It is now August 2017. In a few weeks, I will be celebrating the first anniversary of when I arrived in Swansea. Gee whizzzzz… Time has really flown.
I know, I know, I have not blogged since June. Has the novel progressed? Very hard to say, as again I modified my game plan in mid-June after the meeting with my supervisors that formalised the end of my probationary period as a PhD candidate. I am glad to say I passed the probation. And since I would not be seeing any of my supervisors until September and because I had plans to travel between June and August, I decided to focus on catching up with my reading, especially of novels, and get more ideas on different styles and approaches that could help with the creation of my novel.
So what have I been doing or where have I been/will be since my last blog post at the beginning of June? Here’s the summary:
– 15-17 June: Storytelling for Health conference, Swansea
– 19-27 June: Barcelona, Spain
– 15-21 July: Bleddfa, in mid-Wales
– 3-7 August: Richmond, Yorkshire
– 9-16 August: Ireland, somewhere between Dublin and Galway
The ABMU Arts in Health Programme, NHS Wales, and the University of South Wales Trinity, St Davids, collaborated to organise the first Storytelling for Health conference here in Swansea. It was extremely fascinating to listen to the variety of things being done in the name of storytelling by health care professionals, patients, and artists for the sake of health improvement across the UK and beyond.
The Barcelona trip was to visit and stay with my friend SQ, who was then finishing her Masters in photography there, as well as to fulfill a long-time dream to visit La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous cathedral. If you have the chance to see this building complex, please grab it. The cathedral is truly beautiful. If you have strong legs and knees, you must sign up for a tour of the towers — the spiral architecture within those narrow confines is as amazing as the exterior façades and the stained glass windows.
There are many things to do in Barcelona, from eating to shopping, from listening to music to appreciating art, etc. I mainly focused on visiting art and historical museums, buildings of notable architecture and parks, as well as sitting on the open-top tourist bus for an overview of the entire city. If you are in Barcelona and the weather is fine and sunny, do visit high points for views of the breathtaking city landscape.
My trip to mid-Wales was to attend the Bleddfa Week of Storytelling held at the Bleddfa Centre and facilitated this year by the storytellers, Michael Harvey and Jane Flood (plus guest tutor Daniel Morden). Not only is the countryside gorgeous (unfortunately I was too focused on the storytelling workshop to take landscape photos), I have never told stories/listened to stories/slept in a place where sheep were bleating every now and again within a few hundred feet away. The week was a good time for me to take stock of where I stand with storytelling and where/how I wish to proceed in the future with this art form.
At Bledffa, I arranged to stay on a B&B basis at the home of JN, about a mile from the arts centre, or a good twenty-minute walk along a country road in the morning. JN’s home is 6-plus acres of land, comprising mainly two large fields on either side of her cottage. The highlights of my stay (which was comfortable) were JN’s pets: Tess (the sheepdog who does not like to chase sheep and has become a loving pet instead of a working dog), Jenkins the cat, and Bertie the retired horse. For the first time in my life, I got to pet a horse (Bertie) and feed him a cut apple.
Tomorrow, I will travel up north to Yorkshire to visit CH and DP, whom I stayed with last December. And then next week, I will visit MHP, whose Irish home is somewhere between Dublin and Galway. (Over the past year, I have befriended MHP who will soon be completing her part-time MA in Creative Writing here at Swansea University. She is the person whom I did the two treks along the Gower coastline a few months ago in March.) On behalf of the newly formed Ballygar Arts and Theatre Space (which MHP supports), MHP has invited me to tell stories in her community on the evening of 12 Aug. Whee… Now I will get to include Ireland on my storytelling cv…
While I have yet to progress as much as I wish for the novel, I am certainly getting that much-needed sabbatical away from Singapore, time to think, time to travel a bit and encounter new things. For all this, I am truly grateful.
One of the most valuable experiences has been to have lived for most of the past here in the Northern hemisphere. Yes, I lived in London between September 2003 and June 2004 while studying for my MA in Voice Studies; however, that was very rushed and focused, and only part of a year.) This time around, I have had the chance and more leisure to sense the changing of the seasons as the sun traverses from equinox to solstice to the next equinox and solstice and back again. And yes, to also witness the evolving beauty of Singleton Park, from the different trees/bushes/shrubs flowering in turn, to the rise of the grass fields and now to the fading away of those very same grasses. One of the latest thrills, after the last few months of flowers, is to discover fruits here and there coming into being…
And what will happen after I return from Ireland? My lease of the tiny room in Beck House is running out. For the 2017-18 academic year, I have leased a room in the house of SC (MHP’s good friend and former classmate in the part-time MA in Creative Writing programme, SC passed up her thesis at the end of May), located in the St Thomas district on the other side of the Tawe River, the main river that runs through Swansea. Although I will miss an easy proximity to Singleton Park, I will now have a new area of Swansea to explore over the next year as SC’s home is near the marina district.