Books

Haig’s How to Stop Time

20108662_10154919828463237_2955655317455635138_nWhen I bought How to Stop Time (2017) I really wasn’t sure I’d like it. Fifty pages in and I still wasn’t sure. Writing this now, I just don’t know!

You see, I knew nothing about the book until I handed over the cash to get it. All I knew was that Matt Haig wrote it; and that was good enough for me. I loved Reasons to Stay Alive (2015). But HTST isn’t a memoir, it’s fiction – gasp.

The story centres on the unusual life of Tom Hazard, a 41-year-old history teacher in London. He keeps himself to himself. He’s guarded. Quite rightly so as he’s got a big secret: he’s not 41, he’s actually 436 years old. It’s not a spoiler to say it; he ages much slower than the average mayfly, aka human. With a life so long, having lived through the talking points of history, he must have stories to tell…

His story, though, is of loneliness and longing for things long gone – something I wasn’t expecting when I started to read. The story moves through time, starting in the late 1500s and flitting to present day London and back again through the ages. Once I passed the first 50-odd pages things picked up (I think I was having RTSA-expectation/withdrawal) and I just couldn’t put it down. I really got into it when Shakespeare cropped up…

However, I’ll be honest: I didn’t love this book and I hate that. It’s to do with having read RTSA; I could hear Matt Haig’s voice throughout, which made it hard to separate author and protagonist. This messed up the story for me. When Hazard philosophises about the meaning, value and use of Time, to me it reads like Haig in RTSA writing about how depression manipulates time.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what I feel when I think about this book. Did I enjoy reading it? Yes. Did I have trouble putting it down at night? Yes. Did I go to sleep later than usual to get those few extra pages in before I really had to go to sleep? Yes.

Am I satisfied with the ending? No. It was too neat and tidy, and the events leading up to it were a little too obvious for my liking. The book is also longer than it needs to be. Am I looking forward to the film? Kinda. Sadly, I find myself hoping Hollywood does what it does when books are made into movies… I hope it changes a few details.

Anyway, in keeping with my read-a-book-pass-it-on philosophy, I’m giving this book to Chloe. Maybe she’ll enjoy it more. My next read: F Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise.

 

Books

Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale…

So, I’ve just finished Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. If you’re looking for an adjective-heavy “proper” review, this is not that. This is a subjective review of a book I enjoyed reading for reasons outside the book itself too.

Since I gave away my book collection last year, which I had unconsciously kept since adolescence, I’m looking for somewhere to document what books I’ve read before I pass them on to friends. I’ve no grand writing/literary ambitions in doing this — it’s all too much pressure to write for a bigger purpose, I’ve found. This is why when I write blog posts about books, I’ll only write for the hour, typos and style be damned.

20139981_10154912432433237_2858587701620340653_nSo here goes…

Written by Margaret Atwood and published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel about the role of enforced surrogate mothers, or more aptly, ‘surrogate vessels’ in totalitarian Republic of Gilead. Our story is set in what was formerly known as Maine in the US, if you go by the book. In the near future there is no United States of America, there is only Gilead, an authoritarian, religious regime.

The story centres on the life of Offred, a newly-named young woman whose real name we never get to know. Offred’s sole purpose in life, along with the other handmaids in this morbid society, is to get pregnant so that the population can thrive. Like Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother is watching; The Eyes, in this novel. Everything except complete submission to the regime is treason. But can Offred let go of the life she had before the regime took hold? And what of her life before? Her child, her husband, her mother – what role do they possess in this regime and where are they now?

I was on the fence about reading this novel. I thought its expected bleak tale of male authority and powerlessness in women would rattle me. “Oh I don’t know. It’s a little depressing for me right now,” I’d say, remembering how scarily deep I jumped into Sylvia Plath’s Letters Home. Three weeks ago though, I bit the bullet and went out to buy it. I can stop reading it if it gets too much, I rationalised.

First impressions: it’s so easy to read and not at all heavy if you prepare for the worst – my mind definitely conjures up THE WORST in these instances because the story was surprisingly manageable. Of course, there are moments in the book, like the Ceremony and the Salvaging, that are hard to forget… but I couldn’t put it down.

What I enjoyed most about the book is how much there was to imagine about how life could be — if that makes sense? It’s so far-fetched but so realistic too, I don’t know how both can be at the same time. And with Trump’s isolationist ways and news like this it’s hard not to think of a story like this being possible in our near future.
I shudder at the thought.

Anyway, I recommend it. I’m giving my copy to my friend Darragh, who I hope will pass it on to someone else when he’s finished with it.

My next read is Matt Haig’s newly published How to Stop Time. I went to Chapters on Parnell Street a few hours ago to pick it up. I was expecting a memoir of sorts, like 2015’s Reasons to Stay Alive, which I loved, but this book is a fiction. We’ll see what it’s like.

Until the next time!

My Life

Having a phone feels like checking on a dinner that will never be ready

Last week as I was watching television I glanced at my phone, which was charging in the corner of the sitting room.

The screen shone bright, which was odd because I hadn’t touched it since the start of House of Cards twenty minutes earlier.

With a puzzled face I paused the TV and walked over to my phone.
It appeared to have restarted all by itself.

Hmmm, I thought. This is not good.

I waited, but to no avail. Five times I watched as the bright white screen blinked to black and then white again, with the Three logo appearing then disappearing.

At this point I figured I needed help so I consulted Google and then pals and after a few more attempts at ‘recovery mode’ I decided to switch the whole thing off completely – which also took some time.

By this point the phone was roasting.
Clearly a fault with the batter, FML, I thought.
I’d have to bring it back to Three and see about a repair.

This means going to Grafton Street. But it’s Friday night, I don’t want to go to town on a Saturday! Fuck, fuck, fuck.

Right, I thought, I’ll go on Tuesday when I have the morning off from work. I’d have to be in town that day anyway for work. I’ll slip across the Liffey before work.

So my life was phoneless for five whole days.
And what a gift those days were!
I noticed it two days in; I was so so relaxed.

Without my phone: I couldn’t access Facebook or Gmail on command; I couldn’t blot out my surroundings by blaring Future Islands on Spotify; I couldn’t keep abreast of the news. In short, I couldn’t do all the bad things I didn’t realise I was doing.

I could focus. I wasn’t dropping my attention to check updates every five minutes.
Having a phone feels like checking on a dinner that will never be ready.

Exhausing.

On Tuesday I took my phone in for repair and now I have a loan phone for a few days, until my phone is fully operational. I can already feel old habits coming back; the quick FB notification check, the ‘oh I might have received an email’ feeling.

Sad times.

I have an embargo for weekdays: no Facebook before lunch, no Gmail until after work, no news unless I hear about it first in work.

A weekend embargo? Like today. Tough, tough, tough.
Do you know anyone who isn’t a slave to their phone?

Journalism

Tonight’s compelling Fair City episode

I used to love Fair City.

I feel so much contempt for this Katy storyline. For anyone who doesn’t know much about the show, Katy is a young woman who disappeared early last year only to reemerge in a dark, depressing room last September.

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Locked in the room, the audience has seen her slowly piece things together: the scary man holding her captive is family friend Ciarán. Unhinged, he’s been keeping her locked up in a hidden room in his garage as revenge against her brother Emmet for something that he did to Ciarán’s sister years beforehand.

Over the last year, the show’s actors and writers have been teasing the audience about when they can expect Katy to be reunited with her family – her sad, suicidal parents Eoghan and Debbie, brother Emmet and her forlorn grandmother Rose.

Even writing this, I’m annoyed. This frustration has been growing in me for months now. It feels as if the people behind the show are laughing at people like me, fans of the show. I don’t watch Fair City to see a family repeatedly put under strain, being put under such mental anguish and torture because of the loss of someone they love.

Advertisements like the one for tonight’s episode, I know, function as teasers – the point is to tease, to mess with, the audience. To make them think something will happen. The makers of Fair City have clearly done their jobs here as, judging from Twitter tonight, everyone was watching the show tonight in the hope that Katy would be freed and Ciarán arrested.

I’m so disappointed by tonight’s episode – it seems like we’re going to get a fresh bout of physical and mental torture, in the form of Ciarán terrorising Emmet.

I signed up for a soap opera, not a thriller/horror show. There’s nothing uplifting about Fair City anymore. It’s grim and heavy.

The acting is great – full marks to Amilia Clarke Stuart aka Katy; Dáithí Mac Suibhne as Emmet; Alan Howley as Eoghan; Niamh Daly as Debbie; Geraldine Plunkett as Rose and of course, Johnny Ward as Ciarán. All are brilliantly portraying the excellent characters written for them – I just wish it wasn’t a storyline in Fair City.

I can’t justify sitting down for each episode to watch this inhumane treatment unfold time after time. It’s so fucking awful.

I was so disappointed when Heather, after finding out about Ciarán, suffered a brain injury. So let down tonight when Katy got to call her gran Rose and nobody believes it because there’s a new storyline: senility.

I’ll continue to watch, because I want to see how Katy escapes and survives.

I love Fair City. I don’t love it ironically. I’m not one of these cynics who love to hate Fair City, who despise it for the sake of despising homegrown effort.

But since Christmas, I feel like it’s the writers, the makers of this show, who are cynical by treating their audience to physical and mental torture in each episode. How can they justify it? Ratings? That’s cynical too.

English Teaching

Brief thoughts on DELTA Module 2

So, I’m back in Dublin after 10 weeks in London working on Module 2. For anyone not well-versed in all things ELT, the DELTA is the Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages accredited by Cambridge. It’s basically a major step up from CELTA, the pre-service month-long introduction to becoming a teacher.

Module 2 is face-to-face learning with input sessions on aspects of the English language, teaching and the ELT world in the mornings, with observed and assessed teaching practice in the afternoons. There were 10 of us on my course at International House London, here are some of my pals (I’m the optimistic thumbs-up one):

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In essence, the last 10 weeks have seen me read a lot, write a lot and teach a lot and learn a lot. I had to do four big assignments: 4 LSAs. These Language Skills/Systems Assignments were four 2,500-word background essays and lessons plans, which were laboured over every weekend.

Last Wednesday I had my final lesson – the big Cambridge externally assessed one. I was so so nervous about it that I don’t think I came out of it well, but I won’t find out until August whether I passed or not – fingers crossed!

It’s a big blur actually, with a dark cloud over it. However, my students told me they got a lot out of it – I keep telling myself this to feel better. I’ve been dwelling on my performance for a few days, since the lesson itself. But I’ve got to move on for now…

What I’m looking forward to:

I’m back to work next week, after a well-planned 7-day break (to study for Module 1 [terminology paper] and Module 3 [course design project]). I can’t wait to get into the classroom again and try out the things I couldn’t get to do on the course… like The Lexical Approach, Michael Lewis’ big contribution to ELT and Scott Thornbury’s Dogme.

I want to continue what I’m doing with lexis lessons — ‘chunking’ is definitely the word du jour. I’ve got reams and reams of paper to reread from the course; articles from ETp, intro chapters from relevant authors and lesson planning tips.

I really want to work on emerging language and how to get it on the board to reformulate and upgrade effectively. Improving my whiteboard writing and IWB use is also top of the list. To be honest, there are so many things to get better at and I’m thankful I have so much time to do it now.

Anyway, just a little update…

Hoping to get into a rhythm with this blogging too!

Aileen

PS. On a personal note, had the loveliest return to Dublin in the form of Leo’s Eurovision party. My beloved Sunstroke Project (Moldova) didn’t win, but 3rd place is nothing to be sniffed at! Slán for now!

 

English Teaching

DELTA Diary: I’ve arrived in London!

So, I’m here now. In London.In freakin’ LONDON! I still can’t believe it.

Tomorrow I start my DELTA journey. For anyone not in with the TEFL world, DELTA is short for ‘Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages’. It’s an eight-week intensive course, with observed teaching practice, syllabus design and lots and lots of theory to critically evaluate.

I’m excited and nervous about starting the course, but those feelings can wait until tomorrow. Today is about London.

I woke up in Nina’s flat (she’s my best friend) and immediately felt grateful to have someone based in the city. When I moved to Strasbourg (2013) and Brussels (2015) I felt completely alone, but here Neens has helped me settle in.

After copious cups of tea we went to the Tube and headed for Islington, where my temporary abode was waiting for me.

I was anxious about the Tube, but I managed to avoid thinking about it until we got to the station. Then, on the train, I just did some deep breathing exercises and occupied my mind with chatter and stories to Nina…

I was quite conscious that I was catastrophising the Tube so I zapped away any unhelpful thoughts as they came to me.

On that note, recently I’ve been managing extremely well with my anxiety. I’m expecting some shaky moments here, but I’ve been working on anticipatory anxiety – the nervy, self-conscious and worried feelings that strike before anxiety hits hard.

Tackling anxiety before it drops has definitely calmed my nerves. Read SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying by Captain Tom Bunn. I’ve found the 5-4-3-2-1 Exercise very very helpful!

Back to London…

16995943_10154520148143237_2475246536532872794_nHere’s a photograph of my surroundings: it’s dark, dull and rainy today.

Of course I don’t mind – anyone who knows me knows that I usually find ‘bad’ weather a welcome addition to my day.

More rain, please!

I’m staying in a single studio flat in student accommodation thirty minutes walk from my school – I’m so thankful that I can get a walk in before class AND avoid the daily commute!

My studio has everything I need; a bed, a table, en suite, a kitchenette and places to hang stuff up. What I’m thrilled about the most though is the TV (wasn’t expecting this!) and free WiFi thank God!

Anyway, that’s it. Even though I’ve been to the shops twice already – keep forgetting essentials! – and the first night alone is always a little lonely, I’m doing pretty good this evening.  Onwards and upwards!

Gaeilge · My Life

My blossoming relationship with Gaeilge

11393206_10153013971318237_5174447703818792118_n(Tá brón orm faoi na botúin!)

Stop mé ag labhairt Gaeilge nuair a d’fhág mé meanscoil i 2007.
Is mór an trua é.

Ní raibh ard caighdeán agam, i mo thuairim. Cheap mé an rud céanna i 2007 comh maith.

Fuair mé A2 san Ardteist. Bhí naire orm an maidin fuar sin, nuair a fuair mé amach an toradh.

Cheap mé go mbeadh díomá ar mo mhuinteoirí mar gheall. A2 agus dalta Gaelscoile?! a dhúirt mé liom féin go crosta.

Bhí áthas an domhain orm cúpla mí tar éis an lá sin nuair a ghlacadh mé in ollscoil Maigh Núid agus bheartaigh mé Arts Degree a dhéanamh i mBéarla agus Fealsúnacht.

D’fhág mé an Gaeilge san Aimsir Caite, a shíl mé.

Ag an am sin, níor cheap mé go raibh aon ciall ann staidéar an teanga san ollscoil – ní raibh suim agam obair sa stáit seirbhís, nó mar muinteor (athraíonn gach rud thar na bliana!)

Níor smaonaigh mé faoin Aontas Eorpach ar chor a bith!14492561_10154088569243237_5955767351992202591_n

Bhog mé go dtí an Bhruiséil i mí feabhra 2015 chun mo thréimhse oiliúna i gComhairle na Aontais Eorpaigh a thosú. D’oibrigh mé go crua sa roinn ‘Media Monitoring’.

Is ait an rud é go raibh sé an-éasca daoine a chloisteal ag labhairt Gaeilge timpeall an chathair agus an foirgneamh in a raibh mé ag obair. Thosaigh mé á labhairt arís.

Ar dtús thosaigh mé ag dul go dtí imeachtaí Gaeilge. Ansin chuaigh mé i dteangmháil le daoine a raibh Gaeilge acú.

Cúig mí ina dhiadh sin bhí mé ar ais i mBaile Átha Cliath ag mothú brónach – cén fath nach raibh Gaeilge le chloisteáil timpeall na háite?

Shocraigh mé ansin chun Gaeilge a úsáid níos mó. Níl ard caighdeán agam – tá dearmad déanta agam ar na rialacha gramadach, mar shampla.

Úrú, séimhiú, réamhfhocail, litriú… ach is adventure nua é seo!

Tar liom!

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