Baguettes.

There can be no doubt that the subject of baguettes is, at the moment, a contentious one, certainly in Paignton the other day when the police helicopter was called and an emergency declared. Reports of a man with two machine guns and a grenade turned out to be, on inspection, a man with two baguettes and a brioche.

 

With this in mind, yesterday in Exeter, I chanced upon an unprepossessing delicatessen, the most interesting item on the menu being a chicken mayonnaise baguette. Ever the gourmand, I ordered an example.

 

On granary bread.

 

The first bite of this lunch-time treat put me in mind of all kinds of myths, both secular and religious, modern and timeless. The expert blend of its creamy goodness mixed with bread with bits in it filled me with an instant sense of good fortune. I could not envisage how this baguette, this very example, upon which I was noshing with much relish – (a little delicatessen joke there for you) – could not fail to have its own entry on Wikipedia.

 

Yes, I mean the very baguette itself. The very one I was eating. So monumental was it in my psyche, so well proportioned, excellently appointed, that it must surely represent the heights, the nadir of baguette development and construction. Swooning, I felt the ages roll in, history in all its variety, time itself bent beyond recognition by this one chicken mayonnaise baguette on granary bread.

 

How could it not be on Wikipedia? How could it not exist on university websites, doctoral thesis, dissertations, whole departments worshipping and in awe of this one baguette?

 

I had a second bite, and it was all right. Nothing special.

 

I wandered into the street. The police helicopter hovered overhead.

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Cheltenham All Star Slam Qualifier.

Cheltenham All Star Poetry Slam

I went along to Cheltenham and took part in the qualifying event for the main All Star Slam. It was a useful exercise, if nothing else. I certainly learned a lot and came away with lots of inspiration for next year.

There was a rumour, whenever I mentioned the slam, that it is always won by someone from Cheltenham. So the idea persisted before the start that perhaps I should freely publicise the fact that the former mayor of Cheltenham, and current leader of the local Conservatives group, is also called Robert Garnham. (This is true. Check it online). I decided that this might be a tactical error.

I’d already changed the poem that I was going to do in the qualifier. I’d hoped to start with The First Time, with its raunchy content and sexual comedy, but I’d heard from various people that the audience, who judge at this slam, were very conservative, (with a small c). For this reason I decided to start with The Straight Poem, which I thought they may find wryly amusing.

Whimsical, even.

You know what will happen, I kept telling myself. I will get called to go on first. And then people won’t know what to make of me. And I shall fall by the wayside.

I attended the event with Tim King and Morwenna Griffiths. We were all good enough to qualify, I reckoned. We arrived at the venue and the audience were asked if they’d ever been to a slam before. Most of them said no. Well, I thought to myself. Whoever goes on first will lose out, because the audience won’t know what to expect. If they’ve never been to a slam or seen performance poetry, then they won’t know if the first person is good or bad. And their scoring will therefore be indifferent. Unless, of course, there’s a warm up a couple of poems beforehand for the audience to understand just what they are watching.

In quick succession, two things occurred. The first was that there was no warm up. The second was that I was picked to go first! Ignoring my reservations, I belted out The Straight Poem to the best of my abilities.

It was well received, seemingly. Tim King’s Big Pig poem was similarly enjoyed. And Morwenna brought the house down with her Black County Dialect poem. It’s going to be close, I told myself. Tim and Morwenna are probably definitely through. And I might be, too. However, I might lose marks just by being on first.

Indeed, Morwenna did go through. Like a poetry gazelle, she leapt into the All Star Slam. Tim and I were beaten by some people from Cheltenham.

We reconvened a couple of hours later to support Morwenna. We even came up with a chant: MorWinner! MorWinner!

She was beaten in the first round by some people from Cheltenham.

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Then we had to drive back to Exeter in the pouring rain . . .

Bristol Poetry Slam

Had an amazing time at the Bristol Poetry Slam last night. I didn’t really know what to expect as my only slam experience is the Exeter Poetry Slam and that strange one I did in Berlin where I was the only English speaker. I’d heard the Bristol event was huge. How right I was!

The quality of the poets was very high indeed. I’d been into Foyles book shop earlier in the day and picked up the festival brochure. Not only was I blown away by the fact that there was a picture of me on the second page, but that the entry list included Vanessa Kisuule, Steven Duncan, Tim Vosper and my good friend Samantha Boarer. So I knew it would be tough!

I sat with Sam on the front row and we chatted in order to forget just how nervous we were. Neither of us were called out in the first two groups. Then Sam went up and she did very well indeed, winning her group. I went up a couple of slots later and did The Straight Poem, which was amazingly well received. It’s a 2013 remix of the old poem and the new sections seemed to work really well. Not only did I go through to the next round, but I had the highest score of anyone so far!

I jiggled my order around and did The First Time next. It was my strongest poem and sure enough, it went down amazingly well. The audience cheered and clapped and stamped and it got a very good score putting me in to the final. Alas, Tim and Samantha fell at this stage, and I was up against Steven Duncan, who was just sublime all evening. He managed to get through to the final even with having points deducted for running over his time!

He won the toss and went first. His poem was remarkable and it received full marks from every judge. I knew then that I could not possibly emulate this. I thought of doing Fozzie, but this had subject matter close to my other two poems and I didn’t want to be typecast. I thought of The Old Lady and The Fly, but this didn’t seem right. So I went with Beard Envy. It got me the strongest haul of points of the night, but just missed out.

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Steven was a deserving and popular winner and I was more than happy with second place. We went for a drink afterwards and chatted and I felt really good at having made some new friends and seen some inspiring poets. And it was a damn good practice season for Cheltenham next weekend!

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And tomorrow is the Exeter Poetry Slam, which I’m judging. So I was left with this one thought: Just four points separated me from being Exeter and Bristol slam champions at the same time, if only for a day!