Some Forward Momentum

When I was a new primary headteacher, talking about the relentless pace of the job, I once said to a more established head, “My mantra has become ‘Dear God, please send me an ordinary day’.” His reply: “These are the ordinary days, Rachel.” My week has been a bit like that: full of extraordinary ordinary days. Fast and furious. Unusual.

On the PhD front, this involved a meeting with Angelica Michelis, my supervisor lit-crit expert. She is such a boon; what she doesn’t know about psychoanalytical literary criticism isn’t worth knowing. Anyway. I got to her office at 11.00 a.m. on Tuesday as per her email and she wasn’t expecting me until Thursday! Embarrassing; but I checked her email later and I was right. Why do I always assume a position of being in the wrong? That bloody grammar school headteacher of mine: when you’re always on the receiving end of major put-downs, you come to believe that negativity. For fifty plus years!

Anyway, we had our meeting and it was so worth it. I explained how I was worried my Freud chapter was just going to become descriptive and I felt I needed to set up and resolve some arguments. I suggested comparing and contrasting with feminist psychoanalytic theory and she said this was a sensible idea. “But”, she said, “Freud should be given space on his own; yes it would be descriptive, it is bound to be. Why not write the chapter in two parts, one covering Freud and the second covering the feminist theory to provide the contrast?” Neat resolution. “Just write it,” she advised. “Don’t spend too much time thinking about it, just put pen to paper. You won’t know what you know until you start to write.” So, a two-part chapter it is. And I’m on orders to have something to send to her and Antony in time for our next meeting on April 12th. Yipes, the way time slips past me at the moment, that’s no time at all. So this weekend I have started planning the writing of the first chapter of my PhD thesis. How exciting is that? And how daunting? Only 80,000 words to go!

While I was with her, I asked if she’d heard anything about my RD1 registration. She hadn’t but she would give Deborah a ring to find out. Of course, Deborah’s line was engaged, so she would try again and email me if she had any information. By the time I got home, an email was waiting. RD1 has been ‘done and registered’. No modifications. So now I am officially  a PhD research student of Manchester Metropolitan University. I feel really grown up.

Incidentally, I sent a message to the friend who is also doing a PhD, who asked me about my RD1 (R2D2 he calls it!) to say I’ve been registered. I wanted to put an emoji in the message but thought I’d check out the new GIF icon on Messenger. Inadvertently I posted a cheesy GIF into the message which really was embarrassing and I couldn’t delete it. I think he was surprised. Shocked. Stunned. Sorry Andrew, it was a genuine mistake! I love my iPad, but that touch-screen technology is jolly sensitive sometimes! Happy to report we are still friends though.

My poetry life: this has been taken up with processing the last of the Poets and Players competition online entries. I had 700 poems to print off altogether. I have tried to keep up to date with them so the task didn’t impinge too much on the PhD work but the entries come in slowly at first and gather momentum exponentially. So, on Monday, the closing day, I spent the morning getting them all up to date before going out at lunchtime. I expected to have some fresh entries when I got home; I had 80 more poets, 140 poems to process that evening! Thank you and good luck to all who entered, but oh my, it’s a task to get the entries all processed and ready for the judge. I worked on Tuesday night until midnight, then up at 5.00 a.m. to process some more. I had thirty five poems still to print off by Wednesday afternoon but they are all done now and ready for Jackie Kay when she lets me know how to get them to her. The competition has netted us sufficient funds to mount a couple of P&P events outside the ACE funding we received this year, so that is an achievement.

Monday it was Spelks, my favourite poetry group. We met at Rod Whitworth’s house this month, shared our poems, ate food and drank bubbles. I never drink and drive but I had a half glass of prosecco even though I was driving. It was the last day of February, my least favourite month. I couldn’t let that go without drinking a toast to its passing! Our Spelk task this month was to write a fan letter-poem to a musician and then write their reply to us. We had to use some of their lyrics in our own poems. What we found was, the ‘letters to’ made decent poems, the replies were, on the whole, pants. I’m including one of my poems at the end of this blog.

I also contacted my RNCM composer, Laura, about our ‘Make an Aria’ project. We have given the  project some thought and are meeting on Tuesday this week to firm up the ideas and start to write something in time for the consultations with RNCM tutors and Music Theatre Wales rep on 17th March.

On Thursday the husband of a dear friend, Penny, had open heart surgery. He was in theatre about 6 hours and wasn’t allowed visitors on the day. So naturally, she was distraught with worry. Another friend, Hilary, and I went to hers for supper on Thursday to distract her as much as we could. We had a pleasant evening of Indian food, wine and poetry. Unfortunately, on Friday the North West was covered by a thick blanket of snow. Penny tried to get out of Mossley to visit Keith in Wyhenshawe hospital, but the snow prevented her from getting the car out. She walked to the bus-stop but busses were cancelled as well. So she didn’t get to visit on Friday either. He phoned her from his ICU bed and sent selfies of his scar and various pipes and tubes; told her he’d been out of bed for a short walk and not to worry about visiting while the snow was bad. So she felt a bit better then, and she did manage a short visit yesterday; short because he was very tired. But he’s hoping to be out of ICU and on the ward tomorrow, so that’s good progress. We’re all rooting for him because it’s his turn to host Spelks next month and we’re relying on him to be there!

On Tuesday night it was the Christmas ‘do’ for my daughter’s restaurant staff. It’s impossible for people in the hospitality trade to have a Christmas ‘do’ in December, they are so busy servicing other people’s Christmases. I give her a day a week to do her books so I’m counted as staff even though mine is a labour of love. She took us all to a Turkish restaurant in Royton: Istanblue. We had a lovely meal and pleasant company. Afterwards she and the young ones went to the Black Ladd, her gastro-pub, for drinks and partying. I went home to print poems. And more poems. More and more poems!

So you see what I meant about ‘ordinary days’? People ask me how I fill my time now I’m retired. It’s never been a problem for me. I wonder when the ‘put your feet up and relax’ bit kicks in. I’m not ready for pipe and slippers yet, though.

Here’s my poem, ‘Garfunkel’, written for Spelks. I have strong opinions about Simon and Garfunkel. Together they were great. Split up, Simon continued to be great, Garfunkel not so. I feel the same about Lennon and McCartney: together, wonderful; separated, Lennon wonderful, McCartney meh! You are at liberty to disagree, this is just my opinion. This is what I have tried to convey in this poem, a modern sonnet. Enjoy.

 

Garfunkel

When I asked about friendships you said

it was like bathing in troubled water,

friends swim together for a while then

one of them catches a branch, watches

as the other disappears over rapids, waving.

 

When I asked if that’s how it was with Simon

you said it was you caught the branch, he

rode the waterfall, surfed the white water

soaked up the roar, learned to be

a stronger swimmer for it.

 

When I said but what about bookends

you said bookends work well together

but sometimes they are pushed apart

by the weight of words between them.

 

Rachel Davies

February 2016

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