Thursday, 13 February 2020

I Contemplate Mortality

Of the dissertations I have supervised this year, three have been about death, or aspects of death: palliative care, child bereavement, assisted dying. I have learnt a lot, not least that I am still alive. In the midst of the menopause, I have not always been sure of that.

And when it became apparent that a new acquaintance must have Googled me for publicity purposes, I checked out my on-line life, saw that my website spoke in future terms of things past, updated it for the coming year including information about when and where I'll be performing my poetry (the next time is Monday 17th Feb, Gladstone's Library).

In my internet rummaging, I also found a website which had harvested this information, some of which is true:

Chatting with a friend yesterday about trying to change the world for the better in relation to social justice and the rights of marginalised individuals, I was reminded that I've been alive for quite a long time now. We spoke of the latest change in language - from 'Black and Asian' to 'People of Colour' in some contexts. We talked about how the word 'colour' had been a pejorative not long ago.

Sometimes, I find it hard to keep up, and I see the generation below (my children, park runners, poets, activists) streaming ahead of me. My energy flags, and I see that change is mostly circular. I long for days of solitude with books in a quiet room nearer to the sea.

One of the reasons I can have this dream is that my primary source of income is not Poet.  The above website also fails to mention my bike. Tut.

Yesterday's friendly conversation also turned to Raymond Carver, and his poem, Gravy. If you look Raymond Carver up on the internet you will find that lived ten 'gravy' years before he died aged 50. He had a second second chance at life when he gave up drinking aged 40. It's one of my favourite poems - Carver does what poetry needs to do: achieves a clear truthfulness which eases life, which eases thoughts of death:

"he said to his friends, I'm a lucky man.
I've had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure gravy. And don't forget it."

Saturday, 25 January 2020

I Locate My Marbles

I'd lost my marbles, but now I've found them. It took some thought, the intervention of my son, and a certain deliberateness on my part, but here they are:

I carried a handful of marbles to school each day when I was, oh, 10 or so. My school friends and I used to play Marbles on drain covers.The indentations were the targets, or goals. My favourite marble was the Big Blue - I won it one day, and still can't quite believe my good luck. The white and coloured glass ones, we called chinas.

Now I am a teacher, I don't have time to play marbles. But it was last term when I realised I'd lost my marbles. A colleague invited me to co-teach a session on childhood, and this made me think of the toys I still have from that period, as opposed to the toys I have from this period (bicycle, tent, Trangia Stove, Trangia kettle, Fox, electronic cuckoo clock. If you don't have an electronic cuckoo clock, I recommend getting one. I received one as a Christmas gift, and I was sceptical at first. But this January, I have found an unexpected sort of joy on the hour, every hour of daylight).

When my colleague invited me back to childhood, as it were, I thought about my childhood toys, not having thought about them for a while. And so, I went looking in the attic.

I particularly wanted to find a cardboard chest (an old chocolate box made by Terry's. The company, not my former colleague). I'd stored my marbles in this cardboard chest, which is approaching its 50th year,  ever since that Easter when my Uncle John brought the chocolates to Christ Church Vicarage, Highbury Grove, London N5, Canonbury 4544.  This was the only box of chocolates I've ever seen which had three layers. I waited till it was emptied - one chocolate per family member per day, plus a few guests - to put my marbles in it, of course.

It was something of a metaphor, that search in the attic for a treasure chest. It wasn't in the attic, like so much of my past, but, thanks to my son, I found it at last.

It turned out it was somewhere else, still filled with treasure.

Monday, 30 December 2019

I Deactivate My Facebook Account

I am about to say farewell - for six months at least, and probably twelve if I have the courage - to my Facebook account. It's been a blast, and I've enjoyed the playtime with y'all and at its best, it's provided the much-enjoyed warmth and wit of human contact, but I've noticed that the habit of reading I've developed in the past couple of years is, well, excessively casual. I want to get back to it: to get further in to sustained reading.

Something about Facebook appeases my preference for the quick fix rather than the long haul. It's like (how can I put it?) going for a milkshake rather than taking time out to cook the perfect risotto.

I want to get back into some sustained writing too, and I received the perfect gifts for this purpose at Christmas:

A. A long, warm cardigan
B. A book writing kit:

So this blog serves three purposes:

ONE - I find that if I commit to something in public that I don't find easy but know will benefit me (like doing the Parkrun) I am much more likely to do it - so here I am, making a pact with myself to deactivate my FB account at the very end of 2019 in as public a way as seems appropriate. 

TWO - If you have enjoyed reading I Buy A New Washer via the Facebook link, this is to let you know you can become a blog follower by filling your email into the 'follow by email' box. 

THREE - Well, here's hoping that the third purpose will make itself clear in 2020.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

I Get Breakfast Done

I got breakfast done by 6.35am today.  I got my train journey to work done by 7.50am and I got my first email done by 8.05am. If my computer booted up more swiftly I would have been able to get that email done by 8.02am. I must get my computer done.

During today I:

Got 3 cups of tea done
Got a banana done
Got a lecture with year 3 done, although it was more of a workshop, done.
I got many more emails done, after that first one, done,
I got printing, photocopying, phone calls, tutorials, conversations done.

I got going to a meeting about changes at work done, although the meeting raised more questions than were done with and I suspect the meeting wasn't so much done as I felt, getting on the later train home and thinking ahead to getting supper done, now.

I got carrot soup followed by left over curry and rice done, although I made it last night so I'm not sure at which moment I done it.

The odd thing is, although I done all this stuff, I will have to done most of it again tomorrow.  And what's more, some of getting it done has resulted in more stuff that needs done: washing up my porridge pan from breakfast, and my rice pan from supper, for example. Once I've posted this, I'm off to done that.

Never mind. Tomorrow, after I've got my night's sleep done, I can get breakfast done all over again.

Friday, 22 November 2019

I Encounter Sanity

When a tall, slight man with an air of purpose approached me near my front door on Tuesday, I stopped, adopted a guarded attitude. If I'd had time to pull my hat further down over my ears, I would have done.

He had the look of need about him, and I expected he would ask me for something I might not be prepared to give. It was late: I was tired to the point of resignation. It's getting to that stage of the autumn term which is more accurately known as winter. Compassion fatigue feels dormant in me, like a cold virus that won't show itself entirely.

Our brief exchange had a clarity which has stayed with me for the past three days:

Him [leaning in towards me] "What does Tuesday mean?"

Me [my anxiety increasing a little] "Today is Tuesday."

Him [leaning back] "You are right.  I am happy with that answer."

And off he went, and into my home I went, feeling that for the first time in my life, I had scored 100% in a test for which I was completely unprepared.

Monday, 18 November 2019

I Reinforce My Poems

I've been putting my files in order. It's taken a while, but a couple of months after beginning the organisation project, I now have an (almost) complete set of my published and publishable poems in alphabetical order. I haven't counted them, but there are three full ring binders. I've also made a separate folder of 'Early and Not for Circulation' poems. 

Of course, there are some poems on the boundary between what I consider 'publishable' and the ones 'not for circulation'. In the end, I can only be sure a poem is publishable when it's published. These days, I have a clearer sense of a poem of mine that is good, and a poem that is, well, slightly embarrassing; but there is still a margin of uncertainty. 

Whilst sorting the collection, some pages became unstable - so I popped into WH Smith's after work for reinforcements. Here (before the application of reinforcement and after the application of reinforcement) is my much used poem, 'The School Concert', which was published in Mslexia in 2011. 

When I received a cheque for £25 for this poem, I photographed it, in case it was the only one I ever received.

It's not possible for me to have an entirely clear judgement about the strengths and weaknesses of my own work, and so I appreciate the external validation that a publication brings.

This evening, I've been sticking small circles of paper onto poems which have become a bit worn, with a view to increasing their staying power. It's a surprisingly satisfying venture. 

Sunday, 3 November 2019

I Share Good News

Class of 2019 -

Another year group of students graduated last Wednesday in Wrexham. Watching them cross the stage to shake the Vice Chancellor's hand, their tutor Liz Lefroy recalled in a series of mini flashbacks and with a huge sense of pride much of what the past three years have involved - the learning, the triumphs, the setbacks, the personal losses and happiness, the determination and courage - all the challenges that are part of the BA Hons Social Work.  Here is the class of 2019 just before dropping their caps!

Gabriel wins Arts Society
Shrewsbury's 2019
Young Arts Bursary
Not strictly news - more like 'olds' but reported this month in an article in Shropshire Magazine Gabriel's major achievement in securing the Young Arts Bursary awarded after a competitive process by the Arts Society Shrewsbury.  "The panel were impressed by all 3 shortlisted candidates, but Gabriel was outstanding" said Deborah Yates, vice chair of Arts Society Shrewsbury. Here she is, pictured handing Gabriel the £2000 bursary, awarded to help talented young artists and designers educated in Shropshire further their careers.

Boudicca in Coalport
Intrepid Brompton Boudicca made it to Coalport and Ironbridge last Sunday after the frustrating days spent indoors because of torrential rain.Then out came the shiny October sunshine.

She travelled to Telford Central by Midlands Rail and used the Silkin Way to get down to the Severn, which was threatening to burst its banks. Here she is, accessorising the sky, on Coalport Bridge, shortly before making her way with companions Liz, Bertie and Mike to the Maws Craft Centre, where they met Steve by happy chance, and shared an excellent brownie with their coffee. Perfect!

Mini Pumpkin Pride
Halloween can be avoided completely in a top floor flat, says Liz of Shrewsbury. However, the lack of any tricks doesn't preclude the treat of a mini pumpkin display. "My son Jonty sent me a picture of a mini pumpkin he'd bought for his student room, and I knew I had to go one better," confessed Liz. "Two better,  in fact.

I got them from Des at Pomona. I wish I could say that I grew them myself but that would be a lie, and this is journalism."