The Wall

Since the subject of building a wall has been such a media sensation of late, I decided to re-watch the film of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I’d seen it once before when I was 19 and in a bad state and I don’t think I fully understood all its meanings at that time. What I got from it then was that Bob Geldof is a very good actor, which is something I stand by now, and  lots of historical complexities I didn’t fully understand. Seeing it again, I realise how multi-layered it is. The grief of the son growing up post WWII in the shadow of the cold war, everyday walls between individuals and – the most outstanding part to me – the walls built by the segregation of the education system. I felt oppressed by school myself, by its rigidness, its streaming systems. I remember thinking some of the brightest, most interestering people weren’t in the top sets and wondering why. I also remember coming into school late and being told the headmistress had died by a fellow pupil. I was then dragged by a teacher to the office and interogated about my ten minute lateness (I’d missed the bus because I couldn’t sleep). I thought, all the way through her talking, about the fact that someone had died, the significance of this. The fixation on my ten minutes here or there in these circumstances undermined the whole system to me. I think it was around that time I stopped going to school.

In my own job now, I’m always aware of the position of power you’re put in as a nurse and make sure I emphasize that this could be reversed at any time. We can all become mentally or physically unwell and most of us do. I have no interest in hierarchy. I detest this aspect of the world of poetry. I can’t help but see that certain references, quotes in foreign languages and names that have a CV that fits snugly into the academic world do get more attention and accolades and, while I’ve bought the books with enthusiasm initially, some of them have been disappointing and very much style over substance. I don’t believe we should come away from a good piece of writing wrestling with its complex lingusitic puzzles and ancient analogies. From Shelley to Jean Rhys, the best writing should be accessible to everyone.

I’ve been ill for about 3 weeks now – real flu (I’d really forgotten how very bad this is) followed by secondary infections. What a gift it is to be physically well. You forget. I’ve been to work this week – physically unfit for it probably but afraid of the punitive NHS sickness policy. I’ve managed to do my job though. In fact, I’ve worked non-stop this week.

I watched the documentary on the Bernstein (and some Hitchcock) footage of the liberation of the Nazi war camps this evening which was recently shown on BBC4. There is very much an air of segregation now, in the present day, – of identifying differences not similarities, playing (preying) on these and how they undermine nationalism/security. Very worrying times. I think these undercurrents effect us in ways we don’t always pick up on consciously.

I’ve enjoyed Winterwatch this week, especially the foxes. We’re putting out mealworms and seed for the birds and have had robins, crows, rooks, sparrows, a blue tit and – obviously – seagulls at the bird table. I’ve written a tiny bit and not submitted much. I’ve been reading though. I’m going to re-read my dad’s second novel. It’s one of the most gripping novels I’ve ever read. There’s an atmosphere to it that settles on you like a mist and stays for a long time after you’ve finished reading it.

Given the current US situation, my dream of Yellowstone has diminished a bit. I would like to go somewhere special this year if I get the chance. Maybe Canada. It’s not looking hopeful, financially, but I think travelling – seeing new things – is what inspires writing. Dominica would be the absolute dream. Beans on toast for a few years might do it.

Something in the wood shed….

The picture above is the nest we found in the garden shed just after Christmas. Something had been stealing the rabbit food for a while unseen. When we found the hoard and the size and amount that had been dragged through a very small gap under the door (potatoes, carrots, toast!) we thought it must be either a huge rat, a squirrel or an unknown cat-sized animal. We set a humane trap and checked it twice a day – going in with a torch in the dark. We put a mince pie in on the hook and some cheese. After two weeks the food was still untouched. Then yesterday when the shed door was opened there was a loud, high squeaking noise and something in the trap going wild, like a ball of caught lightening bouncing ’round and ’round the cage. We looked it up and found it was a wood mouse. It was beautiful but so panicked we set it free straight away. It was so fast it seemed to disappear before the trap was even opened. It’s back in the shed now. It was a lovely treat to see a wild, living thing in otherwise a difficult week.

I went back to work and then almost straight off again as my daughter’s been very ill. Stressed and understaffed certainly applies to the NHS trust I work for. I felt very bad for not being in work at a critical time, but would’ve felt worse going in knowing I was needed at home. I thought Theresa May’s speech about funding for mental health was all sound (not even fury) signifying nothing.

I’ve tried to catch up on some sleep between dispensing medicine, tea, soup and water. I’ve not really been able to write much but a few notes. I’ve revised a few poems though and sent a few more off.

Watching the excellent Channel 4 News this week has confirmed the world’s going completely mad. Trump must have his fingers glued to his ‘phone. These constant Tweets! Are some things not too serious to be ‘Tweeted’? Potential war, for example, foreign policy, conversations with the CIA? It reminded me of my dad walking me to school, aged 6, and me asking “Dad, do you think I might be mad?” He laughed and said “everyone’s mad except me and thee and even thee’s a little queer.” I didn’t fully understand what he said, but I found it funny and comforting and the lines stuck. Looking them up just now, I’ve found so many variations on this quote. It’s attributed to Robert Owen. By ‘mad’ I think I meant different. It’s when you start to look outside yourself and pick faults with everything that doesn’t fit neatly into your world and your own ideas that you start to narrow your horizons and, with enough power, become a dangerous person.

I was delighted to be published in The Dawntreader this week. The editors seem like such genuinely lovely people who are passionate about poetry and I find their responses very encouraging and enthusiastic. I was also very pleased that my first ever pamphlet was highly commended in the Indigo Dreams competition. I’ve ordered the poems of Frank O’Hara and my uncle has sent me a very interesting collection of essays put together in the book Poetry and Privacy. Watching the Yellowstone documentaties, I’ve been longing to see these things up close: the bears, the wolves, the beaver dams. I’ll have to settle for the wood mouse for this week though and I’m not disappointed.