Anakana Schofield – Award Winning Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

A new apparatus! The High Bar! I had to hunt for new pasture as I am becoming disheartened at gymnastics. I spied a man on there with his hands hooked inside these cotton straps and asked the woman coaching him to teach me.

It’s quite odd. You place your hands in backwards through the cotton circles that hang on the bar and you essentially now cannot get your hands out of them. You’re locked in! You put your hands on top of some material as wide as your hand that covers the bar and you hang down and start swinging.

The swing that she taught me on the high bar has three different positions that aren’t entirely natural reflexes and depend on where the body is in relation to the bar. Thus on the back swing you pike, toes down, just as you are under the bar you arch and finally on the far side of the bar you swing your feet up to the ceiling. I was confusing the middle arch with the feet to the ceiling and doing a peculiar arching gesticulation that had a bit of a last temptation of Christ vibe about it.

What the coach taught me on that high bar is a drill. So eventually once you are strong enough you can swing around the bar with your arms extended in what’s I think a giant circle. I found this high bar v exhilarating. You’re swinging away trying to think about your feet and after a while you are so puffed out and then it’s a desperate scrabble to get your feet onto the sideplatform so you can get your wrists out of the straps that you’re fastened into!

No bingo

The sun is up.

Today is the day of the adult gymnastics meet I had to pull out of because of some misbehaving nephrology and all round lack of verve. Humph.

I will attempt to replace it with written labour today, and tonight will maybe go and admire those who were able to participate.  I’ve been watching some aerial hoop (trapeze) work on youtube for a treat from time to time, just mesmerizing.

What I omitted to mention, nor remember is that “them nights” are inevitably followed by 72 hours of shredded musculature. Including a painful awareness of muscles there’s really no need for me to know I actively possess.

Fortunately, I am reading on the topic of muscles for a review I am writing and can certainly agree they “challenge the order of things”…

Those nights… yes them ones

Tonight, I had the moment that had eluded me all these months and that I’ve documented rigorously as eluding me in this blog, I had some small triumphant moments at gymnastics.

I had not expected any. I was so exhausted I was out at the coffee machine chatting about social problems in the city with another of the coaches, who was eating a bar of chocolate. We were having a great auld gab. On my return to the gym, one of the fellas was slagging me for chatting and doing nowt. I teased him back in return.

It helped that I was working with a coach tonight who I haven’t seen since my first night return to the mats back a year and a half ago. It also helped that she’s a Newfie and even has the same name as my mother. (Perhaps I am more inclined to do what she says?). She’s a witty, warm woman and she’d a glint her eye as we negotiated my stumbling blocks. She was ready for my diversions. But “you could do it you see,” she was reasoning with me. She’d examine what I did and then insist … “hmmm you could do this…”

So new eyes, new ideas and new angles. What a great trio.

And a different surface. We were working on the flat floor rather than the tumble tramp. She set up a box arrangement for me to handstand on top off, then snaps legs down and under, push from shoulders back into back handspring. I had such a shock the first standing back handspring I threw for her assessment onto a “sting mat” as they call them. I had expected such a heavy drop onto my wrists, if my arms would even support me that far, instead I barely felt a thing and flipped over with surprising ease! It was almost polite as the plop of a vase of flowers onto the table.

Have I gotten stronger?! I don’t think so. If anything I am reduced in strength. Perhaps the humour, warmth and that glint of “ah but you could” carried me across whatever psychological mound was impeding and holding up the body.

Two other moments of note: at the end of the session a young man, adorned in a most impressive shirt with three penguins on it, informs me he’s a male Cheerleader. A what? Says I. And he gives me the history of male cheerleading and a name, I’ve  clean forgot of some group in Florida who be the best.

Another fella was holding a chain with a jade piece in his mouth, as he readied up for a tumbling sequence. “Is it the mother in me I said but would you not be a bit worried about that chain and your teeth.” No, he says. I’d hate you to damage your tooth. He then takes he hurdle step throws a sequence that included a straight back somersault almost up to the roof (his next was a double,  that was a double straight back! and then another at least a twist and a half). Finally he admits his granny gave him the necklace and the stone. “I knew it, ” I told him. “As soon as I saw it in your mouth, I thought only his granny could have given it to him, but didn’t want to say it.”  I love these little moments of revelation. The body may be coursing through the air like a well positioned kite, but the old mind is underneath it worrying about the luck of or damage of a granny’s gift.

Nights like tonight are rare, and rare is a fine thing while it lasts. As long as it turns up now and again, I’ll be happy to wait on the next innings. And will pay with the aches of it all manana. Good, necessary aches mind.

Last night I was nursing two injuries at gymnastics. Injuries sustained from going to the dentist and sleeping! I was considering skipping the training session because there was a screening of some archived readings I was curious about, but, after the day that was in it, physical action was the more necessary choice.

Not entirely sure how I thought not being able to lift my arm was going to facilitate flinging my body about the place. I snagged something in the shoulder, all the way up the neck to the ear region. It’s a 72-hour type strain acquired from sitting in the dentist’s chair with my head on an angle, in a state of terror, that caused it.

I find working with the body when it’s injured rewarding. I am interested in the seperation of how muscles work and interact and inter relate with each other: Not unlike the ingredients in a sentence. One’s awareness shifts when you’re denied access to a particular muscle group heavily relied on in a particular sport. I had not bargained how much the upper body is engaged previously. The transfer of weight to and from the shoulder region especially. Bit like losing the wheel on your car.

I figured I could easily spend the session on the trampoline or stretching, but it proved overly-painful. I was chatting, between tramp turns, with a contortionist. Her body arrived in the world equipped for the task it appeared. She’d always been very flexible. So I was asking her whether she discovered this from doing tricks at school or with her friends. She didn’t like that kind of attention, she explained. She’s a shy person. Now she’s an apprentice circus performer. Her connection being with her body over the spectacle of it displayed for an audience. Or perhaps she’s concealed by that spectacle and therefore comfortable. There was something of the ornament about this particular physical activity because a contortionist places the body in a manner and to an extremity nearly all of us cannot and leaves it there for a period of time and then moves to place it into another ‘sculpture’ (?).

I was thinking about the way truth is contorted lately and it’s curious that contorting truth is not an arrival point. It merely continues to ping, and ping, often with unsettling results and listening. What are the conditions neuro-scientifically that allow for truth to be contorted? Does the brain mimic the body in this way? Does it allow sculpture (ideas) to form and remain static, rather than be released to the next move, until their outline becomes so clear they take over ?

Rhotic intermission

Along the theme of collapse, my tumbling has entered a state of its own arrest. An unrecognizable slide backwards. A more useful slide would the powerful up and over and on momentum. The calamity is, as ever, in the linking moves. Independently the moves are rather dashing, but there just not much use if you cannot link them together. You have just that — — —–      — – —   instead of ____!______!__!_!_______!

I continue this beat of agnosticism. The physical reciting of prayer minus every third word.  Not exciting. Not compelling. A line of broken up despondency. Not even the despondency is consistent!

As detailed in my ongoing Rhotic titled “transactions” around and with the topic my iron levels are low and need to go from a number 11 up to a number 35. Except the iron supplements, even liquid, make me sick. I am officially blaming the 11 that needs to be a 35 for this arrest in progress. Once it’s a 35 I’ll have to concoct some other beauty of an excuse. But it will take consuming a field full of broccolli to drive it up. The fact of the matter is that after a period of exertion — and tumbling repeatedly even when you’re failing is just that — the body is like a JCB digger with no tires and no front or rear bucket. The bones do their clunky thing with insufficient votes from the muscles. Then there follows the supine protest. The flat pack obliteration.

The documentation arrived this week for our (Lori and I) performance art collaboration at Open Space.  They detail in the video projection … what now evades me.

Change one word.

Change one move.

Change all the people. At gymnastics my favourite coach has left to China and my other favourite coach has left to coach at a new club and the other gymnast who has helped me learn the rings has gone to medical school overseas. Disaster! My entire team of reliable males each Weds has disappeared to far points of the globe.

A new fella is helping me on the rings and he’s pretty radical. He did something tonight called a dislocation that I do not ever intend to do this side of 100. Plus he showed me some pretty violent swinging that was verging on crucifixion shaped and again I dunno if I’ll be hitting that tube stop anytime soon. I am quite jealous of his chin up move and am certainly going to pursue it. But how? The small matter of Posh Spice sized arms up against gravity and pretty ripped up hands need overthrowing.

Change one move.

Another coach tonight gave me a wonderful tip on my back handspring. I trained sooo long ago as a teenager, in the dinosaur era where they taught a sit and fall technique to the commence the move but that has now gone out with the bats. He said pike the legs and fall or just do it straight legged. Plus he said stick your chest up and back which is pretty easy to remember since it pokes out. What a difference. No more collapses. Well a couple. All my power from my legs was being lost by sitting too low, now instead it sends me back and longer. Yeah!!

All the way home I thought of how these tiny adjustments change so much, just as in prose a word in and out of a sentence can have this effect. I don’t have such a good editor’s eye. (Sound is v important to me though) I tend just to see thorns and blackberry bushes. I continue however to see the physical body and it’s movements as structure or I import from the physical body. Even now I can hear the snap of feet to the floor and thump of the arms and the final thump of the feet in a tumbling sequence. I hear a sentence in it. The last novel that I wrote the shape was formulated watching Judith Copithorne walk about delivering phrases at a poetry reading. She was not reading a poem like all the other poets were, she was offering words. Literally and physically.

1991 parkour

Some of the young guys and gals at gymnastics do what’s called Parkour (I thought they were saying Parky, but that just gave me Parkinson interviews).

This vid is as interesting for the landscape behind the movement, as the movements. And then there is the wobbly goalpost.

72 hours later my shoulders still protest that roar at the end. V shaky, phone filmed record of effort. It was the fifth time I did this in a row and the worst outcome, but exhilarating none the less. I am excellent at finding purposeless pursuits.

Another hand ripping night on The Rings! Aside from the vicious assault this apparatus is on the armpits, hands and shoulders, it is a superb way to waste my time and a most unbecoming manner for an almost forty year old woman to hurl herself about each Wednesday.

But oh the progress. Aside from one disastrous entanglement between the two rope things which sent me whipping around like a demented, just shot, duck as I thought Christ I will never get down from here nor see the daylight again. I even managed to do the put your legs over your head thing from swinging and there I was hanging there, utterly amazed, pleading with the man beside me, er now what the hell do I do? Since I assumed I hadn’t done the move yet. You’re already there, says he. I confess I was quite terrified and again after an acceptable period said erm how the hell do I get down…

He’s terribly patient that particular coach. Otherwise my tutelage comes from one of the other young gymnast’s who is ace and shows me all these techniques that I am then unable to fully employ.

I was also learning front somersaults (front tuck?) on the trampoline, bounce, bounce up you go turn in air and wham onto this stack of mats, except the bounces and counting threw me & landing in that mad foam pit didn’t suit me. It is extremely torturous trying to get out of said pit when your legs are short and so I retired. I think I am not a woman for turning somersaults at this moment.

The back flip I am doing in threes on the tumbling tramp. At least one in every three is an epic fail. And one is just dandy. What’s interesting is the epic fail should come on the final one where you’re tired, but no the epic fail comes at any point in the sequence, which very annoying. And the epic fail always follows the really strong one. So much for momentum. And the problem with the epic fail is it absolutely rips the shoulders and arms of you. And that alone should teach one to throw it and land it properly. And it does not. And that is why it is an epic fail.