Cut to the Corps – lyric poetry in process

I think that everyone, no matter how creative they are, has some kind of outlet. For some it’s running, others gardening, painting, reading, walking the dog but everyone has something that they do to clear their head, collect their thoughts, find a bit of order in the chaos. For me, that outlet is poetry, so naturally when my boyfriend, Paul, left to go and complete a twenty-seven month service period in Ghana with American Government Organisation, the Peace Corps… I started writing.

Paul left in early February and we had agreed that I would fly out to visit him seven months later at the end of August. Being an English/American couple, we’re no strangers to distance but this was a new challenge for us and over the next few months, I documented my side of the emotional journey by putting together a collection of poems titled Cut to the Corps.

At the end of February, my friend Bruce and I had got to talking about my poetry and the idea came about to try and put some of it to music. There were maybe only five or six poems by this point and the idea of setting them to music seemed like an interesting challenge to both of us, so a new collaboration was born.Within a few months I had written another fifteen poems and Bruce had begun writing, not just accompaniments, but full on lyric poetry that I would sing and eventually record and give to Paul when I went out to Ghana. What began as a simple idea became more and more elaborate as the two of us became more and more invested. Towards the end of the Summer, Bruce was working day and night, firstly from university, then at home and at one point from the middle of a campsite by the sea, to write the music, record the lyrics and accompaniment and send them all to me via email. I was then spending all the spare time I had, singing in the car park on my lunch breaks, humming quietly to myself on trains and staying up late into the night, trying to learn everything so that we could record it all in one go.

The final recording was done over the course of about two and a half days, split between two weekends. The first night we worked until around two or three in the morning and the last, I think we finished at about 7am. Bruce’s family were incredibly supportive, making us amazing food, creeping around quietly so that we could record, and not saying anything about the three part, high pitched harmonies that we started laying down at five o’clock in the morning on the last day.I went back to Bath after we finished recording, to pack my bags for Ghana, which meant we had about two days to do any final remote adjustments before I had to leave for the airport. During this time, Bruce somehow didn’t sleep for the entire two days and was sending me updates and alterations right up until the last minute, adding extra vocals, percussion, bass, more guitar and just generally being amazing.

This is perhaps the point to mention that Paul had absolutely no idea of the hive of activity that was happening in his name back in Britain and of course that made it all the more emotional when I presented it to him a few days later on my arrival in Ghana. I had bought him a portable cd player and a headphones splitter, as there is no electricity in his little African village, so the project was finally brought to its conclusion as the two of us lay there in the dark together, listening to the sounds of the last six months…

~

It’s fairly easy to keep a secret from someone when they’re living off the grid, in a foreign country, three thousand miles away, so quite a few people knew about our project with Cut to the Corps and since my return, I have had a number of questions about whether or not the album will be available to buy now that I am back and Paul has heard it. Below is a small sample of the recording process including a few of the final tracks but if you are interested in purchasing a full copy including a booklet of the poetry (and if I have enough requests to cover the printing costs, some original artwork done by Paul after he heard the poems for the first time) then please either come and find me or send an email to wholelotalovelypost@gmail.com

Thank you so, so much to Bruce for everything you have done and for being such a monumental part of this amazing journey, both you and this experience with always have a place in my heart, to all of the wonderful family and friends who supported me though not just the creative process but also the experiences that I originally wrote about, I couldn’t have got through them without you, and finally to Paul, for you I don’t know where to begin, perhaps for being my inspiration above everything else, and for receiving these words that I wrote for you with just so much love. You knew nothing of all this until it arrived in your arms a few weeks ago but I couldn’t have done it without you.

So, thank you… for being my reason.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER A COPY OF THE CUT TO THE CORPS CD AND BOOKLET

Now with pictures… x

Lovely Things

In early February of this year, my boyfriend, Paul, flew out to Ghana to complete a twenty-seven month service with American Government Organisation, the Peace Corps. Seven months later, at the end of August, I flew out to see him and to spend a few weeks there. The following are a few tales from my travels.

Sunday 2nd September – An Adjumokuen Afternoon

Sitting on my boyfriend’s porch with dusty feet and dirty hair, sucking on a piece of freshly cut sugar cane, I sit and watch as three or four of the local people from the village walk past carrying baskets of corn on their heads. One woman also carries a baby strapped to her back with what I now know to be an ‘antoma’. Paul presented me with one of these on my first day in Ghana. “They use them for everything here” he said. “Washing, drying, sleeping…

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Introducing Frocktober!

Here it is, the excuse you have been looking for… or at least that I have been looking for, to legitimately dress up for an entire month. Dig up your old dresses, find out your old frocks, gloves, hats, heels and get dolled up for the fun of it. There will be various events happening throughout the month in Bath but feel free to have your own Frocktober celebration. Get dressed up and go and take tea somewhere glamorous, head out in your heels for a night on the town, or just go to the pub but insist on drinking out of a fancy glass with a coaster!

Clothes swapping between friends is positively encouraged… as are photographs! If you do dress up for Frocktober, and you absolutely should, send in a photo to wholelotalovelypost@gmail.com and I’ll put them all up at the end of the month.

You’ve got a few days now before it’s officially time to look lovely… so go have a rummage through your wardrobe and see if you can’t dig out your glad rags!

Snotty in style

If I could sleep through the depths of Winter, I would but cold and flu season covers about half of the British calendar so this Autumn, in anticipation of the inevitable seasonal ailments, I am going to treat my poor, pink, little nose to some cheerful accessories…

 

Notes from Ghana

In early February of this year, my boyfriend, Paul, flew out to Ghana to complete a twenty-seven month service with American Government Organisation, the Peace Corps. Seven months later, at the end of August, I flew out to see him and to spend a few weeks there. The following are a few tales from my travels.

Sunday 2nd September – An Adjumokuen Afternoon

Sitting on my boyfriend’s porch with dusty feet and dirty hair, sucking on a piece of freshly cut sugar cane, I sit and watch as three or four of the local people from the village walk past carrying baskets of corn on their heads. One woman also carries a baby strapped to her back with what I now know to be an ‘antoma’. Paul presented me with one of these on my first day in Ghana. “They use them for everything here” he said. “Washing, drying, sleeping, staying warm…” and it’s true. Every night now, I wrap myself up in my two yards of fabric with a bucket, a candle, a cup and some soap and head out for my evening bucket bath. This has become one of my favourite parts of the day. I stand in the little four walled wash house and throw cups of cold water over myself in an attempt to wash off some of the dust of the day. I should emphasise the words ‘attempt’ and ‘some’, my feet have been a browny orange colour since I arrived here and I can’t see that changing until after I leave. So, bucket bath over, I dry myself off with my antoma and wrap myself up in it before heading back to the house where later that night I’ll undoubtedly use it as a blanket. Paul tried to get one of the woman in the village to put her baby on my back with it too, like they do here, but the poor little thing was so terrified at the prospect of being carried away by two strange white people, that it screamed, cried and clung onto its Mother for dear life. A few days later, however, on our way back from town, we were passed by another woman from the village with a baby. Paul said something to her in Twi and somehow, within moments, I found myself tied up in my antoma with Mabena, a beautiful, fat, albeit slightly confused little baby strapped to my back. No noise at all from the baby this time but there were tears in my eyes as Mabena quickly discovered the delights of tugging on a white woman’s curls.

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Tuesday 4th September – Love is a bag of bo fruit

Before I left to come to Ghana, I was warned about a number of things; the heat, the mosquitos, the transport, but most of all, the food. Having been ill on and off for the past six months, I arrived in the country fully prepared to eat only food I had made myself or failing that, the small supply of cereal bars I had stashed in my suitcase… how grateful I am to have a boyfriend who has been living here for the past eight months. He and a couple of other Peace Corps Volunteers that I met in my first week in country, introduced me to a few simple rules and I have been enjoying the local food here ever since. Basically, if it’s hot, covered and ideally fresh, although it’s impossible to ever be certain, you’re usually fine. Also, if you know which foods are prepared when, you can usually buy them before they have a chance to sit out for too long and as many things here are fried in oil, they are much nicer when they’re bought fresh from the pot. My favourite example of this is ‘Mama Cici’s bo fruit’ which is a fist sized ball of sweet bread dough that’s fried in red palm oil. Mama Cici lives just a stone’s throw away from Paul’s little house at the edge of the village and most mornings walks past with a bucket of steaming hot, freshly baked bo fruit; one of the most comforting and delicious things I have ever tasted. Paul actually told her how much I liked them on the second day that she walked past and the next morning she came and brought us one for free. People are so generous here that most days we find some bizarre fruit or vegetable has appeared on the front porch. The street sellers too, often slip you a little extra as a token of their delight if you attempt to speak their language and the other day we were brought two steaming bags of banku, a fermented doughy corn mixture that you dip into stews, from the local tailor’s wife as a thank you for helping out with some sewing. Paul seems to have embraced this part of the culture since arriving here. Case in point; as I sit here writing this, Ben, Paul’s nextdoor neighbour and landlord just arrived with a bag of cocoa and bo fruit that Paul had had sent over for me from the next town where he is working today. I have by no means been short on romantic gestures since I arrived here a few weeks ago but I think the edible ones in particular have been some of my favourite. Just a few days back, Paul disappeared off into the village and minutes later an enormous bowl of coconuts arrived in front of me. “I had a small boy climb a tree for you” he said. Who needs flowers and chocolates when you’ve got coconuts and bo fruit?

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Sunday 9th September – Pondering on the porch

It’s only a few days now until I leave to go back to England but this morning I was taken by Paul to go and meet the Chief of the village so that he could officially welcome me to Adjumoku. Most of the meeting was spoken in Twi but at one point, Paul translated that the Chief had asked me what I would take back with me from my stay in Ghana, and with Paul now away at work for a few hours, I am left to consider this question. In terms of material things, I have two beautiful antomas, some chief beads of my own, a tailor made Ghanian dress, a handful of other beautiful bits and pieces and half a dozen mosquito bites. However, as far as experiences go, by the time I leave here I will have learnt the beginnings of a new language, met some truly lovely people, tested my culinary palette to its limits, walked for miles down dusty open roads and had a hundred other sensory experiences that are just too vast to even begin to describe. But above everything else, on top of all that, the real reason I came to this amazing country, I will have spent two wonderful weeks with my beautiful boy… that’s really all I wanted, Africa was just the icing on the cake.

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