Open mics are the new black

Jul 7, 2014 by

Open mics are nothing new in themselves, people have always got up at poetry nights and folk clubs and done a well-rehearsed turn. The old circuit was small but predictable, regular faces with songs rarely their own, usually a Ralph McTell or Bob Dylan, performances perfect duplicates of the record everyone attending would have on 7” and be eager to compare accordingly. Guitarists coveted the Hummingbirds of others but openly doubted the best year of manufacture and recommended a different gauge and make of string. There were horror stories of bands refusing to leave the stage after a handful of songs and dragging out a full set, leaving an audience weary-hearted, the room empty and the musicians themselves as bitter as stewed coffee. Poets brought self-penned poems guaranteed of a laugh, mouthed and chortled along to in the right places, but duly slagged off in the bar afterwards.

cath open mice

Not so much now. Spoken word events are changing, the literary salon label slapped on and given respectability. Multi-disciplinary open mics pull in kids in their early teens anxious to tuck beneath their belts a debut performance in front of an adult audience. People come along to have a go, perhaps try new poems and songs to gauge the audience response. Events are well attended and not just by those in hope of hogging the mic.

Why? I don’t know. Can we blame The Voice? Britain’s Got Talent? I’m not sure. Last month, a former teacher at the open mic I host read out letters her eleven year old pupils wrote back in 1970s about the Second World War. Her words brought the house down, much like the impromptu verse written on the night read out after her appearance, and the traditional African folk tale given a 2014 twist following that.

That’s not to say open mics are quite there yet. The sweet spot is elusive, still.

‘I’ve forgotten my guitar. Can I borrow yo-’

NO.

‘Do you pay expenses?’

Ha ha ha ha ha. FRIGGING NO.

 

@cathbore

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Old Faithful

Jul 6, 2014 by

There comes a point in every denim jacket’s life where it reaches the Status Quo stage of distress, a determined fade from brave navy to white as pale as poverty. Oh, Old Faithful! The washing machine did its job too well and bleached the life out of you. Life itself did the job even better. You’re old and tired like a loose memory, so it’s time, Old Faithful, to give way.

Ta-ra, then. We’ve had some laughs, haven’t we? The readings (mine and others), writing festivals, open mics, radio shows, gigs by the hundred, anti-cuts demos, Reclaiming the Night and Bringing Back Our Girls.

dj

Oh, fuck it. I’m keeping you. Call me sentimental but we’ve been everywhere together. You’ll hang in the wardrobe and I’ll tell everyone how great you were and if they don’t believe me I’ll show them the photo album. Don’t worry, I’ll Photoshop the more recent pics.

Hello though New Faithful! Ebay’s a gem. If I squint and tilt my head, you remind me of someone.

 

@cathbore

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Do you miss someone that you never met?

Jul 2, 2014 by

Last week in Manchester I saw a gaggle of women on a hen night dressed as the Bay City Rollers. A small but significant part of me felt like joining them as they looked to be having that much fun but I had another event to go to, on my way as I was to the Deaf Institute to see Edwyn Collins and Colorama perform. The Deaf Institute is one of my favourite small venues in the UK, small enough to be intimate but not a toilet. Speaking of toilets, the ladies’ facilities at Deaf Institute has the best wallpaper, an eyeball-burning pink homage to Dolly Parton. Visible from space, no doubt.

dolly wallpaper

I like Colorama a lot and the new album Temari is a favourite at the moment. When you buy Temari (because you really should) please listen to the words of all the songs but especially Me & My Sister. We hear about the grief from parents’ perspective after the loss of a child and quite right too, but it’s rare we link into the pain of a sibling not yet born. It’s an artist/creative’s task if you will, to look at things from a different angle and always ask “what if?” to uncover the hidden. This song does this so simply, beautifully, sadly.

Do you miss someone that you never met?

It hurts my heart just to think about it.

 

@cathbore

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It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice

Jun 29, 2014 by

Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack

I was sad to hear that soul singer, songwriter and musician Bobby Womack died. My initial response was one of sadness before my mouth curved into a smile. The smile happened involuntarily; I interviewed Bobby Womack for a magazine once and he was so charming and lovely. When we met he grinned wide and happily like it was the most amazing moment of his life EVER, “Oh my God, Cath! Is That REALLY you? The guys have been telling me all day I was going to meet you but I didn’t believe them.” He made this unimportant regional music writer feel very special indeed. Of course he used precisely the same line on every woman on the junket but I didn’t mind one bit. He was true class, and from the “it’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice” school of how to treat people.  Everybody should go there.

@cathbore

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Shadows & Light anthology

Jun 25, 2014 by

I’m really pleased that my short story LITTLE BROTHER is to be included in the forthcoming anthology SHADOWS AND LIGHT. Edited by Andrew Scorah, the book will raise funds for  Women’s Aid, the national UK charity working to end domestic violence.

SHADOWS AND LIGHT will be out in on 2nd August, in the meantime here is the very powerful and striking cover:

shad 1

More details and links to purchase the book once I have them!

@cathbore

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Got writer’s block? Ask Elvis.

Jun 23, 2014 by

IMAG1364[1]

When writer’s block freezes my brain I consult the King. What would he do? I ask myself. Go for a stroll down a country lane, let Mother Nature inspire him? Refer to a classic novel, a Steinbeck perhaps? Drape his weary form on a chaise longue and weep at the futility of it all? Nah. He’d shoot the telly and get someone to make him a bacon and peanut butter sandwich. Even in 2014, Elvis still has the solution to everything.

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Getting my geek on

Jun 23, 2014 by

I’ve got a short story in GEEKED magazine next month, called “PERFECT SKIN”. A departure from my usual writing style, it’s a piece of fan fiction erotica and part of GEEKED’s Sexy Issue. I won’t say what or who the story is based on, you’ll have to wait for the magazine to find out!

geeked july 2014

 

@cathbore

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Bring Back Our Girls Liverpool

Jun 19, 2014 by

bbog liverpool

On April 15th 2014, nearly 300 school girls were kidnapped from the Chibok Government Secondary School by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria.  The Liverpool Bring  Back Our Girls campaign is the brainchild of local community activist Tracey Hylton.

Liverpool Bring Back Our Girls steering group

Liverpool Bring Back Our Girls steering group

With the  plight of the girls now long since sadly slipped from the news headlines, Liverpool Bring Back Our Girls decided to hold an awareness evening to keep the story alive. Held at The Brink, the city’s fabulous dry bar, we had performances on the night from Liverpool Harmonic Gospel Choir,  Ashtree World African drummers, a piece by author Dorothy Koomson written especially for the event, poetry and singing from local women plus statements of support from Bonnie Greer, Joan Bakewell and Alison McGovern MP for Wirral South.

 

The wonderful Liverpool Harmonic Gospel Choir

The wonderful Liverpool Harmonic Gospel Choir

With the World Cup being on at the moment we didn’t expect to get a huge audience, but were really pleased that The Brink was standing room only. It just goes to show that people care so much about the missing girls even if the mainstream media don’t, and we hope to put on more events in the future.

Thanks to The Brink for making us so welcome.

More info on Liverpool Bring Back Our Girls here
Twitter here

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Eating My Words

Jun 18, 2014 by

I am delighted to have a story in this year’s National Flash-fiction Day Anthology, Eating My Words.  ”Sunday Roses” is based on a popular Facebook meme. I look at the actions of an apparently devoted and loving husband from a very different – some might say twisted – angle but I’ll let you be the judge of that!

Eating My Words

 

Eating My Words is published by Gumbo Press and is available in paperback and Kindle.  The book is edited by Calum Kerr, Angela Readman and  Amy Mackelden.

@cathbore

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Fever, hay.

Jun 12, 2014 by

bee

 

I taste dust, dry egg timer grains silt past nostril hairs with no bother and trickle down the back of my throat. I see everything. The world is hard and bright and glassy and my lips feel it, gone all Mick Jagger or so I think. Every place sweats out a smell, the café all salty bacon, raw pink meat seared to cerise in a scalding pan, air in the car syrupy thick with petrol, sweet and black. A cat rushes past and tiny whispers of fur float up to tar and feather my skin. A shy breeze turns brazen, heavy on my mouth like a rough kiss.

@cathbore

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Back to school

May 16, 2014 by

Last last year I met with BTEC Art & Design students from Holly Lodge Girls’ College in Liverpool. The Year 13 students were asked by teacher and Head of Creative Arts David Graham to create work based on my short story “Oranges Are The Only Fruit” as part of their coursework. We discussed the story at length and they came up with some amazing ideas even at that initial meeting.

Myself, Lord Mayor Gary Millar and David Graham at the private view of Year 13's work.

Myself, Lord Mayor Gary Millar and David Graham at the private view of Year 13′s work.

Yesterday I saw for the first time the wonderful work produced, at a private view at Holly Lodge.

Students created such varied work using different mediums, it’s great that one short piece of writing can make people think in so many alternate ways. I was so pleased with what Year 13 came up with and how my story interpreted into art has given it another life I didn’t think possible when I originally wrote it. One of the exhibits was even edible!

"The Battle of Beauty" piece was made of cake!

“The Battle of Beauty” piece was made of cake!

In addition, the exhibition featured Aurasma, a multimedia app. When visitors scanned phones on an image at the exhibition, as if by magic a film of me reading “Oranges…” appeared on their screens.

Holly Lodge Oranges exhibit

Thanks to Year 13, David Graham and all the staff at Holly Lodge for making me so welcome.

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My moneybox and me

May 11, 2014 by

mm moneybox

My Auntie Lilian gave me this Mickey Mouse moneybox for my fifth birthday. She wasn’t my auntie through blood ties, instead was my mother’s best friend from her school days. Auntie Lilian was closer to us than any ‘real’ relative though, and I used to think she was really glamorous with her pink lipstick and the nice presents she bought us for Christmas and birthdays. She was quite posh but had a naughty side; she took us scrumping for apples in early autumn, I have great memories of her laughing as we got chased out of the same apple orchard more than once.

As a child I didn’t use my Mickey Mouse moneybox for saving up money, but when I left home to go to university I started putting copper coins in it until they added up to something more substantial so I could buy cider and black from the student union bar, my beverage of choice back then. I still use the moneybox for stashing my copper even now, and think fondly about my Auntie Lilian every time I push a 1p or 2p through the slot between Mickey’s magnificent ears, but I don’t think even Auntie Lilian would have thought that so many years on, Mickey would still be around.

 @cathbore

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Letter to abducted schoolgirl Mary Sule #Bringbackourgirls

May 9, 2014 by

I read the wonderful letter written by author Rowan Coleman this week to one of the abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria and was inspired to write one of my own.

 

Dear Mary Sule

I heard you’re sixteen years of age give or take year or so, but I’m sorry if I’ve got your age wrong. Enough of your dignity has been robbed from you as it is, without a complete stranger taking years away or adding them on.

When I was your age I was in education like you, not looking forward to my exams exactly but getting ready to face them.  I had the privilege to do my exams unhindered then go to college and university after that. I was lucky, though didn’t think so back then. You deserve to do your exams too, because that’s the important thing, that you and your friends – because I imagine they will be friends now, a sisterhood, even if they weren’t before – get to come home and do what you want to with your life.

The men keeping you captive are stopping you do that, but you need to know lots of men are hoping for your return, alongside women all around the world. I hope you know, Mary, wherever you’re being kept, millions of women and men are thinking of you every day and will carry on until you come home. We are united.

Yours, with lots of love and respect,

Cath

 

The Liverpool Bring Back Our Girls vigil is on Sat 10th May at 1pm @ Bombed Out Church/St Luke’s Church. All very welcome and everyone is invited to wear red. @Livbringback

More here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYuRX405Yes&list=UUIrU7CzBdAE0h2Tr4Grh4Zw …

 

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Step Two

May 7, 2014 by

funeral flowers

 

Flowers do scream when you pick them. I’m crying now as sharp silver scissors snap my stem and spill sugar. My raw cut end stings and sucks at dry air, goes thirsty. I’m dropped into a bucket next to a brash pink peony. She’s standing straight and pretty, garnished with leaves green like a promise.

‘Do you think we’ll end up at a wedding?’ she says, without bothering with a greeting.

I slake my thirst in part, siphoning off some of the shallow pool of water in the bottom of the bucket before I answer.

‘Maybe we’ll end up in a house,’ I say.

‘Maybe we’ll be on a windowsill.’

‘Maybe we’ll be bought as a birthday present.’

‘Maybe we’ll be bought as an anniversary present.’

We think about that, at length. You want to be used for something, really. Perform a function. We might only be flowers, but we have standards.

‘We passed Step One, anyway,’ she says.

‘The big one is next,’ I answer. ‘Step Two.’

Lots of flowers don’t get past Step One, they grow too fast or slowly their stem too thin or fat, petals swell large and obese or fail to thrive. You have to stay medium and within average guidelines to pass Step One, be just like everyone else, to reach your destiny. That’s what it’s all about, having a destiny and fulfilling it. I slope against the bucket’s plastic rim, tired and thirsty. The water is warm now, thick and gluey and useless. I should’ve drunk all of it before when it was cold, I won’t be fulfilling my destiny or anyone else’s if I don’t get fresh water. There’ll be no Step Two for me.

‘Maybe – MAYBE – on Step Two we’ll be taken on a date. Dinner and dancing!’ The peony wriggles, as if she waltzes.

I try to match her but when she stops I can’t, my stem still bending soft and swaying for ages.

Fizz, pop! Water is poured in the bucket and a white disc thrown to join it. Bubbles stream from the aspirin, make me shiver and breathe. I drink fast and frantic, suck and slurp, but get lifted in the air, the pink peony left behind.

I’m crushed by cellophane, tiny holes pin pricked through flimsy plastic. Other flowers stifle me now, tepid yellows and sad purples. We are bound by pink ribbon, princess sweet. Someone swears, says something about it not being appropriate. The pink ribbon is stripped away in a whistle. We’re carried upside down by our stems in an adolescent fist, banged against a school socked leg as one foot stomps in front of the other, pavement and path, road and gutter. The cellophane cuts us, sharp creases stabbing at stems. It hurts more now than when I was picked.

The footsteps stop suddenly but we’re still dangled upside down. Through the cellophane, I see rows of flowers just like us lined up and leaning against dull gun grey railings amongst twinkling tea lights, teddy bears squatting open legged in “the money shot”, framed photographs, tear marked watermarked cards promising “R.I.P.”.  Hard hands shove us in between a bunch of daffodils from Holland and wild daisies clutched from the park.

Step Two, I think. Is it? My destiny!

I pause. The vague yellows and mourning purples wait too. The pink peony didn’t belong here, no wonder she was left behind in the bucket. I bet she’s in a pretty posy now, all gay and girly. Well, good for her but this, what we do, is serious business, our Step Two.

Blank faces peer at us for hours. We wait for the smiles, the skin around eyes crinkling with pleasure or compassion but I can’t tell the sick from the sad. Flapping gums say how awful it all is. The whirr and flash of cameras, the coo of isn’t it terrible, he was so young. Seventy one is no age. The sun is high up in the sky now, burning and wilting us. The unhappy yellow next to me turns tragic, its petals bleaching into washed out lemon. The mourning purple sleeps, I think. My petals loosen and curl at the corners, useless like broken fingers. I feel cold, despite the heat.

I still wait for my Step Two, though; it’s my destiny.

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You’ll Grow Into It

Apr 23, 2014 by

My sister was my first heroine. As a little girl I thought my sister the most glamorous in the world, with long hair dark like fine chocolate while mine stayed mousy. Her eyes large and brown, my deep set short sighted ones stayed screwed up tight in tiny raisins.  Her multi-coloured mountains of make-up on her dressing table I was forbidden to touch but did anyway, jars of perfumed cream, palettes of eye shadow bold and loud, waxy lipsticks in fluted metal, irresistible to me then as now. I wasn’t meant to read her Jackie magazine but guess what? Each week I took a lengthy peek.

My sister was popular, her best friend the daughter of a vet, just like James Herriot! Could that be any more ace, please? My best friend’s dad worked in an office, my own at British Leyland, nothing as exotic or exciting as a vet. Very little is.

cath and ann

 

At age thirteen my sister had a newspaper round on Sundays; after that I wanted one too, desperately, but my parents wouldn’t let me.  I complained endlessly but on reflection, maybe seven years of age was a trifle too young to trek up driveways with a sack of Sunday papers, spines folded sharp, tied to my back.

My sister got older and became a teenager, leaving me in a never ending game of catch up. I wore her hand me downs although my sister stopped at an inconvenient five foot nothing while I eventually grew for another seven inches. My mum rattled out “You’ll grow into it” without a trace of irony, but I knew what she meant. I don’t think we ever catch up to our older siblings. No matter how hard we run, they do everything first, experts on everything until you experience the same too and even then they know better; they’ve already done it and left it behind. The novelty wears off before time the youngest child hits landmarks, it might be virgin territory for us but for everyone else it’s old news, second hand like our clothes.

As a teenager I was bitter and whingey about walking an already well-trodden path, but teenagers are bitter and whingey about anything they can think of, sulkily grasping anything to brandish in the air as an example of  “It’s not fair!” and I got over it.

 

My sister was a teenager in the 1970s/80s, loved the Bay City Rollers, wore the full Rollers ensemble even tartan knee socks. She outgrew the Rollers and moved on to The Eagles like she progressed on to everything. She was going out with a boy once, he had the Hotel California album and she hinted how much she liked the band. No loan of the album was forthcoming or even an offer to tape it for her, so she dumped him.  Mercenary some might say; I reckon it showed standards. On hearing the news another boy from a very well to do family knocked at our front door and asked her out. He did it properly with a box of chocolates and everything, impressing my mum, but my sister said no, his fringe was much too short. She took the box of Roses he offered though, even Mum was pleased at that.

My sister went to polytechnic in Manchester then met her Moroccan husband on a gap year in France, moved to and raised her children there, visiting home very rarely since then. Her mother tongue twisted and quickened to accommodate the French language freely over the decades, my sister’s English poor and thready now like a weak pulse. There’s sadness to it, but a beauty too. Going her own way was always how my sister lived it. I’ve found sisters since in the form of friends, women who’ve supported me, danced with me, drank with me, but sisters made and sisters found are very different.

 

Read the first chapter of my crime novel Blood Money here 

@cathbore

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