Carshalton-On-Sea Festival

COSposter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This has all come together rather quickly, and impressively, and I am delighted to be so involved. The main event for me and my other poetical colleagues, Sarah Dawson, Neil Horabin and David Russamano, is the Water Poets at 1pm in the Cryer Theatre, Saturday 20th June. There will be tonnes of other excellent stuff to see and do over the weekend!

Never Pounce on a Porcupine #Imbolc #NatureWords

???????????????????????????????“Never pounce on a porcupine!” was my son’s conversation opener this morning- wise advice, nice use of alliteration- and the perfect way to start this post, my first of 2015.

The word alliteration has been added to the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary- however porcupine has been removed. Can you pounce on ‘a rodent with a coat of sharp spines, or quills’? Probably- although you would be foolish to do so- and the alliteration does not exist without the word porcupine. How much meaning is being lost in removing this one word, which tells us, rather delightfully,  all we need to know about this creature? The same goes for the word piglet – it is no longer in the Oxford Junior Dictionary- it has been removed. Where would Winnie the Pooh be without Piglet? Piglet’s favourite food is acorns– or as he refers to them, “haycorns” – another word which has been deemed irrelevant to children’s vocabulary in the 21st century. Alliteratively (and poetically): Pink Piglet- yes…Pink Baby Pig- No….

Acorn comes from the Middle English- it is a very old word which we have been using for hundreds of years- but will children now refer to acorns as ‘fruit of an oak, consisting of a single-seeded, thick-walled nut set in a woody, cuplike base’? No- because, according to the Oxford University Press, who publish the Oxford Junior Dictionary, these words have been removed to make way for words which are more suitable and relevant to the indoor and technology-focused lifestyles of children now.
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primrose is another word to have gone from the OJD

This erasure of nature-based words from the Oxford Junior Dictionary is not a new situation- but has received more press coverage again recently. Religious and magical words (bishop, goblin, elf, sin) removed in 2007, have been added to with words such as catkin and even conker, in the 2012 edition. Words that in my opinion are still intrinsic to childhood itself, and to our relationship, education about, and understanding of the natural world around us.

The Guardian ran a piece on this in January, and many writers including Margaret Atwood and Michael Morpurgo have written to the OUP regarding this worrying state of affairs.

As a poet and a writer who writes about place, and as a mother of a seven year old, I felt determined to do something to raise awareness about this but until this weekend I wasn’t sure what that would be.

But…this weekend I went to Glastonbury to meet up with dear friends and celebrate Imbolc with them, also known as Brigid. Brigid or Bridie is the Goddess of Inspiration, Blacksmiths, Fire and also Poetry. This is a celebration of the First Stirrings- where the begins of growth are apparent: in snowdrops, the first lambing, and green shorts daring to peek out in the freezing weather.DSC02656

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After the celebration at the White Spring, we came out into the bright, watery-sun morning and gathered in a circle across Well House Lane, between the White Spring and the Red Spring at Chalice Well. There was an open invitation for people to share their thoughts, inspiration, songs and poetry. This is an event I always try to get to, as it is a great way to begin the year proper, and is a joyful meeting of like minds and community, in the best place to be.

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Some amazing poetry was performed and read, a wonderful guided visualisation was offered, inspirational stories were told, and the ever-joyful Hemp man was there to impress the gathered throng with the benefits of hemp consumption and production.

I had chosen two poems to read, and thought I had neatly folded them into my bag, but on arrival realised I had left them behind. I was disappointed for a moment but instead I found the printed list list of nature words which have been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary lurking unexpectedly in my rucksack. It was after Lisa Goodwin performed her fantastic poem, which included the repeated line What would Bridie Do? that I knew I had to do it.

She asked if anyone else would like to contribute and I stepped into the circle and explained that the Oxford Junior Dictionary had removed a significant amount of nature words, and that as this was a day for poets, language and inspiration, that this seemed the right place to say some of them, and would everyone repeat them as I spoke them?

Here are all of the words, with the ones I remember saying, shouting even, highlighted.

adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox,oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren. Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran,bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip,crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender,leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow
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crocus- omitted from the OJD
I picked them out randomly, and in the moment but as I stood there and said them myself, and heard them come back at me, with the audible surprise and indignation in some people’s voices, I realised the power and meaning attached to these words, especially to people who feel spiritually connected to nature, to the earth, to the turning year, to the seasons….
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 I am very glad I did it, and afterwards, as we walked through the side gate into Chalice Well, and headed towards the warmth of the fire, and cups of coffee and ample blocks of delicious banana cake, a few people approached me to talk about it. So if a few more people know about this then these words will be fought for more fervently, as they should be.
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This is how we communicate our connection to nature, as well as claim our heritage and our traditions. For example think about what the word ‘conker’ conjures in you….
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the words won’t die because they aren’t included in one children’s dictionary- but it is symbolic and symptomatic of the disconnection with nature that is not only happening but also apparently being accepted as ‘normal’ in many sections of society. George Monbiot wrote a great piece in The Guardian about children losing their connection to nature and the future implications of this, which is worth reading.
After my nature-word incanting at the weekend my aim is to explore some of these words with my son this year and post the results on here from time to time.
I hope that OUP reconsider their decision and send out a positive message by putting these words back into the next edition of their junior dictionary. For updates on the campaign to bring the words back, this is the place to go: http://www.naturemusicpoetry.com/campaigns.html
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To finish up, and as something to consider…here are some of the words that have taken the place of the words above…what do they mean to you?
Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and
paste, analogue Celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate,EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate,
endangered, Euro Apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum,
classify, chronological, block graph

 

 

 

Rhythm & Muse : It’s been Ekphrastic

Rhythm and Muse has its final evening of poetry and music tonight, at the Ram Jam club in Kingston Upon Thames. I am very sorry to miss it due to other long-standing plans but I will be thinking of them.

The Grey Horse pub, which the Ram Jam club is part of, is going to be under new ownership from January 2015, so this will be the last regular Rhythm and Muse event for a while. But it won’t be the end of R&M, and there may be festival specials and other goodies to look forward to- the advice is to check the website and facebook for updates.

If you can go tonight I would urge you to do so. Apart from the terrific lineup, including the inimitable LiTTLe MACHiNe, who Carol Ann Duffy declares are ‘The most brilliant music and poetry band I’ve seen in decades’ (see below), there will be plenty of festive cheer. If you are very lucky you may even get to witness the on-the-spot poetry of Nick Poole- once witnessed, never to be forgotten! Most of all, I can guarantee you will have lots of fun.

I found out about Rhythm and Muse while I was a student at Kingston University, and soon went along to experience the delights on offer. I found a dynamic mix of musical acts and excellent poets performing in a small, ram-jam packed venue. I have witnessed some great poetry at R&M, from the likes of Roger McGough, Martin Daws, Mario Petrucci, A F Harrold, Katrina Naomi and many many others – you can see the full list here.

One of the best things about R&M is its enthusiastic and loyal audience, who were also willing to listen to anyone who was brave enough to sign up  for an open mic spot. I’ve read my work many times, and benefitted from the friendly and supportive atmosphere. I took part in the legendary R&M Slam, writing a poem written especially for the occasion, which has become a staple of many of my readings since. The open mic at R&M in particular has been very important in helping me to gain confidence and find my voice as a poet, and I am very grateful for it.

I was at Rhythm and Muse’s night at The Rose Theatre, where I was lucky enough to see John Cooper Clarke, and, afterwards, to see my review of the show published and syndicated through the local press.

R&M’s longstanding relationship with Kingston University has seen them organise creative writing workshops at the Stanley Picker Gallery, of which I am fortunate enough to have attended a couple. One of these bore fruit in the form of a whole R&M night devoted to the poems and writings which were inspired by The Liquid Game, Boudicca’s incredible installation in the gallery, earlier this year.

Kingston Writing School has held events with R&M on campus, and many of my peers who studied creative writing at Kingston University have read their poems at Rhythm and Muse open mic, and students I have taught have carried on the tradition.

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A massive Congratulations to Alison Hill, Alice Thurling, Nick Poole, Judith Watts and everyone who has helped to make Rhythm and Muse such a success and such an important part of the creative life of us local poets and writers. It will be missed. Thank you!

 

 

New Year

I wanted to write one of those ‘best bits of the year’ posts for 2013 but it’s all a mad blur, so as random factors pop into my brain I shall blog about them, randomly…

In the meantime my son has gone back to school today, after telling me last night on the way home from Beavers that he hates school and wants “to stay at home, watch TV and play swordfighting all day”. After various complaints this morning ranging from having to get up to why did I polish his shoes he went off quite happily.

So now I have to get back to doing what I do…what do I do…oh yes, writing and teaching…no longer studying…looking for gainful employment… gizzajob!

I am about to begin two new creative writing projects which will keep me busy for most of this year- more about them once they’re underway…

I am also now in a position to read the stacks of books that have been growing steadily whilst I have been at university. My aim is to read one a week if possible. Let’s call it a resolution. I am slowly working my way through the pile of books my lovely friend and bibliophile Annie lent me (2 years ago-sorry Annie! It has been a joy to read purely for pleasure and not have to deconstruct and analyse everything, although this is a hard habit to break once you’ve been doing it for a while.

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.

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.

Calm Down Dear: March Tomorrow #Oct20

How you feeling out there?

despairing over food prices, petrol prices,

cost of fuel, academy schools,

GCSE regrades, benefit cuts, ATOS cruelty,

disabled suicides, kids stealing food,

no breakfast clubs at school, no ESA,

university fees sky high,

workfare as P**ndland profits rise,

pensions fall

bed and breakfasts fill to the brim with families

living in grim thin-walled rooms?

How you feeling, out there?

Patrician classes making money

off the backs of the poor plebs

who wanna pay big bucks for

tax evading taste deficient coffee

while the media omit to feature our burgeoning

Vergin’on the ridiculous

private healthcare

Workless, Feckless, Badgered?

Calm Down Dear.

MARCH TOMORROW

I am marching tomorrow because it is still one thing I can do to protest the cynical, cruel and calculating cuts being perpetrated by this coalition government. I find myself in the unforeseen position of not believing a  Labour government to be the answer, which is scary, as I have been a lifelong supporter until recently. The future is precarious for many of us at the moment for all kinds of reasons. For those of us who are homeless, unemployed, sick, disabled or who are single parents it is acutely worrying.

FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS WHILE YOU STILL HAVE THEM. THEY ARE BEING ERODED.

Running for Trees – Weeks Three and Four #Treeathlon

I’ve been so busy with my dissertation and my son finishing his first year of school. I have had enough time for five runs in the last two weeks but no time to blog. But here I am at the beginning of Week Five to report back on how it’s going.

Two weeks ago, at the start of Week Three I decided to go for a run in Richmond Park. I was very excited at the prospect of this, Richmond Park is one of my favourite places to be, and I felt like I was moving up a level. Most of my runs have been around the estate I live on, purely for the reason that it is the most practical and time-saving way of training.

I parked at Pembroke Lodge, changed into my running gear and plugged myself in to my ipod, scrolling through the menus as I walked along. I was looking for the Week Three podcast on the excellent NHS Counch Potato to 5K running programme the NHS provides as a free download. I realised I had downloaded every other week except Week Three! What to do next? Go for another Week Two run or live dangerously and skip stright to Week Four? I went for the latter and, feeling slightly daring as I set off, wondered if I would make it.

I decided I would do as much as I could but if it proved too much I would stop and go back to the week before. I needn’t have worried. Running through the Park was a revelation. It was a warmish, cloudy day, wth the sun peeking through the clouds, but still cool enough to wear my comfort-blanket waterproof.

The ground was earthy and soft, springy and pleasant to run on. The rain had held off and there wasn’t much mud around. And anyway, for most of the run I was under the green canopy of the trees, currently in their full-on showing-out summer glory. I felt energised as I jogged along, excited to be running in this beautiful place, and amazed to be keeping up with the Week Four podcast at the beginning of my Week Three of training! In fact I had no problem completing the run which was a great boost to my confidence- I am not as spud-like as I thought I was.

I completed three runs that week but decided to be sensible and continue with the Week Four podcast in Week Four, rather than get too far ahead of myself. On my fifth run the podcast came to an end with the usual five minute walk to warm down but I wasn’t ready to stop. I scrolled through to find something that would keep the pace up (see below) and continued running for another four minutes, even speeding up, purely for the joy of continuing.

I am getting hooked on running, enjoying feeling fitter and accomplishing each small goal towards the 5k target. I am also calmer and my writing is benefitting from the mental time-out which running provides, especially with the current pressure to write my MA dissertation. The combination is a winner and I have already decided that although my first big goal is to run the Treeathlon for Trees in Cities on 15th September, I won’t stop after that.

I hope to go for another run in Richmond Park again soon but until then the estate where I live is just large enough to accommodate a half hour run. It’s a quiet leafy suburb estate, with grass verges, not yet wiped out by parking although sadly diminishing year on year. There are also still plenty of front gardens which have not been paved over or used for parking (again this is happening at a scary rate) which have trees in them. The other day I noted ash, yew, a couple of silver birch and rowen trees amongst others. I think I will try and see how many species I can spot as I continue to run round my estate.

This neatly brings me to the point of the Treeathlon- to raise money for Trees In Cities. What would a city be like without its lungs? Because that is what trees are, and they provide lots of other benefits too. Trees In Cities have lots of information about this very subject here. Each time I run locally I do a circuit which includes a section of the A3, the massive artery road into London right next to where I live. There are no trees on this road, apart from those in people’s front gardens, where they provide a vital screen from the exhaust fumes and constant noise. I run this way on purpose at the moment, especially after the run in Richmond Park, as a meditation and a reminder of what trees do for us. We cannot and must not underestimate their importance.

Trees feature in my writing all the time, they creep in like ents when I think I am writing about something else. I like it that way…

PitStop

This week I handed in the final assignment for this year whilst battling a stomach bug, a household scratching with nits and organising J*b*l** outfits for school parades. What a relief – apart from the nailbiting until I get the marks back. By then I will be focusing on the 15000 word dissertation and 3000 word methodological essay I will be writing over this Summer.

I’m exhausted as usual and could do with some time out where I can go somewhere very quiet and sleep and not do much for a day or two but I doubt that will happen. I am very blessed to be able to do what I am doing and to be doing it next year, although I am anxious about whether I can fit it all in. I have been studying full time for four years now and it’s been a life-changing and fantastic (for the most part) experience.

Juggling everything with my son is a constant challenge, and now more than ever since he started school. Logically it should be easier, dropping him off at 8.45am  five days a week and collecting him at 3.15 should give me more time. But it hasn’t worked like that. When he was at pre-school 3 days a week he was there from 9 til 5 and I’ve come to realise how precious those two extra hours are when you are trying to write. Quite often I will just be getting into my stride when I have to stop everything. Then there is the endless paperwork, letters, collections, homework, costume making, parents’ evenings, meetings, events etc.

Actually his school is fairly light on all that stuff, it’s a small school with a not-terribly-active PSA, so it could be more extensive than it is. I wish there was more going on for him there. It’s a nice little school and he is doing well. He’s made some great friends, as have I. I have wrestled with the idea of getting more involved in helping out at the school. I go and read once a week which I adore but I wish I could do more. And I might… I keep holding back because of the university workload.

I’ve also been tutoring my son’s friend’s teenage sister, who needs some extra support with her English GCSE. This has also been a fruitful experience – I’ve enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It has been an education in how kids are taught now…and how to teach.

Probably the best thing about uni this year is that I’ve met some lovely, talented people on my course, writers who are as serious about this madness as I am. I am now in the fortunate position of having a writing support group of amazing poets and prose writers! Hip Hip Hooray for that!

Once again everything has been thrown in the air and I have been running about with my head up looking to see where it all lands again, without bashing into too many trees or lamposts or people in the meantime…