Daily Archives: March 27, 2016

So fast they follow…

One Sunday doth tread upon another’s heels, so fast they follow, as Gertrude would have said if Shakespeare had got the line right. So here goes with another blog post.

One thing I’m learning about doing a PhD is that each week is different. There is no consistent way to approach it. I try to work whenever I can: some weeks that is easier than others. Last week was pretty much a PhD write-off. This week has been all about the PhD. I have done so much I’m feeling a little smug!

I have now written about half of my Freud chapter. I know it will need heavy editing before I send it off to the team, but that’s OK. I’m not keeping a close eye on it as I work, but just getting words down on paper as Angelica advised. I know I’m quite pleased with it because it shows me that I understand more than I would have given myself credit for at the outset. I know I need to consider reasons why I’m including those aspects I am including in relation to the theme of my research project: I am doing that more in considering the unconscious, including dreams and slips. I know I will have to refine that when it comes to editing. But I’m writing it, and that feels good.

I have continued my reading: reread relevant chapters in Everyday Life, continuing reading Dreams. I also dipped into my two lovely new books about Elizabeth Bishop: Colm Toibin’s biography and her collected correspondence with Robert Lowell. What a tome that one is! And fascinating. I can’t wait to really get down to reading it in due course.

I tried applying Endnote to my writing as well, following on from last week’s course. This will be brilliant, I decided, for preparing the bibliography. I am finding it less so for inserting references. Endnote offers two possible versions of MHRA style of referencing: MHRA (author and date) and MHRA (footnote). I wasn’t sure which I should be using so I emailed a query to Angelica. She sent me a style-guide sheet that suggested something different again: with footnotes but using ‘ibid’ for subsequent footnotes. So I went with Angelica’s advice. Footnotes don’t follow this format on Endnote MHRA (footnote). So, I don’t know why, but I’m expecting referencing style to need editing further down the line.

So lots happening this week on the PhD front and it feels good. I really feel I’ll have something to send to the team on 5th April in readiness for our meeting on 12th. It won’t be polished, but it will be something to talk about.

In the world of poetry, lots has happened too. Firstly, I videoed our Poets and Players performance last Saturday: poets Mark Pajak, Carrie Etter and our ‘player’, Sarah Lowes. On Sunday I came to uploading the videos to the Toshiba external drive I use to send them to another P&P committee member for editing and publishing on our YouTube channel. Techno-hitch. They refused to be uploaded. I checked space on the Toshiba ex-drive and there seemed to be plenty. I tried to delete some of the past videos on there and it wouldn’t let me for some reason. I spent a good two or three hours trying and failing. In the end I decided to upload them to a Seagate Slim external drive that I bought to back-up my PhD stuff so I could carry it around with me to MMU library etc. Futile really, because I always save to the iCloud drive anyway, so I haven’t actually used the Seagate for anything. Guess what? The videos uploaded without any problem whatsoever! So I don’t know why my computer has stopped talking to the Tosh. Bad news is, my colleague’s computer isn’t recognising the Seagate and he can’t retrieve the videos anyway! So I have now to save them to a smaller memory stick and get that to him instead. The devilry of things technical. I’m no technophobe as long as it does as it should. Why, though, does technology have to assert itself in this negative way from time to time. Hopefully the Tosh will have got over its strop before I need to upload the videos from the April competition celebration event. Watch this space.

It is coming up to Spelks again. I love a Spelkerama. The activity this month was to visit a churchyard, take notes and write poems from the visit. So, on Sunday, stressed from my techno-tussle, I decided to visit the old church at Delph Heights. The church isn’t used any more, so I was surprised to find relatively recent graves in the churchyard. Clearly the churchyard is still used for burials. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, cold but spring-like. Daffodil spears were pushing up through the grass, some even in flower in the lea of church walls. Catkins were bursting on the willows but the ash buds were tightly black, not ready to face the world yet. I spent a pleasant hour reading grave stones, taking notes, making lists. Since then I’ve written two poems from that visit, one of them referring to an activity from the Carrie Etter writing workshop of last Saturday morning. I have since written a third poem following a virtual visit to the churchyard in Lillingstone Dayrell in Buckinghamshire where my brother and my parents share grave space. I’ve been there so many times it only required a visit in my mind to write this third poem. I think this one might fit the PhD portfolio too, so it’s win-win.

Spelks should have been held on Good Friday, but Keith was still in hospital, due to be discharged on Good Friday. Penny would be collecting him and taking him home. And you can’t hold a Spelkerama without two of the Spelks. So we decided to postpone the meet until Easter Monday. I’m hosting this month so I have prepared the next prompt, about which more next week. I had planned to include one of my graveyard poems at the end of this blog, but I can’t now as they won’t have been presented at Spelks. So a rethink there then.

Life continues apace. On Tuesday my partner and I, went into Manchester to collect my Elizabeth Bishop book that had been on order at Waterstones. We decided to do afternoon tea at ProperTea, the cafe at the Cathedral. Tea is a ceremony here: they have a huge selection of teas and bring it to the table with decanting glass and timer to make sure it is perfectly infused before decanting. I had the jasmine pearls tea, it was delicious. If you haven’t been to ProperTea, go. If you enjoy tea, you won’t be disappointed. You can find out more here: http://properteadeveloper.com  As you see, tea isn’t all they do.

Finally, I was woken on Tuesday by the dawn chorus for the first time this year: a blackbird singing his little yellow socks off outside my bedroom window. Great tits are checking out the bird box and we have our first daffodils blooming in the garden. Yes, Spring has sprung and I feel full of optimism. Winter is behind me for another year (smiley face emoticon and little spring dance).

So to the poem. I read that earth is about to pass through the trail of Halley’s comet, giving us a fine display of meteor showers. This was a post on FB so it may be extant already, but it reminded me of our holiday in Australia in 2007. We had gone to watch the cricket: the three-way one-day internationals between England, Aus and NZ. We drove the ocean road from Melbourne to Adelaide, a road-trip that took us three days. On one of the days we stopped off in a small village called Robe. We were told at our guest house that McNaught’s Comet was doing the celestial rounds and we would get a good view here because there was no light pollution. So, after dark we went outdoors and stood looking out to sea. I don’t know what made us think that was the direction to face, but face it we did. Nothing. Nada. Zero comets. As we turned to go indoors, my breath was taken away by the sight of McNaught doing his rounds behind us! Oh, my, how beautiful was McNaught? Like a child’s drawing of a comet, like the depiction of the comet in the Bayeux tapestry. It looked close enough to reach up and touch, it’s tail trailing the sky for miles. I fell in love. You can see a picture of the comet here: http://hubblesite.org/hubble_discoveries/comet_ison/blogs/great-moments-in-comet-history-comet-mcnaught ; but believe me when I say, this picture is as like the real thing as a plastic daffodil is to the ones growing in your garden. It can only give you a limited idea of how blown away I was by the real thing. When I came home, I wrote a long, rambling poem about it and took it to my MA writing workshop, led by Simon Armitage. His advice was, ‘You seem to be writing a love poem, Rachel. Go away and think about it as a love poem.” Now, to ask a woman who has failed at marriage twice to write a love poem is stretching the imagination to breaking point; but I wrote this, a ‘not-a-love-poem’. It is probably not good poetry, but I think it’s a good poem. It’s probably another of what my son called ‘pornetry’ after last week’s post; so, with apologies to my lovely son, I give you McNaught.

On First Seeing McNaught’s Comet

Adelaide 2007


He didn’t take me out or wine and dine me

at Don Gio’s, expect me to laugh at his jokes,

or touch my fingers across the table, or buy me

flowers like ordinary blokes.


We didn’t enjoy a first blistering kiss,

or share a universe-shifting fuck

that makes you wish it could be like this

for ever, knowing you never have that kind of luck.


We didn’t run barefoot on winter beaches

or play hide and seek among autumn trees

or picnic on chicken and soft summer peaches

or laugh at ourselves doing any of these.


We didn’t get married or live as a couple,

and share a life or a name or kids;

so his twice worn socks couldn’t burst my bubble,

or his morning farts or his pants with skids.


He never once, in post-coital passion

whispered a strange woman’s name in my ear

or came home drenched in his girlfriend’s Poison

or shielded his phone so I couldn’t hear.


He didn’t promise roses and bring me thistles

or when I soared try to tie me to land.

McNaught was never a man to commit to

but a brilliantly cosmic one night stand.