Tag Archives: Lambent Dreams

Cultured, like what I am


Two ladies of my acquaintance were discussing how to eat sushi.

One wondered whether her method of eating sushi was cultured. Her method consists of picking it up with her fingers and putting it in her mouth.

Apparently the correct method is picking your sushi up with chopsticks; then dropping it on the floor, picking it up with your fingers and putting it in your mouth.

Getting back to the start of the discussion, somebody posted a link to an article which basically listed the stuff people think you need to know to be ‘cultured’.

Culture is strange stuff. Bacteria have culture, pearls are also cultured. So I looked at the article. It was in the Daily Mail, so obviously the people who read that newspaper feel that culture is especially important.

But then I looked at some of the things on the list. Some were obvious choices, ‘know what wine goes with what’, but others were things like ‘Doesn’t skip the news when it’s on TV’ and ‘Watch documentaries’.

Some threw me entirely, what common factor connects;-

Be able to use chopsticks

Collect music on vinyl

Read Wikipedia articles

Only eat local produce

Apparently if you do these things, you’re ‘cultured’.

Anyway you can see the whole list on http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3240407/Owning-library-card-watching-subtitled-films-skilled-use-chopsticks-traits-make-cultured.html

So perhaps to be cultured you’ve got be educated enough to read, smart enough to enjoy it, and wise enough to keep an eye on the world around you?

But actually this definition doesn’t work. The purpose of culture is that you (and those worthy souls you feel warrant inclusion) have a reason to look down on those who don’t fulfil your arbitrary criteria.

Culture is a ‘lay’ version of jargon. Professions have jargon which only the professionals are fluent in. This means members of the same profession can talk to each other, knowledgeably and incomprehensibly in front of those lesser beings without the law. This keeps the lower orders firmly in their place and by excluding them as unlearned justifies the professional’s well earned salary.

For groups who don’t share a common jargon, they need some other reason to look down on people and to flaunt their group superiority. It’s probably easier under these circumstances to flaunt their culture rather than invent a jargon. To be fair each succeeding generation of teenagers has gone down the developing a jargon route, but that might be because they’re not confident enough in their knowledge base to flaunt their culture.

Yet ironically everybody has culture. Teenagers have one which fluctuates and churns along with the group membership. Your culture might flaunt literacy, or involve chips, cheese and gravy, but it’s still a culture. Rest assured that whilst your neighbours might sneer at it, find somebody who lives far enough away and they will regard your culture as awesome and will copy aspects of it without really understanding them.

So, are you lost, short of a flauntable culture of your own with which to impress people?
Well at this point good old Jim can come to your rescue. I’ve got just the thing, a slim book of poems. Drop quotes from this into your conversation, smile knowingly when somebody else does; you too can be the very acme of cultural achievement.

For 99p that cannot be a bad deal!

Lambent Dreams Cover5



City of Culture

It has to be said that Barrow somehow produces the best in culture. We must do because we’ve pretty well got it all. We have the young ladies who stride out into the icy darkness between nightclubs protected only by a purely nominal amount of clothing and a sensible layer of subcutaneous fat; all the way up to amateur dramatics and dance troupes.

As a friend of mine used to say, “When I were growing up in Barrow we made our own entertainment; admittedly it was mainly sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.” If my memory still serves me, in his case at least the ‘drugs’ was alcohol, served in pint glasses and drunk under-age in one of Barrow’s many pubs.

Traditionally it’s normal to take the Mickey out of small northern towns. But Barrow has contributed in many ways. If you’re a fan of Dorothy L Sayers and Lord Peter Wimsey, you’ll know that in ‘Strong Poison’ we meet Charles Parker, the detective. Charles was not only from Barrow in Furness, he also went to the Boys Grammar school here.


We know this because somewhere there is a throw-away line where Dorothy L Sayers has him buying lingerie for his wife. She says something like ‘He purchased the lingerie with the total lack of embarrassment possible only to an old boy of Barrow Grammar school.’

(Yes I know it’s a paraphrase, and because this is on the internet I’m equally sure someone will send me the correct quote. Probably faster than I could find it using Google.)

Aside from that our fair town appeared on the TV series ‘The Likely Lads.’

Bob was getting married and Terry turned up to hear them read because Bob had never told anybody what his middle name is. When the vicar reads the bans everybody discovers his middle name is ‘Scarborough.’

Apparently this is where Bob was conceived. Terry’s comment is ‘It’s a good job they never went to Barrow-in-Furness then.’

So yes, we’ve got culture. We just had a concert at our church given by the Barrow Male Voice choir. A good night, at one point I realised pretty well everybody was singing along with them when they sang the Beatles song ‘When I’m Sixty Four’.


So obviously it behoves me to do something for culture as well. After all with this weight of heritage on my shoulders I must do something.

So out there, entirely for free, is a slim volume of poems called ‘Lambent Dreams’


Admittedly it’s not entirely what you might think and it amused the reviewer, so go on, treat yourself. Download it now

How much is art worth? I proudly present to you a chance to avail yourself of a truly retro experience!

Writers have used many subtle schemes to get people to buy their wares. Variants on “Buy now or the kitten gets it” have proved widely popular amongst the more desperate of the fancy, but frankly I don’t think that they’re entirely successful.

Still the artist starving in the garret has to do something?
And then I realised, was I doing the starving in the garret bit properly? After all, was it enough to be a mere scribbler dabbling in Fantasy or Science Fiction? Perhaps I had to become a proper artist, perhaps even, (pause for brief drum roll) a poet.

Here I confess to being uniquely qualified in the role as starving poet. I have no poetical skills whatsoever and thus if any poet is going to starve, it would be me.


But I still had to produce some poetry. This is where fate stepped in. Enter, pursued by a bear, one Mike Rose-Steel. Not only is he my editor but he is an accredited poet, being just the man to shift a butt of canary or sack (should Her Majesty be reading this).

I’m working on some early stories of Benor in Port Naain as a young man, and his landlord and friend is the poet Tallis Steelyard. Of course I dropped a line of Tallis’s work into a story and this provoked an email from Mike.

Rather than a ‘cease and desist’ order; or even a firm note pointing out that there was such a thing as demarcation (he doesn’t do roof top chases so why was I dabbling in the finer arts) he asked if he could borrow Tallis.

Thus and so, ten poems latter the art of Tallis Steelyard is available for a world hungry for great poetry.

But we didn’t stop there, lest people feel unable to grasp the depth of the passion or the subtlety of the symbolism, the renowned Cartographer, Benor Dorfinngil, has commented on each poem to give it context, and literary criticism is also available from Lancet Foredeck.

And here it is the heart of the issue. As is traditional with modern poetry it is available as a hand stitched pamphlet with about 28 pages (obviously it depends upon how you count these things as any true poet would know.)

And the price? How much to charge? What is the value of art? We have ten unique poems, plus background, plus literary criticism, all of a calibre rarely offered to the public in this sad and declining era. What should I ask for it? Is forty pence too much for a poem? Are there skinflints out there who would haggle an artist down to a mere thirty-five? I think not. I have faith in the world, I believe in the basic decency of humanity. Let us look at forty pence a poem and throw in all the rest for free. Let us forget the bleeding fingers of the poet as he hand-stitches the pamphlets, let us draw a veil over the agonized soul searching of the literary critic, let us just call it a straight £4, cash.

And here is another matter. We live in an age of instant gratification. Press a button, swipe a card and it’s yours. Live in the right metropolitan conurbation and the mighty Amazon will deliver your goods a full hour before you felt the need to order them!

So I want you to see this rare pamphlet not merely as an object, a book of poems or whatever. I want you to think of it as a piece of performance art. Not only that but it is performance art that you, dear reader, may take part in. A role has been reserved for you.

The procedure is as follows. Having decided that you can no longer call yourself a person of fine literary taste if you do not possess a copy, you are all of a quiver to purchase a copy? What do you do, what steps must you take, how can you ensure that within minutes an electronic document lies quivering, trapped, enmeshed within the coils of your restricting technology?

The answer is simple. You cannot. Instead you must walk a different, more creative path.

Should you know me, you merely pick up the phone and call me, reserving a copy, which I will hand to you in person when we meet and you will hand to me the appropriate sum of hard currency.

If you know me and feel it is unlikely that we will meet, then you can send a message to my email (although I feel a letter in the post would be more in keeping with the nature of this performance, but still I will not penalise an email).

If you wonder whether you can trespass on a very limited acquaintanceship, I insist, feel free. There is an email address available, alwaysburnbeforereading@yahoo.com which is checked not infrequently. Then using the miracles of modern technology we can discuss such matters as are of general interest as well as you discovering both the current level of availability of Lambent Dreams, as well as how much it will cost me to post said slim volume to whatever part of the world you are currently domiciled in.

Then, in keeping with the retrospective nature of this performance piece, you can post me a cheque in pounds, sterling, or even push grubby currency notes into an envelope. This is an experience I am sure that younger readers have never had and that older readers can revisit, the pleasure of briefly reliving the trials and tribulations of your younger days will surely add to the value to the experience.

Then when said cheque or bundle of grubby currency notes reaches me I shall place a copy of Lambent Dreams in an envelope, hasten to the post office and thrust it into the system which shall, in due course, deliver this delectable offering into your own fair hands. Think of the bliss, think of the pleasures of gratification denied, think of how you will clutch it to your bosom in glee. Finally and at last, it is yours.

Oh yeah, and I suppose at some point we’ll stick it up on kindle and people can do the whole click and download business but it isn’t what I’d call art.