'Bring me my bow of burning gold
Bring me my arrows of desire
Bring me my spears o'clouds unfold
Bring me my chariot of fire ...'
Do Blake's lyrics sound out a patriotic pastoral hymn or a cry of rebellion to your ears? The rhetoric of a visionary poet perhaps? I can only tell you that hearing Botcheston WI sing last night of 'the dark Satanic mills' in this 'green and pleasant land' gave me a shiver of delight. It was the opening to an evening that featured firebridges and solar storms as well as a candles, cakes and correspondence. So very apt. And I took the role of guest speaker at this friendly gathering in the beautiful space of Botcheston Village Hall.
I was there to give one of my talks on The Myths and Science of the Northern Lights, complete with Powerpoint images and dashes of poetry. And I was trying out my dinky new micro-projector and notebook laptop. Both of which decided to die on me about 10 mins. in. The ways of Technology - and its cryptic error messages - are as mysterious as Providence in this situation. Happily, one of the regulars, Jane, had brought along a spare projector and laptop, just in case. That's my kind of thinking. Not only did she have them assembled in a jiffy, she handled all the image switching on my cues as if we were well-rehearsed. Again, many thanks Jane.
The acoustics were fantastic in the old hall and you could hear a pin drop as we roamed imaginatively around the Arctic, hearing ancient stories and modern scientific accounts of the aurora borealis. One gentleman had brought along his own inspiring photographs of the aurora seen from a plane. And at break-time, as we chatted, I was plied with a startling pink fairy-cake - very tasty - baked by somebody's granddaughter. Full marks for the sugar hit. Given the honour of judging the Unusual Candle Competition, I was particularly taken by the giant sliced apple, complete with pips, and a fetching green fir tree.
We don't sing enough these days - I don't mean in the shower or when the radio's on - but out loud together. So I've resolved to learn the lyrics of Jerusalem next time I'm asked to do a WI talk. And I hope there will be a next time because it was a very pleasant evening and enthusiastic crowd. I'm grateful to Christine Fagan who, asked to find a speaker on the weather, picked me instead. And to her lovely husband Ron who chauffeured me out there.
Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.
Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:
My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:
Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:
- Leicester, East Midlands
- As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring.