Yeats in the Offing

It may only be week 5, but I feel like my brain has left town, with the eagerness of a Labrador at the beginning of the grouse shooting.

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Is anyone else’s brain smashed?

No! Wait, I don’t mean literally! But that sense of ‘Oh dear, everything inside my head is turning to moosh, and I don’t like it.’

To put it another way, I am glad that my skull is made of bone, therefore, is unlikely to combust into thin air. The result is, which to my great excitement includes a word I never knew existed before, a ‘quaggy‘ mess.

It may only be week 5, but I feel like my brain has left town, with the eagerness of a Labrador at the beginning of the grouse shooting. Please do excuse any mixed metaphors. They are floating about my head for a somewhat, understandable reason: this semester has seen my almost-full-body submersion into poetry. Therefore I grant myself full liberty within any metaphorical landscape from here on in.

At the present moment in time, I am supposed to be writing an essay on the symbolism of W.B. Yeats; one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century, among the top Irish, and international, writers that we have ever produced, or as I now call him, ‘The-Reason-For-My-Head-Being-In-A-Quaggy-Mess’.

 

William Butler Yeats

 

To be fair, it’s not all of his fault.

I did sign up for this.

Yes, I am a class-A idiot. Specifically, an ENG531 Class-A idiot.

Let me explain.

wooster is miffed at jeevesWhen I started looking at the module selection for third year, I noted that there was a module devoted to ’20th Century Irish Writers’. Smiling with the certainty that some type of Wodehousian-fate would love, I passively acknowledged that it looked good, but I would never take the class. Another bout of Irish literature? Please, let’s just not.

Yet as online enrolment loomed around the corner, and I had little-to-zero interest either of the modules I was considering as a third option, I could almost hear P.G. Wodehouse narrate this paragraph of my biography:

‘Despite the quiet reluctance of a cat on a hot tin roof, Nesta saw that she either had to brave the fray, or spend the next semester knee-deep in Knitters Digest in a last ditch move towards sanity. After all, when one puts these things into perspective, some writers from the motherland couldn’t damage her as much as an accidental prod of a knitting needle to the chest, in an attempt to alleviate the boredom.’

Yet, it was not as hum-drumly practical as this alludes to. Ulster may not be the forefront Irish university, nor may it shine the brightest on the world’s stage, but it is an Irish university. As such, I thought that I had better commit myself to a semester of Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett, as a slight penance for not biting the bullet in previous years. In an odd sense of patriarchal nationalism, I felt that it was almost a duty to spend time looking into Irish writers.

After my A-Level experience (which had no marks, or tarnish left from a totally joyous experience of school, where everything always went the right way), I had walked away believing Irish writers to be self-obsessed, and narrow minded. Self-obsessed, as most of the work was personal to their own circumstances and opinions; narrow minded, as they constantly referred back to Classical literary tropes, which I then had to learn off my heart to include in essays that used as much brain power that would power a G-Wiz for 15 minutes.

Needless to say, I was bored, stressed, and unhappy for these years.

The last thing I wanted to do during the last year of my undergrad, was to relive all of those experiences. Uni has been my best experience of education; one that has not helped in the total decline and demise of my mental faculties.

Entering Lt10 on Thursday morning of week one, was the closest I have felt towards dread (concerning my studies) than I have felt in a long while. As I sat down, lifting my file-block, pens, and endurance onto the table, my brain clocked out. I sat like this for, roughly half-an-hour, when suddenly, something the lecturer said, caught my attention;

‘It’s important to look at Irish writers, for not only have they shaped the international literary climate; they have also shaped the perception of Ireland. Yeats may as well, could have worked for Sligo’s tourist board, Joyce Dublin’s, and Beckett, a particular view on a very Irish mindset. They helped put us on the map: I [the lecturer] therefore think that every student from Ulster, or another Irish university, should spend at least one semester looking into their work. Not only is the writing to an international standard, but these writers helped to shape the world in which literature is alive in the modern age.’

That may be paraphrased, but it was the jist of my struggle: overlooking my prejudices, and accepting that maybe there is something more to Yeats than his Leda, Joyce’s all-over-the-show-formwise masterpiece, and Beckett’s streams-of-consciousness. I needed to build a bridge, have some patience and compassion, and get over it.

A few weeks later, I still am wrestling with Yeats. I still am rolling my eyes to 360-degrees whenever someone talks about ‘the symbolism in Yeats’ poetry on loss/Ireland/women etcetc’; but I am beginning to have respect. Not just for what Yeats achieved in his lifetime, but what he achieved in his poetry.

It’s self-focused because poetry is allowed to show the soul of the poet, to be the external-processing needed whenever tragedy strikes, and to give himself focal points to immortalise into epochs in the narrative of Irish history.

And Yeats isn’t narrow-minded. At least, not in the ways in which I used to think he was.

So now, as my quaggy mess of a brain starts to churn back into it’s working mode, and as I delve back into my work, I just want to encourage you to be open minded to the things that you’ll learn. Guard your heart (Pvb4:23) defiantly, but be wise. Don’t shut doors because of bad experiences: don’t close down a chance because you’re afraid of the consequences: don’t stop learning.

It’s how we grow up.

 

Love,

Nesta

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Old Friends and Social Faux-Pas

I feel like Barney from How I Met Your Mother, but instead of dragging Ted around the local bars, I carry hypothetical reading material into any situation, trying to match-up one of my loves with another human being.

People watching is the height of entertainment for me and, for varying reasons, the past month has seen my social calendar packed. Meeting all of the new people has been somewhat entertaining, as well as terrifying. Therefore, when I look back over the past few weeks, I sub-consciously realised that there are a few set-things I do when confronted with new people;

 

  • Analyse: Everything that I can see from body language or physical appearance, hear from their language or dialect, and feel with my gut-instinct. Trust me, I don’t do this to feel superior, or for the lols, but because it really does interest me. Everything about every person on this earth is different. Yes, some traits we share, picking them up from the environments and cultures we come from; but on the whole, everyone is different in their own special way. By looking at these differences and breaking them down internally, I am able to familiarise myself with the ‘idea of other’. This ‘idea of other’ is something that I use to cope in all social situations. We all see the world as ‘us and them’: the ‘idea of other’ simply helps in understanding that we all have flaws that we don’t want others to see fully into.

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  • Kick into Hyper-Drive: My sentences merge into one long stream of consciousness. All words get jumbled together in one long stream of internal panic. After all, what does one say when meeting someone new? If one is quiet, then awkwardness descends, like a cloud over the top of an already misty mountain. If one is talkative, the other person will label you as crazy and therefore run away as soon as possible. I am super aware that I fit under the latter. Motor-mouth-101 kicks in, and I will spew whatever comes into my head. As human nature and social skills promise, conversation will turn to things we find ourselves secure in: loves, passions, achievements, or interests that the talker lands on-top of the talkee’s shoulders. Thus, it sounds like I am boasting, or worse, being a self-righteous snob whenever I get going.

After all, who else has enjoyed reading Aristotle.    books2.0

No one.

I have met no one who has ever read Poetics outside of ENG341, who has done it for pleasure.

  • Churn it over: Taking everything that has been said and processing it to the nth degree. This will be done in great detail, and served with a twinge of regret. Regret, not for meeting the new person, but for dominating the conversation. I want to be curious without being nosey, yet not everyone wants to or feels able to partake in small talk. Apparently, the knack of small talk is to ask questions; but what happens when you are asking questions and getting one word replies? Tell me, oh wise etiquette people of the internet. What do you do then? So, I spend the rest of the day, maybe even into the next (week), thinking about different ways I could have been a better conversationalist. Being a little annoyed that I was provoked into Motor-Mouth-101 by the silence and then continue to churn over the conversation, trying to understand just how on earth I have managed to survive in this social stratum for so long and not be pin-pointed as a complete narcissist?

 

Now, there may be a person or two reading this shaking their heads; wondering ‘how Nesta, after all we have been through, are you still being introspective when it comes to meeting new people?’

Tell me how to stop doing items number 2 and 3, then I will: I promise.

To be honest, this is a frightfully long introduction into the main body of this post today, which is, that whenever I start Motor-Mouthing-101, my immediate subject with a new person is:

‘So, do you like books?’

I feel like Barney from How I Met Your Mother, but instead of dragging Ted around the local bars, I carry hypothetical reading material into any situation, trying to match-up one of my loves with another human being.

One of these favourites is called Flambards by K.M. Peyton.

No one has ever heard of it.

And when I say no one, I really mean that.

flambards

OK, a friend from school bought me the book for my birthday about ten years ago, and it was so sweet of her. But the reason for her buying the book wasn’t that it was my favourite; it was because there was a horse on the front cover.

Prizes to the first one to message me confirming what type of 11-year-old I was.

So anyway, I always ask ‘What do you like to read?’.

For some inexplicable reason, this kind of question always throws people. It’s almost like they have social skills and have practiced other forms of commutation with each other, at some type of institution, where grown up people teach things like Maths, or Science, or English, or social skills.

Not that there is a lesson plan for such benign things as human interactions, but I clearly remember daydreaming through my playground days. Wandering around pretending to be Elizabeth Bennet, quoting letters from Darcy, and dancing a quadrille (on my own) was far easier than talking to other people. Or worse, playing 1-2-3-tippy.

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Due to said daydreaming, I don’t really know what to do when I meet new people. I’m still learning. At 22, it still frightens me: the idea of getting to know new people, making new relationships and starting new projects with said people. It is daunting.

Anyway, due to ‘So, do you like books?’ I have realised that I must be in the minority. I am not being elitist, or snobby, or snooty, when I say this. Books and reading have just dropped as popular media in the twenty-first century. Not that they aren’t being read: in fact, book sales have beaten e-books in their popularity since 2016 – #itsallaboutthataesthetic.

When I say that ‘I like a good book’, I mean it. Every part of it will enthral me; the smell, the plot, the characters, the narrative, the feel, the feels… all of it. A good book and a cup of tea does wonders for any time I am feeling blue.

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It then makes me a little sad when someone tells me that they don’t like books.

Not that I’d ever force a book on someone who wasn’t a big reader. But it makes me sad to think that they will never know the joy of opening up to a dearly beloved book, to delve into characters’ lives in ways we never can in real life. For example, no one has ever been able to share with me the heart break I experienced, aged 15, when a certain death happened in the Flambards series.

There is no spoiler alert here for I am not revealing anything. No sir. You may go and read, or listen to, or watch the TV series, but I am staying mute. For it felt like a friend had died.

This is what happens when you get invested into the life of a character. You become emotionally attached. As a person who finds emotions hard to show therefore, reading becomes a little outlet for me. It then keeps me sane as I use my over-active hyper-driven brain to analyse the text, rather than something else that I struggle a lot with: myself, as a person.

Reading, then analysing, and then thinking about a text really helps me to cope with the inside of my head. It may be a surprise, as I am not one of the unusually gifted of the world, that there is quite a lot going on up there. I find it hard to stop, take a break, to switch off.

In fact, switching off is my worst nightmare. Doing nothing while thinking about nothing is awful. I can’t do it.

How do I relax then?

Simple.

I read.

That’s why I love reading, books, my course, driving, people watching… all of it. It all helps me to relax. Keeping my mind busy helps me to keep calm. Oxymoronically, doing nothing stresses me out, while having a ‘little project’ relaxes me.

This post is a bit up in the air. But if you take anything away from here, let it be this: do more of what you love. I’ve been wired in a way that makes the way I read a social situation, incredibly similar to the way I read a book. God made me this way. Yes, I can pray, and yes, I can worship and read the Bible: but when push comes to shove, ‘whatever you do, do it all for God and His glory’ for me means doing what I love to do. There are desires in my heart, good ones placed there by my good Father. He knew what He was doing when He wired me up to be a nostalgic-realist-dreamer of a girl, who loves music, and being in her own world.

He knows what I love.

And He loves watching me do it.

Do more of what you love: it’s what we were created for. It may be hard at times, we may need help, but ultimately, as my La (my grand-father) says;

 

‘Do the work that’s nearest,

Though it’s dull at whiles,

Helping when you meet them,

Lame dogs over stiles’

  • Charles Kingsley

 

 

As always,

Love,

Nesta

 

 

 

Setting the Record Straight

‘Make a little room in your plans for romance, Anne girl. All the degrees and the scholarships in the world can’t make up for the lack of it.’ – Anne of Green Gables

Confession: I love Gilbert Blythe. Always have, always will. It’s just a fact of life.

I have been in love with him, say, for most of my life. He is tall, dark, clever, funny, kind, devoted, a little proud, handsome and the first boy I’ve ever met who used Tennyson and the Bible within the same sentence to justify an argument. Unfortunately, he married Anne Shirley after a childhood and time of early youth growing together on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

He also, worst luck, is a fragment of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s imagination. He belongs to her world of legends and the færy beings that inhabit some corners of the world. 

His sole existence only within L.M. Montgomery’s stories is the truest thing about him. Despite all of my searching and watching and looking for a twenty-first century, Gen-X version of Gilbert, I cannot find him. Even committing this to type is painful. (Deep breath to calm nerves and wipe eyes) Moving on.

There are plenty of blogs out there telling the world about how brilliant Gilbert is. How he trumps Mr. Darcy, despite the latter’s income and penmanship; how he is a-hundred-thousand times better than Romeo who is a bit tragic, in the melter-kind-of-way; and one of the best male figures in literacy, ever. Period.

This may just be my opinion, but at a young age Gilbert told me something, through Charlie Sloane of course. He told me that ‘being smart was better than being pretty.’ This pretty much changed they way I thought about boys, my brains and all of the stuff we don’t get taught in school, all around the tender age of three.

Anne biffs GilbertConsider this then as an ode to Gilbert: to his love, character and perfection that will never be matched on earth. He wasn’t a saint however, and all the better for it. Anne sums up my feelings on the subject entirely; ‘I wouldn’t marry anyone who was really wicked: but I’d like to think that he could be wicked, and wasn’t.’

So without further adieu, I announce that Gil is my book-boyfriend. I’ll spend the rest of my days with his literary presence on my bookshelf and until any one reads of him in the Anne series or watches Jonathan Crombie act him, you may consider yourself on the bench.

With the love that’s left over,

Nesta xx

P.S. Anne girl, consider yourself privileged.

The Speech for the Defence

Hello world,

The last time I wrote to you, it was December 2016. Me, myself and I think that this is not good enough.

I promised blogs on books I wanted to read… that didn’t happen. My laptop broke down and a few things shifted in life, upsetting the previous rhythm, making a new symphony. I promised recipes, appaling spelling (see what I did there) and other things to cuddle down into with a cup of tea. This is embarrassing, the amount of things promised, but not delivered.

This month of September sees life kicking into a new gear. That gear being ‘Final Year’. There is even a hashtag floating around instagram in honour of this stressful occasion; #puttingtheENGintothird. I know it’s bad.

But away from all the negativity, I will claim this blog back as my own. I will try harder to write greater amounts of content, after all, writing is a form of therapy. It also really helps to develop your style and language. Perfect for those who happen to have the prospect of writing for a living to look forward to, as I am.

This is a ramble, and the grammar isn’t perfect. But this is what it’s all about. Try and fail, try again and succeed a bit before you fail. Getting back on the horse is all about putting yourself out there.

So go forth and get back on. After all, what’s the worse that could happen?

 

Love,

Nesta

 

 

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I failed at taking this picture for instance.

Bookish: North and South

As you may be aware, I love a good book. Or at least, a good story.

What better feeling is there than cuddling up on the sofa for an afternoon, knowing that these sheets of paper in your hands will influence your emotions, thoughts and coffee intake?

The short answer; there is no nicer feeling.

On a recent trip to London, I was deprived of these trusty home comforts during an afternoon’s reading. Nevertheless, it was an experience, however modest, that I will always treasure as special.

After a beautiful afternoon spent in the midst of Covent Garden, I decided to call into Waterstones, pick up a book and then find a park or coffee shop to sit in and loose myself for a few hours.

If, for some unfortunate reason, you have never set foot in a bookshop, then you are missing out.

Traditionally there is a higgle-de-piggildy type of organised chaos. Walls are lined with yards and yards of books, with titles ranging from books discussing the fall of the Roman Empire, to the proper way to reorganise bookshelves in your new apartment, to the black backed Penguin Classics.

Stepping amidst this oasis of book-lovers, I immediately started to scan the shelves, looking for a story to spend the afternoon revelling in.

Dragging myself out ten minutes later, I had in my hands one novel and one play; North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and (oh joy of joys!) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne.

I picked up North and South because over the past few months I had become increasingly interested in 18th and 19th century literature in my own university work. Despite the fact that I would love to tell you that the plight of the working class and their everyday struggle was my main motive in purchasing this book, I would be too precocious for words.

In reality it was this story’s central relationship between protagonist Margret Hale and the tall, dark and broody Mr. Thornton, that made this book an absolute need on my wish list.

Not going to lie to you either, I also had my interest peaked by Richard Ermitage’s beautifully detailed portrayal of Mr Thornton in the BBC’s production of this drama.

As for The Cursed Child, does one really need an excuse to delve into the world of Harry Potter?

Wandering around for somewhere to read, I found myself walking past the British Museum, around the back of Bedford Square and eventually found myself on the edge of Camden, in Russell Square Park. It was here then, that I settled down on a park bench to immerse myself in Gaskell’s imagination.

Until it started raining.

Then, Starbucks.

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The story of North and South follows a young woman, Miss Margret Hale, from her happily situated life, divided between her Father’s parish in picturesque Helstone, to the residence of her Aunt Shaw in Harley Street. Margret, who despite growing up beside her far prettier cousin, Edith, is the heroine who is accessible to all level-headed female readers; clever, practical, striking in her manner and equipped with a keen sense of wit. For this Margret becomes the much easier person to like of the two. Edith gets all she wants, including a marriage based on love, but Margret’s good sense makes her much easier to like.

Over the course of the story, Margret’s circumstances change with Edith’s marriage to a young and attractive Colonel Lennox and her own father’s decision to move his small family of three up from the southern hamlet of Helstone, to the cold, northern industrial town of Milltown.

It is from here that we really see what Margret’s character is full of. She shoulders responsibility of the household whenever her mother’s health deteriorates, meeting every new person and challenge with the same poise and ladylike ability that epitomises the ‘new woman’ heroine.

Unfortunately this ‘new woman’ status was not always well sought by wider society in the Victorian era. Gaskell therefore, had to introduce a plot line to sell her work.

Enter John Thornton.

It could be argued the whole narrative is about Margret and her relationship with Mr. Thornton. However, in saying this, some readers may be encouraged to think that this book is just a repeat of Pride and Prejudice’s love-hate relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.

This is not the case in any shape of form.

While Margret’s friendship with Thornton was rocky at the best of times, the key fact was that they remained friendly towards each other. There was not a massive emotional upheaval at the first proposal, at least on Margret’s side, and neither was there a major excuse for her to reject Thornton’s advances, there rules out the George Wickham of the story.

Her father was even Mr Thornton’s tutor in the Classics, spending evenings talking about Ovid, Homer’s Iliad and Aristotle’s Poetics. This is a far cry from Darcy’s own education at Cambridge.

Thornton’s depth of character and utterly honest nature is so refreshing. This coupled with glimpses into his internal monologue creates a dimension to his character, which I had rarely come across in Victorian literature before. The feelings, which he holds for Margret, the friendship between himself and his friend Mr Hale, the relationship between even his own mother and sister, were shown through small intersections of Thornton’s internal monologue.

By creating Margret and Mr Thornton’s dynamic, Gaskell developed them into such colourful characters, which make this novel a delight to read. Not only do they depict the archetypal educated middle class of the Victorian era, but the relationship between the two allow the surrounding social issues to be given an appropriate platform to discuss these issues on.

If this is one of Gaskell’s novels that has been pushed out of the limelight, in favour of The Cranfield Chronicles, then this in my attempt at bringing it to the centre stage.

Gaskell, who was great friends with Charlotte Brontë, managed to move away from the gothic romanticism that Jane Eyre drips with. Maybe she avoided this style in North and South because she was a happily married woman who saw more in the world than her friend did. Yet despite the social awareness that permeates throughout Gaskell’s work, the relationships are often at the centre of her work. Ultimately, relationships between different people will always provide a relational subject that the novel’s audience can relate to.

This book is a dream to read. It is not always easy to read, this I grant you. The language can trip you up sometimes and yes, now and again you need to go back over certain paragraphs.

But that is just in the beginning five, ten chapters at most.

After that, you’ll just want to read the book over and over again once you finish. The plot lines are thick, the suspense is rife, the descriptions unimportant in the vast scale of character descriptions.

On a scale of one to ten, I would put North and South at a high eight.

 

I hope you enjoyed this new type of post. Yet again I will try and write more frequently, despite being back into uni and all of my reading lists.

Nesta xx