Lovesong of a newspaper man on the day of his retirement

This is by my friend, Ian Harker, impersonating me on the week my Yorkshire Evening Post column came to an end.

It’s not a very accurate impersonation because I can’t do poetry but it is very true; Friday nights at Nazams curry house in Woodhouse Street, Leeds, are really where and when I feel most at home (apart from home, of course). It’s life as I know it – untidy, a little cheapskate (bring your own bottle) but a place of goodwill, good food and friendship and, lit up by the glow of Nazams gaudy lighting, full of possibilities.

Really, I could not have had a better leaving present than this poem, even assuming the YEP had thought to provide me with a leaving present, which, as is the way with modern capitalism, they didn’t.

Incidentally, TJ’s (with an apostrophe) is a club and banqueting suite often used to throw extravagant Asian weddings. It’s the only street I’ve ever lived beside which has a sense of occasion.

The tagline above my column (not chosen by me and which annoyed me for year after year) used to read ‘Life but not as we know it’.

I think this is life as we ought to know it.

LOVESONG OF A NEWSPAPER MAN

ON THE DAY OF HIS RETIREMENT

for Oliver Cross

Friday night and pouring with rain

and I’m standing in the neon light of Nazams,

steady pink cursive spilling like loose change

over the pavement, low pink glow lighting me up

as I wait in the downpour for Lynne to back up the car.

Nazams needs an apostrophe – has needed an apostrophe

ever since it was established, in 1981.

But I would never tell them that. I would never dream

of pointing out as the pickle tray arrives that their sign

although possessed of a certain apostropheless symmetry

is wrong.

It’s not that it doesn’t bother me.

It’s not that I don’t care about misused apostrophes.

They make me flinch, like a stray bullet in a submarine

would make me flinch, being as I am a man

who until today made a living from printed words.

But Nazams, apostrophe or no apostrophe,

is my very own sunrise on Woodhouse Street,

come rain or shine, come Hull or high water.

So here we sit in the window in Nazams,

the starters on their way, people swimming by

in the pink neon, going to and fro on their Friday night,

the irresistible magic of Friday night, the last night of my column,

the last time my weekly think piece will be bundled

to the four corners of this city.

And I don’t mind. People, I daresay, will miss it.

There will be letters from people in Burley and Brighouse

and Burmantofts, in Morley and Wortley and Armley,

people who bought their paper as usual on their way back

from the chippy or the pub or the optician’s and assumed I’m on holiday

until next week when there is still no Life, but not as you know it.

That’s life, I think to myself as Lynne breaks in

to the uppermost poppadum – that’s life and it’s still going on

in Alwoodley and Richmond Hill, in Port Stanley and in Stalybridge,

every nook and cranny, every backlit backwater basking

in a neon sunrise of its very own.

That’s what I’ve been writing about all these years:

how life comes to fill any space it occupies.

There’s a wedding on at TJ’s – suits and facinators are spilling

into the road. Be on the lookout every moment of your life

for the urban sunrise, for the light as it swings into view.

Ian Harker.

#Nazams #IanHarker #retirement #Woodhouse #poetry

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