Chill Pill brings the beach to Deptford Market!!!

We did our Chill Pill stall at Deptford market on Saturday, but this time we brought a beach for those summer vibes…
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Our stall and general presence in the market works in three main ways:
1. We wonder around offering people a lucky dip bag of themed poems and reading them the one they pick…

2.People come to the stall and ask for a poem about a particular theme, moment, whatever – we ask them a few questions and then they head off for 10/15 minutes while we write the thing…

3. We write poems similarly ‘instant’ poems inspired by chatting to market traders, bigging up what they do, connecting with them or their story in some way…

On Saturday I got talking to Evelin who runs a mobile coffee shop out the back of a little red van, and wrote something for her. Check the shaky video here (which gets a little too close to my face for my liking!), or read the piece below that…

Karu coffee, from Estonia with love
Arabica beans freshly ground, we make moves
Evelin, our house proud host, hoists a parasol
high above her little village of six chairs
and three tables. Six years ago to England
she came, having never made a coffee, not one
plans change! Her face holds the warm humble blush
of a craftsperson proud of their trade
back home, Karu means brown bear
which is kind of like ‘Pumpkin’
a name you call your lover maybe…
steam froths milk, wipe the nozzle clean
tap the base of the milk jug and pour
we make moves, summer tunes float
from the radio. And every day a new spot,
the little red van opens its doors
feel the buzz, from Estonia with love

Three deep at the bar – my first poem as Brent Poet Laureate…

When I decided to write my first poem for Brent inspired by my visit to Wembley for the England vs. Ireland friendly, I was pretty sure I’d write about the game, or at least the stadium. I wanted to tell people that if a nation can be judged on the way it treats its poorest, then surely the way to judge a stadium is the view from its cheapest seats, I wanted to shout loud from the rooftops that if this was the case then good old Wembley passed with flying colours! Or failing that, to biggup it’s world record as the venue with the most toilets (2168 to be precise). At least to mention the bloody arch! And I promise that one day I will, perhaps even making my next offering an ode to that glowing single-coloured rainbow of steel spleandour. But this time around I wrote about the pub on the high road. Because I’m sure we’ve all had a long wait for a drink at a busy bar, and for a pub in Wembley before England game, well times your worst experience by about ten…

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Three deep at the bar
The spoons pre-match is three deep at the bar
punters jostle for space, this is their six yard box
some man-mark, making eyes at one bar-staff only
others go zonal, locking down a spot as wide as two Wayne Rooneys
with constant slight shuffles from left to right. In short,
this ain’t your local on a quiet Tuesday night
where any mug can find himself in acres of space. This is Wembley.
Everybody’s touch tight here. Even the designated drivers
Tetchy and in need of a juice. Even the crafty old boys in flat caps
who seem content to grumble-hum about the plastic glasses
only to lunge in with last ditch refill requests.
I thought I had time for a pint Before kickoff.
But of all buses parked in front of the bar
Of all the rounded bellies with bright white replica kits on
I’m behind the biggest. And I’m parched here. Gasping.
Sod it. I feint left, drop the shoulder, ghost past him
jink between two lads berating their mate for sipping too slow
“you’re a drink behind already Daz. This is like Majorca all over again.”
One more shimmy, spot the gap, then go. so close I can taste it.
Until, finally, I’m in. That’s that.
I slap my wallet on the damp mat in front of the taps
And for those who don’t know, that’s next up nailed on
A move that makes swift service a stone-wall certainty
The barman nods – “what can I get ya?”
I inhale, quick look along the taps to check, when out of nowhere
I feel an elbow nudge from the left. “Actually mate, I think she was next.”
There’s no answer to that. Outgentlemanned. I shrug-Grunt my approval.
join him on the moral high ground. Hold on though… Nooo! It’s too late when it hits.
It’s the old one two, he’s gone in with the assist. I just watch
Mouth agog, as his strike-partner orders. Two halves.
And when the drinks come, my worst fears are confirmed
Coz one is his and one is hers. Even Lands a kiss on her cheek before they turn,
And walk right by me. Arms flung over shoulders all smiley.
Beardsley and Lineker. Italia 90. I swear it’s the hope that kills you.

Simon Mole, 2013.

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King Bones (the only ninja skeleton living in Bow)

In spring last year I was lucky enough to be involved in an awesome project at Chisenhale Primary school in Bow, East London. I was working with two small-ish groups of boys aged 8 and 9, and a big chunk of what I did was supporting them to build the skills they need to confidently write and perform a group piece about their local area. For the first time on a project like this I also introduced the idea of each group ‘commissioning’ an original poem or rap written by me. They were my bosses, so it was up to them to tell me what they wanted their piece to be about, and to give me feedback at various points in the process. Some of the ideas they came up with were just awesome, and for them to see their off the cuff suggestions transformed into a piece of writing they were genuinely impressed by turned out to be an important part in their journey to writing more confidently themselves.

I’m only blogging about this now months later because life got busy, but also because the other day I found the piece about ‘King Bones’ (the only ninja skeleton living in Bow) and thought it might be fun to record myself speaking it and stick up here to document the project. So, that’s what I’ve done. It’s below, with the text included too. The kids liked it, but were disappointed I did not get to the bit where Bones has a battle on a spaghetti mountain because somebody keyed his car. Who knows, maybe a sequel is coming…

King Bones
If you see a gold mini cooper with tinted windows
It’s probably King Bones, it’s King Bones!
The only ninja skeleton living in Bow. King Bones! King Bones!

Tyres screech. The fire breathing engine smokes out the entire street.
A little grey cat hides behind a tree. The slightest breeze.
Then the car doors open. In slow motion. King Bones has arrived!
King Bones has arrived! He slips out like a deadly whisper.
Moves quick. What would you expect from a ninja?!
Yep, King Bones has arrived!
The mid day sky clouds over, Thunderclaps,
Louder than a hundred hungry hands drumming empty pots and pans,
Then silence. Suddenly night,
Except for the stars, and the gold of the car, nothing is bright.
king bones has arrived. king bones has arrived.

If you hear the roar of the old Trafford crowd as a ring tone
It’s probably King Bones, it’s King Bones!
The only ninja skeleton living in Bow. King Bones! King Bones!

In a sparkling white karate suit and cool black shades
The top of his skull’s shiny, like the surface of a lake
He walks over to the cat, and that’s when we notice that
King bones white Karate suit has got a dark black skull and cross-bones on the back.
He bends down, voice like a rattle
Rattles “lets be friends now!”
The little grey cat looks up, confused
Bones strokes it’s head and it mews
Now this you wont believe but I tell you it’s true
From it’s skull to it’s claws, from that one touch,
the cat’s now a skeleton too
tail wiggling, bony tail wiggling,
follows Bones back to the car, gets in with him.
As soon as the door clicks shut, the sky switches up,
Just like that, the days back, bright sun.
Must be me Mr. Bones, if I were you I’d run!

Simon Mole (and my bosses), 2012

Chill Pill Christmas special at Deptford Market…

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Deptford market it an amazing place with an authentically local feel about it that is too often missing at more trendy boutique style markets. This is a real place for real people. Also, you can get anything you want. Anything. And almost always at a wildly reasonable price. One stallholder told me he had been working there for 32 years and the man’s patter was so on point I could believe he was three decades deep in the game.

“if you can’t see what you’re looking for, just ask. I’m looking for your money, and so far I can’t see it”

A recent addition to the market has been young marketers, trainee traders if you like, supported by a council development programme. On the Saturday we were there (9th December) the young traders were housed in a little market on the square. As part of the overall aim of the project to bring more people to the market (crucially in a way that supports what is already there) Chill Pill were invited to collaborate with site specific theatre director Peader Kirk in order to provide some Christmas entertainment. We thought that the best way to do this would be to fit in with the existing market, and see what happened if we tried to run a stall ourselves! As you can see it was decorated ‘tastefully’, although we did have a few people enquiring after the trees rather than our poems…

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On arrival we got chatting to the young traders; about their wares, what inspired them to get started, their creative processes, business so far etc – The four of us chill pill poets (me, Raymond Antrobus, Deanna Rodger, and Adam Kammerling) then wrote little ‘instant’ poems about each stall-holder individually, before belting these out with a few of our own pieces over the PA. The marketers were really happy to have their stalls written about and promoted in this unusual way, as for young newcomers vocally attracting custom can be a daunting thing to go about.

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Apart from these sporadic performances over the PA (at which we also read some of our favourite ‘seasonal’ poems by other authors) we also tried to bring a bit of poetry to those stall holders and bargain hunters who weren’t naturally passing our way. Our strategy was two fold:

  1. Wandering with ‘the poetry stocking’, from which people could pull titles of Christmas poems, which we would then read to them. Check out Adam doing his thing below. These guys offered us a quid when we were done. Despite us reading them a pretty bleak (although brilliant) poem called ‘snow’ by Vladimir Holan
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  3. Chatting to stallholders and punters, and asking for their own Christmas moments or memories, or alternatively their wishes for themselves or others for this years festivities. We noted these contributions down on Christmas labels and hung them from our trees, before Ray compiled a beautiful little crowd sourced Christmas poem from the results.

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The final service we offered was an idea I pinched from Poetry Takeaway which I saw at Latitiude – where people could come up and ask to have a poem written for them, about anything they wanted – again the turn around for these was mega quick but this video of Adam reading his to the young woman who requested is evidence of what can be achieved in five minutes!

All in all it was a cracking day, and definitely considering trying to get a plot for another stall in the future! Below you will find the text for my pieces for the marketers… Enjoy!

Dr. Denim
A battered leather suitcase
Full of old jeans, but
Everything is in here
Un-pick and re-stitch
Zips, hems, pockets
Make ties, bags, wallets
Make anything you want
Made to order, man’s on it.
Dr. Denim, if you’re passing the stall
Pop your head in, certified swag
What d’you reckon?!

 

Niamh’s preserves
Niamh went from jewellery to jam.
24 carat cake jam.
sticky fingers in the workshop,
berry red splatters on the worktop
roasted red pepper and peach,
each deep flavour worked on and brought through…
Compliment your cheese with a chutney,
have it with a brie or a cheese that’s more crumbly
Perfect for a feed if you’re hungry
Deep in the fridge late night with the munchies
Branstons? What?!
Yeah that’s a brand that you’ve seen and heard
And so it may seem absurd,
but you’re much better off with one of Niamh’s preserves!

 

Broken bikes, Tour De France legends, the Kilburn High Road, and a new poem!

A single Tour de France is reckoned to take a year off your life. No idea how they work that shit out, but when you take into account that in order to win the race this year Bradley Wiggins covered 2,173 miles in 20 stages with only two rest days, it starts to make sense. 

Get this though. In 1926 the tour spanned it’s longest route ever – a whopping 3,570 miles, in just 17 stages. Madness. To really put things in perspective though consider that last Monday I carried my broken bike the 0.7 miles from my house to Brondesbury Overground station. More on that later.


When I first started watching the tour I was impressed by the spectacle, by the sheer scale of it, the beautiful scenery, the speed of the riders. But as I watched more and more of it each year, and read a little of the history, I began to understand the intricacies of cycling as a team sport, and to appreciate the heroic work by the domestiques that so easily goes unnoticed by the casual observer. Check out the team mates in the background of the picture below, celebrating as their sprinter Andre Greipel wins a stage. He will also know he couldn’t have done it without them, and it is these interwoven personal stories that make the tour so special – in an event that lasts three weeks it is almost impossible not to feel like you are getting to know the personalities of the riders as you watch them race.
 

Anyway, when I arrived at Brondesbury station I was told the no bikes on the overground policy in place over the Olympics had been extended. By one day. And they had decided that this morning. And so instead of going to the bike shop to get my bike fixed I had to carry my bike back home again. Great.

Now if you’ve ever carried a broken bike you’ll know that as well as probably making you feel very pissed off, it can also make you feel like a bit of a hero, struggling through against the odds. Not this time though. Nope. Just pissed off. I was however comforted mid-journey by a re-sparking in my brain of probably my favourite bit of tour folklore ever:

In 1913, the first man to wear the yellow jersey, Eugene Christophe, broke his forks mid-Stage – a stage which I may add saw the riders set off at 3am! Now this was well before the days of replacement bikes, team mechanics and the like, and so Cristophe had to carry his bike over ten kilometres to the next village where he set about welding it back together under instructions from the village blacksmith, as riders were responsible for their own repairs as well, and no outside assistance whatsoever was permitted. Literally hours behind the rest of the peloton he eventually finished the stage, only to find that he had still been docked time – for getting a little boy in the village to pump the bellows for him!

When I first read about this story it inspired a poem, or at least part of a poem which I was already writing… Enjoy!

La Mistral
Everything I have ever done has been for this,
every choice I ever made was the right one coz it led me here.
Bright pink frame, drop handlebars, skinny racing tyres.
Big city is my home and right now, weaving in and out of the traffic,
it makes sense. Yes. All of it. I wear my confidence, quietly.
Denim shorts, the yellow jersey, and an old school cycling cap.
You will hear my approach, la mistral
that fierce, undefeatable wind from the bald mountain.
And maybe you will see yourself, reflected in the shop window
across the street, and notice how, even at the exact moment
that I pass, your reflection still remains.
a tingle on the back of your neck,
as you watch this little hill in north west big city
become the Col Du Tourmalet, Peaking at 6,939 feet
I breathe out only mountain air,
cold enough to the strip the fear from the world
Bright pink frame, drop handlebars, skinny racing tyres.
My eyes lift up, and are the eyes of Eugene Christophe,
in 1913, as he carries his broken bike
For over ten kilometers, before welding it back together himself,
And still finishing the stage. My only conversations
are breathless victory interviews, still in the saddle.
Bright pink frame, drop handlebars, skinny racing tyres.
Wheels turning. I wear the present moment in a wedding band,
an eternity ring of right now, again and again and again.
Wheels turning. Tarmac flying by. Each rotation what it is and what it is and what it is.

Simon Mole, 2012

The Midnight Run!

In July I was lucky enough to be involved in a wonderful thing called The Midnight Run – led by poet Inua Ellams, a group of people explore a city at night; walking, chatting and taking part in creative activities laid on by the artists selected for that particular outing. The run I was involved in also featured a musician, a holistic therapist, a film-maker, and a photographer, and was laid on for young creatives taking part in the ‘Africa Eutopia’ season at Southbank Centre.

I would tell you more about what we got up to, but part of my job for the night was to write a poem, which I hope says what it needs to. You can read and listen to here:

The Midnight Run
At midnight
We should be somewhere high up
things matter less here
The skinny brick wall, walk it
with a day on either side, walk it
hard as it is to balance long enough to stay
walk it arms together, pointing only up.

London wears midnight like a new suit
still pristine, the shirt tugged open at the neck.
These are nights of running, fast
running fast pointless fast relays fast
Round the crypt of St. Martin’s Vestry Hall
rolled up newspapers = batons
roaring crowds = the wobbly post-pub peleton
drunkenly urging us on.
These are nights of walking, slow
With no purpose but to walk,
Nights of quick stops at newsagents
That take ages, clan clustered chatting
Outside, waiting for the last of us to hurry up and choose
Only to realise that we are all here.
And have all been here for some time.
Move on. One Midnight
can strip you naked with a glance
Gather what you can around you
Let it go. These are nights of music.
And much later, in a quiet street
TJ plays a melody his mother hums, always
listening, I see her in her kitchen,
but his guitar makes this a kitchen that I know
Again later, now alone
I stop on one wide pavement, and face another
building that is tall enough to make me feel a child.
The top floor: four windows are lit.
I will put one problem in each.
And stand here, on the pavement opposite
Until all the lights are out. Until my midnight
is as clear as Whitman’s midnight, Within time
I see the space between things
as much as the things themselves
things matter less here
midnight has left it’s handprint
on the window of my soul.
In the morning when I wake
I breathe on the glass, tap it once
And watch it crack. It makes a sound
Like the sky.

Simon Mole, 2012