Monthly Archives: June 2018

…the new fifty

Age is a frame of mind, that’s always been my mantra. It’s easy to look at numbers and think yourself old, too old to do stuff. Don’t look at numbers, look to how you feel and get out there. A couple of weeks ago my family went to see the Rolling Stones, septuagenarians leaping around the stage like youngsters; this week, William Roache (Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow) was on BBC Breakfast talking about being the oldest actor in the oldest running drama in the world. In his eighties, he wants to keep working until he is the first centenarian on a soap. His message was ‘don’t think yourself old’, my sentiment exactly. ‘So many people retire and their energy goes down,’ he said, ‘their self-renewal goes down.’ We replace our entire body of cells every seven years, apparently. Every seven years there is a new you. The cells reproduce less perfectly as we get older, like the photocopy of a photocopy of a photograph, and that’s the physical ageing bit; but every seven years we are renewed. It’s only when we look at our wrinkles, our wattle chins, our saggy bingo banners and think we’re old that we start mentally ageing; and there’s the danger.

I’m seventy-one in a couple of weeks. Shall I face it and give up, sit in front of day-time television, too old to ‘do stuff’? Not likely. Another positive affirmation came this week in this article in the Guardian online:

It examines the effect of running on your mental health; literally on your physical brain health. I’ve been running for six weeks, couch to 5k challenge, and even in that short time I’m feeling this article: I feel good; I feel fitter; I feel like I want to get out there and run again. I know I’m fortunate in having good health and time on my hands; but seventy is the new fifty. Age is a frame of mind. I’m going to be the first centenarian to do something—I will do such things,—what they are, yet I know not: but they shall be the terrors of the earth.Lear knew what he was talking about. Although, thinking about it, it didn’t end well for him, did it?

On Monday this week I had my annual review. One of the good things about being a seventy-something student is, you don’t have to worry about rules; you don’t have to impress with ‘right answers’—you can give truthful answers that suit you. I had a lovely conversation with Michael Symmons Roberts about how the work is coming along; about skills I have—or haven’t—developed through the year; about being on target to complete. I was pleased when he read the report from my Director of Studies: not only was it a lovely, positive report, it agreed with my own assessment of my progress. We talked about the joy of revisiting poems and redrafting them; the importance of support from poet friends but ultimately being your own harshest critic. I came away from the annual review really feeling I am up to this; I have a year left to prove that to myself and my assessors. I had my picnic in All Saints park—it wasn’t sunny, but it was pleasantly warm. From there to the library to read a couple of articles I’ve tracked down in my research and then a meeting with Jean Sprackland about the creative aspect of the PhD. We talked about poems and redrafts and edits; and we talked about putting the seventy-plus poems I have into some kind of collection order and incorporating them into the thesis before I send it to my study support team in September. I’ll send a copy to Jean and meet to discuss the poems as a collection. Monday was one of the best days of this week. Last week I talked about PMA—positive mental attitude. Monday had it in spades. I fairly skipped along Oxford Road to catch my tram home. And I was home in time for the England match. A perfect day!

On Tuesday I worked on the thesis, putting together the bibliography from my footnotes. Yes, I know, you can get software to do it for you; I’ve been on a couple of Endnote courses at MMU since I started the PhD; but I can’t get the software to work effectively on my Mac. It works perfectly, I’m sure, with Windows, but it seems to have glitches with Mac. I’ve decided to download an update and give it another go on a defunct piece of writing to see if it’s more user friendly now. If anyone can offer advice, comments below please. Meanwhile, I compiled my bibliography by hand, following the MHRA style guide. Form is all in footnotes and bibliography. I think I’ve cracked it, but I still have questions about, for instance, web-links: how do they fit in the bibliography; or do they just hold their own in the footnote?

I looked through my poems when the bibliography was up to date. I have poems in the portfolio that I am really pleased with; I have others that I know require some work. Mostly they are the early poems I wrote for the PhD; some of them a bit pompous, some a bit harsh, about ten that are just not very good. I’ll either rework them; or write new poems to replace them in the collection. On Tuesday afternoon I worked on a couple and, in my mind, improved them; very satisfying activity.

On Friday I had an email from Rebecca Bilkau, editor of Beautiful Dragons Press. I’d sent her a set of poems for the ‘Dragon Spawn’ collection, a joint collection with my poetry twin, Hilary Robinson and the triplet we haven’t met yet, Tonia Bevins. The collection will launch this autumn. Rebecca is including nine of my portfolio poems in the collection, plus three ‘non-mother’ poems for a bit of light relief. She has taken ‘Love letter to McNaught’, a poem I wrote after seeing McNaught’s comet in the night sky in Southern Australia. I’m so pleased McNaught is finding a home in the collection, he’s always been a favourite of mine, funny with end-rhymed quatrains, very rhythmical—all the things modern poetry isn’t supposed to be. I love his anarchy! Putting this collection together is exciting; and so uplifiting.

Saturday I was back at my desk. I decided to have a creative day, revisiting the poems I’m less than happy with. I completely rewrote two poems, keeping the general subject of the poems intact, but changing the form. I had written a poem called ‘Some Mothers’, after Kim Moore’s ‘Some People’. It went on a bit; it was all mother as domesticity, which I didn’t like about it. Where was the feminist angle? Motherhood is about being a woman; more, it’s about being a person. I rewrote it, in the week the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, took time out of her official duties to give birth to a girl. Women have babies; but they also have careers; and they have jobs they need to provide money for food and clothes and warmth; and they claim benefits and use food banks; and all this was missing from my ‘Some Mothers’. I put that right yesterday. It’s a very different poem now; not in the style of Kim’s poem at all. But I’m happier with it because it’s ‘truer’ to mothers, real mothers, not the mothers created by patriarchy, not the ‘angels in the house’. I reworked another poem too; a poem I wrote on a residential in Bowland a couple of years ago. It started out as a self portrait in words; I changed it into a villanelle yesterday, about how we get all our attributes from some spurious family member: mother’s nose, dad’s eyes, love of books from Great-aunt Kit, temper from cousin Rosie etc. Is anything of us just about us? My villanelle explores that, I think. I need to revisit it, it isn’t perfect, but it is forming; and poetry is a plastic art.

I’m giving you a sneak preview of the villanelle this week. Let me know what you think.



 They say she has her mother’s nose,
her hair is from her father’s head
so has she nothing of her own?

Her eyes—her dad’s—are conker brown,
her height’s from mother’s brother Ted
who tells her she’s her mother’s nose.

Her granddad taught her how to knit,
she took her Grandma’s love of books;
so, nothing she can call her own?

She sketches just like Auntie Pat,
sews seams as fine as Great-aunt Kit,
who envies her her mother’s nose.

She has a mole like Nana Jones
who passed it down through cousin Jed.
So has she nothing of her own?

Her stubbornness is Uncle Jack’s,
her kindness comes from daddy’s dad
who wonders at her mother’s nose.

She likes to get lost in a book
away from family ties that bind.
So she may have her mother’s nose
but this book world is all her own.


Rachel Davies
June 2018







keep topping up your PMA

I heard from a friend this week that he’d drawn Saudi Arabia in his work’s World Cup sweepstake and how he knew he couldn’t win. I reminded him of the power of positive thought, feeling relieved that I had drawn Brazil myself. Some outcomes are more probable than others.

Positive thinking; self belief; ‘can-do’; positive mental attitude (PMA)—these are ‘self-help’ phrases that are bandied about to make a person feel better about a situation. But oh, my—they are also crucial to being successful in life’s challenges. I learned that again this week. All week, I’ve had Friday’s run on my radar: the first sustained run of twenty minutes. I’ve been dreading it! Twenty minutes might not sound too long a run to folk who are runners, but I’m new to this. I’ve rarely done any running since I left school more than half a century ago. I’m overawed by people who can line up for a 10k, a half or a full marathon. I always wish I could do it without ever really believing it possible. I started the Couch to 5K challenge as a New Year resolution, kept it up for four weeks until bad weather, microbes and life in general got in the way. I’m a person who rises to a challenge and hated that I’d lapsed on this one, so I decided to start again on our Line Break to Scarborough in May. On New Year’s day, running for one minute seven times nearly floored me; in May, back to square one, running for one minute did seem easier, but I was glad when it was over. So this twenty-minute run was on my week’s horizon like a threat. I’d done all the runs leading up to it, the longest being eight minutes twice with a three minute recovery walk in between, so twenty minutes of sustained running was a big deal. You can see how this was playing on my mind in a negative way: ‘on my radar…like a threat’; ‘a big deal’. I know now it wasn’t the physical challenge of running that was the issue: it was the mental attitude, the lack of belief. I went out on Friday morning not really believing I could do it. But I ran when the time came. ‘Laura’, the app-voice, told me I’d been running for ten minutes, I was half way through: I didn’t feel too bad. Laura told me I’d been running for fifteen minutes, only five minutes left to run: I was feeling it, but not badly. Laura told me I only had two minutes left. I knew I would do it, even though it was hurting; because not doing it, not crossing the line after all the hard work in those eighteen minutes would be the worst thing. I did it! Laura told me to slow down for a five-minute brisk warm-down walk. I high-fived myself walked on without a break. Now I can say ‘I can run for twenty minutes non-stop.’ If I can do that I can probably run further. I feel like a runner at last. I spent Friday feeling energised and very good about myself.

I’ve spent a lot of words describing this because? Well, I feel the same about the PhD. My attitude hasn’t always been positive about this challenge either. I realise I’ve been over-awed by my own decision to do a PhD: sometimes I’ve been frightened of it, frightened of the implications of it: why did I think I could even think about doing this? Self-doubt is a black dog that’s pursued me since my school days. I like to think anyone who knows me probably won’t realise that; but always in the back of my mind, that feeling of unworthiness. As a head-teacher, I always felt like a pretender, even though I know I was good at my job. I often felt I was making it up as I went along, that other head-teachers knew exactly what they were doing and I mustn’t let them see I was an imposter. It’s ridiculous, of course, because I’m sure most of them felt exactly as I did: the goal posts move so often in education, it’s impossible to ever know the job. The best you can do is the best you can do for your school. And here I go, rambling off the point again.

What I’m saying is, you need PMA to do a PhD. It’s a lonely path. I have two bachelor degrees and two masters degrees; all of them involved a community aspect: coming together with other course members to discuss learning, to share work, to gain feedback from peers. The PhD is not like that. To a large extent you’re on your own. Of course, you have a support team, and mine has been a life-line. But there isn’t the same regular contact with other students in seminars, lectures, all the community aspects of study I’ve enjoyed up until now. Thankfully, I have friends also doing PhD; I have poet friends who are there as a positive force, keeping me going. But without PMA it’s hard; well, it’s hard anyway, but without PMA it’s even harder. And sometimes I haven’t had PMA. I’ve doubted myself; I’ve doubted my ability; I’ve doubted my right to a place on the course. I’ve made it harder for myself.

Tomorrow I have my annual review. I’m feeling positive about this—I think. I’ve enjoyed the last two reviews, enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on how far I’ve come, to see there is a clear path through this, that the end is in sight. I still don’t know if I’ll get a PhD in 2019: I haven’t become that positive person yet. But I do know I will give it my best shot. And at the end of the day, the best you can do is the best you can do.

I started addressing the advice from my study support team this week, going through the points one by one on my draft thesis, reflecting on and addressing them. It took me five hours to address three of the points, and that’s not counting the accompanying reading, so I still have a long way to go. But I can run for twenty minutes and I can do this. I have a meeting with Jean Sprackland after my review, something positive to look forward to: discussing poems is always a pleasure.

I’m including a ‘coupling’ this week. It was inspired by a letter I found in my mother’s effects after she died. I’ve had it for nearly thirty years, tucked away in my filing cabinet. It is from my grammar school Headmaster to my parents on the death of my brother. I was fourteen at the time. This letter surprised me in two ways: one, the initials on the envelope weren’t my father’s initials, they were the initials of my deceased brother. That man couldn’t even take the time to address my parents correctly. Seeing a letter addressed to their son in the week they lost him must in itself have been a hurt to my parents. The second surprise was that they sent it at all. I didn’t realise my school knew my brother had died. He had attended a different school; and in the week he died, in the week they knew he had died, I was given a Saturday detention for not handing in my homework. You will see in this some of the roots of my lack of PMA. I have joined these two facts together in this coupling. The lines on the left are the lines as they are written in the letter; the italicised lines on the right are my reflections, my response to the letter. It’s one of the poems I’ll be discussing with Jean tomorrow afternoon. I know it’s not perfect—here I go again with lack of PMA—but I keep applying polish. (Sorry, WordPress has messed with the formatting.)

Condolences, Duplicity But No Excuses

A ‘coupling’ from a letter from the Headmaster

 Dear Mr and Mrs _______

                          how empty words can be.

I am very sorry indeed

                        for I gave you his, not your, initials

at your terrible loss

                      turning my words all to cliché.

Nothing one can say

                      can now be anything but platitudes, none of which

can be of much comfort to you

                        but what do I care of your comfort anyway?

Only those who have had to bear such things can

                             know the unbearable pain of your loss or

fully understand

                                  what can’t be easily dismissed by

those of us who have children.

                                 This is incomprehensible, we

can try to

                                massage our own self-righteousness,

no more, I suppose, than that.

                              But what of her homework? For

try as we do

                             we can’t ignore school rules even in this week of a loss

we simply cannot fully understand.

                           So, Saturday detention—she’ll submit homework

I am sure

                          one way or another

however we feel for you

                       because our governors must be impressed

and yours

                       know that children are never affected

very deeply indeed and

                      what can children really feel of grief so we

are  sorry you should have to undergo

                      this personal darkness but her homework’s due:

such harrowing experience

                     such inconsistent motives.

May you be given strength

                       to lift your eyes

to see over this affliction

                    toward her end of year exams.

Yours sincerely

                      of course, because I’m the respected


                      of this grammar school.


Rachel Davies
May 2018


on reflecting and earwigging

It’s that time of year for the annual review of progress in the PhD. So this week I have been looking back over the year, and looking forward to next May and my final submission, in order to write my annual review report. This will be my last review. This time next year I will have submitted my thesis. It will all be over.

But this blog isn’t just about PhD; it’s about fitting PhD into my life. This week has been a mix of life, poetry and PhD, the kind of week I like best: balanced. So on Sunday I settled to work, revisiting the poems that will find their space in the Dragon Spawn collection in the autumn. I had an email from the editor, Rebecca Bilkau, with suggestions and questions about some of the poems. I addressed those queries on Sunday. The thing about editorial advice is, it’s a dialogue, I think. I read her feedback, I thought carefully about it, I implemented her suggestions for editing the poems but I couldn’t agree with all her comments. I acted on them all initially, but I reverted to the original sometimes if I thought the poem was lessened by accepting her feedback unquestioningly. I sent the poems back to her later in the day with editorial changes; or with my reasons for not acting on her editorial advice. I have heard back from her that she has the poems; she has taken them on holiday to a Greek island where she will be reading them in the Aegean sunshine over a glass of village wine. I hope my poems have a good holiday: they’ve worked hard and they deserve it.

On Monday it was poetry again. I wrote up some of the poems from our recent Line Break workshops. We’d made a commitment to take one of the poems from the week to the next Group, which was on Monday evening. I decided to take a poem I wrote from snippets of conversation I overheard during our day out in York. I called it ‘Earwigging’, being a colloquialism for ‘listening in’. The poem is included at the end of this blog. It is a ‘found’ poem, built entirely from phrases I overheard; I have included no narrative of my own at all. I have repeated some phrases for emphasis, and to give some feeling of there being a narrative behind the ‘earwigging’. A couple of members left The Group recently, for very positive reasons; and a couple had sent apologies for this week. I have to say, The Group felt lessened without them. I suppose we’ll have to find a new dynamic now and it will take time.

On Tuesday, life claimed a large piece of me. My son Michael came to stay for an over-nighter. He arrived mid-afternoon and we went to Amie’s Black Ladd restaurant for lunch. In the evening he went to the Rolling Stones concert at Old Trafford with Amie’s partner, Angus. Mike called the Rolling Stones ‘the best rock band in the world’. He had already seen them in Southampton a couple of weeks ago and thought them brilliant. Wednesday didn’t disappoint. Their energy is astounding: all in their mid-seventies now, they run the equivalent of five or six miles during the show, all while singing and playing instruments. Mike and Angus were right in front of the stage and they caught a couple of plectra the Stones threw into the crowd. Mike was so impressed he’s going to try for tickets to the gig in London for himself and Richard. It’s nice that seventy-year-olds can be such an inspiration to the younger generations: very different from the standard media portrayal of ageing as a burden, as a weakened generation needing expensive medical and social care over milky tea and plain biscuits. Good on ‘em, I say, flying the flag for a productive and energetic old age.

On Wednesday morning we met up with Amie for breakfast before Mike went back to his real life five hours drive away and I went on to do the books at the Black Ladd.

You notice I’ve hardly mentioned the PhD once in all this: it has been a big part of my week, though. I’ve been reading a lot from the reading list I got from my last supervisory team meeting. I’ve been reading in all the spare half hours between doing other stuff; reading in bed; reading during tea breaks while preparing for Mike’s visit. I love my Kindle: it’s so convenient for taking your reading with you. I’m someone who does prefer the feel and smell of a real book, actually; but with a Kindle you can carry a whole library of books in your handbag or pocket, move from one book to another, highlight passages and make annotations, follow up references, check the meaning of unfamiliar words. It’s a godsend to any student.

On Saturday I prepared my RDAR, the official university form for the annual review report. I think it’s an acronym for Research Degree Annual Review. I spent the morning working on it, checking facts, thinking about progress since the last review, trying to be honest. One focus of the RDAR was on ‘skills development’: how my skills as a researcher and an academic have been developed during the year, for instance through presentation at conferences. The quick answer is, presentation skills are not something I feel the need to develop. I presented to conferences several times as a teacher and a head-teacher; I don’t want to do it in my retirement. I am doing this PhD, the top rung in a long ladder of education, as a personal challenge, not to gain skills for future academic employment, which I don’t want or need. My skills development has all been in the creative aspect: producing, editing, publishing poetry and presenting it to various audiences; and in developing my knowledge of poetry—and academic writing—through my on-going reading. That’s the best bit for me, the aspect I most want to develop. I sent the report off yesterday afternoon: my review is on June 18th. I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve also managed to watch some tennis from Roland Garros, especially Rafa Nadal who is one of my sporting heroes. I’ll be watching the final this afternoon, whatever else I do today. I watched the England football match on Thursday too. There’s lots of football coming up with the world cup starting this week. I’ll have to ration myself to England and Brazil matches, I think, or it could take over my life and I can’t afford the time for it to do that. I must watch the Brazil matches because I have drawn Brazil in the sweepstake at the Black Ladd. Bill has drawn France, so not too shabby a couple of teams to watch out for.

Lastly, running: I’ve kept up the Couch to 5K challenge, completing week 4 on Friday. I go out early, about 7.00 a.m. for my run; it’s a lovely time of day in the early summer. This week I have had a yellow wagtail, a shrew and a robin as running buddies. I’m beginning to look forward to my running: who would have thought it possible? By next Friday I will be running twenty minutes in one go. I can’t say I’m not a little bit worried about that but hey, bring it on.

Here’s my ‘Earwigging’ poem. It is very different from anything I’ve ever written before, experimental, a bit whacky. But I enjoyed it. Of course, it won’t find space in my portfolio on several criteria: it’s not a mother-daughter poem and it’s not very good for two. I suppose I could give it more of a narrative, make a ‘story’ from it; but then it wouldn’t be what it is, a ‘found’ poem from snippets of chat I earwigged in York. Treat it as a bit of fun; I did.



This train will be calling at—
where’s Daisy gone

what’s the difference between—
one’s keen and the other’s not
where’s Daisy gone and where did Sir go
and if you don’t pull… oh where did Sir go

get those hands washed before you—
ant ‘ad chips of a while.
he’s more likely to wear my
yer sleepin’ dad?

but—where’s Daisy gone

tell me of something they do in Bali
you’re not gangs you’re not gangs
representatives—in a row
come back for me
and do it quickly

but where did Sir go
and where’s Daisy gone
oh, where did Sir go
drinking espresso in Carluccio

so what’s more important
do it now, do it quickly tell people
eight weeks till I got paid
too much too much
tell ‘em what to do

but where’s Daisy gone

Guten dag, vilcom im der—
ulia machia how are you
a quick question or two—
what’s woh thi eh eh
and where’s Daisy?



Rachel Davies
June 2018

On preferred ways of working

We all have our preferred ways of working. When my son lived with me while he did his degrees at Manchester University, he used to like music playing in the background when he was working. Sometimes he would use his student pass on the bus and travel all round Manchester on the top deck, ear-plugs in, reading. I can’t do that.  I have to have quiet: complete quiet. One of my biggest dreads at school was when the teacher said ‘just read pages 31-40 quietly and then we’ll discuss it. You have ten minutes.’ Aaargh, panic. I could hear the other 29 in the class breathing; I could hear them silently reading the words; I could hear them mentally processing the words. What I couldn’t do was read the piece myself. I couldn’t concentrate in a room full of people. When I work at home, Bill knows better than to disturb me: I’ll emerge from the study in my own time. Actually, not only do I not want him in the room, I prefer him to be ‘not in the house’. I want my head surrounded by silence, so there is only room in it for the work.

And I’m telling you this because…? Well, this week I bought some of the books on the suggested ‘further reading’ list following my team meeting last week. Some, though, were very expensive, even second-hand on Amazon. So I decided to have a day in the library to read them and take notes. I found their shelf locations on the MMU library website before I went, to save time. Yesterday, I went to the library at the All Saints Campus. I found the first book I needed in the ground floor collection, went to find a place to work. Oh my, the noise! A librarian trundled a wobbly trolley into the room to replace books; someone started the photocopier and printed off a few sheets; a couple had a ‘whispered’ conversation: note to ‘whisperers’, your conversation is more distracting than if you spoke at full voice.  Opposite me at the workstation was a young man also doing some study. Bless him, he had a cold: his nose was as red as ketchup, he kept sniffing and blowing; but worse than this, he kept doing that snorting thing at the back of his throat. I’m truly sorry he had a cold, I’m sure he was feeling rough; but oh how it distracted me from my reading! You see, I can’t do it; I can’t lose myself in a book when so much is going on; when there are other people in the room. I read as much as I thought I needed from that first book, packed my bags and went up the floor 2 to look for the other two books I needed. I found them, took them downstairs, checked them out and brought them home to read. At least I can concentrate by myself in my own study.

I had my lunch in the seated area next to the library. In the park outside, some kind of gathering of people and flags was going on. I watched while I ate my butty. A banner read ‘Veterans Against Terrorism’; seemed strange to state it, because it goes without saying, doesn’t it? Everyone is against terrorism except terrorists, aren’t they? Anyway when I finished my butty I went out to see what was happening. It was an alt-right political rally and demo march through Manchester, protesting the need for freedom of speech. It was led by the Football Lads Alliance, apparently; which sounds like a decent group to belong to, all football fans and the World Cup coming. Their banners said differently. I won’t quote them but they were hate filled. Freedom of speech? Free to say what? I caught a bus to St Peter’s Square, where security was intense: police everywhere and roads closed to give these people the voice they were craving. This was the dark side of Manchester: but my kind of Mancunians were refusing them an ear, walking away. A small counter-demo was underway I think, to drown out the hate. What a world we live in!

In the poetry part of my world, I had an email from Rebecca Bilkau, the editor of our joint ‘Dragon Spawn’ collection. She sent me editorial advice on the poems I sent her, several of my ‘mother’ portfolio. She wants twelve poems from each of the three poets in the collection. I need to visit her email again later today and address her advice: she has given us a July deadline . Also, Tuesday evening it was our East Manchester and Tameside Stanza. We are struggling for members at the moment. We have about a dozen members on my mailing list, but probably six or seven attend regularly. After apologies from members, there were three of us there this week. It was a good meeting, we had writing exercises, wrote to prompts and shared our work; but it would have been good to have a few more members present. We discussed ways to up the membership: library advertising, open-mic event etc. So if anyone is interested in joining us, leave a message here with your email address, or look on our Facebook page for news updates:

Our next meeting will be on June 26that the Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar; we’ll be reading and discussing the poetry of Hera Lyndsay Bird. You can check her out here:

In other news: my son Richard came for the day on Tuesday. I met up with him and Amie and her two cockerpoos and we went for a walk to Grandpa Green’s in Diggle for coffee, then onto Wooliknits café for an al fresco lunch. We’ve had lovely weather again all week: how unplifting is a sunny day or two? On Bank Holiday Monday I even emptied the conservatory of furniture, put everything on the lawn and gave the conservatory a much-needed spring clean. Something has to go when you’re doing a PhD, you can’t do it and everything else; and always first item to drop off my to-do list will be housework. But I can only stand it for so long before I have to do something about it. Just the rest of the house to find time for now!

Lastly, I have been running. I have completed Week 3 of the Couch to 5K challenge I abandoned earlier in the year. I’m actually enjoying it; I didn’t expect that. I’ll be out there again tomorrow, running in 5 minute bursts. Bring it on!

So, a poem to finish. This is a poem inspired by my Aunt Mary, who was completely blind. She was like the Grandma I never knew, my father’s eldest sister. She was wonderful, her blindness never hampered her. She used to ask one of us girls to take her round the house at the start of a visit so she ‘had a feel for it’, then find her own way after that initial tour. She read Braille and had a Braille wrist-watch, which I really envied even though I couldn’t read the dots. She knitted the most intricate patterns. My dad taught me how to knit, but Aunt Mary taught me how to knit things. She could always find my mistakes with her fingers and put them right. A version of this poem was published on the Atrium website in May:


Alternative Mother #3

 Mary R

You say there’s none so blind
as them as don’t want to see,

You buy me a scarlet coat
so I’ll stand out from the crowd,

knit me rainbow socks on four needles,
make me feel the colours.

You show me how even
silent laughing can be loud
if you listen hard enough.

Your bosom
is a plumptious pillow for a story;
you tell me how bad stuff found you
but you survived it.

Be true to yourself, you say.
Live in peace with others
but always be your own lover.

 Fingertips are as useful as eyes,
you reckon, knuckles as feeling as fingertips
for finding your way out of dark places.


Rachel Davies