Hovis Wholemeal Granary. A poetic assessment

A poem of mine about a particularly weighty issue… Hovis Wholemeal Granary bread

AVERAGE FOOD BLOG


Hovis went in.
Rightly chastised that their Best of Both wasn’t anything of the sort
they have come back.
Hard.

Hovis Wholemeal Granary is so heavy
your bowels start preparing a rock solid shit while you’re still buttering.
They should have just called it Pandemic, and had done with it.

This bread is some archaic, backdated, prison tattoo on the face-type shit
with no rightful place in this wifi coffee shop world in which we live.
This is bread to threaten your kid with
bread targeted at men who lift Atlas stones and pull locomotives

This bread is the opposite of Drake
equivalent to your Bavarian grandmother’s Christmas cake
whatever density this bread is,
it’s the only loaf you could tie to a dead body and send to the bottom of a lake

This bread is like looking at monumental brutalist architecture and saying you don’t like it.
Think it…

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Morrissey autobiography: that joke is, now, actually rather funny

I can smile about it now...
I can smile about it now…

Miles Davis is at a dinner hosted by US President Ronald Reagan. He is sat next to a politician’s wife, who says to him:

“What have you done that is so important in your life? Why are you here?”

Miles, in his Autobiography, says:

Now, I just hate shit like this coming from someone who is ignorant but who wants to be hip and has forced you into a situation where you’re talking to them in this manner. She brought this on herself. So then I said, “Well I’ve changed music five or six times, so I guess that’s what I’ve done…Now, tell me what you have done of any importance other than be white, and that ain’t important to me, so tell me what your claim to fame is?”

You have to feel sorry for the poor woman. Invited to a presidential dinner, and forced to sit next to Miles Davis, a man who is not only a jazz musician, but who also believes that jazz music is important and his place within music of great importance. No doubt she went home and spoke with her politician husband and tut-tutted and used the word ‘uppity’ and perhaps some other less delicate words to describe the hurt that she felt at having to share a dinner table with such a hubristic and obnoxious man.

It is a similar hurt that many people, many esteemed people within the world of literature are feeling today with the publication of Morrissey’s Autobiography on the Penguin Classics imprint. This, let us not forget, is the hallowed place where all of the greatest works of literature are published: Homer, Shakespeare, Balzac and Wilde among them.
These writers are all happily dead, and have been, whilst they rest in peace, adjudged and analysed and welcomed into the canon.

And now, a songwriter, who is merely the greatest pop lyricist this country has produced, has the temerity to demand, yes demand, that his autobiography should be published, without anyone from the wider literary establishment reading it, within the realm of Penguin Classics.

Well, isn’t that just like sitting at a presidential dinner and having Miles Davis insult you to your face?

“This isn’t about the redefinition of ‘classic’, but abject surrender. Penguin has with breath-stopping cynicism flogged its crown jewel – a precious place on the roster of the world’s most enduring literary works – to the moody maverick.”

The sound Boyd Tonkin, Literary Editor of the Independent, choking on his soup.

“To package as a classic a book that no one except Morrissey and a handful of fawning acolytes has read is to instantly reduce the worth of all classics”

said someone on the Telegraph who may as well, except to his mother, remain nameless.

Morrissey, just like Miles Davis all those years ago, should have kept quiet, known his place, and slunk off to the obscurity that his songwriting within the horribly besmirched and irrelevant world of pop music deserves.

Because we should listen to the literary editors and the politician’s wives. We should listen to the voices of those who contemporaneously would have said that Shakespeare was too bawdy, Dickens too populist, Beckett too repetitive, Austen too flippant, Proust too long-winded, and that Oscar Wilde deserved his prison term.

Morrissey, like Miles Davis, is revered in many countries across the globe, including England. The English establishment, perhaps taking into account his open and gleeful hatred of the royal family, still views him with disdain.

Those hundreds of thousands of us whose lives have been enriched – some would say saved – by Morrissey’s words, feel sorry for those suffering great hurt today. However, we do this with the archness and irony learnt from our hero as he marches triumphantly into the citadel known as Literary Establishment, and takes his rightful place among the greats.

What do Ledley King, Toni Morrison and Levi Roots have in common?

Martin Luther King would be happy to be displayed alongside his namesake Ledley
Martin Luther King and Ledley King: historic equals

There is a moment, familiar to all who attend poetry open mic nights, when a poet who is of black ethnicity says, “I wrote this poem for Black History Month.”

When you hear this, three things are almost certain:

1. This will not be their best poem
2. Martin Luther King will more than likely get dragged into it
3. Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey, mostly for alliterative reasons, will not be far behind.

I am not sure why this should be the case. In fact, until very recently, I didn’t even believe Black History Month was real. I had hitherto understood that what was formerly known as October was not Black History Month at all, but Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In my breast cancer campaigning days I was somewhat scornful that black historians weren’t aware of this basic factual error.

Now I am outside of the breast cancer charity arena, and more just floating around south London, it is clear that most people, particularly in the public sector in Lambeth and Southwark, are in no doubt: October is Black History Month.

A recent trip to Peckham Library manifestly demonstrated the point. There was nothing about breast cancer, but an entire display area devoted to Black History Month. As you would expect, they had works by great writers who are of black ethnicity, such as Toni Morrison and Chinua Achebe, and a biography of Mary Seacole, a courageous nurse from the Crimean War.

Also on display was an autobiography by former Tottenham Hotspur defender Ledley King, and cookbooks by reggae cooking star Levi Roots. Initially, I thought that Ledley and Levi were out of place in this company. Indeed, I presumed that the inclusion of these two trivialised the idea of a month celebrating black history.

How wrong I was.

Ledley King’s autobiography revealed that, just like his namesake, he also had a dream. Ledley dreamed of becoming a professional footballer. When I had finished reading the book I couldn’t help but think that Ledley was probably more successful than Martin Luther King, because he achieved his dream whilst still a teenager.

Again, reading Levi Roots’ literary output transformed my view of him, and his place within black history. Little did I know that the history of spicy sauces was every bit as riddled with racial injustice as slavery. It was only with the production of the Reggae Reggae sauce that black people finally emerged from the oppression of spicy sauce companies such as Tabasco and Lea & Perrins.

Historic: Levi Roots coming out from under the yoke of Lea & Perrins
Historic: Levi Roots freeing the spicy sauce market from oppression

The Peckham Library display left me in no doubt that it is much better for Toni Morrison to be grouped alongside Premier League footballers of black ethnicity rather than other Nobel Prize-winning authors from different racial backgrounds.

While artists such as Kendrick Lamar are demanding that this era be known as post-racial, Black History Month allows us the anachronistic comfort of judging people first by the colour of their skin and then, a little later, by the quality of their character and achievements. Which is, I’m sure, what Martin Luther King, 50 years on from his oft-poetically butchered speech, would have wanted.

The poet wakes up and roams and comes home and writes this

The only thing you can aspire to growing up in Essex is to be the barrowboy or banker, trading, raking it in, fingerless gloves in Romford market, salmon shirts in the City, it doesn’t matter, you’ve got to be trading, raking it in, making a living, earning your keep, working and working and working away.

But what are you supposed to do if you are a dosser at heart, curtains drawn at seven a.m., George Osborne tutting on the street below, and all you are good at is words, constructing words into insubstantial sandcastles, how do you, as a poet, make a man of yourself?

You’ve got to sell your wares:

Six and ha’penny worth of sonnets, Mrs Springtime?
Do you want some limericks with that?
Will that be open or wrapped?

They say, I’m not sure who they are, but they definitely do say that the poet should not compromise his vision, and I believe that to be true but not true in my case because my vision is already compromised, it is necessarily compromised by my need to fulfil my erstwhile Essex desires. So when TFL came to me and said, Richard, we want you to do positive poems about TFL and etiquette

(Me who listens to dirty, dirty hip hop on tube trains, it’s seediness leaking into the ears of poor uncorrupted children who might otherwise be listening to pure pop sung by cynical teens with perfect hair and an eye on the till)

I said, yeah, alright.

So, I went down to Croydon, well turned out in my blue suit, and I sidled up to the old ladies – they love me, old ladies, and I love them – and delivered my lines about all the evils that other people do and the old ladies nod, and they say, you are quite right, Richard

and it proves that if you rhyme nicely and throw a few puns in along the way, people will believe what you say

and the young people who would like to think they are immune, they are also susceptible, because poetry makes people realise

it makes them realise that life is all right. You can moan and caterwaul all you like, but in our much criticised social democracy where nothing is good enough, if Transport for London have enough courage to pay a few poets some money, some honest cash money, to roam over London spreading goodness, and allow the poet, for a week only, to pretend he is a real life worker, with dignity and all the rest, then it would be churlish to argue too stridently and unrelentingly about our imperfect state of affairs.