There’s an old saying that if you want a job doing ask a busy person. Busy people can always fit in a little bit more busy-ness. This week, I’ve been meeting myself coming round corners, I’ve been that busy. There’s something of obsessive compulsion about me, I realise that. For instance, every morning before I get up I do a puzzle on my iPad. It’s a silly puzzle, joining coloured dots together, it’s called ‘Flow’. Sometimes it’s ridiculously easy, sometimes ridiculously hard. But I’ve done it every day for almost two years. I can’t not do it because it will break the streak and I’ll be back to day one. So it’s the first thing I do every day. It wouldn’t matter if I went back to day one really, would it? But it would matter to me. I quite like this compulsion in my make-up. It illustrates my determination: I’m not a quitter. I keep going, keep on keeping on. The PhD has been a saga of keeping on keeping on. I have come close to giving up a couple of times, but it is the same drive that makes me do ‘Flow’ every morning that keeps me going with the PhD. I don’t give up.
This week I’ve worked like stink on it. On Sunday I did a very scary thing. I came to a place in the thesis where my DoS had written a note recommending moving a fairly lengthy section up, closer to the beginning: he liked that section and felt the external examiner should be able to read it early on, to get a good impression of the work from the start. So I cut and pasted a huge swathe and moved it up about twenty pages. I had the foresight to save before and after versions, just in case it didn’t work out. I was inordinately stunned by the process, it seemed a huge change. I saved the work and walked away from it. I’d worked all day anyway so it was time to stop. I decided to leave the reading of it in its new situ until my next working day, Tuesday: on Monday I was at the Black Ladd doing the books for my daughter’s restaurant.
So, on Tuesday I went for my early morning run. It was my only run this week: even busy people have to let stuff fall by the wayside sometimes, I’m not Superwoman! I was at my desk by 9.00, first job to read the rearranged thesis. It wasn’t scary at all; in fact, I’d had an idea in bed, when I was planning my day, that it would benefit from moving up even further, very close to the beginning, So, first Tuesday job, I cut and pasted it again. I actually like it where I’ve got it now. It flows well, with minimal editing. Of course, I carried on with writing to the notes from the team, so I spent the rest of Tuesday addressing those. I checked out some books on Amazon, but even second hand copies were ridiculously expensive, and no guarantee of receiving them before we came on holiday on Friday, so I decided I needed a library day on Wednesday. I did an MMU library search from home and found most of the books I needed, so Wednesday saw me catching the early tram to Manchester. I don’t normally like working in MMU library: it can be incredibly noisy and I must have silence to work, no distractions. But in the summer recess, it is a quiet little haven of study; one or two determined folk there working, but nothing distracting. I found the books I was looking for. I worked with a couple of the big ones there: read, took notes, copied pages onto my iPad to read again later. The rest I brought home with me to take on holiday: a little ‘light’ holiday reading. I called at Waterstones on my way home: I’d ordered a copy of Simone de Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter online: Angelica recommended it as a good read and the library didn’t stock it. It wasn’t one I, or indeed the young man in Waterstones, had come across before: he added it to his own reading list. That book is probably my lightest holiday reading this year.
Thursday was about getting ready to come away. I have two lovely cats who have the run of the house but I don’t let them outdoors at all. Holidays would be a real problem if it wasn’t for my friend, Nat, who loves animals and has a dog-walking/pet-sitting business. She comes in every day, twice a day, to feed them, clean their litter trays and spend time with them so they won’t be lonely. She’s a gem; she’s also quite house-proud, an adjective no-one could randomly fling at me; so I spent Thursday cleaning up, so I could pretend we don’t always live in a state of chaos. It was early evening before I got around to actually putting anything into a suitcase. Mostly it went in unironed: I packed my travel iron, I’ll have to iron stuff as I need it. Well, something has to go, even for an obsessively busy person. And ironing still hurts the Fourth Thoracic I fractured a couple of years ago; so it’s no bad thing to do a piece or two at a time.
Friday morning I got up early to finish getting ready to come away. Bill still hadn’t packed his case: so I left him doing that while I went to do the tills at the Black Ladd to help Amie out. When I got home we packed the car and hit the road. We called at the bank in Oldham en route and were heading out of Oldham towards Ceredigion by midday. It was a four and a quarter hour drive to Cardigan Bay, and the little cottage we have rented for a fortnight. Thank heaven for satnav; we found it without a problem. We stopped about half way for a sandwich: a fat, doorstop of a cheese sandwich; so it was 5.00 p.m. before we got to the cottage. We had a brew, unpacked and convinced our heads they weren’t still travelling. Then we travelled some more, into Aberaeron to an Indian take-away for our evening meal. A bottle of Sauvingon Blanc to wash it down and we were ready for bed by ten o’clock.
Saturday morning I was up at 6.00, doing the ‘Flow’ puzzle, obviously: day 632! Then I was at the dining table wading in on the reading pile. I’ve promised myself two hours work every day while I’m here, mostly before breakfast so I’ll still have the day to holiday. But if I need to work during the day I can: Bill is very supportive and quite happy to read his Kindle in the garden while I work.
So that’s it: another busy week; a week closer to completion. On the poetry front, it was our Poetry Society Stanza on Tuesday evening. Due to the holiday season, our numbers were down again: only four of us. We took poems on the theme ‘Tradition’ we’ve written for the Stanza poetry competition: https://poetrysociety.org.uk/membership/poetry-society-stanzas/competition/
The closing date is a week tomorrow. There were some brilliant poems on Tuesday evening, so I hope we all do submit. I’ll be putting finishing touches to mine this week and it’ll be winging its way electronically to the judge, the wonderful poet, Penelope Shuttle.
Friday would have been my mum’s 102nd birthday. I’m going to include a poem about her this week; difficult to choose because most of my poems at the moment are about her, one way or another. This is a poem I wrote in recognition that she wasn’t just my mum, she was a woman in her own right, with her own ambitions and desires. It was hard being an intelligent woman when I was a child: you were socially programmed to be a wife and mother; other ambitions were thwarted. When she was a young woman it was a competitive market to get into any profession: she entered nursing, but she had to give it up to look after her own mother in her last illness: the lot of the eldest daughter. And women were usually disqualified from work in many professions as soon as they married, so returning to nursing wasn’t an option. It was a bit like Gilead really. A woman’s job was to produce the next generation, particularly male children, and rear them as responsible young people, able to take their place in the social hierarchy. Mum hated it: she had nine children altogether and only one of us had tried hard enough to be a boy. This poem is my realisation of how hard domesticity was for her.
The Bat And Not The Ball
what if being loveless was protection
a carapace a breastplate a firewall
not disappointment at a missing member
not a statement about lack of love at all
for years it hurt to see you couldn’t see me
like the worn out pushchair waiting in the hall
I sulked because you tried hard not to know me
while you were as strange to me as Senegal
and what if I didn’t notice all you wanted
was for once to be the bat and not the ball
and consider this what if chopping onions
turns out more rewarding than a smile