Monday, 9 March 2009

Oilskins and Sequins

Just when I thought I was an expert in winch parts and was confidently lifting the sleeve off my third winch yesterday afternoon to degrease and regrease it, out boinged a teeny spring that looked like the thing that holds clothes pegs together. But smaller. It had to happen. And possibly no surprise that it popped out to show who was boss in my boat relationship the day after I'd been on a sea survival course and splashing about in Heysham swimming pool in full wetweather gear, inflated lifejacket and huge liferaft.

I'd taken my eye off the detail. After Saturday afternoon I was feeling I'd be able to instruct my capsized crew in the art of chain swimming across a hurling sea, just about heave myself into a liferaft and tidy everyone in place inside it, and then reheat a hyperthermic casualty. Essential stuff if the boat goes down, yes, but perhaps more essential is keeping the boat sailing in the first place. We were given the comforting statistic of 99.5% of sailors never use their liferaft. However, if they've got an unsprung winch, that drops to 0.5%. (I'm making that up). Like clothes pegs in a force 4, winch springs are handy. They mean the pawls lock into the cogs, which means the winches winch, which means we can trim the sails as we need, since the winches take the weight of the wind. And wind can be heavier than water.

After twenty minutes of fiddling and a plate of chips I worked out how the spring slotted into the pawl (which is a three dimensional steel comma) so it provided a tension against the cog. I know I've gone on before about the sheer beauty of simplicity in these mechanisms, but they truly are an invention that should be ranked with the the paper clip.

Which I could have done with on Saturday evening when I discovered I'd lost my set list for the performance I was due to give at the Vivid Arts event. It acts like a comfort blanket. I probably know which poems I'm going to deliver, and in which order, but it's one less thing to have to remember. But I'm a strong believer that giving poetry performances is all about relaxing - not just of me, but for the audience too. Hard enough to concentrate, even harder to keep following all the words, especially if you're not a regular to poetry. As the audience weren't on Saturday.

I know it's not a good start to tell people not to worry about understanding what they're about to hear. And I didn't. But, when many of the poems were about sailing, sea and stars, my idea of success - as in audience enjoyment would be for them to get a 'feel' of things, rather than trying to comprehend exactly. People don't expect to 'understand' music, it asks for a more holistic, sensory reponse. I guess I want to deintellectualise poetry performances - that's not to say simpify the poetry, but offer a route into it that might by-pass the processing brain.

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