Tag Archives: Open University

Now I Get It

8 Feb

Before I begin, let me just say that this is the first time I’ve used the new-look New Post feature and I HATE it.  It’s all white space and missing or moved buttons.  Wassup with that, WordPress?

I’m in a bad mood.  I have discovered the point of philosophy, a question which has puzzled me since the summer of 2003.  That was the first year of my Open University degree.  I attended summer school in Manchester – seven minutes away from my house by train; and I chose it for just that reason, having a sick husband and two young children at home.  Plus, I was a wimp in those days. Travel alone in such a lawless country as Britain?  Forget it.

It was a glorious summer (the sun always shines on happy memories) and I had a blast, spending all of my time in lectures and learning, singing in the choir that was composed of almost the whole cohort of students, and playing Medea’s daughter in an amusing stage parody.   I was disappointed not to get two weeks, à la Educating Rita, but loved any break from my adorable family.

I attended a lecture on the piece of music which was the subject of my next assignment and it was so good, all I had to do was transcribe my notes into coherent sentences, giving me one of my best marks that year.  It’s not cheating if you’re just paying attention in class.

Music was not my best subject but Philosophy was definitely my worst.  I just did not get it.  I remember sitting in a tutorial that summer and asking, What is the point of philosophy?  The tutor looked startled and then annoyed, and he didn’t have an answer.  I rest my case.

I wish he was here now, because today I learned the answer: philosophy exists to enable desperate poets to cope with the vagaries of Microsoft.

My Word stopped working.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know what version it is.  I don’t know why I didn’t read the dialogue box that came up every day for a week or more which probably would have told me.  But that doesn’t matter because of course it’s Microsoft’s fault: it is the creator, and we always blame the creator when things go wrong.  That’s my philosophy.

I haven’t been around the blogosphere much because I’m nearing the end of phase three of my second poetry collection: the editing process.  The editing process is my favourite part: the research has been done; the poems have been drafted from thin air; I don’t yet have to brutally cut some of my favourite babies, or put out for a publisher.  All I have to do is neaten, tidy and completely re-write until I’m sort of but not quite satisfied with the work that’s already done.

I edit, therefore I am happy.

I type, therefore I am busy.

I think, therefore I am using the education the Open University gave me.

I stay at my computer, therefore the Hub doesn’t have to see me.

I lose Word and my life falls apart: what am I supposed to do with my time if I can’t edit poems?  I might have to talk more to the Hub [shudder].  What if the world never gets to read my genius because Word owns me?  

Tain’t right; tain’t fitting; tain’t proper (how I miss you, Ross Poldark; please come back to my TV and be gorgeous again).

I may just be losing it…it’s only been thirty minutes since Word said Get lost and I’m babbling like a woman who just lost her Word.

On the plus side, I now have time to read your blogs.  

Sidebar: the architecture block of the 2003 course was fascinating but the only thing I remember is how to identify columns.  To this day, I have a weird finger thing I do to remind myself of whether a column is Doric, Ionic or Corinthian. Identifying a type of Classical architecture is a totally useless skill for me to have but I love that I can do it.

What’s your useless skill?  

A Poem to Mourn a Great Loss

I miss Word.
Word has gone.
How will my work be done?
I’m editless; I’m numb.
This poem is the sum of my madness.
Return, Word, and all will be gladness.  

Now you see how good a poet I am, you’ll understand why I’m going crazy here.

Time To Learn

18 Sep
Sesame magazine

Sesame magazine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve had a visitor here since Monday so I haven’t been able to blog as much as I had hoped, but I have sneaked away to tell you about this:

The Open University has teamed up with universities around the globe to offer free online short courses.  I have signed up for three, with staggered start dates; the first begins in November.  

Join me!  It’s all online so you don’t have to live in the UK.  

Here’s the link: FutureLearn.

 

Happy Days Are Here Again!

26 Jan

Making a room of one’s own

Virginia Woolf said that every writer needs ‘a room of one’s own.’  Until I got married, I had one.  Then I was too busy being in love, raising babies, living my life to need one. 

In 2003, I started a degree with the Open University and in 2008 I took their Creative Writing course and rediscovered my love of writing.  

I have had, since then, the use of the Hub’s computer, but not his desk i.e. I can sit at it to use the computer but not put anything on it; our bed; and 55 note books.  That is about to change.

Make way for Tilly!

Make way for Tilly!

The Hub fixed me up with a laptop over Christmas.  Tory Boy came home for ten days and, once he was done being ill, he cleared half of the stuff in his room into the loft, the recycling or the bin.  We rearranged the furniture and there is now space for a desk, which Spud is kindly donating because he also got a laptop for Christmas and no longer needs his PC.

Today, I plan to move the desk into what is now the spare room.

I have the best family in the world.  And a writing space of my own!

Viv’s Not Dead

8 Aug

This is a first for me: an epitaph about someone who is not yet dead, nor likely to be (stray buses permitting).

*

Viv’s Epitaph

She arrived.  Survived.  Made those around her smile.
Whatever age she was when she died,
it was too young.
Her many friends mourned.

She tried; she often succeeded.
Sometimes not: she made mistakes, like anyone.
But none her friends – so many friends –
ever needed to forgive.

She tried it if it was new,
if it was interesting, if it was fun,
if it was challenging.
If it was necessary.

She made things: beautiful things,
lots of things – quilts and poems
and children and devoted friends,
so many friends.

She was never mediocre.
Tart, upon occasion; and also kind, generous, warm.
Valuable and valued.  More will remember than will
ever forget, this great loss to so many friends.

*

Viv is my next interview subject and I include this poem to give you a flavour of her before we start.  Viv wrote her own epitaph in response to a prompt and I felt she was too hard on herself.  I took her various statements and put my spin on them.

Viv and I met through the Open University.  In 2007, the year we both took the OU’s Creative Writing course, another OUer set up an online critiquing forum. Which means the first thing Viv and I probably said to each other was, That doesn’t work; try this.

Viv writes lovely poetry.  She excels at traditional forms, forms that I’m afraid to attempt myself.  They often come almost perfect from her pen and don’t need much tweaking.  She has been published quite a bit.  And she only took up poetry in her late sixties.

Viv makes the most sumptuous quilts.  My family owns three of them and covet more.

She has a real joie de vivre, which I knew online for four years; and finally enjoyed in person, when we met last year: Viv and her charming husband Jock invited us to visit their lovely home in France.  We laughed the whole time and it was as if we had never not known each other.

I apologise that I don’t have a photo of Viv by herself.  I don’t know how that happened; I probably couldn’t bear to be away from her.

Let’s find out a bit more about Viv:

How many colours has your hair been?  

Brown, pepper and salt, reddish, blondish, white = 5, of which all but two came naturally.

Who is the most annoying celebrity?  Why?  

Does that twirly-moustached idiot on the Go-Compare ads count?  We have to mute the TV when he comes on.

How do you cook eggs?   

Let me count the ways!  Boiled, poached, scrambled, fried, omelettes, French toast, in Scotch Eggs,  baked in cakes and meringues,  broken into  a well in a sausage pie and… and…  Or were you after a teach-in?

[See what I mean about tart?]

Karaoke: with or without alcohol?   

Never been, so I’ve no idea

Can you do a foreign accent? 

Yes, I’m like a sponge for picking up ambient accents.

Will you share an embarrassing moment?  

Off the top of my head?  Lost in Somerset, leaning out of the car to ask a passing pedestrian the way, IN FRENCH.

Tell us something about yourself you haven’t yet shared in your blog.

Could there be such a thing?  It’s all there for the world to see.    Ummm, I used to smoke.  Any use to you?

What would you give up rather than your computer? 

Alcohol – but I hardly drink at all these days, so that would be easy.  Is that cheating?

How do you feel about misplaced apostrophes?  

Rabid, and I blush down to my toenails if I find I’ve done one inadvertently.

[See why I love her?]

Tell us why we should read your blog. 

I don’t know.  It’s a mystery to me how I get so many readers.  I do my best, but it’s not funny, there’s nothing special about my poetry and  it’s a bit of a mish-mash of: (mostly) poetry prose, pictures, fiction, food and (I hope) some fun.

**

*

For those of you interested in history, Viv’s war memoir is worth a look.

Go visit Viv at her blog, Vivinfrance, and then come back and thank me.  I nagged her into starting a blog so I deserve all the credit for unleashing this lovely woman onto the world.

Olive What She’s Having

19 Jul

 

In 2003 I went to Open University summer school: a week of being a ‘real’ student, with lectures and boozing  – you could buy wine at lunch and dinner!  I didn’t, but it was exciting knowing it was available.

I chose Manchester for my summer school – seven minutes by train from Stockport so I could come home if it was all too much for me.  It wasn’t.  I had a fabulous time; it’s in my Top Ten List of Best Experiences Ever.

One of the week’s benefits was that I made lots of new best friends, never to be heard of again once the week was over, except for two: Mangetout, who some of you know via her blog; and Becky.

Becky doesn’t blog because she’s too busy doing real stuff, like earning a living; you can visit her website and if you or your staff need training in something, Becky can provide it.  I know she’s good at what she does because, on the last day of summer school when we all had to present the project we had been working on, not only was she the only person not to mumble and/or overdo it, she actually sounded like she knew what she was talking about.

I was so impressed by Becky that when they let us out midweek to do our own thing, I latched on to her visit to Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery because I knew she’d guide me safe home again to the campus.  And she did.  Without her, I might be not-blogging, living homeless in Salford and thinking Man United were a good team because I couldn’t find my way back to civilisation.  Please thank her if you love your Laughing Housewife.

Becky and I supported each other online while completing our degrees.  My support must have been much better than hers because she got a better degree than I did.  I forgave her for that and we remained friends via Facebook.

Becky and her family live darn sarf but we don’t hold that against her.  She makes occasional excursions oop north to visit relatives; she made one such visit this week and she and her lovely husband Tony spent the afternoon with us on Tuesday.  It was delightful.  Spud popped his head in to be polite and stayed several hours, running up the electricity bill because he had left his X-Box on, not expecting to be away from it for too long.

The conversation was excellent:

Tilly Bud: Let’s talk about me and how wonderful I am and all the things I’ve done and how great I am and how great I am and let’s talk about me some more.

Becky: [Laughs in all the right places.  Because she’s lovely like that.]

We talked about summer school, Shakespeare and poetry; politics, religion and family; and why the government are cocking up Olympic security – we had no solutions, but that’s not our department, is it?  We vote; let them sort it out.   I can’t give you chat specifics because I was too engrossed to make my usual notes.

I spent Monday having a massive clear out so we looked reasonably tidy.  My eldest child may never get into his room again; but he hardly visits, so I’m not too worried.

Cleaning on Monday meant I could concentrate on the food on Tuesday morning, for their late-morning arrival.  Preparing food for visitors is hard work and requires a qualification in logistics to be ready/not too warm/not too cold/have time for a brew and catch-up first/edible.  That’s why I did sandwiches.  Aren’t they pretty?

And no reports of food poisoning; always a bonus.

I had to make sure the food was prepared before they arrived: I needed to take photographs for you.  Also, I don’t like to be in the kitchen when I have guests. Or ever.  My guests were too interesting to be left for long with my family. Every time I made tea I missed fascinating conversation and my son laughed at me for spending the day one topic behind.

I had a small hysterical moment when I tried to open these cakes where the packet says, Open Here.  The packet doesn’t say, But you can’t do it with wet hands and if you take a knife to a packet that you’ve been gripping with wet hands you might stab yourself.

I managed to fit in one of my 101/1001 tasks during the visit: Try a new food. Our guests brought goodies, including olives.  I have never eaten olives.  I have never fancied eating olives.  I am game for a small challenge, however, so I wrinkled my nose and popped one in.

Eurgghh!

Becky did warn me they were garlic and chilli olives, but I like garlic and I like chilli.  I don’t like olives.

The Evil Olives (centre)

Burning tongue, watering eyes and roiling stomach aside, thank you, Becky and Tony, for a wonderful afternoon.  Be sure your biscuits found a good home, and we will talk about you behind your backs long after you’ve forgotten us.

 

I Is For ‘Me’

30 May

 

Washing dishes in 1983. Some things never change. Pity my waistline isn’t one of those things.

Continuing my occasional series of the A to Z of The Laughing Housewife, I have nothing for ‘I’. 

But I = Me, so…. 

Of course, the whole A to Z series is about me, so…. 

So what shall I write about?  I don’t know.

I know!  The things people have said to or about me.

Thanks for giving me time to work that out.

*

Best Introduction [from a friend’s daughter, spying me through the window after I had knocked on the front door]:  Tilly’s here, and she’s got great hair.

Best compliment: 

Sorry; I don’t listen to those.  I’m English, don’tcha know.

Best thing the Hub ever said to me: I couldn’t have picked a better mother for my children.

Worst thing the Hub ever said to me:

Unprintable.

Don’t think bad of him; every marriage has its downturns.  Yes, I have to put up with him, but he has it really bad: he has to put up with me.

Besides, there are so many worst things, how do I choose just one?

Best unexpected compliment that managed to slip through [from a brother-in-law partial to his food, visiting from overseas, after weeks of takeaways, restaurants and visiting other rellies] That’s the best meal I’ve had in England so far.

Best thing my boys ever said to me: I love you.

Worst thing my boys ever said to me: Now can I have one of your Maltesers?

Best thing ever said to me by anyone, ever:  Congratulations on getting your degree.

I got my degree in my forties, with the Open University.  Six years of part-time study while busy with a family, a husband who is ill, volunteer work, and a serious Malteser addiction.  Excluding all the usual stuff like a happy marriage and great kids blah blah blah, I consider it my greatest personal achievement. 

Oh Happy Day!

 I can’t think of any more.  I = Me = Egocentric.  I’m so wrapped up in myself, I never listen to anyone else.  I know they think I’m great; I don’t need to hear them say it.  In fact, people respect my position on this issue so much, they never do say it.  How kind!

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Duh

22 May
Fire Engine (1)

Image by Dunechaser via Flickr

If your house were on fire, what would you grab first?

My husband and kids of course; throwing them behind me so I could get to the exit before them.  It’s not ‘children and women first’, is it?

*

 

This reminds me of my second OU summer school at Imperial College, London.  I always read the instruction manual and I was interested to note this particular instruction:

In case of fire, shout ‘Fire’.

*

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