Taking Stock

To my girl,

Thank you first and foremost for drawing back here; drawing me back to creativity and expression and reminding why we set this up in the first place. I needed it, I’m having another “what is this life” moment and I’m re-evaluating my priorities and self goals in the short and long term.

You asked about my relationship with music, reconnecting with Music… the “experiment” as you put it. Well, here’s an update.

I bought a record player. My little red leather suitcase has pride of place in my living room, and often I sit on the the wooden floor basking in sunlight listening to vintage vinyl from Mum and Dad. Dreams do come true. Whole albums are listened to and time slows when I stop to take a moment to myself. I’ve bought new releases too, like ‘Hummingbird‘ by John Smith (the title track which I discovered using the app “Shazam” whilst standing in a music shop in Brighton in October).

Since June last year, I’ve taken action to strengthen my love affair with Music. I know you smiled when I told you that I joined an amateur musical theatre group, taking a leaf out of your book and treading the not-so-familiar boards recently in our 6 nights run of performances. I loved it. I loved being part of something and working together to create something real and concrete, feeling like part of a community. We rehearsed for months and it paid off, I made friends and it was great to have something in my life that wasn’t work but that required as much focus and attention.

I’ve been to more gigs! Lau in August (and in December) were a highlight, deepening my relationship with the Scottish music scene. What a night was had as part of the Edinburgh International Music Festival, a wealth of talent and experience right on my doorstep. I’ve since moved flat and am a mere stones throw from the Leith Theatre venue so I’m always keen to see what’s going on there, including seeing The Coral there  a few months ago. That night seeing Lau sticks out in my memory too, because I had finally stepped away from an incredibly negative relationship and the release was empowering. I spent the whole evening either dancing freely with Fran or eyeballing the bartender over multiple gin and tonics (to much success thank you very much, and the lovely J and I are still in touch). It wouldn’t be my story if there wasn’t a little romance mixed up in the music, and again I know you’ll smile because you know it’s true.

A life goal was ticked off last summer too! Well, perhaps not a life goal but certainly something which I had longed for since childhood. Liam Gallagher, you brash, cool and tears-of-joy inducing rock-n-roll star. From way back when I used to sit at the foot of the stone staircase in our house in NB listening through the door to my older brother’s tape player blasting ‘Wonderwall‘ I have loved Oasis. I must have been about 6 or 7 years old but I knew all the words. You didn’t disappoint, and I thank Ellie for being there with me, our friendship having grown from teenage days spent in and out of Aberdeen pubs and venues with ‘underage’ stamps boldly emblazoned on the back of our hands and eyeliner scrawled around our eyes. Ellie forever introduces me to new music and she’s in on the “let’s just get out and about and see what happens” attitude I’m trying to channel. We’re off to see a French group called Juniore tomorrow through in Glasgow and I’ve been listening to them non-stop for days. Fem, French, indie pop, 1960s vibes…what’s not to like?

Finally, I’ve taught music lessons at school; successful, engaging, interesting music lessons with my class, another bow to my string of teaching every subject and teaching them well. Okay, I put that pressure on myself, no one is good at everything, but music is my thing, and I want that to come across. So, long may it continue.

In conclusion, the “experiment” was a success, and continues to be so. Skip out all the above if needs be, it worked. Re-visiting a neglected passion has enriched my life and in less than a year I’ve had so many positive experiences that it’s good to stop and take note of them. Life is for living, love and joy and you’ve reminded me so.

Thanks, as ever,  tumblr_okojqmVsLk1qj60rgo1_1280

Love Carolyn. x

 

Love Letter

IMG_20180131_214013_169

Dear Music,

Where are you in my life?

I’m writing to you sitting on my sofa following weeks of concentrated mulling and musings, tentative discussions with friends and family, and a longstanding sense of longing which has culminated in this outward expression to you for help.

Music, I feel so disconnected. There was a time when going out to local venues and planning trips to concerts and festivals was my world; I met friends and familiar faces, I felt part of something, my perception of the comings and goings around me heavily influenced by the tunes which I listened to and that I shared with others.

There was a time when I would have said that a similar music taste was the most important thing I would have looked for in a relationship with another person; whether platonic or romantic, a shared interest in albums and lyrics frequently sparked what at the time were such deep and meaningful conversations, and some of the bonds I made with friends were established, solidified and have continued to stand the test of time based in and around a shared interest in music.

However, Music, I feel like we haven’t been on the same level in quite some time.

I don’t blame you, this is all on me; I made way for other priorities to the point that gradually the threads which had woven back and forth between us became dusty and slack from neglect. I can trace back to when it happened, when I no longer felt the influence of friends, romantic attachments, boyfriends, or the current trend in the scene. I can identify key stages in the development and evolution of my music interest and taste, but also the warning signs for where it all started to get a little lost and lacking.

Don’t get me wrong Music, you have always been and do continue to be part of my life, but I just feel like I’ve allowed this relationship to become predictable and unadventurous. I’m sorry.

No one is really to blame. The introduction of online streaming was, I’ll admit, a significant factor in changing our relationship. I pretty much stopped buying hard copies of CDs and iTunes gradually stopped being able to compete and took a back seat to the oh so alluring appeal of free music available on demand. It’s all become to easy, I’ve been lulled into thinking this has been a positive progression, and it’s not, our relationships has lost it’s meaning don’t you think? You may be strangely pleased to know that I do not however pay for the privilege of accessing tracks offline, any time any place, but continue to be loyal to my trusty iPod Classic when I’m out and about, with its 160 GB of storage space that is almost full but rarely updated in the past 3 years. In my car, it’s as if things are frozen in time between us, since this is the only place where I can listen to the CDs I keep in a box under my bed.

So, the music which I listen to daily is either stuck in the recent past or recommended by an online system based on a record of my online listening history (creepy). None of this I think is conducive to a healthy, adult, evolving relationship with you Music, in the here and now.

What should I do? How can we reconnect?

The first step was admitting there is a problem, and I think for me it is a problem, because, I miss you. So, acknowledging the problem has led to finding the words to share my feelings about this and seek help from friends and family alike. I have an action plan now, because I want to be more present with you, I want to feel that you have more of an importance in my life and for this, I need to get out there more, I need to find ways to be involved. Step away from the passive relationship with the background noise and playlists created by someone else, some place else, and uploaded for all to dip into but never really engage with. Seek out the new; new albums to listen to from start to finish and then repeat, new experiences at gigs and venues and discover what’s happening in and around where I live, be part of the community and make connections. I used to take on the world like this, and I need to remember how excellent this was and how it made me feel.

I will be better.

Love, Carolyn

P.S I may write to you again and tell you how I’ve been getting along, so watch this space.

Something To Say

71ff1ac339195a49da6e6052ed1812f9

I haven’t written anything in a long time, other than a few letters to friends, and I despair slightly at my lacking correspondence because I can do better.

My lapse in creative writing could be put down to a new job, new town, new flat, “new chapter”…all excusable reasons not to write as much as they are possible experiences for which reflections and musings could flourish. Nevertheless, despite the intention to establish a “work life balance”, a feat which I have achieved to some extent, creative expression has been limited to lesson planning, setting up and reshuffling a classroom, and that one workshop I went to last month.

My dear Suzy has been writing with such a voracity and inspired fervour that on reading I came to the realisation that I had to take a step back from the “9-5” and take a leaf out of my little global adventurers book; I am starting to put pen to paper again!

I’ve dug out my notebook, filling up since we started this shared blog with sparks of ideas and opening sentences of stories which were left unfinished and as yet unpublished. Reading back over the pages, I can hear my voice in the words written down and I can feel to some extent the memory of the feelings I was trying to get across; confusion, admiration, love and friendship. But where to begin today? What do I want to write about/what do I actually feel like writing about?

Since this is a blog that I share with my great friend Suzy, it seems wise to think about what I want to tell Suzy. In the past, in fact occasionally even still, I would pour my heart out in a long-winded stream of consciousness scrawled on paper and send it off to Switzerland stamped and addressed, leaving me to patiently wait the response. Every thought that came to mind, stories about people I knew and what we were all up to, peppered with all manner of “girl talk” in the mix to make it interesting. So, I guess I could start by saying something suitable dramatic and loaded with gossip and intrigue:

Well Suzy, I’ve met someone new…

They say that when you’re not expecting it, that’s when it happens. I’ve always been sceptical of this phrase, it seems too neat and glib, and I still remain unconvinced by most sayings that start with “they say that…” But anyway, yeh, I’ve met someone when I was just out and about living life. I went to a gig with a friend, and danced, and met their friend and we got along pretty well. Simple as that, it was easy, relaxed and fun; there wasn’t lightning bolts and nervous chatter (much) but we have common interests and plenty to say. 

It might come to nothing, a few dates and shared moments, back and forth text messages before one or the other of us fades and it comes to a natural end before it’s really begun. But that isn’t the attitude now is it? I should just feel the feelings, delight in the possibility of romance and enjoy the opportunities for these exciting possibilities to playout. That’s the way to do it, be optimistic and pull down the little bricks we build up around ourselves when life nudges us a little in the ribs; go with it, and let the good times roll in. Why not eh? It might even get beyond the first date, a fabulous one at that, and then where will we be?

If this were a handwritten letter to Suzy, I would go into every detail of the meeting…who said what…the what, where, when of the date etc. However, this is not a handwritten letter sent from one friend to another, and there are plenty things that should be kept between friends and not shared on the internet.

A Little Thought

9be1d65047e3ecad604a30784be44507I received your letter today and you’re right friend, our blog has been ‘napping’ and our brains have been doing the exact opposite. A number of times over the past months since I last posted I have felt that I should be writing something, yet I couldn’t find the words to form a suitably coherent line of thought on the page that didn’t concern itself with my studies or the weighty contemplations that come with seeing in another year.

But it’s okay to have taken the time away from writing; if you can’t get the words out, that’s okay, leave it to one side and come back to it another time.  Saying that, a few ideas have come to mind recently since I took a break from student teacher demands and shut the books away for a couple weeks and I hope to make something of them before my focus is drawn in and it all begins again next week.

So in preface to those posts, here’s what I’ve been listening to today :

London Grammar: Rooting for You

Hall & Oates: I Can’t Go For That

Earth, Wind & Fire: Shining Star

 

 

‘Captain Fantastic’

thumbnail_24323

To watch the trailer for ‘Captain Fantastic’ having seen the film last night, I am reminded of the poignant beauty of the endeavour which Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife set out to accomplish by raising their family off-grid and by a very different set of rules which challenge twenty-first century Western sensibilities. The film is raw and thought provoking, it nods to the human darkness and the teetering knife edge of sanity (a nod to the mother’s bipolar disorder) and crafts a tale of independent, stripped back to nature life where a father is raising his children to be “philosopher kings”. Ben Cash is either “the best father in the world or the worst” and both are possibilities as the film unfolds and we watch as the ideologies and honest truths of the Cash family life are challenged by necessary and unavoidable clashes with modern social norms and expectations.

Love and the extremities to which man will go to cultivate and defend what he believes to be right and important are central to this film. The children are raised to fend and fight for themselves, their thinking is informed and highly intelligent because they are challenged and engaged, reading Middlemarch and discussing Marxism and Noam Chomsky round the fire at night. We really see their natural spiritedness through their creativity and musicality where in one particularly poignant scene the family sing and dance around a funeral pyre on a cliff top to celebrate life, death, and love.

captain-fantastic

The film is soulful but also grates on you, you leave feeling divided about Cash’s parenting and the extent to which his love and determination borders manic extremism and potentially abusive situations, such as creating a ‘mission’ for the family to “free the food” from a supermarket; things are unravelling at the seams and the Cash family way of life entirely is called into question during the whole film. Is Ben Cash and the children’s sense of reality skewed, or are we as an audience being asked to wonder what makes our accepted social reality ‘the right way’ to view the world?

‘Captain Fantastic is not a sugary sweet ‘hippie’ tale of peace, love, and harmony and I think that the writer/director Matt Ross thoughtfully explores the adventure and possibility that life can take you on. The film is an exposition of the extent to which one can truly remove oneself from social norms and yet see the bigger picture and relate to world as a whole through negotiation and open mindedness of what is right.

captain-fantastic-review-04

I left the cinema with divided sympathies and my head a whirr of thought and wonder. ‘Captain Fantastic’ reminded me of people I met and befriended living in Byron Bay, Australia where many people choose to try to live off grid and ‘alternative’ lifestyles. The culture-clash when I first encountered some of the people in this hippie paradise subsided when I let my guard down and stopped feeling like I had to defend myself and the way that I knew life to be. In opening my mind to other ways of educating oneself and of interacting with the world, I took in new perspectives and had a re-think, which I know was a very healthy and beneficial process to go through.

When watching ‘Captain Fantastic’ I smiled thinking of my barefooted bohemian friends.  The film struck my fancy on first glance not only because it reminded me of people and ways of life which I came across whilst living in Australia, but also because of my current position at the beginning of my teacher training and the insight it gave into childhood, education, and the wonderful hope for raising children to take on the world as “philosopher kings”, bringing power to the people and sticking it to the man.

1280

Childhood Memories Shared

image1

Found, squirreled away for safe keeping and prosperity, this is a typed copy of the transcript of an interview with my favourite childhood babysitter and beloved family friend Morag Turnbull. Recorded on tape and painstakingly written out word for word (in pen, a great achievement at age eleven) to hand in as part of my World War Two personal project in my final year of primary school.
I am about to embark on a career in primary teacher, and it is with great fondness that I look back through the small collection of school work from infancy which I have kept and filed away, knowing and reliving the feeling of pride and achievement that I felt at the time.

This interview has been left in it’s original state, with only minor alterations to punctuation and spelling. I love how Morag so wonderfully captured events of great fear and uncertainty in her own childhood and told some of her story to me with such warmth, a young girl completely naive to struggle and suffering; I was then and am now enraptured by every word. A wonderful woman, and a great story teller, she has all the words.

What age were you at the outbreak of the war?

I was a baby. I was born in 1938 and I lived in China because my parents were missionaries. The Japanese invading China was late 1939/early 1940. The place where I lived wasn’t “captured” ‘til 1942 and after that we were all under house arrest, it was like a constant curfew.

Where about in China did you live?

I lived a thousand miles up the Chiang Jiang (Yangtze River) in a place called Icheng in the province of Hapeh which was a smallish town, though bigger than North Berwick, and it was right on the banks of the Yangtze. My father was sent there as a missionary by the Church of Scotland in 1936.

Could you tell me the story of your life in China?

I lived in Icheng quite happily until the Japanese invaded it, determined to conquer China, and that was happening at the same time as the war was here in the UK. My parents and I, as well as other missionaries, were eventually moved from Icheng and we travelled down the Yangtze sometimes by boats, sometimes by trucks. At night we stopped and some slept in the trucks and some slept underneath them, until we finally got to Shanghai where we were told that we were going to be put on repatriation ships which were meant to take us to our home countries. But Shanghai was full of people desperate to get out of China so our seats were taken by people who could bribe their way on board.

So we were all interned in a big concentration camp, and there were many of those in Shanghai, so instead of being on house arrest we were all put in the same place. The camps were big buildings stripped of everything. We were actually interned in a building which had been called ‘The Canadian Country Club’, which sounds very nice, and looked nice from the outside but, as I said before it had been completely stripped of everything on the inside. Cubicles were made with curtains in all of the big rooms; the bar, the ballroom, the bowling alley were all divided up into cubicles for all the different families. My family was in a tiny cubicle with all of our belongings stacked up the way and you had like a little nest. We had been told when leaving Icheng that we could take two trunks I think it was, so everyone took rugs and warm clothes because Shanghai is very cold in the winter.

By the end of 1942 the camp was all barbed wire and was just like a proper concentration camp with armed guards with guns at the gate so everyone was economical, just as it was in Britain. My father stayed with us, as well as other missionaries who were also trained doctors, and he had previously trained as an engineer so was made the plumbing engineer for the camp. He helped unblock drains and put up cubicles so that kept him with us. There was a Japanese Commandant and every morning we had roll call, and everyone had to come out the front, and no one could miss it, and he called out all our names and everybody had to be there.  Well one day another little girl and I weren’t there and everyone was getting annoyed because we had been told not to go far because it was nearly time for roll call. The guards got angry and fetched the Commandant and eventually, after everyone had searched all over the place, my father found me. He had had told me if I ever heard him whistle in a special way  I was to stop exactly what I was doing and go to the whistle*. Well, I was standing with my head through a hole in the fence with this little girl looking at pigs on the other side, all the barbed wire was around us and we were sitting looking at pigs… We were removed from the fence, given a huge row from the “Jap” guards, and our parents.

We were there from 1942 ‘til the beginning of 1945. That was when we were told to pack up all our belongings because we were being moved to another camp.  We were moved to another place down the Yangtze which was right beside a Japanese ammunition dump, which was so the Japanese bombers wouldn’t drop anything on the Westeners, or the dump. It was a terrible place because the buildings were just like shacks and it was near swamp grounds and was names ‘Changsie pou’. It was a very similar situation to the camp the boy was in in the film ‘Empire of the Sun’. I am still in touch with the Stills, the family of the girl I saw the pigs with.

We stayed there until early 1946. When the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima (August 1945) some of the others in the camp said they could feel the tremors, and as soon as the bomb was dropped the next day the Japanese guards all disappeared, and we were left with no way of getting any food. Soon after this people were told there were boats coming to take them home. The most moving thing about the end of the war was when the big gates opened and my father, who was a piper, brought out his bagpipes and played the pipes.

When it was our turn to get on the first boat, ‘The Glenuern’, we sailed to Colombo in Sri Lanka where the Red Cross had a base where we were fattened up and kitted out with more clothes. Then another ship came to pick us up which was called ‘The Athloan Castle’ which we all boarded and low and behold there were some of the people we knew from the camp. We sailed to Southampton and from Southampton we took a train to Glasgow and there were all of my relatives.

We went back out to China in 1947, but had to come back to Scotland because of the Communist invasion.

*  Sadly, the very endearing demonstration of the whistle recorded on tape at the time of the interview has been lost over the years.

 

Interview with a Friend

about-us_drlnzo

Parachute Dance, who are you and what brings you together?

Parachute is myself, and a few close friends, including my boyfriend, who met through my studies at the University of Edinburgh, and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, where I’m currently a student. When starting a creative project, you want people who are talented, open and willing to try new things, and I’ve learnt through previous work the crucial importance of trust at the centre of productive creative relationships. One of our producers and I worked previously together on an academic yearbook for the University of Edinburgh in 2012, and Kayla (one of our dancers) and I happily suffered through choreography assessment together as part of our studies at Laban. The arts, while in general are underfunded and offer a very low rate of pay, is full of people who enjoy what they do – I’m here because, ultimately, I find making dance to be highly enjoyable and worthwhile, despite frequent fluctuating levels of stress that it imparts; I like to think the others would agree with me.

-I have to admit I am yet to read ‘Catch-22’, and feel I must do so immediately if not definitely before opening night in August. In what way did Joseph Heller’s satirical novel ‘Catch-22’ inspire you?

“Catch” is such a funny book, really, and I don’t often laugh out loud while reading but with “Catch” it was every few pages.  This only increased with further readings, as I appreciated more the subtlety and craft of Heller’s writing. The end of a sentence is never where you’d thought you’d end up, and the absurdity has a beautiful simplicity.  And yet, what it deals with is that very fundamental aspect of our being – our mortality, and how it is so fragile, especially in the hands of those who see you as disposable.  In Heller’s book, those that are disposable are the young men enlisted to fight.  I’ve always found, however, that the comedy and the more serious message are not contradictory, rather they are two sides of the same coin – it is almost as though laughter sits right next to crying, with Heller we laugh because the situation is stupid and bizarre and horrible and bleak all at the same time. Our laughter is that of absolute clarity and despair.

-Sounds intensely captivating, I can’t wait to see a performance. Can you tell me a little about ‘Entrails‘, what it’s all about, in a nutshell? 

Hmm, in a nutshell… the piece is inspired by, but is by no means a direct adaptation of the book ‘Catch-22’.  So, we’ll be in a place with these three individuals who are clearly trying to deal with a situation that is fused with hostility and indifference. That environmental hostility could come from each other, as well.  I don’t want to impose a strict narrative, really, I prefer pieces that give you a clear setting and atmosphere, but that don’t impose an ‘a then b then c’ storyline.  A bit like Beckett – clearly something has happened outside of the theatre space, but you’re never quite sure what.

 

-Coming from a literary background, as well as one of dance and music, the music soundtrack for ‘Entrails’ must be as significant as the movement on-stage. Is there a specific soundtrack for ‘Entrails’, and if so, where has it come from?

A lot of what I have learnt at Laban is to not slavishly create a dance piece to the rigours of a set piece of music rather that you have an idea, and that the sound and dance are two parts of that idea.  Artists in the Parachute Dance playlist right now include: Goldmund, Max Richter, David Lang and Mira Calix.

-You outlined previously what influences you drew from the literary work ‘Catch-22’, do you draw from any other inspirations? What or who, are these inspirations?

I could list for days my inspirations, and they change each week. Last week I saw Crystal Pite at Sadler’s Wells – I had never seen her work before, so as always I was struck by the specific voice of the choreographer. Pina Bausch is such a dominant figure in dance theatre it’s almost silly to mention her influence, but for me, her humour is very similar to Heller’s – it lies in the border of social conventions and their ultimate arbitrariness. I love ballet, though I’m not sure if it will feed into this piece in an explicit way- but Jiri Kylian and William Forsythe are up there.

-It’s lovely to hear how the things that influence you change and merge from day to day, I find the same thing, and it’s a great way to live in the world. This is the first production from Parachute Dance. How have you found the process of bringing it together and directing?

I was just thinking today, the creative process is mostly a lot of lows with one or two highs.  But those highs, when they come, do make it all worthwhile – I know, pretty clichéd, but I think that it’s true.  Mostly, I’m struggling with the responsibility of bringing together such a long piece having only choreographed shorter pieces before. Obviously the dancers and producers feed a great deal into the project, this is by no means a solo endeavour. A lot of the time I simply worry whether I am pushing this in the right direction, and if my idea can stand up to the needs of a longer work. But I guess, that’s exciting too…

-You currently live and work in dance in London, so why choose the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016 for your debut production with Parachute Dance?

I’ve worked as part of the Fringe team a number of times so it’s always seemed completely obvious to me that I would try at some point to bring a production to a stage there.  Obviously, it is expensive to embark on such a journey but Edinburgh Fringe Festival is an open access festival, anyone can submit something, so if you can, why not, right?

-Absolutely! My personal attention to ‘Entrails’ was initially caught by an online promotional video that you posted. What made you turn to crowdfunding? How has the process worked for Parachute Dance, and would you recommend crowdfunding to other creatives?

I would without a doubt recommend crowdfunding. I thought we would mostly receive a lot of small donations and the process would take quite a lot of time to reach our target, but people have been incredibly generous. Obviously, you have to make people want to support you, and our producers Aran and Laura have been great at thinking up and providing great perks and incentives for the backers of Parachute Dance.  Going in with this support, not just financially, but from so many different people, takes the sting out of this big step we’re taking.

-Interview with Róisín O’Brien, director and choreographer with Parachute Dance

For further information about Parachute Dance including how to contribute to their crowdfunding pot of gold follow this link.

a3-poster-final