Introverts And Orators

It is now Week 4 of the semester, meaning that exactly one third will soon be behind me – and that in turn means that it won’t be long before I have to start thinking about assessments. In my Creative Voice module, one of these will involve reading my work out loud, and since a lot of us on the course are somewhat introverted, there is a certain amount of apprehension surrounding the prospect. The seminar I went to yesterday morning attempted to reduce this by letting us know exactly what was expected of us – perfect diction isn’t, thankfully – and giving us some experience of reading aloud to each other so constructive feedback could be given. In order to do the latter, we needed something to read, and that was naturally the point at which we got to flex our creative muscles. Our tutor showed us a selection of photographs – some with prompts, some without – and we had to use the resulting inspiration to write a paragraph for each of them.

Once we had done that, we had to choose our own personal favourites so that we could expand on what we’d written and read it to our groups. My chosen photograph was a close-up shot of the face of an older man with a grey moustache baring his slightly dirty teeth at the camera. I just want to share what I wrote with you – the paragraph is from the perspective of a character who has had to deal with the loss of their father. I was able to read it well despite having a voice that is weaker than normal due to illness, and fortunately the rest of my group couldn’t see much wrong with it. Can you?

“When Dad passed away last year, I was numb with grief for months. Nothing helped – I wasn’t in the mood to eat, listen to music or talk to my friends. I think my circumstances were made worse by the fact that I only had memories of Dad, and surprisingly little that physically reminded me of him. I didn’t even have a decent photo, but I eventually found the most unlikely perfect snapshot. Dad was a clever and caring man, but to say he was slightly clumsy would be putting it lightly. Sometimes it would be like he couldn’t even chew gum and walk in a straight line, but he always took these shortcomings with good humour – that was Dad, laughing until the end. There’s no question he’d want me to laugh too, so what could be better than that infamous photograph he tried to take one family barbecue? When Dad was faced with brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, cousins and grandparents all jostling for position in one shot, he was evidently looking at a recipe for disaster. The best that he ended up with – thanks to his endless fumbling with the camera – wasn’t something that could take pride of place on our mantelpiece for years to come, but a close-up view of his distinctive grey moustache and his not-so-pearly whites. It doesn’t even show his whole face, but to my surprise, I really couldn’t care less. I know if he were here now he’d be laughing, and it was thanks to him that for the first time in months, I was able to laugh too. It was the best parting gift I could have asked for.”

Mason

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Snowball Territory

Allow me to present those of you who may not have seen it with another photo I simply couldn’t keep from you. The snow arrived in Winchester yesterday evening, and the university had earlier anticipated that it would be bad enough to cause significant disruption. They therefore announced that all classes would finish at 4pm, and resume at 12pm today – one of my tutors seemed very pleased when he discovered mid-seminar that he would be going home early. The expected onslaught was slow to materialise, however, and I did not see any kind of real flurry until 7pm, on my way across to Lara’s flat. By the early hours of the morning, though, the snow had become considerably heavier, and our curiosity to explore – even at around 1am – led to the picture below being taken. It might look like a fairly light dusting of icing sugar compared to some of the images you’ll see today, but believe me when I say it was ideal for snowballs. An annoyed Ben discovered this the hard way when he wouldn’t come out, leading Lara to take one to his bedroom just so he could be pelted with it!

Mason

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Grapeness

Just in case you aren’t friends with me on Facebook, or don’t follow me on Twitter, I thought I’d post this photo here (I couldn’t resist, frankly). In an ideal world, I’d have something mildly interesting to say about it as well, but the simple fact of the matter is that it just made me smile – and I hope it can have the same effect on you. Have some Monday motivation, courtesy of something I found on a university lift!

Mason

The Cultural Relevance Of Apple Crumble

You know how I’ve showcased a few small pieces of miscellaneous writing on here recently? Well, the first examples of 2019 are ready! The first is the title of this post, one of those bizarrely amusing phrases I felt I had to note down, even though it does not actually refer or apply to anything – not even apple crumble. It was just a throwaway remark made in my Creative Non-Fiction seminar last week, but as soon as I heard it, I knew it was destined to end up written somewhere, probably here. Shortly afterwards, I also heard the phrase “an envelope full of Austrian tea”, and that was another strong candidate for a title – but given the dessert-based title of the last post, I thought it best to keep that minor theme going.

The second piece of writing comes from my Poetry class on Monday – and, more specifically, from a supplement my tutor received with his copy of The Guardian, dated 12 January. In one of our creative exercises, he tore out a page for each of us, and we looked through these for interesting words and phrases we could use in a poem. As I recall, all that was required was a sudden change in tone at the end, and although it was challenging to incorporate this, I gave it my best shot. See what you make of this – pieced together from what I found in two entirely unrelated articles.

“The lonely life of an outsider

He nonetheless professed to cherish

Six months’ house arrest

And five years’ probation.

 

But as he tried to make sense of the stars

An undying love affair with the cosmos began.

Stars look like snowflakes

Astronomy is an art

The most beautiful sight in orbit

For a journalist-turned-teacher

And alcoholic boyfriend.

That may not be a story you’re familiar with

But trust me, it’s not one you need to know.”

 

Mason

Lemon Drizzle Cake

I returned to Winchester yesterday morning for the start of my second semester, and I must admit that upon doing so, I found a room that was just a little bit tidier than it was when I left it a month ago (not that it was a pigsty). I often live in a state of what I like to call “organised chaos”, in a room that is somewhat cluttered and yet still easy enough to navigate – in spite of any mess, I still know where everything is. When I entered this room, though, in its current condition, I did for once appreciate just how relaxed and satisfied a totally uncluttered space could make me. Having thrown away most of the paper from last semester that was no longer needed, I could actually see most of my desk, and to preserve this newfound neatness Mum stacked my books at the back of it, right against the wall. This simple touch means that it will be much easier to work on it and move things around it as I please. As I sit at my desk now, typing this, with my phone to my left and a coffee and arrowword book to my right, I am calm, and I know this because of how easily I am writing and how well the words are flowing. This feels like a good omen for the weeks to come.

No matter how comfortable I am here, though, I couldn’t leave Somerset without something to remind me of home. In this instance, I have a lemon drizzle cake Mum lovingly prepared the day before we left. My brother got one to take with him too, although Mum informs me that his is slightly misshapen compared to mine, so I’m going to take that as cast-iron confirmation that I am her favourite son after all. Nobody is more surprised than me that the cake is still with us, and that it hasn’t been completely devoured mere hours after my return. At this moment only one slice is missing, and the entire dish sits obscured from my view – on a table behind me, tightly wrapped in foil – so that I can’t be tempted. So far, the plan is working a treat. It needed to, judging by how quickly I demolished most of the chocolate I received on Christmas Day. For the time being, it waits patiently, while fulfilling two important roles. Not only is it a delicious piece of home baking that will soon be very gratefully received by my stomach, but it is also a reassuring presence that soothes me even further – I know it could potentially be valuable comfort food at a time of need.

Mason

The Old And The New

New Year’s resolutions, as we all know, are tough things for anyone to keep. Say you’ve opted to give up chocolate for a month – or alcohol, perhaps as part of Dry January. It might be that you sail through successfully without so much as a second thought, but for some people, mere hours will pass before that next morsel or drop touches their lips. When that happens, they’re straight back to square one, retreating sheepishly from their broken oaths with their tails between their legs. Whilst I can’t recall personally making any major resolutions in recent years, I would be very surprised if I haven’t been guilty of something like that at one time or another. With this in mind, I have decided that the two resolutions I have made for 2019 will stay between me, myself and I – and will not be widely revealed until further notice.

You might have guessed that this is simply because I will not have to face the embarrassment of breaking either resolution after having loudly announced it to everyone. If I pursue them, and they are resounding successes, I can tell you all about them with pride and no shame. If they don’t work out, I can tell you, but I won’t feel quite as much of a numpty if I do so without having made a fuss beforehand. That’s the strategy I’m going to follow – it is likely to provide me with some future blog material, if nothing else. It means that for now, I’m going to be cryptic. One of my resolutions will be a blast from the past that might be familiar to some of you, and the other is something new entirely – but both will be anonymous until I decide otherwise. Who knows? I might actually get around to doing something I’ve told you I’ll do!

Mason

A Heart Full Of Hope

Here we are, folks – my very first post for 2019. I can safely say that 2018 was a corker of a year for me, and although I spent the last few hours of New Year’s Eve alone at home, I did so with a belly full of pizza and a heart full of hope, so I was more than happy. I used some of that quality time to continue reading a book Lara bought me as a Christmas present, Agatha Christie’s Evil Under The Sun, which features none other than Hercule Poirot himself. She got it upon hearing that I’d never read any of Christie’s work, and told me that I’d find it very easy to become immersed in the story. She was absolutely right – as I write this, I am 93 pages and seven chapters in, at a point where many probing questions are being asked of every potential murderer. I got there in no time, and my enjoyment of this new book in my spare time has subsequently increased my excitement for what lies ahead at Winchester even more.

Of course, nothing by Agatha Christie is on the reading list, but a few other books are, and two of them arrived yesterday. I am yet to look at them properly, but both are works of non-fiction – and as you might have gathered, I’m rather fond of life writing. The opportunity to read about the experiences, trials and tribulations of others is always tantalising, as is the opportunity to write straight from the heart about my own. The prospect of so much creativity from that and my other modules – including one actually called “Creativity”, and one on poetry, which I have always enjoyed – makes this January much more inviting, since I can’t yet tell what new ideas will manifest themselves, or how. I don’t know what will happen outside of my work either. The world is once again my oyster and as always, the unknown is very exciting. I can’t wait to go and see what it’s all about! Before that, though, I have another very precious fortnight left here at home – and before that, there is a brand new episode of Doctor Who for me to enjoy coming tonight. I fully intend to make the most of both.

Happy New Year to you all!

Mason