Saturday, November 21, 2009

One Hundred Days...

One Hundred Days...

I knew as soon as I saw One Hundred Days To Make Me A Better Person that I would have to take part. Really, they might as well have stuck stickers with my name emblazoned on them all over it. An interactive project! Self improvement! Self competitive-ness! Slightly loopy!

That's me signed up then.

Of course, then I had to come up with a pledge. At first I thought I'd pledge to knit three rows a days for the one hundred days. I've just taken up knitting and if my knitting skills were an animal they would be a new-born deer on ice. Sort of. But for all it might mean I had something concrete to show at the end of it - knitted goodness (well, a scarf without too many holes would be nice) the fact that I'm already knitting about three rows a day means (in my head) it's cheating. So I'm just going to have to continue the knitting without the hundred days incentive (well, I do have the incentive of a Cath Kidston knitting bag looming which works for me too).

After I'd dismissed knitting I pretty much came round to the idea that I was going to take one photo a day, write one sentence for that one photo and pick one song to represent it. And this is me, I only take photos when it snows so this was going to be some sort of challenge. I also thought that at the end of the project it would make for a lovely scrapbook (something I keep meaning to make for myself given that I only seem to make them for other people).

I even got round to writing this in the pledge box on the site. Only - lots of people are taking photos and even with those extra 'ands' I knew this wasn't going to be a particularly original project. And, well, I wanted something with a little twist.

So - in the flash of the insane moment I wrote my new, just thought up pledge into the box:

‘Once a day for one hundred days I will write one postcard (and, where appropriate, send it to the person concerned)’.

Best not think about the cost of the stamps right now, okay? But the fact is - I love hand written notes. I love postcards. And I always wish I took the time to write more of them (hey, to write any of them). So this means I have no excuse.

I did pause for a moment before I hit submit on this just because it struck me that I might not know one hundred people who I would want (and who would want me) to send a postcard to them. I quickly realised that this was missing the point, I just needed to think about it creatively. Which I know sounds vague but if you were paying attention to the bracket then you might guess where I'm going.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to fully explain it here, you're just going to have to wait. As part of the deal the idea is to document what you're doing and where better than DA? (yes, I know I heart twitter, but then DA is where I belong, I like waffle too much to ever be anything other than a Blogger). So I'm going to document all of the postcards on here. So if you've got postcard phobia it might be an idea to come back in March.

For the record I think I'm going to have an informal bash at the photo thing too, but more for my own interest than for the project (and because, yes, I want a scrapbook of my own) and that one, when I stop after day four, doesn't count because I didn't pledge it. But I've pledged the postcard thing. So if I fail you get to laugh and point loudly.

If any of you pledge something, do let me know so I can cheer you on too...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Everything Afterwards

Everything Afterwards

There are anti-climaxes and then there is finding out that you've passed your MA whilst you're having breakfast in pub in Brockley. What can I say - had it not been for the time of morning we would have been perfectly placed to have cracked open the vodka.

But, given that I am officially not a young person and all that and have jobs, and rehearsals, and re-writes and writing, the most exciting it got was ordering another coffee. There has been some downgrading from last time when I got in a fountain and 'acquired' a guitar.

Rock and indeed roll.

Having said that - if I'm honest I'd pretty much put to one side the whole 'passing' bit. Unlike last time round, there had been the luxury (horror?) of continuous assessment. I'm still at a loss as to whether continuous examination is a good or a bad thing - on the plus point it didn't almost kill me like end of course exams did, on the down side there was no glorious second year (though on a technicality there wasn't a second year, glorious or not). But it did mean that pretty much since November last year we'd been pushed between assignments with little time to take a deep breath. In particular the last six months of the course passed in a blur of endless evenings spent in the library with those final project element deadlines clustered around essays about 'Chicks in Chains' and science and form in A Disappearing Number and the placing of August: Osage County in the tradition of American Family Drama and adaptations of Ovid. It remains that when I think of Goldsmiths I will always think of: our circular table, being in the computer room with Arsenal Fan until stupid o'clock with me shouting at the printer and sitting in the library stairwell having long phone conversations with Breakfast Club Boy when deadlines loomed and I'd over-written by 2,000 words and he had a 150 word essay.

But the good side of the continuous assessment - I knew I'd have to rather spectacularly screw-up on my final project to render me with a 'fail'. In the end I was wonderfully consistent - a clutch of 66s, with a 61 on the self assessment essay I wrote in 12 hours (and which, Breakfast Club Boy not so tactfully told me at the time, read like journalism) and a 72 for my Dramaturgy portfolio (Ha! My ability to do textual analysis wins the day again! If only I could be paid to write 2,000 word essays on single texts).

But grades were not really the point. We'd said it often enough - how do you grade writing? The Icarus Project, a site specific piece I wrote, gave me nothing but a headache when I wrote it. For several weeks I went to the show and tell class with the sheer panic of - I am still stuck. And then I pulled something out in the days before it was due in and got my best grade of the entire course (that 72 included). The Rabbit Catcher, a twenty minute piece about Burlesque, had the opposite trajectory. I loved, loved writing this and when the first ten lines were read out in class it just - well, ego all in check - sung. One of the Writers told me at the end of the course that when he'd heard those lines he wanted to write like me.

Of course in marking it bombed.

The only time any of my writing projects dipped below the invisible 60% marker. The Icarus Project had been rigidly simple (bulked with gimmicks I still think) whereas The Rabbit Catcher was 'too dense', a charge which I don't think was entirely unfair. But did either mark tell a story in itself?

Absolutely not.

That night after the day of pub breakfasts and MA results Breakfast Club Boy asked me - implying his own answer - if through it all I'd learnt anything from the course itself.

I paused.

Me, I'd not had the unabashed confidence of youth to be lost (hear me, from my four and a half years seniority talk, but it is true). However, I knew what he meant.

I never once cried because of work during my undergraduate degree.

Whereas I suspect I will always remember the day - just over a week before my rehearsed reading at the Soho Theatre - that I came out of a classroom and cried. Then tried desperately not to cry down the phone to Breakfast Club Boy before I succumbed entirely and Arsenal Fan had to take me to the pub.

Writing being writing, and everything involved in that, it's difficult to entirely distance yourself from it. And, in places, the course bruised me. Just as I suppose every one of the other writers might say it had them. It's one of the reasons that I've not written about this before.

There's also the fact (and I know this holds true for a number of people) that we had this notion at the beginning of the year that after the freedom of the first few little writing projects we'd do the final project and come out with a play which we could send out to every theatre-slush pile, every competition, every possible source.

And I didn't.

My final project has a couple of scenes that I'm not modest enough to hold back on when I say they absolutely rock. One of them - a two hander in a hospital room which has so much subtext that it hurts - is possibly the best thing I've ever written. But the play as a whole? It is at once better than anything I have ever written whilst also being full of more gaping chasms of failure than anything I've ever written. Until last week - when I thought I'd better get my act together and send it to two Directors who are interested in it - no one outside of the markers and Breakfast Club Boy had actually been given a copy. I've softened my stance on it a little, and there are two theatres I am going to send it to, but as the magic, this is me play I imagined I'd write at the start of the course - foreverafterwards is not it.

If I were to look at what I came out with in terms of ready-to-go pieces then I can clutch only two things: an academic essay that I was told I should submit to a journal and a 20 minute young persons play named Marshmallows that Playwright Tutor subsequently used in a workshop with a group of teachers and which I suspect I will quite happily submit places.

But I realise even as I write this that part of all this failure to achieve the perfect Corinne Furness play (whatever that might be) is because I have learnt so much during the course that takes time to settle down. I almost wish I could do it again with all I know now.

And, as weird as it seems, maybe writing a play will never be as easy as it was when I wrote Some Sort of Beautiful. When I knew some stuff, but didn't know enough (the innocence of which maybe is what Breakfast Club Boy was bemoaning the loss of). And in those degrees of easy, writing a play will never be quite as easy as it was before I did my MA.

But what I do write will be - I can already see - is better. Even though I will see its flaws more clearly than I ever have.

If I am to be truly honest then I think those two pieces I mentioned earlier - The Icarus Project and The Rabbit Catcher, the first two things I wrote for the MA - are the pieces that hold the key to everything afterwards though I have not yet learnt all of the lessons from them. In one I found a new way, in the other a new voice.

I suspect if (when) I look back in fifteen years time I'll pin the writer I've become to one of those two pieces.

I just don't yet know which.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Because Not Everything Is A Metaphor

Because Not Everything Is A Metaphor

It's not quite the beginning but it is close enough to it that we've never sat around this table before. This circular table in an otherwise nondescript room. Our own version of the Camelot work ethic. The seat I have chosen - in front of the window - will be my seat for the next nine months and these Tuesdays squashed around this table with coffee and muffins and playtexts will become my favourite part of the whole experience.

Of course, I do not - cannot - know any of this, any more than I can predict how the the knots that connect us will change so that it is impossible for me to view our innocence - and separateness - without the haze of all that will be.

For the first - and maybe the last time - we are a blank canvas and we - us - could go anywhere.

But for now we're all looking at a piece of rock which Enigmatic Tutor has placed at the centre of this table. And I can't remember precisely the wording of the exercise but we are attempting to describe the rock through facts alone, devoid of flights of fancy, metaphors and all the other glittery,sparkly tricks which all we writers like to play.

We pronounce our attempts, building our shared picture.

"If we were Scientists we could devise tests..." Enigmatic Tutor continues.

And we play the game, going through the tests we - with our clutch of arts qualifications - can imagine.

But, it is difficult to get past the notion that sat in front of us is something which is, in essence, a small lump of unremarkable grey rock.

"But what this doesn't tell you -" There's the smallest of pauses as Enigmatic Tutor holds his audience "Is that this is a piece of the Berlin wall".

There's the collective murmur of the unexpected reveal as, with a single sentence, the object in front of us becomes something else entirely.

It's a lesson of course, about backstory and the bigger picture and about not underestimating something seemingly insubstantial. About secret facts. A lesson as writers we need to remember.

But it is a story in itself, a story within my own lifetime and, 1989 being the first year that news stories seem to have impinged on my conscious, a story I have vague memories of. It's an important story, the murmur of recognition confirms that.

It is later, six months later, when, along with two of the people who I sat around that table with, I stand in front of what remains of the Berlin Wall for the first time. Over Excited Tour Guide! gets everyone on the tour to stand in front of the wall for a photo and there's still a streak of rebellion in even this. Look! This is what the wall has become! We can stand on your no man's land and defy everything that it meant.

But in the greyness of this Berlin day it is the first time that I understand. That I understand what it did to this city, to these people. Within touching distance from everything in my life. Within my memory.

Twenty years ago.

And maybe it is only here, amongst the wall's broken remains, that I understand what the piece of rock that sat in the middle of a table in New Cross in Autumn 2008 actually was.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Stories We Could Tell

The Stories We Could Tell

You probably don't need to be around me for very long before you discover that I'm a hoarder. There is much shaking of heads from Dean and Director Boy on the subject of my 'stuff' (and, let's be clear, a good proportion - not to mention 90% of my books - is still residing in Leeds and doesn't even know that Streatham exists). I have no defence (other than my genetics) and have long ago accepted that minimalism isn't the route for me (eventual death by smothering of large quantities of 'stuff' might be).

I like to think I have an all-inclusive policy when it comes to hoarding and this includes clothing. Which is why I have so much of it - though I would argue that everything comes around again (just when that 'again' might be isn't for me to decide). And I extend this to all of those things that go with clothes, which is again why I have so many shoes (after the great 'Moving To Streatham' Week I am no longer allowed to mention the quantity of shoes I possess to Arsenal Fan less he vomits at the memory). But of these many pairs of shoes I have, for the best part of the last decade, had only one pair of wellies. Indeed if you've been hanging around DA long enough you've probably seen them, but if you've forgotten I'll remind you:


Very early on in the relationship between me and these pink-flowered wellies I remember someone saying that they were 'very Corinne wellies'. I'm not sure exactly what that says about me but I totally knew what they meant.

Those 'very Corinne wellies' and I have been many, many places together, through rain, mud and snow. There are quite simply too many fields, too many Boys with Guitars, too many tent stories to list. They show their age now - they never quite managed to lose the specially formulated mud of V Festival 2007 - but I like that.

However, at the end of Latitude this year I noticed that not only had I added a few more stains to their patterning but a rip in the lower part of the boot had started to emerge. And that could only mean one thing - that we were coming to the end.

Then when Dean and I went to Morden Hall Park to eat free National Trust pudding we ended up in the garden centre which is attached to the park (yes, even though we don't have a garden, just a shared patch of overgrown land) and not only were there beautiful, beautiful Hunter wellies in stock there was also 20% off said beautiful, beautiful wellies.

Let me repeat that: 20% off.

And I am not made of stone.

So I bought a pair of wellies. This pair if you were wondering. And they came in their own fancy box and fit perfectly and indeed are so all-round wonderful that I spent five days actively hoping for rain so that I could wear them. And when I did get to wear them they were as wonderful as I knew they would be.

But - this leaves my 'very Corinne wellies'. Don't get me wrong, my Hunters are very Corinne wellies too (like I could have bought a pair that didn't have flowers on) but a slightly different, slightly older Corinne to their pink counterparts. And to discard the original pair? They're beyond wearing for anyone other than me so charity-shopping them is out of the question and to just throw them away...

Well, that's undoubtedly a conversation to have in the expensive therapy session in a decade's time.

So, at least until I work out exactly how to archive these wellies, there are four pairs of wellies residing in our three-person wellies-by-the-door storage system.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Some Other Beginning's End

Some Other Beginning's End

It is probably fair to say that this week has been a good week for David Tennant media saturation.

Which, really, is just an excuse of an opening sentence to allow me to blog this:

And, erm, this:

And if I didn't know what was going to happen then the final moments of the tenth Doctor's appearance in The Sarah Jane Adventures couldn't help but remind us that we are coming to the end of this Doctor's song.

On reflection, even though I got the advance warning I'd demanded (over 12 months of it in the end), I have to come to the conclusion that I don't think I'm going to deal with the end very well.