Much Ado About Nothing Continues – Is Margaret Innocent?

I have continued reading through Much Ado About Nothing which you can watch below. Here we are at act 3 scene 2 to act 3 scene 5. This is where Don John and Borachio put there plan into action and we are first introduced to the Prince’s Watch.

Having read through this and talked about my ideas as I went there are a few other thoughts I’ve had since:

Don John and Benedick

Did Don John intentionally wait for Benedick to leave before slandering Hero to Don Pedro and Claudio? We see later in the Play that Benedick really distrusts Don John and is happy to place all the blame on him without any actual evidence, so perhaps Don John avoided him on purpose. Don John is seemingly unaware of the trick Claudio, Don Pedro and Leonato have played on Benedick so would have no reason to think Benedick would be sympathetic to Hero and yet he doesn’t include Benedick in the plan. Alternatively maybe Don John thinks better of Benedick’s sense or fairness than many others seem to. Whatever his reasons Don John had provided further separation between Benedick and Don Pedro and Claudio.

The Power of the Watch

We are introduced to the watch in such a way that we see their ideas, beliefs and approach to their duties so that we can be left in no doubt about their general idiocy. Their leader Dogberry has no intention of them actually catching any criminals but enjoys knowing that they have the power to do so. I think the utter ridiculousness of these men having power highlights how little the women have and how arrogant and elitist the leaders are. They are able to capture villains of the play and unravel their plots without having a clue what is going on. We see later that the women, despite their testimonies and evidence are unable to fight their corner.

We also see that the watch had the power to completely collapse Don John’s scheme when they visited Leonato. As the plan they had overheard involved Hero it would have been the most obvious thing in the world to simply alert Leonato to it without it going public, however it is Dogberry and Verges that visit that visit Leonato, not the watchmen who captured Borachio. This is another case of the male leaders’ arrogance and dismissiveness of those below them resulting in lesser results.

Is Margaret Innocent?

The more I read Much Ado About Nothing, the more interesting I find Margaret as a character. For a waiting lady her presence in a scene is often more notable than Hero’s. She is considered quick witted and beautiful by Beatrice and Benedick respectively and her observations and comments are often very confident and shrewd, In many ways she is presented be very similar to Beatrice but without her position in society. She is part of the plan to trick Beatrice into loving Benedick, and also (supposedly unwittingly) part of the plan to fool Don Pedro and Claudio into shaming Hero. She is seemingly all knowing and always nearby whenevr anything interesting happens.

With all this in mind, this is something that has bugged for a long time. Borachio’s plan involved Margaret, in the middle of the night, leaning out of Hero’s window, wearing Hero’s clothes, hearing herself be called Hero and behaving inappropriately towards Borachio (including talking loudly enough that Don Pedro and Claudio hidden in the orchard could hear them) all while Hero was away. Somehow we are meant to believe that Margaret would do all this naturally as a personal choice without knowing there is some sort of plan afoot. To me it sounds unlikely. The following day we see Margaret acting perfectly naturally around Hero as if nothing has happened. Admittedly the serving classes were held to a different standard of behaviour than the higher classes, but still it doesn’t sit well. It’s possible that the relationship between Borachio and Margaret was such that Margaret would go along with a suggestion of his without requiring and explanation, but to me it’s more plausible that Margaret had some knowledge of the scheme, if not all of it. We know she is a good judge of character and situations so I just can’t make myself beleive that she wouldn’t notice something was up here.

I think there’s further evidence to support this argument in later scenes but I’ll mention that in a future post.

The Value of Comfort Reading

The reasons for reading are many and varied. For some it’s academic; a need to understand a new idea, for work, school or even just out of curiosity. For others it’s for entertainment, they want to laugh at humorous events, or feel the rush of adrenaline during tense moments. For a lot of people the reason they state is escapism. They get to leave their current life behind and enter another. One which they get to choose, maybe with quests, wizards and dragons. Maybe they visit a new land and culture, or experience a different career and colleagues. Perhaps they participate in a high speed chase, or a battle or an intergalactic war. Whatever floats your boat, there is a book that can take you there.

imagination-concept-girl-reading-a-book-vector-3853075

I am part of a few Facebook book groups, in general they are open and friendly and as a group non-judgmental. That being said individuals will state their opinions that you may or may not agree with. One I’ve seen a lot of is that there are so many books in the world, why would you ever re-read a book. Another almost unconscious bias, is that some books are more worthy than others, children’s books or young adult books (YA) seem to have a stigma attached to them, almost like you need to apologise for reading or enjoying them. People are allowed their opinions and they are perfectly valid. I however disagree with these two ideas.

Sometimes though, what you need is a comfort reads; when you aren’t looking for a grand epiphany, or a rollercoaster of emotions, instead a sense of soothing familiarity and innocent positivity. There are books that naturally fall into this category for example “cozy mysteries” where everything turns out well for the characters you are invested in such as Miss Marple by Agatha Christie, or Agatha Raisin by M.C. Beaton (review here). Or easy reading chick-lit such as Wild Designs by Katie Fforde (review here) or Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Café by Millie Johnson. If you enjoy farcical capers there’s P.G Wodehouse (review here) or The fugitive Pigeon by Donald E Westlake (review here).

But these aren’t the type of books I want to focus on. Instead, when I’m stressed or down, homesick or lonely, what I crave is a re-read of a favourite, or books aimed at younger people

Recently on a road trip in my campervan, we started experiencing mechanical difficulties, we needed to carry on, and so we listened to Claudine at St Clare’s by Enid Blyton. One of my childhood favourites I have read many times, even as an adult. Did I learn anything? No. Did I feel any strong emotions? No. But that was the point. I could escape into this world I knew inside out and allow myself to relax into the gentle humour of the book without worrying about twists or turns. I am also very excited about the new Malory towers TV series that’s just starting. From what I’ve seen on social media, it’s the parents who are really interested in this, probably for a similar nostalgic reason.

St CLares

Another week, I was a having a difficult and stressful week at work. I felt the week slipping out of my control. So I downloaded Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne. I’d never listened to or read it before, so I didn’t know the exact storyline, but the idealistic nature, charming naivety and cheerful positivity allowed me to relax and filled me with a sense of serenity. I even painted a little watercolour of my favourite scene.

Winnie the Pooh

This week I was due to go on holiday to see my family. I live and work abroad in Kazakhstan where I don’t speak their language and in general they don’t speak mine, consequently it can be quite isolating so I was excited to go home for a bit. Obviously things being as they are at the moment it didn’t happen and so I needed to provide myself with a sense of home and comfort another way. The books that give me greatest sense of home, are The Belgariad by David Eddings.

Belgariad books

This is a light and easy going traditional fantasy series written in the early 1980s. It’s not written in a YA or children’s style, though its innocence and child friendly subject matter make it perfectly suitable for that age group. Unlike the popular heavy and brutal grim dark style that dominates the fantasy genre today, these books promote all the positive attributes of the genre. They books take me back to my childhood, my Dad loves them, and introduced me to them when I was about 12 (in between Harry Potter books). Since then I have read them many times, the characters feel like friends, the cities and towns like holiday destinations, the world itself as familiar to me as any home would be, in fact more consistently so as I’ve moved so often in my adult life.

Belgariad

What I’m trying to say is, reading isn’t a competition; there are no prizes for completing a reading challenge, or reading the Booker Prize nominees, or ploughing through the classics. By all means set goals, and work on self improvement or study if you want. But allow yourself some comfort reading along the way

For more information of where to get hold of audiobooks have a look at my previous post here

The Village: An Imagining.

One of the quirks of the Russian language is the lack of articles; as a results many Russian speakers misuse articles when speaking English. This has led to possibly my favourite phrase ever. They all love to talk about “The Village

What are you doing at the weekend: I’m going to The Village.

Are you busy this evening: Yes I’m going to The Village.

Would you like to come to The Village.

It doesn’t matter who you talk to they all phrase it the same way, not a village, or my parents’ village. They never name The Village or in any way acknowledge that there may be another village in existence. To me it has a fantastical ring to it, to the point that this is what I imagine based on their descriptions.

To The Village!

Kazakhstan has only one village, it is known as The Village (capital T, capital V). It is somewhere in the centre of the country so that everyone can access it easily.

It seems there is some sort of direct, as the crow flies, means of transport to The Village. I’d like to think they teleport or similar, but they usually talk of taxis and trains so instead there must be a dedicated group of people whose sole responsibility in the nation is to transport people to and from The Village. I like to imagine them in a uniform, wearing national colours as they work for their country, or maybe there are different clans or rival factions, perhaps the train and taxi people are rivals. Maybe there are rogue transporters running people back and forth without official papers smuggling people or object in and out of the village without the authorities knowing; or maybe they do know, but turn a blind eye, taking a slice of course.

fantasy uniform

The village itself must be huge, during the weekend the population of the village must quadruple. It needs to house almost the whole population of Kazakhstan during the weekend and holidays. Maybe it’s on a parallel plane of existence.

During week days the population is old people and a few young children. The old people would be a bit like fantasy elves, they are long lived, stoic and formal. They’ve seen and know too much, they continue to practice the old ways despite the modern advancements their children try to bring back from the cities. I imagine the grandparents indulge their grandchildren in the secrecy of the week, imparting knowledge to them and even occasionally smiling, while the children’s parents work in the many cities.

babushkas_edit

Their houses are immaculately clean as all of the women’s’ time is spent on housework and preparing food for the weekend’s festivities. I picture the men spending their time looking serious and sitting in their chair. They may take a walk around The Village, maybe they will read a book.

Logically however, there must be some sort of spacial rift in The Village as despite my colleagues all going to The Village, they have never mentioned seeing each other there. Or perhaps there is a wrong side of the tracks mentality. Maybe long held family rivalries prevent different groups socialising in The Village, it would not be tolerated. The adults who leave The Village during the week do as they please in the city and this causes friction between them and the previous generations. The grandparents consider going to a city frivolous and unnecessary, they suspect their children are dishonouring their legacy.

fantasy citadel

As soon as they get back to The Village each woman is expected to join in cleaning the house, and preparing the weakly feasts, all their time is to be spent with their own family sharing in the running of the household. I imagine all the females gathered around a stew pot as they prepare a special meal, stirring occasionally as aromatic vapour flows through the house, maybe they make bread and gossip about their neighbours. This is where they gain the knowledge of the old ways. Occasionally special events occur, new year, a birthday, a new birth in which socialising is encouraged, but of course only with friends and allies; the appropriate gifts should be given and feasts prepared. There is a balance between keeping their children doing the right things and keeping them happy.

fantasy-wizards-ingredients-mike-savad

Maybe they are trained to never reveal the true nature of The Village, to never name speak its name as everyone knows names have power. The Kazakhs I know are incredibly difficult to get straight answers from and will reveal little to nothing about themselves. Perhaps they are all hiding a big secret about The Village. Maybe it was their safe place against the Russians.

Or maybe its just a quirk of the language.

The Best Travel Game – The Legs Game (House rules)

The legs game is the best road travel game I know, as a kid, and even now as an adult it is a great game that everyone can participate in no matter how long or short the journey is. It works less well on long stretches of motorway or for train travel, but for towns, cities, villages and the A-roads in between it’s ideal.

Recently my brother told me how he had introduced his fiance and her family to The legs Game while in Australia. They seemed to enjoy the game however there seemed to be some disagreement about the rules, which seems ridiculous as they didn’t know the game up until that point.

This game was first taught to me on a bus journey by someone older in the church, I think though I don’t really remember; I must have been maybe 9 or 10. As a family we have played this game on many road trips, and it manages to engage us all, even Dad has been known to participate.

Anyway with this in mind I thought it would be a good idea to explain the rules of The Legs Game, or at least our house rules.

This game depends on a certain degree of honesty and trust as having a score keeper is no fun, so bear that in mind if your you’re with a bunch of cheaters.

The aim of the game is to collect the highest leg score. You score by being the first to spot and call out any written word/sign of an object that would naturally have legs; you score the number of legs the object has.

For example, imagine you are driving down a British country road and you spot a pub called the Bull and Dog. If you are the first to see and call out it’s name you would get 8 points, 4 for the bull and 4 for the dog. Note it must be written text, not an image.

legs game bull and dog

House rule variations:

  • A location/object can only be claimed once – using the pub as an example, it may have multiple signs on it however only one person can have the points.
  • At least one other person must be able to verify the viewing of the sign/writing (not compulsory, it depends on how trustworthy your lot are)
  • Inanimate objects are permitted (e.g. bed and breakfast – 4 points awarded as beds have 4 legs)

legs game bed and breakfast

More contentious house rules:

  • Professions are permitted for 2 points (e.g. estate agents – these are people therefore 2 points are allowed)
  • Names are not permitted (e.g. The Shakespeare gets zero points)
  • MAN lorries are permitted for 2 point
  • Number plates are permitted (rarely an issue)
  • A table may be permitted for 4 points (decide among yourselves)

legs game shakespeare

Plurals (2 options):

  • Plurals don’t alter the points, only a single amount is awarded (e.g. Kittens for sale – 4 points awarded as a kitten has 4 legs) – my brother thinks this is the correct plural rule.

OR

  • Plurals are awarded double points as it implies more than one (e.g. Kittens for sale – 8 points awarded as 2 kittens would have 8 legs) – I think this is the correct plural rule.

Also, be aware if you play this game close to home or on routes you are particularly familiar with, some of your party may try and claim points before they are actually visible as they know they are coming. This should be discouraged however you see fit.

Whichever set of rules you play doesn’t really matter, just make sure you agree on them before hand.

New Year’s Resolutions Should Start In February

I will start this post by saying I have zero scientific evidence , or really any anecdotal evidence to support my view point; it is simply my opinion, but these days that is worth as much as fact so here goes:

I like new years resolutions, I think they a great for personal growth and giving you a focused way of moving forward in life. I do however think January is a rubbish time for them and they should instead begin in February.

new years res

My reasons are as follows:

January is really, really hard already

  • It seems to be permanently dark (in the Northern hemisphere), not good for you serotonin levels (ooh look vague science)
  • Its cold and wet generally (in the Northern hemisphere) which affects your hormone levels making you crave carbohydrates (this is actual science too)
  • Traffic and commuting is at its worst
  • It’s the longest month of the year at 37 days as it mentally starts on 26th December
  • You have to readjust to going to work after the long Christmas wind down and time off
  • There is such a long time until payday
  • After the hype of Christmas and New Year you are now in a void, the light at the end of the tunnel is dim and far away (Easter I think, or maybe a holiday if you’ve booked one)
  • You’ve eaten a ridiculous amount of unhealthy food and so are feeling sluggish
  • You’re uncertain and feeling melancholy as everyone reflects on the last year with a whole new year looming ahead that you don’t want to screw up.

new years blues

All of this combines to give me, what is commonly called, the January Blues, and nobody wants to add trying to undertake a new year’s resolution to this. Besides in this mindset I have poor judgement, I might quit my job, move country or buy a boat in an effort to fulfill the “new year new me” idea and shake myself out of a funk with a big change. Now if you’ve read any of the rest of my blog, you will know I have done all these things, but crucially, not in January – never trust a January impulse.

new years decisions

February is a better time to begin your resolutions because:

  • normal service has resumed in most areas of life: work, commute, diet etc
  • You’ve been paid
  • It’s the shortest month after the longest month so you feel super successful when you manage a month of your resolution so easily
  • The days are getting longer and you are more optimistic about the weather – there is a sense of spring getting nearer
  • The general ambiance is no longer that of you must change yourself and the world right now!

All of this puts you in a much stronger position to begin a new resolution whether that’s related to work, fitness, lifestyle or anything else.

new years res 2

Now, in order for year long resolutions to be successful they should be:

  • clearly defined (no wishy washy wording allowing you to wriggle out of it)
  • realistically achievable
  • interesting or important to you (enough to keep going when its hard)
  • broken down into smaller chunks so that progress can be clearly made and seen (important for motivation)

or if you have ever had a job, they should be SMARTT goals (yawn) – I think CRIB is better.

For example if you have a savings, weight or reading resolution – can you split it into monthly targets?

If you want a more satisfying job maybe break it into the following steps: update CV, research available positions, update any necessary qualifications or knowledge where possible, double check it isn’t January (never trust a January impulse), apply to positions that genuinely seem to be an improvement on your current position, don’t stop applying.

Well that’s my view on it all anyway. You can of course do what you like.

Exploring Your World By Urban Sketching

At the start of 2017, while living in Gloucestershire, I made a New Year’s resolution to draw more from real life, to be specific to begin urban sketching. If you aren’t sure what that means, it is simply drawing what you see in an ‘urban’ location. The aim is draw on site using whatever supplies you brought with you. Of course, no-one is going to stop you taking your sketch home and improving it or adding colour, but the intention is the sketches are created from real life.

There is a whole global art community dedicated to the practice of urban sketching; in hundreds of cities and towns in many countries sketching groups meet up to draw their environments. This community is known as USk and they have their own website listing each affiliated group around the world. That’s not to mention all of the unofficial groups around the world. It’s exciting to feel part of something so big, their website says:

“Come join us in showing the world one drawing at a time.”

and that sounds like a great adventure to be part of. Sure photos are great, but art can be so much more interesting.

At first I couldn’t find a group in Gloucestershire to join so I would go out sketching on my own. The sketch below is my first intentional Urban Sketch. I drew it sat on a bench in the middle of March, wrapped up cozy in my big coat and hat. I chose my church (Mariners) surrounded by the historic Gloucester docks as my first drawing. I sketched in pencil on location, then added colour at home using a mixture of Posca paint pens and coloured pencils from the pound shop.

Mariners

Mariners are a very friendly supportive church, and when they saw my sketch on Facebook asked if they could make postcards from it to place in the church for visitors to have and donations would go to the church. I was more than happy to do so (its a bit like the story of the talents in the bible). Of course many artists would frown on giving work away for free however I saw it more as giving back to God, he was welcome to use my work however he wanted, plus it’s nice to think there are random strangers out there in the world somewhere with a little piece of my art work (even better a piece I am pleased with).

mariners postcard

In 2018 I did eventually find a group that met once a month in Bristol, and I would join them from time to time (work permitting). We visited all sorts of locations, all free and all accessible by public transport. Museums, parks, interesting streets, markets, docks, anything and everything and the organisers were always open to suggestions.

There are so many advantages to urban sketching, and even more to meeting with a group.

1. You actually look at your surroundings.

I am not a naturally observant person, in fact many would call me oblivious. Sitting down and consciously observing your environment and the people around you really makes you notice and appreciate things you might have missed otherwise.

2. You can explore

As an extension to the first point, I particularly enjoy urban sketching when I am somewhere new. It’s a great way to explore and understand the area you are in. I try to ensure I sketch wherever I travel. Sometimes the buildings (I love buildings, they don’t move) and sometimes the people (they do move); you get to see similarities and differences and you gain some understanding.

3. You meet other people

I am also not naturally especially sociable, however the social side of urban sketching is within my comfort zone. Everyone has a common interest and there’s easy conversations to be had about art supplies, styles, and general preferences. All the events I’ve attended have ended up at a coffee shop where everyone is happy to share ideas and knowledge whilst eating cake (an obvious advantage).

4. Seeing a wide variety of art

During the coffee meet up at the end people generally pass their work around and it is fascinating (in a non-sarcastic way). You see so many ways to create an impression of your surroundings. Sure it can be daunting and you may not feel as capable as some of the others but you don’t have to share your work if you’d rather not. Either way I’ve definitely felt inspired and gained ideas from some of the pieces I’ve seen over the years.

5. You improve your skills

As with any activity, the more you practice the better you get. In this case, you get a wide range of subjects and conditions to sketch in. If you’re drawing people then maybe you’ll have a very short amount of time. If you’re drawing outside maybe the weather or lighting will be difficult. When you only have the items you brought with you, you will find a way to get along with them.

6. Its makes an interesting journal

Many people like to keep some sort of record of their lives, these days social media and photos on your phone do the job, but some people still like to keep a personal diary or journal. I love having these sketches as a travel journal. Places and people I’ve seen, events I’ve experienced. Sure they don’t have the perfect glossy finish a photo has, but I think they’re better for it. They show your personal impression of it all rather than an often impersonal, more factual representation.

Eventually an urban sketch group did form in Gloucestershire and I attended when I could. Sometimes some of the Bristol group would join us too. The Bristol group had really grown over the 2 years I’d been attending. It was good to see, though made finding a space for us all to sit together a bit tricky.

Now I am travelling again and sketching is still my way to explore and record my life and you will see some more glimpses of my life over the next few posts.

So How About Kazakhstan?

So I sent off my one and only job application for a physics teaching job in Kazakhstan of all places. Did I think I would be asked to interview? Did I know enough A-level Physics? Did I want the job in Kazakhstan?

I didn’t think at all, I didn’t need to, it was only an application not a lifetime commitment with legal contract.

A few weeks later I was asked for a Skype interview. Again I thought, Why not? Did I think I would be offered the job? Did I know enough A-level Physics? Did I want the job in Kazakhstan?

Again, I didn’t think much, I didn’t need to it was only an interview not a lifetime commitment with legal contract.

I could interview, then, if they didn’t offer me the job I  was no worse off, If they did offer me the job I could still say no, or, I could say yes, but I would have to interview to get those options, and I like options.

I gave another spectacular interview, this time sat on my boat with Margot climbing on me.

Margot
My little Margot

And on this occasion they did offer me the job.

Only one question was left, did I want the job in Kazakhstan? See how I saved myself so much worry and work by not thinking about things, now most of the questions had answered themselves without my interference.

But did I want the job in Kazakhstan?

This one I did think about. I was given 24 hours to accept the offer.

I did not accept their offer in 24 hours, after all I had barely thought about the possibility of actually getting the job. Instead I sent them a perfectly reasonable holding email as follows:

Sorry for the delay in replying. Before I can accept I need to check a few logistics at my end concerning my dog and home. I hope to be able to give a firm response early next week. I may have some questions before then, I hope that is OK.

Kind regards

Etc

LocationKazakhstan

I read the contract, it was a 1 year contract initially, the contact hours were well balanced with non contact hours, the holidays were good, the pay was great, plus there was a relocation package and accommodation and utilities paid, 2 return flights a year also paid. It seemed like a very good deal but I had questions.

My questions were as follows:

  • What does a typical timetable look like?

I was emailed a fairly unintelligible one in Russian or Kazakh, I’m not sure which.

  • Can I bring my dog? (very important)

They will negotiate with the landlord.

  • Is there a bath? (extremely important)

Maybe a bath, maybe a shower.

  • Are there cooking facilities? ( I don’t like cooking but it’s good to know)

Apartments are equipped with basic cooking facilities and the relocation allowance should cover anything else required.

  • What is the notice period if things are not working out at either end? (I like to have an escape plan in place before committing to anything)

1 month notice.

With a 1 month notice period (read escape plan), the ability to bring my dog and the possibility of a bath I thought as usual, Why not!

Approximately 102 hours after being given 24 hours to accept the job, I finally accepted the job!

15 hours later I am informed the landlords do not allow pets. I am now to reconfirm my acceptance of the job in light of this recent development.

I decide to spend the week trying to find dog friendly accommodation in the city for myself before confirming. I fail at this and so I decline the job. I had between myself and God decided that Margot was my non-negotiable, If God didn’t want me to go to Kazakhstan then this was his way to stop me.

So that was that. I bet you thought I was going to Kazakhstan. That that would be an adventure worth writing about as opposed to turning down my one and only job offer. But hey ho, that’s what happened.

 

Let’s Go Abroad

The Easter holidays had arrived, and I had decided to visit my parents in Spain (proper Spanish Spain in the mountains, I explain this every time as I subconsciously fear people imagining us as classic Brits abroad. Maybe we really are and just don’t know it). I hadn’t been out that way since I had got my dog the previous summer. I still didn’t have a post teaching plan but was very much looking forward to some down time and maybe putting in some serious thought on the subject.

xativa sketch_edit

Teaching abroad wasn’t an option I had considered seriously mostly due to being kind of over it by this point. However,  as I was in Spain anyway, I emailed the local international school and asked to have a look around. I had no frame of reference for teaching in Spain, what were the conditions like, working hours, salary, student mentality etc, it was worth looking into. The school  were more than happy for me to visit. They gave me a guided tour followed by asking me if I would come for an interview for a physics position they had available immediately. I thought, Why not?, so turned up at beautiful marbled school all shiny and slippery and expensive looking, designed to impress parents into spending large amounts of money to educate their children there.

I gave a spectacular interview.

I never heard from them again.

I didn’t want to work there anyway.

No really I didn’t. The pay was less than the UK, the working hours and holidays were similar, the workload was maybe lighter, there was a language barrier and general differences in behaviour expectations. From my point of view the pupils were chatty and rude. It didn’t seem like a great alternative to teaching in the UK.

So there you are, this isn’t a tale about taking a teaching job in Spain, rather a mini tale of being ghosted by a Spanish school after they asked me to interview.

Immediately after my Spain interview I knew it wasn’t for me so I sat outside in the Spanish sun and googled where in the world is it best to teach. On a random list, somewhere near the top was listed Kazakhstan with a link to a job advert in Astana and I thought why not? So I spent the next hour filling in their application form and sent it off.

This was the one and only application form I had submitted since handing in my notice.

So how’d that pan out? I’ll tell you next time.

bocairent sketch

The Futures I Didn’t Choose

I have a “retire by 40” plan.

It’s not very complicated.

It has 3 steps:

  • earn as much as I can
  • spend as little as possible
  • invest as securely and profitably as I am able.

Not particularly ground-breaking I hear you say, but I feel that by having this aim I am more conscious of my financial decisions and so should, in theory, at least end up retiring earlier than if I didn’t have a plan.

Now I didn’t have a job I would need to come up with a new way to earn as much as I could.

Options I considered for my future included:

  • Running away on my boat
  • Mooring somewhere permanently and tutoring
  • Starting a city farm/microgreens farm
  • Starting a small flower shop
  • Starting a small coffee bean shop
  • Teaching abroad
  • Opening an independent cinema
  • Getting another geophysics related job
  • Painting/crafting and selling at markets/online
  • Doing a Masters abroad in Big data or Remote sensing
  • Online study of Big data or Remote sensing
  • Carbooting

Running away

Running away on my boat was tempting, but sadly not a long-term solution on its own. Even without having to pay long-term mooring fees I would need to pay for diesel and the general boat upkeep and so would eventually need some sort of income. I could combine this with selling paintings and other creations or carbooting which may provide sufficient income to prevent using my savings too quickly. Tutoring was also a lucrative side-line, one I had pursued whilst teaching and could easily continue but would require a more stable location or to branch into online tutoring. Irregular methods of income like these could also provide the time for online study giving wider career options in the future, plus I just really love learning new things.

Sadly for now, this is not a tale about escaping the rat-race and living an idyllic life on the waterways, maybe one day.

watercolour boats

Starting a business

With savings in the bank it may have been the perfect time to start some form of business. I spent a fair amount of time researching various ideas. The cinema, although a dream I’ve had for a while, my savings would not cover and I couldn’t find a viable building available on the market. The flower shop idea smelt good and included the perfect perishable product but after considering the early mornings, markets and general hassle I realised I wasn’t actually that interested in flowers. It was at this stage the coffee bean shop idea occurred to me. It too smells great and is a consumable, and in the current age there is a lot of interest in different beans and roasts, I still think this idea could be a good future plan, maybe for my next adventure.

This is definitely not a tale of taking on a brave new business venture in a difficult economic climate, rather a tale of pipe-dreams without any real substance, but who knows maybe one day I’ll flesh one of them out.

A proper job

Re-entering the world of geophysics seemed to many to be the obvious choice. My degree was in geophysics and before I became a teacher I worked for a couple of companies as a geophysicist. The difficulty with this option was that most of my experience was in the oil industry and quite frankly it bored me to tears. I had no intention of returning to a dull, 9-5 office job. Consequently It would be best to gain some current training in a different area of geophysics which lead back to online or university study.

This is also not a tale about doing the sensible, grown up thing and getting a stable job in an industry I’m familiar with. Frankly who would want to write about that, let alone read about it.

magcmb
Radial magnetic field at CMB (University of Liverpool)

Studying

Going back to university was tempting as I love getting a new piece of paper with my name on, no really, not being sarcastic, I love getting qualifications. Initially I looked specifically at overseas masters as many of them have no course fees, however most would be costly in other ways, mainly living expenses. So I moved on to considering UK based courses, they weren’t free, but if I studied at a university near a canal network I could live on my boat and so save considerably on living costs. After a bit more thought and a few spreadsheets I concluded the amount spent on course fees, plus living expenses, plus the amount lost due to not earning that year, added up to a sum that would require many years to recoup in theoretical extra earnings. As I mentioned earlier, I love learning new things so I would enjoy the process, but it would likely put a dent in my “retire by 40” plan.

In case you were wondering, this isn’t a tale about becoming a mature student, retraining, fulfilling my potential and achieving my career goals. I mean that might be worth writing and reading about, but nope, just wasn’t feeling it.

So if these are the futures I didn’t choose, what did I do? I’ll tell you next time.

Quitting My Teaching Job!

At the start of these tales I was a 29 year old physics teacher in the UK. I lived happily on my narrowboat on the edge of the Cotswolds with my lovely dog Margot named after Margot Leadbetter (The Good Life). Getting to this stage had involved many spur of the moment decisions based on whims and impulse and I can’t say I regret any of them. Maybe I’ll tell you about some of them one day, but I feel I have to start somewhere so here’s as good a point as any.

cirencester market sketch

Quitting

I hadn’t always been a teacher and knew from the start I wasn’t going to be a teacher for long. As much as I enjoyed working with my colleagues, conditions in British schools are not conducive to an enjoyable career. So after a 1.5 years teaching I handed in my notice, I’d say it was on a whim, but I’d been thinking about it for a while, I was just waiting for January to pass so I could be sure it wasn’t January blues talking.

I’ve found that once people know you’ve quit they all have some variation of the same question:

“What are you going to do next?”

I didn’t have a clue and this seemed to confuse and concern them. They couldn’t grasp the idea of just quitting, it didn’t make sense. I must do something, I would need a job surely, wasn’t I worried about that. I wasn’t really. I’ve always kept an eye on my finances, lived carefully and saved a good percentage of my income. I would never have allowed myself to quit if I wasn’t confident I could support myself. I had my boat, my mooring and my savings, plus no mortgage, no kids, no partner and few bills, I was accountable to no-one and pretty much sorted.

Of course, inevitably I did do something and next post I will let you in on some of the myriad of possibilities I considered.

night docks