Books I've read

Sandra's book montage

The Catcher in the Rye
The Great Gatsby
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Romeo and Juliet
Lord of the Flies
Little Women
A Tale of Two Cities
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Lovely Bones
The Secret Life of Bees
Under the Tuscan Sun
The Da Vinci Code
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Hobbit
The Golden Compass
Pride and Prejudice
The Time Traveler's Wife
Jane Eyre
The Notebook

Sandra's favorite books »

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Here we go, here we go, here we go

Last week I registered at King's.  I was actually surprised at how well organised it was, wait in a room next to the registration room until the queue lessened and then join the green line to hand over passport and documents to prove you really had passed a bachelor's degree.  Unfortunately my degree certificate didn't arrive until Friday but I had something from the OU which stated that I wasn't arriving at King's under false pretenses.  All in all it must have taken about 20 minutes and then it was pick up the ID card which doubles as library card, be presented with a couple of letters stating I am a full time student (hopefully useful for convincing the tax office I don't work anymore) and I'm officially a student.  Well, I haven't paid yet but there doesn't seem to be much of a rush for that - what funding crisis?

Off I went to the library again (that's a picture of the entrance above, copyright King's) with the added excitement of being able to take some books out.  I'm currently reading Pierre or The Ambiguities by Herman Melville and not particularly enjoying it so I concentrated on books that would help with this.  I had walked to King's from Victoria Station, as it was a nice day, but my route took me past The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey and so was full of tourists (hopefully spending lots of money).  It took me quite a while to get there so I decided that a bus was the solution back and whilst that took nearly as long it was much more comfortable.

Tomorrow is 'Induction' - three hours of it and then two hours of drinks.  I feel a bit nervous, not quite sure what it will bring and what will be expected of us. My great fear is someone asks me to stand up and explain what I have learnt from the background reading on Freud (not much really).  We also have a library induction on Friday - I'm sure I won't be brave enough to admit to already having used it - who's the old swot in the corner?  I'm really looking forward to starting the course - it's been nine months since I was accepted and nearly four months since I left work so a bit more structure in my life will be greatly appreciated.

I had a quick trip to see my parents at the weekend.  Dad & I went to see Liverpool play Wolves on Saturday afternoon.  Last week I saw something someone had written about watching football not being entertainment, it's far too stressful for that (although I guess if your team is Barcelona and they're playing their brand of football-porn you might not agree).  This was one of those afternoons.  The first stress was parking the car.  Anfield is situated in the middle of rows of terrace houses so no nice big official car parks.  When I first was allowed to go (in about 1980) you could park in the streets nearby and kids would offer to watch your car for whatever the going amount of money was (Dad used to look after people's bikes for a few old pence in the late 1930s).  Now those streets are all on resident's parking permits and anything possible is turned into a carpark (garage, school playgrounds,churches and even some people offering to rent their drive to you).  The charge is now £10 and there's no competition - the cost of going to a match certainly adds up.  We parked in a local junior school playground that meant I was able to combine football with some genealogy - we passed the house some of Dad's family lived in when the 1911 census was taken. 

I love the feeling of going to the ground - when we leave home we may see a couple of other cars with people wearing replica shirts or scarves.  As we get closer we start to see people walking to the ground, initially in maybe twos or threes and then, when we get to Stanley Park, people start to converge and as we come out of the passageway into Anfield Road suddenly there are hundreds of people all dressed in red - the main artery as opposed to minor veins.  Anfield is old, undoubtedly and perhaps if/when a new stadium is built there will be more tickets available and more ladies' toilets (please!) but it is magical.  It's a combination of residual emotions from European nights, tears spilt over tragedy and the souls of many of the faithful (although now the pitch management is so scientific I wonder if you can still spread ashes there?)  We were right in the corner of the Main Stand, parallel with the Kop and with a slightly restricted view, which no-one told me about when I bought the tickets, but nothing I know matches being part of more than 35,000 people singing You'll Never Walk Alone as the team comes out - no wonder so many old players hang around.  If it's addictive in the stands, how much more so is it on the pitch?  I won't go into the detail of the game - the team is still a work in progress (and watching was extremely stressful at times) but they won so we've got a 100% record in the games we've seen this season!

Thanks for reading ...

Monday, 19 September 2011

Nearly there ...

(For anyone who hasn't read before, after 22 and a half years in the full-time world of work and the part-time world of studying I am about to begin a full-time MA in English 1850 - Present at King's College, London)

Well, it's all getting very exciting!  I am getting daily e-mails via my college e-mail address inviting me to join the orchestra or choir (no-one has told them about my complete lack of musicality), attend various lectures (not relating to English) and asking if I would like to register for the Associate of Kings College qualification (AKC).  The AKC is very interesting.  It's open to all students across the college and covers ethics, theology, history etc.  It's a bit of a hark back to the earliest days of King's.  You attend lectures over three years and then sit one exam at the end and, if you succeed, you are entitled to use the letters AKC after your name.  If I was an undergraduate I would definitely sign up.  My MA is only for one year, however, and although I have now seen that you can study for the qualification 1 year in situ and 2 via distance learning, I'm just not sure.  The programme of lectures looks really interesting but should I just concentrate on doing as well as I can with the MA?  Decisions, decisions!

We had our modules confirmed on Friday (hurrah) and I was relieved and very pleased to get all of my first choices.  Our core course is called Texts, Culture and Theory and we all have to take that.  In addition my modules are: 'Modernity and the City' in Semester 1 (not really sure what the difference is between a Semester and a Term, another thing that has come after my time); followed by 'Poetry, Perception and Place' and 'Turn of the Century Representations of Sexuality' in Semester 2.  Then it's on with the dissertation and I have to decide exactly what I'm going to do for that.  At the moment I'm torn between something to do with classical influences on TS's Eliot's poetry, was there really a fin de siecle or something about women authors and hysteria.  I'll need to decide & firm up my ideas pretty quickly!

We complete college registration on Thursday (and pick up NUS cards and college ID/library cards) and then next week it is the English MA Induction.  I really can't wait to meet tutors and fellow students and just to get going.  I've enjoyed my summer of reading and preparing but I just want to make a start on everything now!

Thanks for reading ...

Monday, 12 September 2011

Today's the day the teddy bears pick new owners

Yesterday I went to a Teddy Bear Fair. Let me describe it for those of you who have never attended one.  Hugglets organise two fairs a year in Kensington Town Hall (February and September).  There are four rooms full of stalls selling manufactured bears (such as Steiff), artist bears (such as the lion above), vintage bears and materials/kits to make your own bears.  When I first started collecting bears there were three UK monthly magazines and lots of shows.  If you weren't in line for the Kensington fairs way before they opened you might not get the bears you wanted (most of the artist bears are one of a kind).  Unfortunately, as with all things the economy has impacted on people's ability to spend a not inconsiderable amount of money on teddy bears and so, I learnt yesterday, there is only one bear magazine left in Britain (Teddy Bear Times) and now it only comes out every other month. 

I had always promised myself that once I earned a reasonable amount of money I would collect Steiff bears but did nothing about it until one day when T and I took a short cut in Guildford and came across The Bear Garden.  This was a shop full of nothing but bears and after a long chat with the lady in charge I bought my first collector's bear.  (Collectible teddy bears tend to be made of mohair or alpaca although I have a bear made out of silk and they are normally fully jointed.  They are usually not recommended for children at all).   That was the start of my collection or 'hug' as it is officially called.  The normal path for a collector is to start with Steiff, Deans, Merrythought and the other respected manufacturers (I was lucky that a lady called Robin Rive was making beautiful bears in New Zealand and I have some of hers).  They all have (or had) collectors clubs so you start to attend club events and then if you are anything like me you go to a bear fair and suddenly you are confronted with hundreds or thousands of the most appealing little faces and artists you haven't seen in any magazine.  Artist bears can be traditional or a bit more wacky, perhaps a long neck or particularly long feet or a face that doesn't look like a bear at all.  I am always amazed by what people will pick up and buy but my tastes tend to be very traditional.  There are a lot of exceptionally good designers out there and I will just name a few that I particularly like.  Whittle-le-Woods bears make the most beautifully dressed bears and they were amongst the first artist bears I bought.  I have a school-boy, a Victorian bathing beauty and a Chelsea pensioner amongst others.  The attention to detail on the bears is amazing.  In the  
picture to the left you can see Amelie.  She was made for me by the bear artist trading as Humble Crumble Bears.  She is the most beautiful bear and, as Vicky Allum (Humble Crumble) makes bears that resemble old Steiffs, she is rather saggy so she tends to be, very appealingly, slouching.  I have a number of Humble Crumble bears as well.  If you join Vicky's mailing list she will tell you when she has new bears available.  Don't even bother looking an hour after that list has gone out, all of the bears will have been adopted.  (Whenever she is at a fair I'm attending I make sure I get to her stall first otherwise there will be no bears left!).  My final recommendation is for a very different type of bear maker - Bear Bits make realistic looking brown bears, polar bears and pandas among others.  They are of the highest standard and beautifully created.  Yesterday I saw another stall selling a couple of very realistic bears.   I will try and check out who they were because those bears were also magnificent.

 I had checked out the Hugglets site to see who would be attending yesterday and fell in love with the rabbits created by The Rabbit Maker.  Strangely enough this is an artist who only makes rabbits both as almost sculptured models and as 'traditional' rabbits. I decided to look at her stall but was sure common sense would prevail.  Well, here is Fifi and isn't she gorgeous.  She reminded me a little of someone just starting school and so seemed absolutely right for my situation (just over two weeks now to the MA induction).  There is a saying that a bear chooses you and in this case I think the rabbit chose me because, whilst all of the rabbits on the stall were simply beautiful, I only had eyes for Fifi.  That was officially it for me; budget was blown and I hadn't come looking for lots of bears to take home so I didn't buy anything else did I?

With a stone heart I walked past tens of other stalls, smiling at the beautiful bears and complimenting artists on bears that had already been sold. (Much safer, I find, if you praise a bear that is still up for adoption they may suggest you hold it and that way only purchasing lies!)  I walked through the two main halls without so much as an itching to pick any bear up and then I climbed up to the upper floor.  There was a stall with some lovely bears on and I was tempted to buy just one small one as they had such wonderful expressions but I turned around and saw Hahira (who you can see at the top of the page).  I hadn't seen a lion at the fair before and this one had the most adorable expression - he looks so sad.  I started talking to his maker and she explained he was created from recycled raccoon fur and invited me to feel how soft he was.  I ummed and aahhed because I shouldn't really buy him but, he was beautiful and I already have so many bears, a lion would be a first.  He's an Anglo-American lion, made in the Mid-West by a British artist so it seemed appropriate I should see him yesterday.  I left the hall shortly after buying him.  I had been there for quite a time and, more importantly, I couldn't trust myself not to fall in love with anything else.

So now you know the story of my trip to the bear fair and my complete lack of will-power.  Did you know people who collect bears are called 'arctophiles' and I was glad that, even in such tough times, so many were out yesterday.  I must try not to attend the fair in February tho' as it's very bad for my bank balance.

Hope you've been OK on this windy Monday (in the UK) and thanks for reading.  

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Not Long Now

I was very kindly allowed to visit the Maughan Library at King's yesterday afternoon (I'm not fully enrolled yet so missing the card which would automatically let me in).  The library is in the old Public Records Office, just around the corner from the Royal Courts of Justice and opposite the Law Society.  I hope you can see from the picture (left) how beautiful it is on the outside.  Inside it is very large and light (everything seems to be painted white).  The reading room is absolutely gorgeous and featured in the film of the Da Vinci Code, although I'm not sure how proud the college is of that.

Although term doesn't start for about 10 days I was surprised how many people were there.  I got a bit lost at first and it was eerie to wander through a few empty rooms where lights came on just as I went into the room and then seemed to go off as soon as I left (very efficient motion sensors).  When I got to the English/Literature section though there were about 5 other people working.  I was worried that I might distract them as I took out my pen and opened my notepad but then I noticed there was a constant noise - the tip-tap of computer keyboards being struck.  Hmmm - spot the 'old' student.  I think I'll have to get used to using either my iPad or laptop for note-taking or look like a bit of a dinosaur.  I'm just worried that I'm too slow a typist! I suppose practice will make perfect and as I spent time today typing up my handwritten notes from yesterday I guess it will be more efficient just to type in the first place.

I really want to get organised now.  My prepatory reading is going well (i.e. I'm reading the background books.  If you tested me on Freud not sure how well I'd do) but I want to know when our induction will be and make a start on things.  I really need to learn some patience but it's just because I'm excited.

Thanks for reading ...  

Sunday, 4 September 2011

A walk through London's history

Tower Bridge and the Thames

Last Thursday afternoon was absolutely beautiful weather so I met a friend for lunch and then walked to the Museum of London, on London Wall.  The museum is about 15 minutes walk from my old office but I had never been there before.  I'm ashamed to admit how much of London I haven't seen in the nearly 20 years that I've been living nearby.

A lot of the MA is focused upon cities and London itself so it made sense to visit now.  The museum is free to enter and was nicely busy (as in people in all the exhibits but plenty of room to look around) and, the Government would be pleased to know, there were lots of children in there discussing the exhibits with their parents.

Although I could have started in the mid-19th century galleries I did the right thing and began at the beginning.  After walking quickly through 'London before London' I did slow down for the Roman galleries.  Very enjoyable they were too.  On my left is a mock up of a prosperous Roman home.  I actually thought that I would be happy to move in. There is also a mock up of a Roman kitchen and various shops and finds.  It's very light and the exhibits are well labelled so it's a great area to look around and then there are the exhibits that knock you sideways: the finds from the Temple of Mithras and the real mosaic floor from Milk Street and you have to remember that this place you walk around not really paying attention to has been inhabited and worked in since Roman times!  Very exciting!!
Mosaic from Milk Street
The Medieval galleries were also extremely interesting.  This is a, 100 years old, model of St. Paul's Cathedral.  It had the tallest spire in England at that time and was, to my mind, more beautiful than St Paul's looks now with the dome.  I suppose it looked like other cathedrals such as Lincoln or Salisbury whilst 'our' St Paul's looks very different to other cathedrals in Britain.  What do you think?  In addition there were royal items and exhibits of glassware and other household objects - absolutely amazing that these things survive the centuries, especially when they are just household objects and wouldn't have been treated with any care at all. 

The Great Cross in Cheap (now Cheapside, a very busy street in the City)
The Black Death made its first appearance at this point.  I have to confess that I was such a coward I didn't go and listen to the accounts.  I've seen programmes on the plague in London (although mainly talking about the 17th rather than the 14th century outbreak).  The city was built of small houses, incredibly close together and it was no wonder that the plague would spread so quickly if you were not able to get away.  By the way T tells me now that there is a question mark over whether it was rats who spread the disease or if humans caught it from one another.  Living in such close quarters it would be no surprise if infection alone was to blame (and in which case we owe rats quite the apology!).

I took fewer pictures from now on but the exhibits continued to be extremely good.   The (poor) picture on the left is of a model of the Rose Theatre which stood (due to law) just outside the city boundaries and where Shakespeare would have performed with the King's Men.  In the Tudor galleries there are interesting and beautiful ecclesiastical pieces, victims of the Reformation and the dissolution of monasteries and churches.  Then you go forward to the Civil War (or War of the Three Kingdoms as T tells me it is now referred to) and the Plague/Great Fire of London.  You can listen to Samuel Pepys tell you all about it in one gallery and see some evocative and terrifying oil paintings.

Finally, I was in the part of the museum that I had come to see although I must confess that I enjoyed the earlier galleries more.  There is a very interesting exhibit about pleasure gardens that I wanted to see because they were still going (for example at Vauxhall) in the period when the MA starts.  It's actually a very creative exhibition - lots of dummies wearing the most beautiful clothes in a small room that looks like a very small part of the garden.  There was a film to watch but I had a bit of  a Doctor Who moment and decided I wouldn't stay in there alone in case the dummies came to life.

The final galleries included the Lord Mayor's Coach which is incredibly beautiful.  There was only one other person in the room with me so I was able to get a great look.  It is worth coming to the museum simply to see this:

With very sore feet I now decided it was time to bring my meanderings through time to an end.  There are two lovely cafes in the museum and a wine bar/restaurant just outside.  There is also a very good shop with loads of variety from cuddly Corgis (wearing crowns) to serious archaelogical guides to their latest findings.  Three tube stations are close to the Museum: Moorgate, St Paul's and Barbican but I walked back to London Bridge in about twenty minutes (and that was fairly leisurely).

All in all I look forward to another visit to London's history (and they have a Dickens exhibition from December so I'm sure it will be fairly soon).

Thanks for reading.