In three years where life is driven by work towards a PhD, sometimes the work has to take a back seat, be a passenger; and that’s what happened this week. For the first time in two years, PhD hasn’t been the be all and end all of my existence. It has been there, keeping its eye on me, ready to rebuke me for slacking, but life has been to the fore.
This year my daughter Amie and I had ‘significant’ birthdays; so we hired a cottage overlooking the beach in Trearddur Bay, Anglesey and took our 120th birthday celebrations on tour. Richard and Michael, my two sons; Amie, Angus, Ben and the dogs; and Bill and I had a few days of doing nothing but being together. It was lovely. It was five days of very nearly doing things: we nearly took the ferry to Dublin, but it was fully booked; we nearly took the cable car to the summit of Great Orme, but high winds put a stop to that; we nearly took the railway to the summit of Snowdon, but on the day we wanted to go there were no tickets; I nearly did some reading, but my Kindle battery died. Despite all this, we had a lovely time. It’s so good to spend time together, it doesn’t happen often enough when your children become adults. We did manage to do a lot of dog walking though. Amie has two cockerpoos, Cooper and Sonny, and they are energetic to say the least. They chased that ball over most of Anglesey, and still asked for more. Oh, another nearly: we decided to go to Aberffraw for a circular walk we had found in the cottage info pack. Ten minutes into the walk the high winds that prevented us from using the cable car in Llandudno the day before whipped up the sand from the beach and pebble dashed the backs of our legs and other exposed skin. We turned back to the cars and drove on to Bangor, where we had al fresco coffee while we watched unoccupied chairs blow off up the street!
I did manage some reading, though. I used the Kindle until the battery died completely. I was blaming the cheap charger I bought but I borrowed Michael’s charger and it just wouldn’t make a charge at all. No Kindle, and another holiday coming up in two weeks? I decided to order a new one when I got home so I can still pack a library in my hand luggage. I’ve learned that I can get a battery replacement for the old one as well, so I might look into that. But it’s a delicate operation, apparently, easy to mess up. I’ll take it to an official repair outlet sometime. Thankfully I took a ‘real’ book away, as well as my Kindle. Toril Moi’s Sexual Textual Politics in paperback was my reading-in-bed book this week. I was reading a chapter about Gilbert and Gubar’s Madwoman… It was interesting to get an academic review of the book I read only recently. I took my MacBook on holiday as well, thinking I might get some creative work done, but the house was full to overflowing; there was never space to sit and work apart from in bed and I’m quite particular about conditions for writing. I have to be on my own, have silence, get my thoughts filling the house. I could have done some work in bed, but I know it wouldn’t have been good work and I would have just rolled it into virtual balls and binned it when I got home anyway: we have to pay attention to our own preferences for work, I think. So I made do with a bit of bedtime reading. I hope the PhD doesn’t mind that I ignored it this week. It was good to have the best part of a week off. I’ll be on it again next week; and the upcoming holiday will involve a lot of work as well.
The world stage is as worrying as ever. We live on a speck of dust in an infinite universe. There are millions, trillions–zintillions–of other planets, stars, heavenly bodies out there, some with the potential for life, some, no doubt, hosting life in one form or another. But humans have such ego trips about being made ‘in the image of God’; about human life being the epitome of life forms. And oh my, we are so full of hate: my skin is better than your skin; my nationality is supreme; my god is more powerful than your god. Why? We are here for the blink of an eye; we are nothing in the great scheme of history. My grand-daughter Corrinna was in Barcelona when that van rammed into crowded Las Ramblas. Thankfully, I learned she was at the airport for the homeward journey when the atrocity happened. Unfortunately many holiday makers weren’t: collateral damage in ‘the war on terror’. No-one in power has worked out you can’t make war against an idea: an idea isn’t an enemy you can target. This is a war that can’t be won. And this week the most powerful man on the planet refused to condemn alt-right white supremacists carrying Nazi and KKK flags in Charlottesville into skirmishes with civil rights protesters; thereby reinforcing a global view of the US president as a white supremacist, Nazi and KKK sympathiser. What a pernicious world we’re living in.
This morning I’m posting a poem I wrote in Carrie Etter’s Napowrimo week in April. It is about the month my brother died; a month that was also dominated by powerful men flexing their international muscles, sizing each other up. We never learn from history; we just invent bigger and more destructive ways of killing each other. I only had one brother, in a house filled with sisters, so this was a pivotal month in my growing up. I was fourteen at the time.
that was the month
Albert and Harold first hauled their rags on BBC TV
and George Martin unleashed Beatlemania
I sat in the library at the grammar school reading
about a Wall dividing Berlin to keep communism pure;
or to keep capitalism pure; or more likely to keep propaganda
pure; but people didn’t want purity they wanted their lost families
and they staked their own lives to be reunited on the other side
Khrushchev sent missiles to Cuba while the world held its breath
and even Peter Parker, bitten by that radioactive spider,
no, even Spiderman himself couldn’t sort that one out
the Foreign Legion left Algeria for the last time
but Algerians kept long memories of their occupation
Marilyn was fired by 20th Century Fox for not turning up
and no-one seemed to notice that her world was falling apart
and she’d begun that sad descent to her infamous nude scene
in that hotel room; and I wonder if you ever met her
because that was the month you went into Stoke Mandeville Hospital
and I never saw you again.