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:

IMG_1203

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.

 

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