Sunday 31 May 2009

If I hadn't fallen off that bicycle in Rotterdam, I'd probably be married to a vicar and living in Toulouse!

So school was a missed opportunity and my first job was a disaster. Where would it lead? I suppose the second big knot was deciding at the age of 21 to apply to go and study at L'Institut Biblique Europeen near Paris and I couldn't even speak French! What can I say about my experience? Errrr well I was supposed to be there for three years but the whole thing lasted just over a year. Can you see a pattern emerging here?

The first term went great. You could choose to study through either the medium of English or French. Sadly, I failed my English exam and had to join a class full of "foreigners" to learn my own language before I could do anything else, much to my disgust. So I had to learn English in order to be good enough to study in English! No wonder I was so rubbish at school! Let's get this straight. This is someone who was born in West London and whose parents were not exactly recent immigrants - being able to trace their collective ancestry back to Charles I. I went around for a few days with my head inside a brown paper bag.

After a week or two of arguing grammar
with my American teacher, however, it was decided that maybe it would be better if I joined the French class and started concentrating on why I was really there - to find a husband. Actually that was the subtext, the supra-text was to do bible and music and to learn how to speak in public! To be honest it's all a bit of a blur, so will just touch on the few things I remember. I was really good at public speaking!!! That was a shock, being quite a shy (oh yes I was) and nervous person! I learnt how to conduct (oh yes I did) and that wasn't buses by the way. It would look great on my CV when I applied to be a lollypop lady some time later.

All was going swimmingly. I even managed to catch the eye of a young would-be Billy Graham from the Pyrenees - I wish!  The only reason I caught his eye was because I kept looming up in front of him; difficult to ignore someone of my height and (then) girth.  We played ping pong.  His loop drive was beautiful to behold.  Very romantic.

Anyway, I was so into it all that when it was announced there were going to be auditions for new members to join the institute's singing group Les Ambassadeurs, I put my name down. I did it for a laugh. After all I wasn't known for my musical prowess, particularly singing. I didn't even know whether I was soprano or alto (or tenor or base for that matter!). The auditions came and went, I croaked my way through a piece of lyrical baroque (or was it rococo?). Anyway it was a bit twiddly and caused my voice to go to places it had never been before. Not so much aria as aaaarrrgggghhhhh! I forgot all about it until a week later when the list was pinned up on a convenient pillar (did I mention I was living in a chateau?).

To my utter amazement my name was there amongst the sopranos! I sought out the musical director to interrogate him closely to try and determine his mental state.

"Ah Carolyn. Yes I know. Look at it this way, you are my wild card. What you lack in vocal ability, you make up for in comedic disposition! It will be no end of a boost for everyone those long hours spent on the road travelling from one draughty church hall to another and where we have to sleep in borrowed smelly sleeping bags on a pile of splinters. So until we can get your voice up to an acceptable standard, please mime the words!!"

To say I was cockahoop would be overstating it a bit, but I acquiesced. So life was sweet and all was going along fairly well, if a tad humdrum, when I accepted an invitation to travel to Rotterdam with a Dutch girl called Ingrid for a week's break at Easter. A big mistake and constitutes a massive knot in my thread of life. I was staying in her home and the second day there she said "Lets go for a ride into the city. You can use my brother's bike!" We fished them out and by the time I'd heaved myself up on top of the huge monstrosity, she was a dot on the distance. I should mention that everyone in Holland is over 6 foot with legs the length of Southend pier. By the time I'd sorted myself out and started pedaling it was too late. There didn't appear to be any brakes! How to stop? As I was approaching a main road I did the only thing I could do in the circumstances. I fell off.

Several hours, and a trip to Rotterdam General, later, I hopped back to Ingrid's with my left leg in plaster up to the knee. A couple of days later I was in Hilversum visiting a TV station (I'm not one to let getting plastered hinder the possibility of international stardom!). It was great, saw myself on TV and everything! A little later, back at another friend's house, I was hopping down some steps ..... ....... and fell! This time it was Veenendaal General that benefitted from my presence. It was a real sense of deja vu, only with a mirror, as I'd broken my other ankle. Feeling that perhaps I was a danger to myself and others, they decided to keep me in. I was there for two weeks and found out later, it was not so much fear of what else I might do to myself, as the fact that I was underinsured!! So until the bill was paid, I was in effect kept hostage. At the end of a fortnight, someone must have coughed up the ransom, as me and my plastered legs (each bearing the legend "Made in Holland") were put on a plane and sent back to Blighty. That, dear reader, was more or less the end of my sojourn in mainland Europe.

PS I haven't even mentioned the time I took a bunch of English rugby players on a whistlestop tour of Paris, only
to be harassed by an Italian street vendor outside the Notre Dame! I guess that'll have to be for another time ;-)

Friday 15 May 2009

The first knot ...!

The first "knot in my thread" I suppose was when I was 8 years old and was sent to Switzerland for 6 weeks with my great aunt (who'd been a missionary in China!) and about 80 other kids, all of whom came from backgrounds less comfortable than mine and who, it was felt, would benefit from quality time away from their home environments. The reason I went was because I'd been sick with bronchitis for about forever and it was felt the air in the Jura mountains would do me good!

There are some things that stick in my mind. On the two day train journey across France Ian Riley was sick every hour on the hour and everyone else seem so much older and bigger than me. When we arrived we were allocated to a room with two or three others and I learned what being homesick really meant. What else do I remember? We had to "do" school, the chocolate was the best and the girl in the next bed had nits. Oh, and the cows had bells round their necks, we were three to a bath and I caught german measles. I think that was about it. When I returned home apparently my hair fell out and I became troubled at school.

Yep that was a big knot in the thread!


Seeing there are so many cat blogs on the internet, I'm thinking maybe it's about time I took my digressions to the next level. Also Austin is becoming impossible. He's now starting to behave like a spoilt prima donna since he found out he's been immortalised in a blog. I can't be doing with his histrionics and luvvy behaviour anymore so I've ejected him (temporarily) as the focus of my muse.

Instead I have decided to see how much I can remember about the time I went to study in Israel for two years and stayed (with breaks) for ...... .... 15 months! Yeah, I expect you were thinking it was going to be 20 years or some such thing! Well .... no!

When I graduated "summer cum loudly" from Bangor University in 1990, it seemed I had two options, a) find a job or b) do more study. Well, the first I had already done quite prolifically for nearly 20 years. In fact I could be termed a serial employee, such was the buzz I got from starting and finishing jobs! It was the bit in between that was mind-numbingly boring. In fact I gave under-achievers a bad press - it can be said that I never "rose to the level of my incompetence" in any job I undertook. It seemed a bit indecent somehow. So in 1987, having had a rather inauspicious career as an employee (and also being rather unlucky in love!) I decided to change tack completely and apply to go to university to study ...errrr.... . something! But study what? I'd left school at 16 with two o-levels and a flea in my ear only to be sacked from my first job as a nursery nurse for having a cold for two months!! As I said, inauspicious - but not necessarily incompetent.

Reading back over this, I'm now wondering how much retrospection I need to indulge in before I get to the Israel bit? Everything is interconnected in the process of reviewing one's history as you look back and take note of when and where you had decision reference points. The whole of one's life is dependent on instant decision making and the set of probable outcomes. Retrospection is the process that puts it all together in a kind of knotted thread of seminal moments. The smooth level bits in between the knots are just a blur of half forgotten memories of events that probably didn't happen to you anyway, but were a storyline in Eastenders!

To be continued (maybe) ;>)

Tuesday 5 May 2009


I've been ruminating the last few days about why people blog? In particular I've been wondering about cat blogs! Yep, quite by chance I've come across a plethora of blogs written about cats! I haven't been able to scrutinise all of them as there are about a zillion on Blogger alone. I felt quite disheartened really as I thought mine was unique! Then I realised these blogs were actually written by Fluffy and Furball and Fui and Eric - the cats themselves??? Stunned, I felt I should take Austin aside and question him closely about his credentials.

there are cats out there in the blogosphere who can sit at a computer and write interestingly about the minutiae of their day to day life, why, for goodness sake, have I been landed with a mog whose main ambition in life is to stalk, catch, subdue and imprison his own tail? It didn't seem fair. Perhaps I could take him back to the rescue centre and ask for an upgrade to the technocat model? You can do upgrades, I know. I've done it with my cell phone. It's not as if Tigger could step in and fill the void either. He seems to have permanent brain damage caused by continually head-butting the door, which he feels should be open to him at all times for the purpose of food accessibility. I'm sure that in a previous life he was one of those tropical fish that used to hoover up all the plankton and extraneous baby guppies from the bottom of the fish tank. His mouth is always open and his girth is ever spreading!

, some cats might blog, mine obviously have more important things on their collective tiny mind. What about blogging generally then? Why do people like me do it? I know that quite a lot of famous people blog, so perhaps it's some forlorn hope that by doing the same thing one will become famous! It's a valid point. I mean if I wrote all this meaningless trivia on Word or Notepad or something similar, the only person who's likely to read it, is me - or whoever the poor s*d is who has to clear up my affairs after I snuff it! Let's face it, there's no fun in writing just for yourself is there? Perhaps it's loneliness - or aloneness? (I feel a digression coming on!) The sense of community we fondly think we remember seems to have been sacrificed on the altar of rampant individualism. The reason for that was going to form the basis of a thesis at one time, but as Individualism places great value on privacy, I didn't feel I would make much progress if I couldn't find individuals to talk to me!

So, without meaning to we have created new communities, virtual ones, where we can find like-minded sympathetic folk, not restricted by geography, who we can love, hate, annoy, tease, deceive, sweet talk and build lasting friendships with and then switch off when we've had enough. Yeah, love it :>)

OR, as I started to say before I interrupted myself, for bloggers, by putting it out there in cyberspace, there's an added frisson, the hope, however remote, that someone from Simon and Schuster will stumble across your fine words, your erudite ramblings, your intimate thoughts and find them enchanting, humourous, informative, whatever, and catapault you into the literary stratosphere. Fame and fortune and Richard and Judy beckon! Dream on baby ....