I’ve just got back from a run with the dogs. I decided to run through the dunes and then back along the beach. It has been a beautiful day here in Barrow – very hot and sunny. I was running as the sun was going down and the sky turning red. Although it was beautiful, I still didn’t enjoy it as much as I do when I go with friends. Why is running alone so much harder than running in a group? Is it because you are left to your own thoughts? If I didn’t know I’ve ran 13 miles in three different races, I wouldn’t have believed it, from how tired I felt running along that beach back to the car.
I normally go running in the morning with the Walney Wind Cheetahs, but couldn’t go today as I had family visiting this weekend. My twin sister and her husband were doing the Keswick to Barrow 42 mile walk yesterday, along with my husband so they came over on Friday night, and then got a coach up to Keswick, leaving at 3.30am on Saturday morning.
I must admit in the preparations for the Keswick to Barrow, I was quite relieved that I had a reading booked at Keighley Library at 3pm so I couldn’t take part. I was even more relieved when they all started stomping about at 2.45 am and I could stay in bed. I got up to go to Park Run and decided I would jog round and not push myself. Instead, I ended up running round with my friend J. J hasn’t been running for a few months so decided to do my bit to get him back into the peak of physical fitness. Think of the White Orc driving the other Orcs in The Hobbit, and you will have an idea of how Park Run was. I’m sure I heard J sob at one point, but as I said to him afterwards, if you can sob then you clearly have too much energy!
After Park Run, I got a phone call from the husband, who had developed blisters. Husband never gets blisters and had done lots of training so the sudden appearance of the blisters was a mystery. I helpfully suggested that maybe he’d put his shoes on the wrong feet, but this didn’t go down too well. I drove to Lowick with a spare pair of shoes, dumped them with my parents, who were one of the support cars for my sister’s team, and then drove like a slightly crazed person to Keighley.
There was a great crowd at Keighley, and a lovely friendly librarian running the show. Carole Bromley had been running an ‘Exploring Poetry’ session beforehand, and I managed to get a copy of her new book ‘The Stonegate Devil’ which I’ve read a bit of in the sunshine this afternoon. I did my reading, and a Q and A session and then drove back to Barrow in the hopes of seeing the husband and my twin sister and her husband finishing.
Sadly, Chris was too quick for me and had already got to the end by the time I got back to Barrow. There aren’t even any photos of him – he is like the Scarlet Pimpernel. I walked back from Dalton to Barrow with my sister, waving like the queen and stealing some of her glory for walking forty-odd miles, which she couldn’t complain about, as she knew I would bring up the time she pretended to be me at my book launch and was thinking about signing my book!
Poor Matt, my sister’s husband, got really dehydrated and collapsed dramatically against a wall about two miles from the finish. My dad was with him and threw some water down his throat and got him going again and he managed to finish. So, whilst beforehand I felt no great urge to do the Keswick to Barrow, yesterday was such a great day that I did feel that I’d really missed out not doing the walk, so I’ve put my name down for next year. My sister was raising money for Animal Concern, where she is the Manager, and will be looking for some more people to make her team up, so if any poets are interested in walking 42 odd miles from Keswick to Barrow, do get in touch!
I also did the Kendal 10k on Wednesday, which was really hard and hilly, but I’m aware that a) this blog has been too full of physical exercise already and b) complaining about the difficulty of Kendal 10k after talking about the Keswick to Barrow is probably not going to work!
Other than running, I’ve been doing other stuff as well. Poetry-wise, I’ve been catching up with my submissions. I’ve submitted some poems to the Mslexia Poetry Competition and the Bridport Poetry Competition. The closing dates aren’t for a while yet, but I decided to just get it done. I’ve also been working on a poem about my time working in a prison as a poet a couple of years ago. I’ve tried to write this poem before, and gave up because it didn’t work, so it is interesting to revisit the memories of that time again.
I also had my first mentoring session with my new mentee, which was really lovely. So lovely, in fact that I ran over and forgot to go to Barrow Writers afterwards. Whoops.
Next week is a busy week. If you’re anywhere near Ulverston, I’m running an Open Mic at Natterjacks on Wednesday 11th May. It’s a lovely cafe, and the Open Mic is really in honour of some poetry friends who are holidaying in the Lake District, and wanted a poetry event to go to. There weren’t any, so I decided to organise an Open Mic instead. The owners are letting us have the venue for free, so I really hope people come out, buy a cup of tea or a cake, or both, which I’ll be doing, and show their appreciation that way. It’s free entry, and if you’d like to read your own poem, or a poem by someone else, you can just sign up on the door.
Next Saturday is my Barrow Poetry Workshop. If you know anyone who is interested in coming, there are still places available. A lot of my regular workshoppers are on holiday or otherwise indisposed, so it will be a small and select group this month I think. The workshop is £15 and includes tea, coffee and biscuits.
Today’s Sunday Poem is by Ilse Pedler. ‘In the Balance’ is taken from her first pamphlet The Dogs that Chase Bicycle Wheels, which was a winner in the 2015 Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition.
In the Balance – Ilse Pedler
We walked in silence that day
to Ladram Bay. Tired of fighting
we threaded our way through the gorse
at the cliff edge, determined to admire
the rusty sandstone spires.
Then we saw it. A kestrel balancing
on the back of the sea breeze.
A lightness of air infused bone, held.
Only the ruffle of wing tip feathers
revealing the difference between bird and sky.
We found ourselves standing closer
together, mouths open, staring.
It looks so effortless.
It must be such hard work
we said, almost at the same time.
There are lots of great poems in the pamphlet, but I chose ‘In the Balance’ because I think, although it could be described as a ‘quiet’ poem, in its length, in its understated tone, it is brave in the way it tackles the complexities of relationships. I think most people will be able to identify with it – the walking in silence after fighting with a partner, the determination to get some enjoyment from a day that has been ruined. There is a real honesty here, and also a moment of revelation, I think. This feels like one of those poems where the poet surprised themselves at the end.
In the second stanza and the first line of the last stanza, the reader is tricked briefly into thinking that the kestrel can bridge the gap between the couple but this doesn’t happen, as they both speak ‘almost at the same time’, saying completely opposite things.
At first, I found this really sad, but I think it can be read another way as well. The couple do stand closer together, mirroring each other’s posture. Maybe the poem is pointing out that even in the most perfect relationship, we can’t all think the same way, we don’t perceive things the same way, even when we are looking at the same thing. Maybe the poem isn’t pointing out how incompatible because of their differing perspectives. Maybe the poem is the beginning of the realisation and acceptance of difference?
I hope you enjoyed the poem. If you’d like to order Ilse’s pamphlet, you can order it from Seren.
Finally, congratulations to my friend John Foggin, one of the winners of the 2016 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition. What a superstar he is. And as an aside, I’ve just heard an owl hoot.