Thursday, June 29, 2006

Beer and Universal Truths

As I considered what I wanted to write about tonight, I realised that a pint and a half of beer does not aid the little grey cells. The world my sub-editor and I put to rights, has no real artistic merit, nor holds any interest to anyone who has not consumed equal amounts of beer. Despite that, 2 hours later we still were having impassioned debates about the idea that as creative writers/poets/artists, our job was to show the universal truth within that particular moment.

So what's the universal truth in this particular moment? How do I express it without resorting to cliche and sap? Don't know. I know I tend to tell the truth when I'm in my cups and I suspect that is why many well known writers and poets were known for their love of a tipple (or 10). The alcohol makes a bit of space between the stuff happening in the head and one's intellect. Things appear a lot more manageable. Of course alcohol is a lousy anaesthetic, and I don't drink if I'm distressed. But it is nice to indulge in a bit of intellectual bullshit every now and then. The trick is being able to create that space without recourse to substance.

I've been able to borrow a digital camera for the summer, which is just great. If I'm up to it tomorrow, I may take the camera out for a quick trip and see what happens. I also will need to pick up the foamboard from the College shop. The big problem I see with this project is that although the blog and the pictures and foamboard squares will document a journey on many different levels, I need to find the universal truth in the experience.

Tonight, I just don't know. Tonight, I've had one and a half pints of beer and I still feel disappointed in my results and truth be known, a touch lonely. But as I listen to Carmina Burana, and I think of the future, the year ahead and beyond, I am hopeful.

So buckle your seatbelts, make sure your tray tables are in an upright position, and on behalf of the captain I'd like to welcome you aboard.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wednesday - phew!

Today, as I rode around on the bus, I continued to contemplate the concept of journeys and their allure for me. I came to the conclusion that I love travelling about the countryside in cars, buses and trains. The more I thought about it, the more I realised why I hate flying. If you are lucky enough to have a window seat in an aircraft, you basically see clouds and sea, or at least you do on the transatlantic flights that I take. You don't see brief snapshots of other people's lives as you creep/whiz by, and the atmosphere on a plane is quite different to that on a bus, or train. Far more muted and considered. There's less space and people are grumpy and uncomfortable for most of the time. By the way, I suspect this only applies in Economy. People in First and Business have absolutely no cause to complain, their knees don't need to be removed from their ears with the help of an osteopath at the end of a flight. Their food doesn't taste like reconsituted plastic. Oh the envy!

Travelling on the ground, your journey becomes a series of snapshots. It then occurred to me that most forms of narrative are in effect, journeys. We travel with the main characters as they journey through their story. We are with them as they cope with, and are changed by conflict. How many slushy e-mails tell you that life is journey, and friends your companions, and that it's not the ending that's important? Very Zen. But I suspect there's a truth in there somewhere. Actually, that's at the heart of this blog: it's an electronic record of my journey through the final year of my Creative Writing degree.

It may be possible for me to borrow a digital camera, and I wonder if I will be able to capture these moments visually? I've got the summer to experiment and then my pass runs out in September (boo hiss), and it's not going to be possible for me to renew it. But it's an idea worth running with in the meantime. It might be something I could film. Don't know. I'll talk to my CP tutor, see what he says. He is, as they say, the man.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Journeys

Last week I was asked what was about bus journeys that I liked so much. I contemplated this question as I rode around the complete 25 route this afternoon. I think the truth of the answer lies in martial arts practice, in movement, there is stillness. Riding around on a bus, preferably a double decker, gives me a different perspective on life. I observe it from a different elevation, which gives me space. Space to think, day dream, problem solve, listen to music.

I like the bus drivers. In the main they are polite and cheerful. I like the fact that they stand up for one another and will block a roundabout to let another bus, even from a different company, through. People on a bus are fascinating to watch. They have intimate conversations on their mobile phones, they pick their noses, kiss their boyfriends, sometimes quietly cry. I'm a shameless voyeur. People outside are equally interesting. I remember the bus passing a hard chav man, in a dirty white track suit, baseball cap, laden down with gold jewelry, leading a tiny black puppy no bigger than his brand-name trainer. It made me smile; and when I looked over to a young woman in front of me, she was smilling too.

I've got my results back. My grades have slipped. My dreams of a fabulous first are still possible, but I'm going to have to do a hell of a lot of work to make it happen. My CL suggested I might want to give up poetry, as it remains a variable. I write some good poems and then some so-so poems. I suspect he's right. If I'm to get the fabulous first, I need to be writing excellent poems. It is the sensible thing to do, and I can continue to audit the classes. Since when have I ever been known to be sensible? I don't have to make my mind up now, I'll continue to write over the summer and see what the autumn brings.

I was feeling a touch low last night and then it occurred to me. When I was doing my DEV degree, I would have given my eye teeth for a 2:i. Now it's clear I can achieve a very respectable 2:i, I'm not only hankering after a first, I want a fabulous first! No pleasing me, is there?

Nevertheless, it made me think about the realities of my future. I know I want to lecture. I'm not going to be able to lecture without an MA or a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). The PGCE is funded through the Local Education Authority and there are bursaries available. If I don't get the funding, I can do the PGCE first and then go on to do the MA. The PGCE will mean I can pick up part-time lecturing either through the college or adult education. As a fall-back position it could be worse. So, we'll see.

Monday, June 26, 2006

New Beginnings

For those of you not clued into these things, it's coming up to New Moon. This is significant as it heralds the new lunar cycle. It's the end of my academic year on Friday and today, I troop in for my final tutorial of the year with my Course Leader (CL), he who also acts as my dissertation supervisor. I get my marks back for terms 2 and 3. Today I find out how much hard work I've got to do for my final year.

All advice to access funding, pretty much says the funding board are looking for brilliance and innovation. Eating my bowl of grapefruit, I feel as innovative as yoghurt this morning. But if my plans for world domination are to be achieved, if I'm to get funding for my MA at UEA, then I don't just need a First (70%+), I need a fabulous First (70%++).

So, why New Beginnings? As the year closes, I'm pretty knackered. I feel the need for some serious TLC. My eating habits have slipped again, and I've stopped exercising. When in doubt, make a plan (you can tell I've done project work can't you?). My plan for this summer: eating my 5-a-day, drinking lots of water, doing something physical each day, reading round my dissertation, writing poetry and working on my novel, doing some voluntary work with NEAD (Norfolk Education and Action for Development).

The last 12 months have been pretty fraught, and I'm looking forward for some down time to re-charge my batteries.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Culture and Internet Dating

As I write this I'm pretty much clutching my coffee and plugged in to Carmina Burana; Hottie is knitting, listening to the Archers. We went shopping yesterday and a trip to Virgin provided me with a relatively inexpensive copy of said music.

The reason for the purchase is that I'm off to the Theatre Royal in a couple of weeks time to see an Andalucian Spectacular set to Carmina Burana. I am ridiculously excited about it. I'm going to the theatre! It's quite a large cast of 30; including singers, flamenco dancers and 2 Andalucian stallions. When the troop last visited Norwich they performed Carmen to rave reviews. It looks like it could be quite an interesting evening; either that or it's going to be pants. One has to take the occasional risk.

Mind you, drinking with Hottie is a bit of a risk. Her limits are far higher than mine, which last time led to me feeling quite poorly in the morning and me continuing to rush past a local tavern, my head bowed in shame. Last night, we were far more restrained and only polished off a bottle of rose and a bottle of Hardy's sparling wine (not as nice as red velevet, gave me heartburn). After boy went to bed, Hottie hit the internet looking for some action from the Guardian Soulmates. I hold my hand up, it was my idea. I think if one is new to an area, knows only work people (and won't date them), then internet dating becomes a viable alternative.

She started with the Guardian website. The Guardian's list is long, the information about the Potential is quite detailed. It does not include much about physical details, though there are some; far more time is spent on interests, occupation, education, salary, star sign, life style choices, a long section of their WLTM and then even more blurb on them. After she used up her 5 free goes, Hottie trawled through the the Independent and the Mirror.

There she made a disturbing discovery. The same 16 men from the Independent, were also available in the Mirror! In disgust, she flounced off to the Sun, and then we started rolling around the floor crying. The Sun's criteria were a bit more basic. There were yes and no boxes, for employment and facial hair! One man, we were a bit perturbed by; his picture suggested a short back and sides cut, his details said shoulder length hair. I still think it was his way of admitting to a hairy back! We were disappointed there wasn't a section for string vests and builder's cleavage.

I'm encouraging Hottie to register for the Guardian service when she gets back to Liverpool. There are worse ways of meeting people.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Saturday Morning (just)

Hottie arrived last night bearing a bucket of Colonel's finest. Within 4 minutes I opened a bottle of white wine and we ate, drank and we very merry. Why is it, all the things that taste so good, are so bad for you? Why can't butter, double cream etc, be free from calories? Plans for today hopefully will include going to Waitrose and getting some more of that red sparkling velvet, not that I'm getting addicted to it, of course.

Thanks for your comment Bear, I feel slightly less stupid about it now. We saw the rest of Aeon Flux (the movie) last night. I quite enjoyed watching Charlize Theron kick ass. The trick will be to use it to wax lyrical about cybercultures, which given the blandiness of the film, is going to be doubtful. As enjoyable as it was, I don't think I could cope with watching it more than twice. Next up will be Ghost in the Shell. At least that is an intelligent manga.

I'd better head into the shower, the natives are getting restless.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Finally Friday

Today will be a busy day. I'm in a meeting at ten and then on to college to invigilate Creative Writing's offering. As soon as I finish, I've got to get my butt home and clean the flat. She-who-is-hotter-than-Angelina, is coming with KFC tonight! It's hard to say who is more excited, me or my boy. I've promised to source some booze, so a trip to the offie is also needed before she arrives. It'll be an interesting weekend.

The weather has turned a touch cool, but it's still quite sunny. I am still a woman of mucus and goo and the past few weeks I've been grateful I just have the cat to look at me first thing in the morning. I'm a dead sexy sight. Wheezing and sneezing and itchy eyed! A wonderful man (all men who make me frothy coffees are wonderful), in a a local deli, suggested I ought to have a spoonful of local honey every day. As of yet, the only thing it's doing is sweetening my morning grapefruit. Perhaps it's one of those long-term things. Hopefully, it should calm down in the middle of July. Someone up there has an ironic sense of humour, an amateur gardener with hayfever!

I'm continuing to think about my work for next year. We spent last night wading through Aoen Flux, both the animated and movie versions. It brought home how uncool and unhip I am. I just didn't 'get' the animated version. Still have 2 dvds to go, I'm going to have to watch them on my own because my boy has been so well behaved and wonderful, I can't administer it as punishment.

Difficult to believe that in 6 months time, he will be 13. I cuddle him at every given opportunity. It's hard thinking that soon he won't want cuddles. Cuddles are the best part of being a parent I think. First there was a little bundle, squeaking and cacking; and now there's a boy nearly reaching my chin cuddling me back. He gets up first in the morning and acts as my alarm clock, though I'm usually awake when he comes in. He lies on the duvet next to me. Sometimes I just hold him and I come-to in silence, sometimes we start talking business about the day ahead. Sometimes we tickle each other and tease the cat. We certainly are a tactile and demonstrative family.

On Wednesday, it was the Summer Solstice and I had the opportunity to count my blessings. It was an easy list to make. My family, my friendships and my degree. Pretty much sums up my life at the moment.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Degree Show Drama

My apologies for not writing yesterday. I was in College and then out and about until late last night.

I called into to my CP tutor and he likes the concept of this Blog being part of my final show. He reminded me that the concept has to be given legs, and then I have to stand back to see if it will run. If it falls, that's not a failure. So, we'll see.

I spent a lot of time yesterday on various buses. I've got an annual bus pass which means that I can travel anywhere, on any bus within the city limits. I do get funny looks from the bus drivers sometimes, but generally, they're really good. My favourite service is the 25. It goes from the University round the city, through Riverside to the Railway Station. I don't know what it is about travelling, but it gives me space in my head to think; I also get to people watch if I'm inclined. I have my MP3 player going and I stare out of the window and think things to death.
At the moment, I'm trying to get to grips with a main character for my novel. He's a Bostonian academic, called Pierce and while I can feel the outside of him, I'm finding it difficult to get under his skin. Slightly frustrating because he will be my narrator.

When I had a car, I used to drive all over Norfolk, sometimes in the middle of the night. Music blaring away, keeping a lookout for wildlife. I love the Norfolk countryside. It's a subtle landscape that seduces you quietly and then one day, you find you are hopelessly in love, and can't remember when you fell. Each district has it's own feel to it and in the course of my 18 years here, I've lived and worked in 5. When I indulge in my lottery fantasies, I see a roomy house in South Norfolk, not too far from Norwich. It has a large garden with a river running at the bottom, with lots and lots of roses. If I let my son share, it turns into a small zoo, with merekats, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds of prey and reptiles. I just see a very large poop scoop.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Degree Show Preparation

Today, I spent pretty much in college. Firstly, to meet with the external examiners of Critical Studies. I like CrS meetings, we had M&S orange juice and posh bickies (always welcome). Conforms to my world belief that all civilised people, when they get together to discuss the meaning of life, share food and drink. We talked about the usual stuff, pros and cons, whinged about IT. Then after a coffee in the SU bar, spent time with Creative Writing's external examiner. More pros and cons and whinging about IT (there's a theme here, isn't there?).

Then on to Room 8 to set up the system to show off our work for the Degree Show. The room is quite small, and a bit difficult to exhitbit our stuff well. Our Creative Practice tutor had a brainwave to put images, movies and slides of poetry onto a dvd and project it onto a screen blacking out the window. I think it'll look great. I've foolishly volunteered to invigilate it mornings; hopefully, there will be enough people come forward so I don't have to do every morning. Scary to think that next year we'll be doing it for real.

Time just seems to be slipping by. With the summer stretching out in front of me, I'm thinking about reading the books that I 'ought' to read, the books I want to read, and my dissertation. I'm going to see my CP tutor to see whether he thinks my idea about virtual vs physical blogs will work and how we negotiate the space and kit. I'm getting really excited about it all. The next year is going to be hard work, but I'm really looking forward to it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Monday Monday

Today has been a home day...out of necessity. Last Friday disaster struck. After a dwindling service and several calls to our telecoms provider, they tried to boot up my box from their end...which lead to me not having any television over the service and a promise that a very nice man would be round sometime Monday between 8am and 1pm.

I had come down with a cold Thursday night and coupled with the end-of-year apathy, all I wanted to do was watch rubbish on telly. The one weekend I wanted to sit down and drool staring at the screen. Honestly!

I had to get out of bed and be decent for 8am which was a bit of a push, but I managed in the end, even if Boy couldn't understand the grunts and gesticulations pre-coffee. I even managed breakfast. And the BBC Website, and Guardian On-line and then most of the Observer On-line.

When he turned up, he couldn't solve the problem, the Powers-that-Be had to send another very nice man to fix the box outside. Which he did and we now have telly!

Then I went shopping. My fellow student rep foolishly offered to take me shopping to the large out of town Tesco. I thought I'd be nice and feed him for his kindness. Well, they do say that no good deed goes unpunished. I made him chilli. With chilli powder bought from the fish and veg emporium round the corner. My boy's comment was 'Mum you make a mean chilli, it'll make a grown man cry.' Unfortunately, it did. I don't think he'll be making that mistake again. Poor man. We're meeting the Critical Studies External Examiner for the College at 9.30am, I'll have to give his apologies if he doesn't turn up.

Good news though. She who currently lives in Liverpool, promised she'd come visit over the weekend. My liver, sufficiently recovered from her last jaunt, is sitting up and taking notice. Somehow, I've got to find a bottle of Banrock Station's sparkling red...it's like sipping red velvet, so far only found at Waitrose. Must make sure she confiscates my phone this time. No more unsolicited declarations of love to long-term mates. And no more questioning cute barmen's sexual orientation either! I've been hurrying past the pub with my head bowed in shame for two weeks as it is.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

In the Beginning

British summer has arrived and with it my twin nemisii of Hayfever and Sinusitis. I haven't had a decent night's sleep in over three weeks. What does this have to do with writing a blog? I hear you ask. Well after waking up for the nth time this morning with some particularly peculiar dreams, I knew what I was going to do for my final year Creative Practice project. I'm going to experiment with physical and electronic blogs and test which encourages the most interaction and the differences in the interaction.

As a Creative/Writer I am interested in communication and the different types encouraged by our modern age. I've also been keeping up with one of my tutor's blogs (he who is the God of all things Poetic) and thought, yeah, why not?

So, hear goes. Also, my family in Trinidad have no idea what I get up to, and my brother seems to have stepped into the electronic age, yet another good reason to give it a go. We can but experiment and see what happens.

In the interests of my family and friends' privacy I will not name names, but I suspect you'll know who you are, and the same will apply for my long-sufferring tutors who, bless them, have to put up with me several times a day.