Daily Archives: November 17, 2019

Tick boxes and paper nautiluses

On Sunday, November 10th 2019 I resubmitted my ‘signed off’ thesis to the University. The ETHoS form proved problematic: the tick-boxes on the form wouldn’t accept ticks electronically. I printed it off, ticked it, signed it, took a photo on my iPad and submitted it with the exit form and the thesis. I also had to submit a copy of the title page and abstract separately, which took time to prepare in line with the University’s preferred style and saved in PDF. Done. My certificate will be with me in weeks. I’d thought to share the morning with some of the final paperwork from the Black Ladd, but it took me all morning to submit the thesis and it’s extras, so the paperwork went on the back burner until Monday. After all, I have all the time in the world now.

On Monday evening I went into Manchester with Hilary Robinson for the latest—the sixth—in the series of People’s Poetry Lectures at the Principal. Moira Egan’s lecture on Marianne Moore was as good as the rest: interesting and engaging. Egan, an American poet who went to the same college as Moore had attended, drew parallels between her life and Moore’s. The lecture was entitled ‘Marianne Moore: not so timorous wee beasties’. Ex-laureate Carol Ann Duffy introduced the evening and she admitted that she had read Moore several times, but never quite understood her; so I felt better then. I don’t know Moore’s work well but she is difficult to get a handle on; except one poem that I love and which Egan included in her lecture: ‘The Paper Nautilus’, which is a wonderful description of a type of octopus and its beautiful egg case . You can find a copy of the poem here:


and here’s a photo I found on wiki-images of the shell, the egg case, of the nautilus:

the paper nautilus, egg case.
The human hand is an indicator of size

It was a lovely evening, although the weather was foul: heavy rain and flooding across the Pennines had kept several people away; and being a Monday evening, perhaps, it wasn’t as well attended as some of the previous lectures. But we met up with several poetry friends, and I’m glad I went. I have the complete set of lecture notes for the series; and CAD announced another proposed series in the near future, so that’s good. I’ll keep you posted when I hear anything definite.

The best thing that happened on Tuesday was that Rosie Parker was discharged from the vets after her recent dental treatment—hurray! She has to go back every four months to make sure her teeth continue to resist the autoimmune attack. ‘Would Rosie let you brush her teeth?’ the dental nurse asked me. Ha! There are days Rosie is disdainful even of a loving stroke! The chances of me getting close to the inside of her mouth with a toothbrush are slim-to-none. So I’m to keep giving her the dental formula biscuits and we’ll keep a close watch on developments.

On Wednesday I heard from Deborah at MMU that the photographed ETHoS form wasn’t acceptable, could I resubmit online? And the title page and abstract needed to be in two separate documents, not the one I’d prepared and submitted. Aaargh! Is there on end to it? But at 3.00 a.m. on Thursday I had an idea of how I could insert ticks into the tick-boxes on the ETHoS form; so I got my MacBook out there and then and tried. Behold! It worked. Actually, it worked better than I expected. My idea was to delete the tick-box wingding and insert an asterisk to denote my tick. But when I deleted the tick-box, an asterisk appeared automatically. So I spent some time making two discrete docs of the title page and abstract and sent it all off again before breakfast. My certificate could be with me by the end of November, I’ve been told.

Yesterday, Saturday, I met Hilary at the Metrolink tramstop at Derker in Oldham and we went into Manchester for the Poetry Business Writing Day at the Manchester Art Gallery. I love these writing days with Peter Sansom, he’s such a lovely man, and possibly ‘the best teacher of creative writing in the country’ according to Sian Hughes in the Gaurdian. He’s certainly one of them: engaging, and well prepared, in a chaotic sort of way. He brings excellent poems as prompts, and he brings biscuits: lots of biscuits! We wrote to prompts in a room disrupted by repairs to the fabric of the building, so we competed with loud drilling and hammering noise; and we were sent out into the gallery to find poems among the works of art. That’s my favourite part of these writing days, which has surprised me, because I’ve always shied away from ekphrasis as a stimulation for poems; but I have several poems in my thesis collection that came from works of art, and I wrote another one yesterday, which I’m quite excited about. I came home with about four poems that might make something of themselves eventually.

I’m cutting it a bit short this week because I have to go into Manchester again later this morning for a meeting of the Poets & Players organising committee at the Whitworth Art Gallery, so I’d better get a schlepp on, as my friend Joan would say. I’ll leave you with an alternative mother poem, I think. She’s one of four ‘alternative mothers’ included this month in the online journal, Writers’ Café: Masks edition. You can read them all, and other poems obviously, here: https://thewriterscafemagazine.wordpress.com/2019/11/09/the-writers-cafe-magazine-issue-17-masks/

The world, meet Cynthia:

Alternative Mother #7

 There are days she doesn’t even leave her bed
except to go to the bathroom.

Last week she binge-watched all eleven series
of Vampire Diaries until she could taste blood.
She looked at me like I was a roast beef dinner
cooked rare.

If she does make it downstairs
she lounges in her D&G leopard-skin onesie
in the Barker and Stonehouse leather recliner
paid for by the sugar daddy. She’s never worked,

thinks she’s Kim Kardashian, the world comes to her.
And the world wouldn’t want to offend her:
she wears a grudge like a body-con.

I don’t remember her ever actually using
the Bugatti touch-sense kettle or the electric Aga
in the kitchen. We mostly eat Domino’s,
McDonalds, take-out from The Great Wall.
She flirts outrageously with the Deliveroo man
who pretends he can’t speak English.

My friends never visit.                    I don’t invite them.

Rachel Davies