Of Friesian cows and pilchards

Yesterday we had a cow in our back garden; a lovely, healthy young Friesian cow, chewing on our border plants. Well, you don’t see that everyday. The joys of living in the countryside, eh? Bill asked around the neighbours and we found the cow’s owner and the story ended well. It’s been that kind of week: different, but on the whole, ending well.

I got the results of the shoulder x-ray this week: wear and tear in the joint—no surprise there then—and some signs of ‘shoulder impingement’, which if I understand it correctly, means the rotator cuff tendon is being trapped by the bones, restricting movement and causing pain in shoulders, arms and hands. My GP is sending me for an ultrasound scan this week to determine if there’s damage to the soft tissue of the shoulder before I present for physiotherapy at the end of November. Meanwhile, I keep taking the co-codamol, which helps. I suppose a hundred years ago it would have been diagnosed as ‘rheumatism’ and put down to ageing; that is if I could have afforded to consult a doctor a hundred years ago. Our NHS is wonderful. We should be fighting to protect it.

Our lovely poetry collection, Some Mothers Do…, has gone to print; yes, it’s being printed as I write. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy! The author interview by Hilary and me was posted on the Ink Pantry website this week. It includes a touching tribute to the late Tonia Bevins, our Dragon Spawn triplet, by her friends Angi Holden and Angela Topping, who have been acting on her behalf in the editing process and will be reading her work at the launches. You can read the Ink Pantry piece here: http://www.inkpantry.com/inky-interview-exclusive-hilary-robinson-rachel-davies-a-loving-tribute-to-tonia-bevins/ Hilary also sent details of the Black Ladd launch of Some Mothers Do…to the local magazine, Saddleworth Life, and that’s available on their website. You can see it, with details of both launch events, here: http://www.saddleworthlife.com/exciting-times-for-newly-published-poets/ The Saddleworth Life article has already brought an invitation for us to be included in the Saddleworth Literature Festival on April 6thand 7thnext year; however we’re travelling to St. Ives on April 7thfor Kim Moore’s wonderful poetry week—with Amanda Dalton—at Treloyan Manor, so we don’t know if we’ll be available to fit in with the organisers plans. Details of Kim’s course are here: https://kimmoorepoet.wordpress.com/residential-poetry-courses/st-ives-residential-poetry-course/ A second invitation, to read for a local community group, Love Lydgate, will be easier to negotiate for suitable dates. I love my poet’s life, and it’s getting more exciting by the day!

But this blog is about ‘Poetry, PhD and Life’, so what of the ‘PhD’ bit? Well, I had my team meeting this week, on Wednesday. I dragged my aching body along Oxford Road to All Saints campus to discuss my latest draft of the thesis. It was such a positive meeting, I came away with a spring in my step, skipped my aching body all the way to a Costa close to the tram stop at St. Peter’s Square and treated myself to a bite to eat and a cappuccino. I still have a deal of work to do on the thesis, but feedback was positive and I feel, if not exactly on the home straight, at least as if I’m coming round the final bend. Antony was talking of early submission; I’m not convinced that’s on the cards. However, I do have another annotated version to work on, which, having read it, seems doable: I need to develop the introduction and conclusion, which I knew already; and they’ve suggested I develop a short input I’ve made about Carol Ann Duffy’s poems concerning mother/daughterhood. This won’t be a hardship: our Poet Laureate has been a poetry hero of mine since I discovered her work when I was doing an OU degree at the turn of this century. She was one of the reasons I chose MMU for my MA: imagine having a personal hero as a poetry tutor! I was already way over the 20,000 word count; so I’ve been advised to cut some bulk that strays away from the mother/daughter theme, and really focus the writing.

Yesterday was my first chance to sit down and work on it. I’ve cut huge passages, which I’ve saved in an ‘out-takes’ file: I never bin anything. I may use parts of it to emphasise/illustrate points. I’ve printed a copy so that I can give it the red-pen treatment to show where I need to pinpoint the mother/daughter focus. I’ve organised a plan of action for analysing Carol Ann Duffy’s poems relating to the mother/daughter theme; and I’ve sorted out all the relevant books I need. I spent ten or fifteen minutes searching my shelves for Duffy’s Selected Poems yesterday and couldn’t find it. I thought perhaps I’d been mistaken and hadn’t bought a copy at all. But when I looked at the pile beside my bed last night, there it was in the middle of the pile! It must have been in my hand all the time I was searching! Seriously, I need to take a holiday!

On Wednesday evening we went to Manchester Cathedral: Hilary, me and our partners. We had an early meal in Salvi’s on Exchange Square—their Gorgonzola cheese is the best in the whole wide world!—then took our seats in the Cathedral for a wonderful performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V. Antic Disposition are touring it around several Cathedrals, details here: https://www.anticdisposition.co.uk/henry-v-2018.html If it’s coming to a Cathedral near you, I recommend it. The performances are a commemoration of the centenary of the end of WW1. Henry V is performed as a ‘play within a play’: it’s set in a field hospital behind the Western Front, where the recovering inmates are putting on the play to entertain themselves. There are subtle places in the play where the Western Front insinuates itself into the play. It is a beautiful concept, very well performed. What a lovely evening. If you have chance to see it, don’t miss it. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

Lastly, I need to tell you that my son Michael rang me for a chat in the week; and on Friday I met my friend Joan for our monthly catch-up over dinner. I’m telling you this only because they both value a mention!

I’m giving you a poem this week that’s included in Some Mothers Do…I wrote it on Kim Moore’s poetry residential in St. Ives in 2014. While I was there, my daughter was undergoing surgery for the removal of the melanoma on her right shin. It was a worrying time, as you can surmise from this poem. The weather was lovely the week of the course, unseasonably warm for the time of year. On the Thursday, a couple of days before Halloween, Kim sent course members out—on the only wet day of the week—to find a poem in the town—‘and don’t come back till you’ve found one’. This is the poem I ‘found’. I’ve always loved it, because I love St. Ives; and because I know the story behind the poem. I’m glad it’s going to find its space in the book.


To St Ives a Love Poem
Halloween 2014

 Even though November is a black dog sitting at your feet
and your beaches lay crushed under the weight of mist

and your shoreline roars at the passing of summer
and your white horses rise on their hind legs

till your fishing boats get seasick; even though your trees
shed tears like baubles and your shops drip gifts like rain

and your cobbled streets and narrow alleys wind
around me like a clock and your posters announce

Fair Wednesday as if all other days are cheats
and your bistros display fish with eyes wide as heaven

scared as hell, and your railway bridge yells
do what makes you happy and it feels like a tall order;

even though your choughs are impatient for pilchard
your huers won’t see today from the Baulking House

still you open your arms and kiss my cheeks in welcome.

Rachel Davies
October 2014

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