Monday, 23 December 2013

I’m ready to go. My Kindle is loaded but what about the online thesaurus!?!?

Today was my last official day of employment. If you have read my previous blog, I explained how I have made the decision to move on. I also explained how I would go on to discuss the reasons in more detail once I have actually finished, but I have changed my mind. As the saying goes, if you have nothing nice to say then say nothing at all. I know saying that in itself sounds somewhat bitter but it’s the final double-jab I will throw, promise, let’s just say I have had some great times there and met some amazing people that I hope will always be part of my life, and I’ve had some bad times and wish some people a lonely painful death (too much?) I’m no different though, the majority of people in the majority of jobs experience the highs and lows of developing a career, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s just the way it is, for me the last two years have been rough but instead of explaining anything, I am simply going to forget and move on. That’s it. Adios. Time to start writing properly…

Kindle loaded…

I leave for Spain shortly and as yet I haven’t fully worked out the internet connection situation. This was deliberate. Firstly, I absolutely didn’t want any connection in the place I am staying, I’m going out there to write and to live a quiet life for a while, there was no point in having distractions as I may as well have stayed in the UK. However, there is a drawback to that. Although I’m not of the generation that has been brought up with the internet being seen as a fundamental human right, I have been brought up with computers and technology around me and when I was 18 or so I bought my first computer that had internet connection and ever since I have been used to using it as a normal part of the day; you check emails, you book cinema tickets, you use Facebook and so on…but also, as I have recently been reminded, I use it as a constant reference and research tool. Not only while I was studying for my literature degree as a formal ‘studying’ tool (not cheating…come on now) but as part of every job I have had and every interest, it is just there. In the context of writing, whenever I need to check a spelling that is not automatically picked up by Word, do I get up off my seat and pick up my dictionary? No, of course I bloody well don’t and now do I feel silly! I actually became a little bit hot and flustered the other day when I went to my ‘reference’ shelf (I am so organized sometimes it makes me feel ashamed, as if I need to take up day time boozing…or rather…increase my daytime boozing) and attempted some old school physical research. It’s been a while. It was very nice actually, a reminder of the way things used to work, struggling through countless books to find the right one and so on. Let’s be honest though, it doesn’t half take a long time. Well compared to what we are used to now that is. Online, it takes just a few clicks, a few words of text and bang, there you are, problem solved.

So here’s something to embarrass myself with, take a look at these:

I won this at school, I still use it.

This was a school prize (ooouuu, get me) in 1994, again, I always reach for it in times of bad signal.

By comparing against the size of my hand, you may, like me, question the use of the word, 'Pocket'.

It feels almost criminal I don’t use these anymore, but here’s the thing. They are too heavy to take with me! I’ve heard this argument many a time over the last couple of years on various forums that are discussing eReaders. For the record I love both paper books and electronic books, they will both be around for a long long time yet. But without digressing, in terms of weight, of course it is fantastic that a Kindle can hold so many books (more of that later…) because it is simply not practical to carry around so many items when travelling. Next year I am facing that problem, I can’t take with me several kilos of text and reference books, but at the same time my Internet connection may not be nowhere near what I currently take for granted. So, in a way it’s an adventure. It’s going to test me, I am going to have to think things through and not just consider that every obscure idea can be instantly researched.

And what the hell am I going to do without this!

Back to my Kindle…over the last couple of weeks I have been on Amazon’s Kindle Store several times because next year as I said on the last blog I have the chance to catch up on the pleasure of reading. I haven’t read a fraction of what I should have over the last few years so I am really looking forward to having the time to get through…well, get through the over 300 titles I have now downloaded! Let me list a handful of the authors for you:

  • Kingsley Amis
  • Anthony Burgess
  • Evelyn Waugh
  • Honore de Balsac
  • V.S Naipaul
  • Johanna Spyri
  • Cormac McCarthy
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Thomas Pynchon
  • Jerome K Jerome
  • Vladimir Nabokov
  • John Milton
  • Dante Alighieri
  • James Joyce
  • Anna Sewell
  • Ayn Rand
  • J.G Ballard
  • Virginia Woolf
  • David Foster Wallace
  • Graham Greene
  • Alexandre Dumas
  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Italo Calvino
  • H.G Wells
  • Jules Verne
  • Laurence Sterne
  • Joseph Conrad
  • Anthony Trollope
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Roald Dahl
  • Edith Nesbit
  • David Hume
  • D.H Lawrence
  • Albert Camus
  • Herman Melville

Now the list doesn’t have much by way of this century I know, but I have a lot of those on my bookshelves and I’m not purchasing duplicates. I should say too that the vast majority were free eBooks or priced very low, I couldn’t have afforded to buy the latest versions of all of them, with introductions, forewords, bibliographies, etc. etc. With the exception of a handful they are just the plain text versions. (Which by the way is amazing, how fantastic for people who want to read that they have access to so many books, I remember when I was younger how desperately I was to get my hands on some of these, and yes, I went to the library, but the inspiration and motivation having this sort of access must give to young readers and potential writers is huge, and I think brilliant) Also, there a lot of short stories in there, author’s tend to have a backlog of short stories that people have never heard of, not everyone of course, but a lot do and it’s been great to get those and I hope I learn a lot from them. And yes, I don’t think for a second that I will get through all of them, it’s a classic exercise that most people do, download tonnes of stuff that will forever remain on 1%, however, I do have a year to myself and even if I don’t finish everything, there is a lot to learn stylistically from even just an opening chapter.) There are a mixture of classics and modern that I have wanted to read for some time now but I have no order of preference or any plan on how to attack that list, I’m simply going to start at the top and work my way through, I’m a few chapters into ‘The Old Devils’ by Kingsley Amis and it’s already made my fingers itch to get typing.

I would like to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who has wished me good luck for next year. You have been very encouraging and it has meant a lot to me. As much as I am excited I will miss my friends and family and the nerves are building up. I hope that I can be as focused once I’m out there as I feel I want to be, I want it to be a productive year, not for any other reason than for its own sake, I just want to get some work done.

I was flicking through a quotations book I have the other day, and there was something from George Orwell’s collected essays that caught my eye. I haven’t had much fun the last couple of years, it has been a tough period for me, but the sense of fun and adventure I know is still inside me, it’s waiting to come out again. I want to be able to express myself through writing with absolute honesty and integrity, and perhaps being away for a while, and having nothing to focus on except my work, will help me to do that, to recapture that sense of awe of the world and allow myself to enjoy the day with silliness. I don’t believe that child life is the ‘only’ real life, we experience real life every day, but we can forget what we want to be, and what we want to feel, so the quote made me feel connected to the child in me but appreciate the adult I am…and I’m taking it as a challenge for 2014.

 “The child thinks of growing old as an almost obscene calamity, which for some mysterious reason will never happen to itself. All who have passed the age of thirty are joyless grotesques, endlessly fussing about things of no importance and staying alive without, so far as the child can see, having anything to live for. Only child life is real life.”


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