Meetings, microbes and much angst

It’s been a week of highs and lows. I’ll begin, as the week did, on a high. Sunday and Monday were all about keeping fit.

On Sunday we met some friends we haven’t seen for about 5 years. We met up at Werneth Low in Hyde and went for a lovely walk, about 4-5 miles I guess, before going to the Joshua Bradley for lunch. It was lovely to see them again after all this time. How life slips past you when you’re not looking; but friends are always friends. On Monday I went to my aerobics class for the first time in about a month; so needless to say, it nearly killed me! I like to think I’m healthy and fit, but a break in activity takes some recovering from these days. I walked a fair bit in Wales last week, and walked again on Werneth Low on Sunday, so actually I didn’t suffer the post-aerobics stiffness in the week that I’d expected. So perhaps I’m still fitter than I give myself credit for.

On Tuesday I had my PhD meeting with the study support team. Ouch!

It’s a funny thing, and I suspect it has a lot to do with the negativity I was fed at grammar school (I think I may have mentioned the demon headmaster?) but why is it when we hear criticism it’s only the bad stuff that registers. This was the first meeting about anything I’ve written; namely the Freud chapter (working title). Not academic enough; points made but not argued; language too ‘bloggy’ (predictive text just wanted to change that to ‘bloody’ and I almost left it!). I pointed out that the chapter was really me telling myself what I’ve learned about Freud and that I realised it probably won’t be a bit like that at the end; and that I knew the language wasn’t academic enough: I wrote a note at the end of the chapter to that effect. But I came away from that meeting feeling as if this whole PhD thing was just too much for me, that it was out of my reach. All I took from the meeting was that overpowering feeling of ‘not academic enough; not good enough’. And a long booklist from Angelica to help me think psychoanalysis as literary criticism rather than just psychotherapy.

I spent forty eight hours asking myself if I could teach myself academese; I kept telling myself there was no sense in wasting my money on a PhD I wasn’t good enough to complete. I scratched that ‘worthless’ scab until it bled. Profusely. In psychoanalytic speak, my vicious and cruel super-ego gave me a very hard time. On Friday I came to write the RD9 form for the meeting. I took out my notes of the meeting and reread them. I reread the notes Antony had made on my writing. And guess what? It wasn’t all bad. Yes, there was criticism of my writing style, but I had already highlighted that to myself. There were positives too. ‘Obvious engagement with Freud’s writing’; ‘good to have started writing’; and a long list of books, plus two from Angelica on loan. I wrote a brief but accurate RD9 and sent it off to Antony; received a reply that the meeting had been ‘productive’. I went straight on Amazon and ordered some of the books on the list: I like to own them then I’ve got them for as long as I need them. So by Friday evening I was so over that meeting; like Boudicca (a nickname I earned from my staff when I was a headteacher), I was ready to take it on again. I will learn academese, I will do this. I am at my best when I’m challenged: and this PhD is the most challenging thing I have ever done. And so it should be if it’s worth doing.

The rest of the week as far as the PhD is concerned has been taken up with reading. I have moved on from Freud to Melanie Klein: object relations theory. It’s hard, but not as hard as I expected. All the Freud reading has definitely helped in this. I’m reading The Selected Melanie Klein edited by Juliet Mitchell; thinking all the time what this means for lit-crit.

In other news: on the poetry front, on Tuesday evening I went with friends to Chorlton, Lloyds bar for Quiet Quiet Loud. We all had a reading slot at the open mic session there. We went for a curry at Coriander in Chorlton before the reading: if you like Indian food and you are near Chorlton, go there. It was lovely, one of the nicest Indian meals I have had. Anyway, we went from there to the readings. It was a lovely evening. Sarah L Dixon regularly holds events there, details of the next one here:

On Saturday it was the celebration event for the Poets and Players competition. What a lovely afternoon that was. The three prize winners read their winning poems and received their prizes from Jackie Kay. You can find the winning poems here:   The Alba Quintet, an ensemble of music students from Royal Northern College of Music, provided the ‘players’ element and they were fantastic: a Brahms piece to open the event and a Mozart piece after the break. And I got to introduce Jackie Kay, one of my favourite contemporary poets. What a wonderful writer; what a gracious woman. It was a lovely event, and free for the audience. Feedback after the event was excellent, so I look forward to analysing the evaluation sheets. Unfortunately my video camera went into shut down: I suspect the hard drive is full, so it wouldn’t record. But I had my iPad in my bag and that deputised. So now I have a lovely Jackie Kay reading and the Alba Mozart on my iPad to listen to whenever I feel like it. I just have to work out how to get it from my iPad to the USB stick for Paul to edit and publish. How hard can it be? Details of forthcoming P&P (free) events can be found here:

On top of all this, the microbes have been fighting back. I have developed the cold from hell this week. I keep telling myself and my partner ‘I’m alright, it’s just a cold’; mostly because I know that when he gets it it will have morphed into pneumonia or something deadly and I don’t do sympathy; so I don’t expect sympathy either. That’s fair isn’t it? When I haven’t been doing all the above, I’ve been snugged up on the sofa under a blanket with a hot lemon drink in my hand. So, fitness to start the week, microbe attack to end it. Ho hum!

The poem: I fulfilled my aim again this week and wrote a poem for the blog. I wrote it in bed on Saturday morning at 4.30 a.m. It’s called ‘Oedipal’ and it relates that ‘woman as object, man as action’ thing that I grew up with. Thankfully that’s changing as a perception. A bit. Slowly.




was the wet sheets in the wind

was breakfasts, lunches, snacks

the oven, the rising loaf

the broom, the mop, the cloth

the cylinder of Vim

the garden for his grain

the soil, the water, hoe

the blueprint, mirror, plan

was powerless

and good as dead



held the house in his open hand

hefted shires on his back

saw through walls, can-opened roofs

propped the sky up, calmed its wrath

dusted it off if he wanted sun

whisked up clouds if he needed rain

walked the equator in a day

sprinted the universe before lunch

was phallus

and he was god


Rachel Davies

April 2016


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