Thing 29: Meet all of my internet friends!

This is super exciting.

OK, so it hasn’t happened yet, but my three best internet friends and I have made a pact to get together for the first time, in five years time. This is something we have been talking about for years, and with a spread between Europe, the US, and New Zealand, we’re a pretty far-flung bunch. So it’s not like we can just meet up whenever we feel like it. When I visited New York last year for my birthday we were thinking of having a mini US meetup then, but unfortunately that fell through. This, however, won’t. I’m sure. I don’t know where I’ll be in five years time, but when that trip comes around I’m going to meet these ladies and it’s going to be awesome!

It has been… about 12 years since we met (I think!). When The Two Towers came out in the UK I became a full-on fangirl: forums, fanfiction, elvish screennames, baking lembas bread in the kitchen – all of that. The forum in question that brought us together was called Council of Elrond, and we have since migrated through LiveJournal, to Facebook and Twitter, and onto Tumblr. I mentioned my early online nerdom in this old post on social media and the internet. What I didn’t mention then was how much I feel I’ve grown with these ladies. They are my longest/oldest friends. When anything went wrong during those fragile teenage years, I trusted them for advice. When I got accepted into uni, we celebrated together. Marriages, children (not mine) – we’ve seen a wide range of things. A friend recently asked me how I felt about having online friends, and I immediately started gushing about how exciting and brilliant everything was. Apart from the not meeting part, obviously.

The plan so far is to visit New Zealand, and tour the Lord of the Rings landscapes that brought us together. This also means that, if I plan it right, Thing 30: Visit Fiji, might also get a look in. Gods know if I’m flying that far I need to hit as many birds with that fearful stone as I can…

So this is a mini update for now – and bloody hell do I owe this blog some more updates! But this is a start. Thing 29: In progress.

x _kimguin

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Thing 15: Go to Mexico/fly alone – part one

I’ve only ever been good at air travel when I was too young to know any better. Between the ages of 18 months and about 10 years I was a dream companion: slept well, excited about the plane, talkative, finished meals – even on the ten hour trawls to Vancouver we made semi-regularly throughout my childhood to visit family. From the age of 10, however, the unreality of it all struck me and I became the worst traveller you could luck out and get stuck with. It’s not that I’m scared of flying, or falling, but the whole experience is so alien and there are just so many aspects I can find to dislike! Something changed in me, and previously comfortable air travel turned into a nightmarish, long, experience; packed like sardines into a plasticky, cold and yet unfresh-air conditioned tube with tens of other passengers, terrifyingly loud suction toilet flushes and – worst of all – the cloying small of overmicrowaved, tinfoil-covered food… ugh.

tinfulofpeople

I’m still convinced now that flight is a myth: they surely just rearrange your surroundings while you sit, distracted, in your metal tube with other passengers…

Anyway, the point really is that I hated flying, to the point where the fear of being ill onboard (usually during the sickening landing process) brought me out in a cold sweat and I avoided eating pretty much throughout the travel experience, and probably in advance as well. A tip: just because you don’t eat, doesn’t mean that your body won’t try to be sick – but it will be much worse.

Now, I have to admit, I’ve made some progress. For last year’s birthday, two friends and I spent two weeks in New York and the seven-hour flight together was pretty uneventful (aside from an elbowed water glass onto a sleeping friend on the return journey – oops). I even enjoyed the food!

But when my boyfriend was successfully awarded a three-week travel scholarship to Mexico, courtesy of his course of study and work at Kew Gardens, and suggested we make a holiday of a final fourth week to mark the end of my MSc – I was a little petrified. The flight would be long, I’d have to eat more plane food, and I’d have to get out there on my own. There would be nobody to hold my hand, or the sickbag, and I would be solely responsible.

But hey, adults fly alone all the time – why shouldn’t I be one of them? So, pushing my fear to the back of my mind for most of the process, we happily went about booking a one-week stay in a beautiful all-inclusive resort near Cancun, on the Caribbean coast and near the second largest reef in the world. We booked everything in January, and up until about three weeks before I would still hyperventilate from time to time at the thought of flying, let alone flying on my own.

17th May came along, my parents kindly (so kindly!) drove me to Gatwick airport where I checked in, remembered my passport, and we ate M&S samosas. I made it through security, through duty free almost unscathed (new eyeliner! Still in the box!), and then onto the departure gate.

firstflighttweet

At this point I was actually not as terrified as I look in this grainy photograph. (Also, can someone tell me if taking photos in airports is illegal? I’m still waiting for the knock on the door.) I felt oddly calm. Resigned. Confident. The plane was there. I was there. My only toothbrush was aboard and I was going to follow that bastard to Cancun.

Through the tube, onto the plane, past the space-age booths and vastly-abundant legroom section, into cattle class where I was seated happily in an emergency exit seat. Apart from a mild disaster trying to extricate the tiny screen from under my seat so that I could fall asleep in front of Marvel’s Thor 2: The Dark World and fail to hear any of Inside Llewyn Davis, and a weirdly dehydrated salmon sandwich – all went well. Having selected a special ‘low lactose meal’ I was fed first – score! Unfortunately, low lactose was equivalent to low taste, and my salad, chicken with carrots, and fruit wasn’t as exciting (and almost as low lactose)as the thai curry and chocolate pudding that the couple next to me ate. But hey, what can you do? Despite a new selection of Kindle books, and far too  many viewing options I was sufficiently bored and hungry about 8 hours in that I began to feel totally sick – not a good sign. But in spite of a rather graphic nature documentary (thanks for nothing, Attenborough) I managed to doze off long enough that by the time we arrived in Cancun I was ready and excited.

In Part Two: the trip to Mexico.

As a final few words here, however: I FLEW ALONE! I WASN’T SICK! I REMEMBERED EVERYTHING I NEEDED! For me, this is a big achievement. Since my anti-plane tendencies developed I’ve been worrying that the sickness or fear of sickness would really prevent me from going places in future – quite literally, if you’ll pardon the pun. I now know that I can do this thing along with a lot of other humans, and I have it in me to not only tolerate flying, but kind of enjoy it. I do know what I’m doing, and I don’t have to just keep it together long enough to get to the other side, but I can actually relax up there and eat my weird low-lactose food and read my books. Thing 15: firmly ticked off.

 

Two Point Oh.

OK, so I  lied.

Since I’ve been studying for my MSc I’ve been quietly making a list in the back of my mind of Things I Would Do If… And now I’ve come to the end of it (almost) it’s time to live the dream. There is a list of 30 Things I aim to do before I’m 30 above, and starting most likely from next week I’ll be beginning actually achieving some things!

For some reason, and I think I’ve moaned about this here, I don’t like writing goals for life. I kind of fall into things and adapt to them. It’s going pretty well. And people who plan things have always scared me a bit (and rarely stuck tot hem, in my experience). But when I noticed that I’d be developing  a wishlist this did seem like the sensible thing to do.

So this is just a holding post, to be honest, a preparation for the real thing. I hope you’ll keep reading and give me tips – there’s still 3 more things to fill on the list!

Thanks!

_kimguin

Swim, you bugger. Swim.

So I finally finished listening to Radio 4’s adaptation of Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and totally loved it. Why haven’t I read this book?!

Seaton is terrible, and prejudiced, and wants to believe he’s entitled to everything, but in the arrogant, mistake-riddled way he carries on – he’s kind of lovable. My favourite scenes by far were those in which he was fishing – suddenly he became philosophical, thoughtful, calm. I thought these scenes were very well done; quiet, with Seaton’s voice taking centre stage in contrast to the clatter of the pubs he so often frequents, and the clamouring of other voices alongside his own. These quiet moments, and the scene in which he buys Doreen chocolate and finally admits to be courting, are lovely interludes that would be nowhere near as interesting if it weren’t for the rest of the play.

In absolute contrast to this, my second favourite moment – if I can call it that – was the haphazard abortion enacted by Arthur on his married girlfriend Brenda, alongside her angry and loyal friend, whose name I helpfully can’t remember. I listened to this at work, and had the distinct feeling of the walls closing in on me, as Arthur continued filling the bath with hot water, and Brenda threatened to throw up the pint of gin she was forced to swallow neat. As she sobbed, and Arthur raged, the scene built to a saddening crescendo, and after it was over the silence was, to be cliche, deafening. It’s a scene I both look forward to reading, and wish I wasn’t already aware of.

While listening to these scenes the contrast between Seaton in public and Seaton in private really struck me. In my currently-failing attempt at a novel, I’m falling victim to self-censorship. The protagonist is too plain, too boring, and won’t contradict herself. Or rather, I won’t let her. I noticed (stupidly) that Seaton is two very different people, and that made him more, rather than less interesting. So I was indeed being quite dense and obstructive by failing to admit that my protagonist could also have this sort of flaw.  Obviously, now the problem is that I have to work out what her flaws are (SO many problems, where to begin), but at least this was something.

In other news, I was pleasantly surprised to find that two lovely humans had commented on my old review of another R4 radioplay: A Special Kind of Dark. Many thanks! And thank you for reminding me that I have a blog…

I’ll leave it to the excellent Timwilldestroyyou to explain:

In other other news, I am seriously considering getting a Tumblr account. But then what will this blog be for, I hear none of you ask? Well, indeed. I don’t know. But given that in the past 6 months I’ve written two draft posts that never got published, it looks like PGP is dying a death. And don’t I need a place to reblog gifs and angry rantings?

As ever, thoughts and comments appreciated. Although I might go behind your back and do it anyway. No offence, duck.

New Project, Excuses, Holiday Snaps

I’ve been away from this blog for just over a month now (apologies), and out of the country for just over a week (got back on Monday), so when I returned to work this week I found that there were a lot of new radio plays to listen to on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4Extra (or R7, as it used to be).

I’ve found that listening to radio plays while working is very therapeutic, and I’m considering downloading e-books so I can claim to have ‘read’ the classics while I count things and email things and scan things and deal with enquiries that allow me to listen to something in the background.

Another thing I’ve been meaning to do is mention this,and possibly mention some of those radio plays that I’ve enjoyed – but because I’m lazy the first thing I did was to google reviews. I was very surprised to find only one site that reviewed the plays I’d been listening to (if at all!), but on the plus side it’s a really good site! http://www.radiodramareviews.com/index.html has been interesting,  but I’ve been lacking the ability to make my own comments.

So what I’m proposing now – now that I’ve just about finished my first year of Library School – is to collect my opinions on these plays I keep on listening to, and work out what I like and what I don’t. This is a selfish project, but I’m hoping that there’s others out there who will find it interesting. Another thing I’d like to do one day is write a radio play, and so I’m pretty sure that much like studying and reading books so as to improve writing them, listening to and thinking about radio plays will help me to work out what on earth I should be doing in future to write a decent one that can be broadcast on Radio 4!

Expect thoughts and review soon! Watch this (previously unoccupied) space!

In the meantime, the reasons I’ve been quiet: essays and holidays!

Bulb fields and Windmills 🙂

My boyfriend is a plant nerd horticulturalist, and so our trip to Holland was filled with bulb fields and horticultural shows and my insistence that if I lived in such a flat place as Holland I would cycle everywhere and it would always be very pretty and isn’t that a good idea – maybe I should move.

The best idea.

We did perhaps slightly too much travelling for a short period of time (I am a lazy soul, after all), but we did see a number of very beautiful things.

“Flying Dutchman”

And this totally boiled off in the thermal spa we visited 😦

Oh no, Poetry

This is note for me as much as for anyone reading this that April is National Poetry Month.

And as such, I will be participating in NaPoWriMo. After last year’s NaNoWriMo defeat (acknowledged and decided upon to make myself feel better) I vowed to participate in NaPoWriMo this coming month instead.

Why?

I’ve always considered myself to be more a poet than a fiction-writer. The reasons for this are probably more complicated then I have yet realised, but when asked I tell people it’s because I don’t have the intellectual capacity nor grand ideas to Write A Novel.
This may be true.
What is also true is that I like poetry. I like taking little wordy snapshots of what I see and/or feel or what I make up for others (often fictional) to see and/or feel. I like to play around with words and shapes, and sometimes sounds, in a way that fiction can let you, but which my brand of fiction doesn’t. I want to be self-indulgent, and with poetry I feel that I can do just that. And I don’t even care whether it’s read or liked! Fiction wants readers to inhabit and get lost in its world, poetry stands alone and asks you questions. I like that.

In addition to NaPoWriMo, April is also the month of Finishing LIS Assignments and Going on Holiday – so I picked a good time to write a poem every single day. However, I guess that’s the aim of the thing: overcome adversity and keep swimming.

So, if you’re so inclined, please do check back over April where I will hopefully be posting the products of my NaPoWriMo challenge every day. (Apart from the last week, during which I will be abroad. I’m telling you now so you know I’m not cheating.)

Looking forward to a busy April!

The List

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I’ve been rabbiting on slightly about Big Plans and Small Plans and whether reading Ulysses counts as Big or Small. Among other things.

Planners scare me. Big Planners intimidate me. Isn’t it enough to know what I’m doing for the next four years?! (Kind of no choice and all, unless I quit the MSc, but you know…) And in the next four years, I don’t think I will be travelling the world and changing it for everyone. So then, I’ll be 20-something-else – and is that too late?

I’m going to guess right now that the answer to that is ‘no’. And that it’s the attitude that makes the difference. My ‘little’ dreams will keep me happy and I still have time to find a really, really BIG one.

Having said that, I have a feeling that my real big dream wouldn’t be to go everywhere and change everything, but stay in my head and make something really awesome that goes out there and does it for me.

The first time I had this panic, I made a little list of Things I’d Like to Do. I’m going to share what I have of a List so far. No laughing!

  • Visit Japan (Tokyo, Sakura festival), and improve Japanese
  • Poetry collection published by Faber
  • Ice skating
  • Burlesque dancing
  • Visiting Peru
  • Learning Hindi, visiting Fiji
  • Radio 4 Radioplay
  • Finish Ulysses
  • Space flight
  • King’s Medical Humanities MA
  • Living by the sea
  • Novel??

Once I hit ‘publish’ then the list is real and everyone can laugh, I mean, share their own stupid ideas…

So, yeah – any Plans, Big or Small? Or Ridiculous? Oh, and feel free to yell at me for suggesting that size is important.

(Re)Learning to Write

I realised some time ago that I stopped writing poetry at about the same time that my first major relationship broke down. At the time I didn’t know whether to feel sad about it, or that it was too melodramatic. Did it even matter that I had stopped writing? And what did it say that without him I had nothing to write about?

For a long while, when I was much younger I hasten to add, all I wrote about was him: how he made me feel, what he was like, where we were going etc etc. and if I had stopped writing when we broke up, surely I wasn’t really Writing anyway, I was just being indulgent.

In the two years since realising this, I’ve written on and off, and started this blog as an attempt to get used to writing and sharing writing again. I thought that with an audience I might want to write more, and differently, and that mythical ‘inspiration’ might strike and make me into a Poet at any given moment and that you would all be pleased for me.

As you can see, it hasn’t really gone that way. However, today I think I have learned something about Myself as a Writer – and something about what that means.

I took an hour out from my sick bed this afternoon (once I stopped wondering if I was going to throw up every 20 minutes) and walked around the nature reserve across the road. I sat on the bench by the pond, perched on tree stumps, logs, fallen trees, took detours, ran – for the hell of it – and found myself writing. And the thing is, I know I couldn’t have done that if I’d have been with someone else.

This is, of course, not a slight on the people I spend my time with. They’re lovely and wonderful and keep me busy and stop all the introspection that has always caused me to write poetry in the first place. But today it was comforting to realise that writing these little snippets might actually be something that I do, and not just a product of indulgence and suggestion. And that I don’t need a personal trigger, I’m not just a person who write about Things That Have Happened To Her, I can think outside of the box.

I’ve realised that I can write on my own, in fact, I’m much better at this sort of thing alone. I can forget other people long enough to be myself, as the postcard in my bedroom says.

I fact, I could be learning, or re-learning depending on your point of view, how to write the sort of thing that could be read, and the kind of thing that reflects me. I’ve always said I’m no good at photography, and I can’t draw to save my life. So I was a little surprised today to find that what I was writing were little pictures caused by the things around me. Back in the day when I was writing about Feelings and the like, I would have laughed at the thought of myself writing poems about nature, and the world. “I’m not William fucking Wordsworth”, I would have thought. And I’m not!. So while the things I penned today are still Things That Happened, they’re (hopefully) more accessible, and more reflective of where I’ve gone with this. There is more to write about than Feelings, and I always knew that. It’s just nice to know that I can do that sort of writing – or at least, I have the potential to, as dangerous as potential is.

Learning to write again is a slow process, and it looks as though it will involve a lot of time spent on my own. But I kind of like that. I think I can work out how it’s done on my own. For the past eighteen months I’ve been hopefully carrying a notebook and pen around with my when friends and I go to visit nice places. Turns out, the nice places are irrelevant. It’s the being on my own that helps. Which explains why I always think of something to write when I’m doing something unconsciously; like driving, or washing up, or taking a shower – and not when I’m trying to do something complicated like remember how to co-ordinate all my limbs and breathing at the same time while at the gym.

Also, this means that NaPoWriMo may not be the terrible, painful, woeful struggle I expected it to be! But let’s not count the chickens yet…

Eleven Authors Whose Work I Will Read Any and All Of

Looking back at my childhood shelves I notice that I’ve always been really into “collecting” the work of certain authors – and I’m sure we all have favourites on our shelves at home that we could read again and again. In the interests of literary introspection, I began to list these favourite authors and thought – lucky you! – that I’d share them.

Terry Pratchett
I’ve stated on more than one occasion that if I ever went on Mastermind my specialist subject would be the History of Ankh-Morpork.

Paul Magrs
I somehow discovered Paul Magrs via the young adult novel Strange Boy and it totally blew me away. I could read this book every month and not get bored of it.

Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Penelopiad: there is no author I can think of who has such a way of reimagining the ordinary, and making me consider everything from my writing style, to my plots to my place in society. I can’t recommend her enough, and I would and will hope to read anything and everything she has written.

Douglas Adams
Perhaps controversially, I prefer the Dirk Gently series to Hitchhiker’s Guide. I feel I can say that having read all of these series, including the unfinished The Salmon of Doubt, but seriously, I could wax lyrical for some time about how great Dirk Gently is and why you ought to give it a go.

Jeanette Winterson
My English Literature teacher at Secondary school recommended Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and she was right. Since then I’ve read a number of her books, and I really can’t get over her use of language and imagery. I’m sure I could learn a lot from her – so I need to keep reading!

John Donne
Here’s another topic best saving for a full blog post. For my dissertation I read a lot of sermons as well as a lot of poetry – and if I still love him then there must be something there. I know a number of his poems by heart (mostly the rude ones such as Elegie XIX but also nicer ones such as The Good-Morrow). As a tip for Christmasses, etc, I’m collecting collections of his poetry. So, you know, just an idea.

JK Rowling
I say this, but hasn’t everyone? In fact, I didn’t read the spin off books, but I have read the Harry Potter series at least twice.

Jane Austen
I always stated I hated Jane Austen until I read Northanger Abbey and then I went back to read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility and realised how funny her work was. Not just a description of lovelorn ladies in big dresses!

J. R. R. Tolkien
After re-discovering The Lord of the Rings at school, I suddenly became obsessed with all things Tolkien. Including Leaf by Niggle. Having said this, I own The Silmarillion, but still can’t finish it. But ask me about the Sindarin noun-verb diclensions, or the Hobbits after the Ring and I may know a little something! Oh, and if you can’t find any Donne for Christmas, Tolkien editions are also accepted.

Oscar Wilde
Wilde is another author I’m glad to have discovered at school, and whose works I will happily collect in any edition. I’ve pored over the plays and consider The Picture of Dorian Gray to be among the most haunting stories I’ve ever read.

Jostein Gaarder
This one was rather a surprise when I looked back at my bookshelves. But I have the majority of his books. A wonderfully clever philosopher and storyteller, Gaarder’s novels are thought-provoking and vivid and very, very imaginative. Read Sophie’s World and consider how words are written on the inside of a banana skin…

So, who are your favourite authors? Who will you always return to for good writing – and why?