Wednesday, 23 March 2011

StAnza Slam Success!

Hooray! I did it! Go me!

Right, that's probably enough self-congratulation, but I'm chuffed to the proverbial to have won the poetry slam at this year's StAnza - Scotland's Poetry Festival. Believe it or not, this is my first slam title in Scotland. (Reversing my form at previous slams, on Saturday night I managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, qualifying for a tightly-fought final by dint of being highest-scoring runner-up in the heats.)

It was roughly ten years ago, while living in St Andrews (home of StAnza), that I first became aware of poetry slams - at around the same time I was starting to write more poetry designed for public performance. It was especially heartening to entertain an appreciative audience in the auditorium at the Byre Theatre which I used to supervise as a front-of-house attendant.

Now, to market myself, and my newly exalted status, shamelessly...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Best Man

Well, I didn't quite get through to the final of the Scotia's short story competition. But the audience enjoyed my offering, which in turn I offer to you (after a few minor amendments). When it comes to next week's final, may the best man win...

The Best Man

Ladies and Gentlemen!  Now I’ve known John for quite some time.  And I can honestly [ha!] say that I have never seen him looking quite so happy as he does today.  Amanda, I don’t know what you slipped into his champagne, but I know I’ll probably need some after this.  [Too darn right but too darn dangerous!]  As we all know, he’s usually a miserable sod and we’re all grateful that at last he’s found someone to win his heart and have him grinning like an idiot [as he’s doing as I speak]. 

How can I describe John [in this company]? John is a one-off.  When they made John, they broke the mould; and I can only pity his parents, Jack and Mary, for producing such an exceptional young [not for much longer] man, irascibly gifted and infuriatingly charming.  Will I ever forget his drunken ramblings about church architecture, so skilfully composed and eloquently delivered that I sometimes wish I could have kept myself awake to hear the end of them?  [Did they ever end?]  That I can remember more about his degree than I can about mine is a testament to his enthusiasm, drive, commitment and determination; as well as to my own laziness [not quite true] and willingness to drink John’s expensive port. 

For those of you who have never had the privilege [i.e. torture] of sharing a room with John, I must explain the phenomenon which is John’s drinks cabinet.  It is a truly remarkable object, much in the manner of Mary Poppins’ [how apt] carpet bag.  It’s only about so big [he said, trying not to drop his notes], yet all manner of weird and wonderful potions, several of them lethal in combination, can be extracted from it, with no rational explanation at the end of the night as to where the skip-load of empty bottles could have possibly come from. 

Not that you could ever accuse John of being a heavy drinker.  I don’t think he’s ever weighed more than eight and a half stone in his life, the lucky so-and-so.  The trim waistline and attenuated form you see before you belies his gastronomic [if not literal] promiscuity.  Again, like Mary Poppins’ bag, he has the ability to take in far more than he could possibly contain.  How is this?  [Genetics, with more than a touch of bulimia, I suspect.]  You make us all sick, John, and it’s only because you’re such a genuinely [ha!] nice person that all of us porkers and flab-fighters can bear to be around you.  That and the port. 

At which point, before I forget, I really must add my own thanks to the hotel and catering staff for their admirable ministrations.  George, you have not stinted in your duties as Father of the Bride; and, unless you are considerably richer than you deserve to be [which, let’s face it, you are], I’m sure you’ve got your money’s worth. 

And that leads me neatly [if a little contrivedly] to Amanda.  The name Amanda is of course Latin for “she who demands love”.  And what Amanda demands, Amanda gets.  [My God, I was drunk...]  Despite John’s affect[at]ions and his many virtues, to wish to spend her life with so impossible a man [I scarcely believe it sometimes], the woman must either be a saint or slightly mad [and I know which].  The news that she and John were going to put up, if not shack up, with each other came as somewhat of a wonderful surprise to many of us [and a frightful inevitability to some].  Well, it takes all sorts to make a world; and it takes all sorts to make Mr Bassett a wealthy man. 

Before I round off, you will have noticed that I have told few if any anecdotes and read out no amusing cards, letters, telegrams, emails or semaphore messages.  The reason for this is simple: censorship.  If I am ever to taste expensive port again, I know I must watch what I say this afternoon [and this evening, and tomorrow morning, and for as long as I’m in the company of half the people here]. 

So finally, and in summation, congratulations, serendipitous felicitations, plenitudinous expressions of hymenean good will, or bona voluntas [that's your actual Latin], at the actualisation of your heretofore putative indivisibility – along with prestidigitation, antidisestablishmentarianism, bathysiderodromophobia, and any other of those preposterously long words so enamoured by John which I have not been able to use elsewhere in this speech.  Yes, this sesquipedalian expansivity, those monstrously gargantuan words, were all for you, John [because I can never give you the three little words you want from me]. 

But enough.  There is a large cake which needs to be cut.  But – before John and Amanda take the plunge, and [not] before Amanda gets to exert her upper hand – there is time for one last toast to the happy couple [sic]: John and Amanda!

© Chris Young

Monday, 14 March 2011

Scotia, my Scotia

As you can see from my gig list, I will be performing TWICE this week at the Scotia bar. The Scotia has a long history of supporting writing and popular performance. The Scotia Variety and Music Hall which used to stand next door (before it became the Metropole Theatre) was once run by Stan Laurel's father.

First up, tonight (7-10pm) I will be competing in the inaugural Tenner Slam - a one-round poetry slam (which may be accompanied by more than one round of drinks). This should be fun.

On Wednesday (8-11pm) I will be competing again - this time reading one of my short stories in their annual short story competition.