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Let’s take it from yesterday afternoon.

1) Meeting at the Council re Laureate developments, yay! Exciting stuff. Shot out of there like a bat out of hell to go to

2) M’s concert, in which she played in a junior orchestra, and a solo violin piece. And sang. Waved goodbye to E & R who went to

3) E’s concert, where he played bassoon. And sang. M and I skipped this bit, so we could head home, eat and prepare 

4)  the poem she was reading today in a poetry reading competition. Though she wasn’t competing, just reading. I was one of the judges, and…wouldn’t be fair! She bathed, got to bed and

5) E & R arrive home. E sky high sugars from a snack before the concert, not wanting to go low and have a hypo. He eats more and takes his short-acting insulin. He’s shattered, so we tuck him in

6) only to wake at 12.30 am to E having his first nighttime hypo. Dreadful for him, worst one yet. Treated and settled once again, with promise to wake him and test his blood 

7) at 2.30 am. Which we do. All fine. This morning both children and us look and feel like wet dishcloths. Off M goes to school, where I meet her

8) for the poetry reading competition. A fine time had by all, and worthy winners. Photos taken. Half an hour in Starbucks for me then, where I manage to grab some writing time. Then

9) off to ballet. Afterward 

10) we head to coffee. Friends I’ve known for years, godsends. An entertaining and relaxing hour. Too soon

11) head home. Within 5 minutes E back from school. Within 10 minutes

12) he realises he’s low again, another hypo. After treatment we are able figure he overestimated lunch, too much insulin.

13) He says he thinks the lows are worth it for the better sugar levels, even if they mean he grinds to a halt for 20 minutes at time. I tell him his father and I will be looking at the whole picture tonight, to try to reduce them. He shrugs, his newly 13 yr old mind set. He wants good numbers. I admire him more than I can say.

*

It’s a bit like that at the moment. The pace of life, believe it or not, has actually slowed slightly. We deliberately keep some things at bay, to make grudging room for the uninvited guest called Diabetes. However. It’s important to keep doing the things that are vital, that feel nourishing, in all ways. To do so you have to make it look easy. Because otherwise it’s all a battle and self-pitying and patently defeating the purpose But I confess to feeling at times like I’m not waving but drowning.

but several interesting snow creations…All melted now.

1) a fairy igloo, complete with gravel drive and leaf entrance

2) a large model of a certain part of the male anatomy (guess who’s nearly 13)

3) a seated cat, but the ears looked like a devil’s

4) a Henry Moore-like, pinhead snowman. Ran out of snow for the head…

*

Not unexpectedly, all the cold play brought on a mild hypo for E. When he came inside, he was too shaky to take off his boots, and had to suffer me mostly pulling him down the stairs to get them off. Would have been funny if he didn’t need to just sit down so badly….

you first bring a baby home from the hospital?

Is s/he still breathing? (You rush upstairs.)

Too hot/too cold? (You lay your finger on the back of the neck.)

Is that a chest infection? (You put your ear on his or her back.)

Tears of sadness or tears of pain? (You try a hug.)

Is this skin cancer? (No, it’s a freckle, said the doctor. This really happened with M!)

Etc.

*

The minute, close-examining-ness of it all. Each movement and thought seeming to affect the next, and those around it, laying chaos theory bare, and you are the only one who can see it. As if any moment, there could be the worst catastrophe you could ever imagine in your life until now.

*

Having a child with a chronic disease is a quite a bit like that. Like there’s always something just at the corner of your vision. You’re trying not to look at it, because it’s unlikely to be real. Unlikely to come true.

You just have to keep going. Like having a new baby. You have to realise that people do this every day. Every second of every day. You push away whatever wispy dark things that might make you stop in your tracks.

It’s okay.

Well, you know it really is, and you know it really isn’t. All at once, and all the time.

I absolutely cannot believe how long it’s been since I’ve been able to get to this page, this computer. I can’t even bear to make a complete list of what’s been going on. Chickens, lack of heads. Hedges backward. Meeting myself coming. Etc.

Despite my general meltdown, everything seems to have gone just completely swimmingly. Where did I leave you? Ah yes, after wonderful Canterbury Poet of the Year. Then there was the Booker verdict night: really good fun, a good read, good writers — and a surprise winner in The White Tiger. Canterbury’s verdict was Philip Hensher’s Northern Clemency. I’ve read the former (which is why I was a little surprised). Will now read the latter, which got absolutely rave reviews, particularly from Andrew McGuinness, one of the writers there.

Then on the 16th there was the Canterbury Laureate reception and launch of the anthology from the year, called Entirely New: which was wonderful. I was digging deep as they say that day, starting exhausted. But the readings — the children, the adults — and my purple cardigan and tights — kept me going. Another good turnout, and a chance to read some new work. A real corker of a night, an uplift.

THEN at the weekend, a write around town day, only I didn’t do the around town bit. I went down and set up some triggers for whomever was there, then fetched and carried E to piano, made lunch, etc. Then popped into town for the end, to see how it went. By that point I was feeling altogether grey with it all.

Meanwhile the poems from the labyrinth day have been exhibited, and Jan Sellers and I have spent the last couple of days fine-tuning those to go up on — Canterbury buses! Yes, wonderful isn’t it? More on this when it comes to fruition.

Finally (for me, anyway) the Tuesday Readings I’m organising at University of Kent. We had Matthew Welton, then last week Perdika poets, and coming up I am thrilled to say that we have Moniza Alvi and Marianne Boruch joining us. I just can’t, can’t wait. They are both just superb, and exciting, and…if you don’t have your tickets and can get one, come. You won’t regret it. (Meanwhile I am charged with the nuts and bolts which are always the pain of it all: where to get the wine from, how to pay for it, how to pay the guest house, how to make sure the tables get set up when I’m busy with the writers and no one seems to be able to do it, surprise surprise. Etc. Hair-tearing.)

*

But beyond all this, more and most importantly, two things:

1) M went to Howlett’s zoo with wonderful friend Nancy (see photos from flickr in sidebar). And how lucky were they?! Lions, tigers, bears…and M’s favourite show, Roar, being filmed! Nancy being Nancy, they managed to keep out of camera shot as requested, watch the whole thing, and get a photo of M with the presenter (who happens to be the one on this clip!). M has been drawing lots of animals this half term, freehand, and has committed whole books of information about them to memory. Hmm…a vet in the making?!

2) E played 5 different instruments in 5 different ensembles on Wednesday night at the Simon Langton Boys Grammar concert. Oh yes he did. Triangle in orchestra (hilarious! not as easy as you’d think, but it doesn’t half look funny); bassoon in wind band (again, an odd instrument really), sang in the choir (by the Rivers of Babylon, fab), some kind of massive drum in a New Orleans jazz band (that woke M up!). And his first piano solo in this school, Brubeck’s Take Five. He did a stunning, stunning job, strolling on without music, jazzing through it, standing up with a nod, and strolling off. Needless to say. We forget he’s only twelve. He seems to have a huge capacity for life, and remain essentially level-headed. We try not to be embarrassingly proud.

 

So, just so we remember what’s important (apologies for sound quality — went for a decent performance rather than purity of sound…amazing just how many performances of this piece are quite, well, below par, speeding up all over the place, messy…makes me realise just how accomplished E is, she says, once again basking in her son’s talents…):

Long ago I promised to keep writing about our Italy adventures. Well, time has marched and I start teaching tomorrow, and I’m up to my proverbial in (lovely! hello John!) Canterbury Festival things, and and….

However. I’m finding that certain things float back nonetheless, even so far away. And they soothe me.

One is the series of Great Rescues carried out every morning, fishing whatever creatures had stumbled into the pool overnight or at dawn. M, as you can imagine, was the dogged proponent of this, and over the days watched butterflies, moths, wasps, bees — and one lizard — grow warm in the sun and return to the wild. 

Here are her hands, and one of the many wet swallowtail butterflies. And the rescued very baby lizard hiding in E’s pool shoe. Ah, the important things in life….

 

*

All of this has reminded me of a poem I wrote for How to Be a Dragonfly (see sidebar!), about a spider falling into a swimming pool. The idea came from another family holiday, long before M was old enough to rescue anything. Now I reckon there are times when she saves us all.

 

Pool Spider

 

One step too far and you’re head over heels.  At first it’s refreshing, this surprise encounter.  You’ve never liked nights alone and lately the heat makes something unsettled in you rise.  All you did was get up and walk out into the cooler air, stretch, and close your eyes for a moment.

It’s a funny kind of death.  You feel your own insignificance.  Everywhere you look is blue, blue water.  You climb back up a step before you can move no further, then roll onto your back and curl your legs up over your body, await rescue.

 

 

 

I HAVE MOVED

From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning

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Who am I?


A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.