Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Not a pool review

A chance to put a poem on my blog, and him:

You’ve got to love Robert Newman. Don't worry, you won't be lonely, lots of us already do. He is a proper creative genius of the old type. You don’t know who he is? Eons ago, when I was but a girl, he was one half of Newman and Baddiel (he was the ‘Newman’, David Baddiel was the ‘Baddiel’)  the first comedy duo to play Wembley Arena in the days when *ahem* comedy was the new rock n roll - NOT MY PHRASE don’t shoot me. He’s a superb comedian, one of the most intelligent of his generation, which might tell you that it ain’t all knob gags*; he did a brilliant show about peak oil which was stunning in its breadth of reference as well as for the laughs. He’s a writer too -  here’s a link to his new novel, out on April 11th - The Trade Secret. I have pre-ordered my copy already. (And yes, I’m using ‘pre-order’ after Robert said I was wrong to complain about ‘pre-order’ not being a thing and that it was actually a thing. He's so much smarter than me I believed him.) 

So why else have you got to love him? Because Robert, when we were talking about swimming, told me that to stop it getting boring he had an Auden poem - A Walk After Dark - that he recited in the pool and it took him two lengths of Marshall St - about 60m. It is entirely fitting - he’s an erudite, literate, well-read man with, it turns out, a good memory. I asked him what the poem was, because I wanted to find out if I swam faster than him. That too is entirely fitting - I’m a shallow woman. The poem is below; I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I memorised a poem, but I’m going to try this one. You could, too. For the purposes of this exercise I think I shall re-title it: Am I Faster Than Robert Newman? I suspect that for most of us, the answer is ‘bloody hell yes, but he is a far superior writer’. 

A cloudless night like this
Can set the spirit soaring:
After a tiring day
The clockwork spectacle is
Impressive in a slightly boring
Eighteenth-century way.

It soothed adolescence a lot
To meet so shameless a stare;
The things I did could not
Be so shocking as they said
If that would still be there
After the shocked were dead

Now, unready to die
Bur already at the stage
When one starts to resent the young,
I am glad those points in the sky
May also be counted among
The creatures of middle-age.

It’s cosier thinking of night
As more an Old People’s Home
Than a shed for a faultless machine,
That the red pre-Cambrian light
Is gone like Imperial Rome
Or myself at seventeen.

Yet however much we may like
The stoic manner in which
The classical authors wrote,
Only the young and rich
Have the nerve or the figure to strike
The lacrimae rerum note.

For the present stalks abroad
Like the past and its wronged again
Whimper and are ignored,
And the truth cannot be hid;
Somebody chose their pain,
What needn’t have happened did.

Occurring this very night
By no established rule,
Some event may already have hurled
Its first little No at the right
Of the laws we accept to school
Our post-diluvian world:

But the stars burn on overhead,
Unconscious of final ends,
As I walk home to bed,
Asking what judgment waits
My person, all my friends,
And these United States.

I wonder what other people do to fill their minds while they're swimming? Share, if you want, particularly if it's more poems.

* I am not anti knob gags. Neither is he, I don’t think. Maybe he is. I’m not, though.


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    1. Are you the real Jennifer Lopez? Please tell me you are, that would be so exciting. (Also, I think you've spelled your name wrong. You're welcome.)

  2. I have been warned off thinking about funny people whilst swimming. My friend, the comedian Tom Wrigglesworth, said although he whole heartedly encouraged that I buy a swimable mp3 player, like his new treasure - never to listen to comedy podcasts, he said that he hit shuffle once and found a favourite Radio 4 sketch and nearly drowned when he laughed underwater.

    1. Good advice, thanks. Also, I'd hate to be sued for making people think about Robert Newman while they were swimming and thus nearly drowning. THINK ABOUT AUDEN is my message.

  3. I imagine I'm winning silver at the Olympics. Gold would be too unrealistic.

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