Tuesday, 11 November 2008

IX : The Booze

This element has already played a prominent part in the pictures. The Castle Chare eventually obtained a bar licence, and this made it a more cheerful place. The caretaker can be seen below, dispensing the stuff. Before that, one had to bring it in, and I had provided myself with a bottle of home-brew for John Montague’s reading; poor fellow, he was so overcome by drought that he begged a swig of it.

John Montague, Castle Chare, Durham 17/10/1980


Booze is not essential to the reading of poetry, though poets have spoken to us highly of it, notably Omar Khayam, via Edward Fitzgerald, Li Tai-Po, and Gustav Mahler, Chesterton and Belloc directly. As a school teacher I have often read poetry, dry. But most seem to prefer a drop; Basil Bunting usually had a whisky by him. A modest dose of alcohol can raise one to a higher plane, where truths and connections appear which had been hidden.


Basil Bunting, Harrogate, 11/08/1969



Geraldine Monk, Castle Chare, Durham 01/02/1980



Geraldine Monk with Bill Griffiths reading, Castle Chare, Durham 01/02/1980


Whether or not booze is desirable for poetic inspiration, I have found it essential for photographing readings: it simply provides Dutch courage. I often start out quite terrified of pointing a camera in these gatherings, and may sit through the whole of a first half without doing so; but as the magic of ethanol works the difficulties disappear.

There was no difficulty with Geraldine Monk, who took her own draughts, and based her performance on whisky as well as beer. On this occasion, maybe as a specific against nervous collapse, Geraldine did herself, and us, proud. The women in the audience are seldom as uninhibited, but they make nice pictures with their glasses. Many now take beer by the pint, as is proper. I don’t like half-pints, they make me nervous.


Curiously enough, the onset of intoxication does not make my hand shake, if anything I lose fewer frames to camera shake than when I’m sober.

Posy O’Neill, Castle Chare, Durham 17/05/1985



Hugo Williams (out of focus), Staff Common Room, Durham 06/03/1987



John Cayley, The Bridge Hotel, Durham 08/05/1982





1 comment:

mike said...

I love these pics. Great blog. Great documentation.