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

3 thoughts on “A Week Away: the comedown

  1. Come-downs are tough-going. I commiserate!
    I also studied Twelfth Night for O level. We saw it on stage at Stratford – the only time I’ve ever gone there. My abiding memory? The air con set to near freezing!

      1. I much preferred Nottingham Young Vic’s production of Hamlet we saw for A level. Hamlet delivered his soliloquy in trench coat, can of lager in hand. The audience mingled with the cast on stage during the interval. We thought it was cool (or equivalent ‘in’ word, circa 1977. I forget 🙂 ).

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