Friday, 31 December 2010

Ring Out The Old - Ring In The New!!

Despite the cross daubed on my sister's door - her family's version of the plague is much worse than ours - we dropped by this morning to collect our tiny nephew and niece and take them for a walk so that their mum could put her feet up for a little while.
Both the snuffly tots snoozed in their buggy as we pushed through Chorlton Meadows. It's the first time we've been there since Benji died in September, so it was a nostalgic trundle as we remembered all the wonderful walks we've done across there thanks to him. No walks there since September, I've just not been able to face it without him. 
I knew I wanted to go there today and reconnect with the life force in that beautiful place. No meadows walks - and also not a single swim since Salford. My mermaid tail has started to curl a little and I've put on one stone in weight! But maybe now I'm starting to come out of mourning.
As we pushed through all the familiar places I reflected how I've missed these walks as part of my poetry process. I've written a couple since Benji died, but now I realise how important to my writing the daily communing with Nature is.

And then this evening.....
My sister invited us over for a little New Year's Eve cup of cheer and I wanted to buy her a bunch of flowers so we popped to our local Morrisons.
As we stood in the checkout queue..... suddenly I saw a face I recognised.....
Would you Adam and Eve it!! - Martine from Silencing The Bell!!
She moved up to these parts in November with her family - I knew her from her picture on her blog - let's face it, she stood no chance of recognising me! - so I scooted over and introduced myself ! 
What a serendipitous end to the old year, auspicious start to the new!!

Happy New Year To You - To Us - One And All  !!!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

I Do Believe In Fairies, I Do, I Do

Flu has hit this family, and my sister's, and we're all at different stages along the course of this horrible pestilence. So there's nothing for it but to sleep and do very little as Nature takes its uncomfortable course.....
There wasn't a dry eye in the house as we watched Peter Pan on ITV 2 - what a brilliant version - followed by the dvd of Up. Wonderful! What gluttons for punishment we are.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Wolcum Yule!

I hope to be blogging regularly again soon, but in the meantime - 
Season's Greetings!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Bless Me Father.....

One of the features of blogging anonymously is that you can be whoever you want to be.....
A casual observer of this blog might have noticed a lack of activity here of late, seen mention in recent posts of nanowrimo and deduce that I am now sitting back recovering with a smile on my face and a 50,000 word first draft under my belt. Oh, I could flesh out that image and no-one would be any the wiser.....however.....
you can take the girl out of the confessional box but you can't ...etc etc.
I got off to an enthusiastic start with my novel-writing month and it was great to reconnect with my story. Then I turned my attention to my weekly homework from my poetry school class with Shamshad Khan and quickly realised that I had a Harry Hill type fight on my hands - poems versus the novel - if you get my drift. It didn't make sense to have signed up for Shamshad's class and then not have a poem to work on each week. I decided to come back to the novel between classes - which gives me five weeks when this course finishes and before I start my next one in the middle of January.

So what have I been up to? Well, my decision paid off and I've written several poems, one or two of which I'm very pleased with. I've also assembled a small collection for the Poetry Business pamphlet competition. That's now in the lap of the gods, well, Simon Armitage actually, so we'll see what happens. 
Most exciting of all.....drum roll.....I've been asked to take part in a poetry reading in Liverpool next Wednesday! First gig! A poet I met a couple of years ago at a Poetry School class is setting up a new event and asked me to contribute a 15-minute spot. This weekend I'll be selecting a play list and weighing up my wardrobe.....
All in all, a firework-filled November!

(Now I must look at some of those Harry Hill fights I drew attention to earlier...)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Saturday Night Out

When the Poet Laureate is giving a reading less than five minutes from where you live, really it would be churlish not to rock up there! And when the reading is to raise money for a hard-pushed charity whose funding has suffered brutal cuts, well, all the more reason to join in. 
On Saturday evening we popped round the corner to a local church where Carol Ann Duffy was guesting at an event hosted by the Metropolitan Community Church of Manchester on behalf of the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit.
The reading was small enough to feel very cosy, and was a sell-out with an audience of just under 200. Tony Warren, creator of Coronation Street and friend of Carol Ann for the past thirty years, welcomed her to the microphone. In the first half she read some old favourites, including a selection from The World's Wife. She also hinted at some surprise to be revealed in the Xmas Eve episode of the Street! After the interval she introduced new poems which will feature in her next collection, The Bees, due to be published next year. I'm looking forward to the new book. Over the past couple of years Carol Ann has read new poems at various gatherings and published them in newspapers. Poems such as John Barleycorn, Achilles, The Shirt, Premonition, The Human Bee - it will be exciting to see them as part of a wider, new collection. 
I do believe everyone should have a Poet Laureate in their locality to read to them on a Saturday night....!

Monday, 1 November 2010

November Countdown

The clock has started ticking, nearly one day of NaNoWriMo down, only 29 to go. 
I read through my novel notes at the weekend and was quite impressed - what I've done so far is not bad! Very detailed background to the characters and some story, which I can rework. Nanowrimo forbids pasting old material into the new document, which is fine by me. Rewriting the plot will be good and will freshen it all up.
I say 'will be' because today has been very busy and my word count is only 147. Still, that's ok too, I will make up for this later in the week when I get on a roll. At least I've made a start.....

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Finding Inspiration

The Saturday poem in the Guardian today is Monte Baldo by Annie Freud. (Women - 12, Men - 27).
I like Annie Freud's poetry, it is sensuous and mysterious. I feel both unsettled and comforted by her direct style and rich poems which also inspire me to go away and write. Thanks, Annie.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Self doubt, writing, swimming...

The last couple of nights I've had dreams about my novel, anxiety dreams which seem to be trying to convince me that this novel in a month lark is too silly for words and too difficult,  so just pack it in...
To write 1700 words a day for 30 days I think I'll just (!) have to start getting up earlier, say at 6 o'clock, to get an hour in before the day gets going...
And I recognise that treacherous process - exactly the same as when I face some new stretch of cold water, anxiety and self doubt creep up...the only way through is to lower myself in and silence the voice by swimming...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Perils of the Modern World

The last twenty-four hours have been a bit nightmarish as a spammer hacked my email account and sent a bogus email to everyone in my contact list. Concerned friends and family have rallied to my aid, many believing me to be mugged in Spain...
As we attempt to make things secure again, I've been trying to work out how they got me - was it because I registered with nanowrimo? Funny how everything takes on a sinister look.....Was my address selected at random? Whatever it was, it's a mess and very annoying. And it's knocked me off my stride for writing. But as my daughter said - 'Are you just looking for an excuse to get out of writing the novel in November, Mum?'
Hmmm maybe...

Saturday, 23 October 2010


At the side of the blog in the little description of myself, I casually mention how I 'plan the novel'. 
A couple of years ago I had what I consider to be a good idea for a novel. The working title was Yummy Mummy (now a bit out of date as a concept, I fear) and I'd worked out a fair bit of the plot and characterisation etc etc. Since starting the blog, my poetry (and swimming) have come on a treat, but the novel is languishing in an unvisited dungeon of my mac.

Reading Michael Farry's blog this morning I became aware of National Novel Writing Month. What a fantastic, mad idea!! One month to write a 50,000 word novel, where quantity and not quality is absolutely the name of the game! No time for editing, just bang out a draft and if it's done by midnight on 30 November, then you are a WINNER! All of the publicity for it is fun, fun, fun! To sign up, you have to be over 13!!! That alone makes me want to register, if a 13-year-old can do it, then why not me?

So, I've got 7 days to unlock the dungeon, dust off the document, generally limber up and make my way to the starting blocks for 1 November. Anyone else care to join in ?!!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Present

Here is Simon Armitage's Keats-Shelley prize-winning poem .

Friday, 15 October 2010

Season's End

First thing next Saturday (23 October) Salford watersports centre runs the last open water swim of this season. Today the water temperature is 16.5 - 2 degrees warmer than when we swam there three weeks ago, so I think we'll nip down and do a couple of laps to bid farewell till April...which, sadly, seems a long way off, now that the days are getting shorter...
The session takes place in Ontario Basin. I found this beautiful poem that references the two great lakes that the other basins at Salford are named after. Up above is the bridge where one basin runs into the other.

The Huron

I swam the Huron of love, and am not ashamed,
It was many saw me do it, scoffing, scoffing,
They said it was foolish, winter and all,
But I dove in, greaselike, and swam,
And came up where Erie verges.
I would say for the expenditure of love,
And the atrophy of longing, there is no cure
So swift, so sleek, so fine, so draining
As a swim through the Huron in the wintertime.

from Women's Work: Modern Women Poets Writing In English ed. Eva Salzman & Amy Wack, Seren

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Swoony Simon Strikes Again

I've just read on the Guardian website that Simon Armitage has won the Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize. Congratulations and well done! The prize is awarded for a poem which is romantically inspired and has modern relevance.  Simon's poem - The Present - will appear in the the Review section of the paper on Saturday. I'm looking forward to it!
Which brings me once again to my little research project - if this poem features as the Saturday Poem (likely), the running total for this year so far will be female poets 11, male poets 27. Which means that even if poems by women  feature every week from next week till the end of the year (unlikely), the final total will be women 21, men 26. Hmm I think I'll open a book and start taking bets...

Friday, 8 October 2010

World Egg Day

Still Life With Seven Eggs
Listening to Shaun Keaveny on 6Music this morning, I learnt that today is World Egg Day. What an important thing the egg is, what an iconic image
We have seven hens and get a couple of eggs each day (see above!), they're delicious! 
The girls don't look in top condition at the moment as we've had an ongoing problem with redmite. So serious, in fact, that last month we got rid of the cosy little wooden house that harboured the critters in all its nooks and crannies 

and picked up a couple of secondhand eglus from ebay to replace it. I wish we'd had this type of accommodation from the start. 
Hens and eggs get into our poetry consciousness right at the beginning:

Higgledy piggledy my black hen
She lays eggs for gentlemen
Gentlemen come every day
To see what my black hen doth lay
Sometimes nine and sometimes ten
Higgledy piggledy my black hen.

I found another poem by Michael Laskey, this time on the subject of eggs. He is such a good poet.

A Tray of Eggs
It's not the hens that matter,
scratching among the nettle
roots at the orchard's edge,
though much might be made of their red
foppish cockscombs, their speckled
feathers overlapping and the stutter
of their daft, deft pecking.

Nor is it the road pedalled 
by heart to the farm, the known 
fields never the same,
turning from a greenness to grain,
revolving, resolving into rows
of straight seedlings, stubble
burnt or interred under furrows.

Not even the ride shared
with my two-year-old child, astride
the crossbar, breathing the blown
scents he's making his own
unknowingly, being alive
to vibrations of place this admired
Ford tractor amplifies.

But what counts more than these small
pleasures are the eggs we bring home
in boxes and softly transpose
into the bevelled holes
in the cardboard tray, the domes
of these thirty shells
that will break like the days to come.

Michael Laskey
from Being Alive (ed. Neil Astley, Bloodaxe)

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Poetry Workshop...again!

Well, peeps - did you get one in to Colette Bryce's workshop about names? I did! (That is - I wrote one and sent it in - dunno if she's going to comment on it...)
And here's a new workshop challenge from Katharine Towers about FURNITURE.
Hmmm...this could be where's my pencil.....down the side of this armchair? Oh, there's a thought....
Poems in by 17 October.

National Poetry Day 2010

when all is said and done
what counts is having someone
you can phone at five to ask

for the immersion heater
to be switched to 'bath'
and the pizza taken from the deepfreeze

Dennis O'Driscoll
from Being Alive (Bloodaxe, ed Neil Astley)

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Wouldn't It Be Nice...

I do love that song
and it's October, almost time for the Bermuda Round the Sound swim that I mentioned here last year. Maybe one of these years we'll just grab the chance to join in

Sun through Clouds

Still miserable, but as the sun has come out for a change, I will get up and go, not to Innisfree, but to dig the garden.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

W.B. Yeats

(picture is of Cardigan Bay, not Sligo)

Thursday, 30 September 2010

September Song

This is one of those September days that I always love, the nip in the air is unmistakable now. I could smell it mixed with coffee and my husband's aftershave - Polo, I believe - when I came downstairs this morning. That autumnal combination sent a charge through me, despite the desperate sadness of the past few days.
This is one of my working from home days when I'd normally get a couple of things done, then head across to Chorlton meadows with Benji and soak up the beauty across there with him. A few times in the early days I'd get caught short without a pencil to write down some of the ideas that seemed to flow as we were walking. After a while and a few lost ideas, I hit upon writing draft texts on my phone to tide me over till I reached a notebook. I will get back there sometime, but that walk just feels too painful at the moment.
Too soon and too sad, I know, but I looked at photos at the Manchester Dogs' Home website. It brought to my mind that poem I met a couple of weeks ago - Don Paterson's version of Antonio Machado.

The Eyes
When his beloved died
he decided to grow old
and shut himself inside
the empty house, alone
with his memories of her
and the big sunny mirror
where she'd fixed her hair.
This great block of gold
he hoarded like a miser,
thinking here, at least,
he'd lock away the past,
keep one thing intact.

But around the first anniversary,
he began to wonder, to his horror,
about her eyes: Were they brown or black,
or grey? Green? Christ! I can't say ...

One Spring morning, something gave in him;
shouldering his twin grief like a cross,
he shut the front door, turned into the street
and had walked just ten yards, when, from a dark close,
he caught a flash of eyes. He lowered his hat brim
and walked on ... yes, they were like that; like that ...

Don Paterson
(from The Eyes - A Version of Antonio Machado, Faber and Faber, 1999)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Best Dog in the World

Before today, I've never had to make the decision to put an animal to sleep.
I posted this poem last year but here it is again for Benji, and all those last times that we didn't know were last times - and all the better because of that.

The Last Swim
September, October ... one thing
you don't know at the time is when
you've had your last swim: the weather
may hold, may keep nudging you in.

Only afterwards, sometimes days on,
it dawns on you that you've done:
just the thought of undressing outdoors,
exposing bare skin, makes you wince.

And that's best, to have gone on swimming
easily to the end: your crawl
full of itself, and the future
no further than your folded towel. 

Michael Laskey
From The Tightrope Wedding, 1999

Sunday, 26 September 2010

A Local Swim For Local People...

...well not really - but it was great to be only minutes from the venue!
Here is the medal awarded at the end of the swim - yes!! we made it!
And here are some happy people who have just had a workout to Lady Gaga before entering the water to Oasis Roll With It - fantastic!!
Book us in for next year - wonderful course! And take a peep in the Manchester Evening News tomorrow!!

On the Shoulders of Giants...

Sunny Lowry - cousin of L.S. (painter of matchstick people and after whom the Lowry Arts Centre is named) yes she of cross Channel fame - ate eight-egg omelettes before her Channel swims. 
I've had one egg, two rashers bacon, two slices bread and butter (Warburton's medium white) half  a sausage and two cups delicious coffee.
Here we go...

Saturday, 25 September 2010

On Your Marks...

Another bad night's sleep - a combination of pre-match nerves and knowing that I needed to be up early. Anyhoo, we woke to a crisp, clear morning, bright but very chilly as we made our way down to the docks. There were fewer people in than last Saturday, only about a dozen, and as we approached the dark waters (14 degrees C  and barefoot this week, I decided to leave the socks off) I would happily have turned round and gone back to bed. But I am made of sterner stuff, so in we jumped! 

Ohhhh, that initial shock, physical, physiological, psychological, - mind and body shouting danger, get out of here fast. But gradually the breathing calmed down and off we went. One lap, chatting about Roger Deakin, sidestroke, dog paddle, breaststroke and finally crawl...with the face underwater... just enough to take the edge off tomorrow's fear...

(yes, if you're looking closely - that is a shopping trolley in Fisherman's Wharf...!!!)
  And tomorrow, if anyone's in Salford Quays, I'm in the 2.30 wave, you'll recognise me by my wetsuit and green hat, oops, just like 199 others. Well, my number is 5085 - please come over and wish me luck!

Friday, 24 September 2010

It's the Salford Countdown

Last weekend the temperature in Salford Quays was a balmy 18c. 
There's a distinct autumn chill in the air today. Over the last few days, texts and emails have been arriving from the organisers to inform swimmers that the water temperature has dropped to 15c and is still falling.  So wetsuits are now compulsory for everyone.
This morning we popped down to see how the venue is shaping up.  There was a swimming session in Ontario Basin, boats were out surveying the scene, marquees being bundled out of air of purposeful preparation. 
Up above is the start area - a little pool for adjusting to the cold, and the start enclosure with plenty of space all round for spectators.
And here's the first stretch - Huron Basin up to the bridge, Erie Basin beyond it.
Tomorrow morning final practice - all finished by 9am, then a simple matter of keeping nerves in check till Sunday!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Poetry Workshop

Looking for a poetry challenge? 
Fancy having a poem commented on by Colette Bryce and published by the Guardian online? Then follow this link
Thinking caps on and get writing, closing date - 3rd October.
And - NO FEE!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Blog Gongs

A couple of weeks ago, Niamh at Words A Day was kind enough to single me out for this lovely award for my blog. Thank you Niamh for this acknowledgement!
It has taken me an age to post it here because there are a couple of conditions attached which just require a bit of thought - hence the delay. 
The  conditions are: reveal seven facts about yourself and choose favourite blogs to bestow the award on (a bit like a chain letter!). Notify the new recipients of their award. With all the swimming and writing that's been going on around here of late, I've been  distracted from this pleasant task, but today, without further ado, I'll rectify this. So...

Seven facts about AquaMarina...

1 That is not my real name (!), although my real name sounds like a part of this pseudonym.

2 I don't look like my blog photo.

3 It's exactly 33 years since I came to Manchester - to university to study German. I've never left the city so by now I guess I'd consider myself to be a Mancunian. 

4 Ten pools in the Manchester area that I've swum in: Chorlton, Levenshulme, Withington, Sale, Stretford, the MacDougall Centre at Manchester University, The Galleon, Manchester Aquatic Centre, Living Well, Birley High School (now demolished).

5 I started writing poetry out of the blue just under three years ago, shortly after my mother died. The poet Neil Rollinson came to talk to a creative writing class I was attending at Manchester University. In the Christmas holiday after his visit I wrote my first poem.

6 My first poem featured hens.

7 I'm hoping to start an MA in creative writing in Autumn 2011.

AquaMarina's Versatile Blogger Award goes to:

for Martine's colourful creativity and insightful literary reviews 
for Sophie's intrepid swims and adventures around the Devon coast and countryside
for Chris's photos and musings about swims in Australia (and elsewhere) 
for Elizabeth's action photography and ability to swim - without a wetsuit! - in unfeasibly low temperatures
for Dominic's music, poetry and jaunts into the great outdoors
for Fiona's amazing pictures and thoughts about the artistic process
for Sally's unique view of Sydney ( and her incredibly informative Swimming blog )
for his gift of the gab and caring sensitivity underneath that zany exterior...

(I could go on...many other blogs deserving of this award...some already have it)