The Chances of Anything Coming From Mars

One of my original aims in writing this blog was to reflect on how working towards a PhD fits into my life in other areas. The short answer this week is: it hasn’t. This week has been all about being ill.

I’ll take the week in chronological order from Monday. Monday was Spelks, my favourite day in a month. We met at my house this month, had a lovely afternoon of poetry and celebration; ate drank and shared. Possibly ate and drank more than was healthy, but we had a lovely, lovely afternoon. One of my Spelk poems, redrafted following feedback, is included at the end of this blog post. My activity for the next session involves researching and responding to ‘significant’ anniversaries: The Easter Rising (100 years), Pickles finding the stolen World Cup (50 years), that kind of thing. So far so good.

Cut to Monday night, 11 p.m. Suffice to say, thank goodness we have an ensuite bathroom. Monday night was all about a tummy bug, a violent little tummy bugger. Exacerbated by a urinary infection. No graphic details, just believe me when I say I felt ILL! Apart from necessary toilet breaks, I slept Tuesday away. Anyone who has been following this blog for any time at all has probably picked up that I am a virtual insomniac: about four hours is a restful night for me. So to sleep away a whole day is a measure of how poorly I was.

On Wednesday, feeling weak as water and as my secretary used to poetically put it, ‘rough as a bear’s arse’, I tried to make an appointment at the doctor’s surgery to do something about the urinary tract infection. No appointments available, either ring again tomorrow, no guarantees, or try the walk-in centre in Oldham. So, long story short, after two and a half hours of my life I’ll never get back, I came home from the walk-in centre with antibiotics. The urinary infection was soon on the run. The tummy bug has taken longer. I am still feeling the effects nearly a week later.

On Thursday my partner, Bill fell to the microbes; a lighter dose than mine, but nasty all the same.

Question: on the road to recovery, do I stick with a light diet? Answer: Not easy for a vegetarian, much easier if you can eat steamed fish or chicken.

Question: do I eat a high carb diet to increase energy levels? Answer: good idea; but a high carb diet will also leave your poor beleaguered tummy feeling overworked, an overstuffed pillow.

So, here I am on Sunday morning. Everyday, in every way, I’m getting better and better. As  H.G.Wells graphically showed in ‘War of the Worlds’, even the most mighty can be brought low by an organism it is impossible to see without a very strong microscope.

I’m writing this from a bed in my son’s home in Telford. Last night was the celebratory meal for my lovely grandson’s 18th birthday. I had a side order of mac and cheese, a side salad and two boules of vanilla ice cream. Each dish was like a saucer. It was enough. I passed on the birthday cake, swapped wine for aqua frizzante. Happy birthday Rich. Later today we are heading down the Heads of the Valleys road to South Wales. We’re off to Pembrokeshire for a week of R and R. It was our Christmas present to each other.

In other news, the Poets and Players competition winners, judged by the new Makar for Scotland, the lovely Jackie Kay, have been informed. I could tell you who they are, but then I would have to kill you. That is privileged information until our celebration event at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester on April 16th at which the prizewinners will read alongside Jackie Kay, with music by the Alba Quartet. If you want to know the winners you’ll have to come along: it will be a wonderful afternoon of poetry and music. Details here: http://poetsandplayers.co

I also heard on Friday that my poem, ‘St Francis and the Birds’, an ekphrastic poem from a painting by Sir Stanley Spencer, was placed third in the Galway University Hospitals poetry competition, so that was a lovely get well wish too.

PhD work has been forced into the back seat this week then. I have printed out and edited the Freud chapter. I haven’t written any more to it this week so it is still about 40% first-drafted. I have brought books and MacBook away with me to do a couple of hours a day writing in the wee small hours while the rest of humanity sleeps. On Wednesday I will send what I have to my support team for comment and feedback at our meeting on 12th April. I have done a little reading and that is it. Sorry. I’ll be back on track next week, I promise.

My poem: a virtual visit to the graveyard where my brother, father and mother are all buried. It’s one of those poems that has needed writing for years but needed an ‘in’. The Spelks graveyard exercise was the ‘in’. I have worked on it a bit from feedback I received on Monday. It’s not finished by a long chalk, and WordPress has messed with the formatting but when it’s finished I think it might go into the PhD portfolio. Which brings me to my latest crazy resolution: I am going to try to write a poem every week for the portfolio and post the first draft here on my weekly blog. A big commitment, but so is a PhD. Watch this space.

 

In Lillingstone Dayrell Churchyard

memories:     a rifle-range silver spoon like the paddles

of a water wheel in a millpond of porridge

a lick of iced fancies     a tray of bloaters     a cheer for Sterling Moss

A Brown Eyed Handsome Man                       Leader of the Pack

a record deck                        a mini-van     small returns

for a life barely lived                 and  presents as bribe baits

 

we got new coats                 he got a new coffin

we got tight shoes               he got a gaping grave

there was a sense of what the fuck

a realisation that God doesn’t

there must have been tears                      I don’t remember tears

 

you two clung together for years

dumbstruck             heart shattered        silently unreachable

you never asked how we were

if we grieved too      how we grieved

we had to cope together    get by together

face after this together

 

how often did you wish it was one of

your ten-a-penny seen one seen them all daughters

and not your prince in the cold ground

not your only prince lonely in his earthy bed

not your prince         so young        so beautiful

so strong                   so dead

 

you’re all reunited now

up here every day we learn again

how to live without you

 

Rachel Davies

March 2016

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