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Embracing the Strange

It struck me, as I lambasted myself for having watched three You Tubes in a row on how to get the most out of Big Sur, that instead of fighting my current lack of focus I should embrace it. And, anyway, watching tutorials on my computer’s operating system for over two hours is focussing, just not on my practice, or on anything I would ever normally bother with. But these are very strange times, most links with normality are broken, so floating aimlessly and getting snagged on odd things is to be expected. Also, I’ve learnt a lot about my computer I didn’t know before, so when I do get back to work I should be considerably more efficient.

I’ve always believed good things come of getting lost, you get to explore places and ideas you otherwise wouldn’t and there’s always something to be learnt. I’ve just never been lost for quite so long before. This is rather different to taking a wrong turn, stumbling on a row of beautiful, crumbling Georgian houses, and being a bit late home for tea. It’s all happening in my own room, for one, but it’s just as ripe for exploration, and at the moment I’m exploring the operating systems of my various devices. Apparently there’s going to be a huge iPhone system update in March! I’m oddly excited about this. It’s not writing, or developing an online workshop as I meant to do, but it has the potential to at least be material for a story.

Image: British Geological Survey (click for more)

I may not be writing much at the moment, but I am, nevertheless, maintaining my links with the literary world by reading widely. I’ve just read two, small, books of Japanese short stories (fascinating); Corregidora, by Gayle Jones (heartbreaking, earthy, and wonderful); and am wading my way through Lola Olufemi’s Feminism Interrupted

I say ‘wading’ because although this is a subject close to my heart, and Olufemi has a wonderfully broad, enlightening take on feminism, I find her prose too academic for my sensibilities. It reads like a phd thesis, as if her voice is curtailed by academic requirements. I look forward to reading her next book, if there is one. And I hope there is one.

To provide a break from the overly academic I’m also reading Robert Macfarlane’s Underland, which is both learned and poetic. My favourite kind of writing, it delivers knowledge in a way that makes it easy to absorb. 

And for a fiction fix I’ve just downloaded (to my watch, I feel so modern!) George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo in audio form. Sometimes it’s nice to be read to. I love Saunders’ writing and this production has a cast that includes David Sedaris. 

Also, I’m still tutoring twenty-seven young writers in the art of travel writing. My last workshop for that will be on the eleventh of March when we’ll have a virtual, magical tour of a place called Fangdale Beck in the North Yorkshire Moors. I hope I’ve left the best till last and can barely wait to hear what they come up with!

So there you are: I plod on like everyone else, and look forward to getting out into the world again. I want to listen to the white noise of chatter and clinking crockery; see art; smell the sea; drive a car; taste food I haven’t cooked myself. My senses have been on standby for too long, but I reckon they’re going to have to stay that way for a while longer. As it’s all still so uncertain we’ve just made the decision to cancel a planned trip to the Pembrokeshire coast in the spring.  Boohoo! 

Meanwhile, I’ll carry on with this peculiar, virtual existence, which isn’t so bad. I mean, have you tried the new Safari? I love the swipe right to go back to the last page feature!

Dylan Thomas's boathouse, where we now won't be going for my birthday in April.

Header image: Vicko Mozara on Unsplash

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Steph Newham

    Sounds to me that you’re working hard and thriving. Just getting to grips with new techy stuff is admirable, an apple watch – I’m seriously impressed. I read Lincoln in the Bardo a good while back, it seemed to ‘thesis’ like, to Avant grade, and the randomness killed it for me. But will be interested to hear what you think of it. The freedom to indulge in hours of reading is during coved has been brilliant, the next two on my bedside table are Yasunari Kawabata’s House of the Sleeping Beauties, a vol of short stories and Borges Ficciones. Sorry you’ve had to cancel your holiday…we have refrained from making any plans – but would love a trip to Vejer for some sun and storks.

  2. Eryl

    So far I’m really enjoying Lincoln in the Bardo, but I do like a bit of randomness!
    I’ll look out for House of the Sleeping Beauties, I’m really enjoying Japanese fiction at the moment. We’re even watching a Japanese tv series, on Netflix, called Midnight Diner, which is brilliant and has resulted in my eating sticky rice just about every night for supper. Dave dislikes rice, so I hadn’t been cooking it much, so this is a new small joy.
    Dave got me the watch for Christmas. I wanted something to track my step-count and as all my other devices are Apple this seemed like the obvious choice. It does so much more than I had anticipated!
    We booked the holiday after having to cancel the one we’d booked for my last birthday! I’m sure we’ll get away at some point but, yes, will refrain from planning until we know it’s definitely safe to do so.

  3. Scarlet

    I used to learn operating systems – but I’d forget it all pretty swiftly! I have to write it down somewhere findable.
    I did my workshop at the weekend – so relieved it’s done, but glad I did it.

    1. Eryl

      Excellent! I’ll need to pop over to Scarlet Central and see how it went. I’ve got the second of the kids’ writing workshops on Thursday, hoping they’ll be as enthusiastic as they were for the first.

      I find I only remember any of the operating system stuff if I use it immediately and often. X

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