One step forward…

Oh, I’ve been standing up to that thesis bully this week, but I haven’t defeated it yet. It’s a cousin of the creature from the abyss. I’ve worked so hard on it, only to find I have 2500 words to lose; or not, depending on the mood my word-count is in. It gives me differing counts, even when I haven’t changed anything. But I think I do need to précis a bit. I’ve already moved some less relevant, but interesting, text into footnotes, but a 2500 word footnote may be taking the **** a bit, don’t you think?

On Sunday I put all the carved-up body parts of my thesis back together with their new sub-headings, making sure the text flowed now they were reordered. I printed off a copy—I find it much more comfortable, and accurate, to read from paper—and started the long process of reading it through to make sure it flowed as a piece. I worked for five hours and was about half way through the reading at the end of the day.

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Rosie Parker likes to help when I’m working

Monday was taken up with a hospital visit with Amie that lasted most of the day—we got there early for her appointment, the clinic was running an hour late and then we had to wait again for her blood tests. Good news at the end of it all though, so that’s OK. We got back to Oldham after 4.00 and I went to put in a couple of hours at the Black Ladd, working on the books. I didn’t get it finished, but I did the important bits, like the wages and invoices that needed paying. Bill came at 6.00 and we had our evening meal there so I didn’t have to cook when I got home. I determined to go back the next day to finish off.

On Tuesday I had to go to the pharmacy in Uppermill to pick up some outstanding pills on my latest prescription. These are the corticosteroid, Prednisolone, I need for the Polymyalgia Rheumatica that returned with a vengeance in the autumn. The meds control the inflammation and its accompanying muscle pain and debilitating stiffness. When I called to fulfil the prescription after my latest doctor check-up I was given some, but not all: they didn’t have them in stock. When I called on Tuesday, they still didn’t have them in stock. The suppliers are rationing pharmacies to one box a day—that’s about a week’s worth of the drug in my case. My prescription was asking for six boxes. The pharmacist was apologetic: it’s all down to Brexit. Drug companies are stockpiling in case we run out post-Brexit. Now, I know Polymyalgia isn’t life-threatening, but it is ‘quality-of-life threatening’. Friends I know who have life-threatening conditions like asthma, epilepsy, diabetes are also having difficulties getting the meds they need. How can this be right? How can we keep honouring a dishonourable referendum in order to break the country and put people’s lives at risk. This is madness on a national scale. I despair for my country. Don’t get me started!

I’ll get back to the safer ground of PhD, thesis, poetry. When I got back from Uppermill I started work. I finished reading and editing the reorganised thesis to make sure it made sense. I was done by lunchtime. After lunch I went back to the Black Ladd to finish the books. I hadn’t got them finished last week, so I was determined to catch up this week. I worked until about 4.30, all done. So that’s one job I can strike of my list.

Wednesday I gave the thesis a rest: thinking time!
I worked instead on the online entries for the Poets&Players competition: https://poetsandplayers.co/competition/competition-2019/The closing date is this Wednesday, 13thMarch at midnight, so if you were thinking of sending me some work, you still have time. I’ve been processing the entries into my spreadsheet in bed at the end of each day, but I need to be by the printer to print them off, code them and add them to the pile. It was the printing I did on Wednesday. But it’s a job that’s never done. You get it up to date and then some more come in. I’m not complaining, I love it that so many people enter our competition. But I do wish people would read the rules, and believe we mean to adhere to them: a piece of good advice for anyone entering a competition. It took me most of Wednesday to bring them up to date. And since then I have lots more to print off.

On Thursday I went into Manchester with Hilary for the third People’s Poetry Lecture, inaugurated by Carol Ann Duffy during her Laureateship. This one was delivered by Andrew McMillan and the subject was the poetry of Thom Gunn. I think Andrew is best placed to write the biography of this great poet, who has been largely ignored by the British establishment. He did the unforgivable and relocated to California after his Cambridge University days, where he was a contemporary of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Andrew has been to visit his home in California, met his life partner, seen the archive of his letters and papers. I look forward to the biography, which I’m convinced he should write. The lecture was wonderful and it reminded me how much I like Thom Gunn’s poetry. I want to go back and read him all over again now; when the thesis has been put to rest. It was good to see so many poetry friends there too; although the purpose of these lectures is that they are pitched at poets and non-poets alike. They are interesting and accessible, so when the new series starts in the Autumn—and I’ll keep you posted—why not come along? You might find you love poetry as much as I do.

I was back at my desk on Saturday, working on the thesis again. When I read it through earlier in the week, I realised I had an imbalance between my two featured poets, Pascale Petit and Selima Hill. I knew when I was first analysing Selima’s work I had more than I’d included: I had concentrated on the section about her use of the fetish and needed to see where she fits into the mask/mirror argument. So I went back to that original document, and of course there was lots in that to fulfil the brief. So I spent a happy day cutting and pasting work into the thesis, and editing it to make sure it fitted its space. I’m still not sure about it. I need to read it through again, edit, redraft, delete if necessary. But that’s what had put the word count 2500 words above my 20000 word limit. Funny, twenty thousand words seemed like a mountain to climb when I started; now I’m talking about cutting it down to size. Ho hum.

The other good news from this week is that I’ve been shortlisted in a rather nice poetry competition myself. I can’t say too much about it yet, but it involves a very young poem I wrote for Liz Berry’s workshop in Birmingham in February. It was a last-minute send. There’s still a long way to go, but watch this space.

A poem: I paid the balance on my hotel room in St. Ives. I’m going to Kim Moore’s poetry week again in April. Although last year we packed our bags in wintry Manchester and travelled to warm spring in St. Ives, so the clothes I packed were excessive. I had to buy tee-shirts. Last year they also changed the chef, who wasn’t nearly as good as he thought he was. I wasn’t feeling too well while I was there, a noro-virus before I went that I wasn’t entirely over. So I wasn’t ready for the poached egg that decorated every vegetarian meal. My favourite was ‘ouefs meurette’, a swimmy concoction of vegetable bourguignon—with the inevitable poached egg. It still makes me queasy to think of it. By Wednesday I was asking for just a bowl of chips for my evening meal.  I wrote this poem on the train on the way home, turned it into an alternative mother in the redraft. It’s tongue-in-cheek; poetry is allowed to exaggerate! This all sounds as if I had a bad week, I didn’t, I was poorly. It was a wonderful week and I’m really looking forward to going again  in April. The hotel is basic, but comfortable, my room has a sea view. I love it; I wrote this when I was in a bad place, when food was low on my list of needs!

Alternative Mother #16

 Fawlty Towers

First up
your stairs are steep, your beds hard,
your pipes noisy, your showers cold,
your central heating thermostat so out of control
the clothes I packed in Manchester are sweat blankets.

And while we’re at it
your chef can’t cook.
Your porridge lumps could be amputated fingers,
your soup’s cold, your carrots so undercooked
they carry poignant memories of the garden.

And how could you even think it was a good idea
to have him sit half-poached eggs and mushrooms
on soggy toast in a pond of bourguignon sauce,
call it ouefs meurette
hoping I won’t notice it’s really
this morning’s left-over vegetarian breakfast
with gravy?

You’re clueless.
You tell people he’s got a Michelin Star
but you and I both know how he found it
on the greasy floor in Kwikfit.

Rachel Davies
April 2018

 

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