The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

Cry God for… Rob the Hat

My face at the time

In last week’s episode, I may have gloated too much about what a lovely time we were having on our boating trip. Shortly after the blog went live, the little gods of boating blew my engine up. There was steam, there was overheating… but was there panic? There was not. We limped home at dusk. Engineer Rob the Hat resisted the urge to rub his hands together, but did chortle, ‘Ah, that’s your cylinder head gasket gone’. It seemed bad at the time but it could have been much worse, as you’ll see.

Heather (L) and friend Hannah

Meanwhile, life continued. Sam Youd and I did a garden-themed event in Salford, where he was mobbed by ladies of a certain age wanting to see his Mystery Object (no, really). On Wednesday dear friend Heather Duncan launched a new exhibition of her paintings – canapes and high art all round. The launch was a triumph and Heather can now proceed to the world-wide fame she deserves.

I drove back to the marina, determined to lock myself in the boat and write. It was sunny and springy and I texted a friend saying, ‘This is a day when adventures should happen.’ But this (below) wasn’t quite what I had in mind…..

A neighbour’s boat caught fire. This photo was taken ten minutes after flames were first seen, and five minutes after the occupant was helped out of the boat. It took an hour and two fire engines to put out. As other boats were moved to safety, one of our number broke his ankle and snapped a tendon, and will be in a plaster cast for 15 weeks. The boat is ruined, our lungs are still full of smoke and we all feel a bit sombre.

Merry England

However, on Friday I pulled my finger out and headed for a celebration of St George’s Day in Liverpool. I always do a St George’s Day event to help reclaim Englishness from those who think Englishness means mean-minded, ill-informed nationalism.  So this week’s exercise is a heartfelt one. Write about England and what it means to you; a snapshot of a very English moment, a ritual, a place or a memory that says ENGLAND to you. And you don’t have to be 100% ethnically indigenously English to take part – because nobody is, after all.


4 comments on “Cry God for… Rob the Hat

  1. Heather Wastie
    April 25, 2010

    Hi Jo
    Saw your flaming boat photo on Facebook when we were marooned in the South of France (so sad). Words failed me then and they fail me now 😦 (really sad this time)
    Progress on the publication of my new book was hampered again by my absence, so it looks like it will be May now before it’s printed! Here’s an extract anyway, thinking of your theme. To be sung with gusto:

    Please remain seated for the British Anthem

    God save our gravy boat,
    keep our roast beef afloat,
    God save our greens.
    Send apple pie to us
    when we are ravenous,
    pour custard over us.
    God save baked beans.

    © Heather Wastie
    from The Page-Turner’s Dilemma

    • Jo Bell
      April 25, 2010

      Heather – brilliant, many thanks for that. Fear not, your book will be a huge success once in print!

      • Heather Wastie
        April 26, 2010

        Thanks for the vote of confidence 🙂

  2. Paul Beech
    April 28, 2010

    OK, Jo, I’ll admit to writing the odd poem, odd being the operative word…

    Oh, to be a middle-aged gent in England


    Nine times quizzed
    in an hour,
    “Are you the Real Radio renegade?”

    An atheist,
    I’m pursued by Jehovah’s Witnesses
    with sweet smiles.


    Shunned by the mums,
    I’m befriended by my granddaughter’s
    best mate’s granny.

    I push the swinging basket
    and make them squeal.
    hoping my back holds out.


    A plump girl drops her pants
    for lads in a car,
    heedless of my approach.

    Quietly I pass by,
    reciting names
    on the war memorial.

    Paul Beech

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on April 25, 2010 by in Boating life, Readings and writings, Writing exercises and tagged , , .
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