Thursday, 18 August 2011

Valentine's Day (a video poem)

The second of my videos from earlier this summer when I read at Manchester Book Market. It's always a bit strange seeing myself on video, and hearing my own voice... There are a lot of really great readings recorded by Literature Northwest from this years book market. Worth having a good browse. I love that they ask such a widely varied collection of poets and writers to read at these events, something for everyone!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Friday, 12 August 2011

On Not Losing the Plot

Earlier this year, I had fleeting moments when I thought I might give up the allotment. Probably not give up the whole plot, just half of it. It was a struggle balancing everything, keeping up with the work, and sometimes it all overwhelmed me.

But, as fellow plotholder Eric said in a text message this was 'not a stupid thought Tinkers effing redickerous'.

(Tinkers is my allotment name. Short for Tinkerbell. It distinguishes me from the other two Annies on our site...)

And it was a ridiculous thought, because in more difficult times, the allotment has been the one thing that's been almost certain to fix or distract me from whatever else is going on.

So, here I am on friday evening after a tough, busy, tiring week, and all I wanted to do was drive to the lot and water my tomatoes and pick some veg for tea. So, I kicked off my work shoes into the shed, slipped my wellies on and wandered around my plot seeing what was ready for picking. Plenty of courgettes, gorgeous french beans, spinach, some raspberries eaten as I picked them, a bunch of sweet peas to bob in a jam jar on my kitchen windowsill...

I watered the spring cabbage seedlings and late brocolli and chard I've not long since planted in the cold frame, and I drenched my tomatoes in the greenhouse. They are just starting to turn red and I'll be able to pick some later this weekend. I noticed my aubergine plants are just flowering... probably a little late, but it's good to see what the flowers look like. I noticed the cabbages are ready to start picking, and celery is growing strong, my brussel sprouts are the size of peas and will be ready for a lovely late autumn/winter harvest, I've got some beetroot big enough to roast, and well... I could write a long long list.

I'm giving away veg all the time. A bag of spuds, some beans, whatever is going spare. I love giving veg away, or little bunches of gorgeous flowers. Small pleasures.

Here are my latest pics...

And weather permitting, I'll be out there again tomorrow. I'm nervous about my new job starting on Monday so it will be good to ground myself by digging on what looks like it might be a drizzly damp weekend.

What else? I'm still letting go about a hundred times a day. I'm listening to this amazing man (my dad had one of his albums on vinyl when we were kids and I've just rediscovered him). I'm watching Mad Men Season 4 and very addicted. I'm loving my beautiful Sissycat who is especially affectionate at the moment (not right at this moment, hissing and scratching at another cat through the window). I'm writing a little, editing a short story which will hopefully soon be published in an anthology. I'm celebrating that I've put on a pound for the first time in ten months (those who know how upset I've been at losing so much weight will know how pleased this makes me). I'm curling up on the settee tonight in my little black dress and fluffy slippers with the TV, some Finnish DVDs and lots of nibbles. And I'm smiling, because despite having a tough month, I'm doing OK...

Friday, 5 August 2011

Letting Go...

I'm learning to let go. Learning, the operative word.

For the past weeks, I've been holding on tightly to an idea/something that has gone/something I have no control over. It's hard to let go of it. I suppose there are many things we can hold on tight to: the past when we are faced with change, people we have lost, feelings or experiences that no longer exist, even youth.

I feel as if I'm living through similar predicaments over and over again. Life is perhaps trying to give me the opportunity to learn here. So, this time, I want to learn properly.

My situation was summed up beautifully yesterday. I went for a Chinese acupressure treatment. The man said to me: 'Let go, you be free. Hold on, you hurt yourself.' When he said it like that, it seemed simple.

So, right now, letting go is something I'm having to do many times each day. It's not a one step process. It's continual. I let go, I feel good about this, I feel freer and then a little while later I realise I'm holding on tight again to a memory or a feeling or a set of thoughts. It seems to be a process that takes time, patience, constant reminders, some struggle, and discipline.

But, maybe if I keep doing it, then I might start having to let go less and less and then before long, I will have let go without even realising it...

I'm reading an amazing book called When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön. She's an American Buddhist nun, and the book is a collection of teachings on all kinds of Buddhist approaches to life. Eric from the allotments lent me the book, he says he's had it in his shed for ages but I wasn't ready for it before.

She talks about being in the moment, even if that's painful or difficult. She encourages being with loneliness and living with suffering rather than trying to escape from it. She talks about giving up hope and accepting that the world being a groundless place. It's interesting actually, I can see what she means, it makes a lot of sense, although I don't feel able to explain it.

To be truthful, she is dealing with complex issues, that I haven't even begun to fully understand. My plan is to finish reading the book which I am doing slowly, and then start reading it again.

It all seems to come down to one thing, trying to live in the moment (which it seems to be is the key to letting go).

When I think about the times when I live in the moment. On the allotment, where I often just turn up, whatever mood I'm in, whatever the weather. I don't always know what I'm going to do. I just turn up and start somewhere on the plot... pulling up weeds for example, or planting something, or like last weekend, clearing the paths of weeds, covering them and putting chippings down. Most of the time, I focus on what I'm doing. It's very practical, often repetitive, and involves exertion. I'm conscious of what I'm doing, and whether it's hot, the birds chirruping, the strimmer somewhere on the plot, when the sun goes behind the clouds, whether I'm thirsty or not, how wet or dry the soil is, how it feels to dig the fork into the ground, the smell of the soil. I still think about other things, but the thoughts come and go. Often I can arrive in a bad mood or a tired mood or preoccupied and it works out by the time I finish. I notice what has grown a little more, I notice everything. It's the time when I am most observant of what's around me, but also observant of how I feel in a very uncomplicated way.

With practice, I hope to be able to spread this outwards into other parts of my life. But I often fall into old habits and patterns.

Letting go is something I've never done very well, but I want to learn how to be better at it.