Friday, 30 October 2015

I Receive Unlimited Texts

Apparently, I have the capacity to send unlimited texts on my phone contract.  This, in fact, means that I can send 3,000 free texts per month to my 3,000 closest friends, or 3,000 texts to my only friend.  Anything else would involved keeping count, complicated maths and possibly involve me in exceeding my unlimited limit.  If there is one thing I am determined not to do, it is to incur extra charges.

Having said all that, I received two unlimited texts yesterday whilst I was in Glasgow visiting the School of Art with my son. They made me smile in broad daylight.  I know they were unlimited texts because until my sons are 18 they aren't allowed to manage their phone contracts, so I have 3 phones in my name, giving me a potential limit of 9,000 free unlimited expensive texts per month.

The reason that these two texts felt unlimited was that they gave me unlimited pleasure.  Never in an unlimited month of free Sundays could I have imagined I would receive the following messages:

Can you also bring my fur and my hat     and
We are underneath Donald Dewar









Monday, 26 October 2015

I Invent A Term

Back on the municipal court in the growing dusk before the still surprisingly early GMT sunset, J and I were practising Ball and using Ball terminology.  J achieved several Swishes from far out, one preceded by a Rainbow - a perfect arc of a shot.

"That was a Brick," J informed me, as my shot ricocheted directly back into my hands having hit the rim square on.  

"This terminology, " I said, "is why Ball is cooler than netball."   

"And other reasons."  J lobbed the ball.  It bounced off the backboard, onto the rim and out. 

"Wooden Cow," he stated.

"Wooden Cow ...?" I asked.

"Nah. Wouldn't Count.  Wouldn't count in netball because there'd be no backboard." 

Fifteen minutes later, one of my shots bounced off the backboard, onto the rim and out.

"Wooden Cow,"  I said.

"Yup, Mum - one of them."


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

I Collect A Commendation

Whilst I was with Threesome on the Edinburgh Fringe in August, performing in Sweet Thunder, A Show in Three Layers, I heard that I had been highly commended.  I found this out at about 11pm, and although I was in my room in my pyjamas, I rushed downstairs and surprised my cousin with a hug.

The mission of the Bridport Prize is to "encourage emerging writers and promote literary excellence through its competition structure."  Well, it's succeeded in encouraging me.  My poem, Michelangelo's David, was chosen from over 7000 entries from 78 countries to be highly commended by this year's judge, Roger McGough.  It even beat the other two poems I had entered.  The Lucas clan, family of my longest-serving friend, says that I am now eligible to use the strap-line Internationally Acclaimed Poet on my website.

Being recognised as a poet is as essential to me these days as being recognised as a mother -  it's no coincidence that I write more about motherhood than any other subject.  It took me years to come out as a poet - I remember very clearly when I was about 8 showing my family a poem I'd dashed off, and declaring that this was to be my life's work.  I don't think I spoke loudly enough.  There followed rejections by the school magazine and decades in the poetic wilderness, until 2011 when I won the Roy Fisher Prize.

Poetry competitions have been kind to me since then, enabling me to put myself in a position to be recognised and to recognise myself.  Of course, I've entered quite a few without winning anything, but that simply makes success, when it comes, all the sweeter.

My longest-serving friend's mother was my companion at the prize-giving last Saturday.  Her support for my endeavours has involved her in lengthy conversations over piles of paper and cups of tea, intrepid train journeys via South West Trains and Arriva Trains Wales, and lost luggage, so she was my first choice of guest for the big occasion.  When I went up on the stage at Bridport Arts Centre last Saturday afternoon to shake the mighty Roger's hand, he asked me, with a twinkle in his eye, how my Italian is getting on. 


Michelangelo's David

I didn’t plan for this, queueing with my sons,
i miei figli, for the Galleria dell’Accademia
to see Michelangelo’s David.
We’re in Florence, Firenze, Italy, Italia.
I’ve brought no food, no drink, no pack of cards,
niente, not even an Italian phrasebook.

Half an hour and just ten feet along it’s:
‘Whose idea was this?’ and the danger of feeling
this queue’s a mistake we needn’t have started.
But, given time, we become more fluent,
take it in turns to drift in and out to buy focaccia,
pizza, tre gelati, un cappuccino, limonata, acqua,
discover we’ve learnt these words without trying.

It turns out this is why we are waiting:
for loose-limbed time leaning on walls,
leaning on each other, playing with words,
playing with our hair, making it up as we go along.
We’re unsure of the scope but discover that love
can be translated into time in any language.
David’s the perfect excuse for being here
in Florence in the sun on a Wednesday in April -
for trying out being together in Italian.

I miei figli, i miei cari figli, my beloved sons:
this is, after all, my point. Passing time with you
is all, tutto, enough, basta. And look, guarda!
Even our shadows are smiling.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

I Shoot Some Hoops

It was a beautiful autumn afternoon: mellow, the sun maturing, the trees loaded with bright leaves, each one a flower - to mix my Camus and my Keats.  Even on the municipal basketball court, not known for its beauty, it was a beautiful afternoon.

My younger son and I were shooting some hoops.  I used to practise scoring goals in netball when I was his age, but Ball is an altogether cooler sport.  It has an immense vocabulary: a pass becomes an Assist when it leads directly to your team mate scoring.  A Swish is a ball which goes through the hoop without touching the rim. A Chucker is a player who makes frequent and imprudent shots.  A Granny shot is an  underhand shot taken with both hands.  A Toilet Bowl is a shot which circles round the rim - it can go in or out.

My son was on form, scoring repeatedly from way out.  His current aim is to jump high enough to perform a Slam Dunk.  He's not far off.  A few more centimetres of growth, some extra leg muscle and, well, there'll be no stopping him.

As for me, I achieved my own Ball nirvana this afternoon. For a laugh, I attempted a Prayer - a shot very unlikely to make it - from five metres out, facing away from the hoop.  I chucked the ball in a Granny shot back over my head.  I turned round to see the ball go through the hoop, and my son's broad grin, "Wow! Swish, Mum!"

Thursday, 8 October 2015

I Chair A Meeting

Using the excuse of National Poetry Day, I opened the Programme Management Board for the BA (Hons) Social Work Programme with a poem: The Road Not Taken.  I suspect this hasn't been done in a PMB before, but no matter.

Robert Frost's poem is about decision-making, and, if I had to justify reading it at 11.00 am in work time, I'd say that social work is about trying to work out with people in a variety of contexts and in a variety of circumstances what are the better decisions.

As with all very famous poems, it's easy to think there is one right reading of it to be achieved - that it would be possible to take a wrong turning and come to a false conclusion.  Perhaps that ideal reading would be what Robert Frost intended, but he himself is reported as having called the poem, "very tricky."  I incline to Roland Barthes' argument in Death of the Author, which is, loosely, that author and work are separate, and therefore a poem can mean whatever it means to you, dear reader.

I'm not sure exactly what my colleagues made of this poem this morning, but their response was positive, and we went on to accomplish all our tasks in good humour, and we finished on time.  I am confident that the decision I made to read a poem, rather than to take the more well-trodden path of not reading a poem, is one I won't regret.

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Saturday, 3 October 2015

I Visit A Museum

I never expected to see a bottle of Carlsberg in a a glass case in a museum, but wandering around the Cultural Quarter of Northampton on a break from Cinnamon Press's 10th Birthday celebrations yesterday, I chanced on the museum and  its surprising exhibit.  There wasn't just one bottle, but a bottle on top of an unopened box of bottles.

Later, in order to enter the Carlsberg website in my quest to find out that the lager has been brewed in Northampton since 1974, I had to enter my date of birth to prove I am over 18.  I could probably have found out the 1974 information from a label next to the display in the museum, but  I was too surprised to look at the time.

The Beer Hall in the museum is not as extensive as the Shoe Hall.  As soon as I saw this I remembered Northampton's reputation as a centre for shoe-making.  When my son was at the height of his English Shoe Phase, I looked into taking him on a day trip to the factory shops in Northampton.  The Phase passed before I could get my act together, and he has since moved west and over the Atlantic into his Sneaker Phase.

On display in the Shoe Hall were all sort of things I wouldn't want to put on my feet, and not just because they were the wrong size: fetish ballet shoes; thigh length Kinky Boots; tiny Polish Kierpce style shoes singled out as the Shoes of the Month; leopard skin print shoes once worn by Corrie's Bet Lynch; a cabinetful of high heeled shoes with the mis-spelt advice in font-5-inch that the key to success for walking in heels is to "practice, practice, practice." And so, "What are you waiting for!"

As I marvelled at the range of shoe and beer-related souvenirs in the gift shop, I felt a certain relief that I live in a town, albeit half the size of Northampton, with a museum that doesn't feel the need to put a pack of Shrewsbury biscuits in a display case in a Biscuit Hall, and where the museum gift shop is able to offer a variety of (mostly dignified) Darwin-related paraphernalia.