Thursday, 28 April 2011

Thrills and Spills

Not long back from Salford Quays where we swam two circuits of the 400m course. Their opening swim of the season!  13.5C - so a bit nippy to start, but tingling when we warmed up and fantastic to be back in the docks again.
Monday at Gaddings was also great, swam 750m, the last 10 minutes or so without a wetsuit, phew it certainly makes a difference.
And speaking of wetsuits.....I am just getting over the fact that my obliging husband cut it with his nail helping me on with it.....before it even touched the bad humour took till Wednesday to lift. In my fury I reminded him of this Jean Sprackland poem which I introduced him to after some similar outrage a while back

The Apprentice

I married a man with clumsy hands
whose touch left me fingerprinted with bruises.
I had to keep him from my bed
till he learned some delicacy.
I wanted him dextrous

so I trained him on nimble tasks. First time
hanging out washing, he snapped a dozen pegs,
let underwear fall in the wet grass.

Then I had him sowing lettuces,
pricking out the seedlings, growing them on.
He was close to tears with the smallness of the work.

I schooled him in needle and thread,
a hard apprenticeship in gentleness.
He fumbled the button, knocked the licked end of thread
against the stubborn eye of the needle,
stabbed his fingertip. Blood on his white shirt.

One night, after dinner, the final test:
unfastening my silver necklace.
When I felt those skilful fingers
lift my hair and charm the tiny clasp apart,
I stood astonished, sheened in desire. I turned
and took his hands, set them free.

Jean Sprackland
from Hard Water (Cape Poetry)

Harrumph. But a wonderful poem - and a great collection.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Busy Bees

A swarm of bees flew over our garden this afternoon. I heard them quite a while before I could see them. Then they were gone.

A swarm of bees in May
is worth a load of hay.
A swarm of bees in June
is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm of bees in July
isn't worth a fly.

But what about April?


I've been thinking about my Mum this week as 26th April is her anniversary. 
She died four years ago but it seems like it could have been last week - time is a strange old thing. 
On Easter Sunday I discovered Elizabeth Spires and among her poems I found Like Water which is painfully moving - so straightforward and what a powerful way to describe the grieving process.
Then a book arrived this morning that I ordered last week - Sparrow Tree by Gwyneth Lewis. Mslexia has invited submissions of reviews, this was on the list, so I thought I'd have a crack at it. 
Over the last four years of my mother's life we gradually lost her, as a degenerative illness impaired both her physical abilities and thinking processes. 
I flicked through what seems to be a great collection by Gwyneth Lewis and this poem called out

Field Guide to Dementia

To see you is egret,
No, red kite high
On a thermal,
Holding your hand
Is wagtail, comfort.

I think some cuckoo's laid
An egg of darkness in my head.

Words have migrated,
I forget their calls.

But I still point,
Look! Dowitcher, possibly
Lapwing. Quite.

Gwyneth Lewis

from Sparrow Tree (Bloodaxe)


Monday, 25 April 2011

Head for the Hills

Yesterday the water temperature at Gaddings Dam was 15.4C - a veritable hot tub! - so that's where we're headed this afternoon to kick off the open water swimming season in these parts. 
I got a new wetsuit when TriCentral had a clearance sale a few weeks ago, it will have its inaugural dip today - may God bless her and all who swim in her!

Important Disclaimer: This is the wetsuit but this is not me...

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Egg Hunt

Looking around for an egg-themed poem, I've just happened across Elizabeth Spires whose work I've not read before. Her poems are powerful and leave me wanting more.....which is nice.....! 
Here's her poem Faberge's Egg.  
I've also found out about Faberge eggs which I didn't know much about till today. So that's my little Easter egg to me, courtesy of the internet. 
Now I'm off to make an omelette for breakfast. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

It's A Dog's Life.....

Five weeks post-op and Dash had his first swimming lesson at Soozoo on Monday. 
He started with a shower and was buckled into a life jacket, then up the ramp and down another into the water. 
He was nervous about the new experience but thanks to the reassuring manner of the trainers he was soon swimming around the pool and chasing toys which made the activity fun for him as well as being just what the doctor ordered. 
Since his wound healed he's only been allowed to have 5-minute walks once or twice a day. No exercise off-lead until July, a gradual build-up until then. Even going into the garden has to be supervised as a sudden twist or turn chasing a cat or squirrel could destabilise the repair and make another operation necessary. 
Swimming takes all pressure off the joint and apparently a minute in the pool is the equivalent of a mile walking! So after 30 minutes he was well and truly ready for a cup of bovril and a packet of crisps. 
Just joking...a quick shampoo, a bit of a blow-dry then into the boot and home. Mmmm.....that lovely smell of damp dog.....

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Swimming and Sorrow

What to Do with Sorrow
Can I sing a short song to your sorrow?
I'll choose something with absolutely no sentiment
or, if you prefer, I'll just hum, or, I could tap
my fingers on the table in a light, lively rhythm
or, I could do just the middle-eight part of a folk song,
or something else bland. Really, a song might be nice.
Could I get it a coke, or a Ben and Jerry cone
or a cup of coffee or some taco chips?
Maybe just some water with ice?

I could take your sorrow out somewhere.
Maybe I could take it on a road trip with me,
if I could get a crash helmet to fit it.
I'd take it to the mountains on the back of my bike
and we could go camping, just for the weekend.
I've got a tent and we could drink cocoa
from tin mugs and tell each other stories,
really sad ones, by the campfire late at night.
I think your sorrow might like it a lot.
Sleeping in a tent and looking out through a flap
at the stars. Maybe even seeing a shooting star.
And I've got some of those self-inflating sleeping mats
which make all the difference. They really do.

Maybe I could take your sorrow out this afternoon.
I could take it swimming with me in the lake.
We could go on the bus so you wouldn't even need to drive us.
I could take my day pack with apples and soda and rope.
We could sun for a while and then make our way over the rocks
to the sandy part where we could splash near the shore.
Then we'd move out together and begin to swim laps.
Breast stroke and crawl, side stroke and back stroke,
and then go further out to the middle where the water's deep
and we'd smell the water while we swam.

Do you remember how the water smells?
a bit like mud and a bit like dying reeds
and plants and a bit like fallen petals of water lilies.
It smells like turtles and fish and water snakes
and bottoms of row boats and the wet wood of canoes
and it smells like the bugs that skate on it
and like everything that's rotting on the bottom.
You remember how the water smells.
Don't worry about us at all.
Your sorrow will be safe with me.
I don't think we'll be back early.
Go ahead and eat without us.

Linda Chase 
from The Wedding Spy (Carcanet, 2001)

Friday, 8 April 2011

Go Well Linda And Adieu

A poetry friend emailed me this afternoon to tell me that Linda Chase died this morning. 
I've made a couple of false starts to write about her, but it's obviously not the right time, I just feel too sad. I've found her such an inspiration in the time I've known her, she will be missed by so many people.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Crock of Poetry Gold

My copy of the latest - new look - Mslexia hasn't arrived yet, but I see from the Mslexia website that the poetry competition's been announced and Jo Shapcott's the judge. The cash first prize is now £2000. £7 entry fee lets you enter 3 poems. Closing date - 18 July. 
Good luck girls!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

A Poem A Day

Better late than never. Just the challenge I need, and I can always carry on into May if I need to make up for a late start. Click on the logo to get to the website.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Dog Paddle

Back in Whitley Bay for the weekend. Last time we were here, Dash had his escapade on the prom. We thought we'd escaped relatively lightly - he had to have four small teeth removed - but no bones broken. 
However, at a follow-up check at the vet's a week later, the limp he'd developed indicated damage to the cruciate ligament in his back leg and required an operation. 
Three weeks ago the ruptured ligament was removed and replaced by a band to stabilise the joint, as the tissue around it heals. The bad news is that he'll be unable to have proper walks until July. He can walk 100 yards five or six times a day, but he has to be on a lead in case he makes any sudden movements which could twist the joint. Building up the exercise will happen very slowly. Already this walkless regime is agony for us all.
Then suddenly I thought about hydrotherapy - if racehorses can have it, why not dogs? It would give him an outlet for his energy and at the same time help him to exercise without  causing damage to the healing joint. The vet has confirmed canine hydrotherapy is a good idea and if we want he can start in a couple of weeks. 
I'm looking into the possibilities on offer near us and who knows - maybe he'll get a taste for it and join us on the Great North Swim! Or turn into a mer-dog like these guys