The Humber Mouth
Hull Literature
Festival 2002

Hull Literature Festival 2002 
 the humber mouth  14th - 24th November 2002


Rent a Writer!

Chamber of Secrets

Pee Po Belly Bum Drawers

Larking About

Imagine A Dandelion Upside Down

Close Encounters of a Literary Kind

Wreckless, Eric?

Fading, Fifty and 100% South of Watford

Next Best Thing

Larkin Unearthed

General Enquiries:
City Information Service
at Hull Central Library
Tel: 01482 223344
E-mail: [email protected]

{ Online Festival Diary }
Sue Wilsea & Jackie Goodman

Larking about

My dad didn't get Philip Larkin. I once asked for a copy of 'High Windows' for Christmas. He read a few poems and commented 'Miserable sort of chap, isn't he?'. This was probably because my dad was pretty stoical, hated making a fuss or complaining about anything and believed it to be a man's duty to get married and give his children the best possible opportunities in life. Larkin just didn't fit the picture.

I did think briefly of trying to be a poet. Sadly I haven't got very far. I've written some poems, but have never got round to doing anything with them, which is probably just as well, because at least I have an excuse. The next best thing might have been to become the lover of a famous poet, preferably one who is considerably older than I am, so that I could make a career of being the Next Best Thing after his demise.

Maeve Brennan has launched a career of her own talking about the Real Philip Larkin. I guess this is the best legacy he could have left her. A bit like winning the lottery, except it involves rather more work. Maeve's reading at the Central Library was a strange affair, rather like hers with Larkin. Except that it is full of books, which is thoroughly appropriate for a literature festival venue, the library does not provide the ideal ambience for readings. This is mainly because of the intrusion of traffic noise, which requires an act of superhuman determination on behalf of both readers and listeners to ignore. The trouble is, you end up concentrating so hard on refusing to notice the noise that sometimes you forget to concentrate on the reason for being there. I would rather spend an evening with Maeve Brennan round the fire with a glass or two of sherry, listening to her anecdotes of Larkin. I am sure that these fascinating glimpses of the real Larkin would be frequently punctuated by her infectious giggle and what I suspect is a dry sense of humour. Maeve obviously has a lot more to her than might at first appear to be the case. I did wonder if the little lilac Ford Escort cabriolet with giant foglights parked outside the library entrance actually belonged to her.

While we are on the subject, the Next Best Thing business is getting a bit out of hand. Take Paul Burrell, for instance. How grossly unfair of all those gossip mongers who spread nasty things about him dressing up in Princess Diana's knickers. In the name of Continuing Professional Development, he was simply moving himself a step nearer his ultimate destiny, NBT to the Princess, aka The Rock, the man who had managed to get inside the Princess's knickers. Larkin could have had a field day with that. I did once have a book signed by Ted Hughes, but he was rather disappointingly old and grubby and not at all like the handsome young god in the photos. I also knew someone who knew the singer Donovan in the 70s. They had worked together as butchers. My acquaintance said that Donovan (who was probably called something else at the time) was very good with the instruments (I don't think he meant the musical kind, either). Then I knew someone upon whose lap Twinkle (Twink to her friends) the singer (I use the term loosely) had sat. I don't think it proved to be a life-changing experience. And I did once go to Ronnie Wood's house in Richmond, with a friend, to keep his wife company when he was on tour. The nearest I came to being a NBT was on a holiday spent in the New Forest with someone who has since become a famous poet. I think she read at a previous Literature Festival. I have written a poem about her, so in my quest for poetic recognition, it is printed below. The mystery poet's name is printed upside down at the bottom of page 36. The prize for the correct answer will be another poem, as I have several tucked away somewhere.


I learnt to kiss in Hampshire
On early summer evenings
Gentle south coast seaside days
Of courtelle, bri-nylon and
Easy care permanent pleats,
A whole new teenage wardrobe
In pink, blue, white and peach.

My friend, her sister and I
Stood on tiptoes on the wall
That edged the hotel terrace
Waiting expectantly to
Keep the tryst arranged by winks
And whispers over soup, steak
And cream and chocolate cake.

At last, meals served and plates cleared,
He appeared, a dark-skinned god
Well-versed in love's sweet tricks
To teach the art of kissing
To three girls, lips made luscious,
So they thought, by peach shimmer
Frosted flavoured sunglow sticks.

And so we puckered up and
Then he scored us out of ten
So we could tell our friends back
Home how we'd kissed loads of men,
While he joked with waiter mates
About the girls who blushed
And trembled as he kissed them.

In our continuing efforts to provide the human, anecdotal and utterly trivial elements of this year's Humbermouth website, you might also like to hear of one or two of Sue's NBT near misses. Sue studied English at Hull University in the 70s and was secretary of the Hull University Poetry Society. Philip Larkin refused to put up notices about the Poetry Society in the library, so the chair (aka The Animated Cape) wrote a bitter letter of protest which was totally ignored. The Poetry Society also provided Sue with a brief flirtation with Ian Hamilton on the back seat of a car on the way back from a dinner in Beverley, when he was one of the poets in residence mentioned in Maeve Brennan's talk. But her most impressive NBT near miss was immortalised in the poem below:


Two tiny scratched plastic discs:
contact between inner and outer world.
Lensless I'm stranded in a landscape of
blurred smudged watercolours
Nightmares a splintering into
minute slivers criss-crossing bloodshot eyes
that weep red tears.

Once Philip Larkin, domed forehead
gleaming in moonlight, crouching like some outsized
badger picked among long grasses fringing
the library and found one.
My sight restored by one who had made others
see in focus through his verbal lens,
I blinked away mists
just managing to frame him in my picture
before he slunk away into the night.

Have YOU got a NBT anecdote? If so, send it to the NBT Corner in the Diary section of the Humbermouth website.
E-mail to: [email protected]