26/10/15 – Retrospective

This is a bit of a late retrospective! It’s been a busy couple of weeks… in that all I’ve done is watch Grimm and Supernatural. Things might be changing a bit soon, but shhh, more on that later!

Listening to

I’ve become a late convert to Spotify: since I’ve been on a slight frugal curve, I’ve put a stop to the worst of my spending, basically my Amazon account. As such, a few albums I’ve not purchased, but have instead streamed off Spotify. One of these was Lana Del Rey’s latest, Honeymoon. I loved Lana Del Rey since I heard the haunting Video Games, which arguably is her best, and somewhat different to all of her other work. I remember reading an interview after Born To Die when she said she wasn’t going to release any more material, as there was nothing left to say; considering there have been two LPs and the Paradise Edition EP since then, I think it’s fair to say she dug a bit deeper. Honeymoon is definitely on the more Ultraviolence themed side of things, musically at least: a lot slower and gentler, somewhat less on the wild vocal lines as Born To Die, but consistently Lana Del Rey in lyrical content. To be honest, I think Honeymoon is much more solid than Ultraviolence: the second half I essentially bypassed, as it all essentially sounded the same, about bad men doing bad things to the starlet persona, with jarring key changes and choruses. There aren’t many bum notes at all with Honeymoon: from High By The Beach to 24 there isn’t a skippable song. Definitely music to get drunk to in a hot dry summer, sumptuous and self-indulgent, but who doesn’t love a good bit of that every now and then?

Watching

I have finished series 3 of Grimm on Netflix and in anticipation of series 5 premiering on Watch soon, I downloaded series 4 off Amazon. Totally binged on it! I’m only a couple of episodes from the end, but poor Nick is having a right time of it. Adalind is seriously getting on my nerves – I’m not necessarily sure that the correct response for someone taking your baby is to disguise yourself as that person’s girlfriend and have sex with them. I know, I know, it was Prince-Not-Eric’s idea, but still, it’s got Adalind up on this high horse and considering she is of no fixed abode, with no reliable income (and, let’s be honest, is everybody really sure that that baby is Renard’s? Paternity test! Paternity test!), and with a track record of rash and questionable decisions, she’s hardly mother of the year material. Renard had it right when he said to her “I so wish I could believe you” (hint about the baby’s paternity??) yet it appears Nick, our puffy-eyed Grimm of woe-is-me, is quite happy to follow Adalind’s breadcrumb trail of deus-ex-machina. It’s nice to see Juliette coming into her own: as a strong character she was getting a bit underutilised as Nick’s piece, though I still want her and Renard to get together: now they would be a powerhouse couple!

Grimm series 5 is on Watch on Tuesdays at 9.

Now, I may very much be late on the bandwagon here, but I’m totally into Supernatural. I’ve been hitting our local CEX and tracking down the early series (is the plural of series serieses?). I stormed through Series 1 and loved it. It is quite scary! I thought it would be more like Buffy, but a lot of it is based on ghost stories – a lot of which are the kind that are represented in every society around – and those are the kinds that in the light of day you can scoff at, but when it’s dark and cold and you’re not sure what that weird tapping noise is outside the window or in the corner of the room, they seem a wee bit more real. I just finished Series 2 and loved it! The chemistry between the two leads is great and there are some fab comedic moments as well as some truly chilling scares. This long-running show will definitely keep me going, especially when I’ve nosied ahead (you can’t help it, SPN fandom is all over Pinterest) and seen demons and angels and what even is Destiel?!

Reading

I’ve finished book thirteen! Bard the Bowman and I now embark on the last one… I am a little apprehensive to tackle A Memory Of Light: the biggie, the Last Battle. Often books that build up to an armageddon conclusion wimp out on the last couple of hurdles. I really hope this isn’t the case! I’m thinking of running a live Twitter feed as I progress through. I’m fairly sure Rand must triumph over the Dark One (does he have a name? You hear Dark One, you think Rumpelstiltskin) but getting there looks like a gargantuan task. This series has some of my favourite female characters in it: Nynaeve, Moiraine and Egwene. I’m pleased that Egwene has solidified her perch as the Amyrlin Seat. I’m also dead chuffed that we found Moiraine, after an age of a hiatus (Moiraine and Thom?!), but I’m sorry, who didn’t see Mazrim Taim coming a mile off? If you like more of this sort of drivel, please follow me on Twitter! I’ll think of a clever hashtag.


Making

While Ma and Pa were in Poland visiting Auschwitz, I had a nice long weekend with my doggy. I attempted another Pinterest recipe (somewhat hesitantly, after the too-simple turkey and sweet potato burgers didn’t quite come off) and made some brownies topped with peanut butter. I have learnt to follow your instinct – this is something that is never new to me, yet I need to be reminded of it constantly. The recipe told me to microwave the chocolate for the spread, but I was tempted to melt it my way in a bowl over simmering water. I wish I had followed my own advice! The result is scruffy but they taste amazing – sickly indeed. I will be such a little fatty after scoffing the lot.

For the past few weeks I’ve turned my hand to cross-stitch, which seems to be the revitalised WI craft of choice at the moment. I got a little one from Hobbycraft to start me off, and I’m pretty pleased with my progress! Since the picture below I have actually progressed a wee bit more, and all the flowers are done and the grass is complete!

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What I did this summer

“What I did this summer”

Hmm, that sounds like a horror movie title… well I don’t think my little life is anything quite like an American horror movie!

It’s been a busy summer and I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a few weeks now, to very little avail. 2015 has been a big year for me – though it doesn’t rightly feel like it, but I’ve made some big decisions and I’m happy to say they were all for the best – and it’s not over yet: who knows what will happen? This summer has flown by – and it’s not really been much of a summer. My vegetable garden is about six weeks behind; I’ve only just managed to harvest my first courgette and have been eating fresh tomatoes and cucumbers for the past two weeks or so. But more on my garden in another post! (She says, with all intents and purposes, as if it might actually happen…)

First things first, I’m writing this from my shiny new laptop! My trusty Dell, which I’ve had since third year uni, started spitting the dummy out a few weeks back: halfway through a major plot point in Grimm season 2, my computer decided to overheat and refuse to come back to life for more than 20 minutes. Maybe it was telling me my Netflix habit was getting out of control, or maybe it was just showing its age. Dad took it apart and cleaned up the fan but it was probably just the start of a few more problems – a five year old laptop has probably run its course. So after Dad losing his temper in PC World, with me and Mum chasing after him (queues + back to uni shopping rush = not a good day for the Loys), I picked up my shiny blue HP from Currys Digital in the Prospect Centre and, aside from adjusting to a new keyboard, I’m dead chuffed.

Mum and I entered our village horticultIMG_6954ural show: cue momentous stress and rage as pastry refused to play fair, rules were lately acknowledged (if at all) and little victories. Overall we were pleased with our hauls: a first prize apiece and a handful of seconds and thirds between us, we now have enough cake to last us through the winter.

Recently I got a Netflix subscription: I’ve been addicted to Grimm (Captain Renard, all the way!), caught up with Once Upon A Time, not to mention I’ve bookmarked a whole load of other shows to watch. However after seeing about a million fandom references on Pinterest, I bought the first series of Supernatural from CEX, and now I’m hooked. I may have to take in all my old DVDs, CDs and games to pay for the rest of the series. So instead of blogging like a good little girl, I’ve been sat in the sewing room scaring myself silly watching ghost stories.

IMG_6790When I’m not watching the Winchester brothers or wasting hours on Pinterest, I’ve been ploughing my way through a mammoth book series. At the beginning of the year, shortly after leaving the PGCE, I began to revisit a series I’d gotten about half way through a couple of years back and stalled on: Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. I’m currently over halfway through book twelve of fourteen! It’s been a bit of a quest getting hold of the books: I had books 1 – 8 already, purchased generally in bulk from the second hand bookshop in Pickering, but when they didn’t have the next ones, I think I went to every charity shop I could find within walking distance of work (or walking distance from St Stephens, I should say) to track down the rest. I now have all 14 and am so close to the end, it’s a bit scary! Stay tuned for a full post about this series.

Usually summers for me are a bit of a haze. Most people look forward to summers: teachers for obvious reasons, gardeners for the fruition of months of preparation, and others for, I don’t know, warmth, heat, sunshine. When you work in summer schools, it’s a little different: summer is our busiest time (or rather, May onwards). I’ve worked in summer schools now for six summers (which sounds like an age) and so I tend to spend the best parts of summer in apprehension of what’s going to go wrong next; I’m good at forgetting my birthday in the middle of July. Usually the end of summer is marked for me by a trip to the Nurburgring, and this year was no different! We went at the end of August and it was scorching: I got some interesting tan lines as well as a few laps in. Got some pretty good pictures as well, which eventually I will upload in a separate post about this bi-annual pilgrimage. Last trip of 2015 – sad times!

I’ve got a week off work now, hurrah, so will have time to prep a load of posts, but also to do all those things I’ve not gotten round to yet… like watching the rest of Supernatural series 1 and Grimm series 3, and get closer to the end of the Wheel of Time! ^.^

I’ll make a promise here, too: separate posts on what I’ve learned this summer in my garden, a recap of our trip to Germany, and a rambling incoherent piece about my book series.

Until next time!

Little Storyteller – Juvenilia: A Little Life in Scribbles and Dreams

Delving into Juvenilia: Reflecting back on my scribbles and dreams…

A life of scribbles and dreams!

A life of scribbles and dreams!

While I’ve been conducting my Minimalist March Purge (see here: https://notmuchofayoungfarmer.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/decluttering-march-the-month-of-minimalism/) I came across my old stash of handwritten notes, compiling probably half of my Juvenilia. I do have distant dreams of all these scraps of paper being collected up one day, by a bored postgraduate in an archive somewhere or else by my biggest fan, and compiled into a nice big compendium, chronicling where my genius began.

Then when I found it all, I read through it, and realised I was definitely living in a bubble both under the misguided comprehension that I was indeed at all talented and within my own ego.

So this is what happened:

Minimalist March - more of that juvenile writer's life.shreddingIt might seem harsh to shred things that I obviously (upon close inspection) had spent a great deal of time and effort over. But it was probably something on a lower rung from juvenilia, if I’m totally honest: very much baby writing. It will have shaped the stuff I’ve written in earnest since – characters, plot lines and themes have all persevered and in some places blossomed – but there wasn’t much I can do with it. All of it is inside my head anyway.

I have learnt a bit about myself through doing this: I’ve been able to view my current writing in a different light, and revisit things that had once been so important, and which might still contribute to changing my writing for the better.

When I’m interviewing, we often talk about teaching as being a career that is constantly changing, where you are always learning new things and improving, and that is what draws most people in, and is what I thought had drawn me in, but in actual fact, terrified me. On the flipside, I have come to realise that my current writing has been stagnating: it desperately needed to change, evolve; it needed a fresh outlook, in all honesty. So while it was hard initially to feed those first few pages into my shredder, it was useful to do.

Like Nora in The Siren, one of my favourite books (guilty pleasure!) which I may one day review if it’s not a little close to the nerve, who shreds chapters because they aren’t strictly fiction; I too felt like I was shredding the parts that were a little too close to reality…

So now I can put it to a different use! I will use it to line the trenches that my beans will grow in this year. Reusing, recycling!

This has been quite a serious post. Apologies! Minimalist March is very much almost at its end, and I’ve done… what? I’ve cleared out six bags of clothes, three bags of books, listed a whole bunch of stuff on eBay, taken some bits and bobs to the charity shop, aaaand… that’s it. I’ve done a room! Bully for me.

Roll on Minimalist April!

Love Katy

x

 

A cup of coffee and a laptop

Hello my lovely fellow bloggers!

A cup of coffee and a laptop

My life at the moment! What more does a girl need? Laptop, an espresso, Filofax and – some whiteboard markers?!

 

It is Saturday over here in Yorkshire – at long last! It feels like it’s been a long week. I was out all last weekend so never got chance to blog anything (I went to Liverpool with some friends from work, in case you’re wondering – I ate lots and drank lots, according to my Instagram!) I didn’t go home till Monday evening so I have been away from my computer quite a considerable time: it’s taken about twenty-five minutes to turn on and go through updates and decide if it wants to recognise my iPhone so I can upload the snap of the dining room table, as above!

This week I’ve been doing a little Pinterest research on blogging etc. I’ve also made a (very late) resolution! In my defence, it was based on something I hadn’t known existed up until yesterday, when I popped onto campus to pick up my dissertation (clever clogs).

As you can probably tell, I like writing. I like writing and I like talking: the two seem to be mutual. I’ve always been a big writer: I used to write stories and classify that as GCSE revision. It must have worked – I got a nice A* in English Language. (This was back when it was hard to get A*s, you understand; cynical ex-trainee-teacher coming through a bit there.) Ever since I was little – and I mean little, a few years ago I found lots of handwritten stories, apparently based around Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat, that I had made when I was a wee bairn, judging by the handwriting – I’ve always written stories. I suppose it comes from being an only child, and maybe living out in the countryside, and maybe a loose connection in my brain, I don’t know.

Now when I say writing, I mean it in the most sincere way. ‘Stories’ as a word just doesn’t quite convey the magnitude of what I feel when I’m writing. It is so personal and so involving; it’s not just a story, it’s an alternative life. Over the years I’ve had a stab – and with varying sizes of stabs – at numerous genres, types, formats, themes; you name it, I’ve probably given it a go. I think when I was in my late teens, I had ideas for about thirty or so books: that’s including titles, characters, summaries, structure, chapter lists, and in the case of about ten or so of those, genuine, earnest pieces of, in some cases, quite lengthy writing. A lot of it is juvenilia of course, but if it has a nugget of hope or potential in it, then, over the course of education and life experience, I’ve kept it in the back of my mind, allowing it to be gently honed and nurtured – seemingly without my real attention!

Now that I am no longer studying for my PGCE – no more late nights researching and planning lessons, marking books, creating assessment instruments, marking assessments, completing uni lesson plans, filling in tutorial records – I have time (when I’m not falling asleep on the settee in front of the TV, that is) to actually work on my first love, and hobby, and one-day maybe dream career: writing.

Yet I’ve come across a bit of a writer’s block. Figures, eh? So I’m setting myself a challenge – one I hope you’ll all keep me on the right side of! I’m going to enter a writing competition. This isn’t big news for me; I’ve done it before. But this time I’m going to enter it seriously, and probably enter every category, and work as hard as I can. I have a couple of stories in mind.

So my idea is to update this part of my blog – ‘Little Storyteller’ – every week, with news of what progress I’ve made, any problems I’ve come across, any motivational ideas I’ve had, or any theories on writing, structure, procrastination avoidance, or anything else.

I have until May – so, wish me luck! And keep me in check!

Are any of you out there budding fiction writers? Has anybody had anything published? Let me know! I’d love to find out if you have.

Love Katy

x

My Non-Fiction Bookshelf

 

My reading habits have always strayed towards the realms of fantasy; that’s not to say I don’t like a good bit of gritty realism, but more often than not, I’m a sucker for a good quest. And out of all that, I always tend to pick up a fiction book as opposed to something real.

Not here! Please see below my rather modest non-fiction bookshelf. Although looking at it from here, I am struck that I am missing a couple of titles – there are more?!

non fiction bookshelf

Now I did at some point in my rather convoluted life get a university education; in fact, not only the one, but two degrees! However looking up at those books, I only ever used the three on the far right in my MA, and two of those for one essay on the Pre-Raphaelites – and that was because I was writing about a Dante Gabriel Rossetti painting of Pandora – and the other, well, because I wanted to really know what ‘postcolonialism’ was.

Don’t even ask.

The rest has a distinct historical tinge. I love Neil Oliver! I’ve watched all his series, but I’ve yet to really get into either of his books. The same goes for the Andrew Marr book. I think some part of me really wanted to be a historian. The prevalence of Neil Oliver’s ancient Britain/Anglo-Saxon history books emerges from my third year studies into Anglo Saxon Literature: how very high-brow. Who doesn’t love a bit of the Wanderer? Beowulf is just far too mainstream.

The book on the Norse Myths isn’t a bit of diversification on my previous foray into Old English: I have no shame in naming Thor as my favourite film. I wanted to know if Loki and Thor really were adopted brothers. I’m still a bit confused.

I intend to read all of these in my little lifetime. I should just start from the left and move across. I mean, nobody ever reads reference books like a story. But I love my dictionary on Classical Mythology. Is there a career where you can just study lots of different mythologies? I think I’d like to write encyclopedias on the world’s mythologies. That’s like my dream job.

Do you have any opinions on my non-fiction? Too bland, too historical, too uninspired? I’d love to know your recommendations!

And of course, the speed freak on me is itching to have a go at Guy Martin’s autobiography.

Katy

x

Books to Read – Too Many To Choose!

It looks like my last post on my bookshelf was a big hit!

I’m hoping to write maybe a few reviews of books I’ve read. Put that MA to good use! I love reading – it’s always been one of my favourite things to do, and something I’d happily spend every day doing. I’ve even got my Dad reading!

I found this picture on my iPad of a whole library load of books to read… I wonder how many I’ve actually read? I think it was taken over a year ago!

IMG_0658

Well, I’ve read The Name of the Rose! Aaaand… that’s about it! This is what happens: I have a serious problem. I am a Book-Buying Addict! I always have the best intentions to read everything. But obviously I bought all these while I was studying for a Masters, working in Hull four days a week, and then after that, leaping straight into a PGCE. Not much time for leisure reading.

However, now that I am free of all study – having left the PGCE – I should have the time to read! Here’s an idea… which of these books do you think I should have a stab at? I think I’m about fifty pages into Middlemarch, and I read the first chapter of Lolly Willowes… but they’re all super exciting books. What do you guys think? What should I read?

Katy

x

A look at my bookshelves…

As a double literature graduate (at BA and MA level), I think it’s acceptable to have rather overstuffed shelves. These are shelves that consist of probably over ten years’ worth of purchases and gifts (not to mention the boxes of books under my bed, in the guest room, and probably in the workshop and the containers). And now that I’ve left my PGCE, I have time to actually read books!

Here is a snapshot of just one shelf in my bookcase:

IMG_2249

As you can see, there’s a bit of a diverse selection here. The shelf above, for the beady-eyed, is a predominantly fantasy themed shelf: mainly Ian Irvine and Robert Jordan books. I got to about book seven in The Wheel of Time about two years ago and then stalled, so as you can tell by the prevalence of the first three on the shelf below, I have restarted.

The main focus of the picture is the middle shelf, occupied by my ‘Need to Read’ section. I got The Luminaries for Christmas in 2013, and have only just finished it. For Christmas I got The Bone Clocks and Clariel, both of which I have recently finished, and I have newly started CJ Sansom’s Dissolution.

As well as Dissolution, I’m up to The Dragon Reborn in The Wheel of Time (which tends to be my ‘bath book’, and I’m going to start The Taxidermist’s Daughter, as signified by the presence of my Bard the Bowman bookmark. Bard the Bowman!

What’s on your reading list? Anything like mine? Or do you have any recommendations?

Katy x

 

 

Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime

http://www.amazon.co.uk/b/ref=amb_link_181271247_2?ie=UTF8&node=4656884031&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-1&pf_rd_r=0EC3P8DDQQXAT6JRWH4P&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=489452247&pf_rd_i=266239

Amazon have released a list of 100 books that they recommend you should read in your lifetime. I was pretty impressed to have read 35 of them by 23, and also quite chuffed to see some of my favourites in there, like Birdsong, Atonement, and The English Patient. I also think I have over 20 more on either my bookshelf or on my Kindle, so there’s time yet!

People often get quite heated about these sort of things: I like to read them for inspiration for future reads more than anything else (I added To the Lighthouse, Murder on the Orient Express, and My Man Jeeves to my Amazon wish list), and just to see how many I have read. Often it seems like the angsty academics (or more likely, failed wish-they-were-angsty-academics) kick off about the lack of classics, or the choice of classics, or the inclusion of this many modern books at the cost of a few more dusty oldies, but this isn’t a definitive guide. It’s subjective, obviously. The Guardian have been running a series on The 100 Best Novels, and the comments are always rife with criticism, outrage, and uproar from the keyboard warriors who think because they read this book, it is simply better. Calm down!

One book that often crops up on these lists that I’ve tried time and time again to get into but never get past the first fifty pages is Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. It’s just impenetrable to me, and it sits on my shelf like a constant reminder of reading failure. Then again, when I was fourteen or fifteen I must have picked Dracula up about ten times and failed to get past the Brides in the Castle, and then for my Masters entry essay, I threw myself at it and read it in about an afternoon. Similarly, I’m not the biggest Dickens fan, but after reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood twice now and watching the excellent BBC TV show, I am now swiftly becoming a convert.

It’s all about growing! When I was 16, Birdsong was my favourite book. And yet now, I have no one single favourite book, but rather a selection that I love, and they are invariably individual and personal, and for the most part, remind me of a certain time or person or feeling. At that point, is it less the book and rather the personal connection that makes them memorable?

Isn’t that one of the themes in Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, which I finished recently? Another book missed off the list!