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."

Friday, 18 October 2019

I Give Credit Where It's Due

In the summer, I enjoyed working with a group of people involved in various ways in the degree I teach on to make a film of Graham Attenborough's poem, Andrew. We collaborated with animator Darren Mason, making a storyboard, then cut outs and models, and finally used stop frame animation techniques to create movement. The poem's colourful imagery lent itself to our enthusiastic but time-limited low budget endeavours - we had 10 sticks of plasticine, multi-coloured card, glue sticks, scissors and felt tip pens, along with our smart phones, animation apps, bouncy tripods and 5 short days to complete it.

Fortunately, Graham really likes the outcome, and it's been well-received by those who've seen it so far.  

The various makers are credited at the end of the film - well, most are. After we had tidied way the plasticine and scissors, work carried on after that original week - in particular, we had generous help which made the Welsh version possible. Graham had narrated the poem in its original English, but we knew we wanted a Welsh language version. We also knew, having watched the film without music, that this was needed at the end. Graham chose Handel, and we think it makes the film complete.

You can watch the Welsh language version of the film here: Andrew - Cymraeg
You can watch the English language version of the film here: Andrew - English

And here's the full list of credits:

Poem - Graham Attenborough, originally published in New Face in Hell, 2018, Bare Fiction, editor Rob Harper
Animator . Workshop Facilitator / Post Production - Darren Mason
Design, Animation and Technical Support - Tim Wynn, Jason Starr, Eluned Plack, Liz Lefroy, Fiona King, Laura Flannery, Nick Hoose, Lauren Evans, Jo Sefton, Georgia Hill
Narrator: English - Graham Attenborough
Narrator: Welsh - Iolo Madoc Jones
Translator: Huw Richards
Piano: Jonty Lefroy Watt (Handel - Hornpipe from Water Music Suite no. 1)
Post-post production: Mike Powell

And a big thank you to Pat Edwards who put us in touch with Huw Richards for the excellent translation - Graham says he prefers the Welsh version!

Sunday, 29 September 2019

I Kiss Summer Goodbye

The sun is flickering on and off between clouds and showers, taking itself to bed earlier, rising later. I've been waking with a slight ache in my limbs which passes by ten o'clock. From time to time, there are reminders of the recent heat - a rose still sends out buds; my shadow casts itself against the wall as I walk home; on Sunday afternoon, seats cluster around a pavement café table strewn with coffee cups, wet with rain.

Not so long ago, I swam in the sea off Norfolk. I came back from the beach with the pale cross of a saltire across my back - the negative marks of my swimming costume straps. That weekend spent around the Holkham Estate was a capsule of summer: the sort I would have imagined perfect in childhood - rowing across the lake, drinking late afternoon beers to the sound of jazz, ice cream, cycling along shaded lanes, watching a game of cricket unfolding on the grass.

I walked to the Quarry Park this afternoon, carrying the marks of summer hidden beneath my coat - the light kiss of a suntan on my back, the dimples of ice cream around my waist.

The mallards were anchoring themselves on the bank, cautious of the river's higher flow, whilst the gulls surfed midstream, coursing down towards the bridge. Long white marquees were going up for Oktoberfest. 

October! July is still vivid. I camped beneath the Milky Way and my sons returned home. Things were just getting going. As for August - its sand is still in my rucksack pockets, September? It has barely begun. And this week, October.

It has all come upon me so suddenly.