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THE CLOUD APPRECIATION

SOCIETY'S DAY OUT

 

Char March is Writer-in-Residence for the Watershed Landscape Project in the South Pennines.  So her ‘office’ is the high moors that separate (and link!) Lancashire and Yorkshire.

 

The watershed is that invisible line, that meanders along the top of the moors, where each raindrop has to decide whether it is going to flow East (down into God’s Own County!) and eventually end up in the North Sea, or whether it is going to flow West, develop those strange Lancastrian vowels, and eventually end up in the Atlantic.

 

This collection is a celebration of Char’s love/hate relationship with the moors – they can be awe-inspiring, tranquil, full of fabulous birdsong and wildlife… and they can be downright terrifying – especially in the grim weather that they love to generate.  ‘The Cloud Appreciation Society’s Day Out’ fizzes with the fabulous palette of people, birds, colours, textures, sounds, and emotions that the moors evoke.

 

www.charmarch.co.uk

 

 

The Cloud Appreciation Society’s Day Out

 

Char March

 

ISBN 978-1-907401-65-7

 

Indigo Dreams Publishing

 

Publication 19/11/2011

 

Poetry/Prose

 

DCF

 

148x210mm

 

48 pages

 

£5.50 U.K

 

 

 

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“I have walked, cycled and talked about this landscape, but when I read these poems, I feel it.  As I sit here at my desk in London, my feet are wet, my face hammered by the wind, my eyes see clouds of sausage and mash – all around me is half Yorkshire, half Lancashire. With this collection, wherever you are in the world, you can carry the Pennine Watershed in your pocket.”  

                                                                                       

CLARE BALDING, TV Presenter

 

”These poems brim with those non-identical twin qualities of compassion and wit. Char March presents a landscape fathomed through the prism of human experience, and human experience filtered through landscape to create moving and engaging work that leaves you wanting more.”

                                                     

IAN MACMILLAN, Poet, TV and Radio Personality

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cloud Appreciation Society’s Day Out

 

We help Marjorie with her zimmer,

Freda shrugs off everyone, threshing

her white-sticked way out of the minibus

across the tussocks, beheading several

 

lesser-spotted orchids, but Gordon says

“Well, they’re not that rare”.  And gradually

we settle.  Some perch on boulders,

David and Sasha hold hands

 

on their plastic-backed tartan rug,

the ones who haven’t got their bus passes yet

lie flat on their backs, almost hidden

by the slowly uncurling bracken.

 

Alice has forgotten her “seeing glasses”

but says Gregory’s reading ones seem

just the job.  Josie has already listed off:

a cat stretching;  Anglesey;  a woolly mammoth;

 

and “a thing like a Kenwood mixer”.

Geoffrey points and says:  “Is that the Gulf

of Mexico with an oil tanker?”  Ranjit has found

Winston Churchill in some cirrus.  

 

Margo’s sunhat has slipped down and she is already

snoring.  I’ve brought my folding chair

and my neck pillow.  I zone out the list-makers,

tune into the oyster-catchers’ double whistles

 

sonaring off the cloud-filled reservoir.  

I look up, shade my eyes, see a fish

with one huge feathered wing

very slowly turning

 

into a tumbling pile

of bangers and mash.

 

 

 

 

 

Watershed

 

Trapped under its solid self

it squeaks and chortles.

 

It is life-noise –

the joy of bubbling.

 

Straining to get down to God’s Own County

or – this tendril – to The Other Side

 

where it will develop those weird

O’s, and that slightly rolling R

 

as it gushes past Clitheroe,

Barnoldswick and all those

 

Other Placenames

that are definitely not

 

in Yorkshire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you stop, they stop

 

The fritillary moths stagger through the air

drunkenly zig-zagging away from you

just above the grumpy heather,

then settle.

 

The rabbits’ scuts flick-flick-flick

then neatly disappear under bums

as they freeze, mid-meadow,

ears radaring.  Gradually there is

a change to languid

pul – ling – down – of – one – ear,

then the other, that unconcern

of grooming, their short memory

of flight…  gone.  And a complete return

to concentrated nibbling.

 

The roe deer steps out of the disused quarry,

one bluebell stalk wagging like a limp cigar,

then freezes, all eye-white and nostril,

seeing a rifle

in your walking stick.

 

The clouds never stop though.

No sooner a teapot than morphing

to crocodile, laughing man in a topper,

map of Iceland, then New Zealand,

then nowt.

 

 

 

 

The Heptonstall Artemis

 

Crossing these moors has to be done lightly

with a quick tripping trot for

sphagnum hummocks disguise

peaty soundings stealthy as submarines.

 

The ping-ping sonar of lapwings traces

from open blue to the sucking dark,

deep and brown – tender as cows’ eyes.

This bog’s surface is soft;  yielding as an udder

 

licked pink and steaming by your hot rag.  

For months of milking-times I lie on the lip

of Colden Clough to watch you, glistening

with steel buckets and rain, in sun and moon.  

 

Your boots clump out your criss-crossing care,

calling your herd of ladies to you – all leggy

sweet-breathed and long-lashed.  Calm

under your touch – the crown of your head

 

firm on their flank, they yield to you, let their

calves’ milk down – into the hissing chug,

the many gulping mouths of your machines.  

I lie in the tormentil on that dip slope, and I plot.

 

It is beside the octagonal chapel I finally bring you

to ground.  I stand close by the waterbutt

to watch you tuck a wilting handful

of fox-and-cubs beside her headstone.

 

Then follow you into the furniture-polish-hush

of the pews.  And, when enough minutes

have been spent watching your bowed head,

I huff – hard – on your bare nape.  

 

Your tractor keys are a feeble talisman

held out like garlic.  I take them, drop them

onto stone.  You shift and shuffle against me;  

uneasy as in an unknown stall.

 

But my hand’s a gentle lead, and I

am breathy-warm and sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nesh

 

Last week they said it was cold in London.

A thin bit of mizzle brought them out

in a rash of umbrellas, much buttoning.

 

Up here, cold

is the landscape;

rain the absolute norm.

And no pissing about

with mizzle, drizzle, mist –

we shove through solid water,

that holds us lurching

at gravestone angles,

across Heptonstall’s cobbles;

through bucketclanking farmyards;

out onto the moor.

 

Our air is luscious,

alive, viscous,

slapping us awake

like a wet cod

across our chops.

 

 

 

 

Moor – another dimension

 

The scratching-crackle of heather

closes round me

a forest of desiccation

trembling with those tiny half-hidden dots

that never really look like flowers

and yet, from a mile away,

mist the moor in imperial purple.

 

I lie in the realm of insects,

tormentil, liverwort, lichen and mosses

and tell myself, as usual,

not to look at the sun,

but do anyway,

and the blue of the ionosphere

shatters, and sizzles

through the bowls

of my retinas.

 

I think I hear a vole

crashing through the treetrunks

a bulldozer with a top note

of skylark that is jerking

up the blue like a

snagged kite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

website website DSCN5478

Char March has been working with a huge range of groups – on both sides of The Great Divide – to get them inspired about the Pennine moors.  

 

She has taken deaf children, sheltered housing residents, quilters and textile artists, skateboarders, choristers, and writers from both sides of the Pennines on all sorts of explorations of the moors to help them express what the watershed landscape means to them.  And also, to explore watersheds in their own lives – when they’ve had to make decisions about whether to take one path, or another.

 

But working with community groups was only one half of the residency; the other half was for Char to produce her own writing about the watershed.  So, this collection is a celebration of Char’s love/hate relationship with the moors – they can be awe-inspiring, tranquil, full of fabulous birdsong and wildlife… and they can be downright terrifying – especially in some of the grim weather that they are prone to.  

 

Char has explored the watershed in all seasons, and all weathers, and even managed to break her ankle during her residency while setting off on a moorland walk!  

 

The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and Char has had two exhibitions of her work during her residency – one at the excellent, independent Saddleworth Museum in Uppermill, and one at the stunning Cliffe Castle museum in Keighley