Coddiwompling towards PhD

Happy New Year. May 2019 bring you everything you wish for yourself, but particularly peace, health and happiness. And success.
Oh yes, please may it bring success.

I learned two new things this week. The first is a new word: coddiwomple.

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It’s a verb. My nephew Gareth posted this photo on Facebook early in the week. I recognised coddiwompling as the thing I’m doing with PhD: I’m coddiwompling towards my PhD’s ‘as-yet-unkown destination’. I’ve been coddiwompling for about four years now. The route is becoming clearer, but the destination remains a mystery until after the final assessment.

I’ve been coddiwompling like mad this week. Hilary Robinson, bless her cotton socks, sent me annotated feedback on the thesis she’s been reading. It was good, positive feedback; but the other new thing I learned came in her feedback. Am I the only one who didn’t know that the em dash has its own protocol in the MHRA style guide? I’d used the em dash as parentheses in several places—without a gap either side, like this. Hilary pointed out that MHRA insists on a gap either side of the em dash — like this. I’ve been using the style guide for referencing; but I didn’t check my em dashes. Now I suppose I ought to go through the style guide to see if there are any more hidden gems. It’s sad to think you can write a fantastic thesis but fail your final assessment because you miss a comma from a footnote; or get one book out of alphabetical order in your bibliography; or deny your em dashes their rightful space. This is how you need friends, to point you in the right direction. Thank you Hilary, my lovely friend.

I think I’ve finished the latest redraft and edit of the thesis. I promised my Director of Studies he’d have it in the New Year; and he will. But I need to big up my courage to press ‘send’. I always want one more check. I think I’ll be sending it off later today; after a final check of the MHRA style guide to make sure there are no more surprises. I have to say, I’m quietly pleased with the piece of work now. I’ve rearranged it, tidied it up, given it an introduction and a conclusion, put the poems together with it at the end of the critical work. It’s the closest it’s been to ready. I read it in bed last night and I think…yup, it’s going off later today. I still have four months before deadline, four months until I have to submit, so there’s still time to do some last minute edits after I’ve met with DoS.

I made a major change to my life on New Year’s Eve. The pain and stiffness that has been plaguing me since the summer was unbearable when I got out of bed on Monday; I walked downstairs like a ninety-three-year-old. Fed up, I made an emergency appointment to see my GP. He ordered blood tests for evidence of a return of the Polymyalgia Rheumatica that I thought I’d beaten when I took my last cortico-steroid in April, after taking them for four and a half years. He prescribed Prednisolone in the interim, pending results of the bloods. Prednisolone isn’t just the treatment for PMR, it’s the most reliable diagnositic. Independent of the results of the blood tests, if Prednisolone works, the problem is PMR; if it doesn’t, it’s something else. I took the first dose when I got home, and I can report that after just one dose, the next day, the first of 2019, I was feeling unbelievably improved. I felt as if I’d been oiled. Yup, Polly is back. This is a strange disease. It affects about 20% of the population. The cause is unknown. It usually clears up after eighteen months to two years. Of the 20% of people — mainly elder women — who suffer, 20% will also get Giant Cell Arteritis, characterised by pain in the temple region of the head. Untreated, GCA can lead to permanent loss of sight. I was one of the lucky 4% who get GCA. And now it seems I’m possibly one of the very small percentage who have to live with PMR for life. I had a message from my GP to make an appointment following the results of my blood tests, so I’m seeing Doc again tomorrow. I hate Prednisolone; but I love Prednisolone. We have an ambivalent relationship. I think I need to get used to the fact that I could be on low dose Pred for the rest of my life. I must learn to live in harmony with it. BTW, being such a lucky girl, do you suppose I should buy a lottery ticket?

I haven’t made any New Year resolutions this year. My thoughts are all on finishing coddiwompling and attaining a positive destination: PhD. 2019 is starting well, though. Poets&Players has a funding stream, so I’ll be meeting with the team on Tuesday of this week to plan our full programme for 2019-20. And I heard from Mark Pajak who, with John Fennelly, organises the Carol Ann Duffy and Friends events at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. I’m reading at the event on 14thJanuary, so later today, I’ll be preparing my ten minute set of poems. I’m planning to read some of my ‘alternative mother’ poems: some that are included in Some Mothers Do…;and I’ll try some new ones on the audience. Nothing says Happy New Year like a shot of poetry.

That’s it then, I’m starting 2019 on a high despite having to be best friends with Prednisolone. I hope you all have the best year possible.

A poem: this one came from the Carousel in December: Greta Stoddart’s workshop about line breaks. She gave us the task of writing a nine line poem, gave us the nine words that should form the end word of each line. This is the poem I came up with within those pararmeters. I can’t testify to the fact that the end words are all exactly the same as the ones she gave us, but mostly they really are. I may have changed one or two in the best interests of the poem. It’s earning its place within one sequence in the PhD collection, so rules, like lines, must be broken.

 

Breaking the Line

The blood red sky
sheds tears. Fresh milk
curdles. Now I know

my heartbroken father
left the house with
chisel, mallet—after dark

he’s out there hammering
like a minor god. Grief begins
to surface from the cold stone.

 

Rachel Davies
December 2018

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