Sunday, 14 December 2014

New Year - New Frame of Mind.


2014 has been an odd year. 
In truth, the last few years have all been a little odd.  Being slightly of the 'odd' persuasion myself, I'm well used to a bit of 'odd', here and there, but it has to be said that currently the levels of oddness are showing a definite increase on past years.  

A part of this is entirely down to that favourite old chestnut - 'What do I want from my life and how can I make it happen?'
Never an easy one to tackle, especially if one is totally unsure about a) 'what one wants from life' & b) 'how to make this happen'.
In terms of my writing, the last few years have followed an often new and exciting (if slightly meandering) direction.  In positive terms, this has meant taking university study in all forms of creative writing - something I absolutely adore.
On the not-so positive front, this has meant studying other subjects alongside the creative writing, in pursuit of a fabled trophy known as an 'honours degree'.

With the benefit of hindsight, I took on this quest partly for myself and partly out of respect for my mother.  When she passed away in 2009, in the aftermath of dealing with her painfully-slow, physical demise, I convinced myself that this was a sign for me to do something new...something she would be proud of.
I took the fact that I was fast approaching the age of 50 as another golden sign.  Yes, this was definitely a turning point in my life...the omens were clear.  I could get my degree and become a teacher. After all, I had spent the last 12 years home-educating our daughters.  The curriculum was still fresh in my head.  I could find square roots of anything, while understanding the molecular structure of objects, our position in the vastness of the universe and - more importantly - when to correctly use a semi-colon.  
With a feeling of being 'reborn', I began designing a tattoo involving a phoenix bravely rising from the ashes, to symbolise my 'newness'...until I remembered my lifelong fear of needles...but still, dammit, it was a sign!  Verily, I gathered my finest sword, took my first step on the metaphorical road to success to smite the fire-breathing dragon of uncertainty at the summit of Mount Destiny.  
This was to be my moment and I was ready.

It started well.  My first few steps - purely to see if I could handle the pressures of such an educational challenge - were firm and reliable.  My first ever university module in digital photography, during which I would often pause with, camera around neck, and gaze up to the clouds, as if to say, 'Look Mum...I'm at university!' went better than planned.  Needing 40% to pass the course I weighed in with a hefty 94%.
My sword, now twice as long and six times as sharp, rested against my thigh - awaiting the next challenges.
Modules in the Arts and Creative Writing followed.  Each duly dispatched by my sword, who now screamed out, in wisps of fiery breath, to have its own name.  
Duly, it was appointed 'Cecil - Vanquisher of all University Modules and Slayer of Academic Essays.'

For two years, Cecil (VoaUMaSoAE) and I blazed a brave trail through the misty trails of uncertain university modules. 
Delicately, we dodged several pools of despair, tiptoed gingerly through minefields of referencing/bibliography and battled ferociously through the forests of wtf-is-going-on.  
Once the creative writing parts had been conquered, mapped and learned, the next stage of my quest began.
In order to pursue this 'holy grail', I would need to complete my degree with 'other stuff'.
Here, the path took a much steeper turn.  Learning about things we like is a lot easier than poring over huge lists of potential modules and picking a pathway through.  
What to study?  
Should I delve into history - another passion?  Not according to the feedback from former students who had vainly fought thirty-headed beasts and fallen on the muddy fields of battle - leaving 'Beware This Path' signs as their final deed.
The university - at first a charming collection of helpful smiles - also began to show a different face.  Modules of vast interest began to disappear from view, as if extinguished by a cold and merciless hand upon the light switch of fate.  (OK...a bit melodramatic yes, but you get the point).
As study paths sank within the vague, forlorn mistiness, surrounding the Isles of Uncertainty...(OK, I'll stop it now) options became fewer. I found myself pondering over such questions as 'Could I learn Welsh in a year?'  It would have got me to Level 2 and from there I could...well I could find get to Level 3 and my glittering prize.

Purely to complete Level 1, I took a module in sociology.  In truth, I knew more about the feeding patterns of the Arctic Tern, but I picked it because it was preferable to Welsh...or Ancient Greek....or a whole wave of nasty-looking foes of which I knew even less about.
From knowing bugger-all, I secured a good pass in sociology and finally sheathed Cecil in his summer hibernation until I would need him again in the autumn of 2014.  Hurrah!  The end was in sight...well, still at least some years away, along with thousands of pounds...but an end nonetheless!

Yet now, a new fear approached and stalked me...namely, the enemy known as weariness.  The original plan had been a noble and worthy one.  Get a degree, take a teaching course, become a teacher.  A fine and noble plan which would have indeed made my mother very proud. However, sometimes time has a way of unpicking the worthy threads of noble intent and scattering them spitefully into the twisting tornadoes of torment.  (Sorry, I promise that's the last one...scout's honour). 
Since the onset of my chase for a degree, certain things had transpired.  Firstly, my age was in doubt.  A year into my degree I made an enquiry to a local, Gloucestershire college which offered teacher training to graduates.  At the question, 'how old are you?' my honest answer of '47 and a bit' had created an ominous silence.  It was then explained to me that 50 was the usual maximum age at which teachers were trained.  Might I complete my degree quicker?
The honest answer to that was 'no'.  It was taking all my finances just to remain doing any sort of 'fast-track' was out of the question.
Problem #2 then emerged.   I had heard from various sources that the teaching profession was in urgent need of teachers...not just that, it was desperate for MALE teachers.  Being firmly of the male persuasion, I took this news initially as a good thing - if there was a shortage then I might find work quicker than I had imagined.  In hindsight, I may have found some of the reasons why male teachers are in short supply.
I approached several local schools and offered my services as an unpaid volunteer - explaining my degree path, my past experience in home education, etc, etc.  
Not a single sausage of information came my way.
I tried again - using a volunteer website to strengthen my application.
When I tried the direct approach, the looks of horror I received were demoralising.  In my head, I was imagining myself as a bold, confident student, with the noble intent of helping kids to read, sums...learn about the world.  All that stuff.
In reality, what I believe the staff saw was a middle-aged man with greying hair, asking if he could 'get to know the kiddies'.  It dawned on me slowly that while I was asking questions, the teachers would draw the children closer to them...just in case I might be 'one of those' men...the type you read about in the Sunday papers.

Suitably disheartened, I cancelled my planned university studies in education and sought another option.  Surely I could use my degree for something worthwhile?
By October of this year, my army was weakened and my trusty Cecil (VoaUMaSoAE) was starting to think of his retirement home, hanging above the mantlepiece against an oaken board.
It took months to pick out a module to complete my Level 2 studies.  In the end I went with religion.  I like religion - not from an internal, theological aspect, but certainly from a psychological, sociological angle - why do we believe?  Why do we have faith?  What makes us take one spiritual pathway and not another?  All that.
The course was fascinating...but...academically, I was done.  
I was also fighting the idea that the 'holy grail' of my honours degree was, in reality, worthless.  Had it gone to the Antiques Road Show then it wouldn't have made it to the televised part.  
'Sorry mate, I'll give you 50p for offer'.

To top everything off, the uselessness of writing constant academic essays, in pursuit of something which would look nice in a frame on the wall, but in truth, meant nothing, was having other negative effects. It was stopping me from doing what I loved....namely writing.
Despite being published in total 6 times, since 2012, (something my mother would also have been extremely proud of) my ideas and plots for new stories had became nothing more than scribbled notes on my word processor, or scattered bits of paper littered over my desk.  
By the time I realised that I was following the wrong dream, I already had notes for 9 complete novels, 16 short stories, at least 2 books of poetry and several non-fiction books.
The game was up.  I'd tried my best and done OK - my modules have scored between 74% and 94%.  I was even still in line for a 'First' had I continued with my studies.  I know a part of me will regret not continuing, but I had to be honest with myself.  The road was going nowhere.  I needed to be true to who I was.  I believe I'm a's taken me 51 years to realise that snippet of information and - in many ways - this has been what has held me back...or more importantly I've held myself back.
Net lesson learned:  we should go for what we want in life...what makes our hearts burst with energy, inspiration and pride...not always what is expected of make us feel 'normal'.
I wish I'd learned this sooner...but better now than when I'm 93 and terrorising the staff in an old folks' home with my off-key singing and deranged plans to invade the Isle of Man with an army of armoured hedgehogs.

I've made plans to complete my university studies - for a Higher Diploma of Education - over the next two years.
More importantly, I've given myself some time to chase a dream.  not only to chase after it in vague, pitch-patch steps, but to bloody well go for it, my Cecil in hand and screaming like an enraged Viking warrior. resolution for 2015 is as follows:
(a) Write.
(b) Keep writing.
(c) Write every day.
(d) See (a)

My writing goals for 2015 are as follows:
(I)   Add at least 100,000 words to my first novel, 'Age of Bronze'
(II)  Completely finish 5 of the 16 short stories on my list.
(III) Finish at least one of the books of poetry.
(IV) Complete at least 3 non-fiction articles on parapsychology, metaphysics or the paranormal.

New year, new objectives, new challenges.
Most importantly, as I take this new path, this time it genuinely feels as if the sun is finally shining on my face.
Wish me luck.   :) 



  1. Oh my dear Kev, I wish you all the success that I know you are already totally capable *even more than capable!! ) of xxoo Roll on 2015, I will be so proud to be able to boast to folks that "I knew him back when he was still just dreaming" xxoo

  2. TY Sandra. I think I'll always be dreaming, but it would be nice to earn a living from being a dreamer...more importantly to follow the dream. :) xxxx

  3. Good luck Kev. I dropped uni for a while and feel much better for it. Slogging on with it again now, but hopefully not for much longer. Hope 2015 works out for you. Maybe we'll both be up there next year all being well! :) xx

    1. Thank you! Best of luck to you for 2015 also. May the Force be with us. :) xx