The Final Furlong

Five years ago I went to university, to get qualified as a journalist, to study creative writing, to gain a teaching qualification which would enable me to teach in higher education institutions. To eventually go out and earn enough money to support me and my son.

I’m a month away from finishing that five years, from completing the goal, realising the aim…and all that…

This year has been a challenge, studying the Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher education, alongside completing the final year of the MFA in Creative Writing, has twisted my melon into new and uncomfortable positions a melon should not find itself in.

I am now facing Becher’s Brook, a melon leaping against all odds, at the final furlong,  a collection of 40 poems plus critical essay stuffed in the saddle bags.

Not quite 40 yet…but they’re coming along slow and steady.

Life continues to be rich, surprising, satisfying and blooming weird…definitely blooming

When it’s all over on 30 September there will be more blogging and there may be more before then… anything that helps me get this final ‘thing’ achieved…five years at university is a long time- but, apart from motherhood, it’s been the making of me.

Fork it…again

I’ve started digging the garden again, after a few of half-hearted attempts in the last couple of years. This time I am going to try and re-reclaim the veg patch and clear another patch so that my son can have a trampoline.

DSC07558

Back in August 2009 I decided to tame the really wild patch at the end of the garden and turn it into a veg patch. You can see my efforts at the blog I devoted to this, Roar Earth. By August 2010 I was harvesting tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, kohl rabi, beetroot, beans and other delights. And later on that autumn I had a haul of courgettes, giant marrows, pumpkins and even one perfectly formed butternut squash!

It was hard work and I accomplished most of it by myself, with a bit of help from my niece and one weekend when a couple of old friends came down and did one solid day’s work which would have taken me another couple of weeks on my own!

But later on in the winter 2010, after being constantly ill with various bugs and viruses which I couldn’t shift, I was diagnosed with post-viral fatigue, and told to have complete rest. As a single parent in my final year of a degree this was bad news. The worst thing about it was being told there was no guarantee I would get better and that in fact I might get worse, oh and no treatment either…

DSC07570

I was pretty depressed about this, friends rallied and I wrote about it a bit. Then just after christmas I slipped while out walking with my son and friends and broke my wrist. At the time it felt like the last straw. It meant I couldn’t drive, couldn’t do lots of things I was still trying to do despite my doctor’s prescription of rest- how do you have complete rest when you are a single parent with an at-the-time three-year-old?

My father stepped in to help and I rested, put all my university assignments off, and did huge amounts less than I had- and started to feel better. Good days and bad. Then more good days but ever since I have not been able to do as much as I used to- so digging the garden had to drop off my agenda.

???????????????????????????????

Last year I started running using the Couch to 5k podcasts available free from the NHSSAVE THE NHS–  and discovered I could run and that it helped my lower my stress levels and improved my energy. In September I ran 5k for Trees for Cities, and was hoping to run 10k for them at the end of May but have been too busy completing the postgraduate degrees I am currently studying, too tired and too flipping cold until recently. My aim is to start again this week. runningfinishtreeathloncrop

I really want my son to have a trampoline in the garden, which is the main reason I have gone back out there. But I am also desperate to grow some food again, especially as prices are skyrocketing and I have no money, and I would rather grow my own anyway, if I can. I still get very tired sometimes but I think I am ok and pretty healthy, so I feel very lucky. However my plan is to tackle the garden an hour or two at a time, a few days a week, and see how it goes. I may have some help later on which will be fantastic – but I also quite like pottering away out there…it’s great to be doing it again.

???????????????????????????????

The last two weeks has involved mainly cutting down massive brambles, pulling up nettles where they are not wanted, and turning over some of the ground. I have cleared one small raised bed and that now has beetroot and chard sprouting in it.

Let’s see if I can get a trampoline in there for the summer…

2013: SLICE

Running at 160 bpm I LOVE you Kreuzberg with your HOT slides and cool water You live in a Labyrinthian mind  which allowed us to drift by the hotel where Borges went BLIND and WILDE passed in Paris but to almost never meet the Minotaur of St Marks Square Who could have predicted all that would follow after the first initiation ten YEARS ago? The top of my head was trepanned and the light poured finally finally finally and I went away from all of that only to return in ever decreasing circles a circle now dowsed in salt and broken BROKEN finally finally not even a spiral or a loose thread Just no thing Hanging maybe a noose a stitch to be picked up in time I ran up a green hill I ran through the mining villages of South Wales loving that land which might be HOME This is the journey back now I am wound tight and ready to let go

I’m coming to get you in song.

DSC03134

Oh the places you (might) go

I am drafting poems for my MFA dissertation. The general theme is place, as with most of my writing in recent years. This week I have been transported to France, Italy, Germany, Ethiopa and am currently visiting the Cherokee Nation. It’s cheaper (and more fun) than flying. Some of this ‘mental travel’ is to revisit places I have already been to, some of it is vicarious, via maps and online resources…some of it is imaginary/visionary.

I’ve been reading William Blake’s The Mental Traveller this morning, seeing as I am on this strange journey with my poems- although the subject matter would seem to be more mental travail than travel…it is, like all his work, thought-provoking, beautiful, troubling and magickal:

And these are the gems of the human soul:
The rubies and pearls of a lovesick eye,
The countless gold of an aching heart,
The martyr’s groan, and the lover’s sigh.

On the Run Again

After a rough couple of months, where I was poorly, very fatigued and trying to complete my MA dissertation, settle my son into Year One at school and start my final year of university, I finally seem to be better. Now there’s a sentence packed full of action! But I don’t really want to expand on it and drag it out. I did it, he settled into school and now I am running again. Yippee!

After a few exploratory runs to see if I was fit enough to keep going I am about to start training for my next challenge – I am going to run 10km.

I have been working on improving my speed and have been training listening to some marvellous music created by sports music specialists AudioFuel. I am now running at 160 bpm. This seems to be filling the gap left by the end of over 20 years of regular nightclubbing jaunts which fizzled out gradually and came to a full stop (with a few notable exceptions) after I became a mother.

I will be blogging about my training here as I work my way up to the 10k mark, and hope to raise some more money for Trees For Cities next year if I am succesful.

Treeathlon

Yesterday I was lucky enough to take part in Trees For Cities’s Treeathlon, which took place in the leafy environs of Battersea Park. It was a gorgeous early autumn, sunny September day, as predicted. Perfect weather to enjoy a 5k run round the park.

I was on the 7.47am train with my excited son, and in Battersea Park station by 8.12am! I never realised it was possible to get there so fast- which pleases me because Battersea Park is ace and Sam is desperate to go back. We met my friend Liz and her daughter there, who were coming along with us to support me and keep Sam company while I ran the race.

The event was well thought-out and impressively organised, with a large corner of the park set aside to accomodate Treeathloners and their friends and families. After registering and collecting my official Treeathlon Marcus Lupfer-designed tshirt (see above) I changed into it using the spacious changing tent provided. I was then able to leave all my ‘gubbins’ behind at the left-luggage tent for a very reasonable £2 donation to Trees For Cities. In the midst of all the ‘operational’ facilities  was The Blue Bus stage, playing cheerful festival-vibe music in between sets from London band Scarletts Roses and my favourite, The Sunshine Swing Band.

A small but perfectly chosen array of food and drink stalls complemented this, with freshly baked pizzas, vegan curry, candy floss on a stick, cocktails and jerk chicken wraps on offer.

At 9.45 the warm up began with Sinitta and flamboyant-is-an-understatement Francis Alejandro Cardoso from Dance Flavourz , who have performed on Britain’s Got Talent (not that I would know) and who led the expectant runners in a warm up. This began to my delight with Sinitta’s ‘So Macho’ and went on to some serious Samba music and movement.

The runners were called to the Start line in Advanced, Intermediate and Beginner sections. I had already decided to stay right at the back, so I missed Alex James from Blur who was apparently starting the race. After doing well with my training over the last eleven weeks I’ve been poorly over the last two and only managed two runs in the last fortnight. But after the support and generosity of friends and family who have sponsored me to the tune of £216 (thank you!) I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Instead I doubled up on my asthma medication and aimed to take it slow and steady like an Ent and see how I got on. If an Ent can walk than so could I if I had to…

I was helped along by the soundtrack in my ears which included Scritti Politti, Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, Chicks on Speed and Arcade Fire (‘Month of May’ and ‘Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) driving me on for the last 1500 metres) which I’d selected the night before. But really I didn’t need much to spur me on, the atmosphere was fantastic, the enthusiasm palpable and the park is beautiful. We had two laps to run, past lakes with canada geese scudding onto their watery runways; fountains, rose gardens, tennis courts and playgrounds. Past people playing football, lifting free weights, walking dogs, cycling and in-line skating. All while shaded by a glorious canopy of trees.

Liz and the kids were there to cheer me on as I completed the first lap and were there again to meet me at the finish. In the end I managed a personal best of 39 minutes and 52 seconds to run 5km. Not bad going considering I have only run 5km three times! After running I went to choose my sapling and picked a rowan tree. Now I just have to work out where to plant it.

Trees for Cities did a great job of catering for familes, offering all kinds of child-friendly activities. While I was running Sam and Scarlett had their faces painted in exchange for a donation to keep those trees being planted. This was top quality work (see below), and plenty of grown ups were also taking advantage of the face-artistry on site! After the race the kids and I also had a go at hulahooping, and there was sack racing, space hoppers, ‘cutting and sticking’ and drawing on offer too.

As we sat enjoying the band and eating lunch Sam turned to me and said: “I’m really glad you did this today. Was it very hard to do?” Awwww….there were some older children running too, so I told him maybe in a few years he could do it with me if he wanted to.

I absolutely loved the whole experience- all four of us had a great time. I would definitely do it again. This is the start of running for me- I am aiming to keep going and see if I can push my distance up to 10 km over the next few months, once I am better and have handed in my dissertation.