Sunday, 31 July 2011

Saturday ... "not waving but drowning" ...

I am wrung out - 
words, words, words; never-ending
articles, proposals, reviews,
blogs, diaries, journals,
word-spills, word whispers
and lists, interminable lists
of things that have to be done.
I suddenly stop, come
to a breathing space
and am like a cloth squeezed dry
a limp rag doll
eyes blind, flaxen hair a-straggle,
and all creativity deserts me.

We eat again in the garden,
a warm, still evening,
one of many in this blissful summer
that has all but escaped me;
my wine glass is empty,
our grandson's warring cockerels
are at rest ....
Tomorrow, Oxford.

Them, come Monday,
the treadmill will begin again.
And yet I love what I am doing,
Hauling bucketsful of words
from a well that may have run dry.
I trust it is not so; for without words
we would go hungry, the body and the soul.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

She did it!

Kate’s Epic Swim

5.35pm: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
the little swimmers chant 
at the side of the pool –
and K. is off: a gliding start
as if she were a young lithe fish
in her pretty costume;
swimming to save the lives of others.

And what are we thinking,
we who sit quietly by and watch?
Perhaps of when we ourselves
first learned to swim,
to splash or cleave the water;
or let the waves break over us …
pebbles beneath our toes,
… not swimming, but waving …
to our parents on the beach.

But here in the school pool
on a soggy Tuesday,
whilst Kate swims
I sit and write –
already she has swum 30 lengths,
and more … and more.

I all but dream of those distant days,
as K. swims on and on;
mesmerising the watchers.
My head throbs in the soporific heat.
But, once upon a time, 
seven years ago, 
this determined child
hated water, screamed in fear,
shrieked at the very sight of it; 
learned to overcome
what caused her anguish 
– learned to swim.

Half an hour – a mile
(has she set herself too fast a pace?)
Perfect front crawl, and tumble-turns,
intake of breath on every third stroke.

122 lengths, pit stop to take on water,
a smile and she’s away again.

128 lengths – 2 miles in 50 minutes
(increased striking rate)

150 …

176 – 1hr.10mins.31seconds – half way.

on, and on

And, as if a glutton for punishment,
she’s wearing a double-skinned swimsuit, designed to create resistance
so that she has to work that much harder to achieve a faster time:
an extra challenge to herself.

3 miles – 1hr.17mins.19 secs (I think)

swim, swim, swim,

When, this time around, will her low point come?
(Looking good, stronger, tonight)
swim, swim, swim, on and on and on,
length after length.

7.25pm – K. still swimming, swimming, swimming …

totally focussed

... on and on and on and on ...

4 miles, 256 of the 352 lengths: ?hr.?mins.?secs
too much chatter around the pool to monitor time –
all the kind people who have come 
to support this final leg
to encourage her – 
and still she’s there in the water,
in her element, this pretty fish,
this quiet, demure young girl,
hardly a ripple as she passes by.

Length after length

The loneliness of the long-distance swimmer

5 miles – 2hrs.10mins.?secs – strong and smooth

Half-a-mile (32 lengths to go) -  a mere doddle now!





In sight of the French coast


Watch out for the ferry there


Oops – is that a jellyfish?

5. 4. 3. 2 – final tumble-turn

1 – she breaks into butterfly, her victory stroke –

7.57pm: We clap and cheer her to the finish.
She’s crossed the Channel in 10hrs.24mins.45secs
Her final challenge to herself?
To complete the 22 miles in under ten-and-a-half hours.
She did it.

Kate swam each of the four 5.5mile legs faster than she anticipated; she smashed her own record by 12 mins on this, her final leg. Outstanding. (And to tell the truth, Grandma was almost in tears!)

Kate's idea is to raise £5,000.00 for competition starting blocks for the school pool, and a life-saving defibrillator for the school and village community. Thankyou to all those who have sent her messages and donations. And her idea of 'Crossing the Channel'? On the ferry one day going to France, she evidently said she could swim across! Well maybe one day she'll do it for real. 

where it all took place
Actually, there's a whole lot more to exactly why Kate wanted to do this, and the people who inspired her - it warrants a post of it's own. That story will follow once I've checked my facts, for it is applicable to all swimmers, and the more fit they are, the more susceptible they become. The clue is in my altered 'non-quote', which you might have spotted.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

A Blow of Lavender

I went out to take this shot early this morning, but my camera battery was flat! Then searching my library of photos, I found I had taken the pic I wanted exactly one year ago.

Capture the scent of Summer, 
now, in this moment -
the herbs and roses,
lupin and sweet william,
new-cut hay-meadows
soft on the horizon.
Brush your hands 
through lavender, or rosemary;
breathe deep, and deeper,
for second time around
I might be deaf, or blind,
oblivious of my blow of lavender.
I whisper to myself,
"Will this Summer be my last?"
And hope it is not so.

I don't know why these words came to me last night, and why the scent of my lavender by the back door should cause me to lapse into such maudlin thoughts. Maybe the past week with its endless problems jump-started it; maybe the feeling that I need time to myself - I will make time, in snatches if need-be, this very morning; I want to make a fabric folder-cum-notebook into which grand-daughter KFM (she of my last two posts) can store all her good-will messages that even complete strangers have so kindly sent her. And then I'll pack a picnic tea and Raymond and I will drive somewhere quiet (some hope) for him to experiment with a new camera, whilst I will word-whisper and paint onto a concertina map, and my world will right itself again.

Whilst I was searching my photo files for lavender photos, Raymond was doing likewise through his - and found one taken some years ago, in a part of my herb garden that now no longer exists - a more compact variety that would be better placed by the back door than the one I actually have.
Even that plan will go awry if the camera does not arrive - we've paid for 'guaranteed Saturday morning delivery', but these days you never know. He's been searching the internet for weeks to find stock of this new model, and it will be wonderful for him to have it for Press Day at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, where we are headed early on Monday.

Still-life for a magazine article
As this seems to have turned into a post about lavender, I could not resist including another photo that Raymond took for me when I was writing an article on - what? I've forgotten now, probably on herbs but I do remember going to great lengths to set up the shot in our guest bedroom, and having to create a backdrop so you could not see the usual clutter, or tell the pic was taken where it was. The lavender is true French lavender, brought back for me from Provence by our daughter. There, just writing about lavender has revived me, brought me to my senses. Here's to a productive weekend!

P.S. A plea: I know it is 'not done' to promote one's own blogs - but if you are a lover of books, please visit my newly created book blog: so far, just the introductory post and a site in the making, but the second, about actual books, is written and scheduled for this weekend, as soon as I have found (!) the books I want to mention, and taken pics. I would love it if you wanted to follow my journey, as I'll be bringing you news of new books as well as old, and info about authors and publishers. Another activity for which I am making time.