Maybe twice a year, a man with a rucksack on his back used to knock on the door and flog me a pamphlet of his poems. They made me smile: ‘Alcohol and coffee/ Can be mixed,/ At some cafes/ It can be fixed.// Of course,/ To be respectable,/ Never in/ The same receptacle.’ A lot of legwork, but I’m willing to bet that he sold more copies than most Faber or Bloodaxe poets, and made more money too.
I haven’t seen him for some time. Has he cut a deal with Cape? More likely that recessional Shepherd’s Bush is cutting back on poetry-buying. But today, back from the shops, I found a man at the door who’d somehow got wind of the fact that some, well, publishing activity goes on in this house. He has seven cats and 500 poems. But we talked mostly about the job he did for several decades: he was a locksmith. A man who’s called out in extreme situations – a house has been broken into, a husband’s been thrown out, a scene of crime needs to be secured – and while the wailing and the anguish continue in the background, he gets on with his precise, intricate job, measuring and filing to the exact millimetre. He didn’t give me many stories today, but I do now know that Princess Margaret emptied her teapots in the loo.