Jerusalem: Hymn of England

Today I played at Beamish Museum in a celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the hymn ‘Jerusalem’. Beyond doubt, it’s worth a blog post. (Side-note: I can’t seem to keep a consistent tone in my writing today. I hope it isn’t horribly noticeable.)

~

I’ll begin with its history. Set the scene: 1916. For two long years, war had decimated the youth of Europe. Ypres. Verdun. Loos. Arras.

tynecot

On Thursday I spent half an hour at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium. The number of graves–and the number of those unmarked–…

Poet Laureate Robert Bridges had recently edited an anthology of patriotic verse, and rediscovered in it the sixteen lines which serve as a preface to William Blake’s epic poem ‘Milton’. Though passing unnoticed at publication in 1808 and throughout that century, these lines Bridges now gave to the composer Sir Hubert Parry, requesting that he set them to music.

The tune was written, arranged, printed, sung at a campaign meeting by various choral societies of London. The women’s suffrage movement took it up, as did public schools such as Elizabeth College in Guernsey—they speak of it with more ardour than most teenage boys display towards anything (with the possible exception of FIFA). The famous composer Edward Elgar wrote his own orchestration, and so its popularity soared, and became a symbol of English morale.

battlefront1916

The Western Front 1916

In 1918, the war ended—and Parry passed away. Since then, Jerusalem has been used by all the major political parties, adopted as the anthem of the Women’s Institute, rugby teams, the hymn book, and the Proms.

~

I’ve found so many articles about Jerusalem that are focussed almost entirely on Sir Hubert Parry. In the first place, it seems counterproductive to esteem a composer for a single work. I, for one, know none of his earlier music, but since he died two years after Jerusalem became the Georgian equivalent of a number one hit, it rather eclipses the entirety of his previous career. In the second instance, I find it far more interesting to discuss the words of Jerusalem, chiefly because they’re steeped in controversy.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountain green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

The most common interpretation is a religious one. Firstly, it’s important to understand that Jerusalem is a standard metaphor for Heaven in Church of England jargon. This is explored in the two verses: the first Jerusalem, and the second Jerusalem.

The four questions in the first verse are a speculation drawing upon an apocryphal story, in which Jesus visits England during his early years. It follows that if this visit happened, Jesus would have ‘brought’ Heaven to England, representing the first Jerusalem.

Progressing to the second verse, it’s easy to derive parallels from the Book of Revelation. Revelation tells of the glorious second coming of Jesus, just as Blake writes of a new Jerusalem taking root in England.

14.81.1

Angel of the Revelation: Blake was also one of the leading visual artists of the Romantic era.

But was it so idealistic as it sounds? ‘Dark satanic mills’ is often attributed to the Industrial Revolution sweeping England inside out—but, more deeply than that, Blake is attacking the bondage of institutions, organised religion, education, and the corruption inherent in Victorian society.

Does that negate any religious intent? Blake was committed to social change, and he held staunch revolutionary views for which he was at one point charged with treason. But though intensely religious, the real irony lies in the usage of his words, rather than their interpreted meaning: originally defaming the ‘institutions of repression’, his poem has become a symbol of national solidarity and patriotism. It appeals somewhat to the English humour.

~

Nevertheless, I believe something of Blake’s original intention is yet preserved. The bourgeois generals sending thousands of men to their death in the Great War are analogous to the social shackles of Blake’s Victorian England. Today, the bonds of capitalism and social class loom still on the minds of the English people.

When I watch the crowds of tourists filtering through Beamish Museum stop by the bandstand and pour their voices into the hymn, knowing the words as if writ on their hearts, singing of the Lamb of God though many may be atheists, and ‘England’s pleasant pastures’ though they won’t admit their patriotism even to themselves, I can’t help but think that this song has touched them. Its stirring words, its iconic tune: no wonder they’re trying to make it our national anthem. ‘God Save the Queen’, as MP Toby Perkins argued earlier this year, is the anthem of Britain, but as of now, the country of England has none to officially call our own. None but this one.

~

If you want to read more about Blake and Jerusalem, here’s a great article.

 

Images:

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Prog Rock and Prog Writing–Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain February 2015

Music: Adrian Belew—Big Electric Cat

Here it is! The prompt for this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain is:

“How does music relate to your writing?”

This is a question I could take hours about answering. Music is my number one hobby, both playing and listening (hobbies being distinct from passions, in the respect that I intend to take writing and maths to professional levels). Visitors can always tell when I’m home: soaring guitar solos, tuba multiphonics or shrill mellotron drones cranked up to full volume breach my defences (three doors) and penetrate the rest of the house.

It took me two weeks short of two years to get through my dad’s music collection, and, having navigated (and loved) Russian ballet, Solid Gold Soul and Icelandic baroque-pop, I’ve discovered that my true calling is progressive rock in the vein of King Crimson (who I’m going to see in September, woohoo!), Focus, Renaissance, Rush, Marillion and Yes.

I don’t make writing playlists. I find tone is best fed by the funkiest mix of styles music can give me, so I randomise it and let the variation drive my writing. But that’s the great thing about prog rock: its versatility. King Crimson are particularly known for their extreme counter-cultural music-making. Stick with their seemingly-chaotic mesh of awkward time signatures, atypical rhythmic structures, dissonant chords and fragmented lyrics for five or ten minutes and maybe you’ll fall under their enchantment.

Another aspect of versatility is instrumentation. Jethro Tull included a flautist (who famously stood on one leg while he played); Dan Ar Braz played Celtic jigs with a rock set-up (note the driving percussion, guitar solo and BAGPIPES(!!!), besides the pop-like vocals); then there’s the double-neck guitar which became a signature of the lead of jazz fusion group Mahavishnu Orchestra, and was used to create textural diversity ranging from Indian classical to chamber-like influences.

Prog rock helped to spawn a genre called ‘ambient music’. Most people have heard the motif of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells—but have you heard the whole track, or any of his other music? Oldfield is a master of writing mesmerising, lyric-less ostinatos that can just as well intrigue and inspire as provide background music for a project. That’s what I love: music that doesn’t set a standard of attention, that can drive your subconscious or satisfy your conscious intelligence with every new listening.

Next up is a lesser-known band called It Bites. Like Arcade Fire, they’re perhaps straying towards art and arena rock, but it’s the busy originality of their music that I find so easy to write to. It’s the kind of music that, even if it distracts you, you won’t emerge from its enchantment regretting lost time. It’s creatively enriching.

I can’t find my favourite track, Plastic Dreamer, on Youtube, but I urgeurgeurge you to look it up on whatever other media you have. Or have some Uriah Heep instead–this song of his has the same kind of effect on me.

Then we have Steely Dan, who explore tensions between jazz and pop chord progressions. They’re so well-known for using the added two chord they nicknamed it ‘mu major’, and the name has stuck. Their dissonant harmonies particularly keep me sitting up straight. It’s musical oxymoron! What author wouldn’t value that?

If I especially need something lighter, I’ll turn to Barclay James Harvest, America or Kayak. But they have more lyrics than the rest of the above songs put together; I use them for feel-good turn-tos, if I’m overdosing on cynical humour.

For the record, I don’t give a damn about a song’s lyrics. Considering I’m a writer, this may seem counter-productive; but if music is another medium for conveying stories and emotion, I feel it ought to be able to do so without words. If words can add to the feeling, so much the good; often I feel they don’t match the tone of the music anyway, and if attended too closely they ruin the track for me. So I listen primarily for wordless things—and then attempt to reproduce them in MY words, through writing.

Finally, I can’t finish this post without mentioning Captain Beefheart’s magnificent album Trout Mask Replica. The so-called Magic Band lived communally in a small rented house for eight months rehearsing the twenty-eight ridiculously difficult compositions of Van Vliet (aka Beefheart). During this time Van Vliet asserted utter artistic and emotional domination over his band members, using physical violence and unrelenting psychological abuse if they exhibited less than total submission to his vision. They rehearsed fourteen hours a day with restrictions on leaving the house. With no income, they were malnourished and in poor health—after their arrest for shoplifting, they were bailed out by none other than Frank Zappa!

Yes, it’s horrific (and it may all be rumours; Beefheart was known for those too), but it’s another artistic environment, and it translates in the music. This album has pretty much everything: folk, classical, blues, jazz; falsetto, casual ramblings, rumbling bass; history, politics, love, conformity, and civilisation. And the more I listen to this album the more I adore its tightness and spontaneous feel.

So, click on a few links and taste some sounds of the seventies! Do you like prog rock and ambient music, or hate it with a passion? Or are you utterly undecided, and not all that inclined to decide, either?

~

Here’s the rest of the chain:

6th  http://jasperlindell.blogspot.com/ and http://vergeofexisting.wordpress.com/

7th  http://novelexemplar.wordpress.com/

8th  http://www.juliathewritergirl.com/

9th  http://www.freeasagirlwithwings.wordpress.com/

10th  https://ramblingsofaravis.wordpress.com/

11th  http://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/ and http://www.pamelanicolewrites.com/

12th  http://randommorbidinsanity.blogspot.com/

13th  http://miriamjoywrites.com/ and http://whileishouldbedoingprecal.weebly.com/

14th  http://kirabudge.weebly.com/

15th   http://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/ and https://lillianmwoodall.wordpress.com/ <<<YOU ARE HERE

16th  http://theedfiles.blogspot.com/ and http://fantasiesofapockethuman.blogspot.com/

17th  http://irisbloomsblog.wordpress.com/ and http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/

18th  http://semilegacy.blogspot.com/ and http://from-stacy.blogspot.com/

19th  http://horsfeathersblog.wordpress.com/

20th  https://clockworkdesires.wordpress.com/

21st  https://stayandwatchthestars.wordpress.com/ and http://arielkalati.blogspot.com/

22nd  http://loonyliterate.com/ and https://www.mirrormadeofwords.wordpress.com/

23rd  http://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/

24th  http://themagicviolinist.blogspot.com/ and http://allisonthewriter.wordpress.com/

25th  http://missalexandrinabrant.wordpress.com/

26th  http://awritersfaith.blogspot.com/ and http://thelonglifeofalifelongfangirl.wordpress.com/

27th  http://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/ and http://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/

28th – https://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (Announcing the topic for March’s chain.)

Music in YA

Perhaps my last post till August. Four trips are lined up for July, and the ten days I’m at home are all schooldays. Fortunately I’m feeling fairly organised about it all (except the financial side!).

So, without further ado, Alex once again gave me a great post topic. Here’s her tweet:

 musicstoriestweet

Anyone keeping up with the big YA Contemps of recent years might guess, like me, that this trend is at least in part caused by Gayle Forman’s fabulous If I Stay, due for cinema release this summer. As a sidenote, I don’t follow the American bestseller lists, but somehow I snagged a copy of this great book early after its release before many people in the UK had heard of it, so in a way I feel connected to its fate.

ifistay

Anyhow, as a musician myself I watch this trend with equal pleasure and trepidation. Music is such a wide aspect of culture that often I see it abused, generally out of ignorance. It’s good to see the participation in the act of making music recognised (fun fact: musicians on average live eight years longer than non-musicians, so it’s not like you’re wasting time!).

You don’t have to be famous to make music; all you need is dedication. I’m not musical myself, besides adoring the mathematics behind it, but I passed my Grade 8 last week. I’ve practiced an hour a night for months, gone to school for aural lessons at half eight in the morning on Saturdays for a year, spent two years learning these pieces, spent eight years learning the instrument…you can see how huge this is for me.

However, also due to being a musician, it worries me to see non-musicians writing about music, either misusing terminology, overusing what’s commonly-known, or not using any of it. Had I never played an instrument there’s no way I’d appreciate music as I do now: I wouldn’t hear harmonies, or criticise the sound balance at concerts, or know a good song from a mediocre one—even now, I’m doubtful I could do any of these things properly. Playing in a band is especially valuable: for four years I’ve spent ten hours a week playing in ensemble, and I can pick out and accord my own part to individual parts in an orchestral piece.

Now, I’m not saying a non-musician can’t write a good book about musician-ing, and I’m not making prejudicial assumptions. Yet the very lack of brass fandom in writing suggests exactly what I fear. Carnegie Hall is bandied about as if only genius musicians are worth writing about with reference to music. ‘The bow was like an extension of her arm’ is the worst string-player cliché out there, and you’d certainly never catch a musician saying it in but the cheapest of sarcasm. Always it is strings, or clarinet or flute!

Our family collection, predominantly brass. (since added a ukulele)

Our family collection, predominantly brass. (since added a ukulele)

The brass are rowdy and lively, and I freely admit my bias, but I feel we have the most distinct section identity. We are the smallest (except the percussion, who are too busy tuning timpanis to socialise) but the most tightly-knit, with pub-nights and unmatched banter. We can also do the coolest things with our instruments. Just about everything you say about the trombone sounds dirty, we put the mark in marcato, we put the issimo in fff. I am convinced that every other musician cherishes a secret wish they became a brass player (Freudian penis envy, as I think of it). Sure, maybe all this buoyancy doesn’t suit your character or your story, but in my opinion the brass are the most versatile section of them all. We can do soaring tear-jerking solos – that’s what euphoniums are for, even! We can be warm and raucous, bad-ass or gentle. All we want is recognition!

That’s truly all I have time for. Live the good life till I get back to ya on the 9th!

 

Novelling Music

I’ve just returned to the Rock from the City of Dreaming Spires, and besides being several thousand words behind in CampNaNo (having previously been on track for the full 50k, for the first time *disgruntled face*), I have mock exams tomorrow. Post upcoming about my impressions of the various universities I’ve visited.

In the meantime, here’s my writing ‘playlist’. Since January 2013 I’ve been progressively working my way through my dad’s music collection. That’s an average of perhaps twenty albums a week, no repeats, no skips (except maybe some opera). I’m in the N section!

Here’s a [highly condensed] selection of the tracks I’ve enjoyed thus far.

Jessica Allman Brothers Band
Life is for Living Barclay James Harvest
Love Burns Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
More Than A Feeling Boston
Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor Chopin
Where Eagles Dare Ron Goodwin (played by Cambridge University Brass Band)
Call to the Dance Dan Ar Braz
Layla Derek and the Dominoes
New World Symphony Dvorak
Disenchanted Lullaby Foo Fighters
The Dark of the Matinee Franz Ferdinand
One in a Million Giles, Giles and Fripp
Eliza Blue Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson
Monkey Chant Jade Warrior
My God Jethro Tull
Pictures of a City King Crimson
Everybody Knows Leonard Cohen
Dream Mahavishna Orchestra
Ommadawn Part One Mike Oldfield
Change Your Mind Neil Young

Mike Oldfield’s music is the best I’ve found when it comes to novelling. No distracting lyrics, but so many instruments, styles and moods. You don’t have to keep changing track. And because sections are repetitive you can hum-jam (that’s now a thing).

Maths Meets Music

Mum *sings a note* I’m guessing either a C or a D.
*goes to piano* Oh, it’s a C sharp.
Dad Well, it’s the average of your guesses.
Me Only if it’s a linear relationship.
Dad Of course it is. The C above a middle C has twice the frequency.
Me Then it wouldn’t be linear. It would increase by powers of two.
Dad
Me *consults Wikipedia* Yep, powers of two. Twelve semitones, so to get the frequency of the next semitone, multiply by the twelfth root of two. Middle C is roughly 262 hertz; Tenor C is 523 or so and Soprano C is 1047.
Dad *does the maths* And the fifth, the seventh semitone, is roughly halfway. Maybe that’s why it’s the perfect cadence.
Me *gets calculator* *nearly blasphemes*   2(12√2)7 ≡ 2(2) ∕ (12√2)5!!!! Modelling 2 as n hertz. And the best thing is that the answer is 2.996614154…which rounds to 3, which is halfway between 2 and 4. Aaaaghhh *the romance of logic overwhelms*
Dad So our brains aren’t adding a fixed value between each semitone. They’re actually making a complex geometric calculation.
Me What do you think, Mum?
Mum I stopped listening when you mentioned averages.
Me Yet you’re the only one of us who can sing in tune.
Dad and I *return to calculations* *major excitement*musicalnotes

Four Learning Styles

Another interesting branch of interpersonal psychological differences. This time it isn’t MBTI, but learning styles (though there’s nothing to say the two theories aren’t related).

Up until about a month ago, I’d thought there were three recognised learning styles: Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic. They’re pretty self-explanatory, but for purposes of completion and self-satisfaction, I’ll explain anyway.

Visual Learners:

  • Are often good at visual art forms and enjoy excursions to art galleries
  • Remember things by picturing or visualising them
  • Perceive others’ meanings through their gestures, body language and facial expressions
  • Are distracted by sights
  • Are likely to take notes, draw mind-maps and ‘obsess’ over colour coordination
  • Are likely to dress for fashion and take pleasure in aesthetic ‘perfection’
  • May visualise the worst-case scenario in case of a misfortune
  • You like my emboldenings and italicisings? I’m doin’ that for you, Visuals!
Pretty picture? Well, it's certainly colourful.

Pretty picture? Well, it’s certainly colourful.

This is a common type, probably the most common. We many of us rely very heavily upon our sight, so that’s not surprising.

You might be able to perceive from my style of writing that I am not a Visual. No, sir; I am not. Not to say I don’t like pretty vistas et cetera.

Auditory Learners:

  • Are often good at speaking, debating and have a high appreciation of music
  • Remember verbal instructions and may have the ability to repeat speeches word for word
  • Perceive others’ meanings through their diction, articulation, dynamic and tone of voice
  • Are distracted by noise
  • Are likely to sing, whistle or hum…a lot
  • Are likely to enjoy talking on the phone
  • Easily perceive subtleties of voice and music
Yup, an ear.

Yup, an ear.

We all tick boxes in other categories. Meself, I can whistle the ‘Sailor’s Hornpipe’ at full speed. And so can all my protagonists 🙂

(By the way, if this sounds like you, go and listen to Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony. I am at the moment, and I’d forgotten how much I love it. Probably the nostalgia—the soundtrack of Barbie Rapunzel is basically Dvorak. Anyway…)

(Is it just an inconsequential theory of mine that many Visual and Auditory learners are also MB Sensing types? Okay, forget that.)

Kinaesthetic Learners:

  • Are often good at practical tasks such as crafts, mechanics and sports
  • Remember things by acting out and trying for themselves
  • Communicate through ‘touchy-feely’ gestures such as hugging for affection or a firm handshake for respect
  • Mostly buy clothes for comfort
  • Must often endure a traditional school learning environment favouring Visual and Auditory learning styles (let’s have a big loud ‘awww’)
  • According to one source, they have high intuition (hm, interesting, though I’d like to know exactly where such a conclusion came from)
Yes, he's pushing a chess piece. *shrug* Well, if it helps him learn how to play chess, what are you looking at?

Yes, he’s pushing a chess piece. *shrug* Well, if it helps him learn how to play chess, what are you looking at?

Okay, I was always awful at Science practicals. But whenever someone touches me—say, they tweak my elbow or measure the circumference of my wrist (yeah, seems pretty meaningless)—I feel automatically better about myself. I don’t know why. Perhaps I’m just starved of physical contact because I pretend to be detached and independent.

But no, I don’t believe I’m a Kinaesthetic learner, either. I just discovered the fourth learning style.

Auditory Digital Learners:

  • Can be difficult to identify (is that why I’d never even heard of the type before?)
  • Work best with information and data
  • Remember things by creating steps and procedures
  • May struggle with social interaction
  • Apparently the Socratic-debate style of question-and-answer might help with learning
  • I don’t know where the name comes from

Well, how else was I supposed to illustrate it? Nothing like a good tunnel of binary.

This is brilliant for characterisation. Understanding a character’s learning style is just as vital as nailing their personality—one might even argue that learning style is an integral part of character personalisation. Probably is. All these tests, we do them for ourselves because we’re interested in who we are and how we operate–and how we operate in relation to others who don’t necessarily understand or relate to us. Is it not just as vital to understand our characters, since we conceive every part of them ourselves, and set ourselves the task of determining all their goals, motives and methods?

Let’s have some characteristic words for each type: (Yes, I lifted these straight off http://mymindcoach.com.au/communicate-better/, which has frankly proved the basis for most of my observations. So, yeah, thanks for that.)

Visual: see, looks, appear, view, show me, dawn, reveal, imagine, illuminate, crystal clear

Auditory: can you hear, that sounds good, listen, make music, tune in, be all ears, that rings a bell, it resonates

Kinaesthetic: feel, touch, grasp, get a hold of, slips through, catch on, tap into, concrete, solid

Auditory Digital: sense, understand, think, learn, process, decide, consider, change, perceive, insensitive, conceive, distinct, know (each of these words I would probably use at an average of five or six times a day, depending on the conversation, whereas those in the other lists no more than twice or thrice at the very most)

Yes, we all use these terms all the time. But perhaps one particular person will pop into mind when you read each list. Or, even better—a character.

My thoughts linking to MBTI: we live in a Sensing world. We also live in a world of predominantly Visual and Auditory learners. Draw your own conclusions. I don’t mean to generalise.

My good friend dictionary.com details ‘learning’ as ‘the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill’ (definition two).

My definition of the second MB dimension according to my first post on the subject claims it relates to the ‘methods we use to intake information’. (Yes, that was poorly worded. I should’ve edited that better. …Is this my Auditory Digital side asserting itself—feeling uncomfortable when something isn’t done to its best effect?)

In any case, I don’t think anyone will disagree that learning style and method of information intake are closely related.

That’s right. Have fun thinking about that a bit more. I’m going to bed.

___

Visual learner picture: http://www.wallcoo.net/paint/Jean-Marc_Janiaczyk_Painting_1600x1200/wallpapers/1600×1200/Jean-Marc_Janiaczyk_Art_Painting_cabanon%20aux%20lavandes.jpg

Auditory learner picture: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-c_c4pr3yvsk/Tx8a6xCVbuI/AAAAAAAAAKA/CZKl-ftNdIw/s1600/Ear_14439206.jpg

Kinaesthetic learner picture: http://members.tripod.com/teaching_is_reaching/images/j0078744.gif

Auditory digital learner picture: http://doktorspinn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/digital-tunnel-wallpaper1.jpg

Too many tags? D:

Allow Me to Explain Myself

Let me explain my absence—the absence of an entire month, I am not unaware. And in the process, let me have a good moan about everything that’s stressing me out at the moment.

Indifference kept me away from all thought of writing for an entire fortnight. Another fortnight I spent entertaining my cousins, who come over to stay with me every holiday. They’re no burden, but they do snatch me from the internet world for a time. A good break, sometimes, methinks. This week I began Sixth Form, and stress and painkillers have both overpowered and deadened my senses to the exclusion of all other concerns.

On Wednesday I accustomed myself to sharing a yeargroup with two hundred and fifty other students, at least half of whom were strangers to me.

On Thursday I embarked on our first teaching day. Embarrassment and disappointment clouds much of the day, but no more than the anticipation of hard work to come. I’ve never had to work hard, and the very idea of it terrifies me. I received scarcely any homework, and what I had was simple, but the helpless inactivity of every breaktime, knowing work would soon inundate me, but knowing simultaneously I could do nothing about it but wait in idleness, plagued my every thought. I’ve been more stressed this week than I was throughout my GCSE exams.

And since the Sixth Form Centre refectory was built to accommodate a mere hundred and fifty students, there’s no respite from the noise and bustle and strange disinterested faces.

Friday was better; in tutor groups we adopted a theme (ours was ‘army’), dressed up and participated in a day of team-building activities. Unfortunately my tutor is very quiet and not very interested in creating a team identity based upon mutual trust and combined value. There being only three boys in my group, they were forced to do all the manual work. The girls just squealed and said nothing.

And the very first event of the day prophesised well for the rest. We were instructed to cross a web of string interposed between two tree trunks without touching the string, more points awarded for the more remote holes in the web. Before nine o’clock I was bodily swung into the air by a seventeen-year-old boy, lifted a metre and a half into the air and bunged through the gap worth the most points. Being tall, skinny and light, roles such as these were mine throughout the day. So though I’m glad I wasn’t the guy doing the lifting, it disconcerted me to spend an entire day being manhandled by a boy I’ve hardly addressed in all the five years we’ve been at school together.

teambuildingday

(If anyone desires this to be removed, I am willing to comply.)

I’d looked forward to that first week. I’d hoped to make a better stab at deceiving people into thinking I was a nice person: make new friends (all the people I normally ‘hang out’ with are doing the International Baccalaureate instead of A-Levels, and thus have no free periods—I haven’t spoken to them above twice all week).

Instead I’ve renewed acquaintances in an awkward and abrupt manner—acquaintances that were broken painfully and ought to have been renewed with a shaking of hands. My tense hyperactivity on Wednesday earned me the post of loudest person in tutor on Wednesday (that’s saying a lot, for me), and estranged me from an old friend on Thursday. A girl who did better than me on her GCSEs has joined the Sixth Form from another school, and her appearance of good sense and efficiency as she moved away the doorstop and closed the door of the Maths classroom convinced me I’m probably going to hate her. Out of jealousy, of course. And that in itself is a nasty thought.

Personal and family worries have kept me awake half the week, and when I last slept I dreamed I killed thirty people.

Even yesterday (Saturday) was no relief. At nine I returned to school for my music groups (the awesome angst of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor has flooded my mind ever since); at eleven some of us left early and ran down to church to play at a wedding. Since we couldn’t see or hear anything from where we sat, and ten verses of Amazing Grace destroyed our interest in the music, that proved duller than expected.

The evening constituted the highlight of my week so far: some of my friends from my youth group came over on a whim and we put the hot-tub at my ‘new’ house to good use. One of them, and one of the most active, committed and valued by all of us, is going off to university in less than two weeks, and we mayn’t see him again before, so that was great.

Except the evening finished with their pressing me to tell them who I fancied, which wasn’t so great. Not that I don’t trust them—my Catholic friends are the kindest, most accepting people I know, whose judgement of me does not affect their behaviour towards me—but it’s a question I tend to shun at all possible costs. And now I feel bad for turning them away.

Today? I stayed in bed till midday, still shuddering at my dream. Then I watched the 2007 version of Persuasion, which upset my nerves for inexplicable reasons. (Seriously, my hormones are on a riot this week.) But the comparative quietness has improved my spirits to some extent, despite the looming threats of the week to come.

In the meantime, I have a decade of unfinished blog posts sitting in My Documents, have been nominated for two blog awards by two wonderful and inspiring bloggers, and have shockingly neglected just about everything I promised myself I’d complete before school recommenced.

But having got all this off my mind, and probably bored any kind and conscientious readers witless, I feel a lot better.

And by the way, my blisters still haven’t healed. My feet are scarred. I dread October half-term, when I do my qualifying expedition…