All of the things, all of the time.

It’s been a while.

At the start of this year my intention was to blog just once a week.  Just so I had a place where I was still writing something. Once a week felt like a nice low pressure goal.  Which it was.  Until there were 101 other things that needed to be done once a week.

At the start of every academic year I have the same conversation with myself. One project at a time, not too many commitments, don’t say yes to everything. Every year.  And then I take on half a dozen projects, over commit myself and say yes to anyone and everything.  I do this despite knowing I am not very good at thinking about more than one thing at a time.  I can’t do all of the things all of the time.

And yet here I am with all of the things.  So far I have three productions scheduled with young people in the works, a new group for those 18+  about to start out at Dundee Rep (which I am very excited about!), I am involved in making a piece of new work for a new project also in Dundee and I have just started my masters which requires a whole load of reading and because studying these days is all funky and modern a whole load of blogging.  Somewhere in the middle of that I did some writing. Poems.  I was surprised.  I thought they were dead and buried.  But they came back to play and now I am looking at them and wondering if I am actually going to have time to play with them or if I am going to have to stick them back in front of the TV while mummy does some work or drinks herself into oblivion because it’s all too much.

Normally at this stage of the game I get stressed and upset because I want to do all of the things, all of the time.  This year I refuse.  Sod that.  This is a stress free zone.  Otherwise stress just becomes another thing that I need to fit into my day along with cleaning the loo and putting away the washing.

So I haven’t written this blog for a month.  And I haven’t finished that poem I was working on. And I haven’t submitted anything I have written for months and months and months.  What surprised me recently was that when I started to write again it was almost as if I had never stepped away. The writing can live without me breathing down its neck 24/7.  It’s fine without me for a while, old enough to be left in the house alone while I go to the shops.  And on some level I have to accept the choices I am making with my life.

One of the questions that was posed to us on the first weekend of the masters was if you could only do one thing what would it be?   I can’t do all of the things, all of the time. Sometimes you have to pick and if you have to pick you might as well pick the stuff that brings you the most joy.  Even when it is up against other things that also bring you joy.   Sometimes you have to pick your favourite child.  And that has to be OK because that’s the way it is and there is no point in pretending otherwise.

So maybe I won’t ever finish that poem. Maybe I won’t manage to keep up with this blog while I have to write a blog for my masters, maybe I will never actually clean my oven.  Ever.  But I spent Saturday night in the studio at the Rep making things with other people and as long as I find a way to keep doing that I’ll be fine. Some of the things, some of the time, that’s good enough for me.

Chronic Illness and Work – a few notes

Today I am paying a price.  It’s not too big a price, I am lucky. It’s pennies, not pounds.  Still it is a price none the less and the bank account is a little smaller than it was before.  Today, if I am lucky, I will find ways to replenish stocks, to balance the books again so that tomorrow I am ready to go back out there.  But there are no guarantees.Заборыvisualcage

For three years now I have lived with chronic illness.  I don’t like to admit this actually, it’s like Voldemort, don’t want to name the bastard.  In fact my Dr once made me cry when he told me off for my persistent denial at having a long term condition.  I didn’t….don’t…want to give in.

But life is not a battle and the truth is I do have a long term condition.  And I am learning everyday how to manage it better.  But there are no absolutes, no definite answers, nothing is black and white or certain. And this causes confusion.  For me, yes, because I don’t know what I can get away with before I trigger a flair up, but also for others.

How is it I can manage to do some things and not others.  Why on this day can you do x, y and z but today you can’t even manage a, b and c?  People don’t understand or assume you are lazy or lying or both.

And the answer?   I don’t know.

Seriously.  I just don’t know.  My body is a mystery to me these days.  It’s not reliable.  It tricks me, lies to me, lets me down.  But it’s mine, so I have to work with what I have to the best of my ability. What this means, most of the time, is learning the art of pushing through.

When is it safe to push?  When is it not?

Truth be told I HATE having to push through.  It scares me.  What if I push too hard and I end up really floored.  What if I can’t get up? What if I am so ill I can’t cope?  If you’ve been there once then the fear of going back never really leaves you.

Towards the end of my time as a teacher the hardest part was having to push through.  Push through pain, nausea, bone tiredness.  Teaching is not the sort of job where you can have a quiet day if you feel a bit off, there’s no hiding by the photocopier available, no work from home option.  Each time that bell rings a class is going to file its way in and if I was in pain then it was just awful.  Nothing to be done but try and push, always wondering will this be the day when it goes too far and my body breaks.  But there were worse things than that. There still are.

It’s the silence. It’s not being able to tell anyone because no one wants to hear that you are not well AGAIN.  Who cares.  And because people don’t believe you.  And back then I didn’t really have much in the way of proof.  Of course now I have a big black and white report from a specialist but it doesn’t change much, people don’t care, they still don’t believe you.  And why should they, it doesn’t make much sense.

If last week you managed to do all that then why today can’t you do anything?  If you can run a youth theatre rehearsal all day then why can’t you just get a job? If you can manage to go to France and do a week of physical theatre work then why are having to go to bed this afternoon?

It doesn’t add up.

But here’s the truth.  It doesn’t add up for me either.  I don’t bloody know.  I wish I did.  God I miss my old life, knowing my body would always work, not having to deal with constant pain, being able to do things that I loved to do, not having to chose between two options because you know you can only physically manage one of them.

But here are some ways that it might make more sense.

Firstly – I do pay a price. Most times.  Yesterday, yes, I rehearsed all day.  By mid afternoon I was in pain.  That night I was useless. Today, I am treading as carefully as I can.

I can handle teaching my youth theatre on a Monday night only if I clear my Tuesday.  So I can go to bed if needed, and it is often needed.

In France, yes it was six hours a day of movement based work.  But I had full autonomy over that movement.  I could work gently if I needed to, I didn’t need to push hard. Secondly I had no other responsibilities. So no cooking, cleaning, childcare.  I worked, I rested. That was it.  And I also had two days where I did struggle, I was sore.  I just had to work with it best that I could in that moment because the work was beautiful and I loved it.  That always helps.

I am in bed by nine most nights and I sleep until seven.  I do all I can to keep my diet plain and simple so my nervous system doesn’t kick off.  I can’t run anymore even though I loved it.  No gym either.  They just set me off.  So it’s yoga or nothing and yoga has been a bit of a life saver truth be told. I love moving and I hate not being able to do as much as I would like.rental mobil jakarta

I know people wonder often why I don’t just go and teach again.  I just don’t believe I would survive it, physically, emotionally or spiritually.  I might be wrong. Never say never and the parts of the job I loved I miss but right now no, I think it might break me and I am already a bit to broken for that.  I don’t think I would mend a second time.

At the same time there is a sense of lostness that goes with not really having a job.  Yes I deal with all the childcare and yes I run the youth theatre but I am not employed and sometimes that feels a bit rubbish. Like I am a bit rubbish because no one is paying me to do things. I don’t much like it.  But I am lucky, lucky that on most days I can minimise my moments of having to push through pain, I can take breaks when I need to, I can monitor my pain levels and adjust accordingly.

I will say this before I go.  If you haven’t had to deal with chronic illness then you don’t know.  It sounds obvious but really, you don’t.  You might think you do.  You might think you’d just get on with it that you would be different somehow, that you would push through not matter what. I can tell you now you would not or if you did you would not do it for long and still be on your feet.  Our health is a precious,  fragile thing and once it is broken you don’t get to play hard anymore.  Not because we are lazy, not because we don’t want to but because we want to keep ourselves in the game the best we can.

I am playing the game the best I can. It will not always be enough.  And I am sorry for that.  But I am painting my pictures with the colours I have left, I will make them as bright as I possibly can.

The Scrapbook Life

I had scrapbooks as a kid.  I liked to cut things up and stick them, it was fun and I have always liked a good project.  I still have a little book I made out of the cuttings of shows I had been in as I was growing up. Scrapbooks are playful and they have their place. They are also, well, scrappy.  I doubt you would want to base your life on it.  But here I am, living the scrapbook life.aton-mebel

What am I on about?  I wish I knew. But what I am trying to say is that my life is made up of bits and pieces. It isn’t a singular thing.  There is no one picture that cuts across everything I do and if I am being honest, I wish there was

I have always been drawn to people who have had a focus.  I find the singular picture life appealing.  Those people who have their lives wrapped up in one thing, one piece of paper.  They know what they are all about. Which is not to say that they don’t have many parts to their lives but that they have one theme that reaches over the top of it all, like a bridge to sanity.

My life is not so neat.  It feels scrappy. There are bits and pieces everywhere. I haven’t done any one thing for a very long time.  I have all these little cut outs making up my world.  Of course the family, the kids and all the normal things, but really I am talking about the work I do.  I have a craving for some kind of mastery, a specialism.  But I am too scattered for that, at least for now.  I do too much dabbling.

A little bit of teaching, a little bit of writing poetry, a little bit of writing scripts, a little bit of writing here on the blog, a little bit of directing, a little bit of performing, a little bit of movement based work, a lot of little bits.  I am just pottering around with all these unfinished paintings.

One of two things needs to happen.  Either a) I find a way to focus it down, pick my spot and grow my garden right there.  Or b) I learn to live with this mad allotment, keep scattering my seeds all over the shop, hoping that something might grow.  I don’t know which is the right answer. The first feels calmer to me, kinder.  The second just feels like reality.Generate Samurai siege Diamond

So if I am in this scrapbook life for now, what does that mean for me?  How do I cope in the chaos?  With that feeling of not really belonging because I think this is what is at the heart of my search.  I want to feel like I belong, like I have some sense of community.

I think an artist (if I dare use that word and I do because I think we are all artists in our own way,  however humble) needs community, a sense of belonging. The people around them that get the work, the world of the creative.  People to share with, learn from, teach, trust, discover with.  Probably the best part of my teaching job was my lovely department, it was a joy to work with such beautiful, kind, generous, clever and supportive people.  On a Friday I didn’t rush off because I just wanted to bleather for bit.  At the moment  I have no one to bleather with and I miss it.  We all need a bleather.

There are no answers in this post because I have none. If I work it out I will write a book and be rich. You can all come on holiday with me.  But until them I must just muddle along best I can, try and grow my garden, try and manage all the scraps of my life, see if I can make some kind of picture out of them. Make something beautiful, make something necessary, something that matters

My daughter has spent half the day cutting out little pictures, she likes to scrapbook too.  I stop her to ask – What is mummy for?  She thinks for a moment and says ‘For the heart.’.  Before I have time to think awwww she does a little fart and smiles, then says ‘Or for the fart.‘.  And I think she is probably right.

Ghost Singing

Marni Nixon died.  Most people don’t know who she was.  I know because I was brought up on a diet of musicals from the fifties and sixties.  I found her through a teenage obsession with West Side Story only to find her also in The King and I, Gypsy, My Fair Lady.   Back in the day people did not know about Marni Nixon.  She was a ghost singer and uncredited for her work.  She was in the background making the magic happen, no fame, no glory.Доставка продуктов питания на дом

I think we might all be Marni Nixon. Not that we all have the ability to dub Marilyn Monroe’s high notes but that we’re probably all making the magic happen in the background for someone at some point, because if we look at our own lives then we’ll see we’ve had ghost singers of our own. People who did little things who made a big, big difference, who we remember for their actions even if they might not remember us or would be surprised to learn of the impact they had.  It’s easy to remember the big hitters, the people who up front changed your life. I have a couple of those and I love them dearly, they are right up there, top billing, the headline act.  But in the background there’s a whole chorus of ghost singers who made the headline acts possible to begin with.  Tiny moments of big impact, small background artists with walk on parts, people who are quietly making the show.  There is something in the famous saying about there being no small parts only small actors that’s true. The small things matter, they are the little pins holding the set together, making the bigger picture possible

I will have a birthday in October. I am not looking forward to it. I don’t much like birthdays, I have a tendency to look at my life and not like what I see on birthdays.  And getting older feels hard when your life is not making the picture you want it to make.  It’s easy, at times like a birthday or New Year, that’s another nippy fucker, to compare and contrast with other people who know who seem to be headline acts.  The ones who got where they intended to get, the ones who are out THERE doing IT with big bloody jazz hands.  The shiny pennies among us.  Look At All The Shiny Successful People is a really easy game to play.  But then I remember Marni Nixon.

I have to believe that if I can look at my own life and see all the ghost singers, all the little walk on parts who made a big difference, the small actors who made the show possible, if I can see those in my own life then chances are I am one too. We all must be.  Somewhere, to someone, at some point, I was Marni Nixon. I didn’t get to stand in the spotlight and sing the song but I made a high note reachable by being in the background. I might not even know I did it.  But it has to be true because we’re all connected in this weird theatre called life, we’re all walking in and out of each others shows all the time.  Some people get to hit the headlines, good, lovely. Some of us are the background artists. We’re Marni Nixon, ghost singing our way through the world, helping Natalie Wood reach the high notes in Tonight.

So when October comes, and it will come because I have yet to discover the power to stop time.  One day.  But when it comes I will attempt to avoid that pit of birthday gloom by remembering all my ghost singers and reminding myself that we are all someone’s Marni Nixon letting them sing that line in West Side Story about the world being a star.


On Pleasure and Pain

This is not a sex post. Sorry. My life is not nearly so exciting. But is a post about pleasure because who doesn’t want a bit or, indeed a lot, of that in their life?  Of course there are always two sides to a coin so pain is coming to the party, just so you know.Ceoec

I am in a relationship with pain. Pain is that friend who won’t let me go. One day perhaps. We can but hope, no, I have to hope because I don’t want to imagine the rest of my life locked up with him.  He’s not the best friend I ever had although he does tell me things, like if I am doing too much, or getting too stressed – he lets me know. And as much as I dislike the fellow, he can be useful.  I know when he peeks his head round the door to say hello that I have wondered onto thin ice and I  need to tread carefully.

I am talking about physical pain here, which I have experienced every day now for about three years.  My Dr can do no more than say yes it is there but we can’t help you, bye! And so I am alone with him, he lives in the cupboard under the stairs. I put him there in the hope that he  might turn out to be a wizard and I will get a pet owl. Physical pain is an in your face kind of guy, he’s a box of pins you can’t shut, when he’s there he is THERE!  IN NEON! But of course I could just as easily be talking about emotional pain and while not everyone has to deal with the joys of actual physical pain on a daily basis everyone has emotional pain lurking somewhere, under the bed, or in a drawer or wherever you like to keep him.  We are all in the wars one way or another.

Of course they all have invisibility cloaks (sorry, sorry, I got on the Harry Potter train, I don’t know why when there was a perfectly good sex train at the start of this post.  I seem to have missed that one. I must have been on the wrong platform – story of my life).  Pain is invisible to the outside world.  It’s an odd thing to feel pain and know that nobody knows.  Sometimes I wish my hair turned orange when I started to feel sore so that people would know if I was being a bit of an arse then that’s probably why.  Pain makes me grumpy, sad, confused, depressed.  Recently, however, it also made me curious.  And I like curiosity.  It’s a fun friend.

So I am talking about Fara. Of course Because I am going to be talking about Fara FOREVER people. It was that kind of experience.  You’ll just have to suffer it. Or stop reading.  I won’t know (Or will I? That’s not a threat. Or is it?)  See in Fara I was in a wee fight with the pain.  Because I was working on the edge of what I can sustain physically.  Which I hate because it makes me feel like I am a lazy person and I don’t believe that, sometimes I want to wear a teeshirt that says I used to run 10k three times a week just so people know I was once quite fit.  Lazy or not my body is somewhat allergic to exercise.  I’ve had several failed attempts to get back to the gym. I love the gum. The gym does not love me, not anymore, and he doesn’t want me back it would seem.  So I am fighting this pain and a funny thing happened.

First there was the pain.  Then there was the fear of the pain. So far so Slytherin. This is usually as far as I get to be honest because the pain scares the shit out of me.  And it’s not totally unfounded.  Pain could mean flair up,  could take me out,  could mean all sorts of nasty things come crashing into the house to beat me up.  The fear comes from having to teach shitty second year classes when I was already feeling like hell on wheels and knowing that by the end of it I would be in a much worse state than when I started and that not only  was I powerless to stop it but that nobody really believed me and when I got home that night I wouldn’t be well enough to read my own little boy a bedtime story.  It comes from endless situations where I have had to pretend to be well even when I felt like my body was about to totally give out on me.  This blog is one of the few places I am honest about how unwell I often feel, mostly I tell lies. If you can talk to snakes you don’t let people know, it turns them off big time.

So there is the pain, then there is the fear of the pain, and because I was in this beautiful place, doing this beautiful work some other things started to appear.  First there was some space.  And that was a curiosity. I found, to my surprise, that I could be in the pain and still be, well me.  That there was some wiggle room in it to stay connected to myself and, in turn, to the work.  I could actually play in that pain.  It was a different kind of playing to be sure, but it wasn’t an impossible kind of playing.  I was working from where I was.  I could swim in that pain instead of drown.  And from that place a different kind of knowledge was possible, because although I experience pain every day, it ebbs and flows, just like the work we were doing, just like the sea.  So there is pain, and then later there will not be pain.  So in the pain, in the space to play, there is this nugget of gold that has This To Will Pass carved into its side.

And so it did. And nine times out of ten it passed after we had done our first dance.  Which in part was a timing thing. I am often in a lot of pain first thing in the morning and then again in the afternoon for a spell.  In-between the pain buggers off to the cupboard to practice his Patronus Charm. He’s not far, I can hear him, but he’s leaving me in peace for a bit.  So yes, it was partly the timing of the day, the time of our first dance coincided with the time pain had patronus practice. But I think there was something else at play.  The other side of the coin. Pleasure.

Because Pleasure is great.  We love that.  Pleasure is the friend you can’t quite believe really likes you.  I am in love with him. Or her. Because while my pain is definitely  male,  Pleasure gets to be all things. Pleasure is sexy like that.  And I don’t think I’ve found much in life that gives me more pleasure than the work I was doing out in Fara.  It’s rooted in pleasure already, that’s the foundation of the work but also for me it’s just a joy to have permission to dance, especially as a non-dancer, and also to connect, really connect with other people. Not something there is enough of in life which I find odd, but then other people find me odd so it works both ways.  So often I found we did our first dance and by the end of it the pain was on the fringes of me again.  Present, but distant.  Far enough away for me to turn my back on  him and pretend he wasn’t there.  Pleasure had danced him out of the room.

So, in the absence of my Dr doing anything useful I am prescribing myself lots and lots of pleasure.  I want it in all it’s forms, I want to stuff my face with the stuff. Because why not? Because it’s great and because pain is living in the cupboard under my stairs whether I like it or not. It’s probably living in you too.  So feed yourself up on the little things that light you up and the big, hairy things that light you up. Because there is the pain, and usually you can’t do a thing about it, it’s ugly mug is there, and then there is the fear.  The fear you can do something about, the fear you can send packing. It doesn’t have a licence to practice magic, not in your house, not without your permission.  So report the bastard to the Ministry of Magic, kick it out the front door and then run through the house, turn the lights on in every room and let them burn.

Sun, Sea & Circles

It would be remiss of me to try and write a post that covers all that I learned in my two weeks on a remote part of a Greek island with Duende Theatre Company.  Partly because I think it will be a while before I have even begun to unpack it all and also because, even if I could, it wouldn’t be the sort of thing I could squeeze into one neat little post for a Sunday morning. Still, I would like to attempt to write something of the experience, even if it’s just to feel my fingers on the keyboard for a bit, so here goes.Mountains Photo

First of all a confession. I had made a plan before I went out there.  Not overtly,  but subconsciously I had a little protection plan in place.  It went something like this:  knowing something of what the structure would be like after spending a week in France doing the same work I knew that we would be training during the day and then in the evening there would be a performance section.  This was a little troublesome for me as someone who had essentially fallen out with performing many years ago. In France I literally forced myself to do it because a part of me was  chasing some notion that I might be able to go down that road still.  Having come to terms with the fact that this idea, lovely and romantic as it is and I do love a good bit of romance, it is nevertheless entirely unpractical given my current life circumstances.  I’ve spent a long time fighting my life, I am trying to give it up, it’s not good for you.  So this time I had let myself off the performing hook before I even stepped on the plane.  I didn’t need to do it. I am not a performer so there. Let everyone else get up, I am signing up for the stress free life thanks.

So lesson number one. These kinds of protection plans are pointless. Understandable,  but pointless. They imagine that you know what a thing is going to look like before you’ve actually seen it.  It’s like my kids endlessly refusing to try anything that isn’t covered in breadcrumbs.  They don’t know what it’s going to taste like but in their heads they KNOW they don’t like it.  I was doing the equivalent of refusing good food because it wasn’t a chicken nugget.

I do this a lot, plan, prepare, layer up the protection.  Factor 50 all the way.  Except it might not even be sunny so it’s a bit pointless. And you don’t get a tan (I didn’t actually get a tan, I could have been in Forfar for two weeks for all you can tell).  Over the course of the two weeks I felt the start of things unlocking in my body and one of the biggest things was fear.  I am riddled with the damn stuff.  I understand why it is there, there are good reasons. Those reasons are also no longer relevant. I am not in those spaces, places, or with those people anymore.  Logic tells me so.  But the body holds onto things regardless, it likes the familiar even if that familiar is a bucket load of fear.  Some of that started to shift towards the end of my time in Fara which was really exciting. It’s not something I ever imagined I would really begin to taste again. Even more exciting was that as fear started to shift so did his sister, shame.

The work we did was very much built on the foundation of acceptance, of others and of the self. If this sounds wishy washy I can assure you it’s not. It’s hard as bloody nails this stuff. It’s like looking at yourself in the mirror, naked, with strip lighting.  Not all that pretty. Until it is. And it was apt that we were by the sea because it was very much a process of ebb and flow between I love you all, I love me yay…oh god there I am in the mirror with strip lighting, please, make it stop.   And shame is such a sneaky little shit.  She dresses herself up so you can hardly recognise her, she looks like you, the real you, the you that you are trying to hide from the world. Except she’s not really you, she’s not even an echo. She’s just an illusion, a very good one, but an illusion none the less. And if I have anything bigger in my body than fear then it is shame in her fancy pants doing a dance and singing shitty songs about all the ways I am entirely wretched.

I remember very clearly the moment I stopped being able to get up in front of people. It was at drama school, after some horrible incident and there were so many that I can’t actually recall which horrible incident tipped the balance for me but we had a visiting teacher working with us on trust (the idea of trust in that place  was a bit like asking the child catcher to deliver your baby) and one day I could do the exercises and the next day I absolutely could not.  My body just refused. Even after I left that place I found getting up in front of people to full of ghosts, I would literally sweat my way through productions because I was so sure that people could see things about me that I didn’t want them to see. That they could see shame in her fancy pants singing those shitty songs.  That they would look at me and they would know who I really was, the things I had done, the things I had done to me. It was safer to stop.  Kinder.

So of course shame was out in force in Fara.  She was having a blast.  And the work was full of joy but joy doesn’t always mean happy. Some days were fucking hard.  I mean painfully so. Somedays I wanted to run into the sea and never come out. I am pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who had those moments. And yet, and yet, you never know what a thing is going to taste like until you put it on your tongue.  Somehow, despite the shit ton of baggage I have been lugging around with me for years now,  I found something else in my time at Fara. Something that settled in the last two days, a kind of peace or safety. I began to feel moments of being in front of people without fear, without shame, without worrying that they might see me. Not because they couldn’t, but because they could. They could and it was fine. I have learned, as so many of us have, that people can do real, long lasting damage to you. But the opposite is also true.  People can help you heal, even if they don’t know they are doing it. For the first time in years I got to feel safe in my own skin and it was only possible because of the work and because of the people I was working with.

A lot of the work we did in Fara involves a ball game that is done in a circle and on the last day we were encourage to take the circle home with us. I didn’t manage this after France but this time, yes.  I have it. I have it and I am keeping it close.

The stories we tell, the stories we don’t

Confession time.  Here are five utterly daft things I have done in the process of trying to write and submit poems.  I strongly suggest you do not do any of the following:


1. Post your heartfelt poem in a feedback forum you don’t know very well

This I did early on, about this time last year.  It seemed like a nice place, I had posted one piece, had some friendly and helpful suggestions so I dared to post something a bit rawer, a bit more personal.  They absolutely shredded me.  Actually I say they, it was just one person in particular who happened to be a supervisor or leader of some description.  I was very humiliated and quickly left, the poem never recovered and has been retired to the poetry orphanage.  Unlikely to be adopted anytime soon.


2. Share personal poems without thinking it through.

I suppose all poems are personal in some way but obviously some sail a bit closer to home than others.  Recently I had a poem returned which I am very glad was rejected.  Re-reading it after having not seen it for a long time I was horrified that I would even think of having it published.  I don’t even want to read it. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad poem, but it’s far to exposing.  It’s in the orphanage making friends with poem Mcshredded above.  On a similar note I once had a poem published that referenced someone who I thought would never, ever come across the material.  You can guess what happened there.


3. Not save your work properly.

Oh yes, the idiot factor is going up with each one.  Again about this time last year I lost a whole load of lovely poems that I was working on.  They were part of a sequence.  I can’t tell you if they were any good because I lost the lot somehow and could not recover them.  I didn’t save them properly and they are forever missing in half written action.  I work out of drop box now.


4. Guess your postageWatch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

So you know when you read these blogs by editors who bang on about people who don’t put proper postage on then you roll your eyes saying well of course I would never do anything like that!  Well apparently I did.  Some poems popped through my letter box the other day.  I got the postage wrong.  Who would have thought I wasn’t an expert on how many stamps you actually need?  Perhaps there is a particular term for idiotic poets.  I think it might be Stephanie.


5. When submitting to a competition email in the document with all your drafts on it instead.

This little beauty I managed just this week.  Don’t ask me how, being this daft is a gift, I can’t train you in it.  I was lucky that the competition was being run by someone very nice who got in touch  but oh, how embarrassing!  It is the jewel in my stupid things I’ve done crown.


So there you have it. Don’t do any of the things I do and you will be fine.


Numbers this week – one poem written every day, yes, (although I have yet to manage today due to horrible insomnia and a very late start this morning but somehow it must be done) one editing session, yes, a couple of competitions entered and a sonnet very badly learned.  I also had a lovely surprise in the form of an acceptance from the Emma Press for their Campaign in Poetry Anthology and an even bigger surprise of an invitation to go and speak to a cluster of schools about writing.  I have found entering the competitions hard, it feels like a bit of a waste of time really but I am trying to stay focussed on what I can learn  by exploring what it is like to enter competitions and then of course by studying the winning poems.  Poems that come back to me can then go on to be submitted to magazines where I hope they might have a better chance.

Elsewhere I have been kept busy with the second set of theatre classes for my new youth theatre company, volunteering at my son’s school and starting a return to exercise class for those who have long term illness (imagine a room full of old people and me, then imagine all the old people being much fitter than I currently am and you get the idea).  Next week all my friends will be in London for the launch of The Darker Side of Love, a new anthology of anti-love poems, I will be toasting them from a distance.  So that’s week four, with a little bit of luck I will manage to avoid adding to my daft things I’ve done list for the rest of the year, I won’t be holding my virtual  breath though.


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Retreat, Retreat!

A few weeks ago my son wanted to listen to some music.  His friend had a little ipod and he wanted in on the action.  So I dug through that drawer that we all have in our house that is stuffed to the gills with all the crap that we don’t throw out or find proper homes for and found an old ipod nano that I had bought for Darko’s birthday (although indirectly and selfishly also for myself) back from the days where I could still run and we even sometimes ran together.rpk-tramplin

I charged it up and handed it over and he wondered around the house shouting too loudly until he was bored of it all and left it lying on the floor with all the other endless stuff that gets left there.  I picked it up to have a little listen.  Songs from another lifetime.  Because it belonged to my husband there was a lot of guitar based stuff on there.  And because it was also sort of mine there was a lot of Yann Tiersen.  It was interesting to listen to the contrast between tracks.  Then lyrics from one of my husband’s songs jumped out at me.

Retreat. Retreat. I’ve fallen at the low tide.

It was just one wee line in a song by The Editors.  I probably bought the CD for him back when we still did things like that.

But it thrummed through my head never the less. Retreat. Retreat.

Because I feel more tired than I can possibly say,  because I feel like the scales I’ve been holding over my eyes have fallen away and I’ve seen that nothing much matters really, not really, because I can no longer believe that there was a reason for it, for any of it, there is no great twist in the story, no sudden reversal where the jigsaw puzzle clips into place and makes a pretty picture.  The picture is broken, broken and it can not be fixed. Not ever.  Because the world isn’t turning to make us pretty pictures, we are just shadows burning each other as we pass by and some of those burns are going to be permeant, some of those burns are going to brand your damn skin.  Because I don’t experience things the way other people do, I just don’t.  I still want the world to be christmas morning, I am still looking for it, freshly fallen snow to cover up the shit.  But there is no snow, the weather just does it’s thing, it doesn’t mean anything either.  There’s no great message to it all, no purpose, we’re all just bubbles waiting to burst.

So retreat, retreat and shut the fuck up Stephanie because quite frankly I am annoying myself.  Just lie around and watch Jamie Fraser take his top off on Outlander or read shitty, awful books with improbable and stupid  love triangles over those somehow special girls with magical powers.  Distraction is a beautiful thing.  That’s why we all do it.

So I’ve been quiet.  Not really writing, except for rubbish. No poems. Fuck the poems. I’m tired of them.  And they are clearly tired of me.

There have been a few weeks like this.  And of course there has also been sleeping and crying (I cry a lot, it’s not really a cause for alarm, I am abnormally teary) and trying to feed my children with food that isn’t covered in  breadcrumbs. All of that.  But mostly I’ve just been done with it all.  The talking about stuff like anything really matters.

And yet here I am, waffling on again.  So yes, there was a little moment this week that made feel like writing.

It was a very small thing.

A thing that was a ripple out of something I had done a few years ago.  Nothing special, that’s important. This is not one of those moments where I say yeah, everything is so bland and ordinary but look, look at this special thing I did!  I did nothing special. I just bumped along doing the usual crap I do.  But my usual crap bumped someone else along and years later the result of that bump sparked into something else and I got to see that happen.

Small things helping small things.

So there is always that.

Later in the week I sat in my Primary 6/7 theatre class watching them dance.  We do this a lot. It’s all improvised.  They are one of my favourites because they go with this work more than most.  And we talk about a lot of things in that class (weirdly we talk a lot about how rubbish their sex education is but that’s another post for another day) but we also talk about the space we are making for each other.  About how in this moment they have the freedom to just really let go and be them.  The doors to the world are closed and therefor the doors to themselves can open wide.

And there they were, in the middle of a six minute dance improvisation and if you’ve never watched work like that before then let me tell you it’s pure bloody joy.  To watch, to do. And I thought small things.  Little sparks.  Little bumps.

I am mad as a box of frogs. I am never going to be a ballerina.  I am  never going to be most of the things I wanted to be in fact.  My life is a supermarket shopping queue.  Ordinary, dull, a lot of waiting and looking for distraction.  But here and there our ordinary things can touch, not to burn, not to  brand but to spark, maybe a little heat, maybe here and there a little fire.

So yes, retreat, retreat, I’ve fallen at the low tide. Haven’t we all. I am operating from the gutter.  But even down here there’s the odd moment where all the things that don’t really matter still  manage make something interesting.


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