Monday, 25 January 2010

Burns Night

I'm not of Scottish descent, but he's a great poet, so we ate (vegetarian) haggis in his honour. Very tasty!
Here is one of his poems.
Here is another.
And finally another


Throwing out the towel

After saying something earlier this month about starting as I mean to go on regarding swimming, I have not been doing too well ie. I don't think I've been back to the pool till today... was a 6 o'clock start this morning and we plunged back in. Monday is a good day to do it because Schweppes (the drinks company) operate a great Mondays scheme. You buy a bottle of Abbey Well mineral water from any supermarket and save the cap. On Mondays you hand it in at a participating pool and you get a free schwim!! Good eh?!

In the changing room I realised that I hadn't brought a towel. Lucky that my husband is a generous sort and shared his with me. Given the lack of exercise over the past 6 weeks, I was pleased with my performance - 1K in 32 minutes.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Happy endings

Two 'Hilda' posts in one week!
When I was about nine and my sister seven, our uncle gave us poetry books for Christmas. Mine was 'Hilda Boswell's Treasury of Poetry'
My sister's was 'A Child's Garden of Verses' by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by HB.
The fanciful pictures captured my imagination and brought the poems to life.
When we left home the books went their separate ways with us both. Mine was a firm favourite with my children, their dad read the poems with funny voices - The Mermaid by Alfred Lord Tennyson in a posh falsetto, 'The Spider and the Fly' with an enticing, chocolatey  voice for the spider and a squeaky, anxious voice for the poor fly. A second lease of life for the poems.
When our eldest girl went on her travels I photocopied 'The Jumblies' for her, because it reassures: travelling can be frightening but exciting, makes the traveller grow. 
She was in Australia when it was her birthday and I found the book on ebay, from a seller in Melbourne. I was lucky enough to win it for a fantastic bid. The seller was a lovely woman - she put in a birthday card and dispatched it to my daughter in Brisbane. So of course, I had to get another copy for our other daughter. This time I had to pay four times as much to win the auction! I will acquire one for our son in due course.
Last Sunday in an idle moment, I checked ebay to see if my sister's book was available. It was! £3.99, 0 bids and 54 minutes till the auction was over. Happy ending - the book is on its way to me! After all these years, my book will soon be joined by a copy of its old companion.  

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Winter Dreaming

In the depths of winter, people sit by the fire, browsing the holiday brochures and dreaming of summer. I've spent a cosy evening trawling the internet,  tracking down swim socks - now I'm all set for when the chance of a lake swim next presents itself
I'll be toasty! And in the warm glow of anticipation, we've decided to enter for the Great East Swim. So the fun will start in June and build to a grand finale with the Great North in September. Bring it on!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

In The Words Of Hilda Ogden.....

.....the world is my lobster! The essay has gone (met the deadline!) and I'll hear its fate within four weeks.  All being well, it's good enough. Now every word for 2010 can be in stories and poems!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Digging My Way Out

I am snowed in, so to speak, writing a 6,000 word essay which must be completed and handed in by 4.30 on Monday. There is nothing else for it but to dig, dig, dig until my work is done.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging.  I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper.  He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf.  Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Go With The Snow

Once with my scarf knotted over my mouth
I lumbered into a storm of snow up the long hill
and did not know where I was going except to the top of it.
In those days we went out like that.
Even children went out like that.
Someone was crying hard at home again,
raging blizzard of sobs.

I dragged the sled by its rope,
which we normally did not do
when snow was coming down so hard,
pulling my brother whom I called by our secret name
as if we could be other people under the skin.
The snow bit into my face, prickling the rim
of the head where the hair starts coming out.
And it was a big one. It would come down and down
for days. People would dig their cars out like potatoes.

How are you doing back there? I shouted,
and he said Fine, I’m doing fine,
in the sunniest voice he could muster
and I think I should love him more today
for having used it.

At the top we turned and he slid down,
steering himself with the rope gripped in
his mittened hands. I stumbled behind
sinking deeply, shouting Ho! Look at him go!
as if we were having a good time.
Alone on the hill. That was the deepest
I ever went into the snow. Now I think of it
when I stare at paper or into silences
between human beings. The drifting
accumulation. A father goes months
without speaking to his son.

How there can be a place
so cold any movement saves you.

Ho! You bang your hands together,
stomp your feet.  The father could die!
The son! Before the weather changes.

Naomi Shihab Nye
from ‘Fuel’


The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes -
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's hands -
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.
Louis MacNeice

Saturday, 2 January 2010

January - Swimming Forwards, Glancing Back

Back in the swim - start as you mean to go on! - one mile this morning at the Aquatic Centre - wahey! Not my fastest time - 54 minutes - but reasonable, considering I've not had a serious swim for some time. And well over half was front crawl, so my benchmark is set for this year!
Then my kids laughed at me for sending photos from phone to laptop, when all I need to do is plug in the lead and import them! Duh! Hooray for the young folk!! So here's a montage of some photos I like from 2009.

Great North Swim
Victoria Baths

In Windermere
On the beach
Loughrigg Tarn


 Tynemouth Beach
Windermere from Low Wood 

Tynemouth outdoor pool
Knitted poem

On the road to Great Swim