Show Your Work/Maths Makes Me Cry

SHOW YOUR WORK. Oh?! Panic. Frustration. Lump in throat. Tears in eyes. Every. Time. I hate maths. And as a child, every time I got to a question where these words were written at the beginning of it, I would be struck by this irrational anger at the fact that some nasty, clever person wanted to sit there and laugh as I unfolded the uncoordinated twists and turns that my mind would take to reach what would, inevitably, still be the wrong answer. At the time, I was convinced that this was the only reason to ever ‘show your work.’ Purely an exercise in humiliation. It didn’t seem fair that after I dutifully wrote out all of my workings, they would be cruelly crossed out and scribbled all over, because I had done exactly what the question said – I showed my work! What I quickly came to learn is that there was a very specific way of doing things if you wanted to get a nice big tick from the illusive green pen or, better yet, a smiley face or even a shiny sticker!? My brain didn’t seem to want to follow the usual mathematical routes but I eventually got better at not getting lost down the path less travelled when it came to carving out my calculations… enough of the time to get my school certificate anyway. (In no small part because the teacher who ultimately got me through my GCSE in maths was nothing short of a hero. Slowly but surely she provided me with a ladder to climb out of the deep, dark number shaped hole that I had spent many years digging for myself. I still fall into it. Frequently. But now at least I know how to get out. And these days I’m big enough to buy my own stickers. The fancy ones. With extra sparkles.)

Anyway, the point of this little saunter down memory lane, is that I realized the other day, although I am happily not in any way on a mathematical career path, I have been struck recently by that very same fear of ‘showing my work.’ What if it isn’t very good? What if it’s… wrong, or nobody understands it or… it’s too small, or not as impressive as it should be? I’ve been swirling around in this ugly little eddy for many months now and today I decided that the water is getting cold and my fingers are wrinkly so perhaps it is time to get out. It may be that this isn’t the most graceful exit – I would have loved to arrive back on the blog with some incredible piece of writing that would have everyone glued to their monitors waiting for the next installment. Instead, I sort of feel like I’m clambering out onto the side with my clothes all awkwardly stuck to me, with only one shoe on and some pond weed in my hair. But damn it, I’m here! What I have realized is that, much like with algebra, in terms of living the life of an artist, I haven’t a clue what I’m doing. But what I do know is that my head and phone and diary and computer are all overflowing with thoughts and concepts I’ve been working on that I have been too afraid to share. So, as terrifying as it might feel to do it, I’m going to let some light in… change the bulb maybe. Get myself one of those fancy LED ones that last for ages!

So, dear readers, look forward to lots of potentially terrible poetry, some questionable photography and a few other mediocre bits and pieces. Somewhere in the middle of it all there might be some gold. You’ll see it here first but, for now, whatever it looks like, I am going to Show My Work.

See you very soon…

Anna x

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A story of six months or so

It was almost six months ago now that I last wrote of snuggling up in my cosy corner of London, missing my boy and hiding a little from life, beneath my covers.

Many, many, many things have changed since that day. Wonderful things. Things that I had been imagining for so long and yet, even now that many of them have happened, still seem unimaginable.

Perhaps pictures will tell my story better. One day soon my words will return but in recent months I seem to have spent so much time gasping, grinning, laughing out loud, that my words aren’t always getting through. They’ll be back. But for now…

Harry

When I can’t sleep I write poems about polar bears…

Harry is a polar bear
that lives under my bed
He didn’t like the Arctic
so he’s moved in here instead
He keeps my toesies nice and warm
and doesn’t steal the sheets
He reads me poems and epic tales
from goldilocks to Keats
Sometimes we talk of the meaning of life
while I brush out his coat
and I ask what he’ll do
when the ice caps melt
and he says he’ll just hop on a boat
Harry chases the monsters from under my bed
and guards my door at night
I like sharing my room with a polar bear
Harry, could you please turn out the light?

Pretending to live in London

This is largely what I feel like I have been doing for the past few weeks. In reality, I do now have a flat in London but I don’t actually move in until early November. So, for most of October I have been doing the commuter thing going up and down on the train for auditions: attempting to understand the tube, slowly learning to love buses and last weekend, exploring Hackney.

I was staying in a gorgeous little ground floor flat in Homerton belonging to my beautiful friend Bec and her boyfriend. The place was filled with lovely old furniture, interesting artwork and to top it all off, a big comfy bed. I will hold my hands up and say that I am a massive snob when it comes to ‘crashing’ at peoples houses. I can just about do an air matress but I really do hate sleeping on sofas. It makes me grumpy. And crumpled… in equal measure. But Bec and her boy were away last weekend so I briefly borrowed their East London life for a couple of days.

I had travelled down on the Friday for a couple of auditions over the weekend and that evening, after receiving a decent sized handful of rejections all in one day, I was feeling a little less than optimistic about my impending London life . So the next morning I decided that a bit of exploring was in order, to take my mind off things, and off I trotted towards the station. My travel plans however, were quickly dashed on arrival as I discovered that there were no trains running over the weekend. “Go to bus stop M.” the lady behind the desk instructed me, and not wanting to reveal my secret actually-from-Oxfordshire identity, I smiled and nodded nonchalantly and walked off in the opposite direction… where the hell is bus stop M!? I thought. This place has a million bus stops. What if there’s more than one bus stop M? What if someone has vandalised the bus stop W sign to make it look like bus stop M? What if there isn’t a bus stop sign at all… Turns out it was just round the corner but then of course when I got there I had no idea where any of the places listed on the bus stop actually were. The top two choices were Dalston and Hackney town centre, and at that moment I vaguely remembered a Razorlight lyric that warned ‘Don’t go back to Dalston.’ So I thought I’d better play it safe and head for Hackney instead. Hackney, I had heard, is where the hipsters hang out. So I got on a bus and hopped off when I started to see large numbers of beanie hats and unusually oversized glasses – London Fields. (If you’re reading this and chuckling to yourself that that last sentence was obviously for comic effect… oh my friend. You clearly haven’t been to Hackney.)

Within thirty seconds I was surrounded by bespoke custom cup cakes and vintage dresses, gourmet street food and the smell of freshly ground coffee. The country girl in me was a little confused… everyone here is so lovely. This isn’t the fast paced urban jungle I was so worried about – this girl ices cakes for a living!? So I dutifully bowed to social pressure, bought a vintage liberty print skirt and headed off to a little independent cafe round the corner for some lunch and a coffee. The previous day’s rejections were soon a distant memory. There’ll be more auditions, I told myself. Other opportunities. And sure enough, as I sat in that little London cafe, my caffeine fuelled creative brain was busy cooking up ideas for a new music podcast, a short play that I had started working on a few days before and, of course, what shoes I was going to wear with my new vintage skirt…

I think I’m going to be alright in London. I think I’m going to be poor… especially if Broadway Market on a Saturday has anything to do with it. But if these past few weeks are anything to go by, I think I could get used to life in the big city.

 

Eight Months

It was almost a year ago exactly that I wrote of my travels to Ghana to visit my boyfriend during his Peace Corps service. Well, twelve months have passed, a degree has been completed, a city, a house and many wonderful people have very sadly been left behind, an old room, my old room has been stripped and painted and I find myself sitting in it, surrounded by boxes of childhood treasures, ballet shoes, vintage dresses, stacks of scripts and cookery books, a sewing machine and a brightly coloured collection of fabric.

The last arrived with me yesterday morning after I returned from my second trip to Ghana to go and visit the boy. This time I went prepared, leaving space in my case for a pile of printed material, a bottle of cocoa brandy, several yards of glass beads, two dresses, some trousers, a box of tea and a few other bits and pieces. I feel very lucky to have had the chance to go back to Africa a second time and even more so to have been able to spend three whole weeks being an actual girlfriend, with an actual boyfriend, who I could see and smell and snuggle as much as I wanted.

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Back in England, in my oddly cluttered uncluttered room, I am sad, of course. Leaving is always hard but for us, inevitable and not uncommon either and next time there won’t be a goodbye… next time he comes back for good. And maybe it was knowing that that changed things but returning this time felt different. I now have a whole new chapter to start. A move to London, the beginnings of a creative career that has been almost sixteen years in the making, a financial leap of faith that I’m still not sure I’m ready for and what seems like a lifetime of possessions to sort out before I up sticks and leave again.

I have eight months before my boyfriend gets back. Eight months to move, make money, make friends, make contacts and to try to make a name for myself. I also have eight months until I have to leave London, pack my life onto a cargo ship, say goodbye to my friends and family and leave for the United States. A lot can happen in eight months… I just hope it’s all going to fit.

 

Catching up with yourself

It has been almost two months since I last updated Lovely Things. The last post, a brief review of a new writing showcase that I organised back in March to get feedback on some of my work, really marked the beginning of the end of my three years here at Bath Spa University but a few things have happened since then…

Over Easter I went to the lake district to research my final thesis production of Swallows and Amazons… whole host of loveliness to be seen there.P1050632

I begun workshopping the production with the cast. (See how it happened here http://makingswallowsandamazonsbath.wordpress.com/)SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

I spent 3 weeks wandering around tea shops and seaside towns with my beautiful American.The Olive Tree

Then a week ago the lights went down on the set of Swallows and Amazons for the final time and my degree was over.968847_10151414468801606_1475282436_n

I am now in that odd sort of limbo land between finishing my degree and actually graduating, where real life is conveniently on hold while grades are finalised, gowns are ordered and I spend what I have left of my student loan on catching up with friends over coffee and cocktails before we disappear off for the final student Summer.

In some ways I’ll miss being a student. I’ll definitely miss Bath and the life I have here but there are lots of new things to come; different things, scary things, exciting things, and of course, as always… Lovely Things.

A Female Triptych

Photo 15-03-2013 10 35 45 PMThis evening, with the help of a fabulous producer, a wonderful cast and the most efficient one-man tech team a director could wish for, I showcased a collection of my own new writing, A Female Triptych, to an audience whose feedback I have just spent the last half hour going through. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so grateful to this many people all at once. I could not have done this alone and it was a real pleasure to sit back tonight and watch it all fall into place. I think the cherry on the cake was the carefully considered and constructive feedback, from every audience member, that I cannot wait to share with the rest of the company. So thank you. To all of you. Amazing experience. Looking forward to the next.

Window to the Lake District

Last week we had a ‘Reading Week’ at university so I snuck away to the Lake District with my parents for a few days, on the trail of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. Despite my poor Mother being stuck in bed with flu the entire time, it was, all in all, the perfect week.

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I really did have lots of reading to do but with a wood burning stove and an uninterrupted view over the lake to the hills beyond, I was happy to snuggle up by the fire with a pile of blankets and a cup of tea and read about the woes of women in the 17th century.

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I got out for a walk or two every day, went in search of Wildcat Island and even managed to find some tolerable gluten-free pasta in Coniston Co-op. The whole town was beautifully quiet and calm and indeed, covered in snow for half the time that we were there. I can’t help but feel it would be a somewhat different experience to be there in the Summer but as a one-off Winter week away it really was idyllic.

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Alternative Novelty Wrap(…ping paper)

With just a few days to go until Christmas, by now most people seem to have bought the majority of their presents (if not, shame on you) and the only thing left to get is the paper. Sheet after sheet of flimsy, festive wrapping  fills the shelves at this time of year, ranging from the glossy, up-market, tasteful seasonal-themed prints with idyllic festive scenes and non-offensive swirly patterns, to the downright tacky that tears as soon as you touch it and is covered in novelty Christmas creatures or well-known animated children’s characters wearing Santa hats and antlers. This year, in a last minute Christmas campaign (that I admit isn’t quite in the same league as ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ or ‘Give the greatest gift this holiday season and sponsor a lonely panda for £2 a month’ ), I urge you to reconsider that roll of reindeer wrapping paper that you’ve had your eye on and instead look a little closer to home.

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Most kitchen counters or coffee tables are piled high with glossy magazines and news papers, all filled with pretty print and interesting images that will look just beautiful as alternative wrapping. Paper shopping bags are another option. A lot of shops have beautifully printed bags and carriers at this time of year for you to take home your purchases, so why make extra work for yourself? Tie it up with a ribbon or two and you’re gift wrapped and ready to go. Even simple left over packing paper can look really lovely. So why not make like Maria from The Sound of Music and put together a brown paper package tied up with string?

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Odd bits of string and ribbon are also easy to source from around the house. Cut off those annoying little ribbons that they put inside your clothes and use them as an alternative to sellotape. Grab the bow from that bunch of flowers that’s been wilting in the corner since the beginning of December. Cut up some old Christmas cards and turn them into labels. I promise you, once you start, you’ll find all sorts of interesting things to put around your presents this year. Save a few trees, a couple of quid and get creative! It’s all so simple and so close to hand… why wouldn’t you indulge in a little alternative novelty wrapping this Christmas?

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Co-existence of a Creative, Collaborative, Collective.

An application of every day pressure
to not simply ‘exist’.
To add colour
spice
seasoning
flair
attitude
intrigue
intentionality.
To produce an idea,
come up with a creation,
to make something,
do something,
be something extraordinary
if only for a mere moment.
Making a moment,
taking a moment,
capturing a thought
and taking it somewhere
beyond the bounds of accepted possibility.
This is my challenge
my calling
my nemesis
my greatest joy
and purest passion.
My meaning,
meditation,
my very reason to be.
Never can I escape my own worst critic.
Nor understand the solitary source
of my own internal inspiration.

A number of my other individual poems, as well as a few collections that
I have written, can be found in the Poetry section of the main menu.