Going through exams…

My life is currently full of exams; hence, my (hopefully noted) absence on the blogging scene. It’s not for lack of time as ‘study leave’ leaves me with more hours than I need, but it is because I fear I will use up all my words and creativity on a blog post and then during the exam I will be all dried out. That would be a problem.

I take a very relaxed approach to my exams, or at least I think I do as I have no one to compare myself against, unless I include the brief conversations I have with other students who seem frazzled, are running on energy drinks or coffee and are lost if it is not on their revision notes. I revise but at a slow pace. Too little revision will make me feel unprepared and lacking in confidence and familiarity with the exam material, whilst too much revision will make me feel anxious. I hope I’ve got the balance right and that I get the results I’m hoping for.

It helps to remember that exams are not the whole world, that if I fail it will not signal the commencement of the apocalypse and that I should try my best, but there is no real way to completely get rid of nerves. Strangely enough, I find that the only exams I get nervous before are the English papers, not science which I find harder or any other subject, only English. It is one of my favourite subjects and yet I feel most nervous when it comes to it. Maybe it’s because I truly want to do well and I have such high expectations of myself and so I feel more pressured. Maybe it’s because I always do well in English and as the questions can be slightly unpredictable, I fear that my passing streak will somehow fail at the crucial moment.

I had my English Literature paper this morning and I feel extremely positive about my performance. I wrote more than I usually do, I used ‘bigger words’ than I normally do and even had time to read over some of my work. In less humble words…I aced it!  I hope so anyway. Last night I could not sleep without thinking about To Kill a Mockingbird, zooming my unconscious state into non-existent extracts in the book. Within those tense hours of sleep, I was late for the exam, I ran out of time during the exam and I took the exam at home but was unable to concentrate because of my parents’ persistent shouting. Does this happen to anyone else or am I completely alone in these unusual nocturnal behaviours?

On Thursday, a poetry exam I will sit.

I really hope it will be easy.

Wednesday night, the anxiety will hit;

My stomach already feels a little queasy.

It’s an afternoon exam so I get to wake up late!

But that just means amongst the nervousness and apprehension, I will be stuck.

As you can probably tell, my ability to write poetry is not too great.

Fortunately, I am only analysing them, so, wish me luck!

She did it Agatha! She’s the killer!

So, I previously wrote about my classics drive: my mission to read better books and acquire a richer reading repertoire. Since then, I have read a Dickens, Austen and Brontë, in the form of Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. I have branched out into classical horror in the form of Dracula and surely made my way into the once unexplored genre of crime.

My first Agatha Christie book was lent to me by a friend; ‘Death on the Nile’; and I was surprised to have enjoyed it as much as I did. Despite the large number of characters involved, their gradual introduction allowed my mind to keep them all and I quickly sorted through them at every minor event to try to work out who the killer was. I almost got it right… but that’s the unique thing about Agatha’s books, you’re not supposed to get it right.

It is always the person you least expect it to be, the person that you tick off, you think they have no motive or a flawless alibi…then you’re proven wrong. That’s why, whilst reading another of her books, I decided to choose the most unlikely character as being the murderer…. again, I was wrong. It was the one that everyone expected it to be.

To me figuring out the mystery before everyone else does (especially Poirot), is the aim of my reading, the earlier I crack it, the better. I can not express the glee that I felt when I finally bested her and guessed correctly whilst reading ‘And Then There Were None’. I knew it all along…but I’m not going to spoil it for anyone. That would defy the point of reading. I was going to read ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ but I was ‘accidentally’ told who the killer was and now, I am pretty sure that I will remember it for as long as I live, so I will never get the pleasure of reading that book.

The language of Agatha’s book are straight-forward and easy to follow, mainly dialogue and nothing special. It’s a good thing that the appeal is with the plot because the characters are not explored in great depth, words do not stir emotions and regardless of how many people die, you will never feel sympathy. The plot is precise and the twists and turns are gripping but whilst your mind is exercised, your heart is barely moved. When a character dies, I don’t feel even the shadow of a twinge, I just get annoyed that I didn’t see it coming.

So, I have read a few Agatha Christie books, and although I was thoroughly entertained by them and highly recommend them, it is time for me to move on. So many books, so little time and on I go to ‘the Woman in White’.

A message to the speed reader

Oh you who prides himself in flipping all the pages, from cover to cover, as quickly as your hands can move, your satisfaction does not compare to he who reads the book!

On my way to becoming a more accomplished reader and keeping to my resolution of reading more classics, I was leisurely reading and enjoying the literary wonders of Jane Eyre, when my impatient mother commented on the speed of my reading. My pace was not slow, she simply wanted me to return her Kindle and no speed would have been fast enough.

She, as are many others, is a speed reader and can go through many books in a week, although she isn’t the most boastful and competitive I know. Others will race each other to complete a book in the least amount of time and compare and criticise those who read at human speed, holding them in contempt and fancying themselves superior. However, how much of it do they actually read? Do they understand, process, ponder and savour the actual words or do they just move along the letters in a mechanical fashion?

I am not a slow reader but sometimes, after a particularly powerful line or paragraph, I like to move back a moment and think, imagine myself in the character’s position, guess what will hapen next and even read over it because I appreciated the words so much. How could you do that if you just skim through it?

So, here’s a message to the speed reader and precisely what I told my mother:

“If you swallow it, you will not taste it.”

What is your opinion on speed reading? Is it something you do yourself?

A Short History in Books

Reading has always been a hobby of mine and since a very young age I have loved to read. Throughout my life I have grown and changed, as we all do, and besides me my books have grown thicker, the text shrunk smaller and the content evolved.

Enid Blyton was my most memorable childhood literary love affair. I must have been around eight years old when I fell in love with her books and began dreaming of going to boarding school where I would sneakily have midnight feasts without matron finding out, play tricks on the French teacher and have a generally jolly good time. The adventures I read about were old-fashioned and my mother had enjoyed them in her own childhood, in a completely different language, but that didn’t stop me from being enthralled by them.

Even now I still find them timeless and am unable to emotionally or physically part with the books as battered and worn out as they are. What child wouldn’t want to travel to an island in a small rowing boat, with a group of merry friends, a dog and a picnic to solve a great mystery and triumph over the grown ups? I was terribly disappointed when my younger sisters did not share my love, one reading only a single series (Malory Towers) before dismissing the author and another ignoring the books entirely. Whether they are still in fashion or not, my children will read Enid Blyton, even if I have to tie them down. That’s how passionate I am.

Once I had completed them all and reached pre-adolescence I regretfully had to leave Blyton behind and enter the then popular phase of broken families, divorced parents, abandoned kids…. Jacqueline Wilson. Her books were much more gloomy and depressing than the magical adventures of Enid Blyton’s fantasy characters but yet they were an addictive and necessary introduction to the real world, where not everything is happy families. Instead of boarding school, I wanted to live in a care home and my parents’ marriage was too harmonious.

Then, along with the dreaded teenage years, in which I am still currently stuck in, comes the dreadful vampire phase. Dark and predictable with typically black covers, the misunderstood human girl always falls in love with the unnaturally handsome vampire. Once you read one, you’ve read them all but that doesn’t stop you from doing just that. It must be a social trend rather than an actual interest in the mythical beings because no one ever reads Dracula. Maybe they would if it took place in a highschool and was a major motion picture?

In between phases there are also periods of inactivity as I abandon my books and momentarily lose interest, starving myself until I can bear it no longer ripping open a new chapter in my literary life as I devour all words in sight.

As of a few days ago, I have entered a new, more mature, slightly more sophisticated and definitely more intellectual era; the classics. I have realized that I have not read nearly enough classics as I should and have decided to rectify that immediately, starting with Pride and Prejudice, a book which I have previously attempted and discarded and which not even the movie could animate me. However, upon reading it a second time, with an open mindset, I find myself to be captivated by the romance and chivalry ,although I am a bit critical of the writing style. Jane Austen seems incapable of allowing her character’s actions or dialogue to speak for themselves and feels the need to describe their personalities in order of appearance be it good humour or an unpleasant disposition. She also seems to forget that as the Bennet family consists of five daughters, addressing them as a single Miss Bennet can create confusion for the reader.

Not even a quarter way through and I have unleashed my literary genius, commenting and criticizing as if I knew better than one of the best writers in British history. In my opinion, reading classics increases your intellect or in the very least increases your appearance of intellect. So in the interest of seeming more intellectual, I have resolved to read more classics, despite most people having a negative connotation with the very word, immediately translating classic to boring before getting past the acknowledgements page.

Dickens, Bronte… any suggestions?

Essay Time

There comes a point in everybody’s lives where they just wish that they could forward time. Jump ahead a few steps. I have just reached that point.

An English essay is waiting to be done and as always I would love to fast-forward a few days and hold the finished words in my hands. Or instead of me moving forward it would be much less hassle if my older self would just hand me my finished work. It wouldn’t be cheating. It would be self-help? Self-plagiarism?

Are those even words? Clearly I am simply looking for an excuse not to start this dreaded essay and this blog is serving as a hide out for my inner procrastinator. If I were a few yawns lazier, I could even fool myself into believing that writing about an essay that I don’t want to do counts towards planning and preparation… does it?

Maybe if I explain the task I am legally bound to tackle, I can get my fingers warmed up and eager to allow the juices of my creativity to flow freely onto the page. However, not too creative as the restraints of an essay do not permit for much… expression despite the “art” involved in writing the perfect essay.

The day has come when even a teenager must be politically correct in their school work. The question asks us to study two different recordings and transcripts of teenage conversation and comment on the way teenagers adapt their spoken language depending on the situation. It would be easy enough if it were not that the teenagers speak in heavy Liverpudlian (Liverpool) accents. It would not be a surprise if the Scousers score the highest marks but in the interest of political correctness… what accent?

Has anyone ever heard of communal essay writing? It is a newly formed (as of now) method in which fellow bloggers work communally to produce complete essays. It is a new initiative that aims to help alleviate some of the load off busy English students, allowing them more free time to waste. Anyone interested?

If you’re not gullible and didn’t believe a word of that, encouraging messages are equally welcome. Cheer me on as I open up a new word document and begin what will hopefully be the best essay I have ever written. With your support, this essay will be the – dinner time!

My appreciation for the great English language

As I sat down in class today, listening to my French teacher explain the grammatic rules of using verbs in the perfect tense with the auxiliary verb  être (to be) to a group of blanked faced teenagers, I found myself thinking, “how great is English?”. Everything is so simple; there are no adjective agreements, no complicated conjugation of verbs just for the sake of it and definitely no masculine or feminine objects. The French may have enough time on their hands to decide whether an inanimate object is male or female but here in the U.K we believe in the right of a pencil to be an “it”.  We do not believe in the segregation and division of objects; forcing them to use different adjectives because they have been given the stereotypical label of feminine, masculine, singular or plural. Why must a pencil be blanc (white) when a ruler is blanche (white)? Does that sound like justice? Nevermind the fact that we poor British students have to learn this all by heart or face the prospect of being the laughing-stock of the whole French community because we are unable to decide if that chair looks like it may be a madame or a monsieur. Can you imagine the horrified looks that will be shot at us by old French women wearing Berets, eating their breakfast croissants if we make the mistake of addressing that park bench in the wrong way…  “stupid British youth. Can they not tell? Clearly that bench is of the male species!”

This is a serious problem faced by many English-speaking tourists who visit France and I, being the kind and thoughtful person that I am, am on a mission to put an end to this nonsense. As soon as I find the address of the French President I will be writing him a very strongly worded letter of complaint, and after he reads my perfectly logical argument he will have no other option but to adopt the English language. I mean, you can’t watch X-factor in French. Is that not reason enough?

Beaucoup d’amour

Yasmine