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By Norman Warwick

Today we remember a John Prine commemoration and celebrate Sue Devaney´s return to Coronation Street, and hear from some friends among Rochdale´s artists, including a book shop owner, a jazz poet and radio presenter, a ukelele player and assorted members of Those Bard From The Baum, all of whom are among the town´s most anarchic writers, and many of who are also members of the Touchstones Creative Writing Group. We also share news of a family friend who recognises that money must be raised for those charities that were doing such sterling work before covid 19 came along, but which now desperately need to re-launch. What he´s proposing to do has very little to do with the arts but it does offer us an opportunity to create one of our occasional special Sidetracks & Detours play list. His story appears at the foot of this article and his playlist is called Going For A Swim !

Joe Biden

Photo 1 Joe Biden Before all that, though, let´s look back to the recent opening night of the USA Democratic National Convention virtual experiment had its high points and low ones.

There were speeches from Democratic and a handful of Republican politicians interspersed with musical performances, pre-recorded videos, conversations with normal people who said they will vote for Joe Biden, and lots of Eva Longoria. In one of the night’s more somber moments, the Democrats broadcast an in memoriam video for the 170,500 people who have died from COVID-19 in the U.S.

Prine remember One of those Americans who died from complications COVID-19 was the great singer-songwriter John Prine, and his final recording, “I Remember Everything,” was the soundtrack to the memorial. His recording of the song is all over You Tube, and it is wonderful to see, but as you watch it you will almost certainly be reminded of one of his greatest lines, from Souvenirs, that

´I  hate graveyards and old pawn shops

 for they always bring me tears,

and I can’t forgive the way they rob me

of my childhood souvenirs.´

Soon after Prine died on April 7, his label released his last song, written with long-time collaborator Pat McLaughlin. Because the Democrats at their convention couldn’t list all 170,000-plus Americans who have died from the coronavirus, they listed occupations and other descriptors instead. Prine’s was simply Musician.

We sadly haven´t had space recently to preview news about an excellent actress who, over the past few years, has been really supportive of the Stories We Could Tell project delivered in the UK by our sister company All Across The Arts in an initiative designed to generate an interest in creative writing. Soap stars often bow out of a show and slip back into the cast a few years later. Now Sue Devaney (left)  is back on Coronation Street, as Debbie Webster, an incredible 35 years after her first stint.

And Sue, who had first been a teenager when starting out on her Corrie career, is now 53 and has starred in a host of shows in the meantime, from Dinner Ladies to Casualty, and spent many years on the road doing theatre.

She admits to some nerves stepping back on the cobbles, which began with a brief stint last year with six episodes, before her full-time return in August.

Sue says: “I got all the nerves you get starting a new job, like the first day at school but once I got there it was lovely. I thought I would be nervous playing a character I played when I was 16 and I am now 53, but it was just so easy and I loved it.

´There is something about soap that I love so I feel very lucky, and with what is going on at the moment, to have a job I feel blessed.´

In a recent post called Thank You For the Music,  13th August 2020 at Sidetracks $ Detours called Music For the Sunshine Days, I wrote about how I love hearing names fall out in conversation of artists I know nothing or little about. I love a jog of the memory that sets me off on explorations all over again.

I am not alone in this it seems, as is evidenced by a recent e mail to me and my colleague Steve Bewick.

Hi guys

Thanks for all the interesting and enjoyable music you have been playing and writing about in these months of lockdown. It’s always good to listen to other enthusiasts´ choices as well as dipping into my old favourites.

The artists on your playlist for Music For The Sunshine Days brought back some memories for me.

Sarah Vaughn

I did see Mel Tormé on stage once.  On the strength of his popular hit single, Mountain Greenery, he did a UK tour in about 1958.  He was top of the bill at The Palace Theatre in Manchester.  Around the same time I saw Sarah Vaughn there as well.

Your choice of Nat King Cole brought back a different sort of memory.  I never saw him but in 1994 and 1997 I was fortunate to go with a group of enthusiasts to Redondo Beach outside Los Angeles for West Coast Jazz and Stan Kenton conventions.  That’s where I met and got to know Roy Holmes from London, prime mover in the International Nat King Cole Society.  He wrote many articles, organised events and wrote sleeve notes for various LPs and CDs, all in appreciation of his hero.   On the second trip he insisted some of us join him on a pilgrimage to Nat Cole’s grave at Forest Lawns Memorial Park in Glendale. 

This is just one of my happy memories of those visits to the West Coast where over several days we were able to listen to and meet many of our favourite players.

There obviously have not been (m)any live events in our area of the UK recently, although it sounds as if Norman is having more luck on Lanzarote. Never mind, Steve, let’s hope we can all meet again soon at Bury Jazz.

From: George Kelsall

In the body of his own e mail to me, on which the above was attached, Steve also told me about some major steps forward he has managed to take with projects of his own. You can read more about one of these in our forthcoming article Bewick The Rhymer, to be posted on Sidetracks & Detours on Thursday 10th September.

However, apart from his jazz and radio related work, Steve has also been honing his visual arts crafts.

He explained the process to me in his e mail but every time the process seemed about to be explained, he seemed to deliberately obfuscate behind protestations of ´top secret´ and ´I can´t reveal the technique, for the present !´

Talking of presents, though, they came via snail mail to Lanzarote from Steve´s wife, Marlene, along with an age-appropriate card to wish me Happy Birthday. As always from Marlene, inside the card were various delightful literary remnants that she seems to conjure out of nowhere. The most significant of these was a 2011 poetry anthology that I vaguely recalled being included in. However, I am not at all sure I ever saw it in it´s printed form, so The Maskew Collection, published by Rochdale Borough Library Services, in collaboration I think with Cartwheel Arts, came as a delightful surprise. I was delighted to find my own poem, Distance Is, included and felt very privileged to be reminded that I was in good company, as the collection also included work from Jillian Holden, Katie Haigh, Carol Keys, Paul Jelen, Phil Hulme, Emma Holding, James Whitrow, Ann Robinson, Eileen Earnshaw, Seamus Kelly, Charlotte Henson and Ray Stearn. They are all poets for whom I have the highest regard, and yet they represent only some of the great writers encompassed in the Borough.

Literary Memorabilia Of Rochdale

Also tucked away in the literature Marlene sent me was a two-sided A4 sheet telling the story of Ann and Frank Maskew in brilliant comic book fashion, right the way from their first meeting of each other in the old Rochdale Central Library through to their bequeathing of  a huge sum of money to the library services, with a caveat that the Services aim their expenditure of the sum to focus on philosophical engagement. Out of that has been born a new collection of titles of philosophy and the annual series of  Literature And Ideas Festivals that invariably include a philosophical debate, the one entitled Why Didn´t Batman Just Kill The Joker still being fresh in my mind. I am pretty sure this comic-strip was commissioned from a local graphic arts team to commemorate the opening of The Maskew Collection.

The annual gift from Marlene is always a gift that keeps on giving, and this year she also included (but promise not to tell Steve, just in case he doesn´t know) half a dozen postcard size prints of some of the visual art work he has produced in 2020. They do for me what I want art to do for me. They intrigue me, mentally stimulate me and aesthetically please me.

The Future Is Green is a chilling image and immediately leads to questions about just what medium Steve is working in here. Are these photographs made to look like a painting or the other way round, or a fusion of the two? Nothing is clear, the carbon-emitting background is shadowed and the images of the two beings in the foreground are dark and deliberately blurred. From their size we might think there are two generations represented here, with presumably the younger one (being the smaller) leading his parent (?) away from, or towards, that industrialisation.

Marlene And Steve At Home is a clever collage of representations of a house that is a home, and yet it is fragmented, making us look carefully at each part. There seems much of Edward Hopper here and perhaps even a little American Gothic.

Sunrise On The Med is colourful and watery and,….well, almost cardiographic if held one way, and almost nuclear if held the other.

It is the black and white Winter Seas in Tel Aviv that I most love. It is almost child-like in presentation but with that same sense of wonderment that Van Gogh had for his landscapes.

What is for certain is that Steve has got a couple of really strong potential covers for the cd he will surely release of the recording we will look at in that forthcoming article, Bewick The Rhymer.

Maureen Harrison (front left) with the Edwin Waugh Dialect Society
Sidetrascks & Detours correspondent Michael Higgins (back second right)

Other Old friends in the UK also send us advance notifications sometimes too. Maureen Harrison, one of Rochdale´s Culture Vultures, tells us about an event upcoming on Sunday 13th September.

´We have zoom sessions for the poets of The Baum (a famous real ale pub on Toad Lane, Rochdale) on the second Sunday of the month at 7.30 pm and we are wondering if you could join us.  It would be lovely to ´see´ you and Dee.

If you are interested in hearing our poets and our ukulele band please can you let Robin Parker know so he can send you the link.

Life is one long round of zooming in and going out once a week for shopping´.

I used to co-host these monthly events when we ran them live while I was still in the UK until five years ago, and it will be wonderful to see one again via zoom, if I am able to master the technology. If not, I´m hoping Robin Parker or Maureen will be able to post us a brief review.

Maureen is actually quite the culture vulture, being a member of Rochdale Festival Choir as well as of a choir in Oldham. She also is not only a regular attendee at the Baum poetry nights but also similar events around the area at venues such The Ring O Bells in Middleton, as well as being a member of Touchstones Creative Writing Group, who also recently ran a first run of a zoom event in a forty minute creative writing session for their members.

In recent months Maureen has often had a little ukelele in her hand since joining the local instrumental ensemble. Sadly though, that means she might never receive from us an invitation for a holiday here on Lanzarote. Our island is home to the timple, a sister instrument to the ukelele and the thought of Maureen, an irrepressible performer, bursting into our very reverential timple museum and bursting out in George Formby songs could well see us having our citizenships revoked !

It seems like the Baum´s zoom audience could include several old friends we haven´t see for years, such as Robin Parker, Eileen Earnshaw, Katie Haigh and Maureen Harrison and, I would guess, on or two of of our regular contributors, Steve Bewick and Michael Higgins, who both keep in touch pretty regularly by e mail or fb anyway. In fact we heard from Michael only this weekend, in an informative piece.

I enjoyed your Julian Bream article of the 20th August. A high school class mate- a sometime girl companion- was involved with promoting him in Toronto, as her father was chairman of the committee which arranged an annual concert. I still have a boxed LP set with him (on lute) and his Bream consort playing Elizabethan music. I also have one with him and Peter Pears. I preferred Bream´s lute playing to his guitar and am now bemused to read he perfected his lute skills by adapting his guitar technique. I recall being roped in by the lady in question to a Selma protest outside the American Embassy (I sympathised but am not really a pavement placard-wielder) when I slipped away to buy the Rolling Stones Now LP with Off the Hook and the Little Red Rooster on – Not Bream, of course, but they were playing him on the loop. I later went back to get my prized Bream. I learnt the Album’s ‘O Mistress Mine where are you roaming’ song from his recordings and have sung it many times since.  

The article of mine that Michael is referring to was actually an obituary for Julian Bream, so it might somehow be strangely fitting if at the Baum Zoom I would be ´there ìn the audience´ to hear Michael give us his version of O Mistress Mine. However, Michael is also hugely interested, as our regular readers will know, in dialect preservation, so I had written to him a few days earlier to very belatedly alert him to a Radio 4 programme that was to be broadcast from an annual dialect completion in Blackpool. I wasn´t the only one to have made him aware of it, as he told me in this e mail below.

Sid Calderbank (a local dialect poet in the Rochdale area)  posted Sunday’s BBC Dialect Day radio programme you mentioned on the Lancashire Society Facebook page so I can catch up with it this afternoon when I have some peace and quiet.

I have not had much other arts news recently, except from Canada. My friend Jill Shakley (and silent partner author James) have published their Wodehouse Jeeves and Wooster book, Three On A Match at Friesen Press. I found it altogether in the Jeeves and Wooster vein and very well written in the Wodehouse style. Jill tells me that she did contact the Wodehouse Estate but got a delayed confusing reply which set her betwixt common sense, copywrite law and the publishers’ zeal and legal team. Jill has promised only one sequel and I am pretty sure that she has invented all the other characters anyway. It is a story told by Bertie after an escapade away from the guiding hand of Jeeves.

The Wodehouse Estate seemed to lost contact for a year but are now coming to terms with the publication. Apparently they could not stop publication legally but I get the hint they may not bother with a dispute. Or at least I hope not as I laughed all the way through it and am hungry for the sequel.

Michael himself is not only a local historian, dialectician, performance poet, vocalist and musician, and says,

I am writing something on folk dancing and reality at the moment. The Britannia Coconut Dancers of Bacup have issued a statement saying they will not be told to stop blacking their faces despite threats that support from The Morris Ring is likely to be removed if they continue in the cuirrent style. That would mean The Britannia Coconut Dancers of Bacup would not continue to benefit from all that the umbrella group offers, such as cheap public liability insurance. So, it seems they are leaving the Morris Ring and carrying on the black face tradition. Officially they trace lineage to 1857 but I have unearthed a Margaret Lahee fictional romance which traces local Rochdale tradition to 1811 or thereabouts. And Lord Byron is in the story as lord of the manor !

Whilst sharing news of effects of the lockdowns in the North West, Michael also responded to a recent Sidetracks & Detours post, discussing the controversy about lyrics to standard songs of The Proms, and offered to re-write some more appropriate lyrics (!) 

He also told us that Greater Manchester (or SE Lancs/NE Cheshire/Yorks and Derbyshire borders if you prefer) are still under extended Coronavirus measures but the Oldham area is threatened with a full lockdown. He even attached a copy a poster, hand delivered,  the previous day.

This means that Royton Local History Society can’t meet and may not be able to until the new year; hence there will be no September Bugle, the group newsletter, which I edit, nor a December one at this rate. It saves me doing research and writing but as all the archives are shut I am blocked at both ends. 

The Edwin Waugh Dailect Society (of which Michael serves as Chair) opens the year every October but I do not know how confident or able the members will be about any sort of opening until they feel safer and more reassured- so many fall into the age groups deemed as vulnerable.

Still, everyone seems quite happy with the Zoom Baum, and Robin went some way to explaining why in a recent e mail.

The Baum and virtual Baum have been doing quite well recently, much due to an influx of new performers from U3A Littleborough. Eileen Earnshaw and I co-chair the readings and Katie sorts out the techie bits. We do the same is previous, one item per person per half. Drinks are considerably cheaper, though, in the virtual Baum; Banks 500ml bottled bitter, 89p ALDI!

Robin Parker, co-founder of these poetry events at the Baum has been alluded to on these pages previously for his book, The Edenfield Scrolls, a collection of Bible stories re-set in a Rochdale location. He has recently penned a sequel to The Lion And Albert which speaks of how all the characters cope with Covid, and in a David Bowie celebration, riff talks about the relationship between the BBC and ´Sir Colonel Tom´, who has come to recent fame with valiant efforts of his own. No doubt we will hear more about these when we visit The Baum night on line in a week´s time.

We look forward to meeting up again with a lot of old friends, but sadly won´t have the opportunity with my former performance poetry partner Catherine Coward as her husband Harry is currently somewhat poorly, but we wish him well and hopes he makes a full recovery to come and holiday with us again here on Lanzarote.

Still, it is great to hear that Rochdale is beginning to awaken from its covid-induced slumbers, albeit after waking to a few false dawns first.

The streets in the cities and towns and villages in England were, of course, deserted for many weeks but in Rochdale that might have been less due to coronavirus than to the arrival of dippy the dinosaur, from the its museum home in London, coming up North to a new lair in Number One Riverside in Rochdale. No sooner had Dippy taken up residence in the building that is the home of the borough´s central library and council offices, and now Dippy, than the premises was closed to the public.

Several months later we now hear two pieces of news in the same week. The first piece we heard was from last week´s Rochdale Observer  about footage of Dippy´s new habitat and a revision of its life story being made available at https://bit.ly/2Xgw5ai and further news emerged that Number One Riverside may also soon re-open to the public.

We at Sidetracks & Detour will continue to seek out positive good news items for our readers in the UK and throughout The Canary Islands. We are receiving an ever increasing stream of fliers announcing live (or these days zoom) events and we are always grateful to those who support us in this way.

theatre at San Bartolome, Lanzarote

For instance, a recent e mail from Maria Garcia, an organiser of cultural events in the San Bartolome area of Lanzarote, responded to a review we published on our Lanzarote Information on-line platform as well as here on Sidetracks & Detours. It sounds like Maria will try to keep us informed of live concerts taking place across the municipality´s many wonderful venues, when she says,

´I’m very grateful for your words. Your assessment is very important to us.  I have spoken to the artists about your work and they say  collaboration will be very welcome. From now on I will send you all the information about our municipal cultural events. Thank you for your co-operation.´

One of the side benefits of the universal fight against covid19 is that the more isolated we become the more we all seem to enjoy staying in touch with others from wherever we are and sharing our news.  Several of our friends who are home owners here on Lanzarote are currently back in the UK because of various restrictions, self-imposed or otherwise, designed to repel the pandemic.

Some Lanzarote neighbours of ours, currently back home in their UK home in Harrogate, reminded us in a recent e mail that while much help is needed by those who suffer illness or loss of a loved one from Coronavirus, there are still people requiring charitable help to combat other problems, too. Therefore, our neighbour´s son, a man we have met several times when he has come to stay at his parent´s home on the island, will attempt to swim across the English Channel later this month to raise money for Parkinson’s UK and the Alzheimer’s Society.  

Richard Boyle
going for a swim

The tough physical challenge will involve Richard Boyle swimming 35km in approximately 12 hours on 23rd September. The former rugby player will cross from Samphire Hoe, in Dover, to Cap Gris–Nez, near Calais. Richard has a fundraising target of £12,000, and has currently raised 89% of this amount.  

Due to the closure of swimming baths in the UK during lockdown, Richard has been training in suitable outdoor stretches of water. Recently his hard work paid off when he completed an 18km swim in 6 hours.  

A few years ago, Richard had to give up rugby following a back injury. Focusing on a new sport has helped him to process this change. 

He told ´The Stray Ferret´*  that ´taking up swimming has helped plug that gap, so I have signed up to swim the English Channel in September, which is one of the toughest open water swims going.´

This was as an opportunity for Richard to raise money for causes close to his heart. With his grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s, and his godfather from Parkinson’s, he decided to fundraise to support them.

He explains that ´Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are two diseases which have touched my family. Both conditions are cruel and unrelenting.

They strip those closest to you of characteristics which make them the person you know. I feel passionate about raising money to support them, and in doing so we will raise money to find a cure, help the people living with the illnesses, and also support their family and friends.´  

Parkinson’s UK drives for better care, treatments and quality of life for those living with the disease. Alzheimer’s Society is the UK’s leading dementia charity. They both campaign for change, fund research and support people living with dementia today. 

Richard’s fundraising page can be found at: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RBchannelswim

*Meanwhile, I´m sure you are all wondering what on earth is The Stray Ferret. Actually the description is as intriguing as the name itself.

The Stray Ferret is an independent online news service for the Harrogate district. It offers a platform from which people in the District can ask questions, share their views and voice opinions on issues of public importance.

Their journalists seek transparency about how public money is spent and to hold to  account those in power who spend it. 

The team of journalists in the Stray Ferret newsroom is trained and experienced, sharing core journalistic principles of accuracy, fairness, independence and impartiality.

It sounds a lot like The Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) we remember when living in thAT town, that shone a light into some thE Borough´s nooks and crannies for several years.

Meanwhile my Sidetracks & Detours blog site compiled and published the following i pod playlist that readers could play on 23rd September, as if to accompany Richard on his swim.

Strange Rivers                                         by John Stewart

Surely, all human life and marine life is there, with John Stewart´s wonderful song looking, metapohorically, at how water pulls us along.

Nightswimming                                        by REM

REM acknowledge beautifully that we all go nightswimming in some way or other, for a variety of reasons,

Banks Of The Guadalupe                      by The Flatlanders

The Flatlanders, the world´s greatest exponents of Americana, describe the sheer beauty of a swimming hole by night.

Swimming Ground                                  by Meat Puppets

The jazzy and bouncy beat of The Meat Puppets would help Richard keep going tough when the going gets tough

Channel Swimmer                                   by 10cc

10cc are always irresistible on any play list, and their channel swimmer enjoys all their usual high production values

Swimming                                                 by Breathe Owl Breathe

Swimming by Breathe Owl Breathe is a similarly gorgeously produced dreamy duet.

Albatross                                                  by Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac´s Albatross would surely be perfect for those few short minutes when Richard might need to tread water.

Moon River                                              by Henry Mancini

Moon River is equally tranquil, and languid; a place of calmer waters, but that repeated line of ´wider than a mile´ might to often remind Richard of how much he has undertaken, so I offer him instead the lazy instrumental version by its composer.

Somewhere Down The Crazy River     by Robbie Robertson

As he nears the end of his swim he will be looking for his first sight in a while of dry land, and he will begin wondering if the natives will be friendly and what kind of reception he might be given. Robbie Robertson´s captures all the excitement and slight apprehension Richard will by then be feeling.

Octopusses´Garden                                by The Beatles

When he eventually steps back on to terra firma on wobbly legs he can celebrate with an eight wobbly-legged version of Ringo´s Octopusses´ Garden to wow the British and French members of his welcoming committee.

Richard Boyle
testing the water

Good luck Richard.

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