Up the Hill Backwards

I shouldn’t be here…shhh…this is a very quick post, whilst I am mid-essay writing and getting ready to hand in the dissertation at the end of this week. Thirty one poems and a critical essay will mean the completion of my MFA in creative writing, and the end of five years of full time study in higher education. Quite a week…not freaking out at all then…

I drove my son to Wales at the weekend where we stayed with wonderful friends who looked after him on Saturday and Sunday, while I drove to another wonderful friend’s (sister of other friend) house to work. The house is blissfully quiet and the back garden looks onto a steep hillside where every so often I would look up and see horses wandering about grazing. At one point I lost count of how many were there, an inspiring and novel sight for me – I have the A3, a major arterial road running into central London, at the back of my house (which I hate). It’s the perfect place to sit and write and I am very lucky to have such good friends who have supported me and made a real difference to my being able to finish this postgraduate degree.

My dimwitted, one-track, stressed-out-state-of-mind was improved both mornings by the twenty minute drive to this idyllic writing setting. The mist-covered hills were alive with the sound of Bowie, blasting out of the open windows of my little Fiesta as it motored through the valley and I drank in the epic scenery. I vow to climb up one of these mountains every time I visit but I haven’t managed it yet…maybe next time…after this is all over.

What is it about Bowie this year? I’ve revisited his music in a big way, and it’s influenced my poetry. His lyrics are endlessly quoteable, and the song Where Are We Now? has been buzzing around my head since its release, and was my internal soundtrack for the whole of my recent visit to Berlin, especially as I ventured to some of the sites in Schoneberg where Iggy and Bowie lived and hung out in the 70s. I was really sad not to get to the exhaustive exhibition of his archive, which was held at the Victoria and Albert Museum earlier this year, but with all the other commitments I’ve had, some plans had to be sacrificed and unfortunately that was one of them…

Going to Wales always feels like going home. I don’t know if it’s the warmth, loving hospitality and sense of fun of the friends we have there, or the landscape which never fails to leave me in awe. Maybe it’s that time slows down an iota or two, and gives everyone a chance to breathe and be a bit kinder to each other in general than they are here on the outskirts of the Smoke.  It is probably a combination of all three but especially the first. My son was adamant that he did not want to leave and has told me he wants to spend the whole of the summer holidays there next year…

I hand the work in on Friday and that will be the end of a life-changing, intense and thoroughly enjoyable five years of study. I’ve never worked so hard for something in all my life. I hope it pays off as I wend my way back into the ‘real world’ and start to earn a living.

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