Sunday, 16 November 2014

Bad Grammar

Last night I spent an hour or so reading my favourite blogs on my I-pad, adding the occasional comment, while sleepily watching tv at the same time.  This morning, I noticed that there are quite a few typo and spelling errors in these comments and, in one of them, I have muddled my homophones using 'to' instead of 'too'.  Somewhat ironic, since I spent quite a lot of time on Friday afternoon telling students about the importance of proof-reading their work to avoid errors just like this.

Looking back over my previous blog posts I can see other errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar (or SPaG as the exam boards call it) and am aware that I am setting myself up for criticism. How can I, as an English teacher, publish writing which contains errors?  Shouldn't I be ashamed of myself?  I've been asking myself these questions recently.  Perhaps I shouldn't blog at all, when I don't have time to construct careful sentences or proofread properly.  And I compare myself to other bloggers: two of my favourites write flawlessly, despite having English as an additional language.  Why can't I manage this?

Before half term our Year 10 students, including my daughter, completed something called the Spoken Language Unit for their GCSE.  Their task was to produce an essay in which they analysed examples of their own use of digital communication and considered whether they were similar to spoken language.  This meant collecting examples of their texts, Snapchats or other messages and commenting on them. A pointless, time-wasting activity in my opinion: I am not sorry this particular part of the English Language GCSE has been dumped in the latest rewrite.  However what emerged was quite interesting.  My daughter and her friends use a whole range of techniques to make their 'chats' similar to spoken language:  repeated !!! or ???, capital letters to suggest tone of voice and emojis to suggest gesture and facial expression.  She doesn't worry about sentence punctuation much but does make an effort to use the apostrophe distinguish between words like 'your' and 'you're'.  The important thing for her is communicating and the speed at which she does so astounds me: she can type accurately on the tiny I-phone keypad without looking.

And so, like her,  that's what I've decided to do: focus on communication. So forgive me, dear readers, for the occasional error.  This blog is a record my thoughts and experiences: it is not perfectly crafted prose. Blogger allows me to share these thoughts and experiences with others who can respond, if they wish, just as I can respond to their writing. I love being able to do this.  As E.M Forster said in his preface to Howard's End: 'only connect.'  That's what matters.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Year in Books - November: Reading 'Best Sellers'

My October read was this Booker Prize nominated novel, We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.  I noticed yesterday that it is number 3 in the best selling paperback list published in 'The Times'.  In fact quite a few of my recent reads are on there (The Chimp Paradox, The Goldfinch) as well as my November choice Us by David Nicholls.  This has lead me to consider how much I am influenced by marketing in my choice of reading: the book promotions and displays in Chester's only bookshop, Waterstones; the reviews in the papers; the radio interviews; and even the appearances at literary festivals: all of this is marketing.  And even though I know this, I am still easily influenced. It makes me a bit uncomfortable: how will any new writers get on the shelves if booksellers fill them up with these heavily promoted books, often written by those who have already had a best seller? So I am going to make a deliberate effort to avoid such books in the future, basing more of my reading on recommendations like those on this link up The Year in Books by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees.

I quite enjoyed We Are Completely Beside Ourselves which I chose initially because of the intriguing title, though possibly also because of its position in the Waterstone's display.  (I didn't actually buy it from Waterstone's but did my usual library order.  It's usually either that or a Kindle purchase for me so I am guilty, I suppose, of contributing to the demise of independent bookshops and their support of new writers.)  It was another book which was really promising in the first few third, but then lost pace later on.  It's in the first person again, like many books I have read recently, and tells the story of a young woman who is the daughter of psycholgist parents and how the family breaks down because the father chooses to experiment with his own family. There's a major twist which I won't give away, but after that is revealed, I think, the book goes downhill and I felt sometimes that the writer's research was a bit intrusive - more scientific detail than I wanted. Perhaps others like this: I noticed it had a rave review in The Guardian. (Don't read this if you want to discover the twist yourself).

I have started Us, by David Nicholls.  It's about the marriage of a couple in their fifties whose son is about to go off to university and so interests me as I'm not so far from that stage.  But so far it seems depressingly similar to One Day: the main character is a kind of older version of Dexter,  Anyway - will reserve judgement until I read some more.  I have also tracked down the book I referred to in my last post and I have ordered it from the library.  It is 'Happiness by Design' by Paul Dolan.  I'll be reading this too.  And now I am off to rake up leaves in the garden, an activity which makes me happy.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Doing Too Much

Thank you to all those who commented on my previous post.  After a week off school I am now feeling more relaxed and on top of things.  I've been thinking about why I got myself into such a state: it's because I always end up taking on too much,  It's a mistake I make again and again. I agree to do things too easily, without thinking of the consequences for me and the rest of the family.  A recent example was editing our school magazine,  a demanding task which I ended up doing in evenings and at the weekend, snapping at anyone who interrupted me.  It has now been printed and distributed and I am pleased with the results.  But was it worth the collateral damage to my mental health and relationships at home?

This week there's been another example.  In the summer I was offered the opportunity to host a Boden clothes party.  I like Boden clothes - pricey but good quality - and I have bought a few items recently. So when the email arrived, I signed up for it and was offered a date in half term.  I liked the idea of hosting an all female party and trying on the clothes.  Of course, I didn't consider the downside - the huge effort required to set up all the clothes and pack them away again.  Did I enjoy it? Yes - it was lovely seeing my friends and I quite enjoyed transforming our living room into a clothes shop. Yet it really wasn't lot of fun getting up early yesterday morning to pack it all away. My daughter helped - she set up and put away the accessories you can see below.  But, because I was so busy, I got stressed and snappy with her again and angry words were exchanged; too many fluctuating hormones in our house at present.

I read this article in the press recently about happiness. I meant to cut it out and try to get hold of the book it was promoting but the paper got recycled. If anyone knows the book I am talking about, please tell me.  The basic idea was this: you conduct a happiness audit.  Write down all the things you do - work and leisure activities - and how long you spend and then award a score out of 10 for each activity according to how happy it makes you feel. I'm planning to this for the next month.  I hope I will be able to break the 'doing too much' habit and spend more time on what I really enjoy.  Now I am going to stop blogging and go for a walk, one thing that does make me happy - it's a beautiful autumn morning.

PS - Camera playing up. Photos not uploading.  No pics of Boden party pics then.  Am I going to waste precious daylight hours struggling with technology? No  - will walk dog instead. Here's a picture of us on my birthday in July when we found a Gruffalo on a walk in Delamere forest.  He knows how to be happy and doesn't do too much ( the dog, not the Gruffalo.)