Tag Archives: BA

Losing the plot? Or not?

The flush of success from Whomerley Wood Moat is fading a little and, although I’m over the moon with all the interest shown so far, I need a new fix! A deep heart-felt thank you to everyone who bought a copy of the book, and if you didn’t it isn’t too late. Just click on the Cade Books tab above for details about how to get a copy. And to wrap up this topic, here’s the half page spread that appeared in the local paper.
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I’m feeling a little empty after completing my BA(Hons) with the OU last October. The degree was spread over five years (regular readers will remember I studied three Level 3 modules, so did the honours year twice. For fun). That was five years filled with reading, learning, completing assignments, interacting with tutors and other students, keeping to deadlines and generally stressing out (in a good way). Five months after finishing, I’m missing the studying like crazy.

So, am I losing the plot to even consider starting up again? There are two options on the cards at the moment. An MA in English is one of them. The reading list is peppered with poetry from Milton’s Paradise Lost to Byron, prose from Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre to Robinson Crusoe and Foe, and plays from Antigone to Coriolanus. To be honest though, I’m not sure I have the passion needed to get sufficiently excited about works such as these. But I could try, and would probably find the study stimulating and challenging.

On the other hand, there’s the option of a BSc(Hons). The whole point of the BA was to get stuck into arts and creativity after a lengthy career in engineering science and technology. But I could sign up for some science modules, of which there are sure to be many that interest me, for a few years.

The only downside to further study is the expense involved. My BA was completed under what the OU called ‘transitional’ fees (which is why I swung an extra Level 3 while the cost was at the old rate). From now on though, the module fees will be more than three times what I paid.

Studying aside, there is still plenty of writing going on. There are two novels on the go. They were both started during NaNoWriMo, and are in various stages of re-writing at the moment. Then there’s an anthology of prose and verse containing some of the writing from the OU Creative Writing modules. It is interesting to look back at some of these pieces and to perform some much-needed heavy edits. ‘Did I actually write that?’ And I have some ideas for e-Books as well.

So, it isn’t that I have no choices.

Perhaps I’m just looking for an excuse to get out of that long list of jobs around the house!

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NaNoWriMo 2014, Week 4

It feels a tad fraudulent to hang this post on the NaNoWriMo title, because last Friday I had only 4000 words to go and over a week to finish. As it turned out, the miserable weather on Sunday meant I had some extra writing time and managed to complete the competition last weekend.
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Reverend Stocks hoisted himself up and vaulted over the top, landing with a thud the other side. The vicar had expected the back yard to be in darkness, but it was quite brightly lit from the small kitchen window at the back of the shop. He pulled back the bolts top and bottom, and Rufus squeezed past the dustbin and through the gate, looking into the kitchen. Although there were net curtains at the window, it was quite easy to see inside and he could make out the sink directly below him, the door to the shop and the other one leading up the stairs to the flat.
‘There’s nobody here,’ said Rufus as the vicar joined him.
‘What’s that?’
‘What?’ said Rufus.
‘Down there, on the floor, by the door.’
Rufus had to stand on tiptoe to see the floor.
‘It looks like a slipper, or a shoe or something,’ he said.
The vicar tried the handle on the back door, but it wouldn’t budge.
‘I’m getting a bad feeling here,’ he said. ‘Do you think we should break down the door?’
‘Or just call the police?’ replied Rufus. He didn’t want to get into any sort of trouble, not with them already half accusing him of theft.
The vicar had already decided though, and took a run at the door. The wood splintered easily around the lock, and the door flew open with the vicar stumbling over the threshold as it suddenly gave way.
‘Oh my God,’ he said. ‘There’s someone here!’
Rufus ran inside behind him. Myra was laying on the floor behind the shop counter, one foot showing through the door to the kitchen.
‘Myra! Myra! ‘cried Rufus, kneeling beside her and slapping her cheeks with the palms of his hands. ‘Paul, vicar, call an ambulance.’
The vicar picked the receiver up from the telephone on the counter and dialled 999.
‘Myra!’ Rufus kept saying, but she didn’t open her eyes. He felt her neck for a pulse, but there was nothing there so he put his ear to her half-open mouth. Nothing.
The vicar was watching what Rufus was doing as he told the emergency services where to come, and as soon as he finished he crouched down the other side of Myra.
‘She’s gone,’ said Rufus.
The vicar put his ear to Myra’s chest. He got up, slowly.
‘Poor Myra,’ he said. ‘Poor, poor Myra.’
‘What do you think it was?’ asked Rufus.
‘Maybe she died of a broken heart after losing Tom last week?’ said the vicar.
Rufus thought about the insurance policies he had seen in the flat. Myra didn’t seem particularly grief stricken when he was talking to her up there.
‘Perhaps she tripped over something and hit her head?’ said Rufus.
‘Could be,’ replied the vicar. ‘I guess the ambulance people will get the police involved.’
Rufus looked around the shop, but there was nothing unusual as far as he could see. Just the galvanised buckets with flowers in them, most of which had seen better days. Shelves with plant accessories, vases, ribbons and name tags, things that people buy when they buy flowers. A mug on the counter.
‘Looks as though she was having a mug of tea,’ said the vicar.
Rufus picked up the mug. He stared at its contents for a while, then took a small sip, instantly spitting it back into the mug.
‘She was having a drink,’ said Rufus wiping his lips with the back of his hand. ‘But it wasn’t tea.’

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Completing NaNo was exciting and brought much satisfaction, but not as much as receiving the result of my final OU module, U316 The Environmental Web, a week early. This was my third Level 3 module – you only need two for the BA(Hons), but I swung another one under the old funding structure – and it turned up trumps with a Distinction, giving me sufficient points to claim a First Class degree classification. So, that is the end of the Open University journey for me, unless (and this is highly unlikely) I go for a post graduate qualification. Watch this space!

There’s a new project on the table already. Stevenage has more than its fair share of ancient woodland, and in one of the woods where we walk the dogs there is a moat which apparently dates from around the 13th century. It is reported that inside this moat stood a homestead which, of course, is now long gone and the area looks much the same as the rest of the wood. I have been fascinated by the thought of this for many years. What would the homestead have looked like? What was life like for the family? How did they make a living? There appears to be very little information available, but I plan to track down what little there is and paint a mental image of life there 800 years or so ago. Wish me luck!

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2014 and all that…

You know that thing when old people say they are happy just to wake up every morning?  Well, I felt a teensy bit that way on New Year’s Day.

As the years tick past, it’s difficult not to wonder how many more times you’ll spot Santa skidding across the night sky, wolf down haggis and neeps with a tot or two of Aberlour, open up the Summer House and wipe down the barbecue, swop the winter wheels on the car, fire off a few sky rockets and wrap up Christmas presents.

But, let’s not bother with all that tosh!

I’ve been taking a hard look at the ‘novel’ writing done last November in NaNoWriMo.  It looks like this, by the way…

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(Actually, this is just the first few pages, but since you can’t read it anyway…)

It’s taken a good few days, but I think I’ve filled most of the plot holes, made some connecting pieces for the dead ends, and generally made things hang together (you can’t pay much attention to these things when you’re writing 50,000 words in a month!)  I downloaded Evernote Sticky Notes, and now have a sticky for each chapter with a summary on it, coloured either white (ditch it), blue (re-write it), yellow (make major changes or write a new chapter) and green (fine as it is).  For some reason, there are no green stickies.

Sticky Notes is a great piece of free software, but if you decide to try it out, be warned that you need to be on your toes not to be inundated by other stuff they try to install at the same time.

The book will have to take a back seat though in February, when I launch into the final final OU module (regular readers will know I’ve already had one final module but I’m still striving to move my 2.1 to a First!).  It’s U316, an environmental science module.  I’m very sceptical about claims surrounding man-made climate change, but hoping that maybe I’ll get some insight into the arguments.  Should make for some good essays!

Then in April, there’s the old age pension to look forward to!  That’ll be Bucks Fizz, and scrambled egg with smoked salmon every day for brekkies, then.  Not!  But it will seem odd being ‘properly’ retired after doing it early over seven years ago in 2006.

So, there will be some interesting challenges to come this year and I hope to have the time to share the highs and the lows on here.

A Happy New Year to everyone following my blog, and to casual passersby too!

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OU Art of English E301 EMA and Spooky Stuff

Final assignment sent. That’s it.  Finished.

I was expecting to be celebrating at this point, but actually feel quite sad now it’s all over.  After an eclectic mix of modules, from science to book-keeping, from music technology to linguistics, from astronomy to mathematics, from creative writing to, well, more creative writing and then even more creative writing, it feels weird to have no assignment deadlines to meet !

Sometimes the modules have been hair-tearingly frustrating, intermittently mind-numbing, occasionally a trifle tedious, now and again downright difficult, but always personally challenging with barrel-loads of fun thrown in for good measure.   Such a shame it has to end.

Except.  It doesn’t.  Necessarily.  All end.  Well, it could.  I can lay claim to my degree, but unlinked my first Level 3 module last year because the result was a Pass 2.  To get a 1st, I need a second Level 3 module to come in with a Distinction and believe me, E301 – The Art of English is simply not going to oblige. So I might, just a teeny bit might, take another module.  But who would care except me if I got a 2.1 or a 1st?  What can an early-retired 64-year-old do with a BA(Hons), anyway ?

Watch this space!

In the meantime, we experienced a strange event last week.  We were walking the dogs at Fairlands Valley Park in Stevenage, as we do each day, when an evil-looking dog emerged from the woods.  Head low to the ground, deep rib-cage, hollowed belly, muscular hindquarters raised up high, straight out of a horror film.  Then a few feet behind, followed a middle-aged woman with long grey hair and wearing a red coat.  They walked slowly to the centre of the park, the dog laid down and the woman stood, quite still, watching us playing fetch with the Labradors.  After a while, we decided she might be waiting for us to move on before exercising her dog, so we did just that.  After a few yards, I turned around to see she was still watching us, and turned back the way we were headed.  Barely two seconds later, my wife did the same, but commented that the woman with the dog had gone. We looked carefully around the perimeter of the park, which is probably at least 75 yards in every direction from where the woman was standing, but neither she nor the dog was to be seen.  75 yards in two seconds?

Spooky.

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A363: Advanced Creative Writing….. Result!

I’ve been awaiting the result of the level 3 module I completed back in May with some trepidation.

As any of you who were reading my progress throughout the module might remember, I received a very mediocre mark for my stage play adaptation in TMA02.  That completely scuppered my chances of achieving a top rate pass for the module.

The overall result was expected to be published on 3rd August, but it turned up yesterday.  Much to my relief, as I’d been clicking on the student home page like a mad thing since this time last week just to see if it was there.

The final assignment (I submitted a piece of life writing) mark was pretty much along the lines of the average for the whole module, and overall I managed a Pass 2.

Must admit to feeling a bit deflated, even though it was the best I could hope for after the stage play.  Probably more so, because I unlinked the module from my degree.  I have sufficient points under my belt to claim the BA I’ve been working towards for the past three years if I tick the box to link the module back in.  However, I am now in the position where I can take two more level 3 modules under the OU’s transitional fee arrangements, because that’s what I would need to complete the BA(Hons) if I leave A363 unlinked.  It would give me an extra year of less expensive learning (about £750 instead of £2500 per module).

I think I’ll see how the new module goes.  Signed up for E301, The Art of English, a couple of weeks ago.  If I find I’m no better at writing essays about creativity in linguistics than creative writing, I’ll link A363 back in and settle for a 2.1 !

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One huge clearout later…

The study is unrecognisable.

For the past three years there have been piles of books, discarded story drafts, stellar maps, music scores including the complete orchestral score for the March from The Little Suite by Trevor Duncan (the theme from Dr Finlay, should anyone be old enough to remember that), various calculators including one that I still have to check out the instructions for in order to use it, heaps of graph paper sporting unlikely curves of equally doubtful looking equations, results from an experiment to calculate the water content of a potato by nuking it in the microwave, company account trading summaries spread over pages and pages of Excel spreadsheets, family history references, photographs…  You get the picture?

Three years of OU modules, from book-keeping to maths, science to astronomy, music technology to creative writing in various guises.  Loose papers neatly filed away, text books carefully shelved, notebooks ditto.

One BA in prospect come A363’s result.

And an empty desk.

What to do?

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A363 Week 27

Just had a look at the Advanced Creative Writing course calendar, and we’re frighteningly near the end.

Although TMA06 still hasn’t yet been returned with advice for the EMA, I guess I’m not the only one in our study group to carry on writing regardless.  Hopefully the TMA will pop up early next week, and won’t signpost a need to rewrite from scratch.  I still have 1000 words to go out of 4000, and it’s the most challenging part of the life-writing piece.  I’ve been trying to change the readers view of the protagonist’s state of mind as the tale progresses, and although I don’t intend there to be a ‘twist’ at the end, I want the reader to be slightly taken aback with how things turn out.  I know that doesn’t make much sense, since you have no idea what or who I’m writing about.

I decided during the week to try to unlink A363 from my degree.  Not exactly sure why, but it seems the right thing to do.  For a start, it gives me the opportunity to study two more modules to count towards the hons classification under the transitional funding arrangements, so the fun will last a little longer.  Transitional arrangements come to an end once the target qualification has been achieved, and I had a shock when I saw that E301 (The Art of English), one of my next study options, showed a non-transitional fee of £2500.  No way could most people pay that for leisure learning!  The other reason is that I’m having a crisis of confidence with the creative writing, and don’t feel that this module has gone all that well.  After the immense enjoyment of A173, A174 and A215 (all writing modules), A363 just hasn’t been as pleasurable.  Can’t put a finger on why, though.  It may not be possible to unlink the module at this late stage, and the boxes that would normally allow this to be done online have been greyed out, but I’ve dropped an email to the OU to see if they can help.  I hope they can, because then I can register E301 and E303, both of which look as though they have the potential to offer a couple of years of great entertainment!

Right, back to the writing.  It’s been going well the last couple of days, so while I’m on a roll…

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A363, Advanced Creative Writing – No Progress!

Absolutely nothing to report on my OU activities this week, as I haven’t even opened my notebook.  And with a little over four weeks to go, that probably isn’t the wisest of moves.  My excuse is that until the marked TMA06 is returned, with a blessing (or otherwise) from the tutor that the structure is looking OK (or not), I could be wasting my time pressing on.

Been a busy week, though.  Started clearing out the side shed last weekend to make room for the tools I keep under the stairs, so we can use that area for storage.  Actually, when I say ‘storage’, I mean a temporary stopping off point where stuff can languish for a few years, until we send it off to our local charity shop muttering, ‘I’d forgotten we had that,’ and ‘We’ll never use that again.’  The clear-out was surprisingly successful, even though it took up most of my afternoons last week and has resulted in piles of rubbish destined for the tip.  Not only is under the stairs empty, but the shed has a few bare  shelves as well, so room for more bits and bobs!

Chocolate has been high on the agenda, beginning with a free Easter egg courtesy of the Sunday Express and our local newsagent.  It was the only one I had, and it didn’t last long.  In fact it didn’t even see the end of Monday.  Then Wednesday we had a family meal to celebrate my wife’s birthday, and her sister served up a huge chocolate cake with candles.  Well, it was those ‘number’ candles that you have to use when single ones simply wouldn’t fit (I realise I’m dicing with having to live on gruel for the next few weeks should she read this!).  The cake was delicious, and they insisted we took home what was left.  Our favourite niece (I always call her that, even though we only have one) presented us with a massive box of chocolates.  By Thursday it was all getting too much for me, and I had to open the chocolates.  As for the chocolate cake, we asked some friends if they’d please drop by Friday evening and help us to finish it off.  With dollops of cream on top.

To offset the choccy calories, I’ve been doing a lot of walking.  The dogs go out each morning for about an hour round the local woods,

then I’ve been walking into town before lunch.  Wednesday morning I got lost in Stevenage Old Town.  With about 10Kg of bird seed, suet pellets and peanuts in my little haversack, I’d walked down to the old hardware shop to buy a tin of Sadolin for the front door.  When we first moved to Stevenage in the early 1970s, I had an evening bar job at the Prince of Wales so thought I’d walk up there and see how the place looks now.  Sad to say, it’s no longer a pub.  In fact it doesn’t appear to be anything other than an empty building.  I carried on in the general direction of ‘home’, and took what I thought was a short cut.  And walked… and walked… and walked, until after half an hour or so I began to recognise where I was.  When I looked back and saw the cemetery I realised I was quite out of puff.  Forget sometimes I’m almost an OAP!

On a final note this week, thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog lately.  Friday was the busiest day so far, although I think it was boosted by my old mate in Sydney discovering it and looking back at the previous jottings.

Now, best go and check if that latest TMA has been returned…

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A363, Advanced Creative Writing, Eventful Week 25!

My poetry assignment TMA05 came back this week, with an OK result.  Tutor comments were very useful on the whole, although places where I’d tried to include some of the stuff we’d learned like eye-rhymes (yes, I know the words don’t actually rhyme, but they look as though they should) don’t seem to have been well-received, interpretation of a few lines seemed more difficult than I thought, and there was modest disagreement on whether certain lines scanned correctly (how do you pronounce behemoth?).  But apart from the disastrous TMA02, my marks are, at least, consistent and I shall learn a great deal from the advice.

Also, the final assignment, TMA06 went off on Wednesday.  I’m pleased I posted it to the TGF, although only one student decided to pass comment and some of that was quite helpful.  I wish our group forums had been more popular.  Hopefully the tutor will like the way I’ve styled the life writing piece, otherwise it’ll be a case of starting again and only four weeks or so to go!  If you’re curious, I have a central thread which is written using first person stream of consciousness, following the protagonist as she makes her way to where she ends her life.  This thread generates flashbacks to some of the life events which have led her to take this drastic action.  I think it works, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.  The story is basically true, but is fictionalised (I wasn’t there one hundred years ago!) to fill in the gaps.

I asked the OU if they’d send me some old assignment questions from E301, but they responded that they didn’t do that.  Mind you, they did send me some on E300 and E303 last year, and even sent the last assignment booklet for the English MA just a few weeks ago!  Never mind.  I’ve decided not to go for the essay-intensive Art of English, and to wait for English Grammar in Context to come around next February.  That means I might even have time to tackle NaNoWriMo this year!

It’s also a big birthday week!  A close pal’s yesterday, my wife’s today, mine tomorrow and another close friend’s on Tuesday.  Much exchanging of birthday cards has been going on!  I know it’s a cliche and awful grammar, but the years don’t half pass by quicker the older you get, do they not?

Two years to the OAP…Tally Ho!

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A363 Week 24, TMA06 almost there

Just spent an hour checking through the 1000 word section of the EMA I’ve chosen to send in for TMA06 (it only needs to be in draft, so no final spit and polish yet), but instead of sending it off I decided to post it to the Tutor Group Forum.  Now I have, I’m in a state of shock.  This is the first TMA I’ve posted up.  Somehow, it doesn’t seem quite right that we can share these pieces.  I find that reading other students’ work that they are going to submit for an assignment feels a bit like cheating!  Posting activities from the course book was OK, but interest from the group in doing that waned after the first few weeks so I gave up as well.  But it’s out there now, and in about fifteen minutes I won’t be able to delete it and change my mind.  I’m not expecting much in the way of critiques, since the assignment is due in next Thursday and everyone will have their heads down doing their own thing.  But if anyone does find the time to offer advice that will be useful input for the actual EMA.

The Very Important TMA05 still hasn’t come back, although there’s been a message from my tutor to say that he’s been busy again, but hopes to squeeze in some marking over the weekend.  So, hopefully it will come back early next week.

The end of A363 is now in sight, so I’ve been looking at what to do next.  There are two ‘English’ courses which look to be fun: E301 The Art of English, and E303 English Grammar in Context.  For me, the second will be easier since it takes a technical view of the English language and there is a fair bit of linguistic analysis involved.  That appeals to my engineering mind.  The Art of English, on the other hand, examines the different ways that English is used in a variety of situations and in a diverse range of media.  BUT, the TMAs are, without exception, ess…,  ess…,  ess… you see, I can’t even say the word, *deep breath* essays.  I don’t mind writing them, but I haven’t had much practice lately, and the technical analysis of E303 sounds more appealing.  If anyone out there has completed either of these courses I’d be grateful for some advice.

Just in case anyone’s following my non-OU jottings, I managed to remove the bathroom tiles without cracking any and have repaired the leaking joint.  And the front garden fences have all been treated with creocote (not a spelling mistake, it’s a kinder form of creosote!).  It hasn’t done the tennis elbow much good, but not taking advantage of this week’s fabulous weather would have been a bit silly.

So, where am I?  I’ll wait until Wednesday to see if there is any feedback from the TGF on my TMA06, and then send it off a day early.  In the meantime, I need to carry on writing the EMA.  About 1500 words to go, including settling upon the all-important ending.  I have three in mind, so can’t even toss a coin to decide!

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