A new look!

I’ve changed the look of my blog – have you noticed?

I love this fresh new look for my blog! I hope you like it too!
I love this fresh new look for my blog! I hope you like it too!

Let me know in the comments what you think!

I’ve got a new look on my blog, and a couple of new things I’m trialling. One of these is a new section, ‘Little Storyteller’, where I am going to keep track of my progress on the entry (likely: entries) for the writing competition I’m (somewhat optimistically) entering.

Another thing I am toying with starting are vlog posts. I’ve made a couple of videos today while I’ve been out in my greenhouse and working on my beds. If I can get over how weird and mega-Yorkshire my voice sounds, I might put them up here! What do you think of vlogging? Yay or nay?

I’m hoping to add a few new blog posts to this every week. I’m getting the hang of this WordPress thing now, and have been scrolling the interwebs looking at ideas on how other blogs are run. We’ll see how things go!

Let me know what you think.

Much love, Katy

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A cup of coffee and a laptop

Hello my lovely fellow bloggers!

A cup of coffee and a laptop
My life at the moment! What more does a girl need? Laptop, an espresso, Filofax and – some whiteboard markers?!

 

It is Saturday over here in Yorkshire – at long last! It feels like it’s been a long week. I was out all last weekend so never got chance to blog anything (I went to Liverpool with some friends from work, in case you’re wondering – I ate lots and drank lots, according to my Instagram!) I didn’t go home till Monday evening so I have been away from my computer quite a considerable time: it’s taken about twenty-five minutes to turn on and go through updates and decide if it wants to recognise my iPhone so I can upload the snap of the dining room table, as above!

This week I’ve been doing a little Pinterest research on blogging etc. I’ve also made a (very late) resolution! In my defence, it was based on something I hadn’t known existed up until yesterday, when I popped onto campus to pick up my dissertation (clever clogs).

As you can probably tell, I like writing. I like writing and I like talking: the two seem to be mutual. I’ve always been a big writer: I used to write stories and classify that as GCSE revision. It must have worked – I got a nice A* in English Language. (This was back when it was hard to get A*s, you understand; cynical ex-trainee-teacher coming through a bit there.) Ever since I was little – and I mean little, a few years ago I found lots of handwritten stories, apparently based around Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat, that I had made when I was a wee bairn, judging by the handwriting – I’ve always written stories. I suppose it comes from being an only child, and maybe living out in the countryside, and maybe a loose connection in my brain, I don’t know.

Now when I say writing, I mean it in the most sincere way. ‘Stories’ as a word just doesn’t quite convey the magnitude of what I feel when I’m writing. It is so personal and so involving; it’s not just a story, it’s an alternative life. Over the years I’ve had a stab – and with varying sizes of stabs – at numerous genres, types, formats, themes; you name it, I’ve probably given it a go. I think when I was in my late teens, I had ideas for about thirty or so books: that’s including titles, characters, summaries, structure, chapter lists, and in the case of about ten or so of those, genuine, earnest pieces of, in some cases, quite lengthy writing. A lot of it is juvenilia of course, but if it has a nugget of hope or potential in it, then, over the course of education and life experience, I’ve kept it in the back of my mind, allowing it to be gently honed and nurtured – seemingly without my real attention!

Now that I am no longer studying for my PGCE – no more late nights researching and planning lessons, marking books, creating assessment instruments, marking assessments, completing uni lesson plans, filling in tutorial records – I have time (when I’m not falling asleep on the settee in front of the TV, that is) to actually work on my first love, and hobby, and one-day maybe dream career: writing.

Yet I’ve come across a bit of a writer’s block. Figures, eh? So I’m setting myself a challenge – one I hope you’ll all keep me on the right side of! I’m going to enter a writing competition. This isn’t big news for me; I’ve done it before. But this time I’m going to enter it seriously, and probably enter every category, and work as hard as I can. I have a couple of stories in mind.

So my idea is to update this part of my blog – ‘Little Storyteller’ – every week, with news of what progress I’ve made, any problems I’ve come across, any motivational ideas I’ve had, or any theories on writing, structure, procrastination avoidance, or anything else.

I have until May – so, wish me luck! And keep me in check!

Are any of you out there budding fiction writers? Has anybody had anything published? Let me know! I’d love to find out if you have.

Love Katy

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In defence of pootling…

I’m not going to be the first person to say I am somewhat lazily inclined. That’s not to say come Saturday you’ll find me sprawled out on the sofa, manning the telly remote and exposing everyone to the tyranny of me. I have a dog to walk. He needs lots of walks. I tell him that, anyway; he’s just as lazy, if not lazier!

I do think our society as a whole – well, I can’t really speak for anyone outside of my little bubble – has created a mindset of haste and hurry. A few years ago, I remember reading in Grazia, of all things, about ‘Fear of Missing Out’ (FOMO?), which apparently was a genuine thing. I don’t dispute that: there’s nothing like sitting at home with a glass of wine, being struck dumb with the realisation that somewhere, out there, something is happening that you should really be part of. Be that a mad party, or a wicked night out, or the person you really fancy copping off with someone who really isn’t you… I imagine, you understand.

Anyway, I often jump on the bandwagon of mad crazy rushing around for a bit… after all, I do drive the flying banana that will lose its temper, all of its own accord, and overtake everything in front of it because they just will not get on. My dream holiday is a week at the Nurburgring. But at the same time, I love pootling around in my greenhouse, doing odd jobs, and simply enjoying being outside.

Which brings me to this article in question:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/society/11388406/In-praise-of-pootling-why-we-should-all-slow-down-stop-pushing-ourselves-and-spend-time-doing-nothing.html

I read this wondrous article on Friday, and while I agree with it in principle, I wouldn’t say I ever am in the state of ‘doing nothing’. I’m always thinking, thinking, thinking; whether it’s daydreaming, wondering, pondering, or planning out that book I always say I’m writing, yet have precious little to show for it, except the words in my head, thought up in moments where physically I’m engaged in one thing (potting out seedlings, etc.) but my mind is freed up to wander.

There is a guilt attached to sitting and doing nothing. We seem to have turned into a society of second-counters. It’s like doing nothing is suddenly a waste of time. As someone who spends much of her time driving from A to B, a serious block of ‘dead time’, I say value that time! From personal experience (and I don’t mean to cast dispersions, but… well, I am doing) I find that the people who view half an hour sat watching something mind-numbing on the TV, reading a book you’ve already read before, or spending, shock horror, a Saturday night in, are the people to whom ten days laid on a beach doing absolutely eff all is their ideal holiday.

Erm. Come to the Nurburgring. Beach ain’t got nothing on that.

Pootle on to your heart’s content! I am of the persuasion that the greatest ideas – the greatest creative ideas – come from pootling.

Katy

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Our Guy in India

This weekend and last weekend, my current crush, Guy Martin, has been on C4 touring around India. Sunday nights are the best nights on telly at the moment – Top Gear, Our Guy in India, Mr Selfridge; and next week, we have The Casual Vacancy (which I’ve not managed to read yet) and Indian Summers. There seems to be a bit of an Indian theme at the moment going on.

I’ve really enjoyed Our Guy in India. He was on Radio 2 the other morning, and he was just brilliant: he’s just such a normal guy; he loves his work, and he loves working, and being busy; and he can talk the back legs off a donkey.

This evening, he went into the slums of Mumbai. When I did geography at school, it always struck me that in the slums, and not just of Mumbai but of anywhere, there was such an imbalance of priorities: they didn’t have running water or sanitation, but they sure as hell had their massive tellies, satellite dishes and Xboxes. And Guy walked through this huge slum and he too pointed out the biggest TV ever – what did he say? “It’s like Currys in there, innit?”

Yet he went to the house of a family, three generations who lived in what looked like a cube, though the neatest and most orderly cube in the world, and the grandaddy was a Hindu priest. Yet speaking to him, Guy found out that this man was so happy with what he had in his life: he didn’t need to fill his house with things, because he didn’t need those things: he liked eating, so he had all he needed to prepare his meals. It really makes you feel humble. I wrote on my other blog, notmuchofayoungfarmer.wordpress.com, about how we are a culture of rushing and hurrying everywhere: the same seems to be of having things. When I left uni, there seemed to be this enormous pressure on graduates to get jobs with huge salaries: it was as if we had do something with our degrees to make it worthwhile. As if they could only be measured in monetary gain: it cost this much to go to uni, so we have to justify that decision in making a salary which for me, someone who has a relatively professional job in the north of England, is just out of this world. I was reading in a copy of Glamour magazine about disparities in salaries within individual couples: such and such is a made-up professional and earns £70,000 a year; so and so is a bunch of random words strewn together, and earns £55,000 a year. Why must our decisions be measured by a salary? What even would you do with £70,000 a year? I’ve never shied away from spending; I like my luxury; I like my Mulberry handbags and my Dubarry boots; but I spend more of my money on books and CDs and – to be honest – diesel. Guy pointed out a huge skyscraper that was the home of the richest man in India: he had 200 servants for four people: himself, his wife and his two children; his empires in whatever, real estate or building or what have you, had made him £15 billion. £15 billion! That’s a scale of money I can’t even comprehend. What would you do with that? I think I’d buy myself a Porsche, and then be like, right, OK, I don’t rightly know what to do now. I’ll stick it in the bank. No, I’d just give it away. £15 billion! I can’t deal with that.

At the very end, Guy said, “be happy with what you’ve got.” Around me, people – people my age, people I went to school with, people younger than me – are obsessed with getting this, owning this, having this, and then making it bigger, getting it bigger, upgrading, upsizing. I was once one of them, and probably in a few months, I will slip back, and become one of them again. But at the end of the day, if you have a roof over your head, food in your belly, and people around you that you love and care for, you should be happy with what you’ve got.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to look at dresses on the internet.

Katy
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The Big Allotment Challenge

Has anyone else been watching The Big Allotment Challenge? Already it’s over – it seems to have gone by so soon. I was pleased: one evening I live-tweeted, and The Big Allotment Challenge favourited my tweet! And then all of a sudden I had an influx of twitter followers – I was ever so pleased!

It’s been very useful to watch for me, as an amateur grower. Though personally I did think that more time could have been spent on the how to grow section. Something so very difficult to grow, like a cauliflower, was over and done with in a flash. No mention of cabbage collars – and the little seedlings had them on! And naturally, I have a history with cauliflowers, considering all of last year’s crop was wiped out.

Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed this year’s programme. I do find it a bit of an odd piece of scheduling: on a Friday night? Surely such a programme is more suited to a mid-week, Bake-Off slot? But I suppose I don’t know much about those sorts of things.

This year is my proper growing year in earnest. Last year was my training year: it started a bit late on, and I was greenhouse-less. This year I’m going for it, all guns blazing! I have my greenhouse – with shelves!! – and my two beds, and I have ordered my seeds, and my seed potatoes, and my potato grow bags.

One day I may even be a contender for The Big Allotment Challenge! I wanted Jojo or Rob to win, so I was very pleased for Rob. Poor Jojo did have a bit of a mare in this last episode. I didn’t much like Sandra: I thought she was manipulative, and her cruel remarks about the youngest contestant in the early episodes did stay with me. What utter growing heaven though! Heated greenhouse, a huge plot, and all within the lovely enclosed walls. But I don’t think my garden is too bad.

My Non-Fiction Bookshelf

 

My reading habits have always strayed towards the realms of fantasy; that’s not to say I don’t like a good bit of gritty realism, but more often than not, I’m a sucker for a good quest. And out of all that, I always tend to pick up a fiction book as opposed to something real.

Not here! Please see below my rather modest non-fiction bookshelf. Although looking at it from here, I am struck that I am missing a couple of titles – there are more?!

non fiction bookshelf

Now I did at some point in my rather convoluted life get a university education; in fact, not only the one, but two degrees! However looking up at those books, I only ever used the three on the far right in my MA, and two of those for one essay on the Pre-Raphaelites – and that was because I was writing about a Dante Gabriel Rossetti painting of Pandora – and the other, well, because I wanted to really know what ‘postcolonialism’ was.

Don’t even ask.

The rest has a distinct historical tinge. I love Neil Oliver! I’ve watched all his series, but I’ve yet to really get into either of his books. The same goes for the Andrew Marr book. I think some part of me really wanted to be a historian. The prevalence of Neil Oliver’s ancient Britain/Anglo-Saxon history books emerges from my third year studies into Anglo Saxon Literature: how very high-brow. Who doesn’t love a bit of the Wanderer? Beowulf is just far too mainstream.

The book on the Norse Myths isn’t a bit of diversification on my previous foray into Old English: I have no shame in naming Thor as my favourite film. I wanted to know if Loki and Thor really were adopted brothers. I’m still a bit confused.

I intend to read all of these in my little lifetime. I should just start from the left and move across. I mean, nobody ever reads reference books like a story. But I love my dictionary on Classical Mythology. Is there a career where you can just study lots of different mythologies? I think I’d like to write encyclopedias on the world’s mythologies. That’s like my dream job.

Do you have any opinions on my non-fiction? Too bland, too historical, too uninspired? I’d love to know your recommendations!

And of course, the speed freak on me is itching to have a go at Guy Martin’s autobiography.

Katy

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New Porsche Advert

My everyday car is a bright yellow Seat Ibiza… I lusted after the yellow Renault Megane Sport, despite its jawdropping price tag (Dad told me I wasn’t allowed one!)… my favourite clothes tend to be bright yellow… I seem to have a thing about yellow, despite it being a colour that is not exactly the best shade for my skin tone. So it comes as no surprise that I love the new yellow Cayman GT4!

The new advert popped up on bridgetogantry today and it was a nice break from the snow-locked landscape I find myself in.

It’s a pretty flashy advert. I love the prowling feline image of the car, lurking round corners. The ordinary Germans on their day-to-day lives, being somewhat creepily stalked by a purring flash of yellow and a naughty graffiti artist. Then on bridgetogantry, they exposed the falseness of the Nurburgring section! Obviously I knew it was fake all along… obviously. Well, in all honesty, I thought it looked more ‘gamey’, rather than an unfamiliar corner: they rendered the track I should really know best to be a stretch of road and corners, indistinguishable from any other.

Check out the advert below.

Pretty sure the Nurburgring was already fairly cool, but I don’t know; correct me if I’m wrong.

All the same, the Cayman GT4 is one sexy beast! If any car can be termed that highest of compliments, “the sex”, then this one must come pretty close.

Brum!

Katy

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Driving in a Blizzard

It’s been a while since a “Dickie” post… that’s mainly because he’s been put away for winter, and thus hasn’t done much exciting to blog about. “Dickie sat in the garage”, “Dickie was moved from the garage”, “Dickie put up a valiant defence against the mice in the shed”. Thrilling stuff.

Another reason I haven’t put much about Dickie up is that I’ve gone through a pretty tough time of late. I wrote a blogpost on notmuchofayoungfarmer about my decision to leave the PGCE. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was definitely for the best. Having my weekends free to do with as I please, and not being tied down by school terms, means I have a bit more freedom to do what I want to do – including blogging, and maybe some track days!

But there aren’t going to be any track days at the moment! We’ve had an awful lot of snow just dumped on us. I love the snow: I love how it acts as a blank page to the world, treating fields and roads the same, whiting everything out. I love the quietness it brings to an otherwise chaotic, noisy world. However, I certainly don’t like driving in it!

The past few years we’ve not had much snow, and so I’ve missed out driving in it quite a lot. I’ve driven through a few snow showers and a dusting on the road, but not when four or five inches have been freshly laid. The other day, in my little yellow Seat, I had a little spin on a nasty corner on the back roads. That was scary, but it was a fairly wide corner, and there was nothing coming, so I just span 180 to face the wrong way and come to a stop. I laughed rather than cried, though my heart was pounding.

So when I was driving through a blizzard the day before yesterday, I was taking it very cautiously. I know at least to keep the car in as high a gear as possible to stop my wheels spinning so much… nobody else seems to know this though! The car in front of me whacked their hazards on and stopped halfway up the hill from Fimber Roundabout; because obviously that’s the most sensible thing to do on a snow-blanketed hill with a blizzard raging round.

Driving home in the snow was the scariest thing I’ve done in a long time: it wasn’t that I was afraid of my own driving, but rather I was afraid of everyone else on the road. People were weaving around like madmen, staying in first gear and spinning their wheels like mad. And worst of all, the blowers in my car stopped working, so my windscreen fogged up like something more exciting than hyperventilating and excessive swearing was happening inside.

But I made it home! And it’s been snowy since: Windy Farm is most definitely white over: very much Snowy Farm.

Maybe I should get Dickie out! After all, the snow-related memes seem to speak for themselves…

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A New Adventure

This time last year, I had everything all sorted out. I was studying for my MA, which I loved; I had a great job, working in recruitment, for a company I really believed in, which I like to believe I was good at; and I had just been confirmed on a PGCE English course, which had been for the past few years my main goal and the focus of all my energies. I just had to survive the summer, which when you have eight summer schools and two hundred staff, most of whom are at opposite ends of the country, was going to be no mean feat.

This might be a bit of a whingy post, for which I apologise… I also had a massive technological issue last night, and my laptop almost got thrown out of the window. But the gods of the internet were looking nicely upon me, so yay!

I left work in mid-August, leaving me two weeks to write a 20,000 word dissertation for my MA, and I started my PGCE on September 1st. This was the big plan! Everything kicked into high gear, I was dead excited to be studying, even though absolutely everyone else had more experience than me in schools, knew more about curriculum changes, and seemed to be enjoying themselves that little bit more.

I was placed in a decent school, though it lacked a couple of my main stipulations, and was about an hour’s drive away. I didn’t think that was too big a problem: I did use to drive an hour and a half to Hull every day, after all. I had taught EFL in one of our summer schools, and was trained as an English as a Foreign Language teacher. I thought I should be a dead cert with all this – as did everybody else in apparently the whole world (or my little world, anyway). I just had to get through the mountain of assignments and wade through all the politics, and above all, try to keep my head afloat of all the negativity and pessimism that seems to underpin everything in education.

I knew things weren’t right before Christmas: I was ill, and I was tired all the time, and I just didn’t seem to be enjoying it as much as I had thought. Everyone was stressed, but for me, the stress and the pressure was massively outweighing the pros: there seemed to be no pros for me, in fact. The evenings seemed to zoom by and were spent up to my elbows in paperwork, making lesson plans I couldn’t really make much sense of, preparing work that in the end the kids would find any excuse to not do, marking books that the kids wouldn’t even look at. I would wake up in the morning as if I’d not slept a wink. Christmas couldn’t come fast enough.

A general mindset that seems to (disappointingly) cling to every single rung of the education system is this idea of ‘the holidays can’t come fast enough’. It shouldn’t be the case, yet I’m sorry to say that it’s clear that many teachers either come to the profession in the first place or else continue in their work because of these holidays. When I graduated from the University of York, way back when in 2011, the Vice-Chancellor told us that we (as graduates) should go after something we truly believe in, and that if we don’t enjoy it, we shouldn’t do it. I could look around a staff room and see the faces of people who didn’t believe in what they were doing, and unfortunately, I was one of them.

After Christmas I went back to school, and I had no confidence, and no self-belief, but also I had lost the motivation and the passion for the job. And at the end of the day, it is a job: it is something you do for the majority of your waking hours, to earn a wage, in order to live, and to enjoy life. None of this ‘it’s a calling’: for those to whom it is a calling, well good on you, you can enjoy that nice warm fuzzy feeling inside, every time a child stares at you with blank or disinterested eyes, and be glad it’s just the one child, and not a whole classroom. I had left a job I loved, that I was good at, in a lovely environment, and with truly wonderful people, to come and do something that was taking up all my time, fighting against an impossible mountain of not just assignments and paperwork and admin, but also a sickening paralysis that seemed to wash over me the second I turned and faced a classroom of faces. And instead of rousing choruses of “it’ll get better”, instead every teacher I spoke to, either at school or one of my university tutors, would say that it took until their third, fourth, fifth year or more to be comfortable and good at teaching. For me, that just wasn’t good enough.

The second I decided that it wasn’t for me, and it wasn’t just a matter of time before it changed, I felt like a great weight had been lifted. I was never a particularly brave person before, and have always found it easier to avoid problems, as if they might go away. But I also believe very strongly that feeling something is ‘right’ for you is the most important thing in the world.

I left my course in mid-January. I had various meetings and talked at length with everyone around me – my parents, my coursemates, my friends and my tutors – but I had already made my mind up. It was like my dad said: I had to draw a line under it, and I think I had done that, when I was driving to school one morning and could barely see for the tears in my eyes.

It’s been a long time since I’ve not had a period of study to throw myself into. I graduated from York and worked in lots of temporary jobs before finding something that I was good at, by which point I had decided to pursue teaching – for what reason? I can’t even remember why I decided it – I just woke up one morning and thought, you know what? I’ll be a teacher. I don’t think that was really the best mindset to go into such a demanding career.

Now I have time to do the things I really want to do. I can spend a whole Saturday in my greenhouse, without feeling guilty or rushed; I can, as I did this weekend, spend the whole weekend sorting out my blogs, and going through all my photos, without the dread of Monday hanging over me; I can go to the Nurburgring in term time! I feel so much freer for making this decision, and am much happier.

There is a big trend on Facebook and Instagram for these inspirational phrases, and cheesy as they are, I do think they are true. You never know until you try. I don’t regret attempting a PGCE at all: if I hadn’t done it now, I would probably spend the rest of my adult life thinking, “what if?” At least now I know it’s not for me. I don’t think it is ever a bad or cowardly thing to say, “you know what: I don’t like this, and I’m going to get out of this.” I never really imagined myself as a brave person, but this is one decision I am proud I had the courage to take.

I have the utmost respect and awe for my now-ex-coursemates and for those training or already in the profession. Teaching is important, but it is a big, demanding career that you have to be 100% dedicated to. For those of you still in it, I salute you!

I was trying to find a cheesy Pinspirational quote to end this really long post with, but there is cheese, and there’s big stinky Stilton! Never mind, eh.

Go for what you want! 

If that’s stepping off one ladder, don’t worry:

You can take the next step on the right one!

There, that was cheesy!

Katy

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Christmas Roulade

Another retrospective post!

I have lots of traditions at Christmas: not only do I make the starters, and fail to decorate the Christmas cake, but I also make a chocolate roulade. When I was at school, I used to decorate a shop-bought swiss roll in about an inch of chocolate buttercream! Mmm heaven! The past few years however this has developed into a chocolate roulade.

Here’s a pic of last year’s…

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Somehow, I always end up with quite deep fissures along the ‘bark’, but I suppose that just adds to the rustic ‘fallen log’ image. And let’s not forget that I won the roulade category in this year’s Horticultural Show, with one perfectly rounded end, and one that was a bit, erm, triangular!

I follow Mary Berry’s recipe, from the Bake-Off, though I have been hunting for a method to stop the cracks in the rolling process. After lengthy googling, I found an interesting theory, which involved rolling it up – while warm, sans filling of course – in a tea towel and bunging it in the oven to ‘remember’ its curl. Sounds logical right?

Well, it was, until half of the roulade broke off.

Devastation central!

After some tears, and some laughter, and then some serious expletives aimed at a website that had done me over, I filled it anyway, whacked the broken layer on top, and dusted it with icing sugar.

IMG_0686Anyway, it tasted gorgeous! Even if it was rocking a slightly more dilapidated ‘fallen log’ look – maybe a ‘hit by lightning’ look?

Katy

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