Thursday, 15 November 2018

I Comfort Myself

Forms of comfort are required on a day for needing comfort - a day of resignations, resignation and a sense of toppling into need. I've been holding out, but today, on the way home, the need for fish pie, peas and a good glass of Chenin Blanc came over me like a retreat.

Brexit is in the air like the smell of broken drains, lingers above and around other chaos, and I care about this and about the people who are unwell - so many loves -  and I am wanting to go back to my head in my European mother's lap, to lying down on the sofa with my head in her lap whilst she strokes my hair.

Back to the child in me, then - and I need to be held whilst the world rocks, burns, plays with fire and what it does not understand. My mother is dead and Europe is breaking. And meanwhile a girl that I know is thought to be beyond rescue.

Oh but what can I do to save this! Nothing. Not one thing. And I have tried - eeking myself out across weeks, marching on Parliament like I could make a difference and rocking up each day to an office growing slowly unfinished.

Don't look for sense here. I've eaten it already - fish pie, peas and a good glass of Chenin Blanc, then a bath up to its bubbles and my warm bed.

Monday, 22 October 2018

I March With 700,000

I tried out a virtual reality headset at work today. There was a reason for this, but it would take too long to explain. For a brief moment, though I didn't know what to do with the controls, I was in some sort of game inside a shark cage. A Great White swam overhead. Though I knew it wasn't real, this was frightening.

On Saturday, I went with my longest-serving friend Helen and her brother Richard (who'd flown in from his home in Poland) to march from Park Lane to Westminster to demand, very politely as it turned out, a vote on the final Brexit deal. It was a fine day: the skies were a deep blue - the colour of Europe, the sun a yellow star. Our freedom of movement was limited by the sheer number of people who'd turned out.

Not much about Brexit seems real yet, except the menace of it. It's felt like a game at times - with two sides (not in their usual opposition ranks) arguing with each other, running around in circles, caged by what's called over and over again a democratic process - one which no one seems to have understood fully: a process set in motion for a reason that's hard to remember. The sharks (Farage, Johnson et al) swim overhead from time to time, free to go where they please.

I'm not really the marching type. On Saturday, there were thousands who were much better at it than me: better dressed in flags and EU make up; better at chanting, blowing whistles, banging saucepan lids; better organised with witty placards and banners. These thousands 'incorporated' us - took us into the body of their passion and fervour - let us out for a cup of tea half way - took us back in to their sense of hope.

And this is the reality I came away with: not so much the expectation that the march will influence the political process, but a sense of relief at the good-natured, good-humoured determination shown by so many who stood up and shuffled along for what they believe in, and who will go on being European whatever the so-called 'deal'.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

I Topple Over

Bringing into mind the circumstances of my fall yesterday, I think 'over' is the most accurate preposition to use in my blog title about the event. This is because, when I hit the kerb [it was dark, I was riding my bike, the kerb leapt out into the road unseen at a jaunty angle] I went sideways but remained almost bike-bound.  I grazed my left knee and hand. If I'd toppled 'off' or 'from', I might have received a more symmetrical pattern of injuries.

All in all, I felt lucky. I got upward a second after I'd hit the pavement, and cycled away, composing within my helmeted head a letter against the Council about a) the kerb design and b) poor / defunct street lighting. 

When I texted Mike, a more seasoned cyclist, concerning my fall, he replied: "You'll learn how to jump off the bike eventually with poise and alacrity. Even in an emergency." This cheered me amongst my wounded pride and bruises. Not only had he used more customary prepositions, I like the words 'poise' and 'alacrity' even though I hadn't, up until then, thought of including them during my letter to the Council. 

My new bike seems to have come with a free side helping of righteous indignation about poorly planned and / or absent cycle lanes within the beautiful town of Shrewsbury.  I cannot ride towards the railway station from my home [1/4 mile] without a) riding amongst a pavement, b) riding the wrong way through a bus lane, c) riding the whole way throughout the one-way system (a mile or more - more!) or d) walking, and pushing my bike beside me. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

I Print Off My Poems

I have just printed off my sequence Seven Days in New York City. It takes about 20 minutes to read out loud and I have a 20 minute reading tomorrow, in Bristol, here:

I will be reading alongside my Bristol friend Paul Deaton, who is a thoughtful and sensitive poet of lovely images and moments. My Bristol Niece will be there and Bristol Liz, who is one of the Durham Liz's, (or should that be Lizes?).  I haven't been to Bristol for 2 years, since my lovely Bristol Niece's wedding.

I have to rush down after teaching year 2 on Wednesday and rush back on Thursday morning to teach year 1 in the afternoon, otherwise I'd have liked to have hung out in Bristol a bit, put to rest some memories, pop down to see my adoptive mother in Somerset and read her my latest poems about violas and Viennese whirls.


Sunday, 30 September 2018

I Reflect On Loss

In the October week before my mother died, my father asked me to take him to East Ham. He'd been a curate there in the early 1950s, before he met her.

He said he wanted to remind himself that he could live without her.

This morning, I'm listening to the Brandenburg Concertos on the day before my youngest son leaves for university. These are the first LPs I owned, given to me when I was 10  or 11 by my father and mother on the occasion of my confirmation, at my request. My parents had other recordings of the music, but I wanted my own.

Year after my father died, my stepmother, with whom he enjoyed some very happy years after my mother's death, gave me a book of poetry.  It was inscribed by my father to a woman he had loved whilst living in East Ham, who had returned the book to him.

I'm not sure where I've put the little silver cross also given to me by my parents when I was confirmed, and I have not known what to do with this book of poems. It's in a box somewhere in my attic - ah, now there's a metaphor!

The hours we spent in East Ham were strange - my father had never taken me before, although he'd mentioned this part of his life because he needed to explain why he supported West Ham FC.

The feelings I felt on reading the inscription in the book of poems, Palgrave's Golden Treasury, were something about loss, and the way it's wrapped up in the way we hide ourselves from each other, and how this hiding is often necessary.

This morning, I am listening to the Brandenburg Concertos on the day before my youngest son leaves for university to read music. Over the past forty years of listening, my favourite has shifted from no.4 to 6.

Later, I'll tell my son that I love him, and that I'm glad he's got the confidence to go to university to study the subject for which he has an extraordinary passion.

Monday, 24 September 2018

I Cook WIth Apples

I am currently tree-less and so a colleague's gift of a bag of cooking apples was especially welcome. For her, they represent excess - for me, an invitation to abandon.

When boxes of apples are left out, free to passersby (and with spare bags kindly provided), you know that goodwill is close at hand.

I carried the apple bag on my lap on the train on the way home, the smell of garden and autumn liberating my journey. When I got back, I went out for an unnecessary bike ride in the chill of the late evening sun.

Of all the fruits that are for cooking, apples are my favourite. This is why:
  • Core one, preferably a Bramley, score a line around its girth, stuff the centre with dates, crystalised ginger, sultanas and cinnamon, sit in a shallow dish with water and a sprinkle of demerara sugar, and bake at 180 degrees till it has spread its middle to a fluffy, pale confection. Serve with custard as my mother used to.
  • Peel and core three or four, slice and sprinkle with cinnamon, set in a dish with a dash of water, cover with crumble mix (oats, SR flour, demerara sugar, butter, ginger) bake at 180 degrees till the apple is soft. Eat with crème fraiche in the dark looking out at the moon, and then cold, for breakfast.
  • Peel one large apple, chop into small pieces, mix with SR flour, demerara sugar, sultanas, an egg, milk, butter, cinnamon, bake at 180 degrees. Leave on the side with a note for your son who's out with friends. APPLE CAKE - eat me.
  • Peel and core one large apple to stew and eat with a pork chop. Unless you're vegetarian. In which case, sprinkle with sugar, and eat from the pan with a wooden spoon.
  • Peel and core the rest until you reach the end of the bag. Cut the good pieces out of the one that is going brown. Stew the lot with a handful of sultanas and chopped dates. Cool, and keep in the fridge and when you dollop a spoonful onto your morning porridge, the heat of the porridge will warm the apple, making the whole just right, as if you were Baby Bear herself.
What a gift, the apple. What a temptation to joy and pleasure. How obvious to pick them or rescue the windfalls from the ground. What a generous and comfortable liberty. 

Friday, 14 September 2018

I Believe In Myself

For those of you who don't know Shrewsbury,
this is an artist's impression of Wyle Cop:


And in this photograph,
notice how people are struggling to walk up the hill.
If it was enlarged we might
see that they are wearing crampons:

And so, as I approached Wyle Cop on my bike this evening I muttered something along the lines of:


My legs didn't pay attention, kept pushing the pedals round,
whilst inside my head all I could hear was this: 


By which stage I'd reached the top.