EDITORIAL - Ken Clay
CASTLEBAR WILL SORT YOU OUT – Aubrey Malone
CONSOLATION PRIZE POETRY – Alexis Lykiard
NIGHT THOUGHTS ONCE AGAIN – Alexis Lykiard
THE HUMAN SHOW - Alexis Lykiard
SKIN GAMES - Alexis Lykiard
QUESTIONS FOR POSTERITY – Alexis Lykiard
STROPPY STOIC - Alexis Lykiard
TOMCAT TERROR - Alexis Lykiard
COLD WAR SECRETS – Jim Burns
A FAIRY TALE – Keith Howden
VANISHING HERO VANISHED PEACE – Alexis Lykiard
SHITEHAWKS IN JAPAN – Ron Horsefield
POETRY WARS – Ken Champion
SHITE SHOUTERS – Ron Horsfield
FAIRY TALE AT THE SUPERMARKET – David Birstwistle
SECURITY GITS III: RHOMBUS STE & PUG – Tanner
REAGRESSIVE – Tanner
MYSTERY SOLVED – Tanner
THE HETEROSEXUAL - Tanner
MISS AITKEN (4) Bob Wild
TWO OIK RADICALS – John Lee
U-BAHN –Andrew Lee Hart
MR MERCER LEAVES HIS WIFE – Mark Ward
MR BROWN GOES TO COLWYN – Mark War
STILL – George Aitch
GONE TO GROUND – Ron Horsefield
We featured Bratby on the cover of issue 29 – that was way back, before the Brexit referendum. So what did JB have to be anxious about in that golden age? There wasn’t a petrol shortage, the supermarket shelves were full and Boris was just a struggling journo. Nevertheless Bratby called it Self Portrait with an Easel and an agonised expression. It was bought by the Atkinson Gallery in Southport but has now vanished into the decent obscurity of their stores. So I got one of my own – same puzzled anxiety in front of a blank canvas. The right arm raised to scratch his chin sports a watch. Odd. I later figured it was the Van Gogh’s ear effect. It looks like Vincent cut off his right ear but in fact he cut off the left. The switch arises because he’s painting the image in a mirror.
I used JB’s self-portrait on Bob Wild’s PPP volume The Trouble with Ernie. The cover on this issue of the Oik is Still Life with Chip Frier. A premonition? It could have been chips that did for Bratby. He died at 64 of a heart attack on his doorstep coming back from the chippy. This painting kicked off his rise to fame. It was bought by the Tate in 1956. His reputation declined somewhat thereafter but remained popular with oiks (like me).
I picked up his novel Breakdown and took another look at The Horse’s Mouth a film starring Alec Guinness as Gully Jimson with art works by Bratby – many of which, huge murals, were destroyed in the last reel. North West artist Geoffrey Key told me he was greatly taken with this film which must have resonated with the trials of the struggling painter. Geoff, now quite famous himself, struggles no longer but one recalls Lowry’s remark that to learn a dealer has just flogged one of your earlier works for an obscene amount made him feel like the winning horse watching the jockey get the cup.
Are things any better for the struggling oik scribe? Of course not. Technology makes it possible to get your work published for next to nowt and lodged in perpetuity on the shelves of the British Library (perhaps next to The Crazy Oik). But if you want to get rich – or simply pay the gas bill –you’ll become the prey of leeches and enmeshed in the dragnets of marketing and sales. Inspiring accounts of new millionaires like JK Rowling and most recently Richard Osman pop up every week. You think it could be you – if you forget Dr Johnson’s remark on gambling being a tax on fools.
The print-on-demand publishers do a great job but you get spectacularly screwed at the marketing stage. You’ve become Lowry’s horse. Yes you can get your book into the Global Marketing System but your typical earnings on a £10 book will be £1. Better to get a few at the originator’s price and sell them from a tray round your neck (like Blake).
Any good news Ken? Well let’s get it in proportion. Flipping through back issues of Cyril Connelly’s Horizon I was quite chilled to read that even Cyril, Eton and Oxon, editor of the most prestigious mag of the decade (1940-1950) was rattling his begging bowl quite early on.
Goodbye to all that. Now if you mug up on Lulu’s procedures (no more complex than quantum mechanics) and absorb the arcane proscriptions on layout in New Hart’s Rules (PPP poet Brian Docherty put me on to this) you too can become a publisher. Yes ISBNs can be a bit pricey if you want one or two – so buy a hundred for starters – a hundred will be about £3 each). Then cobble up a website (perhaps more complicated than quantum mechanics) and soon you’ll be a kosher publisher yourself – indeed even an entrepreneur. Happy now?
No. You’d be mad to even try. Who wants to be rich and famous anyway?. You’d be interviewed on the TV; girls would be forcing themselves on you demanding sex; Prince Charles would be offering you a knighthood if you could mention Dumfries House in your next novel. You don’t want it. Learn to embrace simplicity – renounce fame and riches – become Lowry’s horse. Of course LSL’s anthropomorphic distortions need adjusting. What would a horse do with a gold cup? All he wants is a full nosebag and a retirement to a stud farm.
CONSOLATION PRIZE – POETRY
Insurance premiums increase daily, mark each fading
NIGHT THOUGHTS ONCE AGAIN
I’m reading the big
Oxford Book Of
how slippery is sleep, yet every breath
THE HUMAN SHOW
Grandees, great nobles and the favoured famous, lie in
Confronting nothingness is hard; each body balks at what
Bratby Self-portrait with Blank Canvas