Ghosts and Bugs

Last week was a week off and we went to Derbyshire again, staying near Belper. Unfortunately I got the dreaded bug that was spreading through the office the week before (although I tried every hygiene method recommended and sanitised my hands to the point of sticky ridiculousness.) I was determined to do things and not lie in bed too much, so we went to see the film IT, which I found most frightening for the memories of 1980’s bathrooms, poor housing and suspect family relationships –rather than the obvious multi-toothed clown. Derby was a nightmare to navigate in the car and the Plaza Lux was up lots and lots of escalators – like finding a needle in a haystack of high street shops, all enclosed in the obscene barn of the InTu Derby Centre. Bolsover Castle was my favourite part of the holiday and we recorded me reading a few of my poems there (avoiding the camera people and history students making a documentary about ghosts). I was nervous and I don’t think I read them so well, but there were lots of footsteps on the stairs – human or otherwise – and I was keen to get them read before other presences appeared! Apparently the ghost of a young boy has been seen in photographs holding the hands of visitors. I kept a hand free in case he needed it. Chatsworth House was a strange sort of place, quite sterile really – but then I was feeling sick and giddy and was irritable with even the most innocent shove out the way by a fellow tourist. We saw fallow deer on the way out which was the highlight. One was scratching its antlers on an oak tree. I loved Autumnwatch as I always do, and on the day I couldn’t get out of bed, I looked forward to the evening and watching it, particularly the fox-box test. I was so utterly sick with this bug (worse with my osophogeal issues) it reminded me of my dad saying, after chemotherapy, how sickness is the most soul destroying feeling – far worse than pain in many ways, and less treatable.

I’ve realised that my blog is a little less than professional – in fact more like ‘The Diary of Kitty D Aged 38 and a Bit’. So I’ll just keep things to a minimum from now on. If anybody would like to see a few poems, I’ve put What Happened on Pudding Lane, Germination and Twins on YouTube, all filmed in Derbyshire on location (as The Rutles may have ironically said). “I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter”, T.S. Eliot said. Well the first is true… I longingly wish for the second.


The Power of Language

I was thinking a lot today about how powerful language is and how very clichéd it has become in the world of media and politics. Watching Question Time today, followed by the Channel 4 news, the amount of time the same phrases were (mis)used was ridiculous: Let me be very clear; there is a BIG problem; we will not tolerate; strong and stable…. You can predict what will be said before it’s spoken. We’ve made a game of this at home and it’s funny when we get it right, but not really funny at all because the cost of this empty rhetoric is people’s lives. My daughter’s 10 this month and unworried by the world, sure she’ll be famous. She doesn’t know that ignorant people in power, who will continue to live lives unhindered by austerity or poverty, are making decisions as we speak that will effect her chances in life – educationally,  financially and in terms of all that comes with that, including mental and physical health.

Today we went to work on a house in Maryport. It’s a big, old, haunted cobbler’s shop that’s a holiday let that hasn’t let yet much (the Map Room is in the picture above). Pick of the Pops was on and I was transported back to 1991 – that dreaded year we moved to Cumbria. The songs brought back memories of temporary classrooms (huts), feeling like an outsider and also the strange excitement that comes from being young and being on the edge of growing up just as rave culture (the embers of the Summer of Love) was being stamped out by the Criminal Justice Act.

We tried to record a couple of poems in the garden but there were many obstacles! – A cat appearing on the wall, a (very well known!) child sneaking up in my peripheral vision, birds chirruping and cawing, church bells and Parsley the rabbit sneezing and hacking repeatedly (part of her health condition and probably caused by the tom cat) until she decided to move herself to the other end of the path and continue off-camera. I’ve put the result on YouTube if anyone would like to see it.

I’m reading The Past tonight by Tessa Hadley. I’ve also got The Guardian in store for late-night Saturday/early-Sunday reading too and the Claire Tomalin Thomas Hardy biography in case it’s an especially late Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

Raised on Promises

Cumbria’s already gripped by autumn. We’ve had floods again this week and I noticed on the school run today how the leaves were letting go, streaming like confetti. I felt like catching one to wish for luck (being superstitious on Friday 13th) but everyone in the passing cars seemed to be staring so I gave up after a couple of attempts and waited in the playground like a normal parent.

I was thrilled to see my two poems in Quadrant and felt very lucky and grateful to Les Murray for publishing them. I got my first ‘proper cheque’ in Australian dollars which I almost threw away by accident – so excited by the magazine – and had to retrieve from the bin in the bottom of the envelope.

It was my birthday last week and I did feel different with a strong sense of time running through the hour glass.

I was very sorry to hear that Tom Petty died earlier this month. His music had been on in the car most days for a few months and so he seemed present and real and it didn’t seem right that he wasn’t on earth anymore. What a productive, inspiring life. The Travelling Wilburys are further reduced.

There seemed so much promise when I was growing up and music was part of that. I felt a sense of possibility that I’m not sure my daughter’s generation feel now. I kept that wonder far longer than children do now. Some of the cynical statements that come of tiny mouths make me laugh, such as ‘…don’t be silly mum. I won’t be a real musician. I might be a secretary who plays guitar in my room after work.’ That was the gem of the week, but not funny in another way. I didn’t believe I could be a writer for a long time. I still struggle with the thought that the word might apply. Only when I’m writing do I feel like I’m a writer.

I’ve read a couple of my poems and they’re on YouTube – The Click of the Lock and Woodman. I didn’t feel very comfortable watching them. It’s like learning to read all over again, hearing your own voice for the first time and waiting to be corrected on accent and pronunciation!

I’ve been reading a lot of Robert Hass who I was introduced to on an Arvon course earlier this year. He’s both simple, with the beauty of simplicity, and highly complex. Some poems I’ve had to read over and over. I’ve also found my favourite ever short poem: Iowa, January.

I’ve struggled to spend my two days off work doing anything productive and gravitate towards the bed like it’s a magnet. I did manage to write 3 poems yesterday and felt much better for doing it. I notice the strangeness of poems that come whole – although they’re songs you already know and have heard again, or that you wrote them long ago and stored them away like nuts to be discovered.