Tuesday, 12 February 2008


Just before Christmas I visited her in the nursing home in my home town. She did not recognise me. Thinking about her today on my bike to work this poem came to me. She was everything you would want in a godmother - good listener, wisdom, fun. I could always go to her when my parents made no sense to me. She is Welsh from the valleys and so loves rugby and singing - the 3 tenors, Weslh male voice choirs etc.

Poem for my godmother

You don’t know who I am
It is so strange
Sitting her with you
You are delighted by this visit
From this youthful stranger
I’m crying inside

You don’t know me
And our shared past
My past

I leave you

I sob bitterly

Friday, 8 February 2008


Well I have been frantically writing, or rather mostly frantically thinking about writing as I have 4 chapters to write for a co-edited book that is rather overdue. So there I was writing a neat paragraph or two when it turned into poetry. I doubt if I will or can include the poem in the book but it fits here. When I told Liz about it she said 'Liminal' which gave me the title and the final line:


I refuse to be defined
As researcher or a practitioner
As a writer or
As an academic or
As middle class or
As white or
As religious or secular
As a healer or a therapist
As gay or straight.

I don't want to be defined
or boxed in
or shut out
Talk to me
Listen to me
Let us be

I want to be liminal!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Me, music and teaching

When I was at primary school and my class was going to sing infront of the school my music teacher told me to mime as I was not a good enough singer. Then at grammar school I was always in the top half of the class in all subjects except music where I remained second from bottom. The bottom boy Stuart was a bit of a truant.

This was strange as I love music and tried to teach myself to play first banjo and then guitar as a teenager with some brio but little talent...

Well I carried on singing in the bath and then my daughter Emily got born and since it did not seem to matter to her whether I was in tune I sang her nursery rhymes and then Beatles songs, Pet Shop Boys songs, mostly at her bath time. She loves them and learnt them from me.

So when her primary school launched a family choir we had to be there. And the choir performs in public twice a year at the school fayres. I am still waiting for our choir mistress Carol to tell me to mime but she has not yet done so. I find that I belong in the bass part of the choir whcih is a suprise to me, I've been trying to sing too high for years. I love our monthly choir meeting it affects me deeply and makes me fel good, rather like good Yoga, cycling or a good religious service.

Emily has taken up piano lessons - making great progress - and last year she taught me to read music in a few minutes. I was staggered. Then a couple of weeks ago Emily taught me a simple tune again in a few minutes - me playing the piano! Emily does not know I can't sing, that I can't do music, am hopeless at it. She does not know I can't be taught!

So I am inching towards taking piano lessons myself. It wil take a bit of courage on my part to cross that line and present myself as a student.

Many of my students are mature, usually part-time and some come with some bad experiences. I often have to help them find their own voice in their writing and research and to value that. Their own voice gets knocked out of them usually by the time they've do their first degrees if not earlier.

I reckon I teach by loving them, if I can't find a way to love them then I don't take them on. This works best one-to-one or in small groups. When I have a large group (My uni loves it when I teach 30+ students!) to teach I try to figure a way of giving the best of me on that topic I have to teach, when I connect with my passion it ussually goes better. When I teach I feel I have only a limited amount of information to pass on, mostly I want to inspire people to trust what they already know, find their own voice and use it and write, find what they know they want to do and do it. OK it's not quite as simple as that but.....

I would especially welcome reactions to this post on or off line,

Thank you for reading me.


Friday, 1 February 2008

Poem for Tina

For 3 years now my work team has had the services of an amazingly cheerful woman called Tina. She left yesrtday and o a bunch of us took her out for farewell drinks and a curry, a song or two (Aint she sweet?), and more drinks. I decided to write an instant poem for Tina and declaimed to a crowded restarant here it is:

Poem for Tina

So they gave you a shoebox
Of an office
A phone
A computer
And miles of files

So what did you do?
Float? Sink? Flounder?

You swam
Like a swan
Such elegance

It's strange to be writing poems again. I wrote a lot as a teenager and then stopped in my earlier 20s only to write one again last eyar - Spritual suffering (it's published in Thresholds) and now 3 in the last few weeks.

Best to all,