Begone Before We Weep, Young Vicar, Go

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On the occasion of the Reverend Ben Rundell-Evans’ last Holy Communion service at St. John the Baptist, Devizes, before his departure to Upper Stour

We’ll miss you in the vestry, little priest
And in the choir where we hear you sing
And at the altar where you share the feast
On Sunday mornings.  Nineteen bells to ring
In Stourton, Bourton, Kilmington, and Zeals
Three sets of six, and one for chiming hung
And practices on Mondays – silent peals
Unspoken hymns of glory softly sung
We’ll miss you, little priest.  You tidy up
The vestry, and are humorous and kind
The reverence with which you hold the cup
Is absolute.  And oh, your lively mind –
So wise for one so young, so good to know
Begone before we weep, young vicar, go

© Gail Foster 6th December 2019

The Elusive Danny Kruger

Why Danny, so cute, but elusive
Ornamental and yet unobtrusive
Preferring to stay
At the end of the day
In locations a tad more exclusive

Why Danny, you see, while there’s cheese
In the pond and the voters to please
You could pop into town
Take the M4 and down
To Devizes (one ‘z’ and two ‘e’s)

Why Danny, you’ve come from above
Like a glorious bright Tory dove
With the light on your wings
And your parachute strings
And a note signed from Boris with love

Why Danny, we’ve hoodies that you
Can hug if you’re so moved to do
And a little white horse
And a Poundland of course
(that’s a ‘P’ and two ‘d’s and a ‘u’)

Why Danny, we wish you were here
Come the day will you even appear
Perhaps in The Bear
Or the Pelican, yeah
Bet you won’t pop in there for a beer

Why Danny, Devizes is nice
But in Wiltshire there’s mud and there’s ice
And Hammersmith’s so
Very pleasant you know
(Spell Devizes? One ‘D’ and ‘e’ twice)

Why Danny, you’re cute enough, true
But you’re Boris’s man through and through
And you’ll only appear
About four times a year
(There’s no ‘u’ in Devizes. Who knew)

© Gail Foster 4th December 2019

UPDATE:  This morning, much to my surprise, I received a poetic retort from Danny Kruger (see below).   Whilst I won’t be voting for him, one has to say Well Played.

Leaving Brexit Behind Us Forever

 

Why Gail, so full of surprises!

Thanks for the tips on spelling Devizes

I’m sure that we’ve met

But I haven’t seen yet

Through one of your many disguises

 

Are you the farmer from Manton who said

Have Defra gone off their head?

They’ve banned neonics

(The fleabeetle fix)

And so half my rape crop is dead

 

Or were you the soldier who proudly explained

This is how Yeomen are trained:

We leave them out in the rain

For a month on the Plain

And those that survive are retained

 

Perhaps you’re the teacher from Oare

Who said schools badly need more

Money – they’ll get it!

Sajid has said it!

The Budget will cough up for sure

 

But seriously, Gail, I’ll endeavour

To bring our country together

We’re badly divided

(Did you vote Leave? I did)

And I want Brexit behind us for ever

 

© Danny Kruger 6th December 2019

 

Bus Stop Equinox

Bus Stop Equinox by Gail Foster

A sonnet on the subject of the Autumn Equinox,
and being at the bus stop at Avebury

Has Summer gone? Oh God, she was divine
Those crazy kisses, that incessant heat
Last seen by The Red Lion on the street
And off to Swindon on the 49 –
Another bus is coming, so it’s fine
That Autumn makes an old heart skip a beat
Her hazy colours, and her scents as sweet
As blackberries that tumble from the vine

We stand here by the bus stop, and the breeze
Blows chillier than yesterday – we wait
She won’t be long, although she’s sometimes late
(Devizes traffic, everyone agrees)
Less leaves than yesterday – we watch them fall
She has to come from Trowbridge, after all

© Gail Foster 21st September 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…

‘As You Like It’ at The Wharf Theatre

 

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I went to the dress rehearsal for the Wharf Theatre’s production of ‘As You Like It’, directed by Liz Sharman, on Sunday.

Described as a pastoral comedy, ‘As You Like It’ is thought to have been written in 1599 and would have been played to an audience of mixed social status and varying degrees of education.  Not being familiar with the play I did some reading before I went, and not for the first time was amazed at the extraordinary level of analysis that has been applied to it over the years.

What if sometimes Shakespeare just wrote stuff for fun?

‘As You Like It’ is a story of lovers and fools, relationships and rivalry, romance and reconciliation.

Duke Senior, having been deposed by his brother Duke Frederick, has set up camp in the Forest of Arden.  Back in the court his daughter Rosalind has fallen in love with Orlando, the son of one of Duke Frederick’s enemies, during a wrestling match arranged by Orlando’s brother Oliver in order to get rid of him.

Asa result of the wrestling match both Rosalind and Orlando are separately cast out of the court.  Rosalind dresses as a man and takes to the forest with Celia, Duke Frederick’s daughter, who disguises herself as Rosalind’s sister, and Touchstone, a jester.  Orlando, accompanied by his elderly servant Adam, also takes to the forest, and occupies himself looking for Rosalind and leaving appalling poetry in trees.

Other characters of note are Jacques, a fool/traveller/hermit, shepherds Corin, Silvius and Phoebe, and Audrey, a goatherd, and smaller parts include a vicar, the Spirit of Summer, singers and minor lords.

The set was simple and effective, with a plain white backdrop and flowers, and trees indicated by struts of wood and subtle coloured shadows.  Characters were dressed in a combination of Victorian and present-day dress, and the songs (there are more songs in this than in any other Shakespeare play) were folky and traditional with hey nonny nos and contemporary overtones.

Actors, then; what struck me most was the different ways they handled the complex script.  There are two ways to read Shakespeare, full on theatrical and naturalistic, and both styles were mingled here with good results.  Whilst it was easy to spot the trained actors in this show everyone delivered their lines well and there were very few hiccups.

Helen Langford played a feisty and modern Rosalind (the largest female part in Shakespeare) with admirable principal boy verve and mischief, and Lucy Upward gave a fine performance as her cousin and confidante, Celia.  Lewis Cowen was suitably regal and wise as Duke Senior, and Phil Greenaway (in his first Shakespeare role), and Duncan Delmar played Orlando and Silvius respectively in endearingly hapless and lovelorn fashion.

But it was the fools who stole the show for me.  There’s a lot about foolishness and wisdom in this play, and it is the fools and the folk of the fields who have the best lines.

‘All the world’s a stage’ muses the melancholy and world-weary Jacques, played by Oli Beech with glorious floridity, and ‘The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool’ says Touchstone, played as a charismatic Northern lad by Daz Beatson.

‘As You Like It’ is full of sage advice on love and life, comedy moments, and fine little intricate speeches.  I enjoyed Touchstone’s explanation of the seven causes and Jacques’ performance of the seven ages of man; I laughed at the vicar on the scooter and the phrases ‘country copulatives’ and ‘the horn, the horn, the lusty horn’, at Abigail Newton’s hilarious portrayal of Audrey the clumsy goatherd, at the sheep noises (not sure I was supposed to laugh at that bit), and at Orlando’s terrible poetry; I thought the wrestling was exciting, and the music wistful (credit to Stuart Mayling for his musical and wrestling skills), and I liked the wordplay.

And I looked for the grand themes referred to in my researches on Google.

Echoes of Ecclesiastes, echoes of Arcadia – oh it’s deep enough in places, and the more intellectual types in Shakespeare’s audience would have found plenty to delight them. You could analyse this play till the sheep come home (four centuries of analysis, for goodness’ sake!) but it is predominantly a wild and witty romp, and I think Liz Sharman’s wonderfully lively and watchable production hit exactly the right note.

Shakespeare wrote this for fun, and The Wharf Theatre’s production of ‘As You Like It’ is a fun show.

Shakespeare, fun?  Yes, really!

Well done.

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© Gail Foster 11th March 2019

(review and photographs)

The MP for Devizes, Claire Perry

Written to mark the occasion of the Rt Hon Claire Perry MP’s recent appearance on Question Time…

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The MP for Devizes, Claire Perry
Used to be fragrant and merry
Now she’s pointy and bitey
And not that politey
And bitter as bargain bin sherry

Our MP, the Honourable Claire
Has teeth that she quite likes to bare
In public debate
But her hair’s really great
And she did crack a blowjob joke. Yeah.

Claire Perry, MP for Devizes
Is worthy of Parliament prizes
At home we handle
Our bell, book, and candle
Whenever her presence arises

*

© Gail Foster 17th November 2018

‘The Blacksmith’s Craft’; John Girvan at Wiltshire Museum

 

‘The Blacksmith’s Craft’ exhibition; a review

John Girvan.  He’s the ghost walk guy, the man who has the Canal Forge, the bloke who writes about the dungeons, prisons, and tunnels of Devizes.  He might have made your gate.  You might have been to his forge with your school.  You might have spotted him dressed as a Norman and wielding his massive weapon on the Market Cross.  You might have seen him on the telly with Derek Acorah.  You might have one of his books on your shelf.

What you may not know about him is that he once worked for Burtons, that he trained as a blacksmith under Laurence Love, that he has been a member of The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society since he was a boy, and that until September 23rd you can see a selection of his work in ‘The Blacksmith’s Craft’ exhibition at Wiltshire Museum on Long Street, Devizes.

I went to a short talk that John gave before looking at his pieces.  He’s full of quips and anecdotes, and his delivery is gently camp and self-deprecating.  He showed some old photos of himself at work in the forge (he had that Angela Rippon in there once, don’t you know).  He taught us why a blacksmith’s apron has a fringe at the bottom (it’s for sweeping the anvil).  He showed a video of himself hot forging a scroll.   He told us that he made the bunker door at Browfort, the gates of St. Andrew’s, and the seat above the White Horse, and that he’s made a handful of chastity belts, and more weather-vanes than you can shake one of his finely forged pokers at.  He spoke animatedly about his workshops with children over the years, and enthusiastically about repoussé.  ‘Strike while the iron’s hot!’ he said, sparkily.

The Wiltshire Museum describes his exhibition as ‘rural traditional art’.  To me John’s work falls in to four categories; practical objects / folk art (pokers, gates, metal flowers), fun stuff for kids (what child doesn’t like a cheerful robot or a cheeky spider?), experimental works, and Very Beautiful Things.

Recent experimental works include various ladies made out of chicken wire, ‘The Three Graces’ (mixed metals), and ‘Aphrodite’, the face of a woman made of mesh with metal eyes and lips.  I could take or leave the lively chicken wire ladies, but ‘Aphrodite’ got better the longer you looked at her (many people did, and it was The Mayor’s favourite piece), ‘The Three Graces’ had a certain elegance to them, and the shadows cast by the sculptures on the wall greatly enhanced the effect of both works.

By Very Beautiful Things I mean the glorious sconces, the acanthus leaf, the flora and flourishes, the ‘King’s Chair’ with its delicate ironwork, the beaten copper leaves, ‘The Hand of the Smith’, the hot forged horses’ heads, the tiny fronds and spirals spinning from things, the witty little metal snakes and snails.

I’m not sure all these things belong in the same room in an ideal world, but the juxtaposition of the ‘Iron Mask’, one of the few nods to John’s interest in the macabre, with the humorous robot was interesting.

I asked John about his favourite piece.  ‘You’ll laugh’ he said.  Bet I don’t, I thought.  ‘It’s this’ he said, and pointed to ‘Juncture’, which is ‘two dissimilar weights of steel requiring different temperatures of heat to bring them together, set in oak’.

It’s heavy.  It’s light.  It’s simple, complex, angular, fluid, and stark.  And Very Beautiful.

John is winding down the Canal Forge these days.  He’s been there since 1980.  I asked him why.  ‘You can’t go on forever’ he said, with a twinkle in his eye.  He has a forge in his garden now, and you just know that he is going to carry on making beautiful interesting humorous things and striking while the iron’s hot until the day his fire goes out.

‘I’ve had to show people what I can do’ he said in his talk earlier.

John Girvan.  Blacksmith, artist, historian, humorist.

Go and see what he can do.

© Gail Foster 30th July 2018