As I was rummaging through boxes, I found a book that I used to write in when I was about 14/15. I have been trying to find this book for years because it has a poem in it that I have never been able to find anywhere else. I have now discovered that this was because I’d got his name wrong. I shall share it with you on Sunday.
Reading through this book, which was cunningly called ‘My Book’ was quite an eye opener. Firstly the front cover was decorated with the ‘Madness’ logo of the M-shaped man in the pork pie hat, as well as the names of my favourite bands (The Clash, 999, The Undertones, REM etc), intertwined with leaves and flowers – how very middle class.
The contents, however, were an uncomfortable miasma of my favourite poems, my own poetry (which wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been), the poems of an older girl who was a friend but who wrote excruciating verses about love and kittens, and an awful lot of psalms and passages from the Bible. In those days I was an unmitigated God Botherer (despite being a punk of convenience) and I remember long and earnest discussions in the Christian Union which eventually turned me off Jesus and onto Wicca, in whose leafy embrace I remained until only a few years ago.
And the handwriting! I had decided that the truly poetic of heart would write with a slopier, more ornate hand, but what I developed over the course of the book would have caused a graphologist to brand me a psychopath and deviant of the first water. Tiny, almost horizontally slanting letters, with great curling heads and tails and with illegibly distorted forms – virtually code, and I can only read it now with a magnifying glass.
But I can’t fault my taste in poetry; Keats, Tennyson, Donne, Blake. I had only just discovered John Donne who was introduced, as an aside, by a supply teacher of great merit, who also switched on my passion for Chaucer.
It seems particularly apt that I should find this book just days before I’m due to go to my school reunion – a kind of pilgrimage is ever there was one.
So pricketh hem Nature in hir corages
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
Sondry londes indeed.