Culture Night / Remembering Terry

Culture Night is almost upon us. It’s the biggest day of the year for Belfast with a hundred thousand descending on… four hundred events? All run by volunteers.

I’ll be doing my in-demand poet thing this year: because I’m a poet, who writes poetry. First off is Inspire’s Time for Tea by Lombard House, 10-20 Lombard Street from 5:30-7pm. It’s a family oriented event. Inspire perform valuable mental health services, and they’re co-hosting with Addiction NI.

Then I’ll make my way through the crowds to the Costa Coffee on Castle Place. From 7-9pm Studio NI/Titania are running a unique Open Mic with performances filmed and some contest or other. Turn up to both and I’ll not pop the same material.

Terry Wiley passed away earlier this month. Terry was an independent cartoonist. He had a style which any-one could look at and say, ‘that’s a Wiley’. He was detailed and graceful and infused his characters with life. In the 90s he co-created Sleaze Castle with Dave McKinnon. A tale of dimension hopping students, it drew influence from psychedelia, Subgenius, and quantum malarkey and Terry brought all of that to the pages in every conceivable magical aspect. Sleaze Castle had, perhaps, a cult following? A small but passionate readership. Terry was similarly magical. He looked part-squirrel, part gnome, and could be so easy-going I found him a bit intimidating on our first meets. Or maybe I was star-struck. Or maybe it was because that first time I had the accidental honour (and I was aware of it) of sitting next to Terry and Dave for a Balti in Birmingham, and I’d never seen candles under food or a balti bowl before.

The 2013 MCR – Jay Eales, Terry Wiley, Lee Kennedy

Huh. There’s too much to write about Terry. He was a regular fixture at the CAPTION festivals, sketching and yarning, and building unusual props. It was the Midwinter Comics Retreats, (MCRs), organised by Debra Boyask, where I got to know him. Recipe: a dozen cartoonists in a country cottage, plied with home-cooked food and booze, tasked with creating a book over a weekend. It was Christmas come early, with a substitute family. (Debra made sure all the men wore ties at dinner)

The MCR comics were high nonsense. Above, Terry describes the plot of the first two. This page introduces the third book, Hellspoon.

Terry was massively prolific, finishing about two to three pages a day. Somehow he also found time for the craic, curmudgeonly rants, and enlightening us with poignant observations. Ha! I’m just remembering the last MCR. We’d picked up that it was also the abbreviation for My Chemical Romance, whose lead singer Gerard Way also writes for DC comics. Our MCR was traditionally happy to be low-key, but Jay and Terry got it into their heads it might be fun to take back the hashtag, and so began uploading pages and jest-trolling MCR fans on Twitter.

The League of Jeremies, by Terry Wiley, from MCR Hellspoon.

There’s a selection of the Retreat Comics for free on the Factor Fiction website, and some other books Terry worked on with them. His last work was Verity Fair, which I’ve heard nowt but great things about.

I visited Terry in the care home a few weeks before he passed. He was more concerned about me than about himself. That was the measure of him. He was well loved throughout the communities. He was brave as could be.

I have a lot of new work up on Patreon. The poems Handle-Guards, K. What? and Green-Way/Decoded. There’s also new short stories, The Youth of 2062 and Riot City, Junk Garage. Very soon these are joined by the first-look at my new novella, Spide: The Lost Tribes. More on that soon.

Take care of yourself and yours. Good night,

Andy

Too much happening lately

Since last post here, the world lost John Grandidge, a dear friend off exploring the flora and fauna of the after-life, looking out posthumously from future poetry collections of those he influenced; he peeks out from between the panels of my last few years of comics, of which he was an audible fan and supporter. He was my favourite drinking buddy; he warmed my soul when it was cold and weeping. He touched a multitude of people in the same way and he did it with style and love. He told us he’d cancer a few months ago, thinking it was an upset stomach. When it claimed him, it was years ahead of what many of us thought. He was at home with friends and a cat.

I’ve written a lot about John in pro-active grieving, which might find it’s way out, but he’s glimpsed beautifully in verse by Becca Heddle. If you didn’t know him, I’m sorry for your loss.

JG, John, Leonard Rat, Grandidge, John Wood Dragon, Jackfirecat – probably not all the names.
Poet, artist, cleverclogs.
Approaching fast, long-legged stride, black coat flapping, sweeping you up with a surprising hug.
Expressive hands full of knots and angles, drawing thoughts in the air.
Skewering pretension, dissecting hypocrisy – ach, rrr – cutting through the crap.
Delighted swift turn of the head and dart of a smile aimed just at you.
Red Shift; Little, Big; Possession; Robert Graves.
Doing everything with all of him, glint in his eyes, walking moors, riverbanks, hills.
Glorious in spleen, generous with love, hating sentimentality.
Energy, spark, fire.
New conversations, not repeats – ‘No, we’ve done that one.’
Yes, Genesis, Brand X, Billy Bragg, Prince, the Stranglers.
Snakeshead fritillaries.
Notes in Elvish; gifts of poems, drawings, time, jokes, joy.
Suddenly standing, black bag to his shoulder, ‘Bye’ – and he’s gone.

Less than a week later, I’m at the hand-fasting of Margaret Dalzell and Richard Barr; Richard being my nearest and dearest. It was at the beautiful Ballygally Castle and an informal gathering of old friends. Sarah and I, no we’re not a couple, stayed at Cairnview Bed and Breakfast, with Adam, and I heartily recommend it to anyone  visiting the place, just on the coast outside Larne. Adam and Sarah looked after me above and beyond the call. Margaret was full of empathy and humour, so much so I had to laugh behind plants when she’d make jokes about people right in front of us. Richard, who hates being the centre of attention, handled it as the professional gentleman I’ve always known him to be, even taking time out to share his latest thoughts on our novel, and suggest a few web researches.

Richard and Margaret.

Oh, and they both looked wonderful.

Then to Enniskillen, which is where Sarah’s from, and the town’s first comics festival. There I met the brilliant five-man committee and after some painting polystyrene shaped rockets. I’d a lovely chat in the pub with Hunt Emerson, Laura Howell and my boyhood idol, Lew Stringer, with Hunt making us laugh with his Frank Miller cover versions. On Friday, we’d a screening of Judge Minty, introduced and summarised by Mr. Michael Carroll, very entertaining. I’d a pub chat with lovely Sue Grant, struck up a friendship with Enniskillen horror writer Andrew Gallagher and wowed at the appearance of Pieter Bell, who I’ve known over twenty years, but rarely seen outside a comic shop. “What? Is there something going on here?” he asked. “No seriously, we just came from the caravan. What’s going on?”

Photographer: Do you think you could flirt a little bit? No, not you, Kitty. I mean, Andy.

Photographer: Do you think you could flirt a little bit? No, not you, Kitty. I mean Andy.

Saturday morning was unloading of comics from the old Black Panel distro, which creators had donated to the event; then preparing to host a morning self-publishing panel featuring Jenika Ioffreda, Una Gallagher, Danny McLaughlin and Austin Flanagan. The main venue was in McArthur Hall, actually a church hall, a real part-of-a-church hall, (ie the comics fest was in a church), and the panels were in the nearby library. I set out in good time, and fell badly down several stairs. The pain was brutal. It cleared up Sunday but I have a massive ankle swelling, though can get about. The panel was small press + first event of the day = poorly attended, but we made up for it by inviting the audience to join us and make a roundtable. Those arriving early for the 2000AD panel were just a little envious on finding Una Gallagher holding court on tales of families aural tradition of storytelling.

Glenn Matchett made this video for the panel, on writing for comics.

And a few hours later, my big turn: Alan Grant and an audience with.  I’d met Sue and Alan on Thursday night, shortly after we arrived. (Sidenote: The guests came from the airport via a party bus, which had disco lights and a dancer’s pole.)  The three of us (who had not met before), were shattered, awkward small talk shared between ciggy puffs. On Friday, Alan and I kept missing one another; resting or walking or taking smoke breaks at different times.  Sue was absolutely lovely and among other things, talked about the comics festival in their home village, which I’d love to get to.

I mean, just look at that guest list.

I mean, just look at that guest list.

Moniaive Comics Festival programme: packed!

Moniaive Comics Festival programme: packed!

So, Alan and I got to chat a few hours before we were due at the library, and the rapport picked up right away. A massive relief, because I was more nervous than I knew.  On the panel, I went through half my pre-written questions on Anarky, deadlines, research, philosophy and got gratefully off-track talking about living with John Wagner, writing horror and romance. The audience were wonderful, filling up the room with questions about 2000AD’s Strontium Dog and Ace Trucking, The Bogie Man, Lobo, and afterwards a number of people came and shook my hand saying what a great job I’d done. Alan was very generous with his experience and his time – we sat twenty minutes late, and considered sitting on but I didn’t want us locked in the library.

The organisers were brilliant: Stephen Trimble gave me a bed for a night before they put me in the hotel. James Eames took us to his home where his parents treated us to coffee, biccies and chat. Chris Fawcett was funny and cool under pressure with the pub quiz; Mark Kenyon flowed between committments. Organiser Paul Trimble did a lot of heavy lifting but still found time to celebrate 30 years of his Banbridge comic shop, Thunder Road, perhaps the first in Northern Ireland. Oh, and Matthew Gault, a tiny Quentin Blake illustration of good humour and muscular intellect. And sometimes, he drinks way too much.

"But at least he doesn't snore like a chainsaw." Photo by James Eames.

“But at least he doesn’t snore like a chainsaw.” Photo by James Eames.

The event was a great success and I join with the other guests in thanking the organisers for brill treatment. A few more quick snaps.

My new friend, Andrew Gallagher, iron grip author of 'Escape from Fermanagh'

My new friend, Andrew Gallagher, iron grip author of ‘Escape from Fermanagh’

Beer Garden: Andrew Gallagher, Ryan Brown and Glenn Fabry

Beer Garden: Andrew Gallagher, Clint Langley and the debonair aristocats, Ryan Brown and Glenn Fabry

Organisers James Eames and Matthew Gault, and Aaron.

Organisers James Eames and Matthew Gault, and Aaron.

Mark Bromage, Paul Trimble, myself and Pieter Bell.

Mark Bromage, Paul Trimble, myself and Pieter Bell.

I’ve another funeral to attend on Friday, my adorable god-mother’s mother. She passed away this morning. I didn’t know her terribly well, but of course, people I love did.

I wonder if part of growing old is not that you slow down, but that life comes and goes faster and faster. If you read this far, thanks. Love with all the heart while you can.

Thinking about art

Thinking about art
It’s funny
I like to just let it happen
Consciousness
The group energy zaps a crayon whiz
Thinking about art
It’s meant to
Make me laugh or go
“Cool Hat!”
Because if I can control
Paycheque!
Is it pithy signals?
Book of the Month
£49.95
(That’s a reference to the Book of the Month club which cost £49.95 for a yearly subscription but for a starter offer you could pay £19.95 and get three books absolutely freeeee-ish-cept Asterix, You agree to two further years at full digital price . Dan Brown Digital Fortress with the crazy eyepatch chief. I can seee the motorbike chase’s end eighteen chapters in the future, same is Demons and Angels. Oh, there’s David Copperfield, I like a bit of Dickens)
Oh – Soci-ology
The deep end of the pool
So many species, a real
Cross sampool
Ever house in many street
All the fields in university
Criminal’s papers in our wee shops
Piano keys and fucking telly
It’s funny I like to
Just let it
When I could move in
Take the propaganda out to a recycling bin
De-weed the bus stop
Put up timetables
Hey, let’s paint over that wall
As well, the one, you know,
‘Tout is a Tout and A Drug Dealer’
Or ’18 Died For What’
(block caps off)
The message on from there
If there’s a message there
It’s on my wall, looking ugly, badly phrased, not like Banksy or Jim Stewart or Dan Eggs
Consciousness
The group energy zaps a crayon whiz
Consistent lettering
On Twitter future

Five hundred unseen
Gallery flyers
Equal my comic costs or this poem
Thinking about art
They might even be
Cut and folded to
Mean make me laugh
“Cool Hat!”

Alert!

Alert!

All dressed smart in my red guard uniform
Balancing alert on the edge of a geranium
My brow dips and rises at the bugs
Funny eyes that are scary, says a chum

Dirt and whites and a teeth of sad cell,
Or cruise ship chat room quip kick and quell
Fumetti comics, head-sketches, fortune teller, lite letter
Rewrote, precise, not to mistune my receptor

Today, the atlas has a ring around
Yet the mercury box is not moving
Everyone came grieving around
The stuffed owl stands atop that closet
From dust our memories ignore.
The way the earth is moving, closer
Looking down, looking out,
Floating
can you really be so sure?

Interview with Adam Lively, poet of Rainy Days

It’s quite nice watching an evolutionary leap running through both the Belfast comedy and poetry circles lately, and it’s not restricted to both Down and Antrim I’ll wager. Last December, while loyalist protestors…actually can we stop calling them that? The protest isn’t what we disapprove of – its the litter, the violence, the tying bags of shit to lamp-posts, it’s the rioting. So, last December, while loyalist rioters pushed the city into gridlock folk took part in Operation Sitdown. Pubs and clubs were filled with commerce to make up for the protests which lost Belfast hundreds of jobs, myself included. This later was co-opted by the City Council to become Backin Belfast, but of course, as it was run top-down rather than grassroots, they messed it up. Still, we had LAD to keep our spirits up.

I met my friend Adam Lively for a pint. Adams a more pleasant creature than me. Intently gentle, self-sacrificing, a little jittery but a little is alright, calm and silent with a black observational wit. I had a camera on me to ask him about his poetry collection, Rainy Days, a title which well sums up our capital.

You can buy Rainy Days through the Lapwing site and Paypal. It’s £10 in print or £5 digital, and they’re currently running a 2-for-1 offer from their vast e-book range.

Cheers

Andy

Travelblog : Ballycastle

I’d managed to book Rathlin for Monday sailing and an overnight, miscalculating that I’d three nights before that was happening. The Backpackers Hostel on the Promenade looked tacky outside but Ann-Marie kept a homely comfortable place that felt like mine. Sophie’s advice about hosteling with private rooms was bang on. (German pyro-eejit, out of sight) Realising I might be exceeding reasonable chips and ice cream cone portions, it was time to move on. I booked a night twenty minutes along the coast, in Ballintoy before Rathlin, and thirty minutes along the coast in Portrush after. Here’s a short story I wrote before leaving….

Ballycastle

 

The outdoor gym is crawling with weans; the age abandoned allocated play park. Besides them, striped shirt hairy man writes, pound-saver bargain book resting on a round grey granite table. So smoothly sculpted from the rock, his fingernails are left with no scratch as they move under the pen. The people saunter. It’s a holiday and he wouldn’t mind some sex. Under 500 words ought to allow him the quickie he desires, but no. He wants time with the reader, the return of communications. He doesn’t know, despite experience, if the book will reach multitudes. He sensually caresses hyper-narrative.

From the park’s edge, Andy looks out over the final green hump. The two ginger boys are still playing, now joined by a man. They’re in matching navy coats, they could be twins. Sand trivia chucks have become a mound, brittle sticks waving battlement’s pains. The man with them doesn’t get involved, merely contemplates, his body stretching light. After a while he walks to the sea and the boys follow him. There’s a log he is sitting at, like a storyteller with the boys on the camel grains at his read. The footprints of book woman are blown across now by a wind, niggling, really niggling we are to see it. It’s barely traced. It’s there, in the vast expanse of the Irish sea. Invisible everywhere, down to the sliding breakers, roars hugging, turning over, to a loopy line shape, curtains drawing on the shore. Man, boy, skimmer stone.

Forty yards and the shore curves to an inlet; lagoon’s edge: eleven children air sail rocks. They’re back and forward but not enough for me to know their stories. A woman eyes me as she walks past. I wonder if she thinks I’m a paedo. Someone needs to do a survey about that psychic terror shit. Her partner looks back as well. Most people are over forty here. There’s no sun in the sky and I notice on the way to telling you it’s warm, that there hasn’t been all day.

A mother with nice books takes a pink kart to the far end of the park. They have a motor fountain, eight jets shooting from the ground, and kiddies scream in the middle. Jogger runs past them. Tribes of pram pushers stroll far. An aunt sits middle on the wall. Little bastard! There was a wasp in my bag, okay? Just when the black and white bounder dog pissed on a seat and the woman twirled like no-one saw. A kid plays nearby, a jack-o-lantern smile, freckles, bush hair in front of big teeth. The wasp might still be circling. Why are we culling badgers when we could slay wasps? Scientist may testify.

The stream of people are less, but it’s not dawning time. They’re behind me, a family of about twenty. The jogger is nowhere to be seen. There’s not a ginger around. I have a remarkable view but time were left to someone else. Passing, I smile.

Little green box

Little green box with a screwed in blade
for running by blunted pencil.
Well, the pencil runs around it,
around and around,
the cylindrical shaft.
I’m really fucked off,
The noise outside
I don’t care

I don’t care
Can you not discipline your child
Without instructing the whole street?

This sharpener will rescue me
I shake lose the broken lead:
It was to be expected,
It was only the top.
It falls onto the floor, I turn again
I’ve got this horse and it’s body is a mosaic
And I suppose the ears are like flowers
Crack

Remove pencil, check
And another piece of lead falls
The bridge over the cylindrical shaft is broke..
Oh, don’t let me down!

I suppose this only costs 19p
I try again and hold it firmer.
Turns the blade, turns the blade
And the lead breaks again.
I take the pencil out
And hold it forward
And twirls around and
Damn!
It hit’s the
bin perfectly.

Compased as part of Monica Cornish’s Creative Writing Workshop at the Bounce! festival 2013.