What follows is what Ted Morrison, founder of the first Writers’ Workshop at Manchester College of Building, with his superior perspicacity and understanding, had to say about two of my former colleagues some thirty years ago:
“Adrian Niman*, an accomplished and prolific poet . . . had no trouble at all in writing a number of excellent poems for the [FORGE] collection.”
“Katie Clowrey** is our spontaneous writer. Her writing appears to flow as easily as speech.”
Readers may recall that last time out I promised to bring you some small part of what Adrian and Katie contributed to the FORGE magazine all those years ago. So here’s a bit of Adrian’s work, to kick off with:
MRS RUMOUR HAS IT
Mrs Rumour Has It peeked thro’ the lace curtains
of her privacy and watched transfixed
as another day went past her garden gates.
SAILOR SLICK IN A STOLEN MOMENT
Consider for a moment Sailor Slick
with his sea blue eyes
and nautical terms
tucked under woolly cap.
Disturbed and alone
he walked along the
side of the quay
looking for the key
to his cabin door.
But all he found
was a cold wind
and a tide receding
like his hair.
It was a pity though that Sailor Slick
ignored the advice of the persistent wind
for like the sun his ship was sinking fast
and with his ship
Here are Adrian’s personal details, as of 30-odd years ago::
“Adrian Niman, Adrian Harris Niman for short, aged 19 or even more so. Who, between working in an architect’s office, going to M/c College of Building, discovering ‘Writers Workshop’ and smoking too much, takes a slanted look at life without giving any back.”
I think there may be some scope here and there for improvement of Adrian’s contribution, as I’m sure he would personally point out some 30 years on. But remember, the boy was only 19 years old at the time. So, if by an chance any reader knows an older version of Adrian (he’ll be 50-ish nowadays), please tell him this tribute to his genius is to be found within – and ask him to contact Bill Keeth with permission to publish at email@example.com
Meanwhile, Katie Clowrey came from a completely different life space with a completely different talent:
“Katie Clowrey, who is a mother and a temporary typist in her mid-forties, says: ‘I’ve always enjoyed writing letters to friends and this led me to writing about personal experiences for my own pleasure. Usually, if I tell people I enjoy writing, they look at me as if I’m assuming airs and graces above my station. So the Workshop is a pleasant change for me.”
THE RELUCTANT WIDOW
Mrs Hall looked as if she’d just stepped out of a Victorian Methodist chapel. She dressed in a black dress which accentuated her thin figure and almost touched her ankles, giving the world a glimpse of black lisle stockings which seemed to be moulded into her black, laced, matronly shoes. Her pre-maturely grey hair was scaped back from her face and wound into a bun although I did hear her say once that she could ‘sit on it’. Meaning her hair.
At first glance I thought she was an old lady, but I suppose that even as a child I was perceptive enough to realise that her clothes were older than she was. And when I first saw her close her eyes and say: ‘My Stanley used to say to me: “Ee, May, wear that blue lace dress; you look right bonny in it . . .” my curiosity was aroused. I couldn’t believe my ears that anybody had used romantic words to her. Because she didn’t fulfil my idea of romance. In fact, I suspected that she was an “old maid” who had invented her ‘Stanley’. She fitted the role perfectly.
But I eventually found out that May Overend and Stanley Hall had courted for twenty years, married when May was forty, but were only married for two years when Stanley died of a heart attack.
As the weeks went by ‘Auntie May’, as I was instructed to address her, chose me as a companion each Saturday – hail, rain or shine – to accompany her to the florist where she would spend what seemed like a small fortune to me, buying “blooms”, as she always called them before we caught the “cemetery bus”.
Once there, I would take the shiny black vase which had the name “STANLEY” engraved in silver upon it and fill it with water. Then I’d watch while Auntie May lovingly arranged Stanley’s “blooms”:
‘Do you like these, Stanley?’ she’d say, seemingly so fragile that I was sure one day she would collapse on the grave.
On my way to my grandmother’s I used to pass a switchgear factory called Ferguson and Palin. Although I can’t put my finger on the reason, everybody who worked there looked like film stars to me. Perhaps it was because the building was new and distinguished-looking compared with ‘Gorton Tank’ (where trains were built) and Masseys, the local engineering factory, and also because everybody seemed to look clean when they’d finished work, with still enough energy to run for the bus.
I’d see them running out of work – handsome men and pretty women. I remember going in my Uncle’s house one day. He worked at Fergie’s. He was laughing and wearing a blue silk dressing-gown just as I imagined all the men he worked with did.
I had a friend called Josie whose father, four brothers and a sister all worked at Fergy Palin’s. When she’d tell me about her brothers bringing her fish and chips when they came home late at night and of going to bed at midnight, I used to wish I was as lucky as she was. And when she asked me if I could sleep at her house one Friday night because all the family were going to Fergie’s Do, I was thrilled to bits. Normally, I went to bed at eight o’clock, and nine o’clock on Fridays. So the much anticipated adventure of fish, mineral, and a midnight bedtime turned into marathon task of trying to keep my eyes open. I managed to stay awake long enough to eat a few chips and drink some pop more out of politeness than pleasure.
Next morning I was up at 7 o’clock and went downstairs. There I saw the debris left from the night before and the partygoers pulling themselves together from the after-effects of Fergie’s Do. They all seemed to have grey faces and drooping shoulders – a far cry from the jolly crowd who’d waved us goodbye the night before.
I don’t think Ferguson and Palin’s ever looked as enticing again, although it still held a certain magic, like somebody you’re very fond of letting you down, though you still feel you owe them your loyalty.
Should any reader know Katie Clowrey nowadays (that is to say, Kath Turton), please ask her to contact Bill Keeth, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Keeth’s books, Every Street in Manchester ISBN 1859880649 & Write It Self-Publish It Sell It ISBN 97809558863 are available from Amazon and all good book shops. Bill can also be contacted via his website, http://www.novelnovella.com.