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Susan M Phillips

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Friends and Gravy
7/19/2008 2:11:01 PM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

Friendship is a favourite subject with the writers of those corny emails aimed at improving our souls. Maybe they're right that we should treasure our friends, but we should take time to enjoy the gravy too.

I'm not the world's most consistent blogger on the planet, but today is a good day to blog. You'll be wondering what the title's all about, no doubt. Well, it sort of covers what is on my mind right now. Over the past few weeks Iíve re-met old friends, strengthened ties with new friends and even found a childhood friend I lost touch with when we were both just eight years old.

Members of the den will be aware that sisters Charlie and Cryssa C. have collaborated with their brother Leo on The Gravy Queen, a rather unusual book created as a tribute to their late mother and to raise funds for Foyer de Sion Orphanage in Haiti, which houses some of the poorest children on the planet. When the call went out for submissions for the project, my life was a mad blur of hospital visits and chaos as two members of my family fell ill one going into hospital just after the other returned home. The hospital is outside the area I'd usually consider myself capable of driving (ME restricts my strength, so I keep journeys short); but I was travelling almost every day. That was just about all I did manage Ė the rest of the time was spent recovering from the effort, but I wouldnít have changed any choices I made at the time. I guess the upside to that was the improvement in my driving skills and knowledge of shortcuts through Leicester city centre. Good thing, too - my daughter is about to move there.

I'm digressing. Being so overstretched, I couldn't contribute to the book's contents, but then Charlie put another call out, this time for a photograph to base the cover illustration on. She wanted a very particular skyscape and I sent her everthing that came close to fitting the bill. Have I mentioned I'm a passionate sky photographer? I like doing close ups of flowers and creepy crawleis too, but she didn't seem to want my snails and slugs. I continued to keep my eyes heavenwards as family health began to improve and when, one day, the sky turned a deep copper colour with purpling clouds, I hurried out with my camera to catch one last sunset. Charlie was looking for an image that spoke of mashed potatoes in gravy for one of her poems. I can't say how many times the shutter clicked or how many times I moved to get a better view, but finally it started to get dark and I returned home to upload the new photographs so that Charlie and co could inspect them.

I didn't hear much more but, knowing they'd had a lot of submissions, I concluded that someone else's picture would be gracing the cover and got on with my life, which was now settling down enough for me to get back to writing. As far as I was concerned, it had been a good experience as Charlie and I had exchanged friendly messages and emails.

July has been a very active month with three events to go to with my husband Morgan, including a sci fi con just outside Cardiff (where they film Doctor Who). When we paid our entrance fees, we were given an envelope each, which I stuffed into the depths of my bag and forgot about it. The main aim of going was to meet up with a long time friend and fellow author David Price, who lives nearby. It was worth going just for that, but there was a whole lot going on at that event. We could only stay for the first half, as we were double booked, but had a really great time catching up with old friends, learning lots from the talks and generally finding life much improved. I met the wonderful Philip Gross, author of some of my sonís favourite books from his youth and saw some short films made for a competition that took my breath away. I also learned from Rhys Hughes about a writing discipline called OuLiPo Ė a kind of form writing for prose Ė no, not that kind of form Ė you have specific rules that have to be applied throughout the piece. Depending on the rules in question, you might write an entire book omitting the letter D, write a story made up of nine word sentences. The variety seems endless.

Later, back at home the following week, I inspected the contents of the aforementioned envelope and found an entry form for an international poetry contest. I was feeling a little bit creative and started working on an idea for a rondeau redoublť (poem with strict rules Ė I was still being inspired by Rhys Hughes); but it wasn't right. I knew it wasn't right, but had no idea what was wrong with it, so I contacted the best poet I know and asked if she would be willing to look at it. She agreed at once and went through it dot and comma before coming back with an encouraging, yet brutally honest critique verse for verse and I started work in earnest. After a few abortive efforts, I woke up one morning with the poem's story in a completely different format in my mind's eye. I quickly jotted it down and sent it off to my brilliant mentor, who approved and helped me to work out the kinks. Now itís all finished and clipped to the entry form. Iíll send it off when the time is right.

Why havenít I mentioned my mentorís moniker, I hear you ask. Well, itís to protect her. Sheís so good and I donít want to be responsible for her getting inundated with requests for advice on writing poetry.


Ok, so those are a couple of different kinds of friendship and then there was Sue. Iíve had a lot of friends called Sue over the years, mainly because Susan was a tremendously popular name around the time I was born, with John being favourite for the boys Ė at one school I attended there were five Susans in my class and four Johns. Considering there were only twenty of us in all, that was a pretty high percentage. This Sue, though, was my very first Sue friend. I met her at primary school when we were both six and we became inseparable during term time. We didnít live close to each other and so never saw each other outside of school, but that didnít seem to matter Ė until just before my eighth birthday when my family moved to another county and I never saw her again.


The other day my brother rang me to say that the girl who lived next door at that time had been in touch through friends reunited and had asked about me. She was my out of school friend, along with her younger brother, so I got in touch and decided to do a search for any other old childhood pals. Thatís when I found Sue and weíre now getting to know each other once more. Funny, but it seems very easy and natural to send and receive messages between us. The years are falling away surprisingly and there are a number of parallels in how our lives have gone on Ė we both went into office work and did creative things in our spare time that have made us half careers. I write, she makes and sells jewellery. Iím going to go and look at some when I can. I shall be writing to my out of school friend, too (her name is not Sue), but sheís running a hotel and itís high season, so I donít expect to hear much from her for a while.


I've since discovered that one of the photographs I took of my own idea of a gravy sky has been chosen for the basis of the cover illustration. I've seen the completed image and it's superb. We now all need to try and buy as many of the books as possible so that the Haitian orphans can have a decent, safe life


Friendships are wonderful things. They take a little work and a lot of enthusiasm, but put a little in and itís all gravy.

Comments (2)

More Blogs by Susan M Phillips
• Interrogating Ali - an interview with percussionist Ali McMillan - Wednesday, September 21, 2011
• Change of continent? - Wednesday, August 03, 2011
• Book Launched - Saturday, July 02, 2011
• Green Living, Sacred Life launch Sat. 2nd July Nuneaton, UK - Monday, June 27, 2011
• Correction to last blog - Monday, March 21, 2011
• Nearly there - Saturday, March 12, 2011
• Happy New Year - Wednesday, December 29, 2010
• Lost a castle, found a forest - Friday, April 09, 2010
• I found my category! - Thursday, April 08, 2010
• New category needed - Wednesday, April 07, 2010
• Raising money to help the homeless and vulnerably housed - Saturday, January 30, 2010
• Happy New Year - Thursday, December 31, 2009
• Making History - Wednesday, December 23, 2009
• Change of direction - Thursday, December 17, 2009
• French sojurn - Monday, September 21, 2009
• My poem is going into print - Wednesday, September 02, 2009
• new profile, new photo - Thursday, August 27, 2009
• From sprinting to spinning - Thursday, August 20, 2009
• Sprinting to stand still - Friday, August 14, 2009
• The tortuous route from idea to bookshelf - Wednesday, July 29, 2009
• Terror Scibes Rise Again - Saturday, March 07, 2009
• Happy new year - Thursday, January 01, 2009
• Chritsmas Blog - where's the dictionary? - Monday, December 22, 2008
• Off to Oxford Dance Camp - Thursday, July 31, 2008
•  Friends and Gravy - Saturday, July 19, 2008  
• Phew - Thursday, May 08, 2008
• missing but still alive - Thursday, April 17, 2008
• Poetry to Form - Sunday, April 13, 2008
• So much to tell, so little time - Sunday, March 30, 2008
• Why the Shrew Had to be Tamed - Monday, March 24, 2008
• Happy Easter William Shakespeare - Saturday, March 22, 2008
• Rock 'n Roll and Education - Wednesday, March 19, 2008
• About that titling experiment...and the other surprise - Saturday, March 15, 2008
• Surprises just seem to happen - Friday, March 14, 2008
• A day in the life of a domestic goddess - Sunday, March 09, 2008
• Blogless - Saturday, March 08, 2008
• Rose Tinted Billows - Tuesday, March 04, 2008
• Aaaaaaaah! - Monday, March 03, 2008
• And today is....... - Thursday, February 28, 2008
• Chocolate Liquor - Thursday, February 21, 2008
• Dogs more interesting than cats? - Wednesday, February 13, 2008
• Titling Experiment - Monday, February 11, 2008
• phhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhew - Sunday, February 10, 2008
• head shock - Sunday, February 10, 2008
• Prosody and page stats - Tuesday, February 05, 2008
• Warrior Camp Episode 2 - Tuesday, August 07, 2007
• Frogs, Fireside Shrews and Earth Toilets at Warior Camp - Sunday, June 10, 2007
• New Computer, clean slate - Saturday, December 30, 2006
• Forgot to mention - Tuesday, November 28, 2006
• I'm Back - Monday, November 27, 2006
• Seasons Greetings - Saturday, December 24, 2005
• Fame is as fame does... - Tuesday, August 02, 2005
• Fame ? - Friday, January 14, 2005
• Sue Phillips Invites..... - Sunday, August 15, 2004
• Brainless but well booted - Friday, January 23, 2004
• Highs and Lows - Tuesday, January 06, 2004
• The Christmas Question Many Parents Dread - Monday, December 22, 2003
• Building blogs - Coventry revisited - Wednesday, December 17, 2003
• Blogged Down - Saturday, December 13, 2003
• Smoke Blog - Sunday, December 07, 2003
• Blogging on - Tuesday, November 25, 2003
• Tangled Webs - Sunday, November 16, 2003
• Dream Scenes revisited - Sunday, November 09, 2003
• Fire works - Saturday, November 01, 2003

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