My header this week is a line from Jean Sprackland’s poem ‘Crystallography’, in Green Noise (London: Jonathan Cape, 2018). I love this phrase from Jean’s poem, how inanimate objects have a life whose sole purpose is to confound: about which, more later.
I’ve had a lovely week visiting friends and family this week, so work of most kinds has been on the back burner. On Sunday we had our first snow of the winter—thankfully not too much—when I went to Peterborough with my daughter, Amie to visit my son, Richard. We went out for our Christmas meal together, with another friend. We don’t spend money on gifts anymore, things no-one really wants or needs; instead, we spend time together. Time: it’s the best Christmas present ever. On Monday I met a former colleague and friend for tea in the Newbank Nursery in Dobcross. We had the biggest chocolate muffins on the planet. They were enormous, with chunks of chocolate and stuffed full with double cream. On Wednesday I travelled south again to visit my sister in Stamford, Lincs. We swapped presents and had lunch together, then I drove on to Bourne, Lincs to stay overnight with my lovely friends, Jo and Bernard: we worked together in a primary school in Peterborough more years ago than I care to remember. It’s a lot of travelling, but I love this time of year, a time when we commit to visiting friends we don’t see nearly enough throughout the year.
On the domestic front, we’ve been waiting to have our chimney pot replaced since we had the chimney swept back in September. The roofer recommended by the chimney sweep was so busy we had to wait a couple of months for him to fit us in. He was due to come on Tuesday but didn’t make it. We tried to contact him but he didn’t get back to us; not a word. I was angry, Bill was more understanding: he’s a busy man, we’re in a queue etc. I was all up for telling Mr Roofer to stick his chimney pot up his ‘to do’ list and find someone else for the job. What are the chances of that in Christmas week? Anyway, yesterday Bill went out to do some boring B&Q shopping etc and I thought I’d make myself a mocha and watch some escapist rubbish on Netflix. I just settled to my task when a loud noise up the chimney spooked the cats and spooked me. The cats shot upstairs and hid under the futon. That seemed extreme action for a septuagenarian so I listened for a while and it became apparent that someone was on the roof. I went outside to investigate. Three men were removing the chimney pot and replacing it with a jackdaw-proof pot. It’s a long time since a man made my heart skip a beat; yesterday three men managed it remotely from the roof while I was indoors! We didn’t know they were coming, but they had the job done within an hour. We can light the fire now and be warm through the winter. The job’s done; I hope it’s a goodun. The jackdaws were massing like a scene from a Hitchcock movie to check out the new chimney pot. For now they’re confounded. Spring nesting will reveal all.
On the PhD front—sort of—I tried to buy A4 photo frames this week. I wanted two: one for my beautiful PhD certificate and its twin for the graduation photo when it’s taken next July. I found a lovely one in Paperchase; the problem was: only one. The sales assistant checked out the stockroom and no, this was the only one. So I left it. I looked in M&S, W H Smith, Next: no A4 frames at all. I eventually found a pair in Tesco when I did the weekly shop. Why is it so difficult to find an A4 frame—and even more difficult to find a pair?
Poetry: I’m well into processing entries for the Poets & Players Competition 2020. The closing date is 21st January and our judge this year is Sinead Morrisey. You’ll find details here: https://poetsandplayers.co so get your creative muscle toned and send me some work to do. You have four weeks left. Four days after the deadline, on 25th January, we have Jo Shapcott and Kim Moore reading for us at the Whitworth Art Gallery on Oxford Road, Manchester. So come along to that: it’s FREE and it’s wonderful. You can find details of up-coming events at our website, via the link above.
Back to ‘the strong life of the inert’: I woke up at 4.45 this morning, pretty normal for me, and got ready to write my blog. My MacBook had updates to install, so I clicked ‘install now’ thinking it would be a process of a few minutes. Ha! It took an hour to update and another three quarters to install. Nearly two hours is a long time to be twiddling thumbs.
Anyway, that’s it for this week: a slack week for ‘PhD and poetry’, but a very rich one for ‘Life’. I hope you all have a lovely Christmas week, whatever your cultural and religious beliefs. The Christmas message of ‘Peace on Earth, goodwill to all’ seems to have got lost somewhat in the crazy political temperature of the modern world; but perhaps we can all do a little to reinstate it within our own lives: microcosms can build macrocosms. Merry Christmas, and a peaceful and productive New Year to you all.
I’ll leave you with a poem I wrote at a Poets & Players workshop with Steve Ely. Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the shortest day. It’s a downhill roll toward spring now, isn’t it? So it seems appropriate to leave you with a poem about the Greek myth of Persephone and the seasons.
The Patience of Persephone
After ‘A Game of Patience’ by Meredith Frampling
She waits for six months in a year
then waits again for six.
She can’t have what she most desires,
that lost part of herself. Listen!
That’s her rummaging upstairs,
another fruitless search in the loft.
I sense the black king’s impatient
for his alabaster maiden, his ice queen.
From reaping to sowing he thinks he can thaw me
with his red hot pomegranate flesh,
his spiked wine.
He blows on my neck but I don’t melt.
So he waits all over again, from sowing to reaping.
I know it’s time to decide:
the corn’s threshed, the straw’s stacked
but I’ll finish my game.
This card says go — you owe him.
That card says stay — you owe her.
It’s all one to me — it seems like
nothing’s owed to me.
But, sod it,
my patience wears thin!