About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
I am co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Remembering Colleen Ruth Elsie Fourie

My friend Colleen Ruth Elsie Fourie died yesterday, following a car accident a few days earlier. I never met her, as she lived eight thousand miles away in Pretoria, but we were in the same online peer support group for a time where we shared our stories, and the shared experiences in those stories forged what felt like a close bond.

As well as sharing our healing, we connected creatively.  Like me, Colleen was a writer.  Unlike me, she was also a very gifted artist and we mooted the possibility of producing a booklet of illustrated poems some day - because we thought we had time.  In addition, she had a passion for animals, especially dogs, and in this, she outdid me again, having, I believe, seven at the last count.  And she would mourn even the snouted and Mozambican spitting cobras they killed - even when they were lurking on her verandah or in her garage.

Tragically, Colleen passed away as her daughter expects her first child, across the other side of the world in London.  What a warm, funny and creative grandmother she would have been.  What a loss for her family. 

Colleen had a dream of coming to Somerset or Devon and walking through bluebell woods.  I'm posting this poem from my recent collection - a lament for a mole I encountered at bluebell time in a place on Dartmoor called Heaven's Gate - for her. 


This is Heaven.
It says so on the five-barred gate
and among these lime and bronze leaved trees,
the tidal bluebells of late spring,

I can believe it.  Why, even the dung here’s
starred with iridescent beetles.
But you, O Mouldywarp, are dead
and sky-buried,

your enormous delicate hands
with their concert pianist fingers
sieving, shovelling only air. 
And it’s no solace

that you might feed another creature or the earth,
I want you living
and if not here, then digging a tunnel
from this harsh clarity to another,

and let that clarity be Mole Heaven
where layers of soil are dark and moist
and fat worms fall straight in your mouth
like startled manna.

© Deborah Harvey 2014 

Rest in peace, Colleen.  I hope your heaven is full of bluebells and happy dogs.  

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Broken Leg Blues Part III: Dawn Of The Cyborg

When you're incapacitated, your horizons shrink. The after-effects of anaesthesia linger like a creepy kiss, and a four yard hop on crutches to the loo is akin to pogo-ing across the Sahara. These last two weeks I've listened to hail pebbledashing the skylights and stretched my withered hands towards the living flame gas fire.  The fact that I can't jaunt hasn't troubled me the way it would if I were mobile, and in my  head the prospect of an appointment at the local super hospital took on the proportions of a climb up Everest. 

But round it came and off I went with my trusty neighbour Nurse Cathy, while Son the Younger's lovely and obliging girlfriend acted as our chauffeur.  At Gate 12 Outpatients we gazed at the Departures Board for notification of our destination.  Young men on crutches bounded past, graceful as gazelles, and I hated them, though I was quite excited to see that one of my fellow patients was called Peggoty. (Yes, I probably do need to get out more.)

In the Plaster Room I had the first glimpse of the my right leg for two weeks, and it wasn't a pretty sight, being bruised and horribly swollen still. 

But unlike Royal Marine Commando Andy Grant, whose story I told Ellie, the orthopaedic practitioner, to much horrified guffawing*, the tattoo of Braques' bird on my right foot was unscathed ... 

... and the scar itself was healing really well, thanks to Nurse Cathy's recommendation that I take a multivitamin with minerals every day.

With a choice of red, blue, pink or white for my fibreglass cast, I decided to cast my vote three months early and went for red. 

Then it was off to be x-rayed.

Back in Trauma and Orthopaedics, a familiar figure studied my x-rays. 'You won't remember me,' I said, 'but I'll never forget your face because You. Set. My. Leg.'

He laughed. 'I do remember you,' he said. 'I had fun doing that one. I must say, it's good to see you looking so well.'


'Nine screws, though,' he added. 'That's an impressive break. But it's healing fine.'

All that was left was to request a DEXA scan in case I have osteoporosis and for Cathy to push me and my newly acquired zimmer frame home across the park in my wheelchair. Door to door, a little over an hour and a half. Thank you, Universe, for good friends and the NHS.  

*I think it's probably OK to be amused by the story of this man's tattoo because I've heard him talk about it on the radio and everyone - including him - was laughing about it. More importantly, he's gone on to prove it wrong in spectacular fashion. 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Walking The Chains, The Passenger Shed, Temple Meads

I went to see 'Walking the Chains'*, about the building of the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol (before I broke my leg).  Here's a review I've written about it for the local rag.  

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the 150th anniversary celebrations of the opening of the Clifton Suspension Bridge had culminated with December’s firework extravaganza, but just over a month later, along comes this baggy and at times slightly exasperating celebration of our most famous landmark and the ‘little giant’ whose vision and drive brought it into being.

For the sentimentalist, the idea of staging ACH Smith’s play in the Passenger Shed at Temple Meads was inspired. More practically, the acoustics aren’t great and this meant it was occasionally difficult to hear what was going on.  Moreover, the way the action jumped back and forwards through time, with episodes such as the attempted suicide of Sarah Ann Henley (you know, the jilted Victorian woman whose voluminous skirts filled with air and parachuted her onto the muddy river bank) preceding the completion of the bridge, made me concerned that anyone unfamiliar with its lore and stories might be irredeemably confused.

But for all that, it’s a gutsy show, and with performers from theatre company Show of Strength, Circomedia and the Suspended Voices Choir – a cast which seemed to be of the clay of Bristol itself – you’d have to have a heart of Avon Gorge limestone not to be captivated by its exuberance.  

Perusing the list of financial supporters in the programme, I spotted a shocking omission. Sometimes it seems that Bristol has again been split in two, this time by a council that parachutes in expertise from elsewhere to promote our city’s status as Green Capital while ignoring the local talent of its citizens, and blows thousands on the nonsense of fake grass and trees in Park Street, a stone’s throw from Brandon Hill.  (Hardly very green.)  Meanwhile, Show of Strength, along with b-Creative, Bristol Ensemble and Poetry Can, have lost all their modest council funding. It took Brunel, an incomer, to bridge the great divide 150 years ago.  Now we have another, and maybe it’s time our Mayor reconsidered how best to support the arts, and the interests of those Bristolians who practise them.  

*'Walking the Chains' refers to the practice of 'interviewing' prospective maintenance workers on the bridge by making them walk its great supporting chains (without a safety-harness) to see if they had a head for heights. All other skills could be learnt.