Archive for the ‘blogging’ Category

3030 Poetry Challenge (and I mean challenge) Day 14

this is getting harder and harder. Whether that is because the prompts aren’t prompting anything or because maintaining the momentum is hard, I’m not sure. I know when I started I was off work and staying in Cornwall, right by the sea, just me and my youngest, plus dog. Maybe it’s harder because I’m trying to cram this in between all the usual domestic stuff and day job and poetry job. Well here goes for Day 14…

Prompt for April 14th: Trickle Down

Adjudication

A girl stood on the stage,
or rather, a raised platform installed for this event.
Back straight, hands held by her sides, head high.
The sun cast its light across her hair,
which was reddish-blond.
The room was silent.
Once the scene of balls and parties,
now host to civic meetings
and these few weeks,
a festival of culture.
We gathered to share our skills,
compete for silver cups engraved with names of former winners.
I never hoped that I might be one,
but somehow it was expected,
that we should show up and do our thing,
receive a certificate, a critique.
Here I learned the word ‘adjudication’.

And so she stood,
the girl with golden hair,
and took a breath to start her recitation.
She faltered, stopped.
We watched and saw a pool of golden liquid gather at her feet.
Silence still,
except a gasp from one on our adjudication panel.
The girl cried out and ran the length of the glittering room,
up the aisle between the seats,
the faces of the parents and the teachers and the children.
Each of us then,
performing our set piece,
slightly off centre on the stage,
to avoid the remains of her embarrassment.

I remembered not so many years before, when I,
sat cross legged with the big kids on PE mats at the front of class,
too scared to raise my hand and ask to ‘be excused,’
allowed the rush of warmth to leave me,
sat in it till it was cold.
Played alone all afternoon,
for fear someone would know
the damp patch on the mat,
was made by me.

The holidays…

And so I find myself on Day 1 of The Holidays. Eight weeks stretch before me. A tatty, untidy, rather grubby house surrounds me. An unpublished novel and unanswered mail wink at me from a pile on what we laughingly call ‘the dining room table’.

I was woken by a solitary magpie doing sentry duty across the skylight at gods know what time (watch strap broken, not wearing watch, must get new strap). In the street I can hear the deafening tinkle of glass being hurled into the bin truck by the recycling men (quick, put bin and glass box out before they get to us).

The phone rings, it is school: can Tall Boy and Lovely J please return their text books today or tomorrow or their results will not be released (don’t be ridiculous! They can’t NOT give results because a few text books are due – YAWN – school never changes, empty threats about nonsense whilst the bullies and cheats go unchallenged).

There is a strange odour coming from under the floorboards, reminiscent of last year when the soil pipe cracked and leaked under us. Please let it not be the same again!

The blue Ikea bags full of ‘to do/to sort’ seem to have multiplied. Tall Boy appears in boxers, his head banging into the paper-sphere light shade (which I keep promising I will change to spare him the indignity of it falling onto his head every time he passes and knocks it) – ‘anything for breakfast?’

Eight weeks? I can get it ALL done in eight weeks can’t I? Get novel published, finish second one, tidy house, paint house, get first year accounts sorted and tax done, MOT car, swap it for bigger one, go on Arvon course, go to Wales for ‘holiday’, keep on top of allotment, rebuild rabbit hutch, phew!
Happy Holidays.

Getting back to it…

 

Well summer is really over. We had a second week away, this time in Llangranog in Wales. Great beach. Why do I live so far from the sea? 

I’m back at work and getting into the swing of things after a pretty idle summer, if I’m honest. I find it hard to get on with anything in particular when the house is full of family. We tend to do nothing but graze on food, make washing-up and laundry and general household mess. I’m far more disciplined when I have to be up and out for work in the mornings. 

My Wednesdays have been spent for some part, on attending workshops held in conjunction with Lyric Lounge Nottingham. Last year I was commissioned to write a piece for Lyric Lounge Leicester, this year I applied to act as mentor to a community group, with the aim of putting together a showcase at Lyric Lounge Nottingham. I didn’t get the job, which was a shame, but they did ask me if I would like to shadow the mentor who would be taking the workshops. The mentor who was appointed, they said, had more experience of putting together performances and showcases in spoken word events. 

I was really pleased to discover that I would be shadowing Aly Stoneman who I have come across on the circuit here in Nottingham. She is a lovely, gentle poetess who I discovered, really comes into her own when she is putting together a spoken word event. She organised an hour long slot at The New Art Exchange on Sunday. We had been working with a group of young mothers over the weeks and put together a performance based around motherhood. Aly had chosen some museum objects which had links with babies and parenting and we used these as inspiration for our pieces. We had the help of the lovely Gill Court who works for the YWCA and really got stuck into the sessions, texting and calling the mums, arranging for tram fares and taxis to make sure they could attend sessions. 

A lot of my writing is based around memory and family, so I had some poems which were ideal for the performance, but I wanted to write a piece specifically for it – so here it is – 

Gretel & Ariadne 

I keep mementos 

which silently document a life. 

A private archive. 

No glass case,  

accompanying text,  

or explanation  

No air-conditioned vault. 

  

First scan, 

clip from umbilical cord, 

hospital identity tag, 

lock of long-awaited hair, 

crumpled painting of a cat, or maybe a dog, an owl? 

Hand-knitted hat, 

a single boot, of soft leather with unmarked sole. 

Small blue dress with bleach stains, 

milk-tooth wrapped in a paper towel, 

list of spellings, 

letter to Santa, 

school report, 

postcard from Paris, 

newspaper clipping. 

  

I gather them up in your wake,  

knowing I dare not call out for you to wait so I can keep you in my sights. 

  

You keep mementos too. 

Letter from the Tooth Fairy, 

ticket stub for Steps, 

old party invitation, 

lace fan. 

Birthday card signed with fifteen names, 

metro pass, 

paper bag from a department store, 

earring shaped like a tiny bow, 

dog-eared passport photo, 

postcard of Audrey Hepburn, 

exam timetable folded in a square, 

post-it with a heart drawn on  

cinema ticket. 

  

These track your path away from me 

and will not stop,  

until you find the need to document another’s life, 

as I do now. 

  

There is another course, 

the one that brings you back to me. 

When I stop dead  

you’ll find you need to turn around  

and gather up the markers left behind, 

that track the journey we have made together 

as I tracked back the journey with my mother 

when she’d gone. 

  

As long as we have threads to guide us where we came from 

or morsels dropped to show the way 

there’ll be a trail to follow when we need it. 

If you are Gretel, I’ll be Ariadne 

and keep the path from past to future clear.

Running hell for leather into reading for pleasure

I think it would be fair to say that I tend to run headlong into things. Once I’ve decided I’ll do it, I just do it. This has had disastrous results at times – marriage and divorce springs to mind – but something good generally comes of it all – in that case a couple of kids who are pretty good company at times and a bit of wisdom, not to mention some great ideas for poems and stories.

So, at the beginning of the year I applied for a job as Creative Practitioner at a local comp – the remit being to encourage and enthuse year 8s about reading for pleasure. My interview was by a panel of six students, the teacher who heads up literacy at the school and the regional manager of the project as a whole – he’s called the Creative Agent – what a great title.

I was thrilled to be appointed and rushed headlong towards the project as is my wont. However, after our first planning meeting I had to meet with HR – they needed all my details for the enhanced CRB check – now you see where I’m going with this… weeks have passed… 6 in fact. Then I discover that the local council sat on the paper work for 4 weeks before passing it on. CRB reckon to clear applications within 4 weeks of receipt – at this rate the summer term will be over!

I was really impressed with the group I am supposed to be working with, maybe there is hope for the future after all – and I’m not talking about a carefully selected group of high achievers either, the group are made up from a cross-section of pupils, some ‘reluctant readers’ or dyslexic, some may have ADHD etc – although to me they just seemed like regular human beings – which I think is the great thing about outsiders going in to schools to work with pupils.

Given the constraints of the curriculum at the moment teachers seem hard pushed, targets get in the way, meeting guidelines, statementing children in order to gain extra funding bla bla bla.

The thing about what I can do is that I flit in and flit out none the wiser, so if some kid is known as having  some kind of ‘statement’ I’ve no need to know, I just get on with the task in hand.

I have great plans about what to do and how to approach the project. The head of dept wants a reading cafe in the school, I want to get them blogging and writing and to feel free to read whatever they want to read rather than what they feel they should be reading. I LOVE to read, whether it’s the Metro for a good shout or something deep and meaningful.

If only that one piece of paper would come through and allow me to get stuck in there!

Greetings February…

So we had a summer holiday… proof above… coasteering, a new experience. Writing hasn’t had much of a look in – back to school, back to work, health issues for the other half, put curly boy into a Steiner school for a while – complete disaster – Christmas came and went, New Year too, then worst birthday ever and now here we are in February. Perhaps now I can get on with life. Had a definite ‘NO’ from two small publishers for novel, which is now called Fugue State – maybe I’ll publish it myself? Hey there’s always Macmillan New Writers.

Model Family

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I can’t possibly fill a blog with tales of the build up to Christmas. – panic buying of last minute presents, to ensure that Santa had treated three children equally (if not financially, at least in number and size of gifts.) Had Mummy and Daddy been over generous to one child and less so with another? At this age they do tend to be happy as long as everybody got the same number of presents, when they were younger they needed to be of similar size and weight too.

So, Christmas came and went, and New Year. A lot of diabolical TV viewing, children roaming around the house in pyjamas til mid afternoon, by which time it seemed daft to nag them to get dressed, because it was nearly bedtime again – except that bed time wasn’t really happening til close to midnight a lot of the time.  Finally it was time to go back to work, a relief actually, a bit of normality and semi-routine returning to life.

Yesterday I put my foot down and insisted they ‘do’ the thank you letters. So I am proud to share with my blog readers the fact that I managed to get them to do it. If I take these little snapshots of life in isolation, record them somewhere like this, the odd photograph as well, I will be able to persuade myself years from now that we were a model family. No strife or arguments, no bad feeling or bad language – a normal happy family sitting around a table and making cards to send our thanks for the gift vouchers received as Christmas gifts. In truth I have had to nag, and have a purse full of gift vouchers which I have ‘bought’ off the kids as they wanted the money instead! But even Tall Boy got stuck in with drawing and glueing to make some cards to send off.

I wonder if we bloggers really live such exemplary lives? When I read back over last year’s entries on my own blog it seems like somebody else’s family – I know we aren’t all bad, but there is an awful lot that doesn’t get written about, the volume is lower, the language tempered. It struck me that a blog is the opposite of a journal – if my own teenage version is anything to go by – that used to be filled with angst and pain, fury and doubt – my grown up blog on the other hand seems to be a considered account of trials and tribulations. Perhaps because I know it is for public consumption I am more careful about what I write. Let’s face it – nobody actually wants to read about what really goes on day to day – do they? It’s more about the highlights – a bit like a thought for the day.

I am back in blogging mode though – a huge lapse in December I’m afraid, but I will try and keep at in on a more regular basis this year.

And then there was one…

sarah-os-place.jpgPerhaps

Sarah O sent me this lovely picture today – it is the view from her back door in Australia – a far cry from my cold wintery day. I’ve tried to persuade her to blog – that way I could keep up with what she’s doing better. Shame she’s not in England very often – but some friends are all the better for absence – then we have a concentrated spell of each other when we are close by.  

Back in wintry Nottingham – I headed up to the allotment this morning only to discover many feathers outside the chicken run and one cockerel missing. Laurie had mentioned that a couple of times when he checked the chickens, one of the boys had managed to get out (probably by flapping from floor to roof of house, to roof of adjacent building) – I can only presume that this chap had been caught outside the run by a fox – the feathers were right next to the door – perhaps he had been running to get back in. Trouble is once the fox has had a feed he’ll be back. Coops and runs are never completely fox proof and we kept meaning to roof the whole area in netting to keep the foxes out and the chickens in – now I feel guilty as hell that we haven’t done it – seems like bolting the door after etc etc.

My next stop was at the garage to get two new front tyres for the car- I’ve been ‘meaning to do’ that too – and the result of not doing that might be a little more extreme than losing a chicken. Now to get some other jobs done that have been on the invisible list for far too long.

What’s with Facebook?

I felt quite hip starting a blog, after all I’m new to this world wide web thing. As you can see my initial enthusiasm has waned a little – partly due to the fact that my Internet access keeps crashing at home and logging on at work is a bit cheeky. But now my fellow course mates on the MA have launched an Alumni blog and a Facebook group.

My only knowledge of Facebook to date has been checking up on Lovely J and her page. Several ‘young people’ here at work use it – but it just seems odd to me.

For a start there’s this option where you enter your status – eg. ‘Sally is pre Halloween’ or ‘Rachel is asleep’ – then there is the fact that you can ‘poke’ people or indeed be ‘poked’ by them. Then people can say they are your ‘friends’ just because they happen to know your name. Very odd. I find it all a little disturbing. Am I just an antisocial old fuddy duddy?

Norton Antivirus needed…

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Do you know what Graham Norton said on ‘Just A Minute’ (Radio 4 Sunday 30th Sept)?

“Bloggers are people that don’t wash their hair, have no friends and think that someone might want to read what they write.”

Well, so Big Sis tells me – she was listening on Sunday night. Is Mr Norton confusing Bloggers with Saturation-TV-Presenters? STPs are the ones who start off doing one programme, then they do another, then they get a regular slot and then they end up doing the same-old-same-old EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK.  Was it Congreve who said ‘Hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned!’

I am constantly amazed at what I find out from reading other people’s blogs, not to mention being comforted to discover that other people suffer domestic drudgery and come through it brain in tact. Reading blogs is a bit like chatting to a stranger on a train – okay there may be a few nutters and orange eaters out there, but sometimes what they say is funny/valid/touching/thought provoking/worth repeating.

Today for example I have learned that there is a project called Chance UK which organises volunteer mentors for vulnerable children (aged 5-11yrs). I had a crash lesson in the strategy of the 3 for 2 and BOGOHP offers in the booksellers world. I saw a great photograph of colour ordered book shelves. I also learned about a ‘library without a roof’ where homeless readers can borrow books – but can I find the link now? Perhaps if anyone knows where I read about this they’d let me know!

All in all I think blogging is great and I’m fairly hooked. I just don’t meet so many people nowadays, it seems to be work/home/sleep/ with huge dollops of TV, where I am battered with the wit and wisdom of the likes of Mr Norton. If I do meet interesting/funny/odd people I usually have to rush off to work/home/sleep before I get a good chance to have a proper chat. So long live the blog I say! I do have real fleshed out friends but I also enjoy the company of strangers.

(Good old Big Sis – has since added a comment which shows link to library without a roof – click on comments if you want to read it.)

Finally

some bunnies in a box

Having spent several hours on the telephone to my sister Ruth I have managed to master the rudiments of this site. Her talent lies in translating jargon into real-speak. She makes no claim to be an expert or to understand how all of this works but de-mystifies it enough to make it feel possible.

I am going to add a photograph just to prove to her that I can!