Who Remembers our First Birthday Bash?

Proof you don’t know what’s around the next corner, I put off doing a second birthday bash last year as we’d run a few fundraising events, in favour for doing a mahossive one this year. As it stands any third birthday celebration for Devizine would constitute me, with a cup of tea, sitting at the computer. Two years ago, though, to the day, our birthday bash was monumental, personally, as it made Devizine feel actual, a real “thing,” so much more than me, with a cup of tea, sitting at the computer!

Still, I can reminisce and remember how so many of us come together at Devizes Conservative Club, made it such a fantastic night, and raised close to four-hundred smackers for the Devizes branch of Cancer Research. But it was down to a Facebook messenger chat with Dean Czerwionka, who now organises Devizes Family Club at The Cavalier. If memory serves me right, unusually, I was unable to draft anything, suffering a hangover. Rapping with da man, I merely suggested the possibility of putting on a charity event, and before I knew what was what, tickets were being sold online.

Such was the nature of the evening, throughout. Dean and Cons Club staff worked hard to make it such a great event. Those fantastic Daybreakers arrived early despite being the grand finale, and set up the system, organised the other acts. My wife prepared a buffet and son helped arrange it on the table. Ben Borrill’s mum Beverly, who had told me about her famous hamsters but neglected to tell me of her musically talented son, made a Black Forest gateau. Local poet Gail Foster entertained intervals between acts. Matthew Hennessy and Nick Padmore snapped the photos and Nick’s wife Joy made an effective bouncer on door duty! Even Resul of the Turkish Barbers gave me a free trim, and Tamsin Quin’s niece Erin rounded up everyone’s loose change for the bucket collection. All the while I swanned around talking toilet, propping up the bar and taking all the credit!

It should be bought to attention, now time has passed and any argument could be condensed to water under the bridge, that it wasn’t really Devizine’s birthday at all! I started it back in the September the previous year, it just took us a while to sort it out and get news out there. In that, it taught me a hell of a lot about putting an event on, all of which I now have…. erm, forgotten.

But it makes me proud to look back at our acts. Lottie J was only fifteen at the time, is now a star, off to music school, and producing some amazing pop. She jammed with the next act, the sadly disbanded Larkin, despite never having met. Sam Bishop of Larkin is studying music in Winchester, and has produced some great singles, solo, and with a new band. Martin of The Badger Set tipped me off he has something new up his sleeve. Then musical partner, Finely Trusler has since worked on solo projects, with his cousin as the duo The Truzzy Boys and now donned a Fred Perry and fronts the ever-awesome Roughcut Rebels.

We had, of course, our darlings, The Lost Trades, collaborating with each other, long before they were the Lost Trades. Jamie joined after an eleventh-hour cancelation, which I was overjoyed to have fit him in. Tamsin wasn’t feeling so good, but still performed to her usual higher than high standard anyway. Cutting her slot short, as things became quite a squeeze, Phil Cooper followed and really shook the place up. Still performing solo, but ever helping each other out, as The Lost Trades they’ve set a precedence on a national scale despite debuting just a week prior to lockdown.

Everyone’s favourite, George followed, with added Bryony Cox for a few numbers. After a move to Bristol, Mr Wilding set up a highly accomplished namesake band, Wilding, of which talents are boundless. Bryony continues working as a fine artist, with a penchant for landscapes.

Aching to get on and get everyone dancing, The Daybreakers did their lively covers thing. A change in line-up, they continue to do so today, composing their first original song recently. Yet really, they’re no strangers to writing and composing, Gouldy and Cath as an original duo are Sound Affects, and they sneaked in a slot at our Birthday Bash too.

It really was a great night in the end, if there was an end, I cannot recall, and I’m eternally grateful to everyone for their help, particularly proud to hear how much they’ve progressed and how far we’ve all come. It’s a crying shame we cannot yet replicate it, but I sure would like to when we reach that better day. So, look at for our fourth birthday bash, all things well by that time. Here’s some photos to get me teary-eyed.

Blossom with Gail (from Devizes)

Phone memory bursting with text messages from Gail Foster the day I did my fundraising milk round in my Spiderman onesie. A keen photographer as well as accomplished local poet, Gail had cycled to the summit of Monument Hill and sat awaiting to capture the moment I returned triumphant.

I confess, I underestimated my ETA massively due to the media attention, Carmela and family arriving, and passers by stopping me to donate. I was also irritable and smelly by that point, but those are occupational hazards at the best of times, doubly so in a onesie in the sweltering August climate. Gail, though, was as dedicated as paparazzi to getting the snap she wanted, got me smiling just to see her there, and it’s the same commitment she shows through her expressions in poetry. Her shiny new book, Blossom is a prime example.

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Images by Gail Foster herself!

Perhaps its very title coveys Gail’s grouping of photography and poetry, natural elements crucial to her snaps, but her books bestow only the written word. We’ve reviewed Gail’s books in the past, never an easy task. Poetry not my bag, usually, so I cannot liken to similar creative outpourings. There’s also the fear that my own penmanship doesn’t compare and will not do justice to her creative writing. Poems are hard, something about bacon. Yet it is down to befriending Gail which has re-sparked an interest in poetry in me, and deflected my juvenile fear of a Ted Hughes book facing me on a school desk. That’s how universally appealing her words are.

While subjects chronologically stream from one poem to another, expect also, sudden changes in Gail’s train of thought. Blossom kicks off with a memorial forward and dark subjects follow, of wintery funerals and melancholic seasons. One may expect this, the platitude of poems often reveals a shadowy side of the poet. But, just a few poems in and though we’re still on the seasonal theme, winter cries a warning to Gail, to keep her knickers on.

Here is precisely why Gail got me into in poetry, a feat I never cared to assume would happen. The wittiness of the absurd, surreal, Pythoneske can crop up, without warning and provide actual laugh-out-loud observations. There’s a feeling of daring in Gail’s words, while acute and proficiently executed, nothing is off limits. Gail projects drollness, jocularity and just about every other emotion of the human psyche, in manner which though reflects poets of yore, breathes a fresh and unique approach to boot.

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In this, her new book Blossom doesn’t necessarily take us anywhere new in comparison to her previous collections, there’s even a pigeon reference, a running subject in Gail’s words, yet an improvement in skill and wordplay is clearly evident. Gail strives to advance and progress in her wordsmanship, dealing words like a croupier deals cards, snappy and expertly.

The introduction enlightens us to Gail’s motivation and reason for writing, “I write poems for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes an occasion demands it, in which case I stare at a sonnet on a screen for three days; at other times a poem might tickle me in my sleep, wake me up laughing.” Blossom then conveniently divides into sections, poems covering Seasons, poetry itself, “Binky Liked to Bitch a Bit,” Politics, Characters, Sorrow, Love and Prose, even local thoughts in a section titled, “a bit of old Devizes.”

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There are verses dedicated to friends, themes of celebrities, naughty royals and both Greta and Trump, odes to patronising old men, nosey neighbours, political sway, Brexit, current affairs and Nigel Farage depicted as a meerkat. As we pass through an era Gail documents them uniquely. There are unapologetic words of the sweary kind, bitterness at times, jollity in others; bugger, it’s tricky to nail this poet down; what does she want from me, trying to review a book so vastly sweeping with subject matter and prose?! I’m giving up, you have to read it yourself. You can bless your Kindle with one, or Gail favours that you nip to Devizes Books for a paperback, and I tend to agree. Devizes Books brilliantly supports local authors.

In this time of lockdown, you might need a good read, so too does the artists need some revenue. The advantage of holding Gail’s poems in your hand is that you can freely pursue them at your own leisure. We did once review a spoken word CD which Gail recorded, I like this approach and unsure if she will do it again.

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Proof it’s in Devizes Books, here’s owner Jo holding a copy!

I could, but don’t, motivate myself to attend local poetry slams and readings, in fear those poets I know, Gail, our own writer Andy, and Ian too, might encourage me to get up. Yeah right, “here’s one I wrote called ermm, ermm, and ermm!” Yet, I do love to hear Gail actually reading her poems herself, it’s a Jackanory thing, to hear the creator express their words is far more effective for a slow reader like me. But you, clever lot, will love Blossom.


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