Monthly Archives: May 2017

Manchester, united.

How can I mention my week without mentioning the appalling events in Manchester on Monday. And that is the last thing I want to mention, because I don’t want to give that event more air-time than it has had already in the national and international news. My thoughts are all with the families of those killed and maimed by this act of barbarity; and with those who have brought a ray of light into the darkness of Manchester with their random acts of kindness; like the two homeless men, Stephen Jones and Chris Parker who rushed  to help the injured; the taxi drivers, predominantly Muslim, who drove, without charge, those caught up in the blast; the hundreds of Muslim children who marched from Cheetham Hill to the Arena in a remarkable–and under-reported–show of solidarity with the young people affected by the blast; the people living in the vicinity of the Arena, and the hotels, who offered shelter and safe space for survivors; and, of course, our wonderful emergency services for the work they did under appalling conditions, with no thought for their own safety. These are the things I will concentrate on, not the shameful act of a handful of fanatics misguided in their ideologies.

Hilary and I travelled through Manchester Victoria on Monday evening, an hour and a half before the bomb was detonated at the Arena. It was peaceful and ordinary railway station. Salman Abedi might well have been there, waiting for his opportunity, waiting for the concert to end to do his worst. But to all intents and purposes, it was a normal Monday in Manchester. We had been to the writing workshop in Leaf on Portland Street. We travelled into Manchester together and went to Tampopo in Exchange Square to eat before the workshop. We amused the waiter by asking for the 20% student discount on our meal. I love the surprise on the faces of the young when old folk like us ask for student discount thinking it’s a joke; and then we produce our student cards. 20% discount on the meal: a bonus; the look on the waiter’s face: priceless! The mix of poetry and prose writing at the Leaf workshop was interesting as ever. I took a poem about a woodlouse which was well-received. Rosie Garland gave me the Devon colloquial name ‘chiggy pig’ for a woodlouse, and that is the title of my poem now. It was a pleasant evening in the company of writer friends. We’ve been tasked with thinking of a name for the group before the next meeting on June 5th; so far my creative juices haven’t come up with any ideas.

I learned nothing at all of the bomb until I woke on Tuesday morning, when I also learned of the closure of Manchester Victoria Station and the area of Manchester around the Cathedral. I was due at the university for a meeting with my PhD support team on Tuesday morning, and despite the replacement bus service from Central Park, I could see travel into Manchester was going to be severely delayed. I contacted my Director of Studies and we postponed our meeting until the first week in June. So I was at a bit of a loose end on Tuesday. I know the sensible thing would have been to settle to work; but my head was in entirely the wrong place for work. I was crying for my wonderful adopted city. I decided to distract myself for an hour. I went out for coffee and to do some boring food shopping. When I got home I sent some poems off to competitions; I had to do something productive with a very bad day.

Wednesday: a little ray of sunshine in Stockholm. Manchester people are the best in the world and nothing portrayed that more eloquently than this wonderful logo

It dominated the Manchester fan banners at the event in a wonderful display of solidarity. And of course, Manchester Utd won the cup, providing a piece of good news for the City in an appalling week.

On Thursday we went into Oldham to pay the balance on the price of our September holiday. We were there for the minute’s silence, which was held nationally in honour of the victims of Monday’s attack. And then I was in tears all over again to stand with people from all Oldham’s diversity in an act of communal grief it is difficult to find expression for. Terrible things happen in the world, often in the name of religion or of some other warped secular ideology; but good people standing in solidarity against those terrible things is a very moving experience. I have seen the minute’s silence observed many times in the week at sporting events and in town centres; and it has always been observed absolutely. As long as there are good people in the world, good will prevail.

Yesterday was the highlight of a bad week. Hilary and I went to Sheffield for the Poetry Business Writing day. Peter and Ann Sansom run these writing days every month, details here:
Keep an eye out for the next one; I can’t give you dates for the June workshop because Peter and Ann are committed to other work at the end of the month and they are hoping to arrange an earlier date, possibly the 10th; but I know for sure the July writing day is on July 29th and it is firmly in my diary. The writing exercises are interesting, mostly using published poems as springboards. I tried to concentrate on my mother-daughter theme yesterday and make the activities serve that; as a result I think I may have three or four more embryonic poems for the portfolio that will prove worth working on. And I was home in time to watch the FA cup final, so that was a bonus. No vested interest this year, Man Utd weren’t involved. But it was a good match and a bonny result for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal after a troubled season.

A poem this week to take us away from the pain that is Manchester, back to my native fens. I wrote this at a Poetry Business writing day in 2014, so it seems apposite to post it this week. Go safely, everyone, and go well.

The Fens
(after Andrew Grieg)

It’s the way that huge sky sits on the land,
compressing it like a wafer. It’s the way

the land responds, breathing in deeply
filling its chest with ripe wheat and plenty.

It’s the way the dykes mark the borders
of vast fields, carry the sea back to the coast,

breed eels. It’s the way the shire horse
remembers past harvests, when the air

was smoky with the dust of threshing.
It’s the way a thunderstorm in summer

is an event, how you count the seconds
between lightening and thunderclap

even though you can see the storm
for miles. It’s the way Billy Day eats

bread and cheese with his penknife,
says dang that wahsp, it stang me.

Rachel Davies


A Week Away: the comedown

That awful anticlimactic feeling when you come home after going away. Don’t misunderstand me, I love my home. But going away, especially when it involves poetry and friends, is such an adrenalin high that the coming home really is a comedown; a kind of poetry cold turkey.

Sunday I spent doing the laundry, made a fuss of the cats, went shopping for food. You know, all those things that reinstate your space in the domestic sphere. On the way back from the shops I took some things that she’d left in the car back to Hilary and we had a coffee together. I got my car washed and waxed. I had meant to dedicate some time to PhD but my head was in the wrong place. So I concentrated on getting back into home. I watched Manchester Utd lose the last game ever at the old White Hart Lane site. I also watched Wayne Rooney score the last goal that will ever be scored there. I’m excited to see the new Spurs stadium next year: my son’s friend Ray, hospitality manager at Spurs, has been working on the development of the site.

Monday it was my great-grand daughter’s sixth birthday. Oh my, how time flies. She had a lovely day, as all childhood birthdays should be. I remember getting up on my birthday mornings and feeling taller by a year. Yes, I felt taller, as if I’d grown a bit as well as grown up a bit. I made a big saucepan full of butternut squash and ginger soup on Monday morning, to get me back into some kind of healthy eating after the excesses of last week. I fell asleep on the sofa at lunchtime and woke up too late to go to my aerobics class. What’s going on? I’m a part-time insomniac. It’s the post-holiday comedown. So that was two days of the week wasted and it’s only Monday!

Tuesday I gave myself a good talking too and did eventually get down to some work. I’ve been worried that my Selima Hill chapter is thin on theory. Before I went away I had read it through, colour coding it in themes and theoretical content. On Tuesday I did a cut and paste job to put all the theory in one document to ‘weigh’ it. I decided it did need developing; perhaps in a discrete introductory chapter that I can then refer to in the analytical chapters. It wasn’t quite as thin as I suspected, but it could do with fattening up a bit. Of course, I saved the original chapter as it was and saved the cut-and-pasted version as a separate document. I’m meeting with my study team on Tuesday, so I’ll see what they have to say before I proceed with a separate chapter; but I definitely feel the need to  put the theory on a high calorie diet and so I began re-reading the theory books to get started. I also managed to download a PhD thesis that Antony had recommended which concentrates on Selima Hill’s poetry. I began to read that. It convinced me that my theory does need some work.

Wednesday was my day at the Black Ladd, doing Amie’s books. With two week’s worth of work to catch up on, that didn’t leave much time for anything else. In fact, I worked until about 3.45 and still hadn’t finished. I had to go then because Bill and I had tickets for Twelfth Night at the Royal Exchange Theatre. We went into Manchester on the wonderful Metrolink. We got off at Exchange Square, which is so convenient; went to a little Italian trattoria in Exchange Square. Salvi’s is a small, family owned restaurant; a deli at entry level, the restaurant is downstairs. It is worth finding. I asked for gorgonzola cheese to start: oh, my! Two big slabs, one creamy as brie, the other firmer, more like Stilton. Both were little bites of heaven.

We went from Salvi’s to the Royal Exchange, about five minutes walk. I picked up the tickets from the box office and we had a coffee before the performance. Wow, Twelfth Night, Fantastic production. It was in modern dress; the yellow stockings and cross-gartering became a luminous cycling outfit, all lycra and close-hugging. Sir Andrew Aguecheek was one of my favourite characters though: appropriately long and thin with straggly red/blond hair. Such energy from that performance. Unfortunately, the run is finished now; but the next production is Jane Austen’s Persuasion: details here if you’re interested:

Twelfth Night is a play I know like the back of my own hand. I’ve seen it loads of times; loads of different interpretations. I studied it for O-level English more than half a century ago; but no-one told me then what a fantastically funny plot it has. We didn’t get to see it performed–for some inexplicable reason we went to see Macbeth instead; which was wonderful, but a whole other ball game. I was too buzzing from it to sleep when I got home. In fact I didn’t sleep at all; can you get jet-lag travelling from Anglesey to Saddleworth?

On Thursday we did the weekly shop then I went into the Ladd to finish what didn’t get done on Wednesday; so now it’s all up to date ready for a new beginning this coming week. Friday we walked into Uppermill along the canal to visit the bank and to enjoy an al fresco coffee in Java. It was a lovely morning, the sun shining, the bluebells on the far bank reflected in the canal. We saw lots of male mallards but no females: I suspect they are on nest duty. But on the walk back we did see one female with six or seven ducklings close to the far bank. She had her work cut out keeping them all together; mini-mallards spilling out all over the place. In the afternoon I managed to stay awake in order to get to the gym for my pilates class. Pilates was recommended to me by the rheumatology nurse as good exercise to counter the slightly stooping posture resulting from the fractured fourth thoracic. Oh, my! It looks so easy; it feels so hard! I used muscles I didn’t know I had; and I’ve been feeling them ever since.

Yesterday, Saturday, I was at my desk by 8.00 a.m. I prepared my timetable of work for the next couple of weeks to give myself some direction. It will involve theory, I think, but I need to wait until I’ve spoken to the team on Tuesday in order to concentrate that where it needs to be. I don’t want to waste time running down blind ginnels. So I decided to concentrate yesterday on the creative side. I was reading Selima Hill again while I was away in Anglesey; and I’ve started to re-read Pascale Petit’s The Huntress in readiness for an analysis of her work when Mama Amazonica is published in the autumn. I thought about ‘the golden shovel’ I learned about during NaPoWriMo in April. This is a device for writing your own poems using a line from a favourite poem, then using the words of that line as the end words of your poem. I chose a line from Pascale Petit and wrote a golden shovel. It’s actually not bad! I tried again with a line from Hill: poem number two, acceptable. Altogether I wrote four poems yesterday morning using this device. I think they may be worthy of the portfolio; but I’ve put them away for now. I’ll bring them out in a couple of weeks to see if they still do it for me.

In the afternoon, I met Hilary in the local garden centre for coffee. She is also working to complete her MA portfolio, so it was a bit of mutual down-time. And that’s my week: a week of anti-climax, a kind of holiday jet-lag, sleep disruption (which doesn’t take much) and getting back on the bike. I’ve got my meeting this week and my timetable, which can be edited after the meeting. So I’m on my way again. PhD is a relentless slave-driver: I can’t afford many weeks like the last two, when it has been pushed aside. It will have its dues; I will pay it respect from now on; promise.

I’ve got a poem this week from our Trearddur workshops. We were sent out into the garden on a treasure hunt to look for clues and one of the clues I found was a skein of grey darning wool. It sparked this little poem. Amazing really, that there’s a poem in anything if you look hard enough.


No-one darns anymore

We were taught to darn a sock
in domestic science—we called it domski
like it was a Russian conspiracy.

And perhaps it was, a way of making us all
good Babushkas. A wooden mushroom
was tucked into the heel behind the hole

to keep the hole taut for sewing. Threads—
the warp of a loom—drawn across the hole,
then the weft woven with a needle and wool

until the hole shrank and withered
under warp and weft.
Well done, an average pass.

Now move on to making a patch
over that tear in your skirt.

No-one darns any more. It’s a shame
we ever did. Life’s too short and after all,
there are cheap replacements in TKM.


Rachel Davies
May 2017

A Week Away: Part the Second

It’s 4.30 a.m. I can hear the rain on the roof. Even by my entrenched insomniac standards, I have had a poor night’s sleep. And Bitch Week is over for another year. I am not happy.

We had a good week: workshops, poetry, international travel and friendship. We started our workshops on Sunday, the day we discovered the dishwasher at the cottage wasn’t working. Penny rang the owner who said she would send a local maintenance man: she lives in Chester so couldn’t deal with it herself. We asked that he visit in the afternoon as we were busy with poetry in the morning. Polly prepared the writing activities for Sunday, which included some pieces we could only write using questions. That was interesting, and influenced later tasks when questions were no longer a requirement.  Unfortunately, after the first activity, the ‘local maintenance man’, Mike, turned up to investigate the problem with the dishwasher, completely disrupting the flow of the workshop. He hummed and hah-ed in the kitchen for ten minutes and declared ‘no idea what’s wrong’. A local appliance repair man would come the next day. Back to the poetry. A ‘treasure hunt’ to look for clues as writing prompts was fun; the hunt took us into the garden on a lovely summery day.

In the afternoon Penny, Hilary and I went for a walk to visit three or four small coves, including a sandy beach. Penny bought us all ice creams. It was whipped ice cream, which I’m not too keen on, but the ice cream man assured us it was whipped Cornish ice cream and the best in the land. It wasn’t, it was whipped ice cream: frozen emulsion paint. Thank goodness Penny asked for 99s; at least the chocolate flake was OK. We walked down to the sea: Penny and Hilary paddled but it was too cold for me. It was my turn to cook dinner on Sunday; I made a pastitsio with lentils instead of meat. It was good. In the evening we read the writing we had drafted at the workshop in the morning. There were some good pieces, worth working on. We were ‘plum tuckered’ as they used to say in the old westerns, and we were in bed by 9.30.

Monday: Penny’s workshop. She prepared a variety of activities using poetry as prompts. For one, she chose runner-up in the National Poetry Competition as stimulus for our own writing:  Caleb Parkin ‘The Desktop Metaphor. It was good to read it together, and interesting to use it to inspire writing of our own. It’s not an easy form to emulate. Her last activity involved a little children’s book she had bought us all about being naughty. We really enjoyed the poems we wrote based in our analysed ‘naughty’ types. On Monday afternoon, after the morning workshop, we went into Trearddur for lunch at the Black Seal, a lovely restaurant close to the sea. We chose a window seat; the food was lovely and we decided to revisit on Wednesday evening when we planned to eat out.

On Monday evening we had dinner cooked by Hilary: a vegetable chilli, rice, tortilla chips and home-made guacamole. Delicious. After dinner we spent a pleasant evening reading from collections of published poets we had brought with us. Lovely to read Greta Stoddart’s  Alive Alive O, among others, as I was due to introduce her to Poets&Players on Saturday afternoon; it really whetted my appetite for that. Don Paterson’s 40 Sonnets was in the mix; Helen Ivory’s The Secret Life of Clocks and Rita Dove’s Mother Love. There were anthologies too, giving us a wider access to poets. It was a really enjoyable evening. That night I didn’t sleep well at all. I was still buzzing with poetry, plus excited for Tuesday’s trip to Dublin.

We were up early: a taxi was booked for 7.30 to take us to the ferry port. We were practically the first there. A bus transported us to the ferry then stayed on board to transport us to the Dublin terminal at the end of the voyage. We found seats at a table by the window and went off in search of breakfast. We found an abandoned newspaper on a table, and Polly picked it up to read. She tore out the puzzle page for me to do the sudoku page: the easy one I completed in one-touch sudoku; the difficult one I messed up completely and didn’t have a rubber to put right my mistakes. Hilary and I were just starting on the word puzzles when a man came and asked us if we had bought the newspaper. We said no, we’d found it on table. Turns out he had left it there to reserve the table. What? Who does that–a newspaper to reserve your place? Newspapers are always left on public transport. He wanted it back. He was thoroughly unpleasant, despite our apologies, took his newspaper back, including the torn-out, half-completed puzzle page, and glowered at us every time our paths crossed on the remaining trip. We just put on our best feminist, confident ‘you-can’t-intimidate-us-you-tosser’ attitude, which pissed him off even more. I half hope he loves doing sudoku and I’d spoiled his day.

We pulled into Dublin–do ships ‘pull in’?– at just after midday: it was a sailing of about 3.5 hours. We caught the express bus to the city centre–€5 return. Our first visit was to Trinity College to visit the Book of Kells. Wonderful. The mediaeval illustrations and symbolism, the amazing manuscript. It is a fantastic exhibition, if you are ever in Dublin. My favourite, though, was the much smaller Book of Mulling, written in the late 7th Century in Irish Minuscule Script. Beautiful. The Long-room Library, upstairs from the exhibition, is fantastic; something like 2,000,000 books in there. As Polly said, if you started reading them when you were 5, you couldn’t get through them all if you lived to be 100.

Hilary and me through the Brian Boru Harp, which became the national symbol of Ireland. Photo by Polly Atkinson.

From Trinity College we made our way to the Molly Malone statue on Suffolk Street. She is indeed beautiful. She stands opposite O’Neill’s Pub, famous haunt of political dissenters, including W B Yeats. We had our first pints of Guiness and ate a late lunch. From there, Polly and I took the short walk to the Post Office. This was the site of the Easter Rising, 1916. The building was badly damaged in the uprising, and was rebuilt in the 1920s, reproducing the original building. It was good to be there, at the site of the political struggle which ultimately resulted in the partition of Ireland into the Protestant North and Catholic South. It did lead to peace as well, until the eruption of The Troubles in the sixties. We took lots of photos, then went to visit the dapper James Joyce statue across the road.

James Joyce, O’Neill’s Bar and Molly Malone.

Hilary and Penny decided to visit the Temple Bar shops instead of coming to the Post Office and we agreed to meet back at O’Neill’s at 5.30 for another Guiness before getting the bus back to the ferry terminal at 6.45. Polly and I were standing on Westmorland Street looking to the map, finding a route to O’Neill’s when a lovely woman stopped to ask if we needed help. She was emblematic of the wonderful warmth we took from the Dubliners all day. We chatted for about fifteen minutes: she was a librarian and told us about some of Dublin’s ‘hidden gems’ to visit if we come again. They include a library built by a Catholic for Catholics at a time when libraries were only available to academics and Protestants, which generally meant the same thing. Apparently the library has ‘cages’ for the readers to prevent them from stealing the books. Definitely on the list for my next visit. This woman was also a poet and helps to organise the Listowel Poetry Festival, which includes a poetry competition; too late for this year, but one to look out for next spring. You can find details of the festival here:

The ferry ride home was calm and comfortable. We put in to Holyhead just about midnight and our lovely taxi driver was waiting for us as he said he would be. We were home by 12.45 a.m. having had a fantastic day.

Wednesday we’d given ourselves a free day to recover from our trip. I did some PhD reading: Juliet Mitchell Feminism and Poetry; and I wrote a long entry in my journal about the Dublin trip. I sat in the garden at the cottage for part of the morning, but it was so hot I had to escape the sun and go indoors. We were blessed with the weather all week. In the evening we ate out at the Black Seal as planned, a lovely meal; in bed by 9.30 to catch up on sleep we missed the day before.

Thursday, Hilary had planned writing activities, practical and fun ones involving black-out poetry, among other things. She kicked off with one of those ‘automatic writing’ pieces that always produce surprises. She and I went to Morrison’s in the afternoon and had lunch while we were there: an afternoon tea involving two quarter sandwiches, a scone and butter and a pot of tea for £2.50, how cheap is that? I filled my car up in Tesco’s filling station to save time on Saturday morning. Polly cooked a delicious biryani, Hilary and I added veg samosas and onion bhajis we’d bought in Morrisons, so we had a real Indian feast. We just chatted through the evening.

Friday was my workshop. I prepared an Oulipo workshop with activities involving N+7: identifying the nouns in a poem then exchanging them for the seventh following noun in the dictionary. We also rewrote one of the short poems we had written earlier in the week, using words that didn’t contain an ‘e’, challenging but fun. Relaxation, packing up to leave in the morning, then a chippy tea and chatting late into the night. It was a good day.

Saturday we packed the car and came home. I gave Polly a lift because she was coming to Poets&Players with us in the afternoon. Penny drove home alone: she couldn’t make P&P, she was visiting in Hebden Bridge. We left the cottage at about 10 a.m. and dropped Polly off in Chorlton about 12.30. Hilary and I had lunch at the Whitworth Gallery with the P&P committee members and the poets, Greta Stoddart and A B Jackson. Cheryl Pearson joined us later. Oh, my what a wonderful afternoon. The ‘players’ were Liam Byrne (saxophone) and Andy Hulme (guitar). Cheryl Pearson read from her about-to-be-launched pamphlet Oysterlight. A.B.Jackson was a consummate performer of his work. I had the pleasure of introducing Greta Stoddart, who was wonderful as ever. It was a splendid afternoon of music and poetry, our last event until the autumn. We are starting to think Arts Council bid for next year’s funding. How quickly that comes around.

It was good to be home after a week away. The packing is all waiting downstairs to be dealt with, there will be laundry, there will be ironing, the downside of going away; but there will also be poems to work on. I say, bring on next year. I can’t wait.

Here’s the poem I redrafted using no words that contain the letter ‘e’. The original was the poem I wrote in Penny’s workshop about my analysed ‘naughty type’: I was Miss Catastrophe–I can’t think how that happened!–so the title had to change for a start.

Miss Clumsy

It wasn’t my fault.
It was how that chair shot out in my path.
It was how stairs form a switch-back.
It was how doorsills caught my foot.
It was how that cup saw you through doors.
It was how that sofa lost a yard of width at night.
It was how soap jumps from the soapdash, slick at foot.
It was how cars do rough wanion*.
It was how that branch said it was strong: it wasn’t.
It was how I had too much toddy in my mug.
It was how that drinking trough didn’t look dirty.
It was how that pot had a wonky bottom.
It was how a pyracantha struck my tights.
It wasn’t my fault,
you told us to do it.

‘wanion’: old English word for revenge

Rachel Davies
May 2017

A week away, part the first

I’m writing this from sunny Anglesey; well, I don’t know if it’s sunny because it’s 5.00 a.m and only just light, but I’m nothing if not optimistic. It’s certainly lovely though. With three friends, we’ve hired a cottage here for our annual Bitch Week writing retreat. That is to say the bitch Spelks have gone on tour: the dog Spelks don’t join us for this one. We spend the week doing writing exercises in the morning–we take it in turn to run a workshop–then doing the sightseeing thing in the afternoon. I’m not going to tell you what’s planned–that’s a story for next week. Suffice to say, here we are.

Poetry has been ascendent this week, but the PhD has had it’s share too. And football. On Sunday  I had to rush into Manchester to return books to the library at MMU before the fine was due. Oxford Road was eerily empty: it’s usually teeming with people but this was Sunday morning, early, and hardly anyone about. A quick schlepp down to All Saints, drop off the books, schlepp up again, grabbing a coffee in Pret en route to Metrolink and I was home again before Utd v Swansea. Rooney gave away a free kick close to the end to lose a one goal lead and two valuable points. Bah!

In the evening we watched a television drama of Lady Chatterley’s Lover with Holiday Grainger and Richard Madden. I did enjoy it; I did. But the play is not the book. I was a young nursing student when Lady C went on trial for obscenity in the sixties. Of course, an illicit copy was passed around the nurses’ home with all ‘the best bits’ dogeared for  easy reference. We drooled over every eff word and sex act. But I read the love letter from Mellors to Connie at the end and I couldn’t pass it on to be drooled over any more. I loved it; I kept it. I don’t know whose copy it was to begin with, but it was mine at the end. I still have it on my bookshelf at home, fifty years later. It became my springboard for other DH Lawrence books; and then his poetry. I love his work. And my own mum and dad’s story is a bit of a DH plot itself: landed gentry daughter marries farm labourer and is disowned by her father; so I sort of related to his books. The TV play had them riding off into the sunset at the end in (presumably her) Rolls Royce and the love letter, even the need for the love letter, wasn’t referred to. So I did enjoy it as a piece of drama; but it wasn’t entirely DH. Ho hum.

On Monday I got down to some serious PhD work: I was at my desk before 10.00 to finish my analysis of Selima Hill’s sequence ‘My Sister’s Sister’. So the incomplete chapter I sent off to Angelica and Antony last week is now complete; at least I have done all the work; at least I have analysed all the poems. You see, it never ends. I printed it off to read: I find screen reading difficult, don’t see the glaringly obvious, only what I mean to see. So I read my printed copy. I’m not happy with it. It feels disorganised in some way, not concise or clear enough. I need to do some serious redrafting. So on Tuesday morning I went into Oldham to buy myself some new highlighters and colour pens and read it for common themes and repetitions. I need to get it in a more economic order, I think. A bit of cutting and pasting. I’ll save it as Mark 2 though, so I retain the original in the event of a balls-up!

On Monday I went with Hilary to a performance workshop with Rosie Garland ahead of our reading on Wednesday evening. Rosie is a consummate performer of her work, so it was good to have some insight and tips from her. She ran an interesting workshop, lots of discussion about body awareness, relaxation, voice projection, use of the mic etc. Practical stuff. At the end we read our sets to each other for feedback, taking on board some of Rosie’s advice in the performance. It was a good workshop, thank you Rosie. When I got home I sent off a poem to the Poetry Society Stanza Competition. This year it’s judged by Jean Sprackland and the theme is ‘Forecast’. I wrote an apocalyptic poem at Steve Ely’s poetry workshop a couple of Saturdays ago and that seemed to fit the theme. A bit of editing and I sent it in. I’m not expecting it to be a winner, but its a free competition for PS and Stanza members and it needs our support.

Tuesday I should have gone to Peterborough with my daughter but at the eleventh hour our trip was cancelled due to the quite serious illness of the mother of a friend we always meet for lunch. We postponed our visit until later in May so that gave me a buckshee day to play with. Of course, I used it for PhD work; all my spare time, and a lot of my planned time, is PhD time. Commitment to a serious body of work requires a huge demand on time. I feel guilty these days if I do anything that takes me away from that. That’s my excuse for leaving the housework, for instance; there’ll be time enough for a good spring clean when I get this next eighteen months behind me. The fact that any excuse to leave the housework is a good one is not an issue. There was a time in my life I would have felt guilty for leaving the housework to do the studying, but not now. Older and wiser.

Wednesday the usual sanity of doing the books. It’s a day in my week when life is kind of ordered, and I’m glad of it. The precision of figures, the unambiguity. All up to date in readiness for this week away. In the evening Hilary, Bill and I went into Manchester for the performance event from Amy McCauley’s writing workshops from Leaf on Portland Street. The workshop was at the Sandbar off Oxford Road, opposite All Saints Park. It was a good event, music to kick us off from two RNCM students, then the Leaf members all read some of their work. It was a good mix of poetry and prose. The acoustics were difficult, as performance in the back room of a pub often is: a lot of noise from the bar next door. But I enjoyed hearing everyone’s work. I read a set from my mother-daughter portfolio, a couple of them quite recent from NaPoWriMo. Hilary read a set from her MA portfolio too. It was a good night.

Thursday, ‘Star Wars Day’ [May the fourth be with you] was spent ironing to get ready for packing to come away. Ironing is seriously bad for T4 and I have to do it in short bursts with rests and stretches and Hot Water Bottle therapy in between. It’s only the posture that sparks it off, I’m sure the break is healed; but it hurts no less for that. In the evening Man Utd beat Celta Vigo 0-1 in the away leg of the Europa Cup semi-final, so that’s a step closer to the final. Sometimes it looks as if the old Utd flair is coming back. C’mon!

Friday was a serious day of getting ready to come away: the ironing finished and the packing done. The iPad packing list proved a real boon again, makes the job so much easier. I spent the afternoon preparing my writing workshop for next Friday. I won’t say too much and give it away, but it’ll be different and [hopefully] interesting. I’ll tell you next week. This year we have a spare workshop day, so we are taking Kim Moore’s idea of ‘put a poem in your pocket’. The idea is, we each take a published poem we admire, a copy for each of us. I have chosen Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Invisible Ink’ from her collection The Bees. We read and re-read these poems until we make a connection with one of them. We live with that poem all week, reading, sleeping eating with the poem under the pillow, until we feel able to write a response to the poem with a poem of our own. I’m particularly affectionate to this idea. The last time I did it with Kim my poem won first prize in the Wells Competition 2014 🙂

Yesterday, Saturday, we arrived in Trearddur Bay in two over-stocked cars. The four of us met up in the Sea Shanty cafe for lunch. We let ourselves into the cottage at 2.30, unpacked, went to a local Tesco for provisions, then opened the wine and settled in. Hilary cooked a lovely tartiflette for supper. We laughed a lot. Poets eh? Friends eh? Where would we be without them? This is the view from our first floor balcony at the cottage:


Oh, yes, I think I can get some work done here.

No poem this week, I’m not organised enough. Hopefully there will be something from the week for next Sunday. I’m planning early morning PhD editing as well as walks along the beach; and I’ve brought my own PhD library with me to catch up on some re-reading to strengthen the theory in the chapter. It’s going to be a good week.