To be absolutely frank, 2014 is a year that I will be glad to put behind me. It was not without its good points, some of which were wonderful. There were two weddings in the family, and it was truly lovely to be able to share the beautiful and happy photographs of those family events as they unfolded over the days before and after the ceremonies, for that, social media plays an enormous role in bringing family together when miles or circumstances otherwise keep us apart. My cousins, the brides, were radiant, their grooms handsome and the photographs so lovely that it almost felt as though we were there together. The joy of those occasions though was sadly overshadowed by the unexpected death of my dear auntie (grannie, mum, great-auntie, wife, sister and friend) to all of us who crowded into the flower-filled crematorium early in the summer. We promised to her that our goodbyes would be a celebration of her life and celebrate we did, for she lived life to the full and enjoyed every minute. It brought us all together but reminded us too of how fragile life is, and how unexpectedly it can come to an end. We will miss her. This year for other reasons was one in which I decided to step off the treadmill or at least slow it down a bit. Apart from a lovely family holiday in beautiful Kefalonia in May, a quick business trip to Bratislava in June, and a visit to our daughter in London, I travelled only between home and work and stopped trying to deal with the 20-30 e-mails that arrive in my inbox every hour. When I can find a way to throw out the feeling of guilt with the junk mail, things will really be on the up. A highlight of the year was a school reunion. After 40 years one of our group of friends arranged for us to get together and surprisingly we did recognise each other after the first smiles broke through the wrinkles and the years fell away. Why did we not do it sooner? The work year was busy of course in an uninspiring, repetitive, mindless kind of way but lightened by a liberal sprinkling of social occasions, food, drink, music and excellent craic with family, friends and colleagues. My daughter’s thoughtful Christmas present of last year triggered an attempted self-reconstruction as a new kind of writer. Tired of hearing me say that I had always wanted to write fiction, she bought me a write-your-first-novel template from Nanowrimo. Inspired, I created several characters between Christmas and the start of 2014 , wrote a number of short scenes but realised that writing a novel in my “spare” time would need more than cutting down on my foreign travel. So I signed up for a creative writing class focussing on the short story instead, deleted the half dozen cringingly bad posts I’d put on this blog since 2011 and started again with some fiction. To all of my friends and family out there who have had my creative writing efforts pushed in-your-face over the last 3 months, I apologise. I hope you may have enjoyed some of it and I promise I will be more subtle in future. I may also experiment with material that is less safe, less pc, and more ballsy, gritty or dark. Raunchy might come later. The writing class is great fun, I’ve met lots of super-creative and talented people and am looking forward to next term. My husband has also been following a course of self-reconstruction, took his motor-bike test and arrived home with a brand-new, clean and shiny set of wheels. Mid-life crisis? No, he is trying to avoid parking charges by losing two wheels, or that’s his creative story! Well 2015 has arrived, let it bring what it will. Happy New Year everyone, let’s hope that the world will become a more peaceful and happier place.
There was a woman who walked her dog every day to the woods. She walked past an old man’s house. The man’s name was Alex. He watched her as she came out, and went back into her house. He watched her in her garden, and at night he watched her through her lit-up windows when she did not know he was watching. But she did know because he liked to complain to Fred from the social and Fred knew her friend Jean, but the old man did not know that she knew, so he talked and talked.
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A colleague remarked that a student’s PhD abstract read like theory soup. I thought immediately of minestrone, thick and hearty, bright and colourful, tasty and wholesome. I know exactly what he meant though, and see it often in articles I am asked to review for journals. Usually the authors claim to draw on one or two key theories that underpin their conceptual approach, then throw in a handful of this, that and the other for effect, hoping perhaps to enhance the culinary delight of the concoction. As most chefs will tell you, Minestrone has a tomato base to which complementary ingredients add piquancy, spiciness and aroma, then cooked gently to allow flavours to infuse. In the best minestrone the texture and flavour of each ingredient is preserved within a wonderfully blended flavour that is the broth. Its taste and aroma will live in your memory forever. Get it wrong, it is just soup, and potentially unpleasant like the version in a local, since gone out of business, restaurant in which the most memorable flavour in their minestrone was turnip. It should come as no surprise then that “theory blending” is the name of the game. A few months later my student submitted his PhD. I am happy to report that the final version was blended to perfection, the theories infused throughout, but each retaining its own piquancy. On the day of the defence the critics did their best, but his courses were impeccably presented. It ended with the sweet; anticipated with excitement, as this was where it could all come to a sticky end. But he handled it with a flourish as the maître d’ handles a flambé for the top table, with quiet confidence and understatement, delivering the crêpe with a burst of flame and quick flick of the wrist.
Congratulations Dr Warner.
Paula, you did a grand job.