Monthly Archives: January 2016

The best laid plans…

Life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans: this week the fridge freezer went to that great landfill in the sky. I went to get stuff out of the freezer for dinner on Wednesday only to find a lot of stuff too thawed out to use, including two Magnums I was saving for a secret ice cream binge! So, I transferred what I could save to the chest freezer in the garage and defrosted the fridge freezer in the kitchen, hoping it was only unconscious and would return to me with CRP. It didn’t, the next morning it was still dead. It was thirteen years old, so it had been a good servant, I suppose: built-in obsolescence and all that. So I consigned it to infinite ambience and went to Currys to buy a replacement. It will be delivered later today. The dead one was integrated into the built-in kitchen; getting it out of its housing was fun. I suspect getting the new one into the space will be no less tricky. I’ll keep you posted.

Well, back to the plans I was making before life got in the way. On Tuesday I had a really productive day for the PhD and the poetry. I wrote another poem for Spelks with a Ted Hughes quote as the epigraph: it comes from his Birthday Letters collection. I’ll post the poem at the end so I won’t say too much here. I took Sylvia Plath’s form of nine lines, nine syllables to a line that she used for ‘Metaphors’, her poem about being pregnant (hence the focus on nine, I guess). Plath’s is a lovely poem and I was quite pleased with my little shadow too; the form flowed surprisingly easily to release a poem, I think, that isn’t constrained.

I finished reading Sigmund’s ‘Three Essays…’ as well on Tuesday, so that was progress, and began a close reading of ‘The Unconscious’, which, the introduction tells me, is more his musings than an authoritative theory. He is writing to see what he thinks about the subject; it makes me feel better that even Sigmund wasn’t absolutely sure of his thoughts on this difficult theme; although I suppose it is hard being a psychoanalyst and having to write authoritatively, because you must analyse everything you say for hidden meaning. That’s OK, Sigmund, it’s mostly hidden to me! But I pick out a thread and keep pulling at it until it becomes a small ball of wool. What I do know is, I know more than I did in September and that is as much as I can expect.

Tuesday evening it was our Poetry Society Stanza at the Buffet Bar in Staybridge Station. This month we were having a reading session. We chose to read the work of the American poet, Tony Hoagland. I hadn’t heard of him until I heard him read at Aldeburgh in November and I was blown away by his cynical humour and his political satire. You can find some examples of his poetry here:

I was pleased when his name came up as a subject for close reading at Stanza; I loaded his latest collection onto my kindle and I chose his poem ‘Little Champion’ to read at Stanza. The bad news is, poetry is not a good medium for the Kindle: it messes with the format of the poems, but I found a copy of ‘Little Champion’ online anyway. The good news was we all chose different poems so we had a really varied event.  Two of Hoagland’s inspirations are Sharon Olds and the Beat Poets and we had examples of his work that showed the influence of both. It was a fantastic night. I do enjoy Stanza.

On Wednesday, I had a lunch meeting with the committee of Poets and Players. I read the agenda in bed at 3.00 in the morning on Wednesday: sleeping is not really big in my life! Anyway, I saw on the agenda that I had committed to sending an email shot to past entrants of our P&P competition; so I spent two and a half hours getting all the past entrants into my address book then forming a group to send a BCC mailshot inviting them to enter again. The closing date for our competition is 29th February this year, and we have cajoled the lovely Jackie Kay to be our judge: you can find details of the competition here:

Competition 2016

I had to go to my daughter’s restaurant before going to the lunch meeting: I do her books for her on a Wednesday. Actually, this week I just paid the wages and left the rest till next week. Then I was on my way to Manchester for the meeting. I picked up our rail tickets for London in March at Manchester Victoria, then got a taxi to the Whitworth Art Gallery where the meeting was held. We hold our P&P events at the Whitworth; the next one is on February 20th where, among others, David Morley will read to a science theme. Perhaps we’ll see you there? Details are here:

Coming Events

It was a productive meeting, we have almost completed our planning until September. It has been difficult this year; Arts Council Funding was hard to achieve, but we did get it in the end, only for twelve months though. In the past we have got funding for three years, which makes planning slightly less manic. Our events are free entry to our audience, so the funding is crucial. The competition is one way we raise some extra funds, so it would be wonderful if you could all enter our competition to show your support!

Friday was the highlight of my week: it was Spelks day. I love Spelks: I think I may have mentioned this! We are a group of seven friends who meet monthly at each other’s houses to set writing tasks, write poems to those tasks then meet to share the poems. Friday was the day to meet. As usual it involved Prosecco and other wines, nibbles and chocolate. It also involved fantastic poetry. Unfortunately, there were only five of us there this week: bereavement and house sales had kept two Spelks occupied elsewhere; but the five of us made up the shortfall. The poem I am posting at the end of this blog was written to this latest Spelk task: to take a quote from anywhere and use it as an epigraph to a poem in any form. Here is one of my four Spelk poems written to that task. It is about relationship breakdown and the personal trauma that that particular kind of grief causes, especially when the relationship has bordered on fixation, which is, as Freud would say, just another name for love. This poem is my favourite for this task, I think the best. I hope you like it too.


Rough Passage

Your life/was a liner I voyaged in (Ted Hughes Birthday Letters)*

 I couldn’t say when we set sail or

where we anchored. To me you were prow,

I was stern. You were my forward thrust,

you my cabins, decks, the bowels of me.

The cruising was smooth while we maintained

mid-ocean, but what when we wrecked? Then,

I was scuppered, capsizing, sinking,

woman overboard with no life belt.


* The Blue Flannel Suit

Rachel Davies

January 2016

Poetry: feasts and festivals

I’ve had a poetryful week. It started with arranging to meet Manchester Cathedral Poet in Residence, Rachel Mann for lunch in early February. In November we were both published in an anthology themed around the periodic table. I published my poem, Phossy Jaw, on my blog. Well, Rachel couldn’t attend the launch party at the Anthony Burgess Foundation so I agreed to collect her copy for her. February will be the official handing over. Yes, I know it’s taken a long time, but Rach is a vicar and Christmas/New Year is a busy time for vicars, apparently. So, arranging the lunch sent me back to the anthology for a read. It is really rather good! You can find a copy here:

On Monday a friend sent me a FaceBook link to an unusual poetry festival in London in March. It is the Psychoanalytic Poetry Festival, held at the Freud Museum. Details are here:

So I booked myself onto that one, I hope it will be a useful contribution to the PhD as well as being really, really interesting. The wonderful poets  Pascale Petit and Maurice Riordan are involved, so it should be a good day. Apparently, the Freud Museum host these psychoanalytic poetry festivals regularly; I’ll look out for future events then, if it’s worth the hotel stay in London.

Then, possibly the highlight of the week, I had an email from Michael Symmons Roberts. Michael teaches creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University; he was one of my tutors on the MA. Anyway, his email invited me, and four other PhD researchers from the writing school, to be involved in an interesting project to work with composers from the Royal Northern College of Music to produce new pieces of work for Music Theatre Wales. Well, it took me all of two seconds to send an affirmative reply to that one. I’ve worked with RNCM composers before, when I was doing my MA, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. As a result, two of those pieces have been performed at Manchester’s prestigious Bridgewater Hall. And now, thanks to Michael, a chance to do it again. Four other PhD poets are also invited to be involved: Rachel Mann, Zafar Kunial, Andrew Forster and Martin Kratz, so I am keeping good company in this project. The introductory session to the project is in February, so I’ll report on progress after that. As with the MA, it is the ‘extra-curricular’ opportunities that come with the course I signed up for that make doing these courses such wonderful open-minded learning experiences. Bring it on!

On Thursday I had another email, from two poet friends. They are going to Wenlock poetry festival in April, would I be interested in house-sharing for the festival weekend? Yes, I would, along with another friend. These are the friends I went to Aldeburgh with in November. So I duly became a friend of Wenlock to take advantage of early booking opportunities and booked myself onto poetry events with Lemm Sissay, Daljit Nagra, Holly McNish, Jonathan Edwards and many more exciting poets. And I get to spend the weekend with a wonderful trio of friends, so I expect wine and poem-sharing to be big parts of the deal. Details of the festival are here, so perhaps I’ll see some of you there:

On top of all this excitement, I have been reading. I finished the Andrew Wilson biography of Plath: mixed feelings about that one. The work was good, the publication less so, as I outlined last week. But it was a good taster session for reading Ted Hughes Birthday Letters (Faber and Faber 1999), which is my current bed-time read. Such a poignant read and wonderful to have Hughes’s poetry interpret her journals and their shared memories. I’ll get to the end and then read it all over again. Several times, probably. And, of course, my relationship with Sigmund continues. So I’m feeling on top of the reading target I set myself at the beginning of this journey. And I’m learning so much.

And I’m still writing. I belong to a closed poetry group: the Spelks. I think I’ve mentioned them before. This is my favourite group. We meet regularly at each other’s houses to share our writing. We set tasks for each meeting, write to those tasks then share the resulting poems over a glass or two of wine and lots of nibbles. The theme for this latest meeting, next Friday 29th January, was to experiment with form and write poems headed by an epigraph. So this week I have written a villanelle I am quite pleased with and a Shakespearean sonnet which  I feel is rather anal. It just seems too tight to be comfortable; so I wrote Mk2 retaining the sonnet form, but relaxing it so that the line breaks don’t necessarily happen at the end rhymes. I’ve retained the final couplet intact. I’m more pleased with Mk2, but I look forward to feedback from the group. I don’t think it’s going to be snatched up by any publishing houses any time soon, though, but the writing exercise was interesting. Both of these poems, unsurprisingly, are based in Sylvia Plath’s journals. I’ve still got almost a week to come up with another poem too. I’m planning to write one shadowing the form of one of Plath’s poems, possibly Lady Lazarus.

I can’t post these poems until I’ve had feedback from Spelks, it wouldn’t seem right. So I’ve chosen a poem I wrote a couple of years ago, which won the Fermoy International Poetry Competition and earned me a long weekend in Fermoy at the poetry festival there. It fits my PhD theme of mothers and daughters, a light-hearted look at a difficult relationship. The stanza about boyfriends is particularly amusing. When my sister found her first boyfriend my mother told her she was too young to have a boyfriend (I think she was fifteen at the time). ‘They only want you for one thing, anyway,’ Mum says. ‘Well tell me what it is and I’ll give it to them,’ says sis. Not the answer Mum was hoping for, but that is a measure of how naive we were in our teenage years. We learned all we knew of dating from Boyfriend, Valentine and other romantic teenage mags. We picked up real life as we went along!

So that’s it. May all your weeks be as poetryful and rewarding as mine has been this week.

The poem:

Ten Things My Mother Never Said To Me


You are every bit as interesting, funny, beautiful

and precious to me as your brother


When I made your brother, I was an apprentice;

by the time I made you, I had perfected my art.


I ate three slices of the Victoria Sponge

you brought home from domestic science.


Boys will love you for the way you consider them your equals.

They will love that you can change a light bulb, fix the car,

redecorate the lounge, cook a nourishing meal and all this

while reading Ulysses.


Mostly boys will adore you because you have the ability

to make them laugh. And because you are adorable.


Trust your boyfriends, sex will be the last thing on their minds.

When it is on their minds, it will be a beautiful expression

of how much they love you for your drive, personality,

intelligent conversation and well developed sense of humour.


Don’t be afraid to show the world you care.


Caring will sometimes cause you pain but don’t worry,

I will always be there to hug the hurt away.


There is no age restriction on hugging.


Hug your children every day. When they are too far away

for a real hug, hug them tight in the arms of your imagination.


The End Of The Beginning

Can you hear that? It’s the sound of whale bone snapping and corsets being let out. Yes, RD1 and all its appendages have gone! I heard back from the team that the revised proposal was ready to submit. So I spent what I thought would be a half hour on Tuesday putting together the various forms that should accompany it in its journey to the academic committee for consideration: the ethics form, the insurance form, form RD1 itself; and, of course, the proposal. In fact it took most of the morning and some of the afternoon. The ethics form consisted of a string of tick boxes that I couldn’t complete on my computer: the ticks wouldn’t register. So I sent it unfilled with an e-note to Deborah Bown, that very helpful woman tasked with collecting these things, to the effect that I couldn’t fill it in but all answers were ‘no’. Bless her, she filled it in for me and sent me a copy! Everything else was fine except she hadn’t received the risk assessment form. Thinking this was one and the same as the insurance form I resent that. No, the risk assessment form. Well, I looked on the website under ‘forms’ but couldn’t find that one. So she sent me a blank copy. Apart from the first question about ‘activity’ the answers were all N/A. But guess what? I couldn’t fill it in on my computer again. So I printed it off and responded with my best fountain pen then tried to scan it into my computer to send back. Then I remembered that my printer actually has an email facility (how cool is that?) so I emailed a copy of the document back to Deborah from my printer. Message received. So that’s it. RD1 is, hopefully, earning its keep at the academic committee as we speak. I have no idea how long before I hear, but hopefully my research will be duly registered with the university and I can get on with the real work.

Of course, that has started already. I am keeping up with the reading target; Freud continues to occupy my time, sweet old man that he is. But this week, something new. A friend gave me a copy of  Andrew Wilson’s biography of Sylvia Plath: Mad Girl’s Love Song (Simon and Schuster 2013) and I am loving it. It is about her life before Ted; full of teenage sexual repression and mental ill health. It is based in her journals and her letters home from Smith College in the 1950s. I read both books last year in prep for the PhD project, so I appreciate where he is coming from. A good read if you’re interested in Plath. But oh my, Simon and Schuster should be ashamed of themselves: the number of editorial errors in this book is alarming; and this from a reputable publisher. Just silly errors that should have been picked up and edited. Like on p 218: “…both of whom who had committed suicide.” Or page 240: ‘…that she had won one editorialships.’ These are just two that I noted when I was preparing for this week’s blog, the book is littered with them. They don’t take away from the content, but oh my, they are annoying to read.

I have felt a funny kind of anti-climax having got rid of RD1 from my life: a sort of mini withdrawal, so settling to work has been hard and I’ve had to be strict with myself. Of course, life, as ever, is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, and this week no exception. On Monday my partner had his minor op; I won’t say more than he is, sorry has, a pain in the arse.  I do cups of tea and other tokens of caring. But I don’t do sympathy: it’s a throw back to my time as a nurse. When you’ve seen bad things, relatively small things gain a perspective; so just keep taking the paracetamol and get over it. Here, have another cup of tea!

On Thursday I saw my rheumatologist again. Two years ago I was diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica. Don’t tell me, you’ve never heard of it? No, neither had I until I was diagnosed. I go to the gym regularly for aerobics classes, and after one particularly strenuous Friday class I was very stiff in my hamstrings and buttocks over the weekend. When the stiffness lasted for three weeks and it was getting difficult to get out of bed in the mornings I decided it probably wasn’t down to normal post-aerobics stiffness, that I had probably pulled a muscle or something. So I saw the GP thinking I would be offered physio. Instead I was offered blood tests, to check for inflammation markers, I was told. Results showed high inflammation markers and PMR diagnosed. This is an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s immune system starts to attack its own healthy tissue. So I was put on corticosteroids for about eighteen months. However, in May last year I developed nasty headaches, like a crow had nested in my hair and was pecking away at my scalp. Paracetamol didn’t touch it, peck peck peck. After ten days I saw the doctor again, and more blood tests confirmed Giant Cell Arteritis, PMR’s ugly sister. So the steroid intake was greatly increased and the pain went away. This is a nasty disease: it can cause blindness or cardio vascular accident if not treated; but once on the higher dose steroid the risks diminish. Statistically, one in five of the population will get PMR, and of those, 5% will also get GCA: how lucky am I?  But I’m still here, still seeing, still determined it won’t affect my life more than it has to. I expected the rheumatologist to reduce the dose of steroids on Thursday, but he is waiting to get the results of the latest round of blood tests to see if inflammation markers are back where they should be. I wait to hear.

I’ve been going to my aerobics and pilates classes with no ill effects for the PMR or the damaged foot ligaments, so I think I’m doing alright.

Yesterday, Saturday, was the first Poets and Players event of the year. I am on the organising committee of Poets and Players, a Manchester based group committed to bringing free poetry and music events to very appreciative audiences. The group was founded by the late Linda Chase, bless her, a lovely poet who died way too young. We have tried, and succeeded, in keeping it going after her death. It hasn’t always been easy, especially this year with swingeing cuts in Arts Council Funding; but we eventually managed to obtain funding for another twelve months. Yesterday’s event, at the Whitworth Art Gallery, included the poets Zafar Kunial, Catriona O’Reilly and Maurice Riordan. The ‘players’ were Kirsty McGee and Chris Davies. It was a wonderfully uplifting afternoon; the audience numbered well over 100, which is always gratifying. I videoed most of the performance and those videos will be up on YouTube and our website, in the coming weeks.

So that brings us round to Sunday yet again. I’m sorry this has been a long post, it has been a long week! I hope you managed to stick around until the end. That’s all most of us can hope for, after all.

How about a light-hearted poem to finish? This is a poem I wrote in honour of my grandson’s temper. It was published in Obsessed With Pipework no. 62 (Spring 2013)


Press Rewind

 and the crack in the smoky glass repairs itself

into a perfect screen. The memory stick

flies backwards from the black hole, crosses the room,

touches down in your outstretched hand. Your shock

turns to red-faced temper, growls like an angry wolf.

You replace the memory stick on the desktop.

Your mum takes back everything she said

about leaving the console, going with her to the shops,

switches on the PlayStation, walks backwards from the room.

Your anger relaxes to something calmer, sweeter,

the controller finds its way back to your hand, you sit,

put your feet up, reset you face into perfect concentration,

play Call of Duty backwards for three hours,

walk backwards to the bathroom, retrieve a pee,

walk backwards to your bedroom, get into bed.


Rachel Davies



New term, foot on gas

It’s January 2016  and a new term starting. So far, after one term, I have read loads, have a basic understanding of Freudian theory and feel ready to go on to critically reading his work. But first…

I had a team meeting on Thursday about RD1 and guess what? Another rewrite, but only in one section and only because I had put too much detail in. Yes, too much! Make it simpler, I was told, it’s for an academic committee who aren’t unduly interested in your particular research, just in the quality of the proposal. So, although I would rather have got rid of it and moved on, RD1 re-entered the building for a bit more TLC.

I dedicated yesterday to it. I rewrote the relevant section as per advice and tended to my bibliography: a minor reorganisation into primary and secondary texts and ensuring that it fits in with MHRA style guide. This involved inserting place of publication which I had omitted in the original; also replacing subsequent texts by the same author with a ‘double m dash’. Well, I googled how to make a ‘double m dash’ and I got sound advice on making an ‘m dash’ but nothing about a doubler, so if anyone reading this knows how I do that in Word on MacBook, please leave instructions in the comments boxes below.

I read through my revised proposal, wrote the RD9 record of the Thursday meeting then went for lunch. I saved sending the email with attachments until lunch was sorted, read through again, decided on the green light and it has wung (sorry, winged looked too much like a colloquialism for complaining!) its way to the team. Fingers crossed, third time lucky. I was told that two rewrites is not unusual for this job, and I do know that from talking to others who are, like me, on the starting line of their PhD. Still, it would have been nice to be rid of it; the submission date is the end of next week. So let’s hope I am rid of it now. Angelica, the lit-crit expert on the team, assured me she is very happy about the content of my PhD, so that was reassuring.

The rest, as they say, is reading. I have finished reading Freud’s Three Essays On The Theory of Sexuality and thoroughly enjoyed it, which was a bonus. Who knew Freud was such an amusing writer? I don’t agree with everything he says: for instance why does he go on about penis envy so much? More likely, I should think, that the little girl was pissed off with the amount of freedom the little boy was given to climb trees and behave in what Society would have seen as an unseemly fashion for her. Nothing to do with his appendages; except that, of course, it is the penis that is the first evidence of ‘boy’ at birth, and the signifier ‘girl’ is that she is without one. If Freud had been a woman, or had been writing at a different time for society, would boys have suffered vagina envy and longed for castration? Just a thought! I have started a critical reading of the book, taking notes in my own words, which is not easy, because Freud’s words are so good. So I am highlighting relevant passages that will prove most useful to my research.

The rest of the week has been about health issues. On Monday I went to my aerobics class for the first time since I damaged the ligaments in my foot in September. The foot was a bit swollen in the evening and a bit sore the next day, but nothing too worrying. So I decided to go to pilates on Friday. I have felt stiffness in places I didn’t even know I had muscles as a result this weekend. But the foot survived, and the stiffness can only mean those old muscles are toning themselves up, so I’ll be going back for seconds next week.

My partner had a hospital appointment on Tuesday, following up a minor ongoing problem I won’t bore you with. The upshot is he has to have a minor op on Monday. Yes, less than a week after seeing the consultant. Don’t complain to me about NHS. I think it’s wonderful, and if government would back off and give it the praise and support it needs instead of constant criticism and  selling it off in profitable packages to private enterprise it would all be to the good. Another loved one had a six monthly scan to monitor her ongoing treatment for malignant melanoma, so now a tense two week wait for results from that. The scan process involves drinking a cocktail of something iodine based, the taste masked with a choice of fruit cordial. She  calls this the worst cocktail bar in Manchester. I have written a poem about that, and it is at the end of this blog.

So, that’s it for another Sunday. Must go, I have some more Freud to read. Speak again next Sunday.


The Worst Cocktail Bar in Manchester

 Waitresses dressed as nurses come to the tables,

greet you cordially, take your cocktail order: Strangled

Gland, Corpse Reviver, Black and Blue, Lacy Legs.


You consider Lacy Legs, but settle for Black and Blue.

You knock back two glasses, pull a face, wait 15 minutes,

take a chaser. You look around, see people downing


orange cocktails, yellow. One woman sips a white liquid

like breast milk. You pour another glass, retch, hold

your nose, keep it down. Something in it smells


like aniseed but not quite. You swear you’ll never drink

Pernod again. You save the last shot for just before the scan.

Really, you say, this is the worst cocktail bar in Manchester.


You try not to lick your lips, begin to feel the blood heat

coursing. On the way home you ride with the windows down.

In the back seat I ignore the December freeze, keep my gloves on.


Rachel Davies

Dec 2014


2016 and all that

In the time honoured way of bloggers, I’ll do a short review of 2015. When I thought about it, it took a while to come up with positives: this has been a year of ongoing family illnesses which I don’t want to dwell on. But of course, there are always positives, and most of mine are to do with poetry and poet friends.
There was the Kim Moore and Carola Luther poetry course in Grange-over-Sands, for instance. I didn’t know Carola before this course, so it was a huge surprise when my car-sharing friends and I bumped into her en route in the motorway services outside Lancaster and she recognised us as members of the course. Do poets have a scent or a second sight or something? This was such a good course, with people I only meet on courses, but whom I consider friends. And Carola used Selima Hill’s sequence ‘Portrait of my lover as a horse’: anything Selima is OK by me.
In August I heard I was third placed in Manchester Cathedral’s poetry competition with an ekphrastic poem inspired by a Leonora Carrington painting, The Magical World of the Mayas. The readings for the prize winners was held in the Cathedral in October; a lovely day, I met up with some old poetry friends and made some new ones. You can find details of the winning entries here:
In October I went with friends to Ilkley Litfest for Jackie Kay’s masterclass. I wrote a short poem called Bridge, six lines which I have submitted to the Magma short poem competition. It’s still open if you’re interested, details here:
We stayed for the Jackie Kay/Zafar Kunial reading in the evening too. Ask Jackie Kay about being Poet Laminate when you see her!
Early November, I fetched up in Aldeburgh for the poetry festival. This was my second year there, house sharing with friends. What a fantastic festival this is, and how sad to think this one might have been the last. Like most arts events, the Poetry Trust is finding funding a challenge so the festival is in doubt next year. What a sad world in which art is relegated to a charity, forced to busk with its begging bowl instead of being given the spiritual space it deserves. Anyway, this festival involved Kim Addonizio, John Burnside, Tony Hoagland and many other splendid poets. And more friends. And wine. It was a wonderful weekend, I hope the Poetry Trust resolves its funding crisis in time for next November.
In December I went to the poetry carousel in Grange, which I have written about in other blog posts so I won’t go over old ground here. Suffice to say it was a lovely way to round off a good poetry year.
In October two lovely friends of mine held their hand-fasting in Arnside, south Cumbria. A hand-fasting is a pagan wedding.  What a lovely weekend that was: celebration, love, friendship, food and wine. And the pop-up Karma Sutra. And poetry, obviously.
And throughout the year there was my Poetry Society Stanza meeting monthly at the buffet bar, Staybridge Station; and Spelks. I love Spelks: this is a group of seven poetry friends who meet monthly at each other’s houses to set poetry challenges, share and feedback on the poems resulting from those challenges; and to eat food, drink wine. This is a closed group. I always think of that wonderful line by Audrey Hepburn in ‘Charade’ when she says ‘I have so many friends I can’t possibly know anyone else until someone dies.’ Spelks is a bit like that. We are planning several readings in the coming year. Watch this space.
The lowlight of the year was damaging my foot in Zakinthos in September, spending the second week of my holiday in a wheelchair and on crutches with my right leg in plaster. Slipped on the bathroom floor. And, no, I wasn’t drunk at the time! I was in a ‘Beckham Boot’ for eight weeks after I got home. I can truly say, all my holiday snaps this year were X-rays. On a lighter note, a taxi drove us to the hospital for the X-rays and follow up treatment. He parked outside a veterinary surgery. I said to Bill ‘Oh my, they’re going to  have me put down!’ The taxi driver spoke good English and he laughed. He assured me the X-ray department was next door!
So, what has all this to do with my PhD? Well, this is the life I lead and I am determined to carry on and not lose any of it along the way. What would be the point in that? But that is a challenge in itself, because somehow, the PhD has to be made room for. I think I’ll drop the ironing and hoovering if anything has to go.
2016: new year resolutions. Obviously they involve diets and gyms as ever. I had a brilliant idea the other day though. I could make resolutions to put on a stone and become a couch potato. That way, when the resolutions fail in the first week, I might actually achieve something healthy! Oh, the power of positive thought.
I have taken a few days off from study over the Christmas and New Year break. Family, festivity, feasting and fun. Now I’m back on it with a vengeance. I haven’t heard back from my team re the re-drafted RD1, I expect to hear any day now. So I’m ploughing on regardless. My objective for this spring term is to complete a critical reading of the relevant Freud works and to first-draft a chapter on his contribution to female sexuality and female child development. More about that next week, I expect.
Meanwhile, here is a poem I wrote in Amanda Dalton’s workshop at the carousel in December:


St Francis and the Birds

       Sir Stanley Spencer

Where did he come from, the fat friar,

his hands huge with prayer, his eyes

fixed on heaven and my fowl, my fowl,

lost to me? And why me? Why would he

do that? Where was he at daybreak

when I was collecting the eggs, shovelling

the shit? Just when the hard work’s done

he comes to claim the glory. I can’t bear

this cacophony, the hissing, honking, quacking,

clucking, cooing as if all the birds of the farm

have formed a choir singing their fowl version

of All Things Bright. These flowers were

for my man’s grave till the fat friar came,

walked past me as if I wasn’t there, almost

trampled the boy with his size sixteen velvet

boots, not looking where he’s going, all the while

chanting come follow or some such nonsense.

Now my grave posy’s a cosh, flagellation’s all

they understand. But the fat friar feels nothing,

and then I see God’s in his corner and I realise

I can’t win and I think if The Big Man sends

a flood or a plague of frogs it’s the family Bible

I’ll snatch up, convince Him we’re also believers.

Sing, boy, sing, I yell, Onward Christian Soldiers.

If you can’t beat ’em, cover your arse, I say.