Saturday, April 22, 2006


Apart from the one day when I had to go into work to deal with everyone’s annual pay review, this week has been really good. I badly needed a rest and some time to myself as work has had me fairly frazzled for the past 18 months (and only the last 4 months have been busy in a good way). I have been feeling guilty that I haven’t used my time off work to get other stuff done (like proper housework rather than the weekly scoot round with the vacuum) but, for once, I’ve managed to ignore it and relax properly, just doing what I feel like doing.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time at the latter end of the week at PFFA critiquing, and have really enjoyed it – I had got badly out of practice. Strangely, I haven’t had a real urge to write myself – I usually have lots of ideas when I’m properly relaxed. However, I’m not concerned – I’m beginning to understand that moods to write, read and critique come and go, and it’s more fruitful to go with them than to fight them. How very Zen of me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Well, rather than making my usual pretend Ragù Bolognese for lasagne today, I decided to try and make a proper one. Of course, I didn’t venture into classic Italian cookery books (I only wish I could be that authentic) but checked up with good old, reliable Delia and found her recipe.

Even if I say so myself, my pretend Ragù Bolognese is usually quite tasty – I tend to use peppers as well as lots of garlic and onions, along with bacon, a good concentrated beef stock, passata, tomato puree, red wine and fresh herbs – but I just use steak mince – no mixture of pork and beef and chicken livers, and certainly no nutmeg. However, having made Delia’s today, I will never make it any other way – it is amazingly gorgeous and actually didn’t take that long to make – about 45 minutes all told.

Obviously, I couldn’t bear to follow the recipe exactly, but I only made minimal adjustments – swapped the tinned tomatoes for a large jar of passata, used far less olive oil than Delia gives, only a squeeze of tomato puree and added a tub of sun-dried tomatoes that I chopped up finely.

I’ve just used half of it to make a lasagne and put the other half in a tub for the freezer. If only I could stop eating it out of the tub with a spoon…

Saturday, April 15, 2006


I really can’t decide what I want to write about today. I finished work for a little holiday on Wednesday and I haven’t done a stroke since – lovely. The only issue with that is that the lack of work-based mental acrobatics means that I’ve gone into overdrive-any-subject-under-the-sun-based mental acrobatics, and now I can’t pick just one thing to concentrate on.

I do have an idea for a new poem lounging around in my head somewhere – something to do with a character who collects pebbles in the pockets of a gabardine coat but, at the moment, I’m not sure if it’s a he or a she, why they’re collecting the pebbles, or if the pebbles should be polished or not. I’m also heavily into revisiting the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ work as their new album is about to come out, and I’m trying to read Pushkin’s Onegin at the same time as Anthony Kiedis’ autobiography, the course books from A103 that Barbara sent me to see if I thought I might like to tutor it, and Juvenal’s satires.

Where to settle? Easy answer – don’t. That’s the option I’ve gone for so far. I reckon that when I’m ready to settle on something, I will.

Meanwhile, I’m thoroughly enjoying reading my selected NaPoWriMo threads on PFFA and trying to resist the temptation to branch out to others that I very much want to read, but really can’t afford to give the proper time to. They’ll still be there in May.

For now, I’ll continue butterflying around and enjoying my mini-break over Easter. Oh yeah, and I accepted my honours degree today – have plumped for BA (Hons) Humanities with Classical Studies at a 2:1 classification. Job done – lovely.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


I’m currently working my way through an anthology of ghost poems Chance of a Ghost, to write a review for Gerald England and, whilst it is taking much longer than I’d like due to a continued shortage of reading time, it’s already paid off with a new discovery – Marjorie Stelmach.

So far, I haven’t found out much about her, except that she's Canadian, has one published collection and various poems published in various journals. I'm continuing to dig. Meanwhile, here’s her poem from the anthology (I think the second strophe is outstanding):



I appear in doorways. I always know
something they should know.
I call them in to hear the tidings, or out
to watch the world do whatever it’s doing.
Sometimes I’ve come to warn them – No.
Don’t look: the shuttle’s crashed;
the beautiful child’s stillborn; wait,
the stairway’s gone.
Then I vanish or my words wake them.
Either way, my part is over.

It’s a gift of sorts, a calling: I appear
and disappear my body like a wink
or a moon,
thin into rooms and out,
as if my cells could take the shapes
of ornamental spaces in a lacework of worlds.

Meanwhile, in my own dreams I move slow motion.
Dreamfields unfold like lifetimes before me;
buffeted by landscapes, I can’t seem to fly.
I watch my doorways fill
with clear gaps where no one stands,
and never will again. I listen.
No word comes.

After years of being told at breakfast or in letters
of my appearances,
I’ve begun to feel an awkwardness in living.
Our comings and goings, the expansions
and contradictions of the air between us,
these cumbersome tissues we call our lives,
how could these be real?

And dreams?
Words spoken in dreams stay
Or they don’t. Screams
doppler off into breakfasts,
words of comfort sink into the sweetened milk.
If, in broad day we suddenly turn
and look over our shoulders at doorways,
it’s nothing. We know we’re alone;
but sometimes
we think we may not be.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


I had my first ‘one to one’ meeting with my new (new since the end of last year, that is) boss this week and when he asked me what my goals were for 5-10 years time, I realised, with a considerable shock, that I didn’t really have any.

Although I’ve always been a bit woolly about direction, I can’t recall a time when I felt like I didn’t have any at all. Perhaps I’m still spaced from finishing the degree, since that has been my major goal for the last six years?

Anyway, it was a good thing he asked me, and a good thing that I was freaked, because, of course, I immediately got thinking and planning.

The first possibility to consider was more study. Hmm, no. Now I’ve learned how to study independently, I don’t need the structure that doing the degree gave me. However, I’m the type that constantly needs new ideas to thresh, so I’d like to stay involved with the OU and its community. Maybe I’ll take a few short courses, but that’s just filler – what I’m looking for is meat. So, maybe I’ll teach instead – I know that I have a real passion for the Humanities and for helping people learn so, okay – maybe I’ll try that. Barbara has already sent me her old books for A103 (Introduction to the Humanities – a course I never did), so I’ve got somewhere solid to start, before I apply. I certainly can’t afford to do it this year – paid work is making way too many demands on my time and energy.

So that’s it – getting a part-time job tutoring A103 online is my new ambition. Hmm, not entirely though – that isn’t much of an ambition, is it? I’ve also got writing (don’t see that as a goal – it’s an unquestioned part of life) and the fulfilment I’ve been getting from my paid job of late, but that’s not real meat, more of an incidental side-effect. And then it came to me – what I truly want is to be able to give up work in 10 years time – that is my ambition. Wow – now that’s a piece of fillet.