At the beginning of September, I shouldered a bag and hopped a train from Zürich to Paris, the first of many trains as I travelled to York and Kent in England and on to Antwerp. The Interrail app tells me I took 14 trains over 2,779kms and logged more than 22 hours on the rails.
The big draw in York was the Festival of Writing, where I hoped to get feedback on my novel-in-progress, and finally visit the school where I did my two-year Postgrad Diploma in Creative Writing. Tacking on some sight-seeing afterwards, plus catching up with friends in southern England and Belgium, rounded out a week and a half of travel.
The current term of my creative writing programme is all about poetry. Lots of reading, critiquing, analysing, and, of course, writing. We’re being asked to write about things that move us deeply. And to share work from published writers (who I think of as ‘real‘ poets) that inspire us.
The first poem I wrote this term is about saying goodbye to Sofie. She comes to mind so clearly on the 22nd of each month: the date of her death (in February) as well as the date of her birth (in December).
Canada has been on my mind a lot recently. Partially because of international media coverage after the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, BC. Partially because Prime Minister Trudeau got weird amounts of attention for his poufy hair and fancy socks at the G7 in Cornwall. But mostly because I haven’t been on Canadian soil for a year and a half.
That’s a long absence for me.
As more people are fully vaccinated (in Switzerland and Canada) and COVID-19 infection rates are going down in both countries, travel is starting to re-open. But plotting a trip ‘home’ has been complicated by quarantine requirements, lack of flights, previous commitments, and, above all, so much uncertainty.
As long as I can remember, my skin has been prone to redness. Exercise turns my face into a blotchy tomato. Cold and wind burnish my skin to a ruddy shine. Even washing my face, no matter how gently, leaves it pink. And there’s a good reason I apply SPF 50 daily—UV rays and I are not friends!
I’ve dealt with acne and/or rosacea (dermatologists can’t agree which is the underlying issue) most of my adult life and have tried just about everything to fix it. Cutting out dairy. Limiting processed sugar. Applying expensive creams. Buying celeb-endorsed treatment systems (Proactiv was both ineffective and bleached my pillowcases). Using prescription ointments. Attempting hormonal intervention (so thankful to be off the pill!). Taking antibiotics… then different antibiotics… and even more kinds of antibiotics. And now retinoids, which at least deliver moderate improvement.
Earlier this week my mum mentioned that it would have been her father’s 104th birthday. It shocked me to realise how long ago he passed away… more than a decade and a half. Despite not having many memories of my younger years (I’m told I had a happy childhood and the photos certainly support that!), I’ve retained strong impressions of my grampa. They’re mostly fleeting images or smells or a remembered turn of phrase or tone of voice; often comforting and rarely complete. And sometimes those memories arise at strange times.
I started a creative writing course in September and our first assignment was to write a 500-word story with only one primary character and one primary setting—not a heck of a lot of space to develop anything. Thankfully walking the dog (or more accurately standing around while she wanders slowly from sniff to sniff) gives me lots of time to mull over story ideas. That slow-paced dog walking was the genesis of the fictionalised episode I created for the assignment and have included below.