Friday, 30 April 2010


I seem to be struggling to come out of hibernation and get my swimming mojo working again. Any excuse to wriggle out of swimming - I grab it with both hands. For the second time this week my husband's moral support got me down to the pool and once I'm in I'm fine. Another 1K with minimum effort and the joy of swimming is (temporarily) restored.
Maybe part of the problem is that the pool is frequently quite full and I have to spend more time sighting to avoid crashing into other swimmers. This means it's harder to get into the bliss zone.
Anyhoo, I did manage to have time for some ideas today. One of them was to arrange to have my swimming analysis at TriCentral. This was one of my Christmas presents and I was saving it for a rainy day. Well, I think that wet moment has arrived. My birthday is coming up, so I'll book it to coincide with my festivities and give my spirits a lift.
Other reasons to be cheerful - Hathersage pool is open again and Nantwich re-opens on 15 May. Salford is open for business tomorrow, but swimming in the quays still doesn't really appeal. As this is the Bank Holiday weekend, I'm wondering about going up to Gaddings Dam to check it out and - maybe - take the plunge.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Job Done

Today I got my act together, assembled six poems and submitted them to The Rialto poetry magazine. I kissed the envelope and posted them off into the world to seek their fortunes. 
The response time from this popular publication is currently between two to six months so I am not holding my breath, but I'll be keeping an eye on the post as it plops through the letterbox.
Don't you love the cover of the current edition?!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Hidden Gem

I like buying books and a few weeks ago I ordered 'quilting' by Lucille Clifton from owlsmart books in the USA at Amazon marketplace. At £1.07+ p&p it was one of those great secondhand bargain books. Its delivery was delayed because of the volcanic ash - how poetic! - but it arrived today. 
As I flicked through, guess what? It's been signed by Lucille herself!! On p. 49 she wrote: 
                          'For Daniel - Brother Poet - Joy! Lucille Clifton 2/94'. 
So that was a nice little surprise! These are the poems on p. 49.


when i stand around among poets
i am embarrassed mostly,
their long white heads,
the great bulge in their pants,

their certainties.

i don't know how to do
what i do in the way 
that i do it. it happens
despite me and i pretend

to deserve it.

but i don't know how to do it.
only sometimes when
something is singing
i listen and so far

i hear. 


when i stand around
among poets, sometimes
i hear a single music
in us, one note
dancing us through the
singular moving world.

Lucille Clifton
from quilting - poems 1987-1990 (BOA Editions).

Monday, 26 April 2010

Back in the Swim - Again

Back in the pool at 6.30am - hurrah! The mornings aren't even dark now. Bit of a challenge as the lanes were busy, but 1k seemed to go by quickly and I was glad to be back in there. Plus, after such an early start, the day is so much longer, plenty of time to get lots done! And perhaps it's psychosomatic, or magic even, but I don't think I'm quite so creaky this evening.
Today was my mum's anniversary, three years already. Here's a poem by Carol Ann Duffy about her mother. She's written a few which mention parents, but I think this one is particularly moving.

Before You Were Mine

I'm ten years away from the corner you laugh on
with your pals, Maggie McGeeney and Jean Duff.
The three of you bend from the waist, holding
each other, or your knees, and shriek at the pavement.
Your polka-dot dress blows round your legs. Marilyn.

I'm not here yet. The thought of me doesn't occur
in the ballroom with the thousand eyes, the fizzy movie tomorrows
the right walk home could bring. I knew you would dance 
like that. Before you were mine, your Ma stands at the close
with a hiding for the late one. You reckon it's worth it.

The decade ahead of my loud, possessive yell was the best one, eh?
I remember my hands in those high-heeled red shoes, relics,
and now your ghost clatters toward me over George Square
till I see you, clear as scent, under the tree,
with its lights, and whose small bites on your neck, sweetheart?

Cha cha cha! You'd teach me the steps on the way home from Mass,
stamping stars from the wrong pavement. Even then 
I wanted the bold girl winking in Portobello, somewhere 
in Scotland before I was born. That glamorous love lasts
where you sparkle and waltz and laugh before you were mine.

Carol Ann Duffy
from Mean Time, Anvil Press

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Fish out of Water

No blog for two weeks and no swim for almost three. What's going on?
Three weeks ago I had food poisoning. Now I feel tired and out of condition. My joints ache, particularly my knees and ankles. I have pain in my sinuses and face, or worse still, could it be my teeth? 
My husband suggested (kindly) that I've been out of the water too long. I think he's probably right, so tomorrow I'll get back in the pool and see if that helps.

Here's a poem about water by Gillian Clarke to put me in the mood.

The Water-Diviner

His fingers tell water like prayer.
He hears its voice in the silence
through fifty feet of rock
on an afternoon dumb with drought.

Under an old tin bath, a stone,
an upturned can, his copper pipe
glints with discovery. We dip our hose
deep into the dark, sucking its dryness,

till suddenly the water answers,
not the little sound we know,
but a thorough bass too deep
for the naked ear, shouts through the hose

a word we could not say, or spell, or remember,
something like 'dwr...dwr'.

Gillian Clarke

from Sixty Women Poets (ed. Linda France), Bloodaxe.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Birthday Wishes across the Atlantic

This post is for our eldest daughter who is 22 today. She's studying in the US of A for a year and she's a bit of an Emily Dickinson fan! Wendy Cope is also excellent!

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson
Liked to use dashes
Instead of full stops.
Nowadays, faced with such
Critics and editors
Send for the cops.
Wendy Cope
from 'Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis' (Faber)
Happy Birthday Nell!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Holes in the Ground

I have been avoiding my blog because of the sight of that poor mermaid. I have to get another picture in quick, so here is the swimming pool poem that I found in Splash! Great Writing About Swimming
Our pond which we excavated about twelve years ago has sprung a leak and drained away. We are talking about filling it in, so I was thinking about that, and all the hard work and creativity that went into making it in the first place.

The Swimming Pool

Long after he'd wearied of the work
I recall my father sloshing in hip boots,
ignoring the mosquitoes on his back
to lay by hand, around the stone
swimming pool he'd built, this tile
drain to divert the brook when it
turned brown in thunderstorms, how
he grunted as he pried up each sucking
shovelful of muck, his face
a shiny little mask of wrinkled sweat,
hating every minute of it.
And I remember how, later, in July,
when the wet heat would make you
claustrophobic and despair
he'd step up to that pool -
shy almost - gingerly dip in a toe,
exclaim wryly, then begin the ritual,
first rinse the arms,
then wash the chest,
his legs meanwhile feeling their way
on tiptoe as he waded forward, becoming
shorter and shorter, the cold lip
of the water crawling up his stomach
until, ready to receive the cold,
he'd lie on his back and sigh,
then close his eyes as though
that pool could never give him back
enough or fast enough or long enough
all that he'd put into it.

Jonathan Holden

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


This morning I found a poem about a swimming pool for the blog. 
Then Mslexia arrived, as I said in my last post. In it there's a poem by Moniza Alvi, which I decided to include instead.
The poem describes a gruesome event, I felt unsettled after reading it. When I looked up the painting Alvi was writing from, it explains the poem's brutality. In the magazine, Alvi talks to Colette Bryce about what motivated her to write the poem.


(after the painting by Tabitha Vevers)

About human love,
                               she knew nothing.

I'll show you he promised.
But first you need legs.

And he held up
                        a knife

with the sharpest of tips
to the ripeness of her emerald tail.

She danced an involuntary dance,
           twitching with fear.

           he slit

down the muscular length
exposing the bone in its red canal.

She played dead on the rock

         dead by the blue lagoon
         dead to the ends of her divided tail.

He fell on her, sunk himself deep
into the apex.

Then he fled
                      on his human legs.

Human love cried the sea,
the sea in her head.

Moniza Alvi

from Europa (Bloodaxe).

A Game of Two Halves

Not long back from swimming. We were turned away from the first pool - lifeguard training, brought forward to 8am because of the school holidays. Curses! So on to the Aquatic Centre via Asda, to collect Schweppes caps for our free swim! Perfick! 
We started off in the diving pool while they sorted out the lanes in the other one. The underwater observation grille was open so we could see into the room at the side of the pool where camera crews film diving events. That freaked me somewhat - when there's anything unusual underwater I always imagine a scenario like the picture below rather than the  one above. Weird that I'm so nervy, given that I swim in lakes...
50 lengths rather than 64 as the clock was against us. The mile can wait!
My Mslexia arrived with the morning post. As suspected, my short story didn't win Tracy Chevalier's vote. She sounded brassed off that there hadn't been enough humorous stories about love. Hmm. Mine was about love but it was sad. In fact it fell into one of the categories she complained about - 'the effect of a child's death on a parent' - apparently there'd been lots. La de da. It was a last minute idea, I've redrafted it again twice since January, so the competition was a good deadline to get me moving. I'm not heartbroken, but a cash prize would have been lovely. When one of my poems was a runner-up last year, I was so excited I nearly kept the cheque to frame it. But £25 is £25 so I kept a photocopy instead. It's the little gold frame in my heart that matters. And maybe I'll get lucky again in this year's poetry competition...fingers crossed... 

Home again, home again, jiggety jig.

We got back home late Sunday and this little film was my poem for Monday but it's taken till past midnight to work out how to upload a video, so now we're into Tuesday. Ho hum.
On my dog-walking circuit I love these woods when the wind is up because it makes the trees knock against each other. They sound like sticks of bamboo rattling overhead and you can just about hear them on the soundtrack. The wilder the better! 
Bed now as I want to swim a mile in the morning.

ps changed the video for a picture, don't like looking at the black screen before pressing play

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Ted Hughes Award

The Saturday poem today featured another woman (only the third this year - remember I am keeping count). Alice Oswald has just become the first recipient of the Ted Hughes prize, a £5000 annual award established by Carol Ann Duffy when she became Poet Laureate. 
Written from a little girl's perspective, this poem is quite spooky, I'm looking forward to getting the book and reading the rest of this collection.
I will not meet that quiet child
roughly my age but match-size
I will not kneel low enough to her lashes
to look her in her open eye
or feel her hairy wiry strength
or open my mouth among her choristers
I will not lie small enough under her halo
to smell its laundered frills
or let the slightest whisperiness
find out her friendliness
because she is more
summer-like more meek
than I am I will push my nail
into her neck and make
a lovely necklace out of her green bones

Alice Oswald

Friday, 2 April 2010

Break Away

We're up in the North East for a little Easter break, and here's the Spanish City in its heyday. Still an incredible landmark, and iconic childhood location but sadly no longer like this postcard from the archives. 
No surfers in the sea at Tynemouth today - strange that - but two swimmers were out there... brrrrr. Didn't bring the wetsuits - or the swimming togs - coulda, shoulda, woulda. No, not really.
Next time we're here I'll get in the sea (probably) and I'll have my 12 megapixel cameraphone ! so I'll be able to take some complicated  seaside shots.
The tide was low when we walked on Tynemouth beach and this is the view into the derelict swimming pool from the other end of the water inlet that I featured on my December 31 post.

National Poetry Competition

Earlier in the week the winner of the National Poetry Competition was announced. The competition is run by the Poetry Society and this year's judges were Ruth Padel, Neil Rollinson and Daljit Nagra. The poem they selected to receive the £5000 first prize is 'The Malarkey' by Helen Dunmore. I think they made a great choice, this is such a  neat poem, apparently straightforward, yet very powerful and moving. What do you think?