Daily Archives: September 17, 2017

In which I realise I can’t do everything…

I’m suffering the post-holiday blues. I haven’t been warm since I got home, although if I hadn’t been away the weather would seem quite mild for Saddleworth. And my body hasn’t adjusted to the time zone change, I’m still working on Greek time so I’m ready for bed at 9.00 at night and sleeping for England, which is unusual for me. I’m doing that post-holiday thing where you say ‘this time last week…’ I need to get a grip; but this time last week we were getting ready to go and find some loggerhead turtles, Caretta Caretta.We boarded the boat in a harbour just off Laganas. Searching for turtles seemed to involve the boat going round and round in circles in the harbour, along with about five other boats, until we actually spotted a turtle in the water; poor thing must have been a bit intimidated but I suppose they must be used to it. It was a majestic sight when we did spot one though. They really need to rethink their survival strategy though. They come to Zakinthos in April and stay till October. In that time the female can lay four or five batches of eggs, 100 in a batch. That’s up to 500 eggs, with a survival rate of 1%. That is serious endangerment. They are very well protected by the Zakinthian authorities though. We went to Turtle Island to see the breeding grounds on the beach: we weren’t allowed to go near the nests, but you could clearly see the tripods marking and protecting the nests from the boat.

But as you know by now, a holiday isn’t just a holiday; it involves work as well. Every morning I got up early and took a cuppa out to our balcony to do some work. I spent a couple of hours a morning analysing the poems in Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica. I analysed three or four poems in that time; and that is about as many as I could manage emotionally. They are very taxing poems to close read. It is a brilliant collection, similar but different from The Huntress. It is amazing how much more you see in a poem when you spend quality time with it. I am happy to report I completed the analyses on our last morning there. And now I have 17,500 words to draw on for the chapter in my thesis. So I’m pleased with that aspect of the work while I was away. A slightly optimistic conclusion to the analyses: I have sent out feelers for offering a review of Mama to a quality magazine—I won’t say which one at this stage, don’t want someone stealing my thunder; because I had a fairly positive response to my proposal. I’ll be following that up this week. The creative aspect, less satisfying: I wanted to write a poem a day while I was away and I didn’t manage anything close to that. My favourite time, early morning, was taken up with the analyses; and I don’t work well around lots of people and busyness; but I did draft some stuff—I can’t call them poems yet—and I kept my dream journal going for the fortnight. I seemed to dream a lot of dreams with ‘teaching’ and ‘teachers’ as elements. Am I regressing to a past life? I hope not; retirement is the best job I’ve ever had!

We arrived back in Manchester on Thursday evening and my lovely daughter was there to meet us off the plane. Since then it has been a long round of unpacking, laundry, shopping for food. And more PhD work. Yesterday was the September Poets & Players event at the Whitworth Art Gallery: Clare Shaw, Malika Booker and Hilda Sheehan, and Olivia Moore providing the ‘player’ aspect. Unfortunately I didn’t make it: I always knew it was going to be a struggle and in the event I prioritised work; but I know it was brilliant because people keep telling me so on Facebook; I was genuinely sorry to miss it. The next event is in October, details here:


It’s our annual collaboration with Manchester Literature Festival and it will be BIG. George Szirtes, Caroline Bird and Andchuck providing the music. This event is at Halle St Peter’s in the Northern Quarter, so make a note of that; also that you will need tickets for this one, available at the MLF website via the link. Unfortunately I have to miss this event too, bah! But you just know it will be good, don’t you?

Yesterday I got down to more serious work on the critical side of the PhD. I was rereading the theory related to mirrors and mirror images. Lacan’s Mirror Stage is not easy to understand: Lacan is not an accessible writer; but mirrors and masks feature heavily in Mama Amazonica and this will be a major focus for the Petit section of the thesis. So I reread and re-reread Lacan yesterday; along with commentaries on Lacan: The Cambridge Companion to Lacan; Bailly’s Beginners Guide to Lacan etc, and I think I have a handle on his thoughts. I think. I also read Winnicott, Home is Where We Start From; and an article I found on the MMU website about the importance of positive interaction in healthy child development, “Identification and subjectivity in a Year-3 classroom: using Lacan’s mirror stage to analyse ethnographic data” by Sue Walters published in the online journal “Ethnography and Education Volume 9, 2014 – Issue 1”. This was fascinating reading for me on two counts: it was helpful to my research; but it also spoke to me as an ex-headteacher of a primary school with high numbers of Bangladeshi heritage pupils.


So, I know what I want to say in the Petit section of the thesis but I’m worried, as ever, about sounding ‘academic’ enough; about sounding as if I actually have a level of authority over the theory. I have no idea how I will go about it; so I’ll do what I always do and wade in, a page at a time and perfect it over time.


That’s it then; holiday over, week over, blog over. I’m happy to be back and to be back on a healthy eating regime. I had a lovely time away; but it is the once-a-year binge. I’m actually glad I don’t have to live like that all year; I’d be elephantine after a couple of months.

Here is a very short poem I wrote on the aeroplane on the way to Zakinthos. It seems as if the aeroplane is stationary at 35,000 feet and it is the earth scrolling by below. That is the image I’ve tried to capture in this little draft.


Window Seat

the aeroplane hangs from sky
hovering like a harrier
while Earth on microfiche
scrolls by below

the pilot spots the quarry
of Zakinthos runway
and we start our slow dive
from sky to sun

Rachel Davies
September 201