Five Seven Five

When my Winchester flatmate Sam and I cross paths, often in the kitchen at odd times of the day or night, he’ll frequently ask what I’m writing at the moment. In the last few weeks, with no academic work to do, the answer has tended to be “nothing much”. Even when I’ve prompts in mind, nothing has been fruitful, but one very small thing has suddenly helped to change that – and I could find it rather useful over the coming months at home.

When I saved and submitted my poetry portfolio at the beginning of last month, I assumed that I was letting go of the last batch of verse I would write in a while. I’d had trouble gelling with the module, and – excluding one on song lyrics – I haven’t chosen to take any poetry modules next year. That was that, or so it seemed. Just the other night, using the pen and notebook Louis bought me for my last birthday, all it took was three lines to reveal that perhaps I have unfinished business with it after all. In a haiku, I have a simple outlet for all of those fragmented thoughts and emotions I’m keen to express. It’s also good for the ideas I have that aren’t quite big enough for me to expand on substantially, those that start out as words, phrases or images. If I get them down on paper in this way, I’m shifting my writer’s block and expanding my portfolio, albeit more gradually than I would like.

As I’ve said, it could come in especially handy over the next few months while I’m back in Somerset for the summer. It’s fair to say that I’ve been more than a little bit apprehensive about returning from Winchester and facing numerous questions about what I plan to do with myself. I’ve been embarrassed about admitting that right now, there are no plans to speak of – but I’m hoping that writing and the ideas I have will help to ease that as I work on making some. It doesn’t matter whether they manifest themselves as bigger things or smaller ones, or in three lines or more.

Mason

 

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Mission To Marwell

On Monday lunchtime, Flat 12 and I all came together for a group meal in Winchester before going our separate ways for the summer. The food was great, but as always, the company was the highlight. Alysha, Ben, Deacon, Ryan, Nora, Lara and I spent a lot of time reminiscing about our favourite moments from the past year. There have been many highlights, but if I had to choose a new and very recent one to go alongside them, our day out just under two weeks ago would most definitely be worthy.

We had decided well in advance to go to the nearby Marwell Zoo, firstly by taking a short train from Winchester to Eastleigh. Once there, we would board a bus running directly to our destination. Everything was ready as we set off in the morning, and we were lucky to have weather that was warm enough to allow me to leave my jumper in my rucksack. I’d booked my train tickets and assistance beforehand, so boarding the train was a piece of cake and we were in Eastleigh around ten minutes later. It was once we’d arrived that our plan started to go somewhat awry. Every sign around the bus station told us what we thought we knew – that at 10:23 sharp, a large and distinctive leopard-print bus would arrive to collect us, and the final stage of our journey would go without a hitch.

10:23 came and went, however, with no sign of our lift. Confusion reigned for a moment, since we’d all been chatting with our backs to the road and it was entirely possible that we simply could have missed it. We swiftly established that this was not the case – it would have been very difficult for all seven of us not to clock a leopard-print bus – so Lara phoned the zoo for some much-needed clarity. The lady on the other end informed her that by contrast to what the signs were telling us, those buses only ran at weekends. If we wanted to, though, we could get a regular bus part of the way to the zoo and walk the remaining distance, as there was supposedly a footpath close by.

We decided to take her advice. To my surprise, I was able to board the bus without paying a fare – upon learning that I didn’t yet have a Hampshire bus pass, the driver was adamant that I should never be charged. She took us out of Eastleigh and along a series of winding rural roads before we disembarked next to a pub car park. As we looked around us, we could see that whilst nourishment and alcohol were on offer if we wanted them, the promised footpath most definitely was not. What separated us from the zoo was actually a 50 mph road, evidently not built with pedestrian or wheelchair access in mind. The risks ahead were immediately clear to all of us, but seeing no other options at that moment in time, and having already come so far, we decided to try and tackle it as best we could.

We made our way along it slowly and in single file. Behind me, over the roar of the passing traffic, I could hear Lara reminding me to keep as close to the grass verge at the side as I could. Up ahead, Ben and Ryan were finding our mission increasingly stressful – this particular part was admittedly rather dangerous. After tucking ourselves into each lay-by and bus stop in an attempt to move as far as we could, we crossed to the other side, where the kerb was low enough to allow me to get up onto the grass. By now, though, it had dawned on us that we needed a backup plan – successfully reaching the zoo was fast becoming a very distant possibility.

We unanimously agreed that bowling in Eastleigh was the solution. After stopping for lunch once we had returned, we headed to the alley, determined to do something enjoyable with our somewhat pearshaped day. We played two games, for which I – being both disabled and more than a little bit rusty – used the ramp and bumpers, as did Alysha and Nora. I surprised myself and everyone else by drawing with Alysha for the win in the first game and coming a clear second in the next, and it was generally agreed that I was the most consistent player across the two. Meanwhile, Deacon took longer to get a strike than he would have liked – although I think he did win the second game – and Ben might not thank me for saying this, but I believe he was last on both occasions.

Regardless of how successful each of us had been down the lanes, it was clear to all of us that we’d had the great day we wanted after all. Even at the beginning, when nobody knew how it was going to turn out, we were laughing together. The fun we eventually had was just a welcome bonus, since all good friends really need to enjoy themselves is the company of each other. Flat 12 is now slowly being vacated, as everyone will be living off-campus from next year, but we have already discussed how and where we can meet up and the things we could do. I’m already counting down the days. For now, I’ll leave you with some wise words from the key ring Lara kindly gave to each of us:

Mason

 

The Pull, Part 7

Well, July is now officially upon us, and as I sit here writing this I am just over three weeks away from the start of my summer holidays – and beyond that, my great Winchester adventure. In the meantime, however, there is still work to be done, and not just in my day job. There is also the small matter of my poetry project. The titles for my poems are all present and correct – you saw them in “Accordion” – but what form the accompanying material will take is still yet to be seen. I do have some rough opening lines for the first poem, “Time Off For Good Behaviour”, but those were mainly written as an excuse for me to open a new notebook and are therefore likely to change.

Beginning a new notebook of any kind is always a treat for the senses. Everything about it is something to be cherished – the spotless and totally unspoiled cover, the pristine pages that lie within, and every magical indentation your pen makes upon them. The notebook I am using for this particular project came from the University of Winchester itself, and I told myself that it would never go to waste playing host to half-finished ideas. It was therefore set aside for poetry, and that in turn meant that I could not start writing in it properly until yesterday. I will admit that it has been increasingly difficult to resist, sitting patiently on my bedside table, always lingering in the corner of my eye. No matter how big the temptation got, though, I told myself that the end reward would be well worth the wait. I only allowed myself to sign and date the first page, so that everything written in it could form a time capsule I can look back on with fondness in the future.

I wrote the first paragraph of this post yesterday, when I had not yet attempted to change the opening lines I had already composed. I subsequently opened the notebook – and, deciding once and for all that they simply did not work, I crossed them out and started again. The new lines that resulted from this flowed much better and felt less forced. I am planning to show the completed poems to my coursemates before you get to see them here, but I will give you little snippets along the way. Make of these what you will!

For a few precious months, the shackles are off. Lie down in your bed, or feast in your trough.

This freedom’s a nectar you simply can’t waste. Feel every last drop flow through you with haste.

Mason

 

 

Good Medicine

Everyone says, very accurately, that laughter is the best medicine to help see us through difficult times. An equally effective antidote, however, can be found in that funny luminous orb which occasionally (but not often) decides to show its face in Britain. Sunday was thankfully one of those days, and although I have a difficult relationship with the more rural parts of the world – generally preferring somewhere more lively with people going about their business – I was happy to write in the garden with a cool drink. I had opened my notebook with thoughts of my summer poetry project – described in “Accordion” – firmly in my mind. I found myself once again needing to prove to myself that my poetry could be half-decent, especially if I was going to spend my summer focusing on it, so I gradually scribbled some verse while my family watched on. What did I use as inspiration? The sunshine, of course, and specifically how it was lifting my spirits with its warm embrace. You can read the poem below – just bear in mind that it was composed hurriedly and may not be of as high a quality as something more considered. This time I can’t hide behind the fact that it isn’t finished yet!

I hope you like it – it has certainly made me feel even more eager to begin the poems that lie ahead:

I never thought that much of you
Your green and pleasant land.
But then I see a different side
When I am in your hand.

I feel your rays within my veins
I feel your tender touch
Your beams do dance upon my skin
Loving me so much.

You let us share you with our friends
Unite our lives as one.
As we forget our small divides
To bask in summer sun.

And though you do go in again
The memories remain
Like bright and vivid Polaroids
Unblemished by rain.

And when you are not in the sky
I save you a place
In my mind so that you can
Still shine upon my face.

Mason

 

 

 

 

An Audience With The Sunrise

Many of us have been there. You go to bed one night at around this time of year, knowing big plans are going to be set in motion when you wake again. You try to get as much sleep as you can in the time that you have, but the adrenaline within has other ideas. It’s pumping through your veins, and you’ve never felt quite so alive since…well, since roughly a year ago, actually. You know you need to suppress it as best you can to get the rest you need, but this proves to be an impossible task. Every inch of you is almost shaking with the electric excitement that courses through your body, as if you’re hooked up to the National Grid. This goes on for something like five hours, and all the while your eyes are tightly shut in the hope you’ll drift off. These efforts are ultimately in vain, but at least you don’t need an alarm to know when to rise. The glow is there to guide you, both from the bedside clock – telling you it’s precisely 2:00am – and the landing, because the next bedroom is a hive of activity. You hear muffled and weary voices, and the hurried packing of suitcases. This is normally something done with the discipline of a military operation, because everything has to fit perfectly in every case and bag, but this morning it’s being done somewhat more excitedly, even as you try not to disturb the neighbours in their slumber. After all, you’ve got somewhere to be.

You’re going to the airport, and then you’re going abroad for a fortnight.

That paragraph described with relative accuracy how pretty much every one of our family holidays began for around twelve years. After the initial hustle and bustle upstairs, we’d all come down and gather in the hallway, adding the finishing touches to our preparations before leaving. We’d make sure we had a round of squashed Marmite sandwiches each to eat in the airport, and then we’d depart, driving away with the house in darkness behind us. To some, pitch-black and empty roads may have an eerie quality, but for me they always had a charm of their own. Street lights and shop signs of different colours would turn the early morning into a wondrous microcosm as they illuminated the gloom we journeyed through. I’d see other cars in both lanes, but their drivers would remain anonymous to me, so my imagination would be left to wonder what their stories were and where they were going. And as we drove further and further towards the airport, we’d find ourselves passing empty fields that were vulnerable to harsh winds, or motorways that were saturated thanks to a brief but torrential shower. Such sights meant that I always felt cocooned and warm, and most importantly that I could concentrate on the trip that lay ahead for us all to enjoy.

The numerous glows before me really did help with that. As Mum or Dad drove, the light from the instruments on the car’s dashboard were there to comfort me, and they made me smile as they pierced through the blackened yonder. When we reached the airport parking and had emerged into air that was chilly and crisp even in August, the hustle and bustle of the expansive buildings was there to greet us, and one could see the blazing white light of the countless rooms and corridors from quite a distance away. But between those two points, there was the most natural and eagerly awaited glow of them all in the form of the Sun itself. The latter stages of the journey would see it just poking its head above the horizon, giving the sky a faint orange tint that grew brighter as the giant orb ascended further into the sky. It felt like a race sometimes – who would finish their journey first, the Hawkers in the Vauxhall Zafira or Mother Nature? We did, of course, but the Sun was never far behind. As we wearily ate our sandwiches at a mucky table after check-in, its rays would be seeping through the windows. As we waited patiently in the Departure Lounge at everyone else’s breakfast time, it would be welcoming a morning in full swing with blue skies and birdsong. And then, when we were venturing out onto the tarmac to board the plane, it would be high in the sky, ready to welcome us with its full force when we disembarked, and to remind us – usually with all of 30 degrees or more – that the best fortnight of the year had begun.

Mason