Hardcastle Craggs & Branwell

It’s so good to get away for a bit – essential to see other places, things to make you think differently. We’re in Calderdale this week. Not the valley, but a cottage on a crag high up with a view of cows, beech trees and a cat so white I can see it creeping in the distance without my glasses on.The local pub in 10 minutes walk though a graveyard. Branwell Bronte spent his time there sketching locals, writing poems and doodling. A good thought. We went walking through Hardcastle Crags today for the first time. I must have passed the sign to the carpark 100 times without stopping. I was actually worried I might not be able to walk all the way to the mill but I did and had extra energy on the way back. Just shows it’s all psychological and letting myself lose confidence in my ability to do the most gentle walk (as it said on the leaflet). The trees were stunning: birch, beech, oak, ash, alder, rowan…. There was the rushing river with stepping stones across and a tree where people have burrowed coins into the wood. I found a good stone in the river and knocked the oldest coins in my purse into the bark: 1972 and 1986 (both tuppences). Strange and happy to know my dad was still alive when those coins were made. The National Trust cafe at the mill was disorganised and funny. The hot water had gone – no tea! They forgot the plate for the cake and I think we must have been the only people ever to buy a bottle of beer as the search for the opener was epic and required several staff! It didn’t spoil anything though.

Hebden Bridge was buzzy and good for a walk about and a drink and snack in The Old Gate. The river was running quickly and very iron-or red. I’ve written a couple of poems tonight. I’m fed up with myself for submitting work too early with silly typos (and my stupid auto-correcting computer that changes things I don’t notice in the excitement of writing). I haven’t submitted 70% of what I’ve written, but when I do I screw up my eyes and send rather than methodically checking first. Of course I can use correct grammar and spelling but my ambivalence about submissions makes me act on impulse and I kick myself afterwards.

I’m looking forward to starting my holiday reading and, hopefully, seeing I, Daniel Blake – Ken Loach’s new film – this week. I’m also debating whether to book onto a poetry residential course – something I’ve never done. I should screw my courage to the sticking place and do it. I’m also looking forward to no alarm going off in the morning – respite from the ‘Toad Work’ as Larkin said, and he was right. There’s so much more to be done with time.

Gimme Shelter

It’s really felt wintery this week in this big, cold house. The radiators are very old and do almost nothing so all the heat comes from the wood burner. I’ve never had one before and I’ve enjoyed watching the flames in the evenings. Luckily the mice had already vacated the woodpile. The hospital is a strange place to work – in it’s old age, a real shame and a risk. All the old staff accommodation is boarded and is now decaying quickly. I look at weeds overtaking the gardens, cracks in the plywood covering the windows and imagine dampness setting in. The trees in the grounds are beautiful and shedding in the wind. I’ve had to use the wipers to move the red and gold oak leaves every day this week. I’ve been caught in rainstorms today and the car always seems misted up – the only one in the carpark. I must be doing something wrong! I have a week off now in Yorkshire. I’m very much hoping to get some writing done if I can and some time with special people I’m lucky to have.

I’ve been writing this week. It’s a bit of a compulsion. The routine is usually the same. Get up, school run, work, home, nap, tea, one TV program, write in bed. I’ve put a few new poems on the site. West Pier and An Immigrant, Dover were published in Wild Atlantic Words and Night at Whitestone Farm was short-listed for the Canterbury University Poet of the Year Award. I would always welcome comments.

I’m looking forward to my poem being pubished in Mslexia shortly. I have also subscribed to Brittle Star and am looking forward to reading that while away, plus the short stories of Mary Lavin and the new biography of Angela Carter. I must also say thank you so much to those people who have commented on my poems with real encouragement and insight though the website of my friend Kath Burlinson authenticartist.co.uk/ and through her Facebook page.

It’s Not Dark Yet

I was delighted to hear that Bob Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature today. What a unique writer, constantly surprising. He’s always been one of my favourite poets. To be truly unique as a writer is a rare, rare thing. Thoroughly deserved and shame on the writers who feel the decision was controversial. His words stand alone without the music. I hope the same comes to Cohen in his lifetime. My friend sent me a recent article on Cohen¬† which is worth sharing:


I’ve been too tired to work much this week and have found the house cold and the bed too comfortable. I’ve bought Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey and am looking forward to reading that in bed. I also have another issue of The Dawntreader to read. Work has felt much longer than 8 hours every day. The winding up and winding down take so long it’s about a 13 hour day in all. I need to try and do an hour of writing now if I can. I was just so excited about the Dylan news I had to turn to the blog to say it.

A Good Week for Poetry

I have to say a big thank you to my friend Kath Burlinson this week for promoting my poems on her website as part of National Poetry Day and giving me loads of encouragement, as always. I have known Kath since I was 9 years old and I don’t think I’ve met a more positive person. Thanks to her efforts, I’ve been contacted by the poet Em Strang and discovered her amazing poetic talents. I’ve also had very generous and encouraging words from the Scottish poet in residence, Rachel McCrum. I will be on Amazon shortly getting all available books by both poets.

The Wild Atlantic Words anthology came this week and I thought the competition and quality of the writing very strong. I felt privilidged to have two poems in it. I also received an email from Mslexia and have had a poem accepted for the December issue which I found very exciting and also stressful (am I good enough? The usual worries).

It was my birthday this week and I’m now 37! I celebrated by watching The Girl on the Train and found Emily Blunt excellent as Rachel.¬† I was disappointed it had been re-located to New York though. I love the commute into London, passing gasometers and the backs of terraces. This was an essential part of the novel that can’t be replecated elsewhere. I had the next day off and spent most of the day in bed before going for tea to a hotel by the river and a great bottle of French wine.

I am worried about what’s going on in the world at the moment. It had got worse and unrest is bubbling away on many fronts.

It’s World Mental Health Day tomorrow (10th October). Working as a mental health nurse, I believe totally and without question that mental health has an equal impact on lives as physical health. It can be worse because the pathways to recovery are still in infancy (no surgery, pins, plaster casts). Hope and resilliance are the best tools, but they can be hard to come by. I give everyone struggling with mental illness my support (for what it’s worth) and I know there are horizons on the other side of the struggle.

Thinking Back

I’ve finished two school-day poems now. I have to say I hated almost every second of secondary school. It was a place where you were punished for individuality, made to conform to a generally pointless set of rules by teachers and pupils (although very different rules imposed by each) and the building itself felt hostile and prison-like. A few years before I started, the whole place had been burned to the ground by a local legend with a petrol can (so the story goes) and my first two years were spent in temporary ‘huts’ for the majority of lessons. When my sister visited a few months ago we went to see the ruins of it. It had been failing for a long time (if not always). I knew it was being demolished but didn’t expect the extent of the obliteration of the building. The playing fields were still there, although the grass was creeping up as far as the bar on the rugby posts. I had a funny feeling that I didn’t expect. Some sadness. Some good times gone. It started me thinking about all the wonder of that age (captured perfectly by Danny Boyle in the episode of Inspector Morse Cherubim and Seraphim and in the 90’s American ‘coming-of-age series’ My So Called Life). It’s a strange time, full of excitement and fear. I remembered running through the science corridors with my friend, us linking arms and walking over to the sports centre feeling free and adult, laughing until our badly-applied eye-liner ran down our faces. I thought I knew a lot of things I now know I had no idea about. I thought I’d ‘unlocked the mysteries of the world’ when I was still only a baby. Anyway, I’m not sure about the poems but have sent them off haphazardly as usual and late at night.

I think this is a sad time of year and a tough time to get through. There’s something about the changing of the seasons. My partner brought home an injured baby hedgehog last week and we fed it cat food. I was so sad and worried it would die I asked him to release it quickly. It was a beautiful thing and made some very funny clicky, whiney sounds (reminding me of “thrice and once the hedgepig whined”). It was the first live hedgehog I’ve seen in about 10 years.

This time of year makes me think far too much. If there were some easier way to work through all the worries and doubts I’d be subscribing to it online now or taking it, pill-shaped, with my coffee. But then I probably wouldn’t need to write.