The Writerly Life

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Jane Austen’s desk @ Chawton, 28 Dec 2016

Salutations, one and all, for this first post of 2017!

I don’t know how auspicious/inauspicious, valid/invalid that I am writing and then posting this first blog of 2017 during the start of a post-Obama era, especially when hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world were marching in support of liberal values. Even though I was not physically present at any of those marches, I was there in spirit. So may we all do our individual parts to actively keep dialogue open and make the world a fairer and more equitable place to live in…

I have been relatively quiet since the last post before Christmas as finally my routine has more or less settled down and I now have the headspace to focus on the novel and the PhD. Thus there is much less to report about physical happenings and it is also much harder to share the stuff that is whizzing through my brain as I slowly work out what goes into the novel and how to write it.

Between 23 November 2016 and 10 January 2017, I managed to write about 4900 new words for the novel in preparation for my meeting with my supervisor on 16 January. Not a lot, but at least a modest start, and crossing fingers, much more will follow in due course. Since 16 January. I have been doing some online research plus journaling ideas for the next set of writing that I must submit before my February meeting.

One of the more satisfying things that I have done in the past week or so was to tally the number of books I have read since September via creating a tentative bibliography. I am pleased to announce that I am beginning to make a small dent in the mountain of books that I shipped to Wales (plus the books I have bought since arriving).

I have yet to get to the meat and bones of things, but the amount I have read between September and now (both books, journal articles and online material) is definitely way more than what I have read in the previous year. Ditto, in terms of the number of movies that I have watched at the Taliesin/Swansea cinemas/on TV while in Guildford for the Christmas holidays vs. before… Plus I have caught some theatre and storytelling performances here in Swansea and in Cardiff…

Yahoo… Hopefully, all that input is brewing somewhere within my subconscious into useful stuff that will emerge eventually…

One of the more personally relevant books that I have been reading is Jean Shinoda Bolen’s Goddesses in Older Women: Archetypes for Women over Fifty. What resonates with me a lot is her observation that many women, once they reach or are nearing menopause, tend to go through a period of intense self-evaluation as they decide how to lead their lives after this biological milestone. Ahhhh… At last, it makes sense this intense drive to get away from Singapore and undertake this sabbatical of a PhD, a literal timeout to gather resources, focus my energies, reflect on life and figure out my next moves…

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Okay, now to backtrack in time a bit with regards to an observation about the writerly life…

Between 22 and 29 December, I had a heartwarming Christmas staying with friends, PH and her husband, DH, in Guildford. Most of the time was spent celebrating the season with their family. However, there were two touristy activities.

First, on the evening of 22 December, they brought me to see the night light display at the RHS Garden Wisley that occurs yearly during the month of December. It was quite fascinating to see the winter tree scape lit up in different ways and with various colours.

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RHS Garden Wisley, 22 Dec 2016

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RHS Garden Wisley, 22 Dec 2016

Second and more relevant to the point that I want to make, PH brought me to visit Jane Austen’s house at Chawton where she had spent the last eight years of her life, i.e. the cottage that her brother let her, their sister and mother live rent-free while he lived in the big manor house that came part and parcel with the wealth he inherited. Wah, to be actually in her house, possibly even standing on the very floor boards she once trod on…

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Me standing in Jane Austen’s bedroom @ Chawton, 28 Dec 2016

OMG… The desk, that Jane Austen is said to have written and edited her famous novels on, is MINISCULE. Hmmm… So she supposedly chose this table out of modesty to easily disguise her writerly bent in case visitors suddenly arrived. But gee whizz, how practical could it have been, especially if she needed to refer to books/notes, work on different drafts or proofread material?

On my part, I must not complain about my small room in Beck House with the tiny desktop, I must not complain about my small room in Beck House with the tiny desktop… If she could write masterpieces on such a small surface, so can I…

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Well, one factor that is encouraging a more sedentary (alas bad for the waistline and size of my butt and thighs) writing-focused lifestyle is the weather. Since Christmas, there have been more chilly days. Particularly in the last fortnight, temperatures have been hovering around 0 degrees Celcius, even though the sun is rising earlier (coming closer to 8 am) and setting later (pushing closer to 5 pm). Days, when the temperature goes above 8 degrees, are currently lesser. Over a week back when there were big snowstorms wreaking havoc in Scotland, Northern England and Ireland, there was even a threat of snow here in Swansea (there were some very windy, and hence, noisy days as the wind howled about). Yes, some little styrofoam bead-like stuff did fall from the sky occasionally over two days, but quickly melted away within seconds — nothing compared to what was experienced further north.

Nevertheless, on the days and times when I have been out and about, there have been some very interesting photo opportunities that I am now sharing with you. Please enjoy…

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Swansea Bay, 2 Jan 2017

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Singleton Park, 3 Jan 2017, circa 9 am

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Frost (close-up) @ Swansea University, Singleton campus, 3 Jan 2017

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Streaky sky, downtown Swansea, 3 Jan 2017

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Blooms, 7 Jan 2017 (Freaky, right? But apparently some plants do bloom, given the relatively milder winters nowadays.)

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Moon over Beck House, 12 Jan 2017, circa 6.30 pm

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Winter rainbow over Uplands, 14 Jan 2017

Another observation that I have been wanting to share for some time, and which I guess is an appropriate moment to do so: my experiences with the BBC Weather App. I have been relying on this app for quite a few months now to help me decide how many layers to wear, whether or not to bring an umbrella along, etc. The accuracy of today’s weather forecasting is incredibly good, such that even the hour-to-hour evolution of the day’s weather is uncanny. For instance for the current day’s forecast, if the app says it will rain/snow at 3 pm or the sun will be out from 9 am to noon for that particularly, it is 95% likely that such things will come to pass.

Given the high changeability of the U.K. weather, one of the strangest combinations of symbols that the app has ever published is a tri-symbol comprising dark cloud, raindrop, and sun rays extending beyond the dark cloud. And believe me, I have experienced dark rain clouds covering the sky with scattered showers and some sunlight peeping through the clouds here in Swansea.

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Oh yes, one more thing, I have been writing poetry recently. You can find my first accepted submission by Eunoia Review at https://eunoiareview.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/cole-swensen-ekphrasis-2/. Happy reading…

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And now back to the proverbial grindstone of churning out the novel…

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