A little self-indulgence and a lot of cake

in the week I came across a quote about blogging from poet Jo Bell: “If you’re just blogging about yourself and where you’ve been and what you’ve done, I’m afraid that’s like digital wanking—and you can quote me on that”. Ha, that made me laugh. So here I go with another self-indulgent orgasm!

This has been a week when life, PhD and poetry all coalesced in a satisfyingly balanced whole. All have featured equally, and that’s as it should be, although I’m learning that it’s difficult to attain. If only all weeks could be like this; or perhaps they can, perhaps I’m just not trying hard enough most of the time?

Well, on Sunday I did some work. I visited the chapter and did some tinkering but really added nothing new. I wrote three poems for Spelks; all complete rubbish, and that’s not false modesty. When I say rubbish, I am talking landfill. But at least I had written something fitting my interpretation of the task to take to our next meeting on Wednesday. I also used Bill’s Toshiba laptop to locate the toxic mother-daughter story on the back-up CD from 2007, so I was quite pleased with that. It took a surprisingly long time as the OU writing activities were saved as Activity 1, Activity 2 etc, so I had to trawl through them all before finding out it wasn’t actually an OU story at all, so I had to trawl on even longer. I located it in the end. In the afternoon, my friend Hilary sent me a piece of writing she had done for her MA: the life-story of an elderly woman in nursing home care. Oh my word, I was in tears reading it. It is as I always say: old people haven’t always been old; they have fantastic stories to tell of things they have done, in the war for instance, which would put modern day lives into the shade.

On Monday, I wrote the last Spelk poem to the month’s task. This was a poem based on a real or fictional character from the twenties. I chose to write about John the Savage from Brave New World. I love that novel, and it was fun to write the poem in his voice with its Shakespearean inflections. It was still a poor poem though, but I kept working on it until Wednesday and it was slightly better by then. Not my magnum opus though, by any means! On Sunday evening I picked Hilary up and drove us both to Fallowfield for the Verbose readings. Michael Conley, Rosie Garland and Rachel Mann were the headline poets. Rachel Mann read a fantastic set of poems. There was an open mic too, and Hilary read two of the poems from her MA portfolio. They went down very well—good stuff. Check out future Verbose events here:

Tuesday was a day for work, work, work. I had a haircut first thing then went to Tesco to find the ingredients for a vegan cheesecake for Thursday’s Macmillan coffee morning. I managed to find all I needed. I had a coffee in Costa so I could knuckle down to work and when I got home I added more words to the chapter. I sent a selection of my mother-daughter poems to Jean for comment and feedback along with the long-lost and relocated story to consider as a piece of dramatic art. And I arranged to meet Angelica and Antony to discuss the chapter so far. I heard back almost immediately: how good is technology when it works. I am meeting them on 18th October, so I’ll be sending the work-in-progress after the weekend. I explained my summer and its disasters; although I hate making excuses, I think this one was valid. And I still have a body of writing to discuss, despite this. I am a goddess!

I finished work about 3.00 p.m. then made my vegan cheesecake from a recipe I found online at this blogspot:


It looked good when it was baked, but of course I had no idea what it would taste like; although I did lick the bowl like a child and the mix did indeed taste like an authentic cheesecake. But the proof of the pudding…In the evening it was our East Manchester and Tameside Stanza meeting at the Buffet Bar on Stalybridge Station. We had an anonymous workshop this month but with only four poems: it transpires my group email only reached about half the members of the group for some reason. Technology, as I said earlier, is wonderful—when it works! But it was an enjoyable evening none the less, a small but effective group of poets. Check out our FaceBook page here:


On Wednesday first thing I visited my daughter, Amie, for coffee; I got to see her beautiful new kitchen, all clean lines and granite worktops. It really is lovely and makes the space look so much bigger. She was off to the Christie in the afternoon to see the oncologist and to get the results for last week’s scan. I went from her home to her pub/restaurant to do as much of the books as I could fit in before midday, then in the afternoon it was Spelks. Oh my, I love this group. We met at Rod’s this week. Although some of us had produced really worthwhile poems, my own retained the status of garbage; with the exception of John Savage, which they really liked for some reason inexplicable to me: it surprised me, because I still think it’s only slightly less crappy than the other three But that’s how it goes: we can’t step up to the mark on every activity, and this one didn’t find my g-spot (apologies Jo Bell!). About half way through the meeting, Amie rang to say her scan results were clear, so that was absolutely the best news of the week.

On Thursday I went to Peterborough with Amie to attend our first of two coffee mornings dedicated to Macmillan nurses. This one was at a friend’s house. I got up at six to decorate my vegan cheesecake as a mouse pie. So I took that and my two yummy plum pies and off we went. The car was packed with cakes Amie had made for the event. We arrived at about midday; the first wave of visitors was just leaving, but there was a steady stream of visitors all day. It was a lovely relaxing event in a very good cause. I’ve never seen so many different sorts of cake outside a baker’s shop. The vegans assured me the cheesecake was gorgeous. There was a raffle: I won a prize which I donated to Amie’s coffee morning at the restaurant next day. There was a game of spotting the coffee bean under the cup: I won that too, half the takings, which I donated back to the takings. I’ve not heard how much was raised yet; my internet has been down since Thursday so no messages to pick up but I’ll keep you posted.

On Friday we reported a phone line fault to BT. Apparently it will take two working days to repair. And of course, including the weekend that means at least four days without internet. But I can track progress of my fault online at BT.com. Apparently. Except I don’t have internet access. Catch 22? I’m having to take my iPad out with me and find wifi access in cafés to keep in touch with the virtual world. Later on Friday, Bill and I went to the Macmillan lunch at Amie’s pub-restaurant. I had a small cheese pie with chips—although I think Amie doesn’t really understand ‘small’: it seemed enormous. I followed it with a slice of her tipsy fruit cake: good job I didn’t have to drive after! Phew, it was deliciously tipsy. She had baked oodles of cakes, along with members of her team and there was a huge array of cakes to choose from. It was a lovely event, very busy; again, I’ll keep you posted on the takings for Macmillan.

Friday evening was the launch of the inaugural Saddleworth Literature Festival. This is being organised on a shoestring budget, local (and some not so local) writers are donating their time to make it a success. The Spelks have a reading slot at 12.30 today in the Civic Centre in Uppermill, if you’re in the area. The festival ends today, but details here:


On Saturday: work. Lots of it. I settled to it at 7.45 a.m. and worked solidly until 11.30 on the chapter. I added a satisfying 700 words, so I have a 4200 word draft to send to the team ‘after the weekend’ as agreed. And of course, the internet is still down, so that will give me more time to work on it until it’s ‘up’ again. Hopefully it should be up and running again by Monday evening, Tuesday at the latest. How we do rely on it, how we do miss it when it’s not there. And to think that only about twenty years ago most of us were just beginning to recognise its potential, it was still so new. I stopped work at 11.30 because Hilary had asked if I wanted to go with her to Ilkely to a reading by Carol Ann Duffy and Mark Pajak. I said no at first: she was planning to leave at 10.30 and I really needed to get my head down to work; but she changed the starting-out time to midday and, fickle woman that I am, I was beguiled into accepting. It was a lovely afternoon. We had lunch at Betty’s Tearooms, as you all must when you go to Ilkley; we ‘did’ the charity shops: I found a brand new Seasalt waterproof jacket in Oxfam for £39.99, which I snapped up: I paid full price for one about a year ago, and I know how much they really cost! And then we went to the readings. Wonderful. Carol Ann had her musician, John Sampson with her and he played all kinds of strange and wonderful horns; then Carol Ann read from The World’s Wife which I love. Then Mark Pajak read; and lastly Carol Ann finished the event with a second reading. I wrote here about Mark when he read for Poets and Players a few months back. He is a very accomplished poet and a confident reader. He is apprentice poet in residence at the Ilkley Festival this year, so if you get a chance, do go along to support him and the festival. It is a very good festival, we try to go to some of the events every year. Check it out here:


So that’s it. Another full-on week. And I haven’t even mentioned the fourth thoracic once so it must be healing. All’s good with the world. I’m off to Costa@Tesco now to get it online!

There, I feel so much better for that, Jo!


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