Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rosie Swale-Pope

Rosie has run around the world, including Russia, Canada, and the US and should arrive home in Tenby, Wales in late August. On June 18th, she landed in Scrabster, Scotland, to start the final stretch.

She started the run in 2003, when she was 57, to raise money and awareness about prostate cancer, after her husband's death from the disease. She has long been an adventurer, and has many sailing achievements to her credit.

I don't often do hero-worship but I think she is a remarkable role-model to all women, and to older ones in particular. I shall think of her next time I have doubts about trying something new or scary.

Poems and meanings

I've had an interesting experience with a poem I posted on Writers' Dock.

Dream on

She used to live as if
as if it really were,
in spite of lacking evidence
or truth.

She lived in wish-horse land
a beggar finely mounted,
on a wild white stallion
windy stormscapes
in a sordid little house
she didn’t see.

When she died she left the sadness
of a life of might-have-beens:
a pile of clothes unmended,
of stories never written

and a bookcase full of stories of escape.

As I wrote it, it was the simple tale of someone who lives inside her head, ignoring the reality around her, and dreams her life away without attempting to act on either dreams or reality. The saying 'if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride' is behind the second stanza.

Of course there are inelegant parts, and the repetition of 'stories' was pointed out, with justification. Other words could be removed, though I want to keep the rhythm I feel when I speak it.

Then, someone saw it as being about a heroin addict with the references to 'horse' 'white' and stormscapes'
' as heroin, gives wish-horse as the illusory dreams of the drug, a beggar gives me the feel of a desperate person, and again the white stallion as the white powder of the drug itself, windy stormscapes reminded me of references to taking the drug as riding the storm with the sordid little house being the body which she no longer feels a need for as rides the drug-fuelled high.
The last line now reads more as a reference to her secret stash of the drug which still holds all the dreams she never got to have.'

I claimed that my subconscious works in mysterious ways, but am surprised how well the interpretation fits the poem.

One of my daughters on the other hand, looked at it and said - 'Oh no, it's one of your get off your arse and do something poems again.' Time I did, then?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wind and woodpeckers

Out at Eyebrook reservoir on Sunday - the day of the strong winds
On Tuesday Marta and I went to Fineshade
and admired the green roof complete with poppy, which you may be able to see by clicking on the photo below...
a Spotted Orchid (not , as I thought, an Early Purple Orchid)...
a rogue grey squirrel - foiled in its attempt to steal the bird food ...
an interesting entry in the wildlife hide's logbook ...
a woodpecker - I really need a better zoom ...

I didn't manage a picture of the jay, which we also saw close up. Oh and I bought a slightly sad tomato plant for 50p - photo may follow.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Family history

Occasionally, out of nowhere I get an email from someone researching family history. Yesterday I had one from a previously unknown third cousin. We share great-great-grandparents.

As interesting as the topic itself are the reasons why people start looking into their origins. For me it was around the time of my mother's death.

Years before, she had compiled a family tree from information gleaned from her own parents and in-laws. At that time further research would have involved a lot of leg-work, travel to record offices, and parish churches across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. As she had had no car since divorcing my father, and we three 'kids' were spread out across England, she didn't follow this up. I'd been fascinated with the idea that a name with a bald date of death represented a person, who might, just possibly be someone like me. Rather unlikely, as I spent much of my youth trying to be as unlike anyone else in the family as possible. The fact that some of them lived in a picturesque and rugged part of Derbyshire added to the enchantment. Some of these guys seemd to head for the highest point and settle there.

In the weeks before she died, my mum helped me to identify a few people whose photographs were lying loose in an old black box. Her death eventually gave me the impetus to start looking into the family myself.

In 1995 this still involved a certain amount of poring over microfiche readers in Nottingham and Matlock County Record Offices, though internet newsgroups were springing up, and made the process much speedier - you could usually find someone with some of the information you were looking for.

For three or four years I was totally obsessed with this, following leads, wandering around Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire taking photographs of gravestones, chapels and farms, writing half fictionalised stories about my ancestors.

Since then I have let it lapse, but each time someone emails me , they rekindle my interest. Now I just need to make sure that particular file is in order, and start to expand it a little more.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bristol - cycling city

From a BBC article

Bristol will receive a share of £100 million in order to

  • Create the UK's first on-street bike rental network
  • Establish a 're-cycling' scheme that repairs bikes and provides them free of charge to deprived communities
  • Build state-of-the-art facilities for cyclists commuting to the city centre
  • Create a dedicated cycleway to link the suburbs with the city centre
  • More than double the number of children receiving cycling training
  • Develop a Personalised Travel Plan programme, focusing on changing the way people conduct short journeys to work.

    Excellent news for the city which started Sustrans, and well done all those hill-climbing cyclists in the town. It will certainly encourage me to cycle more when I'm there. Last week's score - 2 rides of about 30 - 40 minutes.

    Other areas which will receive funding for cycling include York, Stoke, Blackpool, Cambridge, Chester, Colchester, Leighton, Shrewsbury, Southend, Southport and Woking.

    I reckon that Leicester should be in there. They're pretty keen on encouraging cycling as well.

  • For further interesting comments on Bristol and cycling look here

    Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    Nurses 'to be rated on compassion'.

    A very quick reaction to a piece of news on the BBC website today:
    Of course it's only part of what their new initiative will do, but it seems to me that there's too much admin, too many initiatives, and not enough support for those who do the work.

    What price a smile?

    So you’ll rate me on compassion,
    give me grades from one to five?
    Wanted – one compassion rater
    to make this thing go live.

    Never mind the fact we work hard,
    we must look as though it’s fun.
    Now, how much do you earn ,pray,
    for getting this job done?

    So you tick a set of boxes
    as you follow me around.
    Am I smiling and polite
    though my feet don’t touch the ground?

    Is my sweet smile smooth or plastic -
    does it reach into my eyes?
    Is the measurement elastic -
    can I try it on for size?

    Will you interview the patients?
    Your job could take all day -
    will it really solve our problems
    and make them go away?

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    A mixed curse on our throwaways.

    Litter lurks in scenic lay-bys -
    plastic ghosts of drinks long drunk,
    cardboard memories of fast-food feasts,
    packaged to go for the car-borne.
    Carefree, they cast their cans
    for others, less carefree, to carry.

    I curse their castaway ease -
    may their dross return in dreams
    and wrap them in tendrils of plastic,
    bitter blossom on so many hedges.

    May they all be reborn as cleaners,
    pittance-paid for the shit-work.
    May their cars be recycled as cycles,
    and their legs be blessed as they ride.

    This looks like more purposeful dumping of rubbish...pic taken at end of Feb.

    OK, all write? Keep write on, etc...

    Someone posted a good comment on WD this morning, not on a poem of mine - I haven't posted one since The Old Tart - but this could help when I'm dissatisfied with things.
    '...don't expect every poem to be better than the one before. Few poets are consistently good. Some of the best produced very ordinary stuff along with their brilliant work.'
    It fits in well with Stephen King's advice that you need to be there working regularly, to stand a chance of the Muse dropping by.

    Saturday, June 14, 2008

    Naked old ladies of the world, unite!

    I bought a copy of the Big Issue this morning. It advertises today’s
    Naked Bike Ride ‘to protest against car culture and oil dependency.’

    I have no problem with that …, but then it adds
    ‘herds of naked cyclists will be scaring old ladies around Britain’.

    My hackles rose – hang on folks, I bet some of those ‘old ladies’ will be joining in the ride! Less of the sexism and ageism in your 'humour', please.

    (Copied from my post on our women's blog... )

    At any event the thought of it got me out, fully clothed, and on a borrowed bike, to hone my urban cycling skills for forty minutes this afternoon.

    I couldn't persuade Tilly the dog to take up naked cycling.

    Summer means swifts...

    Independent, 14th June 2008

    According to an article in the Independent today, swifts are declining in Britain, because houses no longer have eaves where they can nest - one remedy is nest boxes like those pictured. (From the newspaper) It would be a great pity if we could no longer experience the shrieking of squadrons of swifts between May and July. Maybe that's why we noticed them so much in May at Montebuoni , where there were nest holes in one of the walls.

    We have housemartins at home now, although they arrived quite late in May. The same nest has been used for four years or so.

    Friday, June 13, 2008

    More from Clevedon

    We walked along the seafront as far as the pier then all the way back to where steps start a path along the cliffs, called Poets' Walk.

    This goes past St Andrews Church,

    a field with donkeys and

    a small river mouth, where the scenery reminded me of Norfolk, because of the intermingling of land and water.

    At the top of the hill were these pieces of wood with cryptic bits of words on.

    Clevedon, June 7th

    the elegant pier
    I liked the colours
    From the east side
    Not on a boat in spite of the sloping skyline.
    wrought iron patterns

    Aspects of Bristol June 5th-6th

    A pub on Gloucester Road The observatory? and camera obscura?
    The Clifton suspension bridge
    Looking down to the river. Then over the the Leigh Woods area where there are some unbelievable houses. Hmm - Victorian Gothic?...You can travel from the heart or rural England on a grand scale... a Swiss chalet, an outsized cuckoo clock or a gingerbread house called Alpenfels.
    When I feel inspired I must correct the lean - it's the photographer's fault, not the builder's.

    Birdlife in Eastville Park