Life – and the NHS have definitely taken precedence this week. I’m a day late with the blog, which will be explained, and thereby excused, I hope, by the end. I’ll take a chronological approach so not to spoil the denouement!
Firstly, on Monday I had a lovely day of friendship and fun. I went with three of my poet friends into Manchester. We all met at the Manchester City Art Gallery to take part in the Sky Arts project. I promised you more details this week, but we had to swear ourselves to secrecy on the day, so I have written to ask permission to say a little about it, no joy on that one yet. I think it’s OK to say we were looking at one particular exhibition, the Pre-Raphaelites, with the aim in mind of finding a fake. We worked as a group and were filmed doing it. But really it was all about guessing. I’ll give you more information next week if permission is granted. I can’t afford to take on Rupert Murdoch in a legal battle – who can?
We had lunch at the gallery, then Louise left us: the three remaining, Penny, Hilary and I made our way eventually to Chorlton, where we had a lovely curry in Coriander, one of the best Indian restaurants we’ve been to – details here:
After our curry, we went to Lloyds Bar in Chorlton for the Quiet, Quiet, Loud readings hosted by Sarah L Dixon. We each had a four minute reading slot. I tried some of my portfolio poems, which have appeared here on the blog, for their first public airing. I think they held up well. These events give a voice to new and established poets and are entirely down to the work Sarah puts in and the ‘crowds’ who fund her to enable her to do that work. Support them if you can. Details of forthcoming QQL events can be found here:
On Tuesday I had another family day when I went to Peterborough with my lovely daughter to see my older son. We went into the city for lunch then dinner at Maria’s, a friend and honorary family member, in the evening. Altogether a good day, and almost the last highlight of the week.
Wednesday was all about doctors. My daughter had an early appointment at Oldham’s Integrated Care Unit with the dermatologist/plastic surgeon to have another mole – another suspected melanoma – removed from her leg. She was treated kindly and quickly: I dropped her off and went in search of a parking space, by the time I got to the dermatology department she was about done and dusted. Just the anxious wait now to hear if it is innocent or malignant. As an aside, the dermatology department is on the same floor as Sexual Health, so it is with some feeling of the need to explain myself that I pressed the 5 in the lift. After that, I went to my doctors’ surgery to see the practice nurse about a blood test I must have before I can have a further reduction of the Prednisolone (cortico-steroid) I am taking for Polymyalgia Rheumatica. I’m stuck in a Catch 22: I can’t reduce the dose until I have satisfactory inflammation markers in the bloods. I can’t have satisfactory markers until I get rid of the UT infection that has plagued me since Easter, and that is recurrent because I am taking Prednisolone to suppress my auto-immune system. Fingers crossed I can have the blood test at the end of this week, and fingers crossed then that it will be satisfactory.
On Thursday I did what I should have been doing on a normal Wednesday, which is the books at my daughter’s pub/restaurant. I had an early appointment with the accountant, come to check the VAT figures. No problems – except the amount she has to pay! I worked until lunchtime, nearly got it all done, some of the work carried over into next week. In the post on Thursday I had a cheque for £100, winnings from my Premium Bonds, so in the afternoon we went into Oldham to deposit that in the bank. While I was in Oldham, I upgraded my mobile phone to an iPhone 6, then had a few stressful hours setting it up which I won’t bore you with here. I love it now it’s done though.
Friday involved doctors again, my partner Bill this time. Let me say again how wonderful our NHS is. Without it I would have been dead years ago. However, its wonderfulness was surpassed on Saturday. Saturday was my birthday. I spent the early hours writing three poems for Spelks – I think I’ve mentioned before how special Spelks is in my life. This month’s task was to write poems to ancestors, real or imagined. Mine are all more or less imagined and I think they could all fit my portfolio too, which is a boon. I am posting one of them at the end of this blog, so if my fellow Spelks read it before this afternoon when we meet, I apologise lightly. Feel free to comment or make notes for the meeting!
Later on Saturday morning I decided to check out the local theatres to see if there was anything I fancied for a birthday treat. I found a play at the Exchange Theatre – The Mighty Waltzer – so I booked us two tickets. We went into Manchester on the tram after lunch. We had time for a coffee before the performance so we called into the new Costa at the Cross St end of Market St. We had to sit downstairs, it was so busy. I had a decaf cappuccino and a gingerbread man for my birthday cake. When we got up to leave, to climb the stairs to go to the theatre, I tripped at the bottom of the stairs, hit my chin and my head on the metal-edged steps and felt my back snap. Agony. And I have revisited those steps coming up to meet my face regularly since, so I have a better understanding of PTSD now. Anyway, the biking paramedic, who patrols the city centre, was called and he did an initial examination and declared no apparent broken bones but advised a hospital check. An ambulance was called and I was taken to the Manchester Royal Infirmary. En route the Polish paramedic in the ambulance read and updated my records. He read that I was taking Prednisolone; but he read it as pregnancy. He actually asked me if I was pregnant! Ha, on my 69th birthday. Now that would have been an immaculate conception!
Anyway, when I got to MRI, I was examined quickly, hardly any waiting around, I was seen by nurses, two doctors, I was x-rayed, given painkillers, declared fit to go home by 6.30. Altogether four hours of quality care, not about waiting times, all about the wonderful work our health professionals do under obscene pressures. Thank you, all of you.
We took a taxi back to the Derker tram stop in Oldham: I didn’t feel up to travel on the trams. The taxi driver was wonderful. The meter showed £30 as we entered the Oldham town boundary and he turned off the meter then. I wondered what it would cost us by the time he had driven the extra three or four miles to the tramstop, but he just charged us the £30; what a wonderfully kind gesture: people are, on the whole, fundamentally kind in my experience. We picked up our car from the park and ride and completed our journey home. The dinner we planned, which would have included wine and some disgustingly indulgent pudding, turned into a Chinese take-away. So, my birthday, which should have involved theatre and alcohol involved instead too much drama and drugs: painkillers. Thank you to all my FaceBook friends for your kind birthday wishes, but put them on hold: I’ll celebrate when I’m feeling better. And I am feeling better already, I think: I’m sitting up in bed writing my blog, which I couldn’t do yesterday, so that’s progress isn’t it? Please say it’s progress.
So, here’s my poem: a response to a photo of my mother as a child, the eldest of three sisters, all in the photo, all dressed in the fancy meringue dresses of the twenties middle classes in a posed group for the professional photographer. That is where my mother came from, the landed gentry. She was disinherited for marrying my father, who was a lowly farm labourer. I know, it sounds like the plot of a DH Lawrence novel, but that is how it was; and that is why I know so little about my grandmothers. Oh, even my paternal grandparents weren’t too happy about the match: snobbery on both sides! I do know that my maternal grandmother was Cook for Lord Caernarfon, he of the Tutankhamun discovery and the mummy’s curse. That is in the poem. Both my grandmothers were dead long before I was born, and under the circumstances they didn’t get talked about at home. So I have reinvented them in these poems.
Dear Grandma Ghost
I wonder who she is, this girl I never knew,
inscrutable in her organza meringue, her white
stockings, her shiny buttoned bar shoes.
She looks like a princess. Was she your princess
or did you only sell your soul for a prince? It seems
your dreams were cursed too. You did have dreams
didn’t you, of travel, romance, money, connections.
But her dreams were made of heads on chargers,
pearl handled daggers, foxgloved and nightshaded brews.
And I wonder who you are,
shadowy grandmother, Pharaoh’s curse, one of life’s
losers. I like to think you rebelled, imagined when you
devilled him kidneys that Anubis would soon do
for his own kidneys and everyone else involved would
cop for the early exit pursued by a mummy. Of course
you couldn’t have known this but you also died young,
too young for me to know who you were, too young
for me to ask who she was, this girl I never knew.