Thursday, 3 November 2011

Frankly Amazed part 2

A lively discussion has ensued round here from the considerations touched on in the previous entry. In the drafty outhouse that passes for an office, Shuffling Sid our roving sales clerk was ‘in’, resting between vigorous bouts of recondite sales technique, which, as far as I can tell, seems to involve rather a lot of phlegm-streaked coughing. He assures me that this approach produces quite startling results. Who am I to comment? I just pay the man’s wages.

Sid approached the issue as one of Democracy, which he insisted came with a capital D. He regarded the issue as of one of elitism and the creation of an underclass. He posed his most trenchant observation thus; “Should a sufferer from advanced Knucklum Shufflerosa not also be treated with compassion, be able to find inclusion within the big tent of society? Surely, it’s not asking too much to be included cheek by jowl with those other outcasts of our culture; the uniformed bus conductress, the photographic model, or the pouting topless tractor driver of the month?” He dissolved into a coughing fit induced by the heightened intensity of his engagement with the subject. I think I got his drift, but lost interest in it and sent him on his way with a flea in his ear, which rapidly became lost amongst the teeming multitudes already inhabiting his wretched tweed mackintosh.

Gloria, ever attentive at her desk, tush-tushed, and reminded me that I had failed properly to consider Sid’s line of reasoning. “I didn’t want to”, I said. “Get out of that if you can.” She couldn’t.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Frankly Amazed part 1

At Turn Up, if the investment stream were larger than the trickle necessary to keep us thirsty, we would probably be at the cutting edge of emergent technology. We would have a gadget for this, a gadget for that, and undoubtedly a gleaming swivel-armed gadget for the other.

I am frankly amazed (part 1), however, at the deep conundra produced for some by the digital age and the reluctance to engage with anything that has not been systematically proven by at least forty years of use. Others leap aboard new ways of doing things without a backward glance, a flick of the scarf and a merry song at their lips. I’m referring to the reaction of some to our new digital products and a refusal to contemplate reading anything that is not in printed form.

I am certainly not anti the printed version of books, but there are certain realities and practicalities that have to be faced (do they?) Shut up, no-one asked you. The truth is that we could not afford to have any books printed as matters now stand. By going down the Kindle route we are able to produce our volumes and keep producing them. They would not exist otherwise. You may consider that not to be any great loss. You would not then be troubling us for a place in our customer base and can unceremoniously be told to bugger off in the most forthright terms.

However, you, if I can distinguish you with such particularity, are to be cosseted upon the sofa of smarm-swathed inducement and complimented for your debonair devotion to cultural exemplars, never mind the method of their delivery.

Also, like it or not, none of us are in a position to divert the march of evolving technology. It will go wherever it finds its niche. I would suggest that if it was unusable or no good, people wouldn’t go for it. The fact is that among the people I know, the ones who have gone for Kindle are those who are the most voracious readers of books. I had thought that they might be the very ones to be leading the resistance, but they have quickly realised that they have more room for more books, usually for less.

I am concerned for the effect these changes may have on printers, bookshops and libraries, but I think there are other larger pressures on them.

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Autumn has arrived at Turn Up Towers. Russets are sliding in everywhere, like sand on a sun-bathed beach. ‘Tis but gritty reality for the time of year.

Two books are now up and available on Kindle. Searching for ‘The Talking Wall’ will bring that up as the first item. It sells for £5.74. Searching for ‘almost free’, however, brings up a long list of books involving nude models. I’m not unhappy to find myself nestling in amongst them, but if you search for ‘almost free by Nick Alexander’ you can go straight to it rather than scrolling past scanty cladding to reach it. It is for sale at £2.15, which is more that nothing, but will hardly bruise the pocket. I urge you to explore, but I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Among future plans in contemplation at Turn Up are ebook versions of ‘I’ve Already Spent It’ and ‘For Reasons of Space’, a reappraisal of website provision to make things more user friendly, and the great step of audio delivery. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Posters everywhere

‘The timeless experience of constant change’ has a good positive ring to it as a description of permanent development, bright with possibilities. Such is the picture at Turn Up Towers; the shining faces and happy wagging tongues of self-motivated cadres chattering away, ever generating new twists and turns.

Since my last entry to this august record of the epic doings of all things Turn Up, there have indeed been steps along the road. The posters are still selling. The whole experience has been tremendous, the response better that we could have dreamt. For Turn Up, this has meant red hot commerce.

I have, in my executive capacity, also launched a tie-in, the first ebook from the Turn Up stable. It is also called The Talking Wall, and contains my most recent poems, including all the poster poems. It is available for download from Kindle on Amazon for £5.74. I am pleased with the collection and heartily recommend it.

And, lo and behold, a second ebook is on the way! I wanted to provide a collection of free samples to encourage the wayfaring eye to delve deeper. However, I seem to have to specify a minimum price to load it into Kindle, so the collection will be called ‘almost free’. It’s nearly 100 pages long, so it’s not bad value. It is a mixture of poetry and prose so that readers have the opportunity to consider other elements.

And, once again, last Friday saw the extraordinary spectacles of Los Contrabandos in performance at Lizzie Carless’ 21st party. We were two men down, but we got through it without boos or assaults, so we can chalk it up as a success! We were followed a little later by the sublime Four Tart Harmony in their glistening red shoes and wonderfully appointed lungs. Chris Smith leaned across and tapped me on the shoulder during their performance. ‘See’, he said, ‘your PA system does work’.

Friday, 8 July 2011


Where has the last week gone? Sunday was the big day for me. Despite the first reading taking place at 11 am on Sunday I had an impressively well-attended event. I was in the mood and managed to produce the necessary degree of fire in my belly. I started the day with a quote from one of Robert Hunter's poems, 'Three-Legged Mare';

Bridled and brindle,
blinkered and sway,
hobbled and hamstrung,
no more nor less than
a three legged mare,
the horse is yours.
Always was. Ride her
with bells in your heart.

That inspiration was sufficient to dispel the doubts and to enable me to proceed with full commitment. That and my observation of Michael McClure when he came to stay in last year's poetry festival. He was unwaveringly serious about his own work. By that I mean he took his work and himself seriously, not that he was without humour.
I have had some great comments from many quarters since the performances, the second of which I found heavier going (although still acceptable). The posters have been selling and the swifts still chase each other amongst the alleys and roof tops of old Ledbury, screeching with the delight of the free.
On Tuesday we hosted Adam Horovitz who was launching his first collection of poems on publication day. He gave a very affecting and effective reading that evening, followed by the eccenticities of Michael Horovitz, his father, which were delightful.
On Wednesday I joined the circus that is the Ledbury Lyricists at the Prince. Some fine performances, but there seems to be a diminishing number of visiting poets and perhaps too much music. That, coupled with a late start, reduced the scope I think. But, it is always enjoyable and good to be able to spend the evening in the pub without having to worry about getting up for work the next day!

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Preparation Vortex part 5

Well, the days are slipping by. Only 48 hours to go. Yesterday evening Martin and I, under the expert eyes of Claire and Phoebe, stuck the posters up on the wall at Tinsmiths. They look excellent, even though I say so myself. That is due to Martin's skills rather than mine, and of course includes one each from Mark and Claire de la Torre. The wall has truly become The Talking Wall. It looks as though the weather will hold for Sunday. We are in with a chance of pulling this off!
The posters went on sale on line on Tinsmiths website on Thursday. Martin rang me in great excitement to report that four had been sold by 9.30 am. Once people start to see them on the wall, how will they be able to resist?
Later in the evening I read as one of 4 poets at the Tree Frogs gig at the Retreat. A good evening was had by all. As first poet up at the mic, I believe I had the distinction of being the first poet to read at the venue under the present management. I had a good encouraging response, and liked what I heard of Jai Hill and Amy Rainbow. Mark Stevenson's stuff is well-known to me and as I listened I realised that I knew it better than I thought I did. Familiarity in this case breeds deep appreciation. Nick Trigg suggested from the stage that we should start a fringe festival, which received cheers of approval. I go along with that.
I now need to make sure the microphone is working properly for Sunday and check my list of material. I have chosen my spot to stand so that I am within touching distance of the wall.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Preparation Vortex Part 4

The posters are all finished. They look magnificent and are a testament to Martin's skills. One each were done by Mark de la Torre and Claire de la Torre. I visited the print works this evening and was able to stand and appreciate. We will probably be hanging next Tuesday if Phoebe can accommodate us.
I also had the opportunity to run through my proposed programme of readings with Martin. I think he approved and he responded positively to most. I'm sure I will stick with what I've planned. I think the material will hold up - all depends now on my performance on the day. I need to be sure of my introductory pieces for the poems that require it. I seem to have an awful lot going on in the meantime, and as soon as I finish one thing something pops up. I have to go to Cheltenham on Saturday morning which I need like a hole in the head, and the next altered books meeting is next Monday - I haven't even thought about it yet.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Preparation Vortex Part 3

Firstly, let me correct a spelling mistake. Mark and Claire's surname is de la Torre and not as I stated.
I have realised that my second reading coincides with the men's Wimbledon final. I think we all know where our priorities lie, do we not? In our modern era of super-surveillance, I will of course be able to run checks of the whereabouts of all expected audience members through Turn Up's HD Surround-Envelope Bend-O-Scope Pork-U-Zoom Position Detector with updates at 3 minute intervals (and even then we miss significant action). Apart from the need to come up with a snappier name for the gadget, R & D have pretty well ironed out most of the kinks, which may be self-defeating. Never mind - the drawing board isn't going anywhere.
Martin is nearing the end of the production line for the posters, and I realise that he has dedicated many hours of amazing work to this project. He deserves all the recognition he can get and really has worked wonders. Perhaps I should give a little more thought to the consequences of my suggestions, which all seem innocuous over a pint in the Prince.
As I come to consider the minutiae of my readings, the question of the introduction arises. I think Tinsmiths will need to have input for that. Note to self - must chat to them about that.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Preparation Vortex Part 2

I said I would say more about Mark’s poster. He tackled the one called Madly, which goes as follows:

We all need a muse
And saviour;
Let me introduce
Miss Behaviour.

You’ll learn Latin,
Love and History,
But her methods
Are a mystery.

She’ll teach you
Intensely, madly,
Teach you
To behave

When he’d printed a few copies off, he casually remarked to Martin whilst they were at the print works, “it’s a bit of a strange poem, this one; I mean, ... ‘she’ll teach you /intensely, madly /teach you to behave /baldy.’” Martin did react.
This poem originated in an earlier poem of mine called ‘Hangover’, which was too long to transfer to a poster whole. That can be found in I’ve Already Spent It, copies of which will be available at the readings.
Of course with a sense of humour like that, we’ve whipped Mark onto the drum stool for Echo Road. Lucky boy – well, he’s turned up twice so far. I always feel that the second week is the crucial one.
Back at the printworks, Claire, Mark’s wife, is setting another of the posters. She hasn’t quite finished because Martin was taken ill on Friday. Hopefully, that is under control, but it put her back by a few days. Martin explained that he wants to get the last couple finished now because they can take up to 4 or 5 days to dry.
Claire, of course, is one of the legendary Girls of Tinsmiths, a very important component in the realisation of our conspiracy. Maybe there should be a picture poster, showing triumphant women workers greeting the new dawn, to celebrate their contribution.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Preparation Vortex part 1

Here at Turn Up Towers all is clanging, banging, rushes of activity, as we head towards my appearance, nay appearances, in the forthcoming Ledbury Poetry Festival. Crack teams of mental gymnasts are devising ever more recondite preparatory callisthenics to ensure correct attitude and peak performance.
‘Correct altitude?’ did you ask? Oh yes, we’ll be cruising with optimum stratospherocity. I’ll be focused on the drinks trolley, the light in my tunnel, as the end point of my trajectory once the necessity to be seen as presentable has evaporated.
The exhibition is shaping up well. The posters are looking good, and Martin has allowed some input from Tinsmiths and associates, and there are some inspirational results emerging. I saw a great one by Mark de la Tour the other day. More on this next time.
So, if you are interested in the slightest, the readings will be at 11 am and 2.30 pm on Sunday 3rd July at Tinsmiths’ yard in Ledbury High Street. Each will last for 45 minutes, and I intend that there will be some variety between the two.
And you will also have the opportunity to purchase posters and books. The posters are fairly unique, and of limited quantity. When Martin tried to order some more poster paper (which is made from rag to withstand the weather) he was told that it was no longer available. The options seemed to be that they could specially manufacture some for a minimum order of 10 tons, or supplies could be had from India. Fortunately, Martin found a stack in a corner of his workshop to keep the presses rolling. The serious point is that ventures like this may not be so straightforward in future – a reflection of the way in which printing has rapidly become a computer-based art with the attendant collapse of the old ways.
This is not an exhibition or an opportunity that we are likely to be able to repeat. You owe it to yourself to witness it. You really do.
Stay tuned for further tales from the preparation vortex.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Ledbury Poetry Festival

This year’s festival is rapidly approaching, and apparently ticket sales are looking a bit grim for some of the events. I think one should always look for a late surge.
I am taking part this year in a collaboration with Martin Clark of Tilley Printing. The roots of this go back a couple of years to the exhibition Jeanette McCulloch (another of my very best collaborators with Excavations of Eternity) organised under the title Unsung Heroes. I wanted one of my poems, March, to be exhibited as a poster, looking like a revolutionary broadsheet. Martin laid it out and printed it so well that it garnered a lot of comment. I thought there was scope for some more and he was up for it. We approached Tinsmiths, with whom Martin works quite closely, as they have the perfect wall and yard to produce a good visual exhibition. Phoebe agreed, but wanted to wait for a year as they were already hosting Roger Abbot in the 2010 festival.
So was born The Talking Wall, the name I thought gave a good encompassing concept to include my reading. I will be reading twice on Sunday 3rd July at 11 am and 2.30 pm, for 45 minutes each. I will not exactly reproduce the first reading with the second, although slightly more than half the poems will be repeated. These are official programme events although because they are free I do not have to wonder about ticket sales. We will have up to 12 poems on broadsheets and limited quantities of each for sale in the festival. I have also written some poems to go with this project, and will also weave in others I think work in such a presentation. As the day approaches, I am getting more fired up at the prospect, and I think it will hold its own.
I have also been asked to read at a Tree Frogs gig at the Retreat on 30th June. I am honoured that they should consider me, and I will put my mind to some appropriate material. Maybe one accompanied by some background jazzy music would work. I’d certainly like to have a go at that. I will probably try to use other poems than the Talking Wall ones, but maybe only in respect of the specific Wall material.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Echo Radio

Well, it's been done; the great Echo Road radio spot, broadcast under the name Pablo Alto, and with a live interview segment with Danny and me. We were charming, the music sang from the speakers, and is now permanently stored on BBC Hereford & Worcester's sessions page along with all the others who have appeared in session.
We weren't as together as we might have been, but that's nit-picking; generally, I think it went ok and is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. I was able to pose the essential question over the airwaves; Where are you, Joolz?
What now for Echo Road? We appear to have lost Joolz which is a shame because he was good and a nice guy. However, we will now be trying out Mark de la Tour who has been playing drums at home for the last three years. He may not like what we do, but we're giving him a go on Wednesday and hopefully he'll bring another flavour to the mix. As far as I'm concerned, it's important that we should all have an equal say in how things go, although as usually happens, the more energetic each individual is in putting in his oar, the louder he'll be heard. It's important that we all keep in mind what we're doing with Echo Road; we're trying to discover our collective persona, and give it reign. Each change of personnel means subtle alterations to that. I'm quite excited about where it all may lead.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Dusting down

Oh, what's in here, behind this pile of dust? Blimey! It looks like some sort of motor. It must have been pretty sleek once. I bet it gleamed and purred as it ran. A true relic of a bygone age! I wonder if I spent a little time cleaning it whether I could get any life out of it?
Do you know, I think it might just splutter into life again. Why not try to glide around the track a couple more times? What we need is to get it to turn over. There!
Now its flickered back to life things are beginning to move. Two items of news, arrive hot from Turn Up Towers.
Firstly, Echo Road, playing in disguise under the name of Pablo Alto, should be broadcast on the Andrew Marston show on BBC radio Hereford & Worcester at 7 pm on Friday 3rd June. I say 'should be' because we have already been moved once, but the recording is in the can. Frustratingly, we are yet to hear it as well.
Secondly, in conjunction with Martin Clark of Tilley Printing in Ledbury and Tinsmiths of Ledbury, I will be reading at the Talking Wall in Tinsmiths' yard as official events nos. 20 & 24 in Ledbury Poetry Festival. We hope to see a good turn out - indeed, good turns all round. Poster will be available for purchase by clientelle of discernment and wherewithal, and copies of all my books can be signed in your presence for a suitable transfer of ackers. Messages can even be personalised.
And so, we enter the era of hard sell and raw commerce!