Friday, 24 October 2014

A Time for Pride and Prejudice

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

- "Chapter 1" of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
 This famous opening line begins a tale which turned 200 years in 2013 and I just saw it at the local theatre recently, in the form of a husband and wife act.

I will profess I have never been obsessed with this novel, or that singluar man known as Mr. Darcy of whom almost every other man, fictional or otherwise, has since been measure too from the moment this character walked off Austen's pen.

I have read the book countless times for high school and university, disecting and dismembering its meanings and purposes but still, it remained ellusive.

Until tonight. I had the front box to myself (being a Thursday evening performance and in Bury) and avidly fell into the spell of the theatre. Sparse though the set was, with a simple parlour and just the two actors, flipping out props, undoing skirts or turning coats into them. Making little coughs, slight vocal changes and trapezing back and forth in a classic Regency dance of characterisation.

Characterisation. Simple characterisation. Characteurs.

Kitty was identified by a chirpy cough. Mrs Bennet by excessive hand-waving and scarf. Mr Collins by ridiculous flamboyance and a vicar's hat. Mr Darcy was straight-backed and stiff. Jane fluttered around, a timid butterfly and Mr Bingley showed his emotions, slumped in a chair, striding about a room or valiantly bowing.

In order for the audience to follow along the two actors had attacted clever symbols to each of the characters. Clever ones I say because they turned these timeless characters practically into characteurs of humanity. Except, even as you had the exciteable and socially obsessed younger sisters of Kitty and Lydia, the outspoken Lizzy, the stoic and proud Mr Darcy, the snobby Miss Bingley or Lady Catherine de Burgh, they are not flat like characters from medieval morality plays (which have characters who are both called and literally are, Prudence, Death, Pride, Envy etc).

They are functional characters and yet, they have such qualities to make them timeless.

They have pride, envy, they have narrow-mindedness, they have brown-nosing and greed, desperation and acceptance.

The truths in this story which are so universally acknowledge that it is still read, performed and studied today, is not that a man in possession of a fortune, must desire a good wife, it is that humans are social creatures and socialing means communicating, which means stories are told.

These stories take the form of prejudiced first impressions, the knowledge that you are richer and therefore better than everyone else and most of all, the rules of how all members of a society interact and react against all others.

The reason Pride and Prejudice remains interesting to us today, regardless of whether we ever read the book (there were quite a number of men there yesterday evening who had never read or seen hide nor hair of a plot point of the story), lies in the game of society.

Human interaction.

 And so the tale begins.

Perhaps certain elements of how we interact, what is right and proper, has changed, but there are still unspoken rules and regulations which govern our lives.

For as long as there is pride and prejudice in this world, there will always be a time for Pride and Prejudice.

Presently listening to the gorgeous soundtrack to the 2005 film.

Why Tell Stories? Just Listen.

I discussed the art of storytelling via a series of ghost tales with one of my classes today.

Everyone likes a good story. I said.


What makes a "good" story?

What puts bums in seats at theatres and cinemas? What puts clicks on pages? What puts games on screens? What puts that good old-fashioned paper copy in hand?

What passes words from mouth to ear to mouth again?

Detailed descriptions.

It doesn't have to be much. Just the gory bits. The juicy tidbits. The scandalous. The contreversial.

Everyone likes a good moaning session around the water-cooler, about so and so, after all.

Next comes suspense. Tension. Cliff-hangers.

Don't pass everything out like the houses no one goes to on Halloween because they are too far out.
Hold pieces back. Don't tell the whole story. Leave people hanging, wondering and forming their own thoughts.

But don't give people too much time to think. Prompt reactions.

Intrigue sells.

But so does hate.

I've been rather tangled up in teaching as of late. Coming home after work consists of me gorging on food and sweets, shoving my nose up a book or a favourite drama series I am catching up on. Weekends consist of early morning train trips to somewhere and midnight trips back, exhausted, but happy to have gone wandering in some place other than Bury St Edmunds. It's half-term today however and I found myself sauntering over to Twitter, through various news sites I follow ( and in addition to what happened to pop up on the front page of

Basically it boils down to this: humans live and die by emotion.

Graveyards are a testiment to emotion, as a place for the living far more than the dead.

 Whether it is the pit of misogyny wrapped up in "journalistic ethics" around gaming and female involvement which has been flaming about since summer; #gamergate or it is a shooting on Parliament Hill of a ceremonial soldier in Ottawa, down to kid's poking eachother with pens, humans act on their emotions. Not logic. (Generally).

However, being that these moments are very spontaneous and sudden and humans also relish the preservation of things (though this is me speaking generally again as there are certainly cultures that aren't obsessive about preservation), stories get created, formed, told.

Told and told until they end up like a game of chinese whispers or telephone. They end up nothing like the orginal event, story, sentence or word.

Maybe I am apathetic. Maybe I am just laid back. Maybe I am too open to listening to all sides. That is why I don't engage in feminist discussions with a teacher at my school who is a major activist, or why I steer off of certain discussions on Twitter or Facebook. It's why this blog isn't all over media sites. I don't do conflict. Except in my own fiction.

What is the point in wasting time with arguing, with acting in the flame of the moment, when mroe productive things could be accomplished; solving those disagreements, those inequities and inequalities.

Instead of eating up the words told to us by others we need to start forming out own sentences.

We need to start seeing the world for what it is to us, not what it is to someone on the other side of a desk and laptop.

That is why I am travelling.

So, here's an observation of the people I have gotten to know in Bury St Edmunds. They don't travel. They haven't travelled. 85% of them have never been out of England.

I mean England. As in, they have never even crossed to Wales, or tripped up to Scotland. Heading to Scotland is like me driving from Vernon to Vancouver. Then again, I have never been passed Alberta. I still have many places to visit and many observations to make before I can fully make judgements or develop opinions.

Then again, that learning will never end. Nor will it for you, if you don't let, end, that is. Don't let the media replace good old fashioned observation.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Visiting Mundanity

My Assistant Head of the English Department, J, asked me what I've been doing during my non-school time lately. I told him I had been up to Great Yarmouth recently.

I received a grimace and a sound of disgust.

"That place is a horrible beach town. If you want a beach come to Norwich. Or even Lowestoft is better!"

I replied, "well it was last minute and it was the closest beach I first came up with."

That was where the conversation ended.

Since that moment I have really been questioning (more than usual) the "wise" use of my "time" here.

After all, I came here to experience England and to see Europe. So far I have seen lots of regular old English towns, between Cambridge and London but mostly, it's stuff that locals would consider about the level of Kelowna or Vernon back home. In short, yes there are nice bits but nothing that stands out as different from much else.

A street in Great Yarmouth

Just a pub in Great Yarmouth.

Or at least, that's the way it is if you are a local. If all the castles, the moors, the seascapes, the brick building materials are just part of your backyard. All you have then is a backyard.

The same goes for if you move to somewhere else to live. Yes, it is somewhere else. Yes, it is new and exciting and different. Yes, you walk around in a state of awe. Yes, you snap photos of silly things like bread or chocolate or the train platforms.

But then you get back to living. Which means numerous trips to the grocery store because you don't have massive fridge space and things generally last only as much as three days, or at most a week, unless, they are things like chocolate and therefore very much not entirely natural. It also means work, of some sort. That could be at a local chain restaurant like Wetherspoons, as a teacher at a secondary school or as a copywriter in London. Whatever it is, you've got somewhere to be early in the morning and somewhere to stay at for the timeless work hours of at least eight (or more). They mean ridiculous meetings in which people argue silly things and others keep checking the clock. They mean not wanting to get out of bed in the morning because it's warm and cozy but on the weekends when you can lie in it as long as you'd like, you've got plans to go at do things that are "worth it," or you just can't sleep, so you're rolling out at 8am and joing the retirees at the market or out on morning walks.  

No matter where you go in the world. Eventually, all you have is a backyard.

And so you need an audience through which to blab about the wonders. An audience through which you can notice that the rows of garage's down that back alley which are painted varying shades of primary colours, are hilariously quaint. Or that pub by the name of The Barking Smack, in Great Yarmouth, has got to be the most random, nonsense ever. Even The Nutshell, which is Suffolk's tiniest pub ever (it literally can only fit a maximum six people) and resides in Bury St Edmunds, isn't half as odd.

Maybe I have yet to visit Paris, or Rome, Stonehenge or any one of those other million locations which land on the "100 Place You Must Visit Before..." lists but I have had some experiences of getting lost, run across some literal characters and made some wonderful friends who make this place feel like home.

An old favourite author of mine who is known for taking faerie tales and myths and retelling them in some fashion or another once said this in a novel of hers:

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more.”

-Robin Hobb, Fool's Fate
Home can be anywhere we want it to be. Home is just where we feel safe. I get anxious at the end of a day's travel as the train rumbles closer and closer. Anxious to be back in the warmth wafting from the radiator's heat by the arched windows. Happy to see my landlady's exciteable dog, Bruno come panting up to me or Sophie, the quiet cat, to beg for pets at 6am as I trundle downstairs to grab breakfast before darting out the door, coat half on and directing a quick "good morning" to another one of the longer term tenants in this safe haven of a BnB. It's a place where you get a text inviting you downstairs just because the sunlight is better nextdoor and it's nice to have people moving in and about rather than plonking yourself on your bed all day. 
Home is finding a postcard from a relative on the floor of the hallway because most doors here have actual mail slots still. Home is eating almost all the 300 gram jar of peanut butter over the space of four days because it tastes like the cracks and peanut butter that came along with after school snacks in those days back at your first home. Home is sitting at the seaside on a sand dune and forgetting you are in the wrong country from where your memory just went because in that memory you were sitting on the giant logs of driftwood.  
Home is even as simple as the smile which cracks your tired face as you trek down the institutional walls that only ever belong to schools and spy the door decorated permanent to look like the Tardis door, that actually just leads into the ICT classroom.
Home is made of a lot of mundane things and each varies from person to person. What are your ideas of home right now? They probably change day by day and year by year. Mostly. 
I wanted to travel here to experience life. I am experiencing it. After all, life is just a series of mundane events which occasionally happen in peculiar orders. Though mostly they occur in clock tick tidiness that means you don't really want Monday to come because you Sunday essentially dribbled its entire litre down the drain without you realising it, just because each moment which it was comprised with came in the packaged form of something small and expected. 
Just some fish 'n chips.
 Take for example, fish and chips. Regular, quick and dirty fare here. Absolutely Thanksgiving-levels of tasty and stuffed-stomach inducing and perfect for a missed Thanksgiving dinner last weekend. I'm here to live yes, but that doesn't mean I should stop seeing the mundane as brilliant just because it's everyday fare to the average Briton. After all, I grew up with a view from my bedroom window that had those same British individuals assume was an image of the Scottish countryside. 
Enjoying the mundane things of living. 
P.S: Today's post was inspired by the following bit from a deleted scene in Series 5 of Doctor Who:
Amy: Then why am I here?
Eleventh Doctor: Because...Because I can't see it anymore...
Amy: See what?
Eleventh Doctor: I'm 907. After a while you just can't see it anymore.
Amy: See what?
Eleventh Doctor: Everything. I look at a star and it's just a big ball of burning gas, and I know how it began, I know how it ends... and I was probably there both times. You know, after a while, everything is just stuff. That's the problem. You make all of space and time your backyard what do you have? A backyard. But you can see it. And when you see it, I see it.

Saturday, 11 October 2014


I wish I had a photo of the grove I found today. I wish I had a photo of a lot of things, but sometimes your camera battery runs out, you think you left your mobile at home and you accidently delete the photos you take, anyway.

One from today which did not happen to disappear back into the space of pixels.

Those are just wishes and mistakes to do with photography and searing this adventure into my visual brain. Though really, it's more the minty after-taste of memory which you remember. I mean, how often do you actually dig back through your 5000 plus photos?

When I'm in dire need of some photoshop entertainment and I am lacking in current images to play with, yes, but generally, no. You move on with life. Every day has something different happening. Even if you did have a picture for every second you stepped, you still would just have a minty after-taste of memory. Nothing is the same as sitting on that wood bench that is so far off the ground, a height of 5'7'' still leaves my feet (being rather a bit sore from a four hour hike through parks, side-streets and a highway halfway to the nearest village), dangling in contentment. The ground is literally a blanket of leaves, dirt and acorns, plys five or so squirrels hoping in and about the scenery. Green bark trees stretch and scraggle their way into a yellow sky making it look as if their branches were a Japanese ink painting.

Today I learned the real meaning behind "going on a journey." I meant, when I stepped out of my door, to go to a particular nature park that sits a couple miles outside of Bury St Edmunds which meant it would take around an hour and half to walk there, so long as I stayed on the right path. Just past the centre of town, as I slowed my lopping walk, I panicked. I had forgotten my phone. Now, note that I dug around in that pit of receipts, notes, 20 pence, used tissues, a jacket, camera, tangled earbuds and other odds. I did not upend the thing or properly dig about. I sighed and went on. I did not want to waste time searching for it, and hey, I knew the general direction, right?

Wrong. Well, not entirely. I came to a five way which terrified me, as most multi-way stops still do around here and I judged the sign pointing down the street I was meant to turn too. I waffled. These signs are not very clear and streets like to change names halfway down them. I convinced myself it was up one way and not continuing down. My inituition twigged. But I trekked on anyway. I eventually found myself in the direction of another park and I knew I had gone off course. I could still backtrack though, just lower down and through that park. It would work out. I discovered bits of amusement, like a field of sheep and perfect paths with tree tunnels. I ended up in a residential area I had gotten lost in back in September but I knew I was still moving in the right direction. I kept on.

On and on. Until I passed a sign stating I was leaving Bury St Edmunds and I began down the highway, which, in general are never the best places to be walking. In England it's just as shifty as any other place where vehicles are allowed. Except they can go faster here. Also, it was open farmland, few signs and place names I recognised but wasn't comfortably familiar with. So I turned back. And I walked and walked. Up and up. Into more residential areas but I kept on because I knew I was back in the town, I had passed the River Linnet, which marks the south end of the area and eventually I should get back to familar territory. Thing is, when you map something out. Look at a map. Or even picture paths in your mind, they always, always look a lot shorter than they actually are.

On and on. Up and up. The only thing that vaguely consoled me that I wasn't getting caught in the tangled masses of residential side-streets, alleyways and walking paths was the water tower in the distance. I couldn't see the abbey though and that's been my main compass point until now.

The houses, as character-driven as they were, still left me on edge.

I was biting my lip and checking my watch, it wasn't anywhere near dinner time, but when wandering off my track, I get nervous.

There I was, in the astoundingly hot 17 degree sun of October, distracting my mind with "what a pretty garden...oh a castle."

A castle.

On a side-note I'd like to mention how, since coming to England, there are certain things that are still so amazing but so common that you cannot wrap you mind around it, and so, like a character thrown into a chaotic battle in a fantasy novel, you just go with it.

Whatever. It's a castle.

Que me zeroing in on the building.

Wherein I found a sign pointing down the road from it stating "town centre," finding the castle to be part of a university I didn't know existed here and then the aforementioned bench in the middle of a copse of trees where I spent some time chatting to the foliage and musing on journey's.

I wondered where that street that went down from the five way stop would have led me if I had gone on it. I wondered if I had kept trekking down the highway going away from Bury, where I would have ended up.

Then I realised all that wondering did not good. I could wish, wonder and muse all I desired but nothing would change from how things went until that very second.

I have always said I love to explore and wander and yet I always find myself, even when I leave full days for it, getting nervous, worried and concerned when my directions take me to entirely unexpected places.

Ironically I later realised I had my phone in my purse the entire time, and I had kept going on the highway, I would have ended up at the 200 acre nature park I had originally been aiming for.

Instead I wandered in another park and through the west side of the city more.

I was somewhat disappointed. And yet, had I not ended up doing what I did I would not have found that glorious bench, in that entirely deserted copse of trees on that universe campus where I had the revelation that no matter what I do, it does not deserve or receive fantastic fanfare. No matter what I do, it is just stuff. No matter what I do, it is just another day. Nothing is special.

I have always been so concerned about making things count, of making the most of situations, of being curious and adventurous and pushing myself to extremes, all in the name of building foundations toward something great.

The thing is, nothing I do is anything better than anyone else. Nothing I will do will be better. The key is how I live it.

I haven't quite figured out who I really am, under all the things I have become, but hopefully I'll dig it up one of these days.

I was told recently by a fellow teacher that the best way to get anywhere with some of my struggles with the students' behaviour is to act. I need to practice the art of putting on a character in order to better control the situation.

And yet, today, the earth-bound character I am, attached to a phone like it's a life-line and attached to accomplishing certain things, or else a day is considered a waste, is not who I am. Not really.

I am an imaginist who sits on benches and has a conversation with the trees while feet kept snug in lace boots, swing back and forth and I feel like I am ten years-old and pretending I am everything from a detective, to a secret agent, to a space explorer or a faerie.

But is even that who I am?

After all, that is I when I am alone with myself and me. Who am I when it is just I?

Brain racing faster than the Orient Express,

Monday, 6 October 2014

The How-To Art of Inspiration

Have you ever accidently pricked your finger with a sewing needle?

How about giving yourself a paper cut?

You've got to have done at least one of those, if not both, and probably quite often for the second.

Either way, I figure those moments are a bit like inspiration.

It doesn't come on a daily basis but when it does it's always unexpected, out-of-the-blue, and more than likely during a moment when you really don't have the time or energy to actually do much about it beyond more than treat it in the form of scribbling down some notes and then moving on with what you were doing.

Sometimes, yes, you have the time to properly treat it, to cover it with the bandage in the form of actually turning it into some sort of tangible product, but those instances, like the intial act itself are random and far between.

In short, you really cannot sit at a desk and command inspiration to come, any more than you can purposely give yourself a paper cut. Believe me, there was a rather morose and morbid day once when I did actually spend a portion of it fascinated by the evil science of paper giving you what must be the most painful incisions of the flesh, on the planet.

And so, in actuality, there is no how-to method of creating inspiration anymore than being able to give yourself a paper cut on command. Yes, you can train your brain to think creatively and think in such a way on the spot, but it's never going to be an easy hash of "I want to do this" and then sitting down an doing it.

Not to mention our imagination is a million times prettier than reality.

Reality states that dirt, grime and grunge are the colours of life. Needing to eat, being tired, having a head-ache and greasy hair. All part of being human.

And it sucks. It really, truly sucks.

Plus there's that thing called emotions which play into inspiration and when that inspiration doesn't come to a fruitious conclusion of fireworks and fancy-dress parties for the rich and famous, well, good-bye to your happy mood.

There are over six billion humans on this planet. You and your ideas are not in any way unique or special. I had a boy in class the other day tell me his idea of how his character would have a total psychological breakdown full of all sorts of terrifiying an bizarre experiences...only to wake up. It would all have been a dream. He thought it was brilliant. I told him, sorry, but that is the utter *last* thing he should be attempting for his GCSE writing. That plot is just about the most overdone, taboo and generally lazy ass methods of making a "twist" ending than there ever has been.

But he thought he was special.

I had a guy in a cafe this past weekend joke that I might be writing the next manuscript to land a place in the Wren Library in Cambridge. Probably because I was scribbling my experiences and thoughts from that day, like an utter maniac. Doesn't mean it was, or is, anything special. I have a friend who has seriously one of the most screwed up families I have ever known (in terms of friend relations) and yet, even she realised she has no right to complain any more than anyone else because there will always be someone worse off.

Just as there is always someone better.

I found out today that my school has put an ad up for the position I currently have, starting in January when my temporary contract, set up over summer, runs out. Namely, that means they are not willing to renew my contract for longer. Yes, I am allowed to apply, as much as the next person is, except, my currently challenges with being a hardbacked commander and showing exceptional behavioural management, is a massive black mark against me. And yet, every teacher is having issues, whether they are experienced, new, or the flipping behavioural management expert. Some of us have speculated it's due to the fact the school expanded by over 700 students, making it a grand total of 2000 on the same campus and three of the years are brand new to the school too.

Anyway, my point is, as depressing as it may be, sitting around and waiting for something awesome and groundbreaking to happen, isn't how squat happens. There is never going to be a good time. And even if you think you are in the wrong job, which I have always known to be true, even before I started teacher training, you have to do certain things to check the boxes of survival, to check the boxes of things you want to do and you cannot sit around for months at a time calculating what would be the best and most efficient use of your time and energy. You just have to go with whatevever options and knowledge of options that you have at the time and roll on.

Eight years ago, when I was smack in the middle of high school. The smartest option to me that didn't sound horrid (like getting into sciences or something) and that allowed me to be around what I loved (English literature) and to have time to do what I loved (travel and write), teaching was the way to go.

But these days, what with globalisation, you can pretty much invent your own job.

I haven't a clue what I'll be doing after December. Let alone eight years from this point. But what I do know is I cannot wait around for inspiration to strike. I have to just keep moving ahead and doing what I love, in any small way possible.

Who knows, I've always been fascinated by the power of imagination and rather like the sound of "the Imaginist."

Maybe I'll spend my days collecting ideas into a giant Library of Minds.

I'll be the World's Singular Imaginist.

For now though, I'm just an overseas trained teacher attempting to keep her head above water so that she might continue to experience living in another country for a good long while yet.

There are too many stories to be told and very little timely motivation.

But that's a whole other kettle of carrots.

Until next time, I challenge you to pull blood from your fingertips and make something your own.

Putting my stamp in a little corner.