Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Night School

We are often asked about the process of turning reminiscence into poetry. We use various poetic rules, but the basic principle is to write down a conversation as accurately as possible and then cut it into lines which the participant rearranges. What follows is a demonstration of this process in action. First the poem, then the reminiscence from which it came. 

In this case, for the project Stitching the Wars, the reminiscence was from one member of Hope Age UK Day Centre and another member of the group collaborated in rearranging the lines. We had been discussing the rich/poor divide and how Dickens wrote about it - the poem sprang from that conversation.

Night school

Dickens takes some reading, he does
Descriptive is Dickens
Went to night school
And asked for more.

Now take my life
Born in a poor family
In the village,
School were pretty basic.

Ordinary kids, expectations not great
Didn't mind them not being.
School, I played the wag
Down to the the stream.

Youths hanging around to find work
The long chains of iron
Or gold, of thorns, or flowers.
Accepted your situation. Played 

Kick can, football, or the Artful Dodger.
Miners didn't want their kids 
Down the pit
Wanted better for them.

1926 Strike. 
When Dad got to the surface
He said, "Not going down there anymore."
Happiness is another matter.

Scrooge loves cash
Nicholas Nickleby meets the crook
On the moors and makes his
Escape. Me?

I left school at 14. Dad says,
"Want to better yourself?
Go to night school."
The world lay spread before me:

Dazzling before me, the world.

Hugh Bradbury
29 January 2015

(Additional editing, Janet Edge)


Hugh Bradbury:

Dickens, he takes some reading, he does. Nicholas Nickleby meets the crook on the moors and he escapes. Scrooge loves the cash. Nickleby went to school as a teacher. Then there's Oliver. And he asked for more! The boy was rough. Artful Dodger. Descriptive was Dickens. And there was the one who was sent to Australia, aboard ship. Made money to pay for his education. On the moor with nothing to eat, they were hunting him...

Slight reading, light reading. The Three Musketeers, by Dumas. He had a lot of people write for him. Injustice in the stories. Dickens, people listened to him about injustice too. Count of Monte Cristo sent to jail. They'd talk to each other by tapping on the heating pipes. Fabulous wealth stashed away, he escaped and took it out of them. I could read them kind of books! The Man in the Iron Mask. It starts off with two characters like twins. And he ends up putting on the mask. "Don't put the mask on me!"

Scrooge has all the money, but he ends up alright. Ends up in A Christmas Carol. That's the thing with Dickens, he weren't vindictive.

Money doesn't do you any harm. Useful. But happiness is another matter. If you take my life, I was born into a poor family. Grandad was a miner. Row of houses. One room a shop. Mother a housewife, Dad down the pit til the 1926 strike. Bit of bother there. 

Eight years old in this row of houses. War started. Aeroplane above, taking photos. It was a Sunday in the Phoney War. We were sat in the yard. 

All in the same village, a sideline. School were pretty basic. I played the wag. Ordinary working class kids, their expectations were not great. You didn't mind them not being great. 

Born Feb 15 1932. Another kid who shared my birthday, he were well to do. Found out we shared a birthday and invited me. Went to his house, he had things like a telephone. His mother asked was I a somebody. She was a dolly bird. The dad knocked off any bird available.  

It's all history, my Dad worked down the mine. The kids had proper shoes, tho they might've been odd shoes. You accepted your situation. Played kick can, football.

The 1926 Strike. The pit ponies came up. Me dad, when he got to the surface, he said, "I'm not going down there anymore." Miners didn't want their kids down the pit. They wanted something better for them. Dad went to night school doing Surveyance. In his final year in 1926. If it hadn't been for the strike he would've been a Surveyor. Dad said the Union were thick, they called the strike when it was sunny and people didn't need coal. He was clever. Dad had an allotment and a motorbike.

School, I played the wag a dozen times. Down to the stream. Youths hanging around to find work, drift mine or factory. 

I did quite well. Left school when I was 14. Ended up President of Sheffield Builders, Captain of the cricket team and Chairman of Builders' Exchange. 

Dad says:"You want to improve yourself? Night school!"

Interviewed by Phil
29 Jan 2016
Age UK, Hope

Morag Stitching the Wars in Hope

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