2018, the latter half

It’s been a strange kind of 6 months here at EB Towers.

Job searching (and finding and still not a start date in sight) – my savings are dwindling but I’m so glad to have left teaching behind (though I still feel a profound loss of the meaningful interactions the job provided). Interviews gave me a good reason to look back favourably on my career in education.

I’ve been obsessed with CNN and MSNBC news channels on Youtube (though I have tried several times to watch Fox News as balance and failed miserably), tracking the progress of American politics, following developments since well before the mid-terms. For some reason, I’m reminded of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” which I’m currently re-reading. My viewing proved a valuable distraction from the political mess here at home in the UK.

I also watched (avidly) the first series of National Geographic Channel’s “Mars” which was very enjoyable and informative. I hesitated to watch the second series but was glad I did as that was where some interesting issues were explored. It was satisfying seeing writers explore the kinds of ideas that Ursula K Le Guin explored so thoroughly in her thought narrative “The Dispossessed” (probably my favourite adult novel). Interesting to see how NatGeo suggested Big Business concerns (for want of a better term) and lobbyists might influence colonisation of the red planet. Again, I was reminded of “Dune”!

I’ve re-read some of my favourite books / authors – UKLG, Joan AIken, Robert Westall, Rosemary Sutcliff, Helen Griffith, David Mitchell, Philip Pullman… and Frank Herbert (“Dune”).

I jumped ship on Twitter because I was checking the feed far too regularly. An ill thought out move because it stole from me a pm channel to some people with whom I rather liked communicating. I’m not impulsive by nature but that move was! Fear (of procrastination) was the mind killer!

The Earth Balm iBook and music re-recording seems to have been placed on the back burner (or the cold corner furthest from the back burner) but I’ll return to it when I’m working again – like the maxim “If you want to get a job done, give it to somebody busy”, I think I may have to take my eye of something to keep it in focus (if you understand what I mean). There is a “Dune” connection here but I think I’ve exhausted the ‘gag’.

I’ve regained a love of listening to music (usually at bed time, on headphones and while reading) including religious choral music, ‘world’ music, electronic and (occasionally) rock.

The very good bloggers of WordPress have provided me with many texts to look forward to reading when I’m once again in receipt of salary. They know who they are and I’d name them but for fear of missing somebody. Take time to go through the ‘blogs that I follow’ tiles to enter a kingdom of riches.

As always, family provides the very best reason to get up of a morning.

Hope everybody’s 2019 will bring creativity, satisfaction, calm and prosperity. Thanks to everybody anybody who has taken the time to visit this bubble in the hypertext ether. Very special thanks to anybody who came back for a second dose or more.

Good health and happiness to all.

What next

I’ve retired from teaching again – this time from supply work rather than a permanent post. It was all just too “Groundhog Day” for my liking (been there, done that, have the tee-shirt). Hopefully, while job hunting, I’ll be able to begin regular posting again and reboot the music and iBook work.

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RIP UKLG

I’m currently knee deep in supply teaching work and trying to work on the Earth Balm Music material, learning much about the limitless possibilities of music software and my limited abilities on the piano keyboard on the way. I have a day’s break today and just as well because I feel compelled to post about the passing of the great Ursula K Le Guin. The news has finally made up my mind for me – she is my favourite author of all that I have read (and she is in some high calibre company with Rosemary Sutcliff, Joan Aiken, Susan Cooper, Philippa Pearce etc.). Her characters are so well developed, her books explore ideas about social systems and politics so subtly and she handles big plot moments so delicately. I’m about to radically thin out my book collection and I’m keeping all of my UKLG books as I know I’ll only regret losing them if I pass them on. Please, let her be known as more than just a science fiction / fantasy author because she was so much more.

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Photograph of author Ursula K Le Guin. Source Wikipedia, credit Gorthian.

Here is a quote from Ursula’s Wikipedia page:

Le Guin exploits the creative flexibility of the science fiction and fantasy genres to undertake thorough explorations of dimensions of both social and psychological identity and of broader cultural and social structures. In doing so, she draws on sociology, anthropology, and psychology leading some critics to categorize her work as soft science fiction. She objected to this classification of her writing, arguing the term is divisive and implies a narrow view of what constitutes valid science fiction. Underlying ideas of anarchism and environmentalism also make repeated appearances throughout Le Guin’s work

Terry Pratchett

Crivens! It was “Wintersmith” what done it!

Wintersmith
Photograph of the cover of Terry Pratchett’s “Wintersmith”. Illustration by Paul Kidby copyright 2006.

As I’ve stated elsewhere, I’m late to the joyous party that is the writings of Terry Pratchett. I’ve just completed reading his third Tiffany Aching novel and he has leapt into  the distinguished company that is my favourite authors. Notably, he is the first male author I have included. He sits with Rosemary Sutcliff, Philipa Pearce, Joan Aiken and Ursula K Le Guin (as I said – ‘distinguished company‘).

Like Le Guin, Pratchett is able to stage epic battles that are fought and won without bloodshed or with very little bloodshed (the way that Tiffany Aching deals with the Wintersmith is a fine example) and he writes about the finiteness of human existence with rare beauty and a certain kind of poetry (the passing of Granny Weatherwax in “The Shepherd’s Crown” is beyond simply moving). And he loves people but hates injustice, that is crystal clear.

Tiffany Aching is a heroine very much in the mould of Joan Aiken’s Dido Twite though far more introspective with her first, second and third thoughts to guide how she acts and reacts. As a Pratchett witch, she constantly puts the welfare of others before her own and strives to learn from each action she takes, often putting aside a response until she has considered alternatives . My kind of protagonist!

Of course, TP spins the narrative with many puns asides and much social commentary. I love the way has footnotes augment the main text.- my particular favourite is *’Werk’… (page 340 of my edition). He has the uncommon ability to create characters that are engaging and complex and this is true equally of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

I’m continually struck by the cinematic and visual quality of Pratchett’s storytelling. He must have imagined these novels as moving pictures, surely!

I have two more Tiffany Aching novels to read – the second and the fourth and then it’s back to the main Discworld novels for me!

But first… I shall treat myself to a reread of “Wee free Men” and “Wintersmith”… you can’t have too much of a good thing.

 

 

 

Tyke Tiler

There was very little on TV last night that I considered worth watching so I went to bed and re-read Gene Kemp’s “The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler“.

It’s so obvious that the author worked as a teacher, the book is full of references to everyday life in a primary school that are as true now as when the book was published in the late 70s.

Kemp’s characterisations are well developed without the need to describe the children in great detail – their actions speak for themselves. The teachers featured in the narrative are such accurate characterisations – we all know a teacher like each one of them. I might even be able to recognise myself in one or two of them. Other people might recognise me in different ones :).

And even though I knew of the revelation on the penultimate page, it was still as enjoyable and still as much a surprise when it came. On re-reading, the clues are there throughout the narrative.

If I still had year six, I’d be using this as a class reader.

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Jenny Nimmo – Snowspider

I finished reading the second of Jenny Nimmo’s “Snow Spider” trilogy mid week. “Emlyn’s Moon” turned out to be a well told and plotted novel, much darker and creepy than the “Snow Spider” novel itself. It helps that it has a female protagonist – Nia and the story is told very much from her point of view (but in the third person). The final book of the trilogy “The Chestnut Soldier” is even darker and more menacing. Nina is once again the main character and Gwyn (from the first book) takes very much a back seat.For me it’s suitable for children a little older than the other two novels although I’m sure that my ‘adult’ reading of elements of the plot would go over the head of most child readers. Again, I’m looking forward to seeing how the plot resolves itself.

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Emlyn’s Moon

I’m currently reading the second book of the “Snow Spider” trilogy – “Emlyn’s Moon”. It’s a great read. It’s more about the character Nia than the titular Emlyn at the moment. There are some truly effective passages that I know I’ll use in the future with my class(es) as exemplar of descriptive writing. There’s a kind of spiritual awakening for the main character Nia through the book and I’m looking forward to reading the resolution of her personal problems. The book is much more about the characters than the first in the trilogy. The narrative is less linear than “The Snow Spider” too.

Apologies for my ‘lumpy’ expressions in this post but it’s difficult to express my enthusiasm for this book in the trilogy.

Edit: just to explain and to clear up any misunderstanding, I love this book!

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