Back Soon…Time Flies

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This may the least amount of blogging I’ve done in the last nearly ten years… it’s been an eventful and exciting year so far. Very busy creatively- and professionally- in fact the two are combining nicely- which was always the plan- with all kinds of stuff happening, happened, and with a bit of luck and a following wind, going to happen…

So this is a holding post to say I will be posting here again on a more regular basis, with all kinds of news of the soon-to-be-published Over The Fields map, plus an update on what I’ve been up to over the last few months (mainly to remind myself and gather my thoughts as we head towards Lammas), and also to write about other stuff that will be happening this Autumn…

In the meantime- here I am at the Carshalton Time Machine…more now, and then, soon…

 

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

 

 

 

“Paradise haunts gardens…” Derek Jarman

I have no idea how long I have been thinking about going to see Derek Jarman’s garden- but it’s probably more than the twenty years since he died. I finally made it last Wednesday; drove from Rye, where we were staying for half term, on a persistently drizzly and grey day, through the marshes and strange flatness of Camber and Lydd. Across the pylon-plotted horizon with the odd caravan park nestling by their giant electric feet. And then without knowing until I saw it, there, a yellow framed, black stained timber building loomed into view through the mist and rain-spattered windscreen of my car.

There!

With the BBC film crew van tucked into the side of the narrow road between the stretch of shingle and few houses, there on the right hand side, the garden. Here are some grey rainy shots of Jarman’s garden as it is now, twenty years after he died. As far as I know the house is owned by someone new but obviously aware and respectful of the legacy, and the garden remains. Below is a short film made by BBC Gardeners’ World in the first few years after Jarman passed on, where his partner is interviewed and talks about the garden, and which includes quotes from Jarman’s book…. now I have to go back when the weather is better in the Spring. Dungeness is magickal and it is easy to understand why he settled there.

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Moving on…

I enjoyed the Small Stone exercise but have been so busy with other writing and poetry-related activities that it has fallen away to the roadside as I have jogged on, trying to keep up with myself for the last month.

I’m about far enough away from the experience of my last year at university to have the beginnings of some perspective on it. A vague way of saying that I think I have come through the worst of the MFA-dissertation-and-teaching-qualification madness I succumbed to.

The dust is settling after a total of five years of full time higher education and it feels good. For a long time afterwards I was rushing everywhere, panicking about not getting things done on time, until one day, quite recently, I realised I can set my own agenda now. There is, at last, more time for other things apart from writing assignments.

I feel happier than I have done in years.

Apart from that though I have been feverishly filling up that time with writing projects….of course… More about those and other stuff soon.

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The Imaginarium, Millenium Square, Brizzol

February #SmallStone

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A day of believing the hype: buds on trees, blue in sky, windows open for fresh air, energy to have friends over for lunch; I will make something of this paper, I will make something new and feel good about it. One day we’ll have a space in the city to dance in.

a gift of a morning teaching young children how to play with words and have fun. I can’t remember a better one. I wanted to go home and tell my mum.

a Gordian knot of resolve and frustration. Is this it? I hope that one day I will pull the rope free of the bind and move on into a new space.

an ancient woman in Frank Thomas bike boots throws chunks of bread at a wall on the corner of a street in Tooting; shouts toothlessly, picks up a scrunched up ball of paper from the scattered bread. Pigeons lined up on the crumbling wall above, look down on her quizzically; I look away, remember my last trip here was to buy material for my wedding dress. Fourteen years passed with no reason to return, till I pass through this afternoon, on the way to somewhere else.

attempt to embrace clods of shit, look at them through kaleidoscope, they disappear into space while you count stars before bedtime.

calm descended on the house this afternoon,  the year starts to form its shape, a few hours removed from worry, watching the storm from a safe spot, for now.

controlled demolition/ invisible construction by sleight of hand/ mute communication of desperation. Concrete boots  contain the gift of a straw to keep breathing. Just.

dog blanket and smoke stink bus, see inflated rain coats billow through smudged windows on the way to the hospital; told to come back when its worse. Walk past the Turnmills site and remember those nights, then- and now move on to cramped, joyous poetry night Wa Dem Do replaced Super Sharp Shooter again.

flash fast blue- the halcyon shimmer lives here in dull space between petrol-choked housing estate and grid-locked no-dream dump. It dives and soars between land and water, brown and grey, never stops its journey; finds fish in the future but now hungry, sight fogged in silt flood churn

homeless at home still bites occasionally, Hokey cokey weather sunshine boy’s bike ride blows away frustrations, surprise marigolds greet me with their seventies upholstery colour scheme. What are they doing here now, in the flood? The river rushes on.

 I could burst like a balloon any moment, cause a flood, ruin a scene, spoil the moment, drained forever, a fool, a failure at making a judgement. I don’t trust my heart. I walked away from home, from a chance of connection. Rationalised away in fear of discovery that: I am right about myself.

increments to normality: rolling pastry, roasting vegetables, appreciate eating. Still no patience with a recalcitrant son; Atlas is holding up my To Do list, but he can’t do it for ever.

 investigating frustrations and paralysis in space; time shifts, un-sticking personal tectonic plates; but I hold onto frustration at the table instead of letting go and trusting you will work it out.

lapping black mood buffered by experience : a mindful voice says in the middle of darkness- there will be a different day, where you don’t feel a mess, a failure, a vague fuddled weakness. Counting the good things in each day is the light to guide along the path.

my body is telling me to rest, all the warning signs are there, thumping wheezy chest, heavy head and grumpiness – these are the times I am desperate to do more – when will I learn to listen to my trusty vehicle, instead of pushing it to breakdown before recovery?

planet rendered to its marrow, assets stripped; inhabitants gleefully minced ; lungs compressed, water putrid.                       Investment mansions, inherited mansions, empty mansions, festooned  mansions, derelict mansions.                                                                 Luxury penthouse apartments built on sites historically reserved for the discounted, decanted and leprotic. Stink of polish, lilies, ordure and meat remain in great halls of tastefully accessorised cannibals; fuck plastic, eat oil.

small stones become cairns, dams, bridges, buildings; given time who knows what we can construct with present pebbles.

ten of Stones. Home . Building minus blocks . Anaglipta walls concave in . This is not my house

the alley became a pine forest, carpeted in burnt needles, rippled over the fractured concrete and sludge. Needles shored up against subsiding pebbledashed fence foundations, pooled in front of the wise woman’s cottage, a patchworkof of greens, moss cavey home for She Who lives at the edge; a  garage door in need of paint.

the invisible pugilist plants another right hook, uppercut, avoid the rabbit punch, least-expected sucker punch; no Tomato Can. Throw in the towel, dancer.

walk of word games; blue angular sunshine; white blossom rockets into the sky. Spend the day on the big push through undergrowth, searching for permaculture; community vision through a telescope to my one good eye.

we wish on the silver sliver of moon – I won’t tell you in case it doesn’t come true – I wish for good health and a return to my regular run – we run alongside the park railings –you point out lines of symmetry-trace them accurately in metal.

what is love for – what does it do? I realise I have no idea any more for myself. Few hours I felt real attraction.  Inhabited Home again briefly, as a person I recognised after a long absence, in a place I recognised as a life, after all those years.  From wandering alone to knowing the coordinates of the whole city, with company. Mutual; I hesitated, mute.