Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Indolent Wednesday

Picked this up from Kahless as today has been a bit trying, what with trip to the launderette with king-size double duvet, on account of cat's over-enthusiastic regurgitation, and not finding any Mother's Day cards that wouldn't make it sound like I'm taking the piss. So anyway,

The rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.

The book, which belongs to Mr. Signs, is called Extreme Project Management - that's in bold red. Underneath in orange it says "Using Leadership, Principles, and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility." Their idea to put all those capitals and that last comma before the and - just saying. The three sentences after the fifth on page 123 read:

Principle is one of the most effective communication tools you have: you get what you want by showing someone how what you want can get them what they want. It means you have to get out of your own way and see the situation from the perspective of the other person. And how do you do that?

Ok, that's three sentences. Sorry, but if I type in the answer I'll be breaking the rules. Word in your ear though, it has something to do with talking to the other person and listening. Bless me, what do they teach them in these schools? What happened to the good old-fashioned School of Because I Say So or You're Fired?

But I know nothing about such things (and if I do I'm keeping my mouth shut). I am Elasticus Artisticus, Poet, Poseur, Jaques of few trades and Mistress of One - and Mr. S is Patron of the Arts.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Moving my Eyeballs

A couple of weeks ago I had a session with someone who showed me how to lie on the floor, breathe and move my legs a bit whilst doing some boring pelvic floor thing reminiscent of ante-natal classes. Anyway, I thought I’d acquitted myself rather well so felt justified in saying I was now doing Pilates. Today I went to a class in a local sports centre, dressed in my trusty purple trews, having been told that the class would be gentle as it was for Older Women – and yes, they did all look older than me. But even in the warm-up session I could tell that these babes were not just fitter than me, I wasn’t even in their league. Just holding my arms out to the side for more than a second was a challenge, let alone the other things that came after. I lay on the mat while Pink Floyd played on the CD player. I felt like Edina Monsoon from Absolutely Fabulous who got herself a personal fitness trainer but found that the only thing she was able to do was move her eyeballs. I could have done with Pats at my side to tell me well done when, after ten minutes, I grimaced my apologies and crept away. Which just goes to show that you can’t always tell a book from its cover (though these days, actually, you often can). I mean I look, you know, more or less ok. The muscles will not have it, though. I am living a double life, the mind seeming to do one thing and the body another. Of course, I’m used to living a substantial amount of time out of the body, else I’d have gone quite bonkers before now. But stone me, it’s unwelcoming when I go into it.

Also, I am quite done in with lack of sleep. Some say the moon has been playing tricks, what with the recent eclipse and all, and that this accounts for everything. But then everyone would be walking around bog-eyed, and I can see they are not. The moon just has it in for me, as I suspected all along.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Shine on Signs

I went to see my LP practitioner today, two hours round trip for a free-of-charge follow-up session. We agreed that it would probably be counter-productive for me to push the process any further with the M.E. and that being a proper grown-up meant taking on board the fact that life ain’t perfect; also, that it made sense not to put too much strain my hard-won acceptance of Living With It. She mused that some practitioners might have tried to persuade me that I was allowing myself to be ruled by “self-limiting beliefs.” We laughed in recognition of the potential trap in this and recognised in each other the capacity for opening to new possibility as well as the need to question. I felt, as I did when she conducted the training, that I liked her very much – that whatever she did was coming from an authentic “place”, whether it worked for me or not. I spent a lot of money, but it was worth the risk and I haven’t walked away with nothing at all.

Things are better. I don’t know quite what I mean by this or how I can begin to measure, but I have the sense that this is so, and so does Him Outdoors who sees, more than another, how things lie in the soul of Signs. And it is a soul thing, (for this read feelings, emotions or what you will) probably down to a number of variables, of which LP is one. Body still begs to differ when I say this. Things are as bad as they were, it says, you’re just putting a shine on things. Yes maybe I am, but if so I’m doing it because - at this point in time - I can. When I asserted today that things were better I was aware that it was a partial truth. I liked the smile it brought to the face of the practitioner and was pleased to reflect something good back at her, and anyway (I told body), what did it cost me to put a bit of a shine on things? But I couldn’t have done that if it were just a lie, and it feels qualitatively different to the times when I used to simply over-ride and push myself to the limit regardless.

Feelgood substance I do not despise: went to see the film Juno twice in a week because it hit the exact spot, and then I downloaded the music, including this, and (by all that's wonderful and 1970s) this! from iTunes to play on my peppermint-green iPod. Having said this, I am writing some pretty dark poems – moving from the Edge into the dense forest where there be wolves, witches and thorns and the signs are everywhere saying go deeper. I will, of course. I may, in a manner of speaking, be gone for some time.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Animal Angels

I have nothing to say and perhaps this is a good sign, meaning that poetry boot camp is taking my words where they need to go and I have been steadfastly turning up at the page. On the other hand, perhaps I just have nothing to say. I have often said this, but a good thing is worth repeating more than once: having nothing to say is never a reason not to get down and do the writing thing. Discover yourself in the act. Of course if one has an essay to write, then having nothing to say is a problem. But creative (imaginative) writing is not the same thing. A blog doesn’t necessarily fall into either camp. A blog is anything it wants to be – a place, for example, where you turn up and announce (to anyone who may be remotely interested) that you have nothing to say. But:

I have been thinking about animals, having watched a short video here today (thank you, Mr. P.E.). I have been remembering that there was a time when I didn’t think about them at all, they were not in my consciousness. I had a budgie called Benjy once, very boring, and then it died. I had a hamster called Hammy, also boring and then it either died or escaped one day when the cage was being cleaned and never came back, I can’t remember – that’s how much I cared. One day when I lived in a bedsit a tabby cat with a scrappy bit of ribbon around its neck walked in through the window and adopted me. I fed it and it stayed. When I moved it went bush and never came back. Someone gave me a kitten. It was all grey, tiny and too young to have left its mother. It piddled and miaowed and was lonely all day when I was out at work. Wee timorous beastie, I couldn’t care for it so I found people with children and a garden who could.

If someone had told me that animals have hearts and souls and will, if we allow, teach us things about truth, innocence, beauty and love I would have called them sentimental. Then I got a cat and did the thing properly. Coming into relationship with this one animal being has changed my relationship to all animals. It manifests only in the way I feel about them – that they are precious and that “if all the beasts were gone, man would die from loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beast happens to the man” (Chief Seattle).

And here is a poem from Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell, addressed to an otter that he loved.

"Thank you, my friendly daemon, close to me as my shadow

For the mealy buttercup days in the ancient meadow,
For the days of my 'teens, the sluice of hearing and seeing,
The days of topspin drives and physical well-being.

Thank you, my friend, shorter by a head, more placid
Than me your protégé whose ways are not so lucid,
My animal angel sure of touch and humour
With face still tanned from some primeval summer.

Thanks for your sensual poise, your gay assurance,
Who skating on the lovely wafers of appearance
Have held my hand, put vetoes upon my reason,
Sent me to look for berries in the proper season.

Some day you will leave me or, at best, less often
I shall sense your presence when eyes and nostrils open,
Less often find your burgling fingers ready
To pick the locks when mine are too unsteady.

Thank you for the times of contact, for the glamour
Of pleasure sold by the clock and under the hammer,
Thank you for bidding for me, for breaking the cordon
Of spies and sentries round the unravished garden.

And thank you for the abandon of your giving,
For seeing in the dark, for making this life worth living."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Writing Meme - IN COLOUR

This is all my fault - I asked Moon Topples to give me this one, it seemed a good idea at the time, better than getting down to actually Doing It. What can I have been thinking of?

What is the last thing you wrote?
A poem this morning.

Was it any good?
Not bad – but I liked yesterday’s one better. It’s still raw though, poems need time to cook.

What’s the first thing you wrote and you still have?
I’d need to go through everything in the loft to find out. I liked fantasy and magic and tended to do re-writes of the stories I enjoyed reading.

Write poetry? Angst?
I write poetry.

Favourite genre of writing?

Most fun character you’ve ever created?
Someone who was apparently dull and plain but turned out to have extraordinary powers and magical clothes, a gift from her witchy grandmother.

Most annoying character?
Someone’s mother who I kept trying to visualise as Gwynneth Paltrow but she wouldn’t be pinned down.

Best plot?
Whacky serial killer steals nurse’s clothes, escapes from psychiatric unit and kidnaps senior consultant psychiatrist before having sex with him and bumping him off.

Write fan fiction?
What that? Oh, just looked it up. Not my kind of thing really, but give me time - I love Doctor Who.

Type or write?
I always write poetry in longhand first, then revise on screen. Prose can be either or, but all new projects are best begun in longhand, and anyway I like pens and notebooks.

Ever go back to an old idea?
No – have lots of half-baked ideas grumbling around in files. But I don’t chuck anything out.

Favourite thing you’ve written
Whatever it is I’ve just been working on.

Do you show people your work?

Poetry and short stories – yes, I workshop with people, do readings and have published some things. Long prose pieces need privacy until firmly established, is my experience.

Did you ever write a novel?
I hate this question: two thirds of one and then I took a break. Big mistake - the characters got pissed off and left.

Favourite setting for your characters?
The one where the action happens to be, innit?

How many writing projects are you working on?
What, counting this one? Don’t know. I’m in poetry bootcamp for Lent, working on lots of things.

Do you want to write for a living?
I write for my life.

Ever written anything in script or play form?
Yes, but as poetry rather than something intended for stage or screen.

Five favourite words
Perhaps. Substance. Moon. Wolf. Death.

Which character most resembles you?
All and none.

Where do you get your ideas for other characters?
They are everywhere - enough already!

Ever write things based on your dreams?
Many writers have free access to night-vision. I am one of those.

Do you favour happy endings, sad or cliff-hangers?
Tragical-comical-ironical-satirical. And redemptive.

Ever written anything based on an artwork?
Yes, especially the work of Edward Hopper.

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
No – as it comes.

Ever write entirely in chatspeak?

Entirely in L337?
What are you suggesting?

Does music help?
It’s appreciated before and after but not during.

Quote something you’ve written.

That’s poetry, he says and rubs his hands,
what more do you want? Earth and stars and
nothing in between but this.

So anyway, never being one to keep a treasure to myself, I'm thinking about who else I can tag with this. I know - Ms Pants! It's been too long since I landed one of these on her and she is a writer, so if the cap fits wear it, I always say. And Mr. Witnessing - there's another, forsooth, who deserves (in the best possible way) a meme.

Hoping that this finds you as it leaves me - in the pink.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Bit of Boot Camp

The good news is I’ve been given this award by Ms Minx

She has awarded it to people she reckons are less lazy than she but I suspect she is probably a hive of industry compared to me. Some of the most industrious people I know seem to be so without looking as though they are doing that much. On the other hand, there are those who do very little and I wouldn’t call them lazy. Why is that? It’s to do with the quality of attention that they bring to life, I suppose.

At the many schools I attended I was often thought of as being lazy, dreamy (a euphemism) or at any rate someone who “could try harder.” As a child one tends to accept whatever label is given as true. But looking back, I don’t think I was at all lazy; bored, disorientated or alienated is something quite different and I certainly was one or all of those for substantial amounts of time. When I walked out of the school building the day of a biology exam and went to Hampstead Heath instead, it wasn’t laziness that drove me but a sudden conviction that I knew what I needed – to get out. The English teacher there liked me because I was good at books and poems and writing stories (especially those) but it didn’t stop me from being Asked To Leave. Actually, had they known, I was a tireless worker for anything that had to do with the life of the imagination, which was all I cared about because it was all I understood. I played elaborately and inventively and created for myself and my young sister an otherworld that sustained us through difficult years. I read everything and when I ran out of children’s books I took from the adult shelves, no-one stopped me, so I have a store of read books inside me. I taught myself to cook and steal and play the guitar, all useful skills in their way, though I only really use one of them now.

But I’ve got this Lent thing I’m doing: instead of giving up chocolate I’m working on poems, with the idea that I’m actually going to send stuff out. It’s a kind of recognition that there are things I haven’t got round to doing that I should be doing. Call it laziness (one could) or not being sufficiently grounded. I have this idea, you see, that if editors can’t be bothered to come looking through my files for my poems and get them sorted and published then, you know, sod it. Well nothing has happened so obviously something has got to change – and I suppose it has to be me. A bit of self-imposed boot camp is in order. And gold stars.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Be Perfect

There is perhaps something to be said for the Be Perfect “driver” (see previous post), when one is on the receiving end. This was brought to my attention by Mr. Signs today when he showed me a letter from the manufacturers of his company car. It was a Manufacturer’s Recall Notice that said:

“As a result of our constant quality monitoring process we have found there is a possibility that due to insufficient fixation of the genuine Toyota accessory rubber floor mat on the driver’s side, it may slip forward under specific driving conditions and interfere with the accelerator pedal.”

I mean, blimey! If only my dentist took this attitude I wouldn’t be sitting on a bill for hundreds of pounds worth of work which only needed doing because of “insufficient fixation” in the original work.

I wouldn’t be nursing a shocking great bruise after a blood sample was taken and the nurse said, “no, that can’t possibly be hurting you, it’s just a pin prick.”

The bastard who went into my car and left my back lights smashed would have left a note saying sorry and here’s my contact number, insurance details etc.

Or am I confusing this with professionalism, decency and empathetic engagement?

And anyway, we all know that straight roads and trains running on time isn’t everything.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Try Hard

I am trying to organise myself. By saying this I have already got off to a wobbly start because one is supposed to be thinking along the lines of either doing something or not. Trying to write the novel/drive the car/climb the stairs doesn’t cut it - you either do or you don’t. Apparently. But, like I said, I’m trying. Mr. Signs, who has begun part-time psychotherapy training (Transactional Analysis), has identified one of my so-called “Drivers”, and it is Try Hard. As drivers go, it’s not such a bad one - Be Perfect is a real stinker to have in the engine.

The thing is that living with a chronic condition (see profile) for so long means that one is often applying the will negatively, in the sense that one has to discipline oneself not to do things. Times when a glimmer of relative wellness opens the possibility for taking action are potentially dangerous because all of you wants to rush in and do it. But overdoing it is easy and subsequent comedown hard as nails. So you learn to walk the line between yes and no.

I am feeling a bit better than this time last year. This is basically down to the fact that I am living life at a pace I can manage and focussing on possibilities. I had hoped for some more radical change with LP, but small steps are good and I was/am nothing if not realistic and, in any case, on we go. I have taken up Pilates. What I mean is I have had a one-to-one session with a practitioner and can now do lying on the floor and sliding my legs forward and back whilst breathing out. This is apparently not nothing. Next I will join the group and basically do what I can. The practitioner asked me if I had ever had whiplash or been in a car accident. I said no.
“You’re lucky then,” she said. Whatever. Tomorrow is pancake day, and after that Lent, for which time I am planning a project, in the company of a fellow Creative. Without going into details (for to name it feels jinxy), it will involve a certain amount of daily activity in the sphere of pen-wielding. Or is it pushing? Anyway, so tomorrow we will eat pancakes and talk about it – always the best part.

The rhythm of my life, though, remains eccentric. There are times, like today, when I do not climb into my body until nearly mid-day. I have just telephoned Waitrose - my supermarket of choice because of this – to see what time they closed and wonder why it has not dawned on me before now (especially now I have no young children) that I can shop, when I must, in the early evening, and actually this frees up a small but substantial portion of daytime energy so that I can write, eat, walk, do chores, see people (or at least one of those). And read.

I think I may only have read one novel last year – from beginning to end, I mean. Poetry and short things, yes, but novels ask a more sustained engagement which I wasn’t able to give. But I want to. So the rhythm of my life must take this into account. I’m reading What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt. Trying.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Tagged for Six

So, courtesy of Dr. But Why , I’ve been tagged again, and not before time seeing as it’s February and I’m running out of things to say. Of course I know that writing is not necessarily about having things to say. But sometimes it’s nice to have an agenda, especially when it says in black and white that whatever you put is to be “non-important.” Copying straight from But Why’s:

Rules on blog and links as appropriate. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself. Tag six random people and let them know they've been tagged.

1. I like to nibble around the rim of a biscuit before eating the whole thing. This has often intrigued or annoyed people and a psychotherapist I once saw thought it was quite significant. I didn’t. We ended the relationship shortly after (not because of that) – she was too expensive and could only see me at 7.15 in the morning.

2. I am still wearing the purple shell-suit trousers and I don’t think I bought a single new item of clothing last year – or the year before that, come to think of it. Apart from Ugg boots. I am pretty happy with this state of affairs and can report that the purple trousers show absolutely no sign of wear or tear.

3. I have given up smoking (again) and can report that life without a cigarette sucks, unless my daughter is looking here, in which case life without cigarettes is wonderful in every possible way and please do as I say, not as I did. And there is always chocolate. Or sugar-free gum.

4. This is Attila the Rubbish Lady:

I made her out of waste: her body is an empty can, arms a tomato puree carton, legs a couple of empty loo rolls and hair the netting around a bag of satsumas. You will notice a few decorative features. I like her but am not sure what to do with her.

5. I have a diamond-studded diary for 2008:

This one is for writing down appointments and to-do things. I have a MsLexia diary where I keep a record of what I’ve done each day. Even on very low strength days I fill up the space. Everything counts.

6. Last summer I did 70 things – untagged. I must have been a bit out of myself, but sometimes you just begin and get on a roll; and then what happens is that all the things that seem very big and important begin to seem much less so; and all the small and seemingly insignificant things become strangely interesting – to the one who is writing them down, that is.

I’m not “officially” tagging anyone this time – but if you are looking in and drawn, consider yourself tagged let me know. And if you are looking in and repelled by the idea, consider it anyway – for the hell of it, you know.