A Dream of Pulling Teeth

I had to re-register for my final year of the PhD this week. I tried to do it from home, but I needed my password; and of course, MacBook remembers the password for me so I don’t have to. This is an example of ‘pharmakon’: the thing that contains in it both benefit and harm. In remembering the password for me, MacBook allows me to forget it. Which is wonderful until I need to remember it, then it’s a bummer. I tried to change the password so I could re-register, but no could do. So on Tuesday, when I went into MMU library I called at the student hub for assistance. They changed the password to something easy so I could access my account and when I got in and registered for next year, I changed the password to something I could remember. MacBook remembered it. I’ve forgotten it already!

It’s been a long week. I’ve got lots done. I’ve been so, so tired! On Sunday I finished the job of editing my thesis. I finished the ‘red pen’ reading and then edited the errors out on screen. It took all day. One thing I noticed, a nit-picking thing, was my inconsistency in inserting footnotes: the number should come after punctuation in the text. So many times I’d put in the number before the full stop. Talk about needles and haystacks! I noticed some more yesterday after the editing was complete: the Forth Road Bridge of edits.

I was back doing the books at the Black Ladd on Monday. Holidays are wonderful but there’s no-one to do your work for you while you’re away, so I had three week’s worth of invoices to process. Amie pays them all when I’m on holiday but they still have to be input into the Sage software. It took all day to do everything, and still the bank statements to reconcile. I left them for next week. By 6.00 my brain was fried.

On Tuesday I went to the MMU library. I returned all the books I took on holiday and checked a couple of references I hadn’t made a complete note of. And I found the Jacques Derrida book I needed. Oh my! Philosophy eh? Once upon a time, I used to love grappling with pure thought, but I think the brain isn’t as agile as it used to be. He’s slightly more accessible than Jacques Lacan, but it’s a contest! I was there to check out ‘pharmakon’: see the first paragraph, above. I think I get the gist. I’m glad I didn’t have to read the book from cover to cover; one chapter was plenty. While I was in the library I completed my registration for next year. Registration required the completion of a questionnaire: personal details etc., but also details of support for employment. I don’t want employment, I’m very happy in my retirement, and in being a full-time poet. After the sixth slightly different question about the kind of job I saw myself doing post-study I simply wrote ‘I’ll be lying on a sunbed reading rubbish; it will probably involve wine.’ After answering ‘retired’ in the first question, shouldn’t there have been an option to go straight to question 32? Bureaucracy! But I am registered for the final year. That sounds so good I’m going to write it again, in upper case: THE FINAL YEAR! By May, all this pain will be over. I’ll miss it when it’s done, I’ve learned so much about the nature of study, about myself, about mothers and daughters—about the ‘pharmakon’, obviously. But it’s been, as it should be, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and I’ll be glad when it’s behind me. Sun beds, rubbish reading, wine and poetry beckons.

On Wednesday I went with Amie to Peterborough to visit a friend. We went for lunch in Carluccio’s. We hoped to meet up with Richard as well while we were there, but he had a parents’ evening at school so he was working late. I’d better mention Michael or I’ll get an earful of sibling rivalry when he reads this! He doesn’t live anywhere near Peterborough so unfortunately meeting him wasn’t an option. We called to see my sister in Stamford on the way home. She retired in May having worked for a couple of years beyond retirement age. She looks well and happy. She’s enjoying retirement so much she wishes she’d done it years ago! I always say retirement’s the best job I’ve ever had. We’re both fortunate in decent pensions though, that helps.

Thursday we had to take the cat to the vet for his annual health check and vaccinations. Cats are canny creatures: as soon as he saw the pet carrier he hid himself away. As long as he was contained in the lounge it wasn’t too bad: behind the settee, under the side tables, nothing too daunting there; although how he managed to squeeze himself between those two magazine racks on the bookshelf is a mystery. But as soon as the door was opened he made good his escape and hid behind the desk in the study, in the loft space under some shelves. That was clever: he needed serious coaxing to get him out of there. We tried putting him in forwards, backwards, any way imaginable; but he’s such a strong cat: 10kg of pure muscle and he beat us. I was just about to ring the vet to cancel when Jimbo gave up and walked in under his own steam. When we got back from the vet I put a scratching board with catnip in the carrier and left it in the lounge as a cat cave. He’s spent most of the weekend in there. I wonder if it’ll be easier to get him in next time I need to take him to the vet?

Saturday I was back at my desk again. I went through the thesis print-out seeing where I could lose some words. So far I have 22400 of the 20000 I need for completion. Given that I still have to write a conclusion, you can see my problem. So I’m looking for economies, as they say in business when they want to sack someone. I’m looking for words to lose. Précis isn’t going to cut it, so I’m going to be looking for passages of text that are surplus to requirements today. That’s hard. It’s all there because it fits the bill. I’ll have to be the axe-woman. I’ll have to have a psychopathic ruthlessness and cut, cut, cut. By the end of the day I want to send what I have to The Team for discussion. There might be a glass of wine in it tonight, if I achieve what I’m hoping to.

On the poetry front, we have a preview of the cover of our joint pamphlet, Some Mothers Do…It’s lovely, a bit of edgy, modern art on a stunning blue-green background. I heard from Kim Moore with the jacket blurb early in the week; it’s very positive and uplifting; thank you Kim. It’s there on the back cover along with Helen Mort’s blurb for Hilary and space for Tonia’s, which isn’t in yet. This is getting real, and exciting. We are planning our launch now. We will probably be launching in Manchester at the beginning of November; there could be a Cheshire launch in Chester; and Amie has kindly offered the Black Ladd for a local Saddleworth launch so that’ll be good. I still need to discuss this with the other poets involved.

So, a poem: this is a poem I wrote some time ago to a writing exercise. It’s an ekphrastic poem; that is to say it took its stimulus from three separate paintings. I can’t remember what they were, I have a visual memory of the paintings, but can’t remember artists or titles, I’m afraid. But the poem is so whacky I don’t think it matters. The last line is a reference to Freud’s dream analysis: he linked a woman’s dream of pulling her teeth out with giving birth, particularly to boy children, I believe. I know, don’t ask! I’ve decided to use that last line as a title for the collection: ‘A Dream of Pulling Teeth’. What do you think? I’m rubbish at titles so I’m open to changing my mind.


The goat herd, brought here
by the old nanny, found me.

He said I floated downstream for days
with only the black mouser always ready
to jump ship, Time crawling in our wake.

An ancient prophecy says leave your girls
without protection or breast, a daughter
will be the death of a mother.

I like to think she lay awake nights
wondering where I washed up

but really I suppose she slept happily
dreaming of pulling all her teeth out.


Rachel Davies

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