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, poetsandplayers.co 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

 

 

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