Back of the Pitt Building, Cambridge, UK. Near where I work.
I missed last week’s review – completely exhausted for various reasons and though I planned to do it Monday, other things cropped up. So let’s try for what’s been happening over the past two weeks.
Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.
Making a real attempt to start weekly updates on the blog each Sunday – am a little obsessed with trying to remember everything, and I think it would give me some peace of mind to make sure I do it, though whether or not an interesting read for everyone else, I cannot say! Also going to start doing Sunday in my City (though the picture may or may not have been taken on Sunday)…the above was taken Thursday.
Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.
( So, what's been happening with me? )
And that's about it I think...
Well, that's precisely what it turned out to be.
( IVFDF ramblings below cut )
I've been typing while sitting down, but then I went upstairs, and found some of my muscles were complaining a wee bit. I think that's the sign of a good weekend of dancing. I'll certainly be going again.
Meanwhile, on the blogging front, it's been a while since I've written anything here. I hope I will start writing more posts in the coming year. I keep meaning to, and then think I really ought to be doing other things, but I suspect writing here may keep me feeling a little more sane. :)
Now for a nice cup of tea and a bit of a break.
* will there be a large group of new people as we hoped?
* will the program we've put together entice said new people to come back?
* and will I manage to make it seem like I know what I'm doing?
The latter point is particularly narcissitic, and also a bit silly. It's coming on to eight years that I've been dancing, and a good few of those that I've been doing it seriously.
And as to the first two, they're beyond our control more or less. The dances that we have are good ones that we've tried before with beginners and seem to work in giving a good intro to SCD. I do perhaps need to write up a few dot points for an introduction, but it's not an inauguration speech, just a 'hi! Glad you could come, aim is to have fun tonight, let's get going!' Oh, and names as well. That's kind of important too.
Hm. That makes it a bit less scary. Stay tuned for the outcome post...
There'll be a bit of a break over summer in terms of dancing, and I think after the past six months, I'm going to need it! When term time picks up again in September it's going to be very full-on, with new people for the University club, and a beginners class for Branch. I look forward to them; but it will be a lot of work, so for now, time to enjoy a dancing hiatus for a bit. :)
I think it will be ok. Preparation is the key, reminders, and recital of the lesson plan over and over. I have till Saturday, and with Friday off, I think I'll have more than enough preparation time.
Wish me luck...
( then the bad )
( Dancing and Newcastle )
( Me at Grey's Monument, Newcastle city centre )
In other news, I'm very happy to see the daffodils up at last; they make me very happy. See new icon for the ones that have sprung up in our barrel in the back garden, and these two pictures under the cut: ( Daffodils from barrel )
My orchid has also completely blossomed now, and I love it to pieces (probably the purple colour, but also the fact that following my horticulturist neighbours advice has worked!)( Three pictures of my orchid )
And also, if you ever wonder what happens to potatoes if you leave them in the cupboard for ages...( wonder no more )
That was an interesting thing to pull out of the pantry today!
In terms of blogging stuff, I'm itching to do an update of what turned out to be a busy first three months of 2010, which I may do after I've eaten dinner which is in the oven right now. Have happily though as a result of this post deleted a few drafts I've made as a result of attempting to blog. Makes the whole journal feel a bit 'cleaner' if you will.
At any rate, I'd like to do this before heading off to Madrid to see my sister for Easter. She has the net over there so I'll hopefully update on being there whilst I'm there, though from 8-12 April I'll be visiting a friend, K, in the French Alps, where he tells me the net is rather sparse. But I think I can cope without it for a little while. ;)
I'm wondering if this is partly because I'm starting to figure out where I'm going to be for the next few years. I have thoughts and plans on that, nothing set in stone yet, but I'm liking the general idea I have for the next little while.
(Am perhaps also frantic because I put my hand up to take on the treasurer position at the Reel club if no one else comes forward. I suspect, though, that no one else is going to be coming forward. I suspect by next year I will be regretting this action, but for now...well, it's going to be a fun and frantic year!)
But I'm getting my train ticket sorted out now, there is some spag bol in the slow cooker, and I have plenty of ideas for the brief lesson I'm to do on Sunday. That really should be the first thing to get done before I think about the writing catch-up I need to do, the emails I want to send, the...
Oh dear, there I go again.
Why am I in such a good mood? Well, partly because the frantic month of February is behind me, but also because the weather and the season is exactly as it was when I arrived in the UK one year ago. From tomorrow I will have been here for a whole year. Wow.
I feel...settled now. Which is great. I spent last year figuring a few things out, how this new life was going to work, what I wanted to get out being in the UK, Cambridge in particular, what this 'actually being a writer rather than just wanting to write' thing meant. I'm still working through it all, and probably always will be - the constant need to assess and reassess one's life I suppose never goes away. But now I think I've found something of a place here, and I'm glad for that.
The Ball on Saturday night went extremely well. The club president did a great job in getting it all together and keeping us on track for the behind-the-scenes preparation, and the demo was really a lot of fun. I particularly liked seeing dancers who were, well...younger than the usual set of SCD people. ;) Next year it's on Oxford, which will be a good excuse for me to go over and see it, I think.
Yesterday I crawled out of bed and managed to get my writing done - catch up from the day before as well, and I do have to say the prose I got out was pretty garbled - some pretensions to coherency, but not much! It's probably because I'm getting into parts of the novel that I only have vague ideas about, so I think it's going to feel much more like Nanowrimo-esque writing for the next little while.
After that I trotted out for my first ladies' step dancing class which was an interesting challenge, requiring more concentration than I'm used to needing for dancing - at a regular SCD class I'm usually physically worrying about my footwork as opposed to which step, which direction. It was a lot of fun though, so I'll be heading back to it when I can.
So, March...what will this month, and indeed, this year, have install for me?
One mouthful at a time.
Am wondering if that should actually be my journal title from now on (or should that be eating the dragon...will think on that.)
I really want to make an update about what's been going on in my life for the past month and a half, because I just, you know, want to keep a record of it. But I think I'll wait till after the Highland Ball and after ladies' step class on Sunday afternoon (which will be my first one so I'm quite looking forward to it.)
In the meantime...the work event went very yesterday. Colleague who supervises me was very happy with it, so am really pleased about that, and the attendees seemed to enjoy themselves too. But wow, 90 people. I think we've got a good system now for this particular event. Now I feel I can get back into the emails I keep meaning to send, the waaay over due library books I need to read (one finished today, yes! Two more to go...boo. :( )
Luckily my writing didn't suffer too much as a result of all this. Did about 1000 words today, which was partly catch up from the 100 I didn't so on Wed or Thurs, plus today's, but also I had a think about how else to do this and produce more words more frequently. So...I'm going to experiment with the base goal of 100 words a day still, but aim on my days off, including weekends, for 500 words on those days. I initially thought I do 1000 on a Monday and a Friday, but then thought why not spread that out over the four days I'm not working? Am hoping this will be workable. Day one only so will reassess come the end of March.
But the 100 words a day plan has stood me in good stead. So far this year: 7700 new words. It doesn't seem like a lot for two months, but I have really loved checking in on the novel on a more regular basis than last year.
That's it for now, till Sunday evening...
What struck me as I read the article was not my writing rituals, but rather ones I associate with dancing. Tonight (Wednesday) was the advanced class, and it always begins with the same warm up each week. The teachers has said in the past she wishes she could bring some variation to it, but after reading the article, I was struck by the fact that the same warm-up routine, done ever week, doesn't just warm and prepare the muscles, but it also puts my mind in the right place to be dancing as best as I can.
I love the warm-up. I honestly hope our teacher doesn't change it anytime soon! :)
It also occurs to me that I have few if any writing rituals, but perhaps need some. But how to find something that doesn't feel forced/false/pretentious/useless? There's bound to be something, I know. Perhaps something else to look for this year. Actually, yes, that's precisely something fit in with what I hope to get out of 2010.
One thing I did even before leaving Sydney was do a quick check online to see if there were any Scottish Country Dancing clubs in Cambridge. Or rather, I highly suspected there would be, but I wanted to confirm my assumption with actual evidence. I was keen to continue with dancing, both as a social activity and to maintain my standard of footwork and other dancing skills. Further more, I wanted to be able to complete my teaching certificate.
And I was in luck. Cambridge has a very active dance scene - the University Reel club has classes on Monday night, and hosts a joint advanced class on Wednesday with the RSCDS branch class too. Tuesday is the regular branch class, and Thursday the Scottish Society holds a social night of general dancing. I have tried out all the classes now, and having decided that dancing four nights a week is perhaps a wee bit much, aim to go at least for the Wednesday class, and if I can manage it the Monday one. I may do the Thursday night classes again, but we'll have to see, time permitting and all. The Tuesday night branch classes, however, I will be more likely to be teaching rather than actually attending, which I did for a couple of weeks before Christmas as part of my certificate training.
I've also been going to plenty of dances and balls and the like, and they are often tiring. Cambridge has a reputation for putting on dances that include very intricate, quite complex dances that tax the brain as much as the feet. And they will often neither recap or walk them through! I should add this has only been two of the balls I've been to; there are plenty of others that are more standard.
Then there is the certificate classes. These full-on weekend classes, and are being run in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, and I have made the trip over there twice so far, and will make it there several times more before June 19-20 when the exams will be taking place. They are intense to say the least, last time in particular, but I have learned an awful lot and will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year.
The next thing I do need to plan is a trip to St Andrew's Summer School. Something else to add to the to-do list, I think...for those who don't know about dancing, this annual event is the event for Scottish Country Dancers, the place that a lot of people who dance want to go to at least once in their lives (if overseas). It runs for a month, and you can select the week you wish to go to during that month. So we'll see if that happens this year.
I've also been asked to be Branch Secretary for this year...and I have perhaps stupidly accepted. Well, will accept at the AGM, unless something untoward happens before that time. So we'll see how that goes...
And I suspect that's all I have to say about dancing for now. No doubt I'll be posting more on it as the year goes on (post will likely be replete with 'OMG WHY DID I DECIDE TO DO THIS CERTIFICATE THING ARGGHHH!' come close to June...)
Next entry - Pretensions to Culture (or, stuff I've seen and read in 2009, but with a pretension title. Aptly enough...)
The other good news is my cold is subsiding. I spent most of the afternoon/evening in bed yesterday, partly just trying to keep warm and party because I wasn't in the mood to do much of anything. It appears to have done me good. Nose is no longer dripping like a tap and I'm definitely feeling a bit perkier. The self-medication of strepsils (supplied by house mate), lemsip, tea, and bovril seems to have worked, despite the lack of appetite (tis nearly 4pm, and I have only eaten some bread, but I suspect food will seem appealing later this evening).
I do have photos of the snow, but my Facebook account is being funny and doesn't seem to want to let me share things with people who aren't on it...does this link work for anyone who isn't on there?
Snow in Cambridge
Else I might post them to photobucket or the like if that fails.
Right...more tea or bovril is in order now I think.
The good news is that I have finally finished my workbook (short name for the much more official 'Record of Teaching Practice') for the dancing exam. Not yet sent off (having to wrangle scanning forms and signing them with my teacher/mentor) but it is done - well, perhaps she'll have comments on it so I'll have to wait and see. Tonight I think will be spent reading some bits and bobs I have here that I've wanted to but have put off to get this thing done. Including the days I have missed for A Christmas Carol. One of the nice things about the small chunks is that it allows for an easier catch up than making promises to read a chapter day - which tends to fail pretty quickly if even one chapter is missed!
Now off to get a cup of tea and not feel sorry myself and my blocked yet sniffly nose...
It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar.
- Dickens, A Christmas Carol
I particularly liked the phrase 'misanthropic ice,' whilst the second one oddly reminded me of the Cowboy Bebop episode "Toys in the Attic."
In other news...
The Wizard of Oz party was a lot of fun. The next day...well, my head wasn't having so much fun (I really must remember to eat a full meal and keep drinking water when I know drinking is going to happen) but the party was great. By fortuitous coincidence, someone else came as a ruby slipper, so we were a matching pair. Also present were the birthday girl as the major of Munchkin city and her boyfriend as the city of Oz, on a hat, with the yellow brick road leading up to the city and all) the aforementioned road, the farm house, three scarecrows, a representative of the lollipop guild, two cowardly lions, a sunflower, and one tin man (not by choice - he was pounced on not long after his arrival with a handy roll of aluminum foil). Hopefully someone else will post pictures soon so I can re-post it here.
Despite (or perhaps because of) yesterday's hangover, I managed to have a fairly productive day in terms of getting chores done. Tomorrow night I have the last class of teaching before I have to get cracking with my record of teaching practice for the exam. I have notes, but not much coherence yet. Friday will definitely be a day of trying to make it coherent!
I've taken some of the advice suggested to me in an early post with regards to my reading plans, though I suspect I'll be keeping my active reading list on the word doc I've set up on my desk top rather than posting it here. I do have on Facebook an application of books I've read, and I pulled off the ones I've read this year, which is a rather abysmal 18. I really do want to improve on that over the next year, make reading a real habit again. Have decided that Daily Lit is probably going to be the best way to read Dickens, considering the novels were originally serialised, so the format of little bits will work quite well for them.
Right, best be off, a few things to do before bed tonight.
I had realised until yesterday while I was sitting at my desk in the afternoon just how worried I was about the class last night. At about 3.30 a definite sense of dread crept up my back and stayed there for about 45 minutes, which was later replaced by garden variety nervousness. The worries were usual; have I prepared enough, were the exercises for the dance good enough, would I be able to keep control of the class, would I simply fall apart and forget what I was doing, etc.
7.15 and I'm in the car with my mentor (who also teaches the Wednesday night class I go to), and come 8pm the class is coming in and we're ready to dance. And despite the terrifying lead up to it, the class went alright. This is also despite the floor being slippery and having no 'slip stop' (a kind of powder that is put on the floor to give some friction) to counter balance this, and the class being mostly 50+ (which means they can usually get through the movement of the dances but there is only so much one can expect from footwork).
I do need to work on getting through things faster (something my mentor pointed out) and I do need to be a much clearer in my head of the dances actually go (the strathspey proved a bit tricky in terms of the reels) but they responded quite well to me and 'did as they were told' according to my mentor (perhaps they were being extra attentive because they knew I'm still learning?) We got through 3 of the 4 dances I planned for (two of which are ones I'm quite fond of) so I'm quite happy about that.
On another topic completely, I'm becoming increasingly aware of how badly read I actually am. I really don't read novels or even non-fiction nearly as much as I should, which makes me want to put in an action plan for the coming year. Left to my own devices I tend to stray from book to book and not get them finished in a timely fashion, which is becoming rather frustrating. Focusing on one task has never been one of my strong points, but I think it's time to start taking my reading more seriously. There will probably be more rambling on that at a later date.
The reasons for it are various, including:
* not making a good start on the first day I could write (2nd November).
* stupidly trying to plan to do enormous chunks on my days off (5,000 words).
* lack of enthusiasm. I had it, but not quite enough to make me want to get in there and actually do it.
In short, I think next time I do Nano I really should start with smaller daily word count goals, and with a completely new project, because that's what has worked the two times I have won it. The flurry of activity that is Nano better suits a brand shiny new idea, not one that's be gestating for...bugger, that's three years now the Dragon novel has been bubbling around in my head.
I did manage to get just shy of 14,000 words down though, nearly half of which was a quite exposition-y but fairly important scene. And it does bring my total word count up to 79,000, which felt wonderful to see when I plugged the addition words into Scrivener last night.
More on the writing front, am currently discussing with a composer friend the possibility of me writing some text for a collaborative project. No further details yet, but it sounded intriguing and I was very flattered to be asked, so we'll see how that plays out.
Meanwhile, I've been doing a lot of dancing and dancing exam preparation. I already have Part 1 (Units 1, 2 and 3) of the certificate, which I gained in 2007 in Sydney (written exam for Unit 1) and Wellington (dancing exam for Unit 2 and partial teaching exam for Unit 3). Now I'm on to Part 2, which is a kind of reflective work book (Unit 4), and a full teaching exam for (Unit 5).
In order to take the Unit 5 exam mid-next year, I need to complete a course of a certain amount of hours. This so far took up the weekends at the start and beginning of November. Intense and exhausting (as it's a lot of talking information as well as dancing, and dancing to our best ability to prefect our steps) but it is oddly fun as well, and I really like the group who are going through it with me.
Unit 4 is due before Christmas. This is...concerning, but I'm not too panicked about it (though I might be saying something different next week!) The bulk of that is reflecting on 6 hours of class taught, which I have done about half. Tonight, for the first time, however, I'll be teaching a full two hour class completely designed by me, which I'm nervous about, but hopefully it will be ok. If I can remember to give instructions and practice in small digestible chunks that will probably help enormously, as will getting in there and doing things with the class rather than standing at the head of it and just barking at them.
It's getting a lot colder here now. Am definitely going to have to get some warmer clothes and a proper winter coat for the coming months - I've experienced cold in small doses but nothing like what people are telling me to prepare for. I've shown people here pictures of where I grew up (sunny, coastal Coffs Harbour), and after a moments admiration I inevitably get '...and why on earth are you here?'
Why indeed. Fact is, there are many wonderful things about Australia, but at home I wouldn't see Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, John Simm, or Ian Hart on stage with much ease, and I have managed to do that this year, and I dare say I'll be able to see more actors I admire, though after reading this about Ian Hart's outburst at a performance of the play I saw him in in September, the admiration is rather tempered now. Still, the point remains. (I also really want to do a post about the plays I have seen this year, but we'll see if I have time.)