Monthly Archives: February 2016

What does a student even look like?

Some weeks are just manic. This has been a manic week.

The poetry has definitely taken precedence this week. I am administering the online entries in the Poets and Players Poetry competition. I love seeing and reading the huge diversity of poetry that comes in. Our judge this year is Jackie Kay. So far I have processed about 400 poems and still two days to go until closing date for entries (midnight on 29th February). And these are just the online entries: someone else is processing the snail mail entries. Thank you to everyone who has entered; if you haven’t, there is still time. You can find details here:  I will be very happy to process your entries too.

In printing out the online entries I ran out of printers ink. Twice. So I had to take a break and arrange to buy some more. No problem, I thought, until I get some, I’ll print of some poems of my own that need to be entered into a Galway competition by snail mail, details here:   Duh! I didn’t have any ink. So I went into Ryman in Oldham to buy some. I love asking for student discount and seeing the look of wry disbelief on the young face behind the counter. Once in there I queued behind a teenager who asked for, and got, student discount. When I got to the till I asked if I could get my student discount. The spotty youth behind the counter smiled in that ‘humour-the-old-dear’ way and said “yes you can; if you’ve got a student card.” So I produced my MMU student card. “OMG!” he exclaimed, “you’re a student!!” and proceeded to chat to me about Freshers Week; which, incidentally I knew nothing about! Anyway, I went in to stock up on printing ink for my HP Envy: two dual colour and black plus two extra black cartridges. They take used cartridges in part ex as well so all-in-all I got about £20 off my sale of £85. As I paid I was given a voucher for 20% off HP cartridges this weekend. So I’ll be visiting Ryman again this afternoon to flash my student card and alter another callow youth’s perception of what a student looks like.

Anyway, slotted in between printing competition entries, it was also my Poetry Society Stanza this week, Tuesday evening at the Buffet Bar Stalybridge Station. Check us out on FaceBook here:  This week it was the anonymous workshop: I think I mentioned it last week? Anyway, I had to print out the poems to read and comment on; that was the same day the printer was dying for want of ink. So I changed the black text to blue and managed to get print-outs to give my feedback to the poets. There were only five of us there this week: we’re normally much better attended than that but there were several genuine and unavoidable apologies this week. We had seven poems: two of the ‘anonymous’ poets had to send last minute apologies. The discussion was really intense and honest because, the poems being unidentifiable, you  worry less about people’s feelings. I found the feedback very helpful. I have included my workshopped poem at the end of the blog this week; after redrafting in line with feedback.

It’s Spelks again next week. I don’t have to tell you how much I love Spelks. But I still hadn’t written to this month’s prompt. We were asked to write a letter-poem to a musician or singer we are a fan of and write the response from that person including some of his/her lyrics in the reply. Surprisingly difficult. I kept putting it off. Anyway, in bed yesterday morning I grasped that particular nettle and wrote to Art Garfunkel. I’ll not say too much until after Monday, but perhaps I’ll post that one next week. And now I’ve made a start  I think I can manage a couple more later today.

So, as I said, poetry has taken over from PhD this week in a big way. I have still managed some reading, but I am aware I have slipped well below my target of 2 hours a day. I’ll pick it up, perhaps increase it to 3 hours to gain a rough average after the P&P entries are winging their way to Jackie. I have a meeting with my support team this week to gain some forward momentum in the Freud section so I’ll have a better idea of where I’m going after that meeting, I hope. I still haven’t heard about my RD1: it was discussed at the academic board meeting on Wednesday but no news so far. Is ‘no news good news’?

Life: the sore knee stood up to aerobics on Monday and Pilates on Friday. Hardly sore at all this week except when I first get up out of a chair, a typical PMR symptom. So perhaps the lower dose of steroid is doing its job again. I hate walking like an eighty year old, even though it adds to  the surprise in Ryman; because of course, in my head I’m only thirty-something!

Today is our anniversary. My partner and I have lived together for thirteen years today. I used to live in a little cottage across the lane and we were close friends for about five years before he invited me to move in with him to facilitate my early retirement from primary school headship. Thirteen years ago today I moved all my personal possessions across the lane, all of fifty yards, to clutter his life at number 2. We moved me ourselves; I was determined to move the bed under cover of darkness, I remember, so we did that the night before. I didn’t want the neighbours to see us carrying my bed across the lane. At the time, my daughter had the gastro-pub two doors away and she invited us for our evening meal at the pub before we moved it. The meal involved a couple of bottles of wine, so we were quite tipsy when we finished and it was approaching midnight when we began to move the bed. We got it to the middle of the lane and Bill started to search his pockets for his front door key only to realise he had left it indoors. So we are in the middle of the lane at midnight with a double divan between us, peeing ourselves laughing: was it really that funny? We had to take it back to my cottage and sleep on it; the gas fitter was fitting a new boiler in Bill’s cottage the next morning and he had the spare key so there was no difficulty getting into the house next day. But I had to move my bed in broad daylight after all. Thirteen years ago; and it doesn’t seem a day over half a century!

Yesterday I went with my daughter to visit number one son in Peterborough. We collected my sister on the way through Stamford and took her with us. We had a lovely day, lunch in Peterborough city centre and tea and cake at his house. And lots of laughs. I am truly blessed in my children. My son lost his wallet on the way into the city centre: we took a taxi and I suspect it fell out of his pocket in the taxi. But we had hailed the taxi so we weren’t able to identify it from hundreds of other black cabs except by a cracked window inside above the pay cup! As a result, he spent lunchtime ringing various banks and store card providers, cancelling his cards. His wallet was a Beano wallet, so fairly conspicuous. Anyway, my daughter got on Tinterweb and ordered him a new Dennis the Menace wallet: he’s 45 going on 15! We had lunch and went back to his house. His phone rang: the police. They had been given a wallet, had he lost one? So, after describing the contents of the wallet to the police, they duly delivered said ‘lost’ item later in the afternoon. They didn’t say how they came by it, but in my version of the story, the black cab driver found it and handed it in. People are basically good, despite what the Daily Mail would have us believe. In the highly unlikely event of the taxi driver reading this, or someone identifying him from the jagged window above his pay-cup, I would like to say a huge thank you for his honesty and integrity.

Enough: the poem. I wrote this poem at the poetry carousel I attended in Grange-over-Sands in December, organised by Kim Moore. It was written in Kim’s workshop on the nature of work, a tongue-in cheek retelling of the cushiest job I ever had. It is embellished, but not entirely fictitious. Kim is running another carousel in Grange in August. The Dutch poets  Tsead Bruinja and Saskia Stehouwer and the lovely Clare Shaw will be running workshops as well as Kim herself. These are intense but thoroughly worth-it poetry breaks. Check it out here:  and if there is a chance you can go, get booking: you won’t be disappointed. I met Tsead and Saskia in Fermoy in 2013 and I can’t wait to catch up again. The poem: Topping


Rachel Davies

February 2016

Poetry and Performance Enhancing Drugs

Oh, my! Sundays come around so quickly: so much to do and so little time. It’s scary to think I’m half way through the first year of a three year commitment and having so little to show for it apart from an awful lot of reading and an RD1 submission that could still need some work. I haven’t heard that for sure, but a friend had to do a minimal rewrite on some part of his proposal before it was finally accepted. I hadn’t heard anything about mine at all, so I checked it out with Deborah who is the font of all knowledge relating to RD1 and apparently mine is up for discussion by the academic board on Wednesday of this coming week so I should hear soon after that. Fingers crossed it goes through as it stands. By the way, I have heard since that said friend’s proposal has been accepted since he affected the required changes.

On Monday I sent a selection of poems to Jean Sprackland for consideration prior to our meeting to discuss them on March 15th. They were a selection of ‘mother/daughter’ poems, some I have written with the project in mind, some I had written before the project  but which I think can be made to fit; and one or two I’m not sure about until we’ve discussed them. I’m looking forward to that meeting. It might involve cake! My meeting with Angelica has been put back a week to March 1st. That meeting is to discuss my Freud section and gain some forward momentum on writing said section.

The Freud reading has gone on apace. I finished ‘…Everyday Life’ and I’ve now started on a selection of his lectures on various subjects. The first ones I read were very much to do with ‘slips’ so they were reinforcing ‘…Everyday Life’; the ones I’m reading now are around his ‘dream’ theory. I haven’t read ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ yet, so I think this will be a sound introduction. I like the tenor of his lectures: I can see him in a university lecture theatre in that tweed suit he seems to wear in all the photos, with a cane in hand, entertaining a sceptical, medical/scientific audience. I think I would have found his arguments convincing if I’d been in his audience, even if I would have taken issue with the more patriarchal aspects of his theories. He is a remarkably good read.

Lastly, and not directly to do with the PhD, I had a meeting at the Royal Northern College of Music on Wednesday. On the strength of being a current PhD research student, I have been invited to be included in a project to work with a composer from RNCM to write an aria for an opera on the theme of ‘immigration’. The meeting was to secure the pairings of a librettist and a composer. It didn’t get off to a good start as the email I received gave the time of the meeting as 11.00-11.30. When I got there it was to be told that the meeting wasn’t until 12 o’clock. Luckily I had taken my books, so I got a cup of coffee and had an hour’s reading while I waited. There were three poets and five composers in attendance at the meeting: two poets were unable to attend. We had a kind of ‘speed-dating’ session when we moved around the room meeting everyone: we were given art images to discuss to give us something to talk about. Then we had to place our top three preferences for work partners in order and hand them in. The meeting organisers then took ten minutes to pair us off. Thankfully, I got my first choice of composer, Laura. We want to do something around exploitation of migrants, focalised on the exploiter. We are giving ourselves some thinking time over the weekend then the emails will bounce back and forth next week before we eventually meet up to cement our ideas. The next official meeting is on March 17th, a consultation session with RNCM staff and personnel from Music Theatre Wales. I think this could be good even though it is taking time away from ‘real’ PhD stuff. It is the extra-curricular opportunities I have really valued in doing my MA and this current project.

On the poetry front, I sent my Stanza mailing out earlier in the week. I co-ordinate the East Manchester and Tameside Stanza for the Poetry Society. We meet on the last Tuesday of the month in Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar. Our meeting this month is on Tuesday 23rd: check us out here: This month we are having an anonymous workshop, when poets email me a new, unpolished poem for consideration and feedback from the group. I send the submitted poems out in a single anonymous document so no-one can identify the poet. This gives greater opportunity for honest feedback and criticism. Poets reveal themselves at the end of the evening and say a little bit about their poem.

Yesterday it was our Poets and Players event at the Whitworth Art Gallery. The day started with a fantastic writing workshop led by David Morley. He was very generous with his advice and we came away with lots of ideas in a wodge of handouts. In the comfort break we were asked to ‘hide’ one of our poems somewhere in the gallery, so there must have been some surprised  gallery-goers who found poems incorporated into displays, propped on menus in the cafe or hidden in the pages of books in the gift shop. All harmless fun; and how uplifting to come across a buckshee poem to brighten your day. In the afternoon David Morley was our headine reader, ably supported by Jemma Borg and Tania Hershman. The ‘player’ for this event was Michael Brailey who provided digital music in line with the science theme of the event in honour of Manchester’s European City of Science status. I videoed the afternoon event and those videos will be featured on our website, and on our YouTube channel in the coming week.

Our next Poets and Players workshop and reading event is in March, headlined by Carrie Etter. Check it out here:

I am also administering the online entries for the P&P competition, closing date 29th February. Jackie Kay is our judge this year. You can find details of the competition here:  Get your entries in: what have you got to lose?

Life in all its mundanity goes on. Our trip to Harrogate was lovely. We had a fantastic lunch in Betty’s Tearooms, which involved wine and pudding. We got caught in a bit of a blizzard about 4.00 p.m. but it must have been the ‘right kind of snow’ because it didn’t affect our return train journey at all. Also, our cottage in Pembrokeshire is paid and waiting for us in April. We bought this for each other for Christmas; much nicer idea than slippers, and because I am a part-time insomniac I can take my MacBook and do some work in the wee small hours without it adversely affecting the holiday: win/win.

On the dark side, the Polymyalgia Rheumatica has been flaring this week: stiffness in the legs. This is a fiend of an autoimmune disease about which there is very little known. I’ve been taking a corticosteroid, Prednisolone, for it and its ugly sister, Giant Cell Arteritis, for just over two years now. In January my rheumatologist reduced the dose by 1mg per day: a very small reduction but I suspect my body is adjusting. It’s not too bad though, and I’ll put up with it until I see him again in May. I expect he’ll do more blood tests then and advise accordingly. The thing is, like most people on Prednisolone, I want to be off it; my body doesn’t like it but PMR has other ideas! I’ll do the gym tomorrow: aerobics, so that will tell me how the old legs can cope!

Anyway, another busy week. You see, I don’t have time to be incapacitated by PMR, I’ve much too much to do. So bugger off and leave my autoimmune system alone, whoever, whatever you are.

Here’s a poem to finish off with. It’s one of the poems I have sent to Jean, directly relating to the mother/daughter theme, inspired by the Persephone myth. Enjoy.


Demeter’s Lament

I know I can’t reach her, that winter

will hold her tight like the bed she made


and must lie in. I know she’ll turn away, show him

her cold side, let him know she’s there


under sufferance. I know she’ll come back to me

eventually, in her own time, for short season, now


and then. I know I should be happy with this.

But what I can’t take is how she’ll always come back


with the stench of rotten eggs in her hair,

his foul breath like ice on her neck,


the snail trails of his saliva on her bare skin.

Far worse than all these is how seven


has become her phobia, how she counts in twos

to avoid it, sleeps all day Sundays to know


only six day weeks. She’s stopped eating, fades.

Death seems  to hang out at the edges of her life.


Oh, my and how the juice of pomegranates

can stain her teeth, her lips, her tongue


so no amount of bathing in the Lethe

will bring her back to me untarnished.



Pancakes, catnaps and other prevarications

Sunday again! This might be a bit shorter than usual-I’m going to Harrogate later today with Bill. I bought him a senior rail card for his birthday and train tickets for the trip and later today I will be buying lunch at Betty’s Tearooms. So, this is just another instance of how life can get in the way of research, the story of my week really. But I said when I started out on this epic journey that the PhD would have to fit in and find its own space because if I had to give up important aspects of my life to accommodate it my life wouldn’t be enriched by it. This week my car has been serviced and I have made pancakes, obviously.

Prevarication is another story. Yesterday was the worst kind of prevarication. I settled to a morning’s reading. I’m very near the end of ‘The Psychopathology of Everyday Life’: Freudian slips and all that. Well, I got off to a good start, but about half an hour in I fell asleep over my book. Fell asleep? I’m an insomniac, what’s that all about? I tried again and fell asleep again. And again. So, I decided in the spirit of the book’s message that my dozing was trying to tell me something. Clearly, I wasn’t committed to reading this morning. I think I just wanted a day off; I tried to force my body and my psyche into a reading frame of mind but they knew better. After a couple of hours of stop-start reading-dozing, I gave up and made myself a cup of tea. I put on an old episode of Lewis and that was me done for the day. I won’t get a PhD like this, I need to discipline myself more stringently; but I think just sometimes we need a day off, relax a bit, do something other to give us space to process the stuff we’ve done already. I did buy a couple more Freud books to my Kindle, so I’ve got plenty of bedtime reading for the coming days.

My head’s been all over the place this week because of poetry stuff. I submitted to the MMU magazine, Avis, in December; poems on the theme of ‘migration’, variously interpreted. Earlier this week my friend Hilary heard she had had a poem accepted for the magazine; I hadn’t heard anything. So I don’t know if I’ve been rejected (which we poets know all about and is not the disaster it used to be when I first started submitting) or if my poems are still under consideration. I waited a few days and when I still hadn’t heard I emailed the address for submissions to ask. I’ve heard nothing back from them, but perhaps it is just an e-address for submissions and won’t be opened until the next submissions window. So, knowing one of the editors on cheek-kissing terms, and having him as a FaceBook friend, I sent him a FB message to ask him about my submission. I’ve heard nothing back from him either. So I begin to feel a bit invisible.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not paranoid, I don’t normally stalk poetry editors and give them a hard time. But I made another submission in December, to Obsessed With Pipework. I heard back from the editor, Charles Johnson, this week to say he didn’t feel my poems were right for the magazine this time but he “would very much like to represent your work in the magazine” and asked me to submit half a dozen unpublished poems for him to consider. I can’t send out poems that are lodged in the arteries of other magazines and might be still being considered, or conversely might be going nowhere. A poet’s lot…

I’ve been invited to do two readings this week (invited this week; the readings are in April and May). The April reading is for Quiet Quiet Loud, organised by Sarah Dixon, a woman very committed to bringing poetry to audiences  in Manchester and other towns throughout the UK. I’ll be reading with my friend Hilary, a six minute slot. As it involves Hilary, it will probably involve eating out and a lot of laughs. The May event is a marathon rather than  the sprint of QQL. The Seven Spelks have been invited to read for Oldham’s Bookmark Festival. We have been given our own slot and also asked to contribute to the open mic of the Write Out Loud event. Monday May 16th. I’ll advertise closer to the event but it would be good to see some of you there? The invitation also included a submission opportunity to a new publication whose first magazine is published mid-March. I know nothing more about it than you do, but if you’re tempted you can check it out here:

Unfortunately, I can’t find 2016 versions of the other events yet. I’ll post them on here when I locate them.

On the PhD front, I have two meetings booked with my team. I meet with Antony and Angelica on February 25th to get some forward momentum in the Freud section of my work. I said last week that I didn’t think the dedicated Freud chapter I planned in RD1 was going to work; it will be just a descriptive retelling and offer nothing new or surprising to the discourse. So, that will be the focus of that meeting for me: do I combine Freud and other psychoanalytic theories to make a ‘psychoanalytic’ section? I feel I can put up a stronger argument if I include other theorists in the one chapter. On March 15th I am meeting with Jean Sprackland to discuss the creative aspect of the project. I have to email a few ‘mother-daughter’ poems to her before then and meet to discuss their suitability for the portfolio. I look forward to that meeting in particular, the poetry being the most important aspect of the project for me.

So, I’d better sign off, I’ve a train to catch! This doesn’t seem to be any shorter than normal despite my first line! My poem this week is nothing to do with my project, but a poem that won the Wells Poetry competition in 2014, judged by Sir Andrew Motion. I wrote it for an online poetry course with the Poetry School, led by Kim Moore. The course was entitled ‘Put a Poem in Your Pocket’ and the poem in my pocket was David Constantine’s ‘Bad Dream’. There was a line in it ‘A sheer/fall right, a sheer wall left’ and that line reminded me of a holiday I took on my own at Lake Como shortly after my marriage broke down. And that tells you where my poem comes from. I have incorporated the Constantine line into my own poem.


San Martino di Griante

 Imagine seeing that chapel from the Lake, clinging to the edge

of the mountain like a goat, how precarious it looks but it’s held

its nerve for centuries, since the Virgin ordained that this would be

the site of Her chapel, how the ancients were confident in the soul-kiss

of faith to take on that job, how all those centuries ago builders sang

as they hauled stones up that track on the backs of mules, laid them

one by one to build the chapel, how they made the mule-track into

a Via Crucis lined with shrines to the life of Christ, how one August day

I’ll decide to walk that track, visit San Martino of the Dizzying Heights,

how I’ll climb the steep path through olive grove and deer sanctuary,

past chapels, sun-bleached icons, the drying hay of wreaths until I reach

the last hundred yards, how the chapel will beckon me across a ledge

as narrow as a woman, a sheer fall right, a sheer wall left, how I’ll sit

trying to nail my courage, in the end turning my cowardice back

down the Via Crucis, where each of its shrines is an admonition,

how I’ll hear the derision of builders echoing down the centuries,

how your voice will be in their laughter, how I’ll come back tomorrow

determined to do it, how I’ll buy a peach as big as Venus as a reward

for touching the stones of San Martino of the Derisive Sneer, how I’ll sit

for aeons at the start of that ledge, talking myself into taking those steps,

how the chapel will tell me I can do it, how I’ll want to believe it, how

that peach will call out to me but I won’t break my promise not to taste

until I reach San Martino of the Forbidden Fruit, how relieved I’ll be

when two strangers will climb that mule-track, see me there dejected,

how they won’t mock but they’ll help me cross the ledge, take my hand,

stand one in front, one behind, walk me one step at a time till I reach

San Martino of the Blessed Achievement, how elated I’ll feel as I touch

its walls, admire its frescos, gaze at the lake below, how I’ll pick out

the trattoria in Bellagio where last night I dined at a table for one,

how Bellagio will shimmer in the midday heat, how at last I’ll answer

that peach, its juice sweeter than the fruit of Paradise, how one day

you’ll just be a sentence in my story, a peach stone I’ll throw away.


Rachel Davies

May 2014


Puppies, appliances and Freudian Slips

I had coffee and cake with a poet friend on Tuesday morning. She is also doing a PhD at MMU so it was good to have an intellectual discussion about our projects. She is researching evidence of barrenness and fecundity in 19th Century women’s poetry and in the bible (she is a vicar). Of course Freud featured large in my contribution to the discussion. Although she is not concentrating too much on a psychoanalytic approach in her work she has a back ground in philosophy and is much more ‘academic’ than I am. She made an interesting comment that Freud’s theories were ‘diagnostic of the patriarchal society’ of the time he was writing.  I like that, it struck a chord. He was a psychotherapist, so diagnostics were his forte. But surely so was treatment and cure. There isn’t much of that in his work, is there? Diagnostic, yes, but he retains the status quo very nicely with lines  like ‘The girl recognises the superiority of the male and her own inferiority in her missing penis…’ He doesn’t challenge this patriarchal view at all. While Freud was developing his theories of sexuality, suffragettes in the UK were demanding equality and willing to die for it. No penis envy there, Sigmund, just envy of the constraints a male-dominated society put on the  clitoris and vagina!

One thing I did learn (or rather notice that I had already learned) was that reading doesn’t have to happen at my desk. I have been doing an increasing amount of it in bed at 3.00 a.m., MacBook propped on my knees for note taking. So I am well on target for two hours a day. I have completed ‘The Unconscious’ and have started on ‘The Psychopathology of Everyday Life’ which is altogether an easier and more entertaining read. He describes what have come to be called ‘Freudian Slips’, parapraxes is the name given them in the English translation. Slips of the tongue, of the pen, of memory. Amusing that you can see yourself in these pages; interesting that he analyses where the slips originate and that many have their roots in uncomfortable issues in our lives that we have repressed into the unconscious. Fascinating and thought provoking.

What I now know is, I can’t really write a chapter on Freudian theory alone without it being descriptive and yielding nothing new. I need to take issue with much, though not all, of what he writes but I think I can’t do that without having other authorities to support my arguments. So I need a team meeting soon to set some forward direction. I’ll email Antony and Angelica in the week to set up a discussion.

On the poetry front, planning continues for our Poets and Players events. Check them out here:

Coming Events

In December I went to the Carol Ann Duffy and Friends event at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. If you haven’t been to one, keep your eye out for the next round, hopefully later in the year. Anyway, at the December event I heard an MMU MA Creative Writing poet, Mark Pajak read. I immediately wanted him for Poets and Players and we found a ‘new voice’ slot for him in March. I am delighted to say that he responded to my e-invitation with a ‘yes’. He will be a voice to listen for in the future. Just remember, you heard it here first.

In other news, in the ‘life’ compartments, much has happened this week. A friend of long-standing became a grandmother for the first time on Thursday. Her son and his wife live in Chicago, so it wasn’t possible for Joan to be on hand in real time for the birth; but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, her son ‘skyped’ within fifteen minutes  of the birth and she was able to ‘virtually’ meet her granddaughter soon after her being born. Joan is an avid Manchester United fan and she has decided she wants to be called Nanu! Her son is also a big fan, and that explains the baby’s second name, Alexa. You have to be a football fan to understand.

On Friday it was my partner’s birthday. I won’t say how old, but he is officially an old bugger. I gave him a senior railcard and used it to buy tickets to Harrogate to take him for lunch to Betty’s Tearooms. Not very ambitious, you think? If you knew how many times we have intended to go to Harrogate and our plans have been scuppered you would be more sympathetic. Hopefully next Sunday we will put that particular pilgrimage to bed. He doesn’t know it yet, but there are some brilliant charity shops in Harrogate.

Last week I announced the sad death of my fridge freezer. We had the new one delivered last Sunday and it looked well when we hauled it into the housing vacated by the old, fitted one. Just a minor annoyance: the doors couldn’t open because of the restriction of the housing walls. So on Monday morning we began the epic task of lifting it out of the housing (not as easy as writing about it!) and removing the housing from the line of fitted kitchen cupboards (way harder than writing about it!) We took the housing down to the garage to cut the right hand wall back to allow for door opening. My partner is not good at listening to advice: it is a point of contention between us. All I ask is that my opinions are listened to and respected; they may not always be right, but they are valid. As I say to him regularly, I’ve only been wrong once in my life and that was when I thought I was wrong and it turned out I was right all along! So, after much angst, he listened and we did it my way; and it worked. We refitted the modified housing, lifted the new appliance into place and voila! doors open perfectly. It looks well too; and it keeps the food cold, which is all you can ask of it.

Lastly, pets and how important they are in your life. This week I have been on dog-walking duty for my daughter. Her partner is in Somewhere Snowy in Europe doing snowboarding, so the dog walking has all fallen to her. Of course she has to work, so I’ve stepped in to help her out. She has a lovely puppy, a Cockerpoo. I’d never heard of one until she got Cooper. It is a recognised breed, a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle. We walked out together twice this week, both times in the pouring rain and I think I’m falling in love. He really is adorable. No, I won’t be having a puppy any time soon; but perhaps in years to come, when I stop being so damned busy, I might think about it. A passing thought. Hardly a thought at all, really.

So that’s it for another week.

Oh, I nearly forgot. My poem this week is the villanelle I wrote for Spelks. It was inspired by the biography of Plath and her relationship with Richard Sassoon prior to her marriage to Ted Hughes. The epigraph is from a letter he wrote to her during one of their long separations. Enjoy.



            I am chained to you as you are to your dreams

           (Richard Sassoon to Sylvia Plath)


The nightmares and the tolling bell

are chains that hold your words in check.

The straightjacket, the padded cell


hide secrets you will never tell,

how failure’s the rock around your neck

and the nightmares and the tolling bell


are ties that keep in place the veil

that hides the chaos, the inner wreck.

The straightjacket, the padded cell


all wash you out so what you feel



but a hag-blown speck

in nightmares with the tolling bell


and nothing to break the giddy fall

from manic height to mental deck

but straightjacket and padded cell.


The gentle chains he thinks can sell

his dream of love still leave intact

the straightjacket, the padded cell.

The nightmares.      The tolling bell.



 Rachel Davies

January 2016