Sunday, April 29, 2012

Murky Weekend

Have been away staying near Scarborough and it has been a mixed weekend!! Took all the family for a treat as it is someone's "special day" tomorrow (my husband Scott’s birthday in case you were wondering). I normally go down to Cober hill on my own for the HOT Lapidus writing retreat and stay over but decided to treat us all to a luxury hotel. Well I was very disappointed and the weather didn't help as the others found little to do in the rain!!

Anyway I had a wonderful day at Cober Hill with my writing pals and came away with a renewed sense of purpose. When I got home and checked my email I found that the Poetry and Medicine Symposium organisers have asked if I might chair a Q&A session in London after my talk on May 12th - yes please... I'll end up nervous and slightly neurotic on the day but I know this is a good thing and that taking my story about writing poetry with someone is also a great message to take.

I will write more once I know what I am going to say and with any luck like last year there will be podcast so you can see me waving my arms about as I talk enthusiastically about poetry!!

I have also got to finish (start) the final assignment for the coaching course so there will be some panic and procrastination in the next couple of weeks! Also with the art course with Mandy I am looking forward to improving my visual art skills and exploring how I might find ways of sharing my fascination with the North Pennine’s landscape.

See below a photo collage that I will be using as inspiration. I like these collages and intend to use them more and also see how I can put them onto postcards with poems.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My most beautiful thing

I am sure she will read this but I am not sure I mind. The most beautiful thing in my life is my daughter Lizzie. I came to motherhood at 40 and have found it the most challenging but the most rewarding occupation in my life – having been an ambitious academic in 2000 my life has changed considerably. Lizzie is a gorgeous human being and I am proud of all she does. I don't want to be gushy but as soon as this was presented as a blog splash I knew what I would write about her.

I also knew the photo I wanted to post but I had the challenge of finding it on my computer.

I clearly remember the day it was taken and who we were with that day. My Mum and Dad were up on holiday in Teesdale and we walked up the hill opposite the cottage they were staying in. It was a great triumph for all of us - my Mum fit enough to do it and Lizzie enjoying the view and her grandparent’s company.

This photo says so much about her character...

This photo was taken in 2005 just before she started School. My Mum would only be with us for just over one more year so this is a treasured moment that lives long in our memory.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Evidence Base

I am running another creative writing workshop for health care practitioners etc in a couple of weeks and I have start thinking about how that type of educational input might be evaluated. I had an email from a writer "down South” asking that question and it has made me realise that there is plenty of anecdote but not much empirical research. Intuitively you know it is a good thing and as I have written elsewhere (Nursing Standard) - students can notice patients and also write about it BUT what we need is sustainable interventions that are part of ongoing supervision and support in clinical practice. Help practitioners keep journals and write about their experiences instead of simply talking themselves round in circles about what didn't go right.

Am going to give this more thought and I think there might be a project in it somewhere for someone to undertake and then disseminate the findings.

Middle Age

Each day get shorter
clocks might go back and forth
but her day just gets shorter.

So much to do, so little to feel
her day shortens each step of the way.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Prolific blogging?

Someone asked me today about the frequency of my blogging. Do I not have other things to do? Well you can imagine that  got me thinking and to shape my thinking and stop me staying put - I write - not bothered if anyone reads it - scary if they are!!

I read Sage Cohen's book The Productive Writer last year - I was sent a free copy which was great. Like performance, productivity is a word I have strongly resisted in the past but now realise can add to life’s satisfactions and well-being. Discipline is also at the heart of it and I am learning this as I watch my daughter become more skilled on the piano – and investigating the value of repetition and deliberate practice. There are transferable findings in all art making and one I am trying to develop. I never learnt that kind of discipline when I was learning the violin when a teenager (too good a sight -reader has its drawbacks) and repetition and practice bored me. Now I wished I had done it and I am hoping it is never too late to learn. If I am to write more than just a few poems ( a book) then I need to write frequently and increase the amount I write each time I sit down.

In the meantime here is a poem I wrote some time ago and stumbled upon when tidying my USB sticks!! I really should devise a system for filing my work!! Also an image of mine from 2007.

Clever Nurse

She was taken out after only five minutes
on the front line. Ambushed by a hail

of bullets fired from her offside.

She had cowered for months behind desks
 and solid chairs. The minute she had dared
peek over the parapet she had been shot down.

Licking her wounds in the quiet
of the graveyard she contemplated

Foucault and Jung.  Wondered where she had

gone wrong and whether there was a way
to press ahead that she could not yet see.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Have been tidying up the computer files and came across some poems I must have written ages ago. the blog a good way to keep them in one place.


He puts on his smile

as he shuts the door,

extracts his bon homie

and witty repartee

from the case he keeps

in the car boot.

Time limited he notes

his arrival time

doesn’t want to out stay

his welcome.

Friday, April 20, 2012

More connections

What is your most beautiful thing?

Is it your one year old niece's golden smile? The pale pink peony buds in your garden? A silver ring given to you by your grandmother? Your shiny red Vespa scooter? Is your most beautiful thing a place or a moment? Is it a philosophy or a value?

On Tuesday the 24th of April, I'm taking part in a Blogsplash to celebrate beautiful things, inspired by Fiona Robyn's new novel, 'The Most Beautiful Thing'.

People all over the world will be blogging, tweeting & writing about their own most beautiful thing.

You could post a photo or write a prose piece about your most beautiful thing. You could write a small stone or show us a piece of artwork you've made in honour of your most beautiful thing. It's completely up to you. You could be extravagant and post a whole series of your most beautiful things.

Writing Our Way Home are making a directory of everyone who's taking part, and they will also re-post their favourite entries on their blog over the following month.

If you'd like to join me, email for more details.

Ennerdale in the Lake District - an often overlooked peaceful and most beautiful spot.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April Showers

Got a new car today and it has been very rainy today. Talking to a student in the queue in the cafe and he was talking about sustaining motivation. I suggested that he made writing his essays a habit so that whether he felt like it or not he would turn up and write something. I got a strange look but I realised that is what I have made this blog. It has become more like cleaning your teeth - something you get round to and don't feel quite right if you don't do it. I was always been very anti behavioural methods in psychology BUT I now realise they may well have their place and will be taking this new insight into coaching practice.

Have signed up for Mandy's Sketch Book course at Horsley so watch this space for new creations!!

Collaborative Learning

the classroom buzzes

new connections made

ideas shared warily

 performance anxiety

eclipses learning

there is a better way

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Making Connections

I often get frustrated at the lack of progress in relation to improving care and ensuring health care delivery in 21st century will be delivered by caring and compassionate practitioners. I often feel too far removed from practice to really make a difference but I also am not sure whether I would be able to fit in to health care environments again. After all it is no accident that I have been working in Higher education for over 15 years. Now I am the other side of my half century I feel liberated from expectation. I have been sad and frustrated at not getting my PhD but I have also developed so much in the last 7 years it is sometimes difficult to recognise the person I was and the career trajectory I had set myself. I keep learning more about myself and I have not been afraid to share this with others.
One of methods of procrastination when I have an essay to write is to surf the internet and seek out anybody else thinking about the same issues I tend to chunter on about. In those travels I have communicated with arts practitioners in Canada (  
a medic in New Zealand ( )
and a leader in Nurse Education in Scotland ( ).

Making these connections fuels my curiosity and provides motivation and energy for continuing to make links between my nursing past, present and future and my creative coaching skills that are emerging as a surprisingly important element of my identity.


It is easier to guess
what is coming next
than really pay attention
to what people want to say.

Quicker to mind read expectations,
presume the starting point
anticipate the end.

More efficient to not ask questions,
repeat nothing.
Professional to hope they won’t want
more from you
than you can give.

Safer to close the door
when they have gone.

hope they don’t hear you sigh.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Missing Monday (again)

Not sure what happened yesterday but I didn’t get round to writing anything. Had a good day and enjoyed exploring my coaching experience over the last 6 months and beginning to capture all of it in a coherent way for the final assignment.
I can see distinct possibilities in developing my career into developmental work rather then educating student nurses. I just have to be brave about it.
I also can see how I can harness my creative abilities and also develop my visual language and art. I get frustrated at the time it takes BUT also know that this is a good thing and that a quick fix is not always the most satisfying.
Have been thinking about what course to do next and whether to go for a longer art course over a few weeks to help develop my artistic side. I would love to find a way of capturing the post-industrial landscape around me in new and inspiring ways. I think that would help with the poetry writing as well as it might help me pay more attention to detail.

April Evening
Daylight lingers in
corners of forgotten fields
curlew call
watchful waiting
delay departure

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Some time ago I did a monotype weekend at The Hearth with Carol Nunan. I was disappointed with my prints and they have been languishing under the wardrobe ever since. However after yesterday's inspiring workshop with Theresa I have become a little obsessed with Artists' Books. I think I have found the artistic medium I have been looking for to enable me to work with other people and find a way for their poetry and writing to be displayed. Putting poems up on the wall is great for others to read  but going home with a little book of your poetry would be a lovely gift to offer people when they come to a writing workshop with me or when I work doing collage workshops with health care practitioners.
Here is a collage of what I have created from a couple of monotype prints that did not work as whole prints but chopped up and turned into other things and have become quite lovely!!

A Day Out

She asked for directions

twice in one day.

The couple she first asked

were vague, waved their

arms about and pointed

left, right and round about.

Unhelpful locations were cited,

famous landmarks en-route.

Unhelpful as she wouldn’t

be able to remember the names.

Signposts had begun to blur;

destinations lost in a fog

of things not forgotten.

Childhood holidays

and her best friend’s name.

The second time she asked

the man took her there himself.

Worried she might wander away

and forget where she had been.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Creative Saturday

Have had a quite different day  today. I have been on a Printing and Artists' Books Workshop with Theresa Easton   at Ouseburn and it was FABULOUS.
See a collage of my creations below.

Have had a lot of ideas as to how Artists' Books could be used to incorporate life story in health care and  conversation ramps (  for people with dementia and aphasia.

They are also things of beauty in their own right, even when I have made them!!  An inspiring day and a poem just popped out...

Word Count

After every sentence
she checks the number
of words written on the page.

When she gets to
over a thousand
she might be allowed
to stop - for a while.

Trouble is
she seems only
able to write
short lines


Friday, April 13, 2012

Full Stop

It's no good I have not had the kind of day that allows for even a glimmer of poetry to emerge from anywhere at all. We went for a lovely walk near Slaley this evening and I am now exhasuted. A day at work facilitating a seminar followed by a lecture that was delivered fighting the noise of drilling - I'm pooped....
Have a couple of photos from the walk

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Gone for the alliteration again - not sure what to write about today as have had lots of thoughts about all manner of things but not sure I can write poems about any of it. Would really like to write longer poems that have range that takes the reader on a journey. Still don't have the stamina for long ones so end up writing short ones.

Derwent Valley

lapwing and curlew call
unseen but present

red kites swoop across
the skyline
quarter the air

in the distance
the city life continues
the hum of traffic
a reminder of it all

The river Derwent that begins at Blanchland and ends at the Tyne is a beautiful river - dammed to create a reservoir at Edmundbyers; there are beautiful strecthes that you can take long walks along. Few people seem to have found it. Here is a collage of some of the photos I took last time we went for a walk at Allensford.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday wanderings

Not sure why this title but my thoughts have been all over the place today. Started with another session at the Aphasia Centre (NETA)    and again was truly humbled by the people there and the work they do. Both the therapists and the people with experience of aphasia. The haiku, below, come from my observations.
Also came across Kathleen Jamie's new book Sightlines and it made me think about my ambition to write about the intersection between human beings and nature. it fascinates me but i don't know how to write about it effectively. Kathleen Jamie and Alice Oswald have gone before and are peerless in their work.
 I write from my observations of people and by listening better. I have become really interested in improving my listening - lengthening my attention span and on hearing properly and paying attention. Came across I-poems devised by Carol Gilligan as a method for data analysis in qualitative research. Am finding out more for my final assessment on the coaching course. I have stopped worrying about the mark I get and read to understand myself and coaching practice. I am interested in how to listen more attentively and also to stop putting words into people's mouths - staying silent for longer....

Speech Marks

slippery, tricky, spiky
like barbed wire fences

try small adjustments
being positive, most days,
making moves forward

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday's Musings

Day Room

rain threatens outside
inside sun shines
we meet and greet
not knowing each other

until now

share words and ideas
write them down
capture all that is said

start slowly

stutttering, self-conscious
then all of a sudden
streams of words flow
onto the sheet before us

patterns recognised

over and over
caught here, now
ours to treasure

Monday, April 9, 2012

Poem a Day

This is hard work (the poetry pledge)- although that is a "good thing". I am easily put off if it takes too much effort and I am trying to be more organised and put more effort into things.

I also discovered a blog about Nurse Education that I going to follow as we are so invisible in the "why do we have bad nurses" debate but also criticised indirectly. After all it is because nursing moved into higher education that we now have cruel and uncaring nurses. What errant nonsense - I had my eyes open when I started back in 1979. I was shocked and appalled at the uncaring and heartless way my colleagues would go about their work. At 18 I had no choice but to stand back and observe, make sure I did not join in and ensure it was not abusive BUT with the wisdom of over 30 years of hindsight I wish I had done more back then. I naively thought that all nurses would be caring, empathetic and nurturing souls. I did not expect a lack of humanity and uncaring practices BUT I now understand how people get to that state. If we are not shown compassion and generosity then how can we know how or find a way to offer it to others. We need to have a wider debate on what leads to this behaviour and also that we need to choose more carefully those we allow into the nursing profession.

Anyway having gone off on one of my tangents here is my poem for Easter Monday.

I attended a training session for working with people with Aphasia a couple of weeks ago and it was a fabulous, albeit difficult, experience. As someone who prides herself on her excellent communication skills etc etc it all went a bit pear shaped at one point. The key ingredient of the stimulating and effective session was a “hands on” conversation with someone with aphasia. I got a bit upset but it all got calmed down by the very wonderful Speech and Language Therapist leading the session and I have tried to capture my learning in this poem.
I am sure my first poetry tutor will be hyper–critical and not get it at all and that I should tell less and show more BUT I am paying more attention to actually writing and not being so conscious of the critics inside my head.

Tongue Tied

Six years ago he had been

used to a nightly slanging match.

Evenings ranting about the kids

and the choice of TV shows to watch.

Now his mumbles and mutters

just make him more angry than ever.

Pointing his finger at pictures

and letters, pen in hand,

wind him up to pitch of fury

of lost words and clogged-up criticisms.

No small talk will ever

bridge that gap.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


It is easy to get confused during a long weekend - not knowing what day it is. thought Saturday was Sunday and not even sure what today might be!! Yesterday was my 51st birthday and it was a lovely quiet day. Got me thinking about what I was doing 30 years ago - I had a 21st birthday party at St John's College in Cambridge in the School of Pythagoras building - it feels like someone else's life and I dreamt about a couple I haven't seen since 1995 - very confusing.

Long Lost

sea shores seem far away
the distant hills no nearer
than you will ever recall

her name still forgotten
steps echo in the distance
foot falls - all fools

speak only in whispers
do not disturb the silence
too much - softly fall

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lizzie's Cinquain Poem

 Running, Sleeping.Eating
My Dog's Name Is Fudge
       Border Terrier

Friday, April 6, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thursday poem

Wrong Doing

April a cruel month, my birth time, a mixed time.

Joy of an arrival, a mark of regret.

look behind you
what you see may stay with you


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Where did Wednesday go?

Sentence Length

She was never sure how long
they should be.
or really really long ones that went on and on and on.

Teachers kept telling her that
exciting words were very important
ambitious; simple not good enough.

Reaching for the dictionary
she wondered where these words
would come from, words kept slipping away
between the urge to speak
and when they came out.

talk talk too much
listen, really listen
try it
        and see what you hear.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday Poem

A long day at work and snow covering the garden have both frozen my brain!! However have been discussing the Surrealist approach to poetry that I find inspiring -

Climate Change

snow covered roses tilt
at tulips that limp into Spring.

Passion cake and lemon cake
apples, oranges and avocado

foolish games, foolish games

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday Musings


My article on poetry and nursing has been published in the Lapidus journal. An impressive collection of articles this quarter - very scholarly - am pleased to be with such esteemed company.

take a look at .... ask for a guest log in if you want to read it.

Also discovered the Textu poem in Poetry Review that came through the letterbox this morning - has a rule of 160 characters and the subject is the intimate "you". Not sure what to make of it but i like form as it provides a great structure and although I don't like rules I like using them as a device to help me write

Ways in to poetry

It can start with a single image

Stays with you, all day.

Grey clouds split by sunlight

That turn your day around

You try to capture that moment

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April - a poem a day?

I've signed up for it so here goes. Spent the weekend in County Clare, Eire. Revisiting places after 15 years...wonderful. Like any form of regular exercise I am going to attempt to build up my stamina - starting with haiku and imagist poetry working up to longer poems by mid-April.

Golden Wedding
long weekend break
family celebration
Irish getaway

Loop Head
Atlantic Ocean
stretches west, before us
high cliffs, screeching birds