Culture vultures and gold medalist spectators

I’m late with the blog this week: I stayed up to watch the track and field ‘Super Saturday’ athletes. Jess Ennis-Hill is a legend, a role model who has shown you can be a mother and a successful career woman in the same life. And as for Mo Farah, brilliant: he fell down in his race, bounced up again and still won gold. Bed at 3.00 a.m. and I slept like a log till half past seven, a long night for me! I meant to write my blog poem in bed last night, but I had to write it this morning when I woke up; more about that later.

It’s been a busy week: is there any other kind? I’ve continued reading Jacqueline Rose The Haunting of Sylvia Plath. I’ve started rereading the bits that are of particular interest to my research. I have tried to download some necessary books to my Kindle to allow me to take a library away with me when I go to Minorca in a couple of weeks. However, the books I need most aren’t on Kindle so I have downloaded Jessica Benjamin’s The Bonds of Love and three books by or about Sylvia Plath. I’ll just have to smuggle one or two books into my suitcase!

I managed to sit at my desk on Tuesday for about three hours so I continued with my writing; that’s going well, I feel as if I am getting the voice right. Three hours was enough before my back complained, but I am away next week for a few days on a poetry carousel organised by Kim Moore, details here

and I intend to take my MacBook and continue writing in the wee smalls hours at the desk in my hotel room.

I received an email with information about my annual review with Michael Symmons Roberts, which is scheduled for August 22nd, a week tomorrow. It was nice to read the last sentence of the report from my Director of Studies to the effect that I have made good progress and he has no concerns about me passing this interim assessment. Rather more worrying (or not!) to read in the first sentence that I am coming to the end of my second year of study. Err, no, only the first year. Does that mean I’ve made even more progress than he gives me credit for as a second year researcher? No? OK, I was always a glass half full kind of a girl. Other good news this week: one of my portfolio poems has been accepted for inclusion in the autumn edition of The Interpreter’s House magazine, so that is some small sort of thermometer for the creative side of the work.

I had my first full day back at the desk in my daughter’s pub/restaurant this week too, so that is another marker that my body is mending. I am glad to be up to date with her books, especially as I’m away again next week and then a fortnight’s holiday so I only have one week in the next four to keep up with the work. I’ll have to do a big catch up when we are back from the Balearics.

This week the tumble dryer went into melt down; the thermostat gave up the ghost. It is ten years old, so of course it’s obsolete. The replacement part the repair man brought out with him has three fixers (apparently) and we needed one with only two fixers which they don’t make any more (of course they don’t). So we went out on Thursday in search of a replacement dryer. I’m sorry if this offends some of my green readers: I do hang out my washing whenever I can, but I live on the edge of Saddleworth Moor and rainy is our default position, so a tumble dryer is a necessity if I don’t want wet clothes hanging on all the radiators for the rest of my life. We found the dryer we want and it was delivered next day. No we didn’t go to a multinational trading place; we went to a local discount outlet. Excellent service.

My body is definitely on the mend. I took another picture of my facial bruising this week:


Compare this with three weeks ago, a week after the fall


and you will see the improvement immediately. The back is still a bit sore, but nothing like as painful as it was even a week ago. So I’m definitely mending. My plan is to get off the opioids before they bring out the sangria in Minorca. Now there’s a plan! Yesterday I revisited the site of my fall at the foot of the stairs in Costa. Since the fall I’ve had flashbacks of those stairs coming up to make contact with my face: I’ve found myself crying out with the shock of the impact, so I have a very small insight into the effects of post-traumatic shock. I wanted to revisit the stairs so I can have a more positive experience to fall back on (pardon the pun). It was surprisingly hard to do it: I really didn’t want to climb those stairs with all the nasty associations; but I did it. And despite the jelly legs that lasted for a couple of hours after, I think it was the right thing to do. This is me, slaying that particular dragon:



I managed to negotiate the stairs without falling, so that was an improvement in itself. Funnily enough, we were off to the Exchange Theatre again, as we were on the day of the fall. I wanted to go in to book tickets for ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ starring Maxine Peak, to be performed in October. We managed to get two seats, but only on the upper tier, so if you want to see it, get booking now. I was pleased to see in the winter programme that another ‘Carol Ann Duffy and Friends’ is due in January and February 2017, so I’d better get booking for that too. I love the Exchange Theatre, one of my favourite performance spaces. I’ll be a real culture vulture in October/November: I have tickets for Mozart’s requiem at the Bridgewater Hall, thanks to my lovely daughter; and tickets for my birthday from my lovely son for ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’, both at the Opera House; and now ‘Streetcar…’ Lovely jubbly, bring it on!

So, it’s been a busy week, as I said at the beginning of this blog post. On top of everything there has been sport: England v Pakistan in the Test Match; the Olympics: I’ve really got into rowing, synchronised diving and track cycling. I was never good at sport, but I am a gold-medalist when it comes to spectating. Last night’s track and field fest was the highlight of a very good sporting week. And on top of all that, Manchester United won the charity shield; and they play again this afternoon, so I’ll be watching that one.

Now, on to the poem, which I only wrote in bed this morning. I feel the need to write some of my portfolio poems in the mother’s voice: I have written lots in the voice of the daughter but I am finding it difficult to write in the voice of the mother, despite being a mother myself. I don’t want to draw on my experience as a mother, because that isn’t what the project is about: it is focused on the daughter as writer, the mother inhabiting the writing of the daughter. So I have had to find a route into the mother’s psyche. Here, I have imagined her fantasising about trading places with the first woman cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova: to be out there on her own, outside the guilt of motherhood. I’m not sure if it works, but here it is anyway:


Being Valentina Tereshkova

If I’d been Valentina Tereshkova I’d have taken

a wrong turn at Ursu Major and kept falling

through blackness. I’d write my thoughts down,

make poems of them no-one will ever read,

pull the plug on communications home,

get drunk on privacy


and as I spin through space I’ll hear you all

crying at the loss of me, you’ll probably

make me a hero, cry until your eyes are deserts,

clap until your hands are numb

and all the while I’ll be bouncing

from black hole to black hole

like a happy pinball

and no-one will blame me.


Rachel Davies

August 2016




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