A poem by Adrian Scott.
A Poem of Grudging Self-Acceptance
I hear my voice on a
recording and cringe: the
flat vowels, the lack of bass
notes, the overall effect
of a dim northerner appals me.
I know Hockney and Bennett
have made the Yorkshire
accent credible, but they hail
from the more well-heeled
parts like Leeds and Harrogate,
the places where the BBC make
Look North and from whence
came the assured silk
hats of Bradford millionaires.
I come from the steel-worked,
southern end of the county.
Sheffield, city equated with
grime and muck, the location
for The Full Monty, where men
had their work stripped from them,
so they went the whole hog
and took off their clothes for
money instead. The bluff,
face of Brian Glover came
from Sheffield; he played the
vicious sports teacher in Kes,
another film that showed
our true colours: the grey
brown domain of pits and pain,
crucibles and winding gear.
Being bred in South Yorkshire
was like putting on an overcoat
that I began to grow into
at my first football match,
Man United against Sheffield
Wednesday (five–four to us and
seventy thousand men moving
and jeering, reeking of cigarettes
and Bovril). I was given the run of the
place as a kid, tuppence to anywhere
on our brown and cream buses
till we were deregulated. My
reception teacher told me
there was no r in bath, so say it
right, lad. Born in London with a
mother from Willesden, I had to fit
myself to a northern idiom, a
place where we mash our tea,
a place I grudgingly and
gratefully accept has reared me.
I have come to love this town
with its sibilant Stannington and
Shire Green, the earthy romance
of Rivelin and Dungworth, as I declare
her common beauty. The view
of the world she has given me is not
flat like my vowels but riven by
seven rivers through seven hills, with valleys
that cut deep into the heart of things,
that taught us to make cutlery and silver.
We are an accumulation of villages
punctuated by civic parks narrating
a homely tale, where you expect
to greet a friend on the street, where
we call each other ‘love’. The nature
of these folk is one of cheerful
ordinariness, the flat-capped celebrants
of cobbled streets and the pinnied
mothers who kept the front room for best.
But what are we coming to now,
Sheffield and me? We have cleared
away the industrial debris and made
of it Meadowhall; we even have a
winter garden. What has become
of the common people in this
age of texts and Freeview?
Will call-centres and supermarkets
offer the self-respect that our knives and
forks in the hands of the world did?
We are building loft apartments and
welcoming students, but where is our
soul? We are still at the ragged end
of our past and don’t quite know
how to step into the future. It
had better not be with big ideas,
with projects that cost an arm and
a leg; we already have enough white
elephants wandering our sloping
streets. Once we hauled gritstone
wheels down from the moors to
grind our steel into beauty. We
should talk to each other at bus
stops and in shops about what can
be shined and sharpened today.
To tell each other new stories and
in the telling rescue the worn
things we still need and colloquially
create the new hallmarks that read
‘Made in Sheffield’. So I will listen
to your voices, overhear your
chatter and your stillness; I will
speak out about my city in my
ready northern tongue and make a
simple solid vow to tell your stories
with the honesty I got from you
Adrian G R Scott lives in the Rivelin Valley, Sheffield. He is a poet, writer, and amateur photographer. Sheffield and South Yorkshire are the soil and fertiliser to all his work; he is fascinated by the literature and poetry of place, and is seeking to pursue this theme in the next stage of his work. His first collection of poetry The Call of the Unwritten was published in 2010. In this text, he wrote 50 poems for the first 50 years of his life. The title poem is a response to a call he describes as intensifying as he grew older. His journey is described as ‘A flight that captures the fierce jeopardy of living so I can render its path for others to read’. His second collection was published in 2013 entitled Arriving in Magic. It charts a three-year period in the author’s life beginning right after the publication of The Call of the Unwritten and into his six-month sabbatical in early 2011 – when he unearthed a new way of looking at his life.
In Arriving in Magic Adrian describes a refusal to ‘pass the gap that gates the path unnoticed’; this opened many ‘Gateways’ disclosed in poems like ‘When will you be ready’ and ‘The Edge of Bleakness’. The chapter ‘Path Crossings’ celebrates the people whose presence has given him a magical awareness of life and death. The ‘Tuscany’ section recalls a trip in 2010 with the Poet David Whyte and how this alerted him to the magic in everyday life. ‘Unearthings’ narrates what the commonplace contains when approached with fierce attention. The final section ‘Glad Arrivals’ reveals the wonder he came to experience, and moves into ‘The Starving Edge’ which, challenging the age of austerity, asks more than simply the recreation of a broken system. Ending with an invitation to a ‘Certain Kind of Vow’, this collection is a personal testament adding to what Goethe calls the praise of what is truly alive and what longs to be burned to death.
Adrian’s blogs are what he calls, quoting the hermit, monk, and radical Thomas Merton, ‘raids on the unspeakable’. He shared recently about a breakdown he experienced last year. It was featured in Freshly Pressed .
Photograph by Adrian Scott; painting by Wilma Scott.