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It’s the time of term when things naturally — or rather, normally — start to disintegrate. All of the best laid plans, the thought-through teaching objectives, the pastoral care (you really do care, after all) look distinctly frayed. And not just around the edges. Monday saw me very nearly just put my head down and ask for a nap — in the middle of class. Times like these students really are worth more than I can give them. Forgive me.

However. After a morning in heated discussion over Sharon Olds and Michael Laskey — lots of heat — and an afternoon rather revelling in student accomplishment in the form of MA portfolios, I am exhausted yes, but more than that, somewhat disoriented. I look to small things again to keep me focussed: the fine new threshold that Wonderful Builder put in the outer lobby today, the way that E set to his homework without being reminded, the way that M went for kitchen towel to clean up the milk the cats spilt — without being asked.

And now I remember with unadulterated pleasure the highlight of a short hour’s last minute wander around TK Maxx on Sunday:

M high-tops

Sometimes the shoe fits. Really fits. And so there’s a bit of a toehold.

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I mustn’t worry about how I am a) not writing b) not cooking c) not able to remember where anything is in the chaos…d) not keeping up with paperwork and this e) not in close enough touch with friends. Nor how much I miss doing/knowing all of these things.

Instead I shall rejoice in what I am doing/thinking/knowing. Let me just think about this….okay:

a) thinking. Mainly about writing. Find this rewarding, and I only really do it when teaching. Like to ponder process, the finer workings of rhythm, the creative process itself.

b) dancing. Managing still to do this twice a week, at last too in a ‘real’ class, with proper music, proper combinations. Am learning to acknowledge that grand plies — and any sort of pivot in fondu — are just not on the menu. My knees are thanking me and rewarding me with another class the following week. An added bonus is that when I’m dancing, I’m not thinking about anything else.

c) teaching. Yes, I really do love this. Good to be back. Could do without the admin, without the way time becomes juddery, punctuated by panicky emails or dire jobs — but the actual time in classroom and tutorial: yes.

d) imagining. Life in a new ground floor, one where we can all sit together, cook together, and where the dishwasher and refrigerator are actually in the same room as everything else.

e) ignoring. The floor in the bathroom that didn’t go back down well, the persistant plaster dust, grey hairs, dry knuckles. Etc.

f) noticing. Daffodil and crocus tops coming through the pots, lighter afternoons, striking pink mornings on the way to school.

g) enjoying. E’s obsession with iTunes and gathering music (the urge to collect from his father!); M’s new fascination with Nancy Drew mysteries (more later).

h) lastly, re-discovering. Things we’d thought we’d forgotten or lost while packing up for the plasterer, like a single given to me by a student years ago, which we all used to bop around to (okay, not R). While I’m ambivalent about its musical longevity — it does help me feel better about where this post began. It’s not that I’m not writing, it’s that the rest is still unwritten. Oh yeah, that’s right…

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.