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.