Monday, 26 June 2017

Post MA-Ness Pre PhD-Ness Part 3 - Proactiveness, Pain, Picture Taking, Procrastination and other things.....

A piece of paper covered with scribblings, and the wonderful biography of Elizabeth Gaskell I'm currently ploughing my way through.

It's just over a month since I last wrote and I've been a mix of busy, not so busy, melting with the heat and at times incapacitated due to an ongoing poorly knee in that time. Poorly knee has meant I've not been able to go to see some art events I would have liked to but I did get to see the very wonderful Pete Mitchell in conversation with Martin Parr at the Hyde Park Picture House - a wonderful evening in which he talked about his love of typeface design, the palette of colours he loves, why he loves and still uses film. It made me get a copy of his wonderful book Strangely Familiar out of the library and me and my husband spent a lovely evening trying to find the locations on googlemaps and see how they have changed in the intervening years. I did get to take some pinhole photographs at St George's Fields though thanks to my ever lovely husband acting as both my photographic assistant and at times human walking stick. I did also get to mooch around Ripon and if you get the chance to go to the Workhouse Museum there - you must for it is fascinating, moving and humbling. Also visited the Police and Prison Museum there too - and the Cathedral. The latter as my husband said being more of a building of hope - the former being more buildings of despair.

I am struggling at times with both the poorly knee itself (though physio does seem to be helping a bit) and the discomfort but also the impact it is having on my sense of independence and ability to get around. Some days it really gets me down and has me worrying that I'll either end up having to have an operation or housebound or brooding that this is the beginning of the end and that my life onwards is just going to be one of decline - thoughts which I am trying hard to snap myself out of as they aren't helpful in the long run. Plus if this the beginning of the inevitable decline then I'd best make the most of it before it becomes really declinous (I know that isn't a word but you get my drift).

I'm glad that the heat has become much less over the last few days - I had to decamp to the dining table downstairs as that was a cooler place to sit and read than my workroom which is under the glare of the sun most of the day and so even with the curtains closed becomes unbearably hot. I'm back to my cramped workroom now - I really do need to sort out some more books for the charity shop - I've already got three boxes ready but there are more shelves to go through. I'd especially like my workspace to be a bit less cluttered by the time I go back to big school in September which means I'm going to have to be ruthless. Things is I adore books and find it very difficult to become unattached to them - often times they have not just content value but sentimental value too. But I must harden my heart and send more on so that others can enjoy them too.

So proactiveness and procrastination have been much on my mind - I've been re-reading Barthes, making an A-Z of words/concepts I find difficult to understand - a hand written one as I read somewhere that you are more likely to retain information if you handwrite it as opposed to just type it. And this seems to be working a little bit as I no longer have to reach for the dictionary/look up online the following words: hermeneutic, ontology or heuristic. Eschatology and epistemological are words I'm going to have to write out a few more times though....

The difference between writing by hand and writing by keyboard is for me quite considerable. I still write my proper journal style diary by hand (using a fountain pen filled with black archival ink) and I make ordinary notes using biro or pencil. I have been attending a creative writing class the last few weeks and I have found I draft my efforts longhand on paper and then when I'm reasonably pleased with it, write it up on the computer using the thesaurus function to help me choose better more apposite words. But even when I'm sat at the computer I often have a pen or pencil in my hands - to make notes as I go, add something to a to do list (always written by hand - never on the computer) or scribble down an idea.  As I type this I have a pencil in my left hand - I am left handed...

Some many years (forget how many) after getting a copy I finally got around to reading The Artists Way by Julia Cameron and one bit in it really stood out for me (otherwise I found it a bit too syrupy and simplistic) which was the bit about procrastination and how often it isn't laziness or being easily distracted that causes it but fear. FEAR. That really struck a chord with me. Fear of failure has often stopped me - in the same way fear of further pain/getting stuck is limiting me at the moment. I need to work on being less frightened.

I've got a note on my piece of paper (note to self - get into better habit of referencing as you go along) about how the writers mind is chaotic and what a messy and chaotic process writing is as in effect you are inventing out of nothing. I find I tend to write a lot then as I look back over it and start rewriting that I also start doodling.

I don't hold a pen or pencil when I'm making or taking pictures though, enjoyed using a pinhole lens in St George's Field the other weekend - taking advantage of the sunshine to do some exposures, though as some were looking into shaded by trees enclosures of graves they were long exposures - some up to 5 minutes. I'm quite pleased with some of the results - it's making me want to do more long exposures so I can get the blurring of movement of leaves in the breeze, ghostly figures but I think I'll do these using a different lens that I can get better focus with. Pinhole lens are difficult to get a really sharp focus with but some of the images I've taken look delightfully old - even though they're not.

There's been a lot of listening to old music as well - though one of the albums I especially like at the moment was actually made in 2017 (it's What Kind of Dystopian Hellhole Is This by The Underground Youth) but after seeing a documentary about the making of Sergeant Pepper that's been on a lot - not least for the mention of Pablo Fanque who is buried along with his wives in St George's Field and so has an album I've not heard for years but have fond memories of becuse it used to make me laugh - namely Quark Strangeness and Charm by Hawkwind. I'm not a fan of Hawkwind as such but I do love that album in all its shonky glory. Damnation Alley seems very on point in these benighted days of Trump related horror. I do of course intersperse listening to it with blasts of Laibach and The Sisterhood so I don't become too ungoth and have to hand in my goth card again....... ;-)

I gave a paper at a Persepctives In History conference at Huddersfield University earlier this month - it seemed to go down well and it has just made me even more eager to start there in September plus it was really lovely to meet some other students from there and find out some fascinating facts from other periods of history - though there were a couple of fellow Victorianists as well. I really enjoyed putting together my paper as it really made me think about what it is I am hoping to achieve with my work and the way history feeds into it.

Other food for thought is the excellent Elizabeth Gaskell biography by Jenny Uglow which I'm ploughing my way through at the moment (up to page 461) - regular readers will know of my unashamed love of Gaskell (see also ME Braddon and Wilkie Collins) and I love the way this biography is not just about Gaskell but also about the times in which she lived and worked. I can almost see Elizabeth writing and gossiping - I really must go to her house when it is next open and see inside. I was saddened to see that the Cross Street Chapel in Manchester which her husband was Minister at from many years and which she worshipped at too was destroyed by bombs in 1940. A chapel is still there but now it is a modern building.

Another thing which has given me much thought and which I must listen too again are the Reith Lectures by Hilary Mantel, both of which were absolutely fascinating and have provided me with much food for thought. So much food I am still digesting it. So on that digestive point - I'd urge you to listen to them if you haven't already - you can do so here.

Right best crack on - these books and workroom aren't going to sort themselves out....


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