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: http://poetsandplayers.co/competition/competition-2016/  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: http://www.artsandhealth.ie/2015/12/29/galway-university-hospitals-arts-trust-annual-poetry-competition/   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: https://www.facebook.com/groups/264023166946510/  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: https://kimmoorepoet.wordpress.com/residential-poetry-courses/  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

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