Ground Control to Major Tom.

“Ground control to Major Tom.

Yes Major Tom quite a few of us at Ground Control have been quarantined.  Best you stay up there. This is an illustration by Sarah McIntyre on 24th March. That’s my actual wall.  It’s social distancing Major Tom. But you’ll know all about that. If you want some great listening then click the upcoming link. There wasn’t an empty seat and as host and MC for the evening I delivered the words “Welcome to The London Paladium”.  It was 50th Anniversary of Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel.  It ended on a standing ovation for Will Young. So many other artists performed.  Major Tom you can hear it here up there in space you’ll definitely have better wifi reception. I bet. And if you subscribe to this blog this will be the last notification cause I have thousands of spam subscribers. Aliens.  Can you hear me Major Tom?. I have to scrap all subscribers and start subscription all over again with a subscribe form.  Very frustrating Major. I have got to say. Very frustrating.

And you are right when you say  “Planet Earth is blue” because right now it is. But might I say you’re wrong when you say “there’s nothing I can do”. Because there is. There is something you can do. Look at the stars Tommy. Count your blessings. Not my apartment. The photo. Not mine. Wall’s are similar.  Talking of desert islands.

while you’re floating up there in the desert sky why not  have a listen to my desert island discs.   Or at a time like this when we’re both in a bit of a pickle why not  listen to  My Name Is Why on audible. It’s not laugh a minute but it makes you think.  On other matters Major Tom  Here’s a laugh. These were the last words I said on stage  since the… the…. ‘take your protein pills and put your helmet on’ moment.

It was on March 14th at Plough Arts Centre. I was sending a message to  Robin Ince to prove there was an audience.Earlier I tweeted there wasn’t one. He’s a great guy.  And I’ll be doing The Stay at Home Festival  next week onine with him  (Robin Ince), Josie Long, Katie Mackas. Dates and details are here .  Proceeds to NHS.  “Can you hear me Major Tom”  You say you’re “sitting in a tin can”.  Mine’s not tin but metaphorically it is.  I’m a Booker prize judge so I am using this tin can time  to read  books. See how many stars you can count. That’s how many books I’ve got to read.  It’s Major,  Major Tom. Major!

Backstage before the event where I made that video for Robin Ince  on 14th March I had a thought. So I sent lovely @BryonyKimmings a message to consider it. My thought was this: There are some artists who presently have money. How can we get it to other artists who need it now?  Cash. Bryony and I  considered this over text/whatsapp/twitter then I walked onto the stage. By the time I returned to my dressing room Bryony had raised £5,000 and withinin 2 days on 16th March the figure climbed to £21,000 and The Guardian covered it.  Bryony is a star. She’s on a spaceship of her own. And it’s going right out through the stratosphere Tommy. Can I call you Tommy?

Also Tommy, talking of stars,  on 27th March  “These are the Hands” came out. It’s a poetry anthology written by workers in the National Health ServiceAll proceeds  to  @NHSCharities COVID fund. It’s in The Guardian too. How cool is that  Tom. Can I call you Tom or do you prefer Major Tom, Tom.      

Quietly pleased with the economy and precision of this quote inside.  

In other news this month on 17th March  Superkids was up for an award.  So far  our TV documentary film  has been nominated for a BAFTA, a Grierson and now a Royal Televsion Award . The awards ceremony was at Grovesnor House but alas it was corona-cancelled and… we didn’t win. But you can still watch Superkids  on All4 in space and sky.  You say There’s “Nothing I can do” but it’s not true. There is loads you can do.

Or you could write a micro poem cause on March 21st  The Centre for New Writing and Creative Manchester launched a  Micro Poetry Competition. The subject is Climate and Major Tom I am one of the judges.  To enter  all you need  do is tweet your micropoem through Twitter, including the hashtag #micropoem20  You could win first place and get £500 or you could be one of two runners up to win £250 each. Honest Major Tom it’s a steal. All that time you have up there in the atmosphere  “floating in a most peculiar way”. You, and everyone down on earth have until 21 June 2020, to submit your short poems via twitter. All details are here.  Oh go on. Tom. have a go.

The globe has closed. No parking. No Docking. No Dogs etc.  From Abu Dhabi to Northern Ireland,  The New Vic to New Dheli many of  my  live events and filming shoots have been cancelled.   My beloved  Brighton Festival Tom. I was the guest director and guess what. Cancelled. The Flags of the  Imagine Nation.

Taken down for the safety of us all. But we’d printed stuff up and everything Major Tom. Lots of people have lost more than me. We’re all in the same boat managing ourselves through the same storm concerning ourselves with what matters and less so with what doesn’t.  We. Will. Get. Through. This.

Major Tom the other day March 22nd  I was a sitter on  the   final of Sy Arts Portrait Artist of the year. That was fun but I think you could do better than I to be honest. I felt like a space oddity. This is the view from where I sat .

And this one below was taken from the artists side. That’s me there by the painting. Anyway it was broadcast and it is repeated today on Sky Arts at 6pm on March 29th and as you are literally in the sky Major Tom? 

And also today on 29th March I was on Sunday Miscellany which is a  great programme on RTE  in Ireland. It’s been going 50 years We recorded it in Ennis. That’s me below on the end there. The whole programme is here and  I’m at forty minutes and 20 seconds

It was Mothers Day on  on March 22nd  RTE broadcast  a favourite poem of mine called She Read as She Cradled.  I  was happy as Larry about that. I have spoken to Larry and he is happy too so it’s a win win Major Tom.  Click the pic below  for a  link to the poem.

So all in all Major Tom that’s us as they say in Norn Iron.  They say Norn Iron for  Northern Ireland in Northern Ireland. Well you can’t say They say.  As soon as anyone starts with  they say  someone will shout  how do you know what they say . Truth be told I don’t.   Enough said about that. The less said about that the better. So it is.

As I said to the young woman in Dunnes Stores  on a wet Saturday afternoon in Ennis “Grand”.She placed a spoonful of fried mushrooms on the breakfast plate. “Grand now is it?” she raised an eyebrow  “So it is” I said. “It is?” she said. And you Major being far above us wouldn’t have known Major Tom, “Floating in your tin can”.  Hold the beans I said to her. And she did. She held the beans. And you can’t ask more than that.

But enough with the  trumpet blowing poet and the one man fanfare  of this particular creative as he likes to call himself and on with the show. What really matters in this tin-can–quarantine is a message I received  yesterday 28th march in my Twitter DM.

You might think all the spelling mystique’s in this blog and shenanigans with my morning tweets are something rubbish and you’ve no right not to think exactly that. And yes I did have to look up how to spell shenanigans. So wit!

(10) But here’s the thing Major Tom. (9) You might be a space oddity some might say a space cadet but you’ll never know how 8.  many babies were born because (7) of that one song or how many times (6)  it was played at a funeral or a wedding.  (5) Or how many times it made people feel  less (4)  alone out here on earth. So I will continue (3) with my morning tweets . (2) Until next time Major Tom. Over and Out. Not ‘Out’ cause we can’t go out .  Over and In. Over and in (1).  Can you hear me Major Tom Can you hear me”

Zoom.  I think you should hear this. This isolation connects us all.

20 thoughts on “Ground Control to Major Tom.

  1. Beautiful, funny, heart warming and slightly bonkers letter. I have just gobbled it down, but will savour more slowly later. Love the morning poems, but please find other ways to keep communicating. Stay safe ….stay gold ( reading The Outsiders at the moment) Take good care until it’s safe for you be back on a stage somewhere.

  2. Thank you lemn. For this blog and for yourpoems. I love them too. They always leave me with a smile and often with a wow. I hope you are well. I imagine isolation might
    Be particularly hard for you after all the many many people you were meeting all the time. Just to let you know I am here with bucket loads of admiration for you. X

  3. Another wonderful blog with so much to digest – I loved the portrait artist and I thought you chose exactly the right portrait – he is a very talented young man and will go far I think. The Nile Rogers finale was also outstanding. Keep sharing your thoughts and poems with us

  4. The Imagine Nation is still open thankfully -only dates are paused and postponed until we can safely move about and mingle again -til they end we will be plugging in and logging on and space traveling through walls and doors and across skies and lines and time zones to feel closer together in this time of social distancing -nothing will keep us apart, we are social beings with furtive imaginations and there will be new ones born and those that pass and pain and love and grief -all that stuff of live will be told by the people and story tellers, the poets and music makers and the images will be passed around and tweeted and tik toked back and forth in a never ending chain of human beingness Zooming and WhatsApping ways of now – and you will be there telling us of the Sun and Moon – providing light in dark times thank you and see you on a screen very soon thank you Lemn -Sally in the countryside behind a screen stay safe down there in the big smoke Sally x

  5. Hey Lemn

    A pleasure to read. Thanks. Sad that you have to close the blog – spam is getting spammier by the day so no doubt it’s the best move. Like you I’m in lockdown – one fresh air walk a day – but it’s great to hear from friends and neighbours and old chums – so keep up the word-count, however it’s transmitted. Stay safe and stay well.d


  6. These are peculiar times! Things are strange all around; inside and outside; you scatter and shine ideas and images and wonderful speckles of imagination to distract and remind us to look around and not take it all for granted. Next time you are here I will make sure to see you. Greetings from Armagh amazing human being!

  7. Ah first time I’ve read your blog and it’s brilliant warm and witty. Love the morning poems. No adore the morning poems, am thirsty for more always.

  8. Keep the blog going please, much needed in these troubled times. Just let us know via Facebook how we can resubscribe. I was lucky enough to meet Commander Chris Hadfield from the ISS who did the floating version of the Space Oddity at one of his talks in Bristol. Proper nice bloke, just like you who I also met when you were at Blackwells in Oxford, because you are a proper nice bloke as well. Hope you enjoyed reading the copy of the Quilters book that I gave you that evening. Lots of writers collaborating with positive messages about the threads that bind us together. Keep safe and positive as always

  9. I love your poem for your mom. Lovely way to honor her! I have read people’s comments about her an I am so sorry for all those people who trample on her without regard. She is beautiful and poised. I hope you make more great memories in your relationship with her.

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