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: https://www.facebook.com/groups/264023166946510/?ref=br_rs
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: https://www.heralindsaybird.com
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: https://atriumpoetry.com/?s=Rachel+Davies
Alternative Mother #3
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.
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.