Out on a dike

Out on a dike phr. [mid 19-C] (US) going out in one's best clothes. [DIKED DOWN] I'm out as a dyke, occasionally out with a dyke. What I do when I'm out on a dike can become your business once I write about it here.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Stories of Origins

I just wanted to say that the memory project is continuing, but I've been going a little further back than usual recently as part of a discussion with my Woman-Stirred colleagues. So I'm going to reproduce here what I had to say over there on the origins of a writer.


I don't know what light my early poems and drawings might shed on the woman and poet I am now, but I know I'm very glad that I've kept them. The Woman-Stirred women have been discussing our earlier lives this week, and wondering why we choose to share certain stories and images with each other. Are we simply looking to build connection, and sharing whatever aims to do that best? Or are we deliberately constructing a particular image, a preferred image for all the others to see?

I wanted to be a writer as young as age seven, probably a lot earlier. In fact, my publishing ambitions may have their origins in a lecture Miss Lambert gave my first year infant class when I was still a small four-year old. A lecture? To four year olds? It had that effect on me, certainly. It was a stern and solemn lecture. In other words, a telling off. She told the class that we should all be ashamed of ourselves, for not one of us would be appearing in the school magazine that year.

This was an important lesson. It may have been my first real and personal understanding of injustice. I knew I had worked very hard in my first term, and this news hit me hard. I remember feeling hot and bothered and almost incapable of keeping still as I sat on the floor with legs crossed, struggling to remain silent. Perhaps it was not our efforts but our age that was against us?

In that moment, as Miss Lambert made me feel shame, I was determined never to find myself in this position again, not if I could help it. I never again wanted to have that feeling of underachievement. And that placed a whole new burden on me for the rest of my schooldays. I would work harder and harder, until my work was acknowledged. Except working harder and harder soon became the norm everyone expected from me.

This is a long preamble to a couple of poems I wrote as a seven or eight year old. I don't know what these poems have to tell the world now. Cartoons are good, perhaps. They fire the imagination; just don't watch too many. Be sure to maintain a balance and keep an eye on the natural world also. I don't know. Perhaps these poems say: never underestimate a child.

Tom and Jerry

Tom and Jerry
Were having a tug of war with a berry.
Jerry went ouch,
And Tom went eugh.
It splattered on the floor,
And Tom's bottom became sore.
Tom ran after Jerry,
Jerry hid in a bottle of sherry.
Tom drank the sherry,
And there was Jerry.
Jerry ran across the lawn,
And landed in a prawn.
Tom ate the prawn,
His tail felt like it had been sawn.
He spat Jerry out,
And Jerry looked about.
Tom turned red
And went to bed.


Birds are singing,
Birds are swinging.
They build a nest
Away in the West.
The babys are squeaking and cheaping,
I can hear a bird weeping.
We have got twenty three budgirigars,
In budgirigars there is two r's.

© Nicki Hastie the Younger, 1976/1977

Perhaps I should be grateful to Miss Lambert. Did her words actually fire my desire and passion to write? Just look at those red teacher ticks I was getting for my drawings by age seven!

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  • At 10:40 pm, October 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Amazing you've kept old poems and pictures like that Nicki. I almost feel jealous. I don't even have a single one of my baby teeth. Probably I didn't draw or write anyway at that age. Far too busy doing important "STUFF"!

    It's really lovely that you have this hard evidence of your former self (is there such a thing?). Humm, if I don't start saving things soon I will probably wonder if I ever existed in 20 years time. Nasty thought.

    Funny thing. Last night as I was going to sleep, as is my wont, I started to think of poetry lines and weird stuff, including, would you believe, wondering how many cups, or bowls or sacks or whatever would have been filled if I'd kept all the toenails I ever trimmed in my life, instead of throwing them away or eating them etc etc. Less interesting mementos than your pictures, I grant that, but nevertheless, I think you'll agree that it shows a basic inclination in the correct direction. Nest pas?

    Every time I see "Woman-Stirred" I think of woks.

    Ah well, celery.

    Rob (1.479 and going down, er, as it were)

  • At 6:55 pm, October 13, 2006, Blogger Lou said…

    Well I think Miss Lambert had a major influence... red ticks are very powerful...

  • At 5:42 pm, October 14, 2006, Blogger Nicki Hastie said…

    Yes, Rob, I think there's an important drive to collect things in the human psyche. I guess I understand that inclination in relation to mementos from my life, rather than stamp-collecting or writing down train numbers. But I'm sure neither of those activities are the important "stuff" you're referring to :-) I imagine you were doing something far more romantic like building dens in country hedgerows and climbing trees. Yes? No?

  • At 5:45 pm, October 14, 2006, Blogger Nicki Hastie said…

    I agree, Lou. I believe red ticks may be so powerful they affect the balance of the earth on its axis. Or maybe that's just how it feels to each individual.

    Confidence is built and broken on the back of red ticks.

  • At 11:15 am, October 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dens? Trees?

    Yes certainly - but can I remember them now? Can I hold them?

    Does that matter?

    What's the meaning of undercooked spaghetti?

    All these and more are, I suppose, important questions that we must face up to in the slow death of our lives.


  • At 10:59 pm, October 16, 2006, Blogger Nicki Hastie said…

    Oh Rob - don't get too down! There's only so much toe-nail gazing a person can take. Look up, look up, young man!!

    The only thing is, you won't find the answer to the spaghetti question in the trees ...


    (thought you'd like the "young" bit, although if you remember spaghetti trees maybe you're not so young after all)


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