“Students, eh? Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t hit them with a shovel!”

Terry Pratchett said that. I’m not sure in what context, but it’s a cheerful enough thought to start this blog. Better than some profound thing.

So here I am. A student. One of those Masters students. At the University of Sussex. Not to be confused with the University of Brighton.

RIDICULOUSLY proud of my student card.

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I can even get students’ discounts in shops and everything, even if I couldn’t get discounts because of my age. Well, I think I should probably get double discount.

I am firmly resisting the temptation — there IS no temptation actually, so I’m not firmly resisting it — to buy one of those hoodies…do they sell them even? Here’s something I found online:

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Simply not my style. Never in the never ever. But I am proud to be there at that university and want everyone to know it.

The thought did cross my mind, before the first seminar — would I feel dreadfully old and uncomfortable with those bright young things?

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The answer? Nope. Thank you, people. Not even a glimmer. Mature student? Moi? Hardly…

So now I have studying to do. Homework. The stuff that students do when they’re not in the Union bar, so I’m told.

I was struggling a bit the other evening, not wanting to shut myself away in anti-social isolation from Peter, so trying to master Freud on the settee in front of the TV. (Freud would surely have something to say about some of that sentence?)

Peter was watching Master and Commander (again). It was Very Loud. It was, though, one of those annoying soundtracks where if you turn down the volume to mitigate the ear-blasting SFX, you can’t hear the dialogue. My solution? Earphones in. Music on, even louder. I may go deaf.

The album that I came upon, quite randomly, was Supertramp’s Crime of the Century. Dated 1974, when I was at university the first time around. The University of Liverpool, reading English and Philosophy. I was transported back to my carefree youth when life was so uncomplicated. I was transported to a state of bliss. Study came easily after that.

Don’t arrange to have me sent to no asylum. I’m just as sane as anyone. It’s a just a game I play for fun…for fun.

This will be the students’ soundtrack, along with:

  • Selling England By the Pound – Genesis
  • Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
  • Blue – and – Court and Spark –  Joni Mitchell
  • The Yes Album – Yes

Oh, and when I’m feeling particularly mournful in an emo student sort of way: The Songs of Leonard Cohen

Happy days!

I love my life. My life will love me back.

 

 

The great thing about getting older…

is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.

Yes, thank you, Madeleine L’Engle. Not worrying about getting older.

growing-old-gracefully

Ooops, too late for that. I’ve been wearing purple for years and years.

Anyway, getting older. Now I’m 60…going on 17. To celebrate this fact, to demonstrate that life doesn’t have to shrink, it can GROW…here’s what I’m doing.

I’ve taken up tennis, with Peter. Oooh, me knees. It’s very dignified. For which read, if the ball’s out of reach, why bother to over-extend one’s body in an ungainly lunge? Sort of like tennis-on-the-spot. Oh, yes – and only on my forehand, if you please.

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The other thing is – poking the getting older thing viciously where it hurts, I’m going to be a student again. A masters degree at the University of Sussex, in Creative and Critical Writing.

This is where I’m revisiting my other ages – except for the fact that I’ve never left them.

It’s like ‘Back to Skool’ time for me. I have:

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A new bag…

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Three new notebooks (thank you Jane and Tim for thoughtful birthday presents).

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A new pencil case, pens and pencils (Thanks again, Jane and Tim).

I’m in stationery heaven! (That’s stationery NOT stationary – unlike the tennis).

All I need now is a new brain. One that is not getting older.

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On taking a break

“Taking a break. Been working solid for the last few weeks, as opposed to working liquid, which is more drinkable. Can I pour you a glass of productivity?” – yeah, thank you Jarod Kintz – provider of so very many nearly quotable quotes, including the title of the play, The Cleverest Thief. (Yes, I had his permission to use it…oh yes I did.)

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I’ve been doing a bit too much of the working solidly (Naturally, we British speak proper, Jarod!) of late. Not taking a break often enough.

My fingers are a blur.

That would be okay except my brain is too.

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Can’t remember how many weekends I’ve spent working. This is a sad indictment of how many weekends I’ve spent working. Or my memory. I’ve forgotten which.

All work and no play makes Caroline a dull boy. Or similar.

So this weekend I’m not. Not dull. Not a boy. Not working.

This weekend I AM taking a break.

“Elizabeth (aka Caroline) lay face-down on the massage table, and allowed Marco to relieve the stress of the business day with firm and knowing fingers. Success, she decided, was often a matter of knowing when to relax,” averred Barbara Taylor Bradford, in an early manifestation of Fifty Shades of Puce.

No Marco required.

I have been seeking advice about how to take a weekend off:

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That should do it.

Taking a break. Not taking a Kit-Kat.

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A world of pains and troubles

“Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?” said John Keats, and I said ‘Oh, go away, will you?’ (That was the polite version!)

See, I have a bad back.

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Not life-threatening. Not the end of the world. I’ve tried so hard not to moan. I’ve slept on the floor. I’ve done the exercises. I’ve kept going. I’ve taken the pain-killers.

BUT, it pains me to tell you, I’m in pain. And being in pain is such a pain. Not just for me, but everyone around me who has to put up with me being a martyr. It is in no way schooling my intelligence and making it a soul.

So. here’s a funny thing:

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Arf arf arf.

Another funny thing.

Just when the pains were getting better, I was driving along, listening to the radio, and something I heard made me laugh so hard that…I put my back out again.

Laughter is NOT the best medicine.

And this is what made me laugh:

Thank you, Jack The Lad on Heart FM breakfast show. Not at all. He was talking about how stunning Kate Middleton looked shortly after she’d given birth to Baby Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. He said, ‘I love my wife very much. She’s a beautiful woman. But eight hours after she’d given birth to our son…she looked like Alice Co0per caught in a downpour.’

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Not in a downpour, but you get the idea? I could so relate to this image of myself after childbirth. More pains, but so much more productive than these I’m currently enjoying. (A euphemism).

So there you have it. My latest feeble excuse for a) not writing any blogs b) not doing any creative writing

AND IT IS SO INSIGNIFICANT compared to…well, a lot of things, too obvious in the world news for me to mention here.

To misquote, slightly, Rob Sheffield (Love is a Mix Tape)  “It’s the same with people who say, ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Even people who say this must realize that the exact opposite is true. What doesn’t kill you maims you, cripples you, leaves you weak, makes you whiny and full of yourself at the same time. The more pains you have, the more pompous you get. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you incredibly annoying.”

So I apologise, here and now,  for being incredibly annoying.

But, ooooh, my back…

 

“The world is larger and more beautiful than my little struggle.”

Yes, I’ve been a bit absent, blog-wise. Thank you so much, my little struggle, which is way smaller and much less beautiful than the world.

Image by SugarAngel44 from DeviantArt

Image by SugarAngel44 from DeviantArt

(Oh, and the title quote comes from Ravi Zacharius and the closing one from S. D. Gordon).

The blog is always the first thing to go – that and vitality – when the struggle takes hold. My head tells me to concentrate on the things that MUST be done; my mind tells me it can only cope with so much, and writing a blog is not on the list. Silly head. Silly mind. Why do I listen to them? Writing a blog always makes me feel better.

The struggle is with life. Life occurs as a struggle.

The Struggle, by Darwin Leon

The Struggle, by Darwin Leon

The struggle is an embarrassment to me because I am the girl who has everything. I won’t even start to list all the blessings I have in my life and neither will I enumerate how much less fortunate most people in the universe are than I am. I mean, just think of the people of Syria, every minute of every day, think of  the victims of the GermanWings plane crash (including the pilot), think of the devastation at Garissa University…

So who am I to say I am finding life a struggle?

I’m someone who can be ensnared by depression sometimes, whatever steps I take to combat it. Keeping active. Talking possibility. Telling myself not to be such a pathetic creature and that I should just pull myself together. Going to bed even earlier. Working harder. Counting my blessings. Taking medication. Being firmly of the Dodie Smith school of psychiatric care:

“Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.”

By Dashinvaine

By Dashinvaine

I won’t trouble you with a picture of me in a hot bath.

I don’t write blogs when I’m in the grip of the struggle because…it’s all I can do to drag one weary mental foot in front of another, I’m so sapped of energy.

Wading through treacle…would be preferable.

By Tara Keatinge

By Tara Keatinge

And it is so utterly tedious and boring to me as a subject that I can only begin to imagine what it must be like for anyone reading it.

So, there you have it. I’ve come out.

Today, for no good reason (the sun is shining?) I have turned a corner.

It seems kind of appropriate that it should be on Easter Sunday.

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“Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life.”

Some things make me laugh

Yes, and “It takes maturity to be able to laugh like a child again,” said Moffat Machingura. Oh yes he did.

So, I must be terribly mature.

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There have been a couple of things on the radio this last week or so that have made me laugh – and continue to laugh every time I think about them, and then I’ve had to bore everyone I meet who’ll stay long enough to listen… but things are never so funny second or third hand. It’s the way I tell ’em.

In the spirit of sharing, here they are. Judge for yourselves a) my sense of humour b) whether or not I’m three gallons of crazy in a two gallon bucket.

This was on The News Quiz when, at the end, the participants read out (real) newspaper cuttings. I checked this one out and it is, in fact, from 2011.

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I LOVE THIS!

The second piece, which keeps coming back to me and making me giggle, was from Clare in The Community – brilliant BBC Radio 4 comedy by Harry Venning, adapted from his cartoon strip from The Guardian. The family au pair is an Eastern European girl called Nali, played wonderfully well by Nina Conti. Nali is always full of sage proverbs and rural anecdotes from her homeland. This was on the occasion of Clare’s boyfriend coming back after a separation:

(To be said in Eastern European accent). “I love a happy ending. It’s like when Cousin Ludmilla fell into the threshing machine but Cousin Boris was still prepared to marry what was left of her.”

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That oh so common bit of textese – LOL, not to mention LMAO and ROFL…

It made me laugh. It still does. It might not make you laugh. I’m fascinated by this. It’s what makes humour so very subjective – and writing it exceptionally tough because some things just AREN’T FUNNY to some people when they have me reduced to helpless giggles.

Just to end with:

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Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

I suppose all this indicates that what makes me laugh is to do with words, their clever use and accidental misuse?

Happy Saturday!

The weather and my mood have little connection

The weather and my mood? Well…

I have my foggy and my fine days within me; my prosperity or misfortune has little to do with the matter.

I can’t claim to have said that, until now. It was Blaise Pascal, born 1623, long before Seasonal Affective Disorder was even thought about. Or, it might have been thought about, but certainly wasn’t labelled.

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I’ve often claimed exactly that – that the weather and my mood have no connection. I’ve often asserted that I love being out in all weathers, except possibly driving rain when I’m up to my knees in mud. But not lately…

Lately, though I hesitate to admit such weakness in myself, the weather and my mood have buddied up to become best mates. Inseparable companions. Joined at the hip.  It’s grey and miserable…so am I. Cold and dreary…so am I. Though having said that, when it’s raining I’m not crying streams of tears, and when it’s windy…enough said).

I didn’t notice until I DID notice and this was on Tuesday of this week when suddenly the sun came out – and so did my optimism and joie de vivre.

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Damn! I am not the master of my fate. I am not the captain of my soul. Not at the moment, anyway.

Before I accuse myself of being too hard on myself, in fairness, I’ve been under the weather for a few weeks now, just not on top form with the dreaded throaty-chesty lurgy – AND I certainly had a few days of concussion the other week having flown gracefully off my horse and landed not at all gracefully on my head AND I’ve been unconscionably busy with work.

But, the weather and my mood? Here’s some research, so it must be true:

Thank you, Huffington Post.

“Day-to-day weather does affect your mood (if it’s already a bad one).”

“If you’re in a good mood, chances are, bad weather won’t bring you down too much. But if you’re feeling crummy already, a cold, dreary day could easily make your mood go from bad to worse.”

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“In a 2008 study published in the journal Emotion, researchers evaluated the personalities and moods of more than 1,200 adult men and women through daily questionnaires that were later cross-referenced with the local weather. They found that climate-related factors like temperature, sunlight, wind and precipitation had no notable impact on positive mood, but that temperature, wind and sunlight did have an effect on negative mood. Increased temperature had a mostly positive effect on negative mood, while increased wind and decreased sunlight had a mostly negative effect on negative mood, though these effects varied from one individual to another. Sunlight was also found to have an effect on how tired participants said they were. The results were somewhat inconclusive, but they do point towards the need for more future research into the mood-weather link.”

I see a new career beckoning.

Caroline Coxon, the human guinea pig.

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Little memories – or larger ones?

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Desert Island Discs nearly always casts me away (see what I did there?) on a raft of my own memories and yesterday was no exception. The subject was Julia Cleverdon (I’m sorry, who?) – she’s jolly famous, actually, if you’ve ever heard of her. Funnily enough, after writing that, I thought I’d check her out on her own website. Evidently, I wasn’t alone in requiring more information…

“We’re sorry, too many people are accessing this website at the same time.”

Anyway, here’s a little piece about her from another site:

“Dame Julia Cleverdon DCVO, CBE is a passionate and practical campaigner who has gained an international reputation for inspiring individuals and organisations from business, government, education and civil society to work together for the common good.”

International reputation? Ooops. Mea culpa, as if apologising in Latin makes a blind bit of difference.

The first piece of music she chose was this:

And that’s always, ALWAYS associated with some happy memories of my university days, up in Liverpool.

As a surprise treat for my parents, Peter and I booked the four of us tickets to see Romeo and Juliet, the Prokofiev ballet, at the Liverpool Empire. We went out to dinner first and we still kept it a secret what we were going to see.

Arriving at the Empire, everywhere there were huge adverts and billboards for the act appearing the next week at the same venue. Misleading.

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If you could have seen my father’s face…

An absolute classic of horror and disappointment, quickly transformed to British stoicism and good manners, expressing delight in the prospect of an evening’s entertainment with these comedy stalwarts of the late seventies.

Nothing against Little and Large, by the way, but absolutely NOT an act that my parents would have enjoyed in a million-zillion years.

Romeo and Juliet was magic!

So are my memories.

Caroline has a Good Idea

A Good Idea to turn adversity into triumph…

On Tuesday, the weather was like this:

Only far less artistic. Cold, wet, windy and unpleasant.

On Wednesday, the sun came out. Hoorah! But my car wasn’t celebrating. On the way back from the yard, coming up the hill into Buxted, dear Olive Oil the Freelander started making the most horrendous ear-shattering jet engine noises and struggled to get home.

I am not THAT stupid, dear readers. I managed to work out that it was the exhaust, so I phoned Mr. KwikFit and he said, ‘Bring it straight in!’ – as straight as the road allowed, given all the bends.

Enter Caroline’s Good Idea.

Rufus, the slightly nervous labrador, needed exercise – I don’t take him to the yard with the other two at the moment because he’s anxious around horses. Why not take him with me in to town to KwikFit and walk home the couple of miles over the fields?

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Toby, Bonnie and Rufus by Tim Coxon

WHAT A GOOD IDEA!

It all started so well…a bit on the muddy side, but well…

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Thanks again, Tim Coxon

 

Not for long.

I ventured into the flood plain and ended up wading thigh-deep along what was meant to be a footpath, with Rufus swimming along beside me.

We took a slight detour across a marginally-less flooded field, only to discover that at the end of it was a gate with barbed wire along the top and a notice on the other side.

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There was no bull – or the bull was fully-submerged so I didn’t notice him.

But then I was lost. Lost and wet and very cold.

I was drenched up to the tops of my legs and Rufus was soaked all over and covered in mud. I approached some guys doing some fencing (as in boundaries round fields not as in pointy sword fighting). I asked for directions. One of them said the magic words, ‘I’ll give you a lift home, as long as you don’t mind having the dog on your lap in the front of my van.’

His van was fairly respectable (at the start of the journey).

So – a HUGE thank you to J P B Fencing of Waldron, for a generous act of Good Samaritan proportions.

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I have just now sent an email to convey more thanks.

So Caroline’s Good Idea, which could so nearly have been a catastrophe, turned out to be a demonstration of kindness.

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Out of clutter, find simplicity.

Said Einstein. And Wendell Berry said, ‘“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”

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Yes, New Year. A sort of resolution. Clear out the clutter in my study. Actually, first clear out Peter’s clutter in my study (once his) so I have more room for my own clutter…

In doing so, I came across all my university files and very, VERY nearly threw them onto the bonfire of the vanities.

But not quite.

I just couldn’t bring myself do it. Let me see, these are now forty years old or thereabouts. When am I ever going to need an essay entitled ‘Which novel seems the more prurient in attitude to sexual love, Moll Flanders or Clarissa?’ or ‘Pope’s ability to convey feeling in verse,’ or some notes on Plato’s Republic, named,  by me, ‘Ever Such A Jolly Brief Summary.’ (Plainly, I’ve hardly matured at all!)

These files are indubitably clutter but they represent three of the happiest most carefree years of my life, spent at the University of Liverpool (English and Philosophy, Joint Hons.)

I started reading the comments after the essays. Anything to avoid my self-imposed clutter-ridding exercise…

Hmmm…

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This, about William Faulkner, was from my absolute heroine, American Studies tutor, Hermione Lee. I’m blushing with unseemly pride.

But…oh look, B Minus Minus (How on earth is that extra minus designated?) on Tamburlaine… apparently I write ‘fluently – too fluently, one feels’? Hee hee hee! Whoever this tutor was…not a heroine, obviously.

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And lookie here! The cover of my D.H. Lawrence notebook…those EEEEEEEs in creep are unmistakably Peter’s writing. No-one writes an E like Peter does. Thanks, Peter. Supportive even then!

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So how can I throw all  this away?

It would be like throwing away myself.