Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Playing with Words

Our Citroen is sick and Lester-the-Fiesta, our back-up banger, has also kicked up and demanded new, expensive parts. Just what we needed in January. Fortunately, my last couple of long runs have gone well, which is a blessed relief.

Something which is proving an absolute joy, is the poetry component of my OU course. One of my reasons for studying creative writing was to work outside my usual areas and whilst I’ve always dabbled with poetry, it’s a long time since I’ve produced any for outside scrutiny. It’s been great to have the luxury of immersing myself in other people’s work. Tom gave me a brilliant anthology which included DVDs of poets reading their work which has been a wonderful resource (Pamela Robertson-Pearce (film), Neil Astley (ed.), In Person: 30 Poets (2008) Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books).

The only problem with soaking up so much verse is that I’m beginning to feel a bit daunted about the next assignment which is to produce 40 lines of poetry. I felt less nervous when I was bumbling along throwing down a couple of lines here and there. And whilst I studied English at school without being particularly unnerved about the technical stuff, this time round I’m suddenly hyper-aware of just how many balls a good poem keeps in the air.

On the fiction front, I’ve screwed up my courage and entered Mslexia’s short story competition and I’ve submitted another for consideration for Honno’s next fictional anthology. Now it’s time to crack on with the next novel. I spent ages yesterday looking at 20,000 words of a novel I’ve been tinkering with for years; part of the problem is that it needs major surgery but I love it too much to take the knife to it. I’ve also got 5,000 words of a new novel that just isn’t doing it for me… and if it doesn’t work for me it sure as hell isn’t going to work for any reader. Ah well, I can’t put it off any longer. Expect the word meter to go up soon.

The painting is 'St Giles-in-the-Adverts' by Tom Tomos

Monday, 26 January 2009

Enough About Meme

BT, who writes so well about her beautiful part of the world, (do go and visit if you haven't) presented me with a rather daunting tag of revealing twenty-five things about myself. Twenty-five? Too much information, surely? So I've cheated a bit and found twenty-five I made earlier. For anyone who missed them before here are:

Six Fixes when I need cheering up.

Seven not so secret things about me. And, for those of you who didn't believe it, I really did fall in love with Tom at first sight

And Twelve smells that would revive me in my hour of need.

If anyone would like to pick this up, consider yourself tagged. In the meantime, here is a rather lovely painting of the old boathouse at Poppit from the very talented Tom Tomos.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Poozies, Windies and Wobblies

'What are you going to wear, then?’ asks my dear friend, Jill.
‘Well, first I’m going to knit some sandals…’
‘Don’t forget your dirndl skirt!’
‘Ooh, and a hairy, multi-colour, organic jumper!
Our mutual mirth is due to the fact that the Night of Reckoning is here. What seemed a great Christmas present idea has now come home to roost. I’m taking Tom to see the Poozies, an all girl folk band described with words like ‘uplifting’ and ‘traditional’ ie not my bag at all. My disquiet increases on the way to the venue when I ask Tom how long it is since he’s seen them.
‘Seen them? I’ve never seen them.’
Turns out he saw them once on the telly and ‘quite liked them’ so bought a couple of their CDs on the strength on it. One of the drawbacks of getting together a bit later in life, apart from being missing being young and foolish together, is that there’s enough trauma just getting together without delving too much into each other’s young and foolish pasts as well. Sometimes you can get things wrong. It’s a horrible night, wet and windy, and for a moment I wonder why we’re going at all but, hey, the cosy Theatr Mwldan is only twenty minutes away and live music is always worth hearing.

Feeling smug that we don’t have to worry about parking or last trains back to the suburbs we head inside where the theatre is practically heaving and there isn’t a freaky jumper or hair-do in sight. There isn’t even any evidence of that other sub-species much in evidence at arty gatherings round here, women who dress in what the Guardian’s Jess Cartner-Morley calls the ‘Hampstead playwright’ look ie flowing black, velvet scarf and ethnic earrings. If it wasn’t for the fact I spy the rather strange man who Tom left me to do the last dance with when we turned up for a Welsh class and found it had turned into a folk dancing nightmare, I’d swear this audience had been bussed in.

We take our seats (no fighting or groping in the moshpit tonight) and the five Poozies arrive on time and with sweet smiles and even sweeter voices. Ah, what can I say? I would never play this music in the privacy of my own study but it’s impossible to be mean about such good musicians. They play and sing their little hearts out for the best part of two hours, wrapping the audience in a glow of loveliness and chatting to their fans in the break. It’s a thoroughly entertaining evening. Just as well, really, because the other gig I bought Tom tickets for is coming up soon. Bellowhead are a fifteen piece band, a bit like folk’s answer to Arcade Fire… hmm, better get knitting.

When we bought this house the surveyor described the location as ‘severely exposed’ which I glossed over in my haste to get to the stunning view of the Preseli hills. Whilst the wind has been a feature of living here it’s never been as bad as last Saturday when I was really frightened. The first big gust took our fence off, like a shred of paper, but the next stripped the ridge tiles off the three houses opposite as quickly as tearing off a plaster. I wasn’t exactly pleased when those houses were built but, my goodness, I felt for my neighbours then.

Look, no new novel sidebar. Well, not yet, but since I’m in the Novel Racers’ race for Complete New Work it’s about time I got started. I’m very torn between an idea I’ve been kicking round for ages about a place that haunts me or going with a something in the same vein as FTT. Right, I must make a decision this week – ‘though if I was a right clever clogs like some people I could work on both. Oooh, what to do? Come on Chris!

Painting is ‘Royal Festival Hall’ by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

New Year's Resolve

The day after my non-operation I receive a nice pile of ‘Get Well Soon’ cards (if only) and an appointment for a return trip to see Mr Shoulder Man… except the letter says, Mr Shoulder Man (locum). Does that mean Mr Shoulder Man is a locum or the appointment is with his locum? If that’s the case it’ll be the third consultant to see my shoulder. Will this one be pro or anti op? And as for the urgent referral to a physio? Nothing. Still, liberal coatings of Talisker did for my mouth ulcer which is a blessed relief.

The same day a message pops up in my email to tell me that it’s only eight weeks to the Llanelli half marathon. (Strangely enough, not a million miles away from where I was for my non-op.) And the trouble is I’ve got a bit comfortable. A slight tear in my calf muscle after the Cardiff half meant I had to rest for a while and although I’ve resumed my usual running, I haven’t really done much distance training. To be honest, I haven’t really felt like going arse over tip on icy roads so I’ve played it a bit safe.

Sunday dawns with heavy rain and blustery wind but no ice so I drag myself out to do eight miles. Mindful of calf tears and other horrors I have a cunning plan to make myself run ve-r-y slowly rather than going off like a bat out of hell. For the first six miles, it’s great. I feel strong, mighty. What is this wind and rain to me? Then, suddenly, my legs refuse to run any more and I have to walk home! And it’s p*ssing down and I can hardly stand up in the wind. Pah! Talk about pride before a fall. Clearly there is work to be done.

To encourage myself to send out more writing, I’ve made a list of deadlines, entered my first competition this year and have two short stories ready to go out. Looking at the entry fees though, I wonder if this plan isn’t going to cost me money! Whilst the amounts are pretty small in themselves, with post they add up to a fair outlay. And I’ve got to make a start on the next novel. Or rather, carry on with the next novel since I’ve got a couple of ideas on the go. I had a really horrible thought about FTT the other day; the publishers asked for the full script by email and I had to check my outbox again to make sure it really had gone. Even then I started torturing myself with thoughts of it being lost in cyberspace.

And finally…Can you see my ‘Good Girl’ glow? I bought tickets for us to see a folksy, girlie, ‘sweetness and light’ band that Tom likes and I don’t. It’s always good to hear live music but I much prefer doom, gloom and bad boys. Ah well, tonight it’s my turn to declare the evening ‘sheer purgatory’ then.

Painting is 'Christmas Morning - High Preseli' by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Freeze Continues

Monday 5 January
I send a text to Lily and Rose to remind then it’s their auntie’s birthday on Thursday. Except I don’t. As the message wings off into cyberspace it tells me it’s on its way to Rose and my sister. Doh! Later, my sister rings me to ask if she’s reached the age where someone needs to tell you not to forget your birthday.

It’s all because I’m sh*tting myself about going into hospital tomorrow and can’t think straight. To cap it all, The Killer Mouth Ulcer From Hell, has taken up residence on the side of my tongue right by my back molars; I can’t eat, I can’t drink and, because I also can’t speak, when I ring the hospital to check that there’s a bed for me in the morning, I sound like a mad, drunk woman.

I sit down to watch ‘Animal Park’ for some comfort viewing. There are concerns for Kadu, an elderly tiger who needs a general anaesthetic but who almost died the last time she was knocked out. Kadu survives the anaesthetic but has to be put down anyway. Not quite the comfort TV I was hoping for.

Tuesday 6 January
6.20 a.m. on the coldest, iciest day of the year and we commence the one and a half hour journey to hospital. It wasn’t where I was originally supposed to be going but the first consultant’s list was full, so consultant no. 2, THE Shoulder Man, is helping out. My mouth ulcer is hurting so much I am almost looking forwards to the general anaesthetic so I can escape the pain for a while. The journey is slow and a minor scrap ensues in the car when we can’t find the hospital and I express the concern that I’m going to be late for my operation. Except my language is a lot more colourful.

I make it to the ward just in time, but when Tom turns up after parking the car he is told he can’t stay. After sitting around feeling a bit lonely everything happens at once. A lovely nurse checks me in, snaps a plastic bracelet on my wrist to tell me who I am and informs me that there is NO WAY I will be out today. Oh dear, it’s serious then. Whilst the nurse is taking various readings from bits of me, someone else turns up to go through the consent form and then there is a kind of royal procession and Mr Shoulder Man and his entourage gather round too.

Mr Shoulder Man unclips a bit of kit from my finger and holds it to my face, like a microphone, ‘So, what do you think of the hospital so far?’ he asks. He is young and whizzy and shakes my hand with a firm, authoritative grip. ‘Now,’ he says, ‘Show me what you can do.’
I duly oblige and see an expression I am not expecting cross his face.
‘Well, I don’t think I can get it much better than that,’ he tells me.
‘But what about the bit I can’t do??’ I protest.
‘Not worth the risk of the general anaesthetic,’ he tells me, but just to show willing he takes hold of my arm and stretches it a way that I can only describe as ear-watering.

The operation is cancelled and I am left in the hands of a very kind physio who quickly discovers how much pain I’m in. ‘The thing is,’ he tells me. ‘There’s a risk your arm could have been broken during the op, you wouldn’t want that.’ No, I berludy wouldn’t, but I would quite like my arm back. And so I pack my bags. I have an urgent referral back to my local physio, the one who couldn’t do anymore for me because she felt I required an op, and Mr Shoulder Man has asked to see me again in a month. Well, that should be interesting, shouldn’t it?

Painting is ‘Preseli – Rain’ by Tom Tomos