The End and the Beginning

 

Long Furlong

The End and the Beginning

 

Because others had named the day

We can plot the moment

When first in a church and then

in the barn of an after bouquet of a wedding

you caught a glimpse of the future in each other

deftly like a slipping shadow at first

then ripening boldly like a stalk of March wheat

in the rape fields of Long Furlong

where the South Downs remind us of eternity.

In a barn you found a storehouse

Of possibilities, scurrying everywhere

Like mice intoxicated

you saw how they ran

and the hurt platoons of the past

counselled caution

as you sensed the enormity and the shape

of the secret places undiscovered

yet waiting like the ruined bandstand

on the Brighton shoreline where permanent words

would be uttered fifteen months later.

And that day

there was a silent espousal that whilst

others were celebrating a wedding

at a place where the bloodlines and the ley lines met

The River Arun would take the promise of the future, a twist of wheat

through the gap in the Downs past Arundel

and out at Littlehampton to the sea

where the Channel eddies and tides

caress the leg of a Brighton pontoon

where one day soon the story

would at the same time end, and begin.

For Callum & Frankie, to mark the day it all began on 23.3.15

Love Dad 26.8.17

For an audio version of this piece with ‘The Irrepressibles – The Tide’ (Album: Mirror Mirror 2010) used as a backdrop please go here

Dolce Domum (a message to Michael)

Dolce Domum (The Wind in the Willows)

Dolce Domum 

(A Message to Michael)

Enjoy every moment because it will be your first

And one day your last

Expect rather than hope

What you will do next is written somewhere

But not in law or statute

Explore every metre, mile and meridian

Sleep with the moon and rise with the sun

And when people say don’t, say why?

Know that you are loved without reservation

And that you occupy the place on earth

that belongs to you and you alone

There will be many dawns and many dusks

But each day will be written only once.

Your very being is a unique shout of hope

And joy your birthright.

Roy Stannard 21st August 2016

If you would like to hear a recorded version with music of this please go to this link on Soundcloud:

Who Is Like God?

 

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Who is like God?

Love was the father and love the mother.

You arrived in December, anticipating another Christmas

A reward in yourself rather than a present

A pilgrimage more than a journey

Because we cannot find love in ourselves

Only with another

And you were the purest love

The world of love in a moment

To complete the place that was prepared for you

A place shaped, breathed into, palpitating, anticipated for you

And you arrived linking Winter with Spring

A week after Mandela died and two days before his burying

You arrived, your hair already hinting of gold

Woven like the wealth of the Transvaal on the South African flag

You arrived to separate the before from the after

The Anno Domini

Dividing the past from the future

You arrived to say that there was no going back

As the Ukraine edged westwards

After the charge of the dark brigade in Crimea

And your mother wrote the gospel of your life

Like a scream of joy

As the Scribes and the Pharisees fled back to the Old Testament

Making way for the new covenant of love

Turning over and seeding the soil of hope

Too big an enterprise now for the old scythes and hoes

‘We need a tractor’ you said in almost your first words

And we realised that the lines and the furrows

Could mean happiness after all.

Roy Stannard for Michael’s Naming Day 21.8.16

For a version of this mixed with music please visit Soundcloud at:

Do It Yourself Celebrity

Do It Yourself Celebrity

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Last Friday 29th July I went to the Holmbush Centre at Shoreham to help my old friend and radio colleague Patrick Souiljaert man (person?) a stand at the entrance to Tesco there. He has written an autobiography in microscopic detail about the challenges of his life as a person with Cerebral Palsy. He was starved of oxygen a birth which led to the condition. However, instead of letting it define him, he has used it to energise and power his ambition, refusing to accept its limitations, using them instead to define his goals.

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After going to school in various special establishments (the word special is used in its loosest context here) in the South, Patrick emerged as a man with extreme sensitivity to his and others place in the world. He worked at a major telecomms company for many years before deciding that he could be a radio producer. He achieved this and worked for three Sussex-based radio stations before deciding that he could also be a property investor before going on to become an international speaker, writer and motivator.

His book — ‘Stairs For Breakfast’ was self published a year ago and has so far sold over 700 copies.

It is a raw, no-holds-barred account of the first half of his life with names and organisations changed to protect the innocent and the less than innocent. It is a page turning, honest, gripping story that demonstrates an almost documentary, forensic recall of detail and really installs the reader inside the head of someone who reacts powerfully to the limitations that life has laid upon him.

Last Friday, Patrick, John , Clare and myself went to Holmbush armed with 200 copies of the book, some banners and a great pitch provided by the generous customer services team at Tesco led by Lisa. I was given access to the public intercom system in order to make announcements.

Patrick called out to most passers by with a friendly ‘hello’, ‘how are you?’ and a goodly minority stopped to have a chat and by the end of the day 38 copies of the book at £10 each were sold.

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The point of this post? That you don’t have to accept the hand that life has dealt you. That you can dream and then wake up and achieve those dreams.

That you can decide to be a writer and go and write and publish your book. That you can call yourself an international motivational speaker and go and motivate by speaking. Internationally.

Stairs for Breakfast. Success for lunch. The world for supper.

 

On the day you said yes

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On the day you said yes

On the day you said yes

Opening the gates of my world

A flock of possibilities took flight

The sun pushed the clouds aside

Outside, the world was closing doors

And lowering shutters

As I signed up for you

The Government was calling up men

To man the barricades of yesterday’s empires

And women to woman the blockades

In Pimlico and Berlin

But you said yes when Mao said no

to the West, you gave me refuge

As we sailed up the Yangtze

To rescue our reputation

On the day we gave

the performance of our lives

Together in our private love story

As Olivier gave his Hamlet to the masses

And Orwell gave his prophecy to the proles

About the world to come

But we were too busy to notice

Writing our own book of the future

No plot lines, no narrative

Just signatures on a page in a church

The famous last words of two stories

That became one on that day

On the day you said yes

And every day since.

Roy Stannard – for Pat and Doug Myers to celebrate 65 years of happiness 23.11.14

Listen to a live recorded version here:

Star Formation: Mike Kerr of Royal Blood

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Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher of Royal Blood with Jimmy Page

Stars form when the right amount of dust and gas coalesce due to gravitational pull. Within the star nuclear reactions continue to release energy to keep the star hot. Just before the star bursts into existence all these forces are working together at their optimum strength.

It’s a sultry early Autumn day and the leaves on the trees are beginning to feel a little restless. The greens are transmuting to the first hints of yellow. The sun is high in the sky and the wind is thinking about migrating from north to east. I’m in my car parked in a road near the eastern entrance to Worthing where suburban folk mow lawns and shape hedges to fit whatever sits behind their frontal consciousness. Up the road is an ordinary secondary school that doesn’t quite realise yet that it will become famous soon, mentioned in Wikipedia, visited by pilgrims, worn as a badge by generations of students to come. At the other end of the road is a pub, deadly quiet at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, unaware that it will become the third or fourth point on the tours that will sprout up in this very ordinary part of West Sussex, England.

Mike Kerr in Brighton

Mike Kerr in Brighton

I’m parked outside Mike Kerr’s house, or more accurately, his parent’s house, waiting for Mike to arrive, ready to drive him across Sussex to radio studios where we will conduct the only radio interview in the week when his band’s album has gone to Number One in the official UK charts, with 66,000 sales in six days. Noel Gallagher’s ‘High Flying Birds’ album four years ago was the last rock album to sell as many. Later in the interview we would joke about Mike and Noel leaning against the bar and comparing album sales, we would joke about Mike getting Dave Grohl wrapped in a box for Christmas.

Half a decade ago I’m in the Thomas a Becket pub in Worthing watching a band comprising four  kids who were at school with my son and who I had known since they were eleven years old deliver an electrifying venom-filled punk set with their leader and songwriter George McCanna delivering invective disguised as rock lyrics about the pointlessness of suburban life. Flavour Country with George, Joe Dennis, Toby Lancaster and a young, bespectacled geeky guy called Mike Kerr on keys and bass were a ferocious blast of teenage aggression, bemusing the pocket of regulars leaning at the bar.

Hunting The Minotaur

Hunting the Minotaur – Mike Kerr (2nd left)

A little later I’m in the Cricketers in Broadwater, Worthing. My marriage has fallen apart and my only solace is the music. I’m nursing a pint of Harveys, the only beer you should drink in Sussex, when the young keyboardist in the band that had morphed from Flavour Country into Hunting the Minotaur gets up and sings with a guitar. I didn’t know he sang, and it was good. The dust and the gas were forming, the atoms splitting.

The taxi pulls up and out rolls Mike and his old friend from school, Nat Clark. They had been in a pub and Mike needs to go in the house and have a leak. Nat sits in the car. “Well, I say”, “what do you make of all this?” “Mad” he replies. Mike studied catering at Northbrook College and has been working when he’s been working as a trainee chef amongst other things. This week the job description changed to actual, real, bona fide rock star.

Mike, Nat, Roy in studio

Mike, Nat Clark & Roy in the studio

Yes, he and Royal Blood duettist, drummer and mate, Ben Thatcher have appeared at Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds, and Finsbury Park with the Arctic Monkeys. They have appeared on Later with Jools Holland when Neil Finn put the thumbs up on camera at the end of their explosive performance of ‘Little Monster’. Matt Helders of the Arctic Monkeys wore a T-shirt hurriedly created for him when they headlined at Glastonbury. At that point Royal Blood hardly existed.  The NME and Kerrang and Q started calling them the future of Rock ‘n Roll. But until this week they did not have a Number One album.

I had Mike’s phone number on my mobile. My son Callum, a mate of Mike’s had forwarded it. I texted Mike and asked for an interview. The old respect between young musician and someone who has run radio stations and labels kicked in. Against the advice of his management, label and press office, he agreed to meet up.

Mike Kerr & Ben Thatcher of Royal Blood

Mike Kerr & Ben Thatcher of Royal Blood

Earlier that day at 7am I had driven over to Seaford to load the computer play out system at Seahaven FM with the Royal Blood album in its majestic entirety, some historic and very rare Flavour Country/Hunting the Minotaur tracks and a selection of music that Mike had referenced in interviews and some other stuff I just knew he liked. ‘I know him’ I thought.

We are in the car driving though the South Downs on the way to Seaford. Mike’s phone rings. It’s George McCanna, his  old compadre in Flavour Country/Hunting the Minotaur. He’s heard that Mike is back from touring for a couple of days before flying to Paris for the next leg of the tour. They arrange to meet later.

Mike tells me that he learned to sing in Joe Dennis’s living room, practising and remembering some of the tricks that George used to deploy. I can hear George in one or two of the higher register yowling vocal breaks. The neutrons start to split and re-connect. The forces are forming like a large dark cloud on the horizon. I realise that this will be the last car journey like this. Ordinary and relaxed, three people laughing and joking on the way to another Sussex town.

Mike Kerr of Royal Blood & Roy Stannard

Mike Kerr, Royal Blood and Roy

Mike’s mobile is very private. There are no press interruptions even though everyone wants to talk to him. He has grown charisma, the star quality sets like a interplannetary aura around him. The old spectacles have gone, the hair is wild but fashionable, the leather rocker jacket stylised and perfect for the music, the speech more considered, the gaps between questions and answers long enough to create a sense of importance. With a jolt I realise that he does now look like a young Marlon Brando.

We arrive at the studios. Seahaven FM is a small independently run and financed radio station. A community station where no-one is paid, even the fulltime Director, Nick Mallinson, who does what he does for the love of it. These stations occupy the space that the old pirate stations used to before they went dance obsessed. Enthusiasts gather around the microphone to deliver their eccentric, passionate, obsessive love of music in all its colours and genres for the pleasure of other obsessives.

Royal Blood (IndependentT

Ben Thatcher & Mike Kerr of Royal Blood

There are 250 and rising of these stations in the UK. They attract over 1 million listeners a week. Who? People interested in their community, the travel and the traffic, the micro climates of weather, gossip and what’s on. Seahaven FM on 96.3 in Seaford, Peacehaven and Newhaven and on www.seaheavenfm.com is one of the better ones. David Scott, erstwhile of Southern FM and other commercial stations, now retired, occupies the Breakfast slot. The local MP Norman Baker has a show called ‘Anything Goes’, and anything does, musically. There are world music shows, rock n roll shows, jazz shows and I play whatever I like on my Thursday 7-9pm slot because I’ve been listening and working with music for the best part of 40 years and I’ve paid my dues.

I re-arrange the songs on the playlist to suit Mike Kerr’s mood and taste. Unaccountably, I feel nervous. The boy I knew has grown into a man, a star has formed. He has ‘people’ who look after him, but today he has climbed under the fence and escaped. He is off line, off circuit. He can say what he likes and so can I.

The next two hours fly by. I cover all the obvious questions that you can read in all the press interviews, but we also go a little deeper, the prodigiously talented George McCanna is mentioned and honoured. Mike’s Mum, Angie and Dad, Bob, who I have known for years are thanked. His school friends Joe, Toby, Alex and my own son Callum are referenced with love and respect. All musical talents in their own right. We play adrenalin-pumped rock and roll, we nod back to Led Zeppelin, and nod forward to Drenge who have left the ‘F’ word at the end of their track ‘Blood Sport’ and which, having heard it go out live, I have to go back and edit out on the recording. The Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Muse, Queens of the Stone Age, The Raconteurs, Them Crooked Vultures also feature. Musical signposts rather than antecedents, combined with the Royal Blood album it’s a rock ‘n roll show that Peel, Walker, Lamacq and the others would have all revelled in.

At the end, we all feel good about what has happened. In this week of all weeks, it’s good to mark the passage of time, to pay respect to the people who have helped along the way. This may be the last time Mike Kerr gets to be the local boy from Worthing chatting about music with his mates.

I drive him and Nat back to Worthing. It’s been a blast. We say goodbye outside a pub. He walks in and Ye Olde House at Home in Broadwater, Worthing joins the ranks of the immortals.

The particles collide. The light explodes. Mike walks through a doorway and the star forms.

From now on we will all have to watch it from a distance.

© Roy Stannard 6.9.14

The interview and track by track discussion of the Royal Blood album along with all the tracks can be heard on Mixcloud/roystannard:

Hour One:

http://www.mixcloud.com/roystannard/tw9y-4914-hour-1-royal-blood-special-with-mike-kerr-and-roy-stannard-on-wwwseahavenfmcom/

Hour Two:

http://www.mixcloud.com/roystannard/tw9y-4914-hour-2-royal-blood-special-with-mike-kerr-and-roy-stannard-on-wwwseahavenfmcom/

 

 

 

 

Words are Important. Do you Copy?

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A word in your shell-like.. If you are a business one of the best ways of making an impact on the people you want to impress is by writing and hosting good clear and compelling copy on your various web platforms.

Words are like the air we breathe. You can’t avoid them and they infiltrate just about every aspect of your day – from the newspaper (or more likely the news website) that you read in the morning to the signs and directions you’ll read on the roadside as you travel to work – to the millions of words sent via the web every day in the form of emails and sales communications. We are becoming a nation of copy-blasé individuals as a result. Unless the words that you read are relevant, original, striking and penetrating you are going to pass on by on the other side of road – or blogosphere.

Your customers are no more word blind than anyone else. They are saturated by daily chit-chat and petitions, imploring and importuning. They have learnt to be callous about boring word chains, hackneyed sales lines, and red alerts and underlining that are really all about crying wolf. When you speak in writing or communication it’s really got to count. Deliver little gobbets of tedium to people and they’ll cross the digital road when you come by next time.

The content is so important – but then so is the way in which you package it in grammatical and spelling terms. A great message is undermined fatally by a spelling error and an apostrophe in the wrong place. Is it me or am I the only person in the world who knows how to use the possessive apostrophe? A case of Roy’s obsession. If you weren’t taught how to spell or punctuate at school, sue your ex-teachers and then get some help. There is always someone in the office that loves to proofread and show off their superior English skills. These are the true followers of Michael Gove – and in your business bubble they could become priceless. Ask them to doublecheck your words – and don’t be afraid of the criticism that will come your way. It’s for your own good.

In the old days good PR copy started with the edict – cover the Who, Where, Why and When questions in the first paragraph. The discipline still stands. Interest the reader, tell them why you are writing to them, what it’s all about, when and why and make it interesting. Does it have a call to action and does the piece set out the stall for your product or business. The deafening silence in response to these questions means that you are engaging in the business of jibber-jabber, diminishing echoes in an empty room.

The customer isn’t your only audience. Google sits above all this like a stern Victorian schoolmaster with algorithms as board rubbers ready to fly at you as they rank your copy by its quality and content. It wants to see that you are treating your reader as an intelligent human being rather than as a dumb recipient of adwords and phrases designed to lift you into the Web Premier League. Engage, befriend, amuse and stimulate. Your readers will like you more for it – and so will Google.

If you are not good at self-editing and suspect that you may not be the genius you’ve always aspired to be, then get someone else to critically appraise your copy.

Ask them to take a red pen to it, eliminate extraneous words and sub clauses, bracketed interjections and ruminations. These are the empty crisp packets fluttering along the street of your selling ambition.

In the old days ad agencies employed copywriters as apart of art departments and the scribe and the art director worked hand in glove. I know, because that is where I started. Nowadays the client pours copy into the funnel labelled Creative like raw cement and expects the power of the mac and the WordPress template to magically mix it into the smooth elixir of sales. The truth is that copy writing is an art in the same way that design is an art. Otherwise we’d all be ‘Madmen’.

If in doubt, employ a professional. The number you need is below.

 

Roy Stannard 01273 575102 / roy@zerofiftyone.com