Note Number 86. . . Je ne comprends pas les règles. . .

Blog - 1Waiting for my takeaway…Facecover – not allowed in France

We are now entering our third week of lockdown in the Languedoc region of France. The weather has been pretty good up to now, and things aren’t too bad. There’s been a plethora of Zoom events to attend and this week I have managed, two poetry sessions and a Royal Ballet live streaming. We are not allowed to walk more than a kilometre from the house but we can go 5km to the supermarket. I prefer to walk or bike it to the local shops whenever possible.

On Friday, I walked into the village to collect a takeaway, Pot au feu au 3 viandes, basically a French stew.

french stewIt was delicious, I forgot to take a photo but here’s one courtesey of The Hungary Bluebird. (I’ve never been here so can’t recommend it). Anyway, on the way there I met the village policwoman who informed me that my “facecovering” was not allowed and that I had to sport a proper mask. She didn’t arrest me or anything, in fact, when I said I was on my way to The Rex to collect lunch she raised her eyebrows and let me carry on (there might have been a smile under her mask). I wanted to point out that the two workman she was speaking to wore no masks at all, but didn’t chance my luck. My French isn’t good enough and it spoils the flow when you have to keep looking on your phone for the translation.

I’d arranged via FaceBook messenger, to collect the food at 14.00 – I could not have been more exact, but of course when I got there the whole place was shuttered up. I managed to contact them again by messenger, and he happily replied, “J’arrive dans 15 minutes”  I’m guessing he thought I wouldn’t turn up. I sat outside the closed café, pushing myself as far back to the wall as possible, now aware of my illegal face covering, I hoped nobody would spot it.

The stew was delicious, lasted us two meals and cost us 20€ which was a bargin as far as I was concerned. No cooking for me. It was worth all the aggro to be honest.

Caux Garden 2 - 1

Next day, I went on my bike into the village to do a spot of “essential” shopping. I put on my “proper mask” which actually was a lot more comfortable to breathe in than my face covering so I’ll be happy to wear it in future. I bought some batteries, which I now know are called les piles in French. I thought it was just batterie, but the very lovely man in the tabac didn’t know the word. Must be a dialect thing, or my pronounciation more likely.

I love the butcher…probably not a politically correct to say that, and what I really mean is, I love the butcher’s shop. It reminds me of when I was a young girl. Nothing is prepacked and they freshly mince the beef while you wait. I bought a chicken, and the butcher kindly chopped off it’s head and feet and removed the innards, hmm. The point I’m making is that it’s all a lot more organic here.

Blog - 4Check out that sausage!

I’m sure many of you will tell me that there are plenty of butchers in the UK like this, and I know there are at least two in Bridport, it’s just a different experience here. I’ll get over it I’m sure. By the way, even in the supermarkets there is not a single “out of season” piece of fruit or veg. No strawberries, peaches, or soft fruit. There are apples, pears and oranges. There are bags of mixed salad so I suppose it won’t be long before there are boxes of raspberries and nectarines available in the winter. Talking of supermarkets, I went to do our big shop during the week and I needed to buy a cake tin and a mixing bowl. Cake tin no problem, the isle was open but the mixing bowl arround the corner with the plastics was cordoned off with the red and white tape. I just didn’t get it, but, I asked at the help desk and all I had to do was fill in my name, phone number and email address on a form (they love forms here). I was then allowed to buy the bowl after I had finished and paid for the rest of my shopping. They converted the purchase into a click and collect transaction which made it legal. Needless to say, I still got in a muddle and had to re-enter the shop via a different route. I swear the security guard said, ‘Les anglais sont fous ils ne savent rien”. You can get the gist.

Left: shelf open for shopping. Right: shelf closed, non-essential ???

Dog walking is done every morning before breakfast with The Man, and it’s been great so far. This morning, Sunday, was a bit of a miserable one so we didn’t go far. The Man managed to find some useless pieces of stuff in the fields and on the footpaths. Honestly, it’s like walking with a child. Everything he finds is a treasure in his eyes. He’ll never change, he always thinks that a stone might come in handy; a piece of metal could fix that door. A wooden stick as big as a shepherd’s crook was brought home last week. He’ll never use it though, it will just sit outside the front door waiting for that golden opportunity when he’ll use it and say, “I told you…”

Left: Reflector light from a tractor, I admit he did leave this on a fence post for the farmer, but it was a hard decision, he so wanted to bring it home along with a big stone. Right: Our two sticks. Mine is used everyday…the shepherd’s stick well…

 

Miserable Day Today

Off to enjoy roast chicken now before a catch up Zoom with a few friends later this evening. I’m trying to only drink on a Saturday and Sunday which has been fine (only done it for one week!

wine

Trying out the local red. 

 

 

Note Number 82…Zoom, just one look…

. . . and then my heart went boom (Remember the song?)  Well, I’ve been ZOOMING now for a few weeks, and so far the closest I got to a heart booming was for my children and grandchildren. Although, I have to confess I felt a twang when I attended a masterclass with Sebastian Faulkes Then, on the 5th August, I watched Simon Armitage on an Arvon Zoom at Home and there was a flutter in my chest when his face came onto the screen. I have seen Simon live onstage in Bridport. Hearing him read his poetry and speak about it was great entertainment, but “meeting” him on Zoom felt special. I reckon I know him personally now — but If I see him in the street and rush up to greet him, he won’t know me at all — I’m suffering from Zoom illusions.

Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage 

Last week I attended a Forward Meet the Poet session with Vicki Feaver (if you click on the link you can hear some of her poetry). What an inspiration she was! A wonderfully ‘laid back’ lady with so much poetry knowledge which she willingly shared. Forty-five minutes wasn’t enough time. I don’t know about others, but I could have watched and listened to her reading her poetry all evening. She was speaking about her book I Want I Want I Want which has been shortlisted in the Forward Arts Prize. I can recommend the book. Her poems are full of imagery and after reading them, they stay with me for a long time. I think this what makes a good poem: good imagery and desire to read them over and over again, each reading bringing you closer to the heart of the poem. I aspire to write like this. At the moment I think I’m a bit hit and miss and not very consistent in my work. But, for me, it’s still early days. It takes a long time to learn poetic skills.

Vicki Feaver

Vicki Feaver

On Saturday 15th August, I was “interviewed” by my son Matthew Rickard. He’s started a new series of podcasts that you can watch on the 1095 Pod on YouTube. I enjoyed the experience and hope if you have the time to visit that you enjoy watching.  Of course, afterwards, I thought of many different answers to some of his questions. Isn’t that always the way? I never mentioned “imagery” when speaking about poetry and for “memorable life events” I never thought about “giving birth to twins” which has to go down as unforgettable. Also, being present at the birth of my first granddaughter — how did I not think of these things at the time?

Me

ME!
Well gotta think big — I’m now on the same page as Simon Armitage and Vicki Feaver !

Only twelve days left before MA Dissertation submission — Better stop having delusions of grandeur and get on with it!

Note Number 81. . .

poetry

Image Clip Art Barn

Today is the 30th July. I have to submit my dissertation and essay for my MA by the 28th August. I should have been going away on the 14th August and had originally planned to have it all done and dusted by then. Am I glad I’ve got an extra two weeks? I’m not sure — The more time you have the more time you take — is what I think.

The odd thing is, I reached my required line limit of 600 for my poetry portfolio a week or so ago, and as soon as I arrived there, I found I could write more and with greater ease, and some quite good (well I thought so). Hence poems are still popping out at the rate of one or two a day. All through working for the portfolio, I was counting lines. . . 300, not enough, only 450. . . how can that be? But, once I hit 600 and the pressure was off the writing became so much easier. I wish now that I had never counted a single line but just written.

Last weekend I attended a workshop organised by the Dorset Writers Networkand run by the lovely Sarah Acton from Black Ven Poetry   We met at the Dorset NectarApple Orchard. Unfortunately it rained but we were able to sit in the big barn and absorb the sound of the rain, breathe the air and when there was a break in the showers we walked outside to get close up and friendly with the apple trees. It was, by coincidenc, St James’s Day the day on which apple trees are traditionally blessed. We did our best with our creative ideas and thoughts. It was an uplifting experience and so good to socialise albeit at a distance, but just to have distanced physical contact and talk writing and poetry again with like-minded people felt so good.

Me and Orchard

Me with the Orchard in the Background

If you haven’t watched them yet there are several Imagine programmes with Alan Yentob, to catch up on on Iplayer, but my favourites were, Lemn Sissay The Memory of Me and Andrea Levy Her Island Story. Both wonderful, inpiring writers with such interesting life stories to tell. Sadly Andrea died at the beginning of 2019…too soon.

I have bought the Lemn Sissay book My Name Is Why and am immediately hooked. What wonderful poetry this man writes.

Lemn-Sissay-Event

Going to reread Small Island now and also her book Fruit of The Lemon which is sitting on my bookshelf waiting. Andrea Levy

Too much to read. . .need more time. Too many wonderful podcasts to listen to. . .

 

Note Number 80. . .Writing Buddies. . .

criticism

I wanted to share the fact that having friends who write and who can give constructive criticism of your own work, are the best of all friends. When I first began my MA in Creative Writing, not only was I rubbish at giving feedback, I wasn’t very good at taking it. The latter still applies (sometimes) as it is not easy to be told something is lacking in your work.

A couple of weeks ago, in a general Teams chat, I was given a bit of a slap from a tutor. He told me that he thought my poem, ‘lacked articles and personal pronouns,’  was, ‘amateurish’ and ‘could have been written by an undergraduate.’ To his credit, he was at pains to tell me he knew nothing about poetry, (why bother to comment you  might ask?) As you can imagine I was hurt. I turned to my friends, who were supportive with encouraging comments. They liked my poem and maybe just a couple of changes would make it even better.  I then turned to my poetry tutor who, without telling me the poem was amazing or crap, gave me some sound advice and I quote:

I wouldn’t worry too much about what you might perceive as negative criticism. It is always tough to take, but nearly always has something of use you can take from it. I learned years ago to wait until my emotional reaction to criticism had died down before using it to improve my work. In the end, people may have different qualifications to critique, but everyone’s opinion has some merit.”

I think I’m going to print this out and frame it.

Back to writing buddies. Too many of them, and you become confused. You need just enough to give varied, subjective opinions. Listen to everything all of them have to say, and if there are similarities in their comments then those are the ones of which to take note. I have settled on around six friends whose work I respect and consequently I respect their opinions.

writing buddies

 

Note Number 79. . . Reading, Writing,Watching. . .

Closeup of Workspace with Modern Creative Laptop, Cup of Coffee

My everyday: pencil, computer, notebook, textbook. 

Just keeping up with everything really. Still slogging away my dissertation work. I’m creating a portfolio of poems based on dance and I am writing an essay entitled, Stress Behind the Creative Arts of Poetry and Dance — this may change as I read and research but you get the idea?

 

yuli 2

Last week The Man and I watched the film Yuli, the rags to riches story of Carlos Acosta. It’s directed by Icíar Bollaín and the screenplay written by Paul Laverty — a magnificent team.  Even though it’s about ballet it’s a film that anyone could enjoy (The Man did, and he’s not a ballet fan). You can watch the trailer here

No Way Home

I had bought the book, No Way Home, on which the film is based, and settled down to read it the day after watching the film. The book provides far more insight into Carlos Acosta’s personal journey, and sticks more to the facts than the film. It has given me a wealth of material to use in my essay. Of course I will have to be careful it doesn’t turn into an essay just about Carlos. The book was the twentieth book that I have read since January this year — not including text books and poetry books. I have found reading during Lockdown easy, although I know some people have been unable to concentrate. What has helped you pass the time while being stuck at home?

I’ve also been keeping a journal during lockdown, paying particular reference to the stress of creating poetry. Luckily for me, so far, I haven’t found the process too traumatic but perhaps you should ask The Man what he thinks!

Also for research, I am reading Poets on Prozac written by Richard M Berlin. It’s a collection of essays by poets who suffer from mental health problems and have had counselling and/or taken drugs or alcohol to help them. Because of the nature of the content — it’s one-sided; nothing about poets not on drugs etc., — I began to think that I could never be a good writer or poet unless I suffer some kind of breakdown. I need to find a text that shows the other side. Which of course there is, because writing/art/drama/dance are all encouraged to help people relieve stress and tension. 

I have also attended three masterclasses through the Arvon Foundation : Cathy Rentzenbrink, Sebastian Faulks and this week I’ll be joining the poet Kate Clanchy for some tips and advice.  I also watched an evening reading by Tania Hershman. It’s the most exciting experience. There can be up to 200 people in attendance, but we all have to turn off our microphones and cameras so the only person on the screen is the tutor. I can assure you that two hours with Sebastian Faulks made my week!

I can highly recommend the Arvon At Home readings and Masterclasses so do check them out here. Arvon at Home When things are back to the “new normal” I’m definintely checking out their residential retreats.

I’ve added links to all the writers and poets even though I’m sure you know them all. It just makes it easier if you want to find out more information.

 

Tania Hershman: Kate Clanchy: Cathey Rentzenbrink: Sebastian Faulks

Note Number 78…Last Leg of the Masters…

Everyone is writing and talking about Coronavirus and lockdown — I will leave that alone then.

MA Update:

I’ve spent the last few weeks working on two stories: one for my Realism submission and one for Prose Writing (I wrote a short memoir). The results came in yesterday, and I was pretty pleased. A high merit for the Realism and a low distinction for the Memoir. If I’m honest, which I like to be, I hoped to get a distinction for my Realism piece too, but it fell short on pace and plot. When I’m in the mood I’ll go back to it and tweak it so that I can either enter it for a competition or develop it into something else. That’s the thing about writing you can always edit, redraft, resubmit or find a home for most pieces of work other than the bin!

editing

A good bit of news is that I was long listed for the Fish Poetry Prize this year. I was indeed chuffed as they had nearly 2000 entries and the long list was 295. The Man pointed out that I was in the top 15% — I could never have worked that out! I’ve now entered the poem for the Bridport Prize…I’ll keep you posted.

Poetry is where I’m at right now. For my MA Dissertation, I must complete 600 lines of poetry. If you say it quickly it doesn’t sound too bad but it will probably be around forty poems. I’m trying to write a sequence of poems inspired by dance; specifically ballet, and even more specifically The Firebird, a ballet first performed by the Ballet Russes in the 1920s. The Ballet Russes were a touring company based in Paris. Their director Serge Diaghilev had left Russia during the turbulent revolutionary period. Read more about it here.

Firebird Costume Leon Bakst

The Original Design for The Firebird Costume by Léon Bakst

I’m enjoying the process of creating these poems but as with every project it seems to have morphed into something much more than The Firebird and Ballet Russes. I downloaded a master class by the poet Billy Collins and one thing he said was: “Let the poem take you somewhere. Choose a starting point and just go with it.” Or words to that effect. It was a good piece of advice. The journeys the poems take me on can be arduous and I get a bit lost before I reach the end, but sometimes, I just arrive without even noticing a bump.

Don’t let the restrictions tie you down — Whoops! I said I wouldn’t mention it — you can dance in your house, in your garden or even in your head. Here’s a little haiku from me:

 

Isadora

dancing is freedom

feel the music let it flow

be Isadora

 

Isadora Duncan 26 May 1877 – 14 Sept 1927

Note Number 74…University…O Yeah!

I began this blog a while ago and should have posted it but – university work got in the way…that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. (nice cliché there).

Photo on 20-10-2019 at 12.25

Thursday 19th September was Induction Day for Post Graduate Students and yes…that’s me, folks! I was excited, apprehensive…a little fish in a very big pond. I parked in the visitors’ carpark and paid the fee due (bit worried about this because after all I wasn’t a visitor but a S T U D E N T. But, a kind chap pointed out that they had no idea whose car it was so not to worry.

Queens Building, Streatham Campus. Lecture Theatre 2 was the designated venue for induction. I took my place early, and it soon filled up with PG students studying subjects under the school of Humanities, including, English, Archeology, Film, Creative Writing (my subject) and a few others.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when the Director of Taught Programmes arrived to welcome us. I thought the university must have employed him from an actors agency… he appeared how I imagine a professor should look. Long grey untidy hair tied back in a ponytail, a pair of glasses hanging on a string around his neck, open neck check shirt, baggy jacket, black waistcoat and corduroy trousers…I mean, honestly, it was Michael Caine in Educating Rita!

professor_skwirk_7

I have to admit to feeling my age on that first occasion. Looking around me, everyone appeared to be in their late twenties or thirties, just the odd, older person hiding in a corner or hunkering down in their seat, trying to look inconspicuous. But, I was relieved later in the day, when we were split into our separate groups to find several ‘mature’ students were studying Creative Writing. Phew! A good mixture, I would say.

Reading week was from 28th October. The first weeks have flown by and I am learning a great deal. At least I think I am. I’m certainly reading a great deal. Text books, poetry anthologies, short stories, newspaper articles, plays and scripts. My brain has trouble switching off in the evening.

This term, I’m studying a poetry module and a module in which I will learn, (hopefully) more about plotting – on an in-depth scale. You might be persuaded to think that 4 hours a week attending university is a doddle. . .let me put your right. I am expected to do 300 hours of work in twelve weeks for the poetry module, and I guess the same for the other. That’s 600 hours in twelve weeks. Now, I’m not very good at maths, but I think that works out at about 50 hours a week plus the four hours of lectures.

There wasn’t much let up over reading week either because, for the poetry module, Professor Andy Brown…he’s an inspiring teacher, asked us to prepare a 1000-word document, evaluating our progress to date, and my aims for the end of the module, plus a few poems, to show ‘how I’m doing.’  It’s wonderful, how much creativity Dr Andy Brown has encouraged and drawn out of his students so far.

For the other module, a 1000-word essay about The Map of Desire…a concept conceived by the tutor Sam North about the needs and desires of the protagonist in any story…moves the story on. It’s more complicated than I’ve made it sound, but you would need to read, The Instinctive Screenplay, to know more about it. The essay was written using the play Waiting for Godot…hmm, say no more. What’s the point anyway? 😂

Other News

I was shortlisted in the Charmouth 50-word story competition but not placed. I entered the Bridport Story slam but didn’t get anywhere. I performed at an open mike evening in Lyme and read out one of my ‘new’ poems saying, with great confidence, that it was a Pantoum. Only to realise later that the poem I performed was a Ghazal...haven’t learned that much then!

I had the grandchildren for two days in reading week; went to the Dinosaur Museum in Bridport and to see Farmageddon the Shaun the Sheep new movie. All good stuff. Keeps you young you know, and I have to do that, as I’ve just entered an important year, at the end of which I will be celebrating a big birthday.

 

 

Note Number 71. . .Seamus Heaney Home Place. . .

Me outside

Last Monday The Man and I were in Northern Ireland, and we took the opportunity to visit Seamus Heaney Home Place. It was the most inspirational few hours that I have spent in a long time. What a prodigious man. Not just a great poet but one prepared to mete out his knowledge to everyone. By coincidence, there was an article about Seamus Heaney,  in the Royal Society of Literature Review, waiting for me on my return from Ireland.  I was interested to read this quote, about his engagement with his thousands of correspondents,

‘. . . I have a feeling of responsibility towards those who want contact with poets or poetry.’

He replied to everyone who wrote to him.

He was, I think, an approachable man, someone who would easily chat to a person like me. Unfortunately, I will never get that chance. Seamus Heaney died in August 2013 at the age of 74. But, I did have the opportunity to visit the museum, in his birthplace of Bellaghy. I was able to listen to his voice reading his beautiful words. I was truly inspired. Sometimes, reading the work of a literary genius can just make you feel defeated, in the knowledge that you could never be that good but somehow, his voice, his infinite words, urged me on, to try and create some good poetry in my own voice.

Words

Dialect words used in Seamus Heaney Poetry — Witney, one of the guides at Home Place, printed out a glossary for me of over 100 words. I doubt I’ll be able to use any of them (I could try) but they make fascinating reading.

 

I’ve got the notebook, pencil, mug and a few anthologies. Time to put them to good use . .

Note Number 67…Messing About with Sewing…

Last week I bought a sewing machine. I’ve had one before, in fact, I had the last one for well over thirty years, but then the house got flooded and the old machine took a battering that couldn’t be repaired. Anyway, got a new one, more modern but not too sophisticated a basic Brother model. It does forwards and backwards, zig-zag, zip foot, buttonhole foot etc., and best of all tada…*drum roll* it has a gadget that threads the needle. Beats me how it does it. I do what I’m supposed to do and hey presto…the cotton is through the eye of the needle, but I’ve no idea how!

So the first garment I made was a mop-cap. Success. I need it for a little performance that I’m doing with my local writing group, Story Traders, some of us have written short stories or poems using William Turner as our inspiration. The Bridport Museum are having a Turner exhibition featuring one of his paintings of West Bay. He visited the area don’t you know? The piece I’ve written is a little creative story about Turner on the beach meeting some young people while he’s painting and trying to join in the music, playing his flute. They (whoever they are) do say that he played the flute, albeit usually in private. They found one in his home after he died. We’re performing on Wednesday 3rd Julyin Bridport library, 2.30 – 3.15 and in the museum on the 10th July (I think…not sure of details yet).

mop capMop Cap

Hope I look a bit brighter than this chap when I’m wearing it! 

Back to the sewing. I have a wonderful jacket that I bought in New York several years ago and it is one of my most favourite items. I wear it all the time. I decided I would like to make a copy but of course I didn’t have a pattern. The result was not exactly disastrous but the teacher would definitely say, ‘could do better’. I never realised how difficult making a pattern from an article of clothing would be.

Jacket 1

First attempt at a jacket…I won’t show you the original…tut tut 

Next morning, I took myself off to the wonderful Livingstone Textile shop in Bridport, bought a pattern for a kimono jacket and some fab material…second attempt was a lot better but I need lessons on how to do a collar and also how to measure myself – I chose extra-large…big mistake as it’s about two sizes too big. It will do for Barcelona though,(*see below).

kimono 1

Better effort this time

(didn’t make the black t-shirt underneath, just thought it looked better in the photo) 

Practice makes perfect, but of course practicing costs material and time. In comparison, writing is easier,  because it doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make you can put them right, improving the end product all the time, but, with sewing? Well, once you’ve made a mistake, you’re done for…unless you are very clever and can make a silk purse out of a sow’sear.

CLICHE ALERT!! 

*The Man is off cycling in th Pyranees at the moment (hence I can sew all day on the kitchen table), good luck to him! He finishes in Collioure and will be dropped off in Barcelona. so I’m off to meet him next Thursday for a fabulous five night in a city that I have always wanted to visit. Looking forward to it and will let you know how I get on. Plus, I now have a lovely kimono jacket to wear in the evenings! Wonder what else I can make tomorrow? Better do some writing I think.

Note Number 52…Waiting…

 

 

Here is a little poem I put together while I was walking the dog and waiting for her to finish looking into the distance at. . . nothing. It made me think about how much of my life I spend waiting for someone or something. When you’ve read this you can add your own ‘waiting for…’ in the comments.

 

I’m always waiting
waiting for the dog
waiting for the kettle to boil
for the washing machine to finish, for a cake to bake
how much time do I spend waiting?
waiting for the bathroom to be free
waiting for my money to get to the bank
I’ve always waited for that, first birthday gifts, then salary, now pension
I’ve never waited at the altar
even though I’ve been married three times
I’ve waited in the courtroom for a divorce

waiting at the cemetery to watch a burial
waiting to spread the ashes of a loved one
stood, waiting in line to buy a stamp
waited for people to come through the barrier
at the airport or the station
waited for a taxi to come along

Waiting, always waiting
I’m always waiting for my turn,
at the shops, at the doctor’s, at the poetry evening,
at a dance competition when I was younger
for my husband to come back from a bike ride now
I’ve waited to be served, with tea, coffee, cold drink
wine, water, snacks, food
waiting for a letter to come
waiting for an email to tell me good news
waiting for my next birthday
waiting at a junction

waiting for a baby to be born, waiting for a relative to die
we’re born waiting.
pausing, postponing, lingering, hanging around, marking time,
killing time when we should be living time
but
we’re waiting

waiting. . .

always waiting

 

 

Ninette Hartley © February 2018

waiting for computer

This is The Man…every day!