This week has been all about considering my options; and recovery. The dreaded microbe has had the upper hand all week; my body crashed. If my laptop crashed I could insert the recovery discs, hit the right button and clear the virus in minutes. Humans invented that system for technology but not for themselves, unfortunately. I have lost my recovery discs. I have crashed!
The first part of the week I concentrated on getting over this virus, with limited success. I did a bit of editing of the scenes for the verse drama, read a couple of PhD theses: I found Katrina Naomi’s really helpful. One chapter was really relevant to my own work, not just in its relaxed writing style, but in that is was an analysis of Pascale Petit’s poetry. I am planning to analyse her poetry for my own research early in the new year. Katrina’s thesis led me to relevant collections, which, of course I have ordered online. I say again, ‘the community of poets: where would I be without it?’
On Tuesday, feeling like a rung-out dishrag, I went to meet Jean Sprackland in Manchester. I had a tiny, dog-toy squeak of a voice. We met in the cafe/bar of Number 70 Oxford Road, so the cup of hot green tea helped oil the vocal chords. We discussed the renegotiation of my critical work to 20,000 words and what this might look like in terms of form. Antony had told me a couple of weeks ago that the form didn’t matter too much, ‘as long as it’s doctoral’; whatever that means. So I have no mental map of my work at the moment and I find that floundering. My conversation with Jean was helpful: there is no need to see the end result as two separate entities, she said. The creative and the critical could be interspersed if that would work for me. Or it could be created that way, then presented separately before submission. We discussed the verse drama. Unfortunately, we decided it’s probably a no-no. There isn’t an expert in the Writing School who is available to supervise it, and Jean doesn’t feel qualified to advise on the dramatic aspects: fair enough. I want to put myself in the strongest possible position, it’s hard enough without putting extra pressure on myself. We discussed the scenes I had written so far and Jean recognised the strong element of ‘voice’ in them. We realised the story of the drama could make a good collection of poems in the different voices of the characters, so that is what I’m running with at the moment. The verse drama can remain a possibility when the PhD, in a genre I am comfortable with, is done.
I’m going to tell you something important now; something you’ll probably have to grapple with at sometime if you consider doing a PhD. The thing is, I faced the possibility of sacking the whole idea of a PhD while I was talking to Jean. I am almost halfway through, have spent a lot of cash, and feel as if I’m floundering in shallow water and the tide keeps changing. The easy thing would be to say, ‘you know what, I don’t need this in my life.’ But I’ve never been a quitter, it’s not in my nature. I face challenges, I don’t turn my back. So I considered giving up for thirty seconds and decided against it. I won’t cry in my soup if I don’t get this PhD; but I will be sorry for ever if I don’t give it my best shot. Giving in is not an option. So, I came away from the meeting with Jean with new resolve. I have revised my plan and am on it with renewed energy; or will be when this bloody virus stops confounding all my efforts.
On Tuesday evening I met two wonderful friends for dinner, mutual girlie support and healing laughs. A friend is an asset and I have some really good ones. I couldn’t taste the curry I ordered, but the company was spicy enough for me.
Wednesday was work day: the restaurant books. There was a lot to do, as last week I had done only the most pressing work before I went away to see friends and family. And on Wednesday I didn’t feel up to being there. But Amie was there and that made it bearable. A quick aside: do you remember that wonderful episode in Fawlty Towers when Kurt, the chef, gets drunk and spoils Basil’s Gourmet event? Well, without going into too much detail, it was like an episode of Fawlty Towers at the Black Ladd on Tuesday. Thankfully it didn’t involve the meat cleaver, but now Amie is dealing with the aftermath and having to work like stink during the busiest week of the year to make up for a staffing shortfall. Thank heaven she will be able to have Wednesday off this week when we go to Peterborough to meet up with number one son. But despite her own troubles, she insisted we have a full lunch at BL on Wednesday and sorted me a tub of minestrone soup for supper so I wouldn’t have to cook a meal when I got home. I am blessed in my children.
Thursday was all about Christmas shopping. I know, I’ve never left it this late, ever; so despite feeling like it was the last thing I wanted to do, we grasped that particular nettle on Thursday. We considered Manchester for about thirty seconds, decided we weren’t up to it and settled for Oldham instead. Oldham was very quiet: most people these days get Metrolink to the broader choice of Manchester street markets and superior shops. But Oldham did for us this year. I managed the absolute minimum I could get away with. The family is coming to visit after Christmas, so I left the bulk of the shopping until the post-Christmas sales, when, hopefully, I’ll be feeling better and so I only did what needed buying before the big day. Even so, we were both exhausted afterwards and glad to be home to collapse in the comfort of our own space. I had some printing to do for the restaurant so I managed to get that done and delivered on Thursday afternoon; but not much else.
On Friday I had to perform the domestic goddess role; a friend was coming for an overnight stay. Every year we book a table at the Black Ladd for the Christmas meal: Friday was that booking. I always consider this event the start of our Christmas, and I got up early to decorate my little Christmas tree. It’s very minimal, but it is also damage limitation for cats: Rosie Parker would be up a real tree in minutes, she contents herself with playing with the lower branches of this one. So far.
We had a wonderful meal at the Black Ladd. I am vegetarian, and Amie does a very good nut roast with all the Christmas dinner trimmings; a glass of mulled wine, the first celebratory meal of the season, pleasant company and a Christmas hug from my lovely daughter. Altogether a good night.
Saturday, after Joan left, should have been PhD work time; but the virus took me back three days, irritated my bronchioles and generally made its presence felt. So I gave myself permission to take another day off. I contented myself with drafting a poem from the verse drama scene and I’ll leave you with that little effort. It still needs some work; but then, so do I. Where did I put those recovery discs?
What a strange word.
It sits on the tongue like the unused wish
you don’t want to waste
when you squandered the other two
Because wishes are gifts we squander.
I believe she loved him once.
There was a time I’m sure
when she looked at him and found
her third wish
after she wasted the first two
on marriage and childbirth.
love is a word that sits on her tongue
like salt. She drinks it up like a love leech
and still thirsts.
I have to keep trying.
I have to keep offering love.
It’s the only wish I have left.