Raab have come to play
Oh God, it’s Johnson and McVey
I’m frightened. Make them go away
Be quiet and ignore the knock
Oh God, it’s Johnson and McVey
and Sayid Javid. He’s a cock

Oh God, they’ve seen us. Gove is at
The window waving. Now we’re fucked
Coee! Says Sayid. Rat a tat!
Oh God they’ve seen us. Gove is at
The door with Andrea, and that
Is Johnson with his shirt untucked
Oh God, they’ve seen us. Gove is at
The window waving. Now we’re fucked

Oh God, it’s the Conservatives
Too late to stop them coming in
And cutting lines up with their shivs
Oh God, it’s the Conservatives
All bullshit and superlatives
Lock up your daughters and the gin
Oh God, it’s the Conservatives
Too late to stop them coming in

© Gail Foster 11th June 2019

 

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John Simpson at Devizes Arts Festival

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John Simpson at the Corn Exchange, Friday 31st May

One would expect a reporter of John Simpson’s standing and experience to be very careful and specific with his choice of words.

Simpson has been with the BBC for 52 years and has reported on 47 wars.  He is a man whose words are to be listened to, and on Friday night a packed house at the Corn Exchange were curious and enthusiastic to hear what he had to say and ask him questions about his long career and the state of the world as we know it today.

The man is all bon homie and old school decency, and one suspects that his affability and fair manner have got him out of many a sticky situation.  He starts off light, laughing about being punched on his first day on the job and being mistaken for David Attenborough, and chatting about family.  He has a book to promote but avoids saying much about that at all.

He talks about the BBC, saying that these days there is opposition from all sides towards the organisation and that he’s never been told to tone it down in all the years he has worked for them.  He talks about Trump, his ‘habit of tweeting insanities’ and strategy of giving away positions and key elements before presenting final agreements as amazing victories.  He’s disappointed that the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests will be overshadowed by Trump’s visit to the UK. He says that Gaddafi was off his head, that Saddam Hussein scared him, and that al-Bashir was weak and wanted to be liked.  He liked Thatcher, although ‘When she was good she was very very good and when she was bad she was something else’. He says that Mandela treated people as the best version of themselves and waxes lyrical about his admiration for Václav Havel. He acknowledges that China is to be taken very seriously indeed and thinks that the best strategy is to keep it in play.  China is, says Simpson, surprisingly open and anxious to be part of the international community.

He saves his most emotive words for how he feels about Britain today. ‘The line of confrontation’ he says, ‘is very disturbing indeed’. He compares the UK to France in the 50s, which was, he says ‘extraordinarily violent’.  He says that there is a ‘vicious divide which stirs up the weakest intellects’.  He talks about the ‘disgraceful’ messages that his colleague Laura Kuenssberg gets on social media and says that he holds social media responsible for the current ‘nastiness and violence’, for which he gets a round of applause.  He refers to ‘disturbing threats to freedom’ and says that he feels more able to talk freely about other countries than our own these days.  He’s dismayed to see our reputation plummet in the eyes of the world.  ‘It’s painful to find that Britain has become an international joke’ and ‘It’s important to realise the way we’ve damaged our country’.

He wonders if Brexit was ‘the tinder that started the whole performance’ but stops short of apportioning blame to any particular entity. ‘This Brexit business is going to change things’ he says sadly, wishing that we could be ‘back the way we were before all this started’.

There are points where Simpson catches himself just before he falls into an abyss of pessimism and says something about hope.  He does, after all, have a young son to be optimistic for.  Terrorism is 7 or 8% of what it was in the seventies, he says, and a billion have been lifted out of poverty in the past 13 years.  But when it comes to Britain he struggles to find any positives at all, and this from a man like Simpson is disturbing.  ‘We need to try and be less divisive ourselves and more accepting of other points of view’, he says, wishing for the best but sounding as if he is whistling in the wind.

He sticks rigidly to his three-quarter hour talk and fifteen-minute Q&A plan, but then he didn’t get where he is today by faffing about.  Those who wanted endless war stories are disappointed, but those who wanted his views on current situations are not.  He signs books afterwards and is very approachable.

I ask people what they thought of the great man. ‘His description of Mandela – it revealed that what we all hoped to be true of him actually was’ says one audience member.  ‘Honest’, ‘Genuine’, ‘Empowering’, and ‘Awe-inspiring’, say others.  ‘I was sitting there thinking what have I done with my life’ says my friend. The general feeling is that it has been a privilege to hear John Simpson speak, and that people have been delighted by his wit.

And then off he goes, with shrapnel in his side and a shard of hope in his heart, to his next adventure.

In the Market Place I take a picture of him smiling.

© Gail Foster 3rd June 2019

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The Stonemason

My Lady’s eyes are blind with smoke
And I must stand and watch her burn
I made her out of stone and oak
My Lady’s eyes are blind with smoke
And flames are catching on her cloak
I pray to God the wind will turn
My Lady’s eyes are blind with smoke
And I must stand and watch her burn

I made her out of oak and stone
And blue and red and light and glass
My Lady mine and mine alone
I made her out of oak and stone
Of blood and sweat and broken bone
But God has spoken ~ all things pass
I made her out of oak and stone
And blue and red and light and glass

Her smoking beauty burns my eyes
But I will raise her up again
Her ashes fill the Paris skies
Her smoking beauty burns my eyes
Behold the Phoenix! See her rise!
What mysteries God speaks to men
Her smoking beauty burns my eyes
But I will raise her up again

© Gail Foster 16th April 2019

 

My Name Is Ruth ~ a Devizes rhyme

You may have heard of me. My name is Ruth
It’s written on the Cross for all to see
I cried on God as witness to the truth
And died, and here inscribed my history
The tales they told of me – they said I lied
Defied my God before I breathed my last
They said they found the money hid inside
My hand when half a century had passed
You will have heard of me. A widow, I
Came all the way from Potterne in the rain
In winter, to the Market Place, to buy
Eternal shame – I only came for grain
All Wiltshire’s heard of me. My name is Ruth
I may have lied. To God be known the truth

© Gail Foster 12th April 2019

Link to more information here

And audio…

White Horse Opera; Spring Concert 2019

The Assembly Room in Devizes Town Hall, with its sparkling chandeliers and grand paintings, was the perfect venue for White Horse Opera’s glamorous Spring Concert on Friday.

Musical Director Ronald Melia and pianist Tony James took the company through a programme comprised of songs from Carmen and The Mikado, White Horse Opera’s forthcoming November show and touring opera respectively, with additional pieces by Puccini, Dvorak, Gounod, Mozart, and Flanders and Swann, and renditions of ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Santa Lucia’ from guest tenor and clarinetist Sebastiano Cipolla.

The show started in lively fashion with two duets from The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro, performed with delightful delicacy and chemistry by Jessica Phillips and Jon Paget; followed by Barbara Gompels soaring through Donde Lieta from La Bohème; Paula Boyagis singing Seguidilla and Card Aria from Carmen; and Charles Leeming singing The Sentry’s Song from Iolanthe (‘When in that house MPs divide…they’ve got to leave that brain outside’) with topical tweaks.  The first half concluded with a selection of pieces from the Mikado including the Willow Song and Three Little Maids.

The second half contained an ensemble from The Magic Flute (Chrissie Higgs, Louise Surowiec, Paula Boyagis, and Lisa House); Cherubino’s aria from The Marriage of Figaro (a ‘breeches’ song, as in a boy’s song performed by a girl, well done by Chrissie Higgs); Paula again singing A Word on My Ear, a funny Flanders and Swann song about a tone deaf singer which perversely showcases a whole range of musical tricks; Barbara singing the heart rending Song to the Moon by Dvorak beautifully (reminiscent of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, methinks); Sebastiano Cipolla and his clarinet; Lisa House’s pure voice powering through The Jewel Song from Faust; and then the entire company singing a medley from Carmen ending with the rousing March of the Toreadors.

There was much to like and admire in this show.  I enjoyed Graham Billing’s bashful and witty Ko-Ko, and his Little List song.  Being somewhat surprised to hear Ant and Dec and Boris mentioned in a White Horse Opera show I wondered whether it was traditional to update the references (it is, but it seems to have become more usual to do so since Eric Idle performed the song in the 80s).

It’s hard to say just how magnificent and moving some of these singers’ voices are, and impossible not to be impressed by the vocal acrobatics that opera demands.  Barbara Gompels and Lisa House produced some notes that thrilled me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, and there were many other technical excellences and moving musical moments in the show from individual singers and the company as a whole.

But what impressed me most was the acting, particularly in the first duets, Jon Paget’s assertive and impressive Escamillo, and Paula Boyagis in everything she did.

One got the impression that Paula was in her element given the Flanders and Swann number, the Card Aria, and the passionate Carmen to get her teeth into.  She glittered, smouldered, flirted, pouted, sashayed up and down the aisle swirling her red skirts, seduced the audience and sang her wild gypsy heart out.  She’s a superb Carmen and a versatile singer and actress and I look forward to seeing her play the role in November.

Last but by no means least – Sebastiano Cipolla and his mellifluous voice and clarinet.  His lovely liquid jazz interpretation of Danny Boy was like nothing I have ever heard before, and his use of the clarinet as a prop in Santa Lucia was hilarious.  It’s good to be surprised by things, and Sebastian’s performance left me feeling that I had experienced something unusual and delicious.

I have to say that I found the whole night rather lively and surprising.  I’ve enjoyed White Horse Opera’s shows before but this one knocked spots off the rest and I think that’s for two reasons; one, that the shape of the Town Hall stage suits a static chorus with room for only a few actors, and two, that the energy levels and confidence of the entire company appeared to be sky high.

I thought White Horse Opera’s Spring Concert was wonderful, and afterwards people who know far more than me about opera agreed.

© Gail Foster 30th March 2019

The Day That Brexit Broke My Brain

The day that Brexit broke my brain
The sun was shining I recall
And in my head there was a pain
The day that Brexit broke my brain
The voices came and said again
‘Dividing, all dividing, all’
The day that Brexit broke my brain
The sun was shining I recall

Last night I stayed up late to see
Our Parliament in disarray
And dreams of Bedlam came to me
Last night I stayed up late to see
The frenzy and insanity
That’s Britain as it is today
Last night I stayed up late to see
Our Parliament in disarray

‘Division!’ And again the call
The knell of the division bell
Dividing, all dividing, all
‘Division!’ And again the call
And all divided and we fall
In broken pieces into hell
‘Division!’ And again the call
The knell of the division bell

The sun is out and you may sing
Your hopeful songs with fingers crossed
And wonder what today will bring
The sun is out and you may sing
Of hope and keep on whistling
My voices say that hope is lost
The sun is out and you may sing
Your hopeful songs with fingers crossed

The day that Brexit broke my brain
The sun was shining I recall
And in my head there was a pain
The day that Brexit broke my brain
The voices came and said again
‘Dividing, all dividing, all’
The day that Brexit broke my brain
The sun was shining I recall

© Gail Foster 26th March 2019

 

Be Sure To Keep Your Knickers On!

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~ A Rhyme for Spring ~

*

Winter packed a bag for Spring
Stay warm, she said, it’s chill
And always have your knickers on
I will, said Spring, I will

Watch out for Summer, Winter said
He’ll blind you with his light
And try to get your knickers off
I might, said Spring, I might

Winter sewed a dress for Spring
Beware the wind may blow
Be sure to have your knickers on
I know, said Spring, I know

Watch out for Summer, don’t forget
He’ll take you to his bed
And then he’ll take your knickers off
I know, said Spring, you said

Winter made a cake for Spring
And put a charm inside
To make you keep your knickers on
Oh no, said Spring, and sighed

Watch out for Summer’s little tricks
And don’t be fooled, my child
He’ll want to take your knickers off
I know, said Spring, and smiled

Winter made a crown for Spring
Of light and darkness linked
Be sure to keep your knickers on!
Of course, said Spring, and winked

*

© Gail Foster March 23rd 2019

This rhyme was written for and performed at the Spring Equinox Gorsedd of Caer Abiri, Avebury, England