If I could steal anything…

I’d steal a library. Yep, how sad is that? Not the crown jewels, not enough money to live for ever, not the heart of the one I love, I want a library. Every book ever written. I want that library from Beauty and the Beast, ever nook and cranny of my house filled with pages of words, stair cases lined with them, shelf after shelf of classics. Its sad I am aware but I do love my books. I love the escapism. I love the way a new book smells, I love reading a book and not breaking the spine. I love seeing a full bookcase of books I’ve read, of those I’m about too, full of little gems.

There are so many books we never get to read, so many great writers that remain obscure, lost in a vast collection that we don’t appreciate. They could be our new favourite, they could have written that book that we read over and over and over. I’d read every spine, every blurb. If I liked it, read a chapter and if I get into it – keep it. I’d make my library stocked with the books I love, with the stuff I want to read, with the things I find interesting.

From poetry, to fact, from fiction to novella, from romantics to Augustine, Victorian to Georgian, from modernism to american, to Gothic and graphic. Erotica, horror, thriller… I’d want them all. To read and read and read. I sat down and read, for Uni, Rasselas, a novel of Augustine Literature. it was about a man trying to to escape paradise in a hope to discover what life was, what made people happy. They went in search of the rich, the poor, the middle ground, the critics, the philosophers, the poets and the leaders, and they all came to some conclusion.

The overall outcome? we can’t all be happy all the time, but we must try to pursue what does make us happy. I’d want knowledge, to learn, eternally, to not work but sit and learn, read, research, reiterate, rediscover – love. There is nothing more exciting and fulfilling than knowledge that of experience or facts or understanding. Of ancient histories and arts, of society and psychology, of art and science.

I know I sound like a massive English toff. I am no academic, I am not the smartest of my classes nor the most profound. I do not write ground-breaking essays of understand things as well as I should, but I do love to learn, to ponder, to think, to muse, to wonder. It’s in my nature to be inquisitive. I get obsessive over a subject I discover for the first time, I want to know everything, to read everything, to understand, to penetrate its core. I’ve been obsessed with researching serial killers and then psychology behind murders, to suddenly being obsessed with epistemology, the theory of knowledge of how we learn, to the life of 1950’s women post war and then to learning about astronomy.

If I could steal anything, I’d steal a library and lend books forever, share my passion with others, decorate my surroundings with the pages, and submerge myself in a world of poetry and prose.

Who said Literature students didn’t read…

See now, despite seemingly reading forever at University and yet at the same time, never seeming to complete a book, I”ve been surprised just how many books I’ve read throughout my University Career. Including those for the up and coming term. Reading has always been a passion of mine but to be honest, I always thought I’d slacked off a bit recently, no quite so apparently.

When recalling books I have read, I’ve been amazed at the list, astounded some might say. Not because i’ve read hundreds and fancy a good boast, but how lucky I’ve been to be forced (yes it is forced, however much you like reading) to rattle through some of the greatest books considered ever written, without thinking about it. most of them appear on lists like, Books you must read before you die, and I’ve kinda done most. Cool.

So I thought, I’d share my recent reading with you, I say recent meaning that of the novels and plays I have read since starting University and so far for my third and final (whoopee) year. Why, I don’t know. I guess so if any of you think, I really wanted to read that, well I could say, do, don’t or possibly with caution!

  • Atkinson, Kate Behind the Scenes at the Museum
  • Beckett, S., Waiting for Godot, Endgame
  • Braddon, Elizabeth Mary, Lady Audley’s Secret
  • Brecht, B., Mother Courage
  • Bronte, Charlottte, Jane Eyre
  • Bronte, Emily, Wuthering Heights
  • Brown, Dan The Da Vinci Code
  • Browning, Robert, Selected Poetry
  • Burney Frances Evelina
  • Burgess, Anthony Clockwork Orange
  • Carroll, Lewis, Alice in Wonderland
  • Chekhov, A., The Cherry Orchard
  • Chopin, Kate, The Awakening.
  • Collins, Wilkie, The Woman in White
  • Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness
  • DefoeDaniel  Moll Flanders
  • Dickens, Charles, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations
  • Ellison, Ralph, Invisible Man
  • Ensler, Eve The Vagina Monologues
  • Equiano, Olaudah  The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
  • Fielding Henry  Tom Jones
  • Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby.
  • Forster, E.M.  A Passage to India
  • Gaskell, Elizabeth, Mary Barton
  • Gay, John Beggar’s Opera
  • Eliot, George, Silas Marner
  • Eliot, T. S. The Waste Land
  • Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, The Yellow Wallpaper
  • Haddon, Mark The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time
  • Haggard, H. R., King Solomon’s Mines
  • Hardy, Thomas, Jude the Obscure
  • Handke, Peter Offending the Audience
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Scarlet Letter.
  • Heller, Joseph, Catch-22.
  • Himes , Chester Cotton Comes to Harlem 
  • Hurston, Zora Neale, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Ibsen, H., Ghosts, A Doll’s House
  • Joyce, J.  Ulysses
  • Kane, Sarah 4.48 Psychosis
  • Kerouac, Jack, On The Road.
  • Kesey, Ken, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
  • Kipling, Rudyard  Kim
  • Kureishi,Hanif Intimacy
  • Lanchester, John Mr Phillips
  • Lawrence, D. H. The Rainbow
  • Lee, Harper, To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • McEwan,Ian Atonement
  • Melville, Herman, Moby-Dick.
  • Miller, Arthur; Death of a Salesman, The Crucible; A View from the Bridge,
  • Moore, S.,  In the Cut
  • Morrison, Toni, Beloved.
  • Mosley , Walter Devil in a Blue Dress
  • Nabokov, Vladmir Vladmimirovich Lolita
  • Orwell, George  Burmese Days
  • Pirandello, L., Six Characters in Search of an Author
  • Plath, Sylvia, The Bell Jar.
  • Roth, P.,  Portnoy’s Complaint
  • Shakespeare, William Richard III, Henry V, Othello 
  • Smith,Ali The Accidental
  • Steinbeck, John  Grapes of Wrath
  • Stevenson, Robert L. The Strange Case of  Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  • Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Thackeray, William M., Vanity Fair
  • Twain, Mark  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 
  • Walker, Alice Color Purple 
  • Wharton, Edith, The Age of Innocence.
  • Welsh,Irvine Trainspotting
  • Williams, Tennessee; A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Wilson, August; The Piano Lesson
  • Winterson,Jeanette Oranges are not the Only Fruit
  • Woolf, V.  Mrs Dalloway
  • Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian

The best bit about looking at that is seeing progress. Studying an English degree most of the time, you don’t feel like you’re doing alot. You read alot, you write an essay on some of the stuff you’ve read, you move on, you forget all that is talked about in reference to text, the history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and theoretical concept that are referenced, and discussed in depth within each seminar. Then there’s the secondary reading, the textbooks, journals, the resources, the essays, that you plough on through, its all seemingly forgotten when you move onto your next topic or task. As with everything, its stored somewhere in the back of your minds, and at the end of the year all your have is 8 essays and a piece of paper with your grades.

It does seem a little strange for a degree, the amount of marked work, but it is the same wherever you go. Looking at that makes me insanely happy, I’ve done something these three years, even if its only having read 15,000 pages of primary print.

Can you put youself onto paper?

We all have to do it at some point, whether its a CV, a covering letter, an application of some sort for something we inevitably want or wouldn’t trouble ourselves to bother to write something in the first place… I’m talking about putting yourself onto paper.

No not literally smearing yourself onto a page, or printing a picture of yourself, but writing about yourself in a way that is to showcase your many good talents, talk yourself up and not come across as a pretentious and arrogant arse. Now, I’m not sure if its an English thing or a people thing and I guess that’s my reason for writing about it in the first place but I always find it an odd thing thing to do.

Its not the sort of thing we ever do in real life, as modest individuals (or most of us are) however high are opinion of ourselves we don’t want to come across as arses, we play down our attributes, publicly ridicule our faults and draw attention through humour or other means to our many misfortunes and failings. So when suddenly we have to show ourselves in the best light possible and pitch ourselves against the other hundreds of nameless pieces of paper and names, it seems harder than you would think.

That’s the first point. We are too busy, too quick as I have perpetually repeated, to pick up on our bad points, for many of us when asked to think about what attributes we have that make us employable, eligible, ‘want-able’, suddenly its not so easy. We say we are organised; and stare around at the state of our kitchens or bedrooms with disgust, we say we’re good in teams; remembering how we hated and despised that person you worked with before, wishing to make their lives a living hell but acting with professionalism – so we can say we’re professionally, except that time we chose to skive off work because we were hung over from the night before’s  antics or the childish bantar the boss caught us batting back between colleagues.

Its not that we don’t have good qualities, and its not that we don’t know precisely what it is the employer reads on a bit of a paper, but there in lies problem number two. We all know the things employers want and so how do you stand out against Joe Bloggs and Little Miss Perfect? With humour? With Something different, with enthusiasm? How do you not sound as though your sucking arse, how do you not sound as though you don’t really care and take the opportunity as a bit of a joke… how do you sound sincere and represent the person, the individual you are behind the words on the page?

With tone. Its all in the tone. When I write, I am sure you can hear my tone, the intonation I use in my own speech, my turns of phrase, my personality, humour or irony coming across. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know me personally, its there, something comes across and you can hear ‘me’ on the page. Its what we want to put across, its precisely that, that voice that we need to show and exploit, without showcasing any of the negative aspects of our personality.

We are but a name on a page, and words written like everyone else. We are all the same when it comes down to it, whether its a CV or a covering letter, its just the same bullshit laid on thick in a desperate hope taht they take a chance and get to meet you at that dreaded interview.

Interviews never bother me much, I don’t get nervous because I think, one I got here so they must have liked something and two, its time to showcase me, the real me, not the two sided a four sheet of condensed me, but me, the intellectual, punctual, loquacious me, the employee me, the girl with ambition me, the one who walks in and says with a look, you know what you want and I’m going to be it (without an air of arrogance).

But the paper. Oh, the paper. I like writing, I enjoy writing as much as anyone else who ever dreamt as a kid of being an author, a journalist, or running a magazine or a blog, of having a career where vocabulary and books were my life… but even I don’t like writing about me. Its not that I dont, or I cant write it well, its just, well, it doesn’t seem very me. I don’t big myself up, I don’t like those who boast, who forcefully present themselves and the opinion your supposed to have of them when you meet them… But I always think, its words.

Words are easy, sentences are easy. Its not hard to write something well with intelligence and authority, after all, whatever the purpose of your prose, its a basic GCSE level skill, writing to persuade. That is all we are doing after all, writing to persuade that person reading ‘us’, that we are what they want and to give us a chance.

This all comes up because at present I’m writing my teaching application. I’m trying to explain and express why I, me, little Carla Danielle, should be given one of the eight places available in the up and coming year to train as an English and Drama teacher, that I am the the one they want, against the 300 other applicants expected, by last years stats, to apply.

There is in this situation, no other way I can approach this but with, enthusiasm. Luckily for me I want this, really want this and teaching for me, like my TEFL teaching, is my passion, my life, my vocation even more than it is my chosen career. I cant imagine anything more rewarding or anything more I’d want to do, than to inspire youngsters as my teacher inspired my to get excited about learning. Its all very clichéd and slightly, ‘I’m going to throw up in my mouth’ but unfortunately it is all perfectly true. So writing this? Its a big deal, for me its make or break the next year and possible career  that I will fall into.

But its not THAT big a deal, because I know that my tone, that voice we were just talking about, will come across, with sincerity, with passion and with wanton desire to get a place and be seen because, well that’s how I feel. Writing about yourself is only ever difficult if you a) don’t believe a word you are writing, b) have no interest in the job you are applying for and therefore are faking your enthusiasm and c) if secretly, you think you don’t deserve it in the first place.

Guess what? It’ll come across, just as when you speak to your friend and say your fine, they know you’re bullshitting by that unconscious look you give them from behind your eyes, or the slightest waver in your tone, why people know your lying, by you somehow giving away that actually you are bullshitting through your teeth. We communicate in more ways than through speech, through words, through body language, or through looks, it comes from somewhere inside through those actions.

So I guess at the end of this long rant and insight into the workings of my opinion on such topics, I guess all I have to say, as usual is, believe in yourself, strive for greatness sand be determined to prove to everyone, to that person, as you should all the time in everyday life – that you are worthy, you are worth the risk, you are deserving and damn you are too good for it anyway…

The Eternal Learner…

For me there is nothing greater than studying. I know that sounds clichéd, and like one of the sentences I’m spun at University, about becoming more than just a degree, becoming an academic – but its true. I love studying. Ever since a young child I loved school, I loved the idea of learning, of feeling myself getting cleverer, storing information in my memory banks to draw upon, having those light bulb moments when suddenly everything makes a little more sense, you understand everything a little bit more.

Of course when you’re a child that happens almost continually. You are more or less bombarded with a new slice of information, slither of experience or newly figured fact on a minute by minute basis. As we get older, that seems to change. Suddenly we understand the basics, we have the answers to the simple stuff, how to read, write, (in my case, attempt) maths, science… our biology. It’s all there and readily explained. We’ve drawn our conclusions on our basic views, our opinions on the big stuff, religion, family, politics, education… We’re already quite formed.

What do we learn as adults? Relationships. There’s a wealth of experience and knowledge we continue to learn there, about ourselves more, with each new experience comes a moment of self-awareness… learning to drive? That always seems an odd one, it’s the first time since a child when we learnt to walk, to ride a bike, to swim, we have to do something that seems completely impossible and illogical to us….

Studying, makes the world, my world, more interesting. The more I learn the more I feel I have to offer, to contribute, the more I understand the smaller things in life, the more opportunities I give myself. I reform opinions, have my ideas challenged and tested, have my intellect stretched, my own foundations undermined, and…. I love that feeling. I love learning something new. Studying English it’s almost something everyday, a new word for my vocabulary, a new concept or idea, historical, philosophical, psychological, sociological details I didn’t know before.

I love reading something I’ve never heard, researching something and discovering a new interest, going into the tiny details… I can feel myself brighten up with each new sentence or concept, my brain buzzing with questions, ideas, contradictions. I lose hours lost int he recesses of my brain processing, ordering, thinking, understanding. I love finding out about everything – anything. What really interests me  is the big picture stuff, culture, society, gender… to civilisations, history, the makings of man.

I study when I shouldn’t be studying, constantly undertaking a new course or programme to keep my mind active. I qualified as a TEFL teacher last summer and this took at Level Four, Educational Psychology, learning about studying – learning why I like studying, we like learning – studying about studying. It couldn’t have been a more perfect course… I’m reading and studying Epistemology, the theory of knowledge, after my degree I begin teacher training, a masters… I’ll never stop wanting to learn – it’s just me.

Everything is a learning experience. Reading, articles, the newspaper, novels, facts, watching programmes on life, on art, on culture, on history… Talking to people. Getting to know them, their story, imparting and sharing knowledge. Life is so rich, so full of amazing things; of knowledge, interesting people, of questions, I just want to enjoy and share it all. We never stop learning, so why don’t we embrace it whole heartedly and aim to learn something new, each and everyday. I certainly do, do you?

Rediscovering your past love…

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For once I am not referring to men, or women. No I’m talking about hobbies and those things we used to love doing, yet somehow no longer have the time too. I’ve many, we all have, things in our past that we were almost obsessed with at the time. I danced, nearly gave up school for dance school at 11, swam for my county, amateur dramatics – performances, singing, dancing the whole she-bang (nearly drama school instead of Uni)… I played cards, was an avid poker fan, read for fun before Uni got in the way, played Badminton, Rock climbed…. and of course, the crux of and purpose of my post.

Played the piano. Since returning home for the summer and getting to play as much as I want, having a piano back has been quite something. I’d forgotten how much I’d missed it, the hours of practising, getting a piece, then playing as though you always could, the sanitation, my hands dancing over the chords and arpeggios, my long nails clicking against the ivories with each note. I couldn’t be any happier when sat at my piano for hours.

I get wrist cramp, I swear, I get up make a cuppa in a mood only to return with a “right you bastard” as I stare out the music, the notes, the staves tormenting me. It’s a love hate relationship and I love every minute of it. It’s not that I’m amazing, I gave up lessons after my grade 5 exam, not wanting to put myself through the torment of a theory exam, which now… you could say seems pointless but never mind, Oh! to be young and headstrong. But what does make the difference…

Its my passion. Its something I will always enjoy doing. I rarely play for others, I find it unnerving, I’m happy playing in the hall and if people can hear well then I hope they enjoy. But I play for me. For the personal accomplishment, for my own pleasure, for the satisfaction of completing something. There are rare moments in life when we can literally acknowledge progress, doing well. We work hard at work and feel like we’ve made headway but there’s no proof, maybe a smaller pile of papers, we cultivate friendships, but there’s no pat on the back, there’s just another name in a phone book and maybe an occasional text… That’s pessimistic I realise. But playing the piano for me is progress and accomplishment personified.

I can see me having learnt, I can feel the change and the growth in my playing, in my repertoire, in my mood. I have a favourite composer, I will save the details for a later blog but I determined to learn all of his work. I know that seems somewhat daft and copycat. I have no desire to learn or write my own music, it’s not one of my talents, I know that already, but what I do know is I love his pieces, I like playing them, the way they feel, the running notes, the epic crescendo’s, the softness…

So, this post really only has one message, as ever as a conclusion. What’s your passion? Go find something you loved doing, and do it. Whether it was a squash game with buddies every week, or a bath that you no longer get time to take, or swimming … or anything. Rediscover it, explore it, enjoy it. We only live once and life’s far to full of the un-fun stuff. Its time reclaimed the things we do love.

Have heart, Live for your Dream.

Never before have I felt compassion and genuine heartbroken sympathy for another individual like I did on the last stroke of this years Wimbledon. It’s not the loss of the nation, him letting us down or anything like that… To see a man, whose dreams, childhood dream is smashed away from him, when he tried so hard – is devastating.

We all have dreams, things we’d like to accomplish, some we give up on, some we can’t complete, some change… To be so close and to have done your best, must be so difficult. As I said the other day, I am overjoyed, proud and overwhelmed that he made it there, that he beat him in the first set, that he gave it his all. I just know, as was clear on his face, that for him, he feels like he’s let himself down, like his worlds crumbled in a few short hours.

Yesterday a dream came true for Marray and Nielsen, two men, not even meant to play in the doubles, let alone become champions, and in the same weekend, anothers is put on hold for another year. Everyone has a time, everyone has a goal, maybe this year it wasn’t meant to be, maybe Federer was just, to on form, maybe there was too much expectation… But we know someday, he’ll make it. Never have I seen a player more deserving than he. Never have I seen an individual want something so much, so clearly.

I have but a final thought, and the true reason behind an overly emotional (blame the time of the month)  post. Never give up on your dreams. Whatever your set backs, whatever obstacles are put in your way, always believe. Always have faith. You will succeed, with passion, determination and heart. For me Andy is today’s hero and my tennis star. Our true nations winner of today. For compassion, for determination, for composure, for grace and humility in defeat.

If we all had the same passion and emotion to everything we did in life, and believed in ourselves that much, the world would be a richer place.