This was the week I discovered the beauty of the library.
Don't get me wrong, I have always used it, but I have rarely found solace in it. This week I did. Every day after class I have gone there to crane over desks with a sort of studious enthusiasm. I have admired its silence in a way I never could before; where it used to impose, it soothes. And the funny, stupid, ridiculous thing is that after all that work I still am no closer to completing my deadlines. My mind feels claustrophobic with too many quotations that are not my own, merely embellishments to much wider ideas. I feel jealous of those that have spoken first.
But today was Friday, so things felt relaxed a little. I learned how to use a dark room and develop photographs; I bought a vintage dress from a campus stall; I jumped and sauntered through autumn leaves discarded to the ground by their maternal veins...
...and I resolved that I will write that essay tomorrow.
On Sunday I crawled into a sleeping bag, on a friend's floor, at 6am. I still feel like I am catching up on lost sleep. It is as prevalent as I feel the continual pull of catching up on slowly progressed work.
But this is another week and new things are to be done (and new obsessions are to claw at my attention).
Perhaps the pain in my stomach is self-inflicted and not in the anxious way I thought it was. Perhaps it just hurts from too much holding in; too much time trying to perfect the perfect posture; the svelte one, the tall one, the tiny-cinched-in-waist-and-not-rotund-one. Perhaps I am guilty of this.
I am a sucker for teacups, saucers, and anything remotely related to the idea of tea parties. (I frankly wish I had the time for more of my own). So, naturally, I am a sucker for these beautiful necklaces I came across on Etsy.
I get sick a lot. I get migraines and stomach-aches and easily pick up colds. And this week I am not feeling very well (it is the middle one).
Predictably, I now feel out of any social or academic loops. My motivation seems tainted, now, as if in providing a little less than perfect attendance, I am working a lot less hard. And yet I feel like I am doing the same amount of work. I feel a bit of a bad friend and a bit of a rubbish student and a bit like all the inspiring things I am feeling and thinking about are not being used in the right way; they are not being practised in the right domain. I should be stronger. I should be as strong as the thousands of other people who, unwell, get up and go about their lives in a very ordinary way. And yet it feels like a brick (the one that would allow me to do that) is missing.
I know that in a few days I will be back on track and I will be writing essays and I will be finishing books. And yet now, right now, my axis feels a little bit tilted.
Today, I am the meaning of feeling sorry for yourself.
I spent last night with a chocolate cake and lovely, like-minded friends.*
And on the way home this morning I recognised buildings I had not before seen - large, dirty buildings that crowded, tall, over the high street - and a donkey with a magpie resting atop his head. (This is the perfect example of juxtaposing routes I take between city and home).
I am beginning to open my eyes a lot more.
And I thank you and you and you for that.
But especially you.
And in case you didn't know, I have a penchant for red shoes and very irrelevant anecdotes.
But what are your favourite things?
*We are those that prefer quaint little tea-parties in porcelain cups to a loud, rushing night out.
Today I stumbled across this in the few minutes I stole to browse the web. What a happy find! With mesmerizing and emotive prose, Zadie Smith is one of my favourite authors. I urge you to read White Teeth (a beautiful, beautiful début) and On Beauty (her most recent novel).
And in a horribly, horribly bubble of shameless self-promotion, here is a review I wrote of another of my favourite books, The Turn Of The Screw (Henry James).
And if anyone has read any of these, what are your thoughts?
I love England. I love its tranquillity, its history and its pride; I love the beauty of its countryside and the diversity of its towns; I love its tradition and its foibles. But lately I am becoming more and more ashamed of its xenophobia - specifically with language. At university I am increasingly overwhelmed by students - mostly European - who are studying literature to the same level as I (and not struggling with it, as I seem to) but in a second or third language. This blows my mind. I cannot even begin to conceive doing this myself and I notice that this is a generally accepted consensus. This isn't because we don't have a programme to facilitate it - we do, it's called ERASMUS - it seems a greater case of apathy or of being under-prepared. There are people, of course, who do this. People who jump head-first into another culture and embrace all the tiny nuances of its language. I commend them. Doing this is not necessarily everyone's cup of tea (to use an appropriately English idiom) - it certainly isn't mine and perhaps that is hypocritical of me? - but as a nation we do not seem particularly embracing of other languages. We go on holiday and we stumble through their polite etiquette; we emigrate but we stick with our English verbs or our vocabulary; we are, in short, reluctant to learn a second language. Proof of this exists in our education system where a second language at GCSE is no longer compulsory. So languages at A-level, at university and then into the working world all fall.
And I, too, am guilty of this. At A-level I progressed with French but I have since failed to pick it up again. Every day I feel the verb formations I once learned slipping from my grasp and the grammatical patterns realigning back to English ways. Perhaps, though, this is just me? And perhaps it truly is working for the rest of the country? But I know as I sit in class with a Norwegian or a Czechoslovakian student as we battle through 18th Century literature, I feel the lesser entity.
So onto the list I keep of things to do is picking French up again and learning something new. One day I will find the time.
But please, in the mean time, tell me your thoughts.
(This is Paris, from a trip a year or so ago. It was my first trip abroad in a long time and with my love. What a beautiful, beautiful city!)
Today I bring you a beautiful piece of slam poetry from Taylor Mali. (I haven't yet worked out how to embed videos. If anyone knows how, please give me the heads up?) I discovered this guy about a year ago and it is likely that I will direct many posts towards him, simply because he is someone worth admiring in his field.
This weekend was better than I expected thanks to two unexpected meetings with friends.
But now my head is panicking about too much work to do (hello, T S Eliot and Daniel Defoe) and not preparing enough for the future. Should I be doing more creative things? Should I be writing more? Should I be putting writing out there, vulnerable, to be pushed into the hands of the right people? This last question already feels presumptuous and though rhetorical, they are questions always at the back of my mind. I think they spend too much time there, festering, and rarely translate themselves into actions.
Another thing that is bothering me today is the unforgiving way the scales informed me of the downside to my baking. It is such a shame I often favour that hobby the most. I think that if I write this here I am more likely to stick to it so I vow, now, to cut down on sugar and eat much more healthily. It is a shame, too, because the next three weeks will cater for a lot of baking...
Today my mind feels fragmented with the ideas of modernist literature (trying to define and analyse it is beginning to feel awkward and my understanding of Gertrude Stein is further slipping from my grasp). But I also feel quite inspired. This week I have brainstormed, written poetry and created entirely new characters in my Creative Writing class (a module I am minoring in this semester). It feels good to be writing again, despite becoming increasingly aware of my tendency to walk and talk like an overgrown cliché. It negates any natural, quirky traits of a personality and lends a sort of vulnerable, emaciated persona; they are borrowed from every other person in the world. Perhaps this is something I will learn to tease out of my unconscious.
In the meantime it is Friday and here are a few new finds.
This weekend I am heading out to a book-signing, relaxing, baking biscuits and hopefully, just hopefully, squeezing in some attempts at my sketchbook. Hopefully this will involve some writing and a few more trips around the village with Diana. I haven't taken her out in a while and, quite frankly, I miss her. Hopefully learning to operate a dark room next week will unite us again and, more than likely, give room to some experiments (and catastrophes) with colour.
I have spent the last few days in my own fantasies, stealing moments to my imagination. I have envisioned seeing my book nestled between others on dusty shelves and tried to imagine what its pages would feel like beneath my fingertips. I have patterns that I would like pasted across its front; typefaces that I would like my words immortalised in.
And then the realisation hits that this is nothing but a young pipe-dream.
Yet I am okay with that.
To have a dream is a good enough start right now.
And in all those moments that I am wishing I am doing one hundred other things (most often travelling with my love or running a bakery) I am beginning to remember: to be where I am, and who I am with*, is at the moment a beautiful place to be.
(Diana and I took this picture in York. It reminds me so much of Alice's fantasy world).
*There is a family and one very important person I could not be without.
This week university started all over again and as a result, it has felt long and busy. (I have further respect for actual grown-ups, who tirelessly get up at the crack of dawn every morning. These 6.30am starts are a strain). But now it is Friday and a relaxing (almost four-day) weekend is ahead.
A week or so ago I was meant to go to London for the day. Due to sickness* I couldn't go. The very girly silver-lining in all of this, however, is that between then and my future trip, I found that this is close by.