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october 2017

26 october

An interesting question on Question Time tonight. Should British citizens who have gone abroad to join Isis be allowed back into the country?

A British MP suggested they should all be killed. This is something I cannot agree with. Yes, they have aligned themselves with this group, but surely an eye for an eye is not part of our society. The panel on QT mentioned the 12 year old son of the British woman who was reportedly killed. Surely it was not his choice to join Isis, but his mother’s – should he be killed too? I think not.

Germaine Greer came up with the best idea; we should question these defectors to find out what they know; gather intelligence. We don’t know much about Isis, and this would come from insiders. They should be detained, investigated and questioned. But then the question is where to detain them? Our prison system is bursting, but we need the information from these people.

Thoughts?

20 October

#metoo is everywhere I look. Friends and family, famous people are publicly acknowledging what happened to them at some point in their lives. And it’s depressing; terribly depressing. It’s awful that people (mainly men) in positions of power (but not limited to) are harassing/assaulting other human beings – this is 2017! Has the world not got it yet?

I read an opinion piece (Guardian opinion) which states that we now have a list of victims, but wouldn’t a list of perpetrators be now what we need? I think it’s admirable that victims now feel able to speak up, but I have to question how society has come to this. Surely this is an inherent problem within society. Is there a way to stamp it out? Can it ever be completely eradicated? It would be great, but I doubt that it can ever totally go away. The hashtag is useful for acknowledging the scale of the problem, but is that all it can achieve? What needs to happen now is some kind of investigation, or legislation to be able to reduce this abhorrent behaviour, otherwise it will fall into being just another trend. The hashtag, of course, is progress – acknowledging the fact that it has happened to you is brave, liberating and could be very influential. However, society also needs to recognise that men can and should have the right to use #metoo as well.

17 October

“One evening on going home on a bus, a bomb dropped a short way behind us and caused the bus to surge forward and then stop. There were often raids during the day so I always carried my helmet as well as the compulsory gas mask. One night during an exceptionally heavy raid, a bomb dropped on a nearby garden shelter and I shall never forget the screams.”

The above was written by my grandmother as part of a brief record of her life. I don’t know when she wrote it, but I’m very glad that she did. It allows me and my family a short, but intimate view of her life in her own words. Towards the end of her life, she suffered from dementia, and I wish there were more of these anecdotes to read. I find it fascinating that someone so close to me in my family experienced something that is so far from my own normality. Reading anecdotes like this allow me to know things that she experienced but had not told me about; I was probably too young, or not interested then, or playing scrabble with her. Something that I wish my father had done. It was be so interesting to see his account of his life in his own words; he would of course say that it wouldn’t be interesting, but I disagree. There are folders and folders of family history which my parents have spent years collating, but a lot of it is just names and dates which don’t mean much to me. Likewise, my dad had notebooks upon notebooks of his scribbling that again don’t hold much meaning.

What I’d like to suggest is that people do as my Nan did; create some anecdotes of your life, you might not find them interesting, but I’m sure there will be others who will.

11 October

Virginia Woolf; an icon. My icon.

I first discovered Virginia Woolf at university. As a lot of literature students would discover, Mrs Dalloway is, in my opinion, a complex narrative; many students would dismiss Woolf’s writing as too complex, but for me, it was a revelation.  Set on a single day, it focuses on Clarissa Dalloway arranging a party – and the novel begins with the immortal ‘Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.’ All Woolfians have their favourites, and although I admire Mrs Dalloway, I prefer The Waves. I’m not exactly too sure why I like it so much, but it might have something to do with the 6 main characters, and how they are presented; like a stream of consciousness.  It has been argued that The Waves is Woolf’s masterpiece, and I agree.

While studying for my masters, I had to decide on a subject for my dissertation.  The subject was easy; Virginia Woolf, but I had to look at her work from a different angle, a different viewpoint. I had come across Text World Theory during my studies, and had found it fascinating. There was my analytical tool. However, there had been numerous studies on Woolf’s fiction, so I decided to concentrate on her diary entries, choosing 4 entries to fully analyse. This enabled me to get to know more of Woolf and her intimate thoughts, even though one of my conclusions was that she was writing her diary for an audience, and not for personal reasons.

Why is this important now?

During my search for editing work, I came across a publisher who awards a ‘Virginia Prize for Fiction’ – perfect! I started doing some voluntary work for them, and also discovered they were planning on getting a full-size statue of Woolf, reclining by the river on a bench in Richmond. Woolf lived in Richmond for around ten years, between 1914 and 1924, mainly living in Hogarth House, Paradise Road. This, of course, was the birthplace of the Hogarth Press, run by Virginia and Leonard, her husband. In the hope of creating a book about Woolf’s life in Richmond, I am now scouring her diaries and letters for references to her life there. Being a Woolfian, this is fascinating.

To further my understanding of Woolf, I visited her country house, Monk’s House, in Rodmell; the place where her ashes are buried. This was an amazing experience; to walk in the very sitting room where she sat by the fire, being visited by many of her friends and family. To see her bedroom, including the volumes of Shakespeare that she personally covered in paper and labelled. But most exciting of all was her writing room.

10 October

Having been made redundant, and at a loss after the family loss, I wasn’t really too sure what to do with myself. One of my very good friends who I used to work with had just moved back to the US and she has started recording, or rather, narrating audiobooks. She recommended that I give it a try.

A few months ago, I completed a very easy online crash course in how to narrate and produce audiobooks. It seemed simple enough, and I had most of the equipment bar a microphone – of course, some computers have microphones built in, but it wouldn’t be strong enough. With the lack of a microphone, I put the idea on the back burner and didn’t think of it again for a few weeks.

I don’t know what it was that made me think of it again. We went looking for a microphone and I ordered a cover for it so my plosives weren’t so pronounced. I went onto the audiobook website, Audible, and saw that I should record a few samples. I recorded about 4, and listened back to them. As everybody knows, listening to your own voice is not altogether pleasant but it actually wasn’t too bad. I uploaded the samples, and buoyed by my enthusiasm, I auditioned for a couple of books. One involved speaking like a king, so I tried my king-liest. The other was for a comedy-thriller set in my home county of Kent. I downloaded the scripts and sent in my recordings.

A day later, I had an offer from the comedy-thriller author, to produce and narrate his book; the first of a series. Excitedly, I agreed and I started recording. Enjoyable though it was, little did I realise how long the book actually was. Over 300 pages and 42 chapters.

However, after 2 months recording, re-recording and editing, it was finally finished. Now I’m waiting for approval and it can finally be sold on Amazon.

I feel proud of the achievement and hope that my narration brings the story to life; inasmuch as it can through headphones. I’ve already auditioned for the next possible project, and we’ll see how it goes from there.

What a year it has been.

In around February this year, we were told at work that our college was being closed and redeveloped into a new learning institution. Although I had already made the decision to leave the teaching profession, this still came as a shock. What ensued were meetings and lawyers and a general lack of motivation at work. The place seemed like a ghost town; it seemed nobody cared anymore. Of course, we did more than enough for our students – giving them all the help they needed to get to their exams. Then, of course, my world came crashing down in March, and then I just didn’t care anymore. Thankfully, work were very understanding, but although I was dealing with the loss of my dad, I felt bad that I wasn’t in the right mind to help my students.

Now that the school year is finished, and the college has closed, I am pursuing my intended career – in editing or publishing.

I have had many interviews; a disastrous one in Oxford, which was so bad I almost excused myself from the interview and apologise for wasting their time [I didn’t do that]. It is now a few months since my redundancy, and still no job. Don’t get me wrong – it’s been good to be able to sort things out and have a little space.

I’ve been on training courses and become a volunteer editor for an online magazine. More posts to come will describe my audiobook journey and the Virginia Woolf project.

People tell me to be patient, and I believe that I am – but it would be nice to get a break.

9 October

It’s seven months today since my dad passed away. It was too early for him to go, but then I believe that many people would have the same feelings. For those that have lost parents, we all know that the pain doesn’t ever go away.

There are still days that affect me. You could be doing anything; the grind of the daily routine, and suddenly the memories come back. And it’s tough when they do come back. Those hard days are getting easier, but I know they’ll never go away – and being honest, I don’t want those days to go away.

Grief is a tricky process. Before I’ve only had my grandmothers, but this, of course, is so much more intense. How do people know that they have completed the grief process? Does it ever end?

I’ve read about stages of grief, but I don’t know if I fit in any of them; I’m not angry anymore – even when I was, I don’t know who I was angry at.

I remember the day like it was yesterday; such a cliché, I know, but it’s so true. I’m not going to go into too much detail, as it’s too personal and involves other people, and therefore their feelings. All I know is that my whole body felt numb when I heard. Unfortunately I wasn’t even in the country when it happened; I had just touched down in Germany – literally just touched down. Obviously I felt bad for me, but I felt even worse that I couldn’t be there at that moment for my family who were with him. I know it’s not my fault, but I felt bad at that time. I managed to get back home the following morning which I was relieved about.

The funeral was hard. I had agreed to help carry the coffin into the chapel, but once I took the weight, it was just too heavy and I could feel my shoulder and legs begin to buckle. I couldn’t do it. In the end I walked with the vicar, leading him into the chapel – the best I could do. I managed to get through my speech fairly easily – it helped having loved ones and friends looking on. It was when the final music started that was the most difficult.

Things will get easier.

People often talk about a ‘before’ and ‘after’, and that’s how I seem to be categorising things. Before that March day, things were happy and light, whereas now, there is still that happiness and lightness, but every so often, it is tinged with sadness; but it’s getting easier.

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