Daily Archives: January 29, 2017

Spelkbirds and Chinese warriors

It’s so gratifying to see the daylight creeping in at 7.30 a.m. and staying until 5.00 p.m. I hate the dark days of winter, they are so grey and miserable over Saddleworth Moor; and I have February to negotiate now, so thank goodness for work and for poetry. This has been a good week for both.

First the poetry: it was Spelks on Friday. I think I’ve probably mentioned once or twice how important this group is to me: friends and poetry, two of my favourite things. Anyway, last time we met, Hilary set the task for this week’s meeting. It involved ‘sunography’: a photosensitive square of fabric that we had to make an image on. I had chosen the only sunny day for weeks, Friday 20th, and used a felt seagull-shaped fridge magnet to make an image of a seagull on my square. It worked, slowly revealing itself, the ghost of a seagull. The final stage was to rinse the fabric under cold water and leave it on a flat surface to dry, and there it was, my ghost seagull. On Sunday last, I sat and embroidered my seagull back to life while I watched telly in the evening. It doesn’t look very seagull, but it does look like some kind of bird. So, during the week, mostly in the wee small hours in bed, I wrote two poems for my Spelkbird, pictured here. Yes, alright, I didn’t say I was an expert embroiderer, I haven’t done any embroidery for half a lifetime, but I enjoyed  doing it.


Our Spelkerama was on Friday afternoon at Penny’s house. All six of us were there, so it was a lovely, friendful meeting. Lots of fantastic poetry from the sunography activity: even when there wasn’t enough sun to make an impression on the fabric (we do all live in Manchester/Oldham and it is January!), there were lovely poems about the image not appearing: win win; and as ever, lots of sharing, laughter and food. I think I put on half a stone on Friday afternoon. Penny’s lovely buffet and Cadbury’s mini-eggs eh? What you gonna do? I’ll post one of my sunography poems at the end of the blog this week. I have written a PhD poem that I want to share as well, but Anna Percy has invited me to be involved in a Stirred Nasty Women project, poems in protest and response to the Trumpdom over the Ocean and other mad, mysoginistic decisions that have been taken globally this year and I’m not sure of the ‘previously unpublished’ rule at this stage. So the PhD portfolio poem is probably going to wait to appear in that anthology. Details of the project on Facebook here:


On the PhD front, I had several hours of writing. I forgot to save one day’s work, and it was lost from the MacBook. So annoying, and it meant I had to waste another day making up the loss. But I have sent off just less than 5000 words to the supervisors for discussion. The Selima Hill chapter isn’t complete, I could keep writing about her poetry for ever; but I have enough to discuss, and to make sure I’m on the right (I nearly put write: Freudian?) wavelength with it. I can’t afford any more negative feedback on my flawed Acadamese, I’m half way through the three years now. But I’ve read Katrina Naomi’s thesis, and I’m taking strength from that. It has taught me it doesn’t have to be obscure to be successful. I can’t write obscure, I’m a writer who believes wholeheartedly in the accessibility of the written word, so they will have to accept that. I’ll be more assertive for my own corner since I read Katrina’s (successful, accessible) thesis. I’ll always be grateful to Kim Moore and Rachel Mann for pointing me towards it.

On Monday we had to take Rosie Parker to the vet for dental treatment under anaesthetic. She wasn’t impressed with being placed in the pet carrier; and Jimbobs wasn’t impressed that his breakfast was delayed until she was in there and couldn’t get at the food. The treatment went well, but she had to have 6, SIX! teeth extracted. It’s strange, because she is the one who eats more biscuits and biscuits are supposed to be good for teeth. Ho hum! She was prescribed painkilling drops, the same kind that Jimbobs is taking for arthritis. He loves them, I call him my junkie boy. But she wasn’t so impressed; and he got awfully jealous when I was giving her hers, he felt I’d chosen the wrong cat. And as she smelt of vet and not of Rosie when I brought her home, there was a lot of unusual and unfriendly spitting going on on his part. Pets, eh? They’re worse than children. I took her back to the vet for a post-op check up on Friday and all was good; and I could stop giving her the drops, so one bone of contention was solved for him.

On Tuesday Amie and I went to Telford to visit my son, Michael. Always good to see family, and it was his wife’s birthday on Monday so we took cards and birthday presents. She’s at an age when she really wants to forget her birthday, I think; but I think you should face them head on and enjoy them. You’re still going to be the age you are whether you celebrate it or mourn it; might as well celebrate then, is my philosophy.

Wednesday, as usual, was my day for doing the books for my daughter’s restaurant. I’m only telling you this this week, because the saga of the new laptop continued. I switched on, tried to open Sage and got the message ‘Sage can’t work offline, please connect to the internet’. Well, you managed to work very well offline last week, Sage, so why are you being so arsey? Amie does have a wifi connection in the office, but the signal isn’t strong and it gave up trying weeks ago. But, necessity is the mother of invention, as the old adage goes. I had just prepared everything to take home and work from home when I decided to try to get the wifi signal working again. I turned off and turned on the hub thing, pressed and held the wifi button and , abracadabra, wifi! I don’t know how long it will last, she is on a high hill on the edge of a moor, but it worked for Wednesday, and I have a good idea what to do in future if it puts its foot down and gets stroppy.

On Saturday we went into Manchester to see the illuminated ‘Terracotta Army’ in Exchange Square.

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It was lovely to see them, they are only there for a few days, I think they go away today; but obviously they are a pale imitation of the real Terracotta Army. There’s a good Wiki article about the originals here:


I want to  see the real thing now, there’s always something new to do and learn! The restaurants in Manchester were all full so we picked up a Chinese take-away on the way home, which seemed appropriate on Chinese New Year. Kung hey fat choi.

And here’s my poem, the second of my two Spelk poems about my sunography bird, about the process of bringing it back to life with embroidery. I hope you enjoy the poem as much as I enjoyed doing it and writing it. Do you know Jonathan Livingston Seagull? If you don’t, you should! He has lessons to teach us all.


for Jonathan Livingston Seagull

For a while you were satisfying as a ghost.

But you were no active haunter, you just

lay there tediously not shaking your chains,

not oohing, not smashing the best china,

not turning the air that indescribable cold, so

not making my follicles rise like small molehills.


I decided to resurrect you, give you back a life:

not the one where you clog on the roofs of caravans,

squabble with rivals over scraps, steal sandwiches

from the hands of visitors; not the one where you swoop

and glide over the sea like a kite before landing

like a stone on the beach to catcall derision.


True, in a past life, you were this kind of hooligan.

But Jonathan would say you can be better than you were.

So my magic has made of you all the birds of the air.

I called up beak of puffin, beret of arctic tern, crest of peewit.

I called up tail of lovebird, wings of kiwi,

flamingo legs, the speckled breast of the dparis.


If you only ever sing one song, ghost bird,

make it Be Who You Want To Be.


Rachel Davies

January 2017