Last week was all about cake; this week has all been about cappuccinos. My phone line went down on Thursday of last week and it took BT until Thursday of this week to right the fault. A whole week without internet access at home, so I’ve had to go to coffee shops to gain entry to the virtual world. A cappuccino a day keeps the anger at bay. But only for so long. On Tuesday I went onto BT.com to track my fault only to find it had been resolved. I had had a message from BT to the effect that they had checked the line and their end was clear so they needed access to our property to check the line at our end. “Please do not reply to this voicemail“. That, apparently counts as a resolution. I had no idea how the work would proceed so I clicked the ‘contact us’ icon and got into a chat room with Ranjiv. After going round in circles for several virtual minutes I realised that Ranjiv was working to a script and I was going to get no further forward with tracking my fault than I was when we started: an engineer needed access to our property to check the fault. I had no idea how an engineer would gain access, or when, or how long it would take to happen. On Wednesday when I tracked my fault I found our that the original fault was still resolved and a new fault had been reported on Tuesday. I realise that this is so they can fulfil their promise to have it repaired within two working days, but how dishonest is that? You couldn’t make it up. On Wednesday and on Thursday I couldn’t even get into the chat room again. Eventually, on Thursday morning I got home from the weekly shop to find a BT engineer up my pole checking the line: no message, no ‘arranging to come onto our property’. He found that the phone line had been snapped in two places by the wind (so I hope that doesn’t constitute our responsibility and our need to shell out £129.99 if it is our fault). He repaired the line, which meant coming indoors to make the connections and, voila, we have the phone back. More pressing, we have broadband back, if only intermittently at the moment. They assure me it will improve; I am sceptical of their promises and my fingers are crossed.
So, I sent my chapter off to the team on Monday from Costa in Tesco. I have arranged to meet all three of my team on 18th October. I hope the chapter is acceptable as a first draft: I realise it still needs a lot of work re referencing etc; but if it isn’t acceptable I don’t think I can do it differently. I might have to accept that I can’t do this thing; and I’m no quitter. So the next couple of weeks will be fraught with anxiety while I whip myself for my inadequacies. It’s always like this with me: the fear of under-achievement. A little self-confidence would be a blessing.
I also sent a synopsis of our operetta to RNCM (also from Tesco’s Costa!) The masterclasses and performance are on Friday this week so I can’t wait to see what Laura has done with my text to make it an aria; and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the other partnerships have made of the task.
I have given my reading a new start this week too. I have been reading Jan Montefiore’s Feminism and Poetry to take me into the next stage of the critical side of my research; the content is in the title! It is an authority on poetry criticism from a feminist perspective. I’m not far in so won’t make a fool of myself by saying too much at this stage. I also started to re-read Selima Hill’s Gloria, her selected poems up to 2008. I love Hill’s surreal poetry, her amazing and surprising juxtaposition of images. I knew I wanted to close-read her sequence ‘My Sister’s Sister’ for my PhD, but I realised in re-reading this full selection of poems just how much the mother is in the background of her poetry. A fantastic realisation: I have read this collection so many times and am still finding new stuff in it.
Last weekend saw the inaugural Saddleworth Literary Festival. This was organised on a shoe-string budget and the contributors gave their time for free because they believe in Saddleworth and they want it to become a calendar event in the future. It had its teething problems: shoestring budgets mean limited advertising, so audiences were small; but they were appreciative and hopefully will spread the word for future years. The Spelks had a reading on Sunday afternoon. Only four of us could be there, but we read for our absent friends as well, so we were all seven represented. Our audience was small but appreciative. We were asked for publications, which we don’t have, so now we are discussing the preparation of a joint pamphlet for future readings. A Spelk-spouse makes books, so we are considering a truly collaborative publication: watch this space.
I went back to the gym this week for the first time since my July accident. I didn’t feel ready for my regular aerobics class, just a relatively gentle walk on the treadmill for half an hour; but I did it and it’s a start. I always moan about going to the gym, but oh my, how I miss it when I can’t go. I think aerobics is still a way in the future, but I can build up fitness with treadmill walks as well as walking in the great outdoors. When we went to read at the festival on Sunday we parked at Newbank Nurseries outside Uppermill and walked in along the towpath. I even negotiated the famous stepping stones across the River Tame at Uppermill, so that was an indicator of how much better my back is and how much more confident I am in staying upright!
On Tuesday I had to see the nurse specialist at my rheumatology clinic. It transpires I have ‘osteopenia’. Never heard of it? No, neither had I. It is a sort of osteoporosis lite; a precursor. The cortico-steroids I take for Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis are probably to blame. Of course, being ‘post-menopausal’ is the real culprit; how a woman’s ‘post-menopausal’ body doesn’t make all it needs to keep it healthy. I am heartily sick of hearing that hyphenated phrase every time I see a doctor or nurse; or optician or dentist or… Don’t they know I’m only thirty three inside? Anyway, the upshot is I had my first belly jab: a six-monthly subcutaneous injection of some alendronic acid drug to delay the effects of ‘post-menopausal’ bone degeneration that has, they think, caused two fractures in four years. The nurse was really helpful and informative, though. I am waiting now for a new DEXA scan to determine the rate of bone degeneration. Our NHS is wonderful: how much would all this be costing me if I had to pay up front for treatment?
I had a lovely surprise on Wednesday while I was doing the books at the restaurant. My younger son rang to say he was just leaving a meeting in Catterick in North Yorkshire and was going to call in to see Amie and me on his way home to Telford. That was an unexpected and pleasant surprise to a routine Wednesday. How blessed I am in my children. By the way, Amie’s Macmillan coffee event last week raised a tremendous £630; and the one at a friend’s house in Peterborough raised another £300+ so that’s nearly £1000 from the two cake-filled events I attended last week. How good is that? A drop in the ocean for what’s needed to ensure funding for this fantastic service, but quite a drop none-the-less.
So that’s it; another good week of poetry, PhD and life. Long may they continue; especially the last one on the list!
A silly poem to end the blog this week. A couple of years ago I went to the Christmas markets in Manchester with three friends. We called into a Costa for a coffee while we waited for the tram home. The young barista in there was uplifted by our sense of fun and said we reminded him of his grandmother (!). He brought us a plate full of chocolate flakes and marshmallows because of this and we all gave him an air-kiss and a hug to thank him for his kindness. I wrote this silly poem, three limerick stanzas, when I got home.
I kissta barista in Costa.
The Costa barista kissed me.
Then he brought chocolate flakes,
marshmallows and cakes
on a porcelain dish, all for free.
I kissta barista in Costa.
The Costa barista kissed me:
a passing delight
fading fast with the light;
in the dark of the evening I see
I should now take my coffee in Nero
or Starbucks or Java or Lavazzo.
Their baristas don’t kiss
but my lips would really miss
the kiss of a free pink marshmallow.