I’m not dead yet…

My new home – and garden!

It’s been a while, I know, but I’m back, and I have stuff to share. First off, I have a new home. From my tiny eyrie in the city centre, I’ve now relocated to an actual HOUSE (albeit a tiny one) a couple of miles further out. But still close enough. And it has an actual garden. Well, a yard really, but places to put pots outside.

So. Today I spent good money getting involved in a course to learn about how to set up an online course. I’d already attended the introductory webinar, and this lady Jeanine Blackwell really knows her stuff and communicates it well, so why not follow her example? No good reason why not, so I’m doing it.

I’ve decided it’s time to get serious about having a career, if not an income, after the past six months of leaping about the countryside and across the Atlantic (twice!) pretending that I’m actually retired, and that I have an income. All pretence is done. There is no escaping the fact that I don’t have an income, and I’ve no actual desire to be retired!

And I’m so serious about it, that I tidied the table (my one and only, hence it is also desk, dining table and TV stand), put on my new smart shoes, made a lovely flat white (AeroPress, also highly recommended) and settled down to follow the instructions to get started. Session 1 gets down and dirty straight away, with instructions and advice about where to start, what pitfalls to avoid when starting, and how to proceed from that starting point. At the end of Session 1, I set about doing some research – forgetting that research almost inevitably leads to rabbit holes. However! The beauty of rabbit holes is that they don’t (necessarily) cost any money. And when I finally remembered that one of the resources which IS recommended is to join the local Chamber of Commerce, I was so thrilled with myself that I tried to join online straight away, even though it was going to cost me LOTS of money.

The universe, however, had other plans for me. Their website wouldn’t let me pay, and when I phoned up for assistance I was told they couldn’t help me till Monday. Apparently the business community representatives knock off early on Fridays. That’s a good sign, isn’t it?

Meantime, I’m enjoying my new furniture. At last, I have an armchair, a gift from one of my sons, and a futon for guests to come and sleepover.

Let me know if you’re passing through Liverpool!

SOMETIMES I THINK…

What a day! Sun is shining, flat is clean and sort of tidy, I’ve done my workout, my singing practice, my ukulele practice for our LiveKennedys gig next weekend, figured out what I’m doing at tomorrow’s Open Mic in West Kirby for the Liverpool Equity meet and greet.

Photo Journal Part II – My Tiree Holiday

Time to share my holiday snaps before I forget I ever had one! I’ve also included a few memories from previous stays on the island.

My beloved sister-in-law, Mabel Macarthur, had invited me to spend a few days with her on the Isle of Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides, after Roddy and Arwen’s wedding.

Mabel and me

Mabel and I set off in a taxi to Oxenholme Station, train to Glasgow Central, taxi to Buchanan Street bus station, bus to Glasgow Airport, plane to Tiree. And that’s when the photos begin, as the plane begins its descent to The Reef, (i.e. the airport) on Tiree.

Weather wasn’t great, but it was lovely to catch my first sight of the island after a couple of years.

First night, Mabel treated me to dinner at the Lodge Hotel, where we sat in the window overlooking Gott Bay – memories of Iain and Roddy learning to jet-ski (circa 1985) .

Next, getting acquainted with Jack the golden labrador. What a sweetheartThis is taken in Mabel’s conservatory. Wait till you see the view..

Looking past Fiona (Mabel’s daughter, my niece) and Ewan Malcolm’s house, towards Kenavara.

 

Tiree has three high points, Ben Hough – which Mabel’s house sits at the foot of; Kenavara, and Ben Hynish, seen below.

Spot the bucky ball on top.  This is part of the UK’s defence system, and the first point of reference for cross Atlantic aircraft coming over from North America. I lost a lovely earring walking up there once.

Moving round to the other side of the house, this is what sits beyond the garden.

What looks like a scraggly wood at the top of the rise is actually a stand of thistles.

Next day, the weather was wonderful, so Jack and I set off to see the sea.  The route we took, following the first available turning past Fiona’s house heading towards the coast, threatened to lead us up to the top of Ben Hough, which my tired bones weren’t in the mood for.

So what we actually saw were loads of lovely wild flowers, and a broken but heavily padlocked gate.

The next day, with the weather still more gloriously warm and sunny than anything I remembered from my time on Tiree back in the 1970s, when the boys were babies, Jack and I hit the road again. 

 

 

Here’s a map of the island to help you orientate yourself. You’ll probably have to zoom in to follow it. Ben Hough is on the west, toward the top. Gott Bay is the large sandy beach on the east, towards the top, facing south east. Most of the bays have gorgeous fine white sand, here indicated in gold; the other, mostly smaller ones are littered with beautiful smooth pebbles of all sizes.

Where was I?  Oh yes, day 2, heading north from Hough with Jack, determined to see the sea.

Some neighbours came down to the roadside for a chat as we wandered past.

And of course, more wildflowers.

Balevullin is more densely populated than Hough, with what looks, from a distance, like actual trees. But don’t be mislead, there are no trees on Tiree, just a few sheltered, very bushy tall bushes. 

Panoramic shot, distorting the bend in the road, but hopefully giving an idea of the landscape.

Can you believe the colour of the water there?  That’s the Atlantic Ocean, looking pretty much due north. The walk back was much faster than the walk there, expedited by a strong wind at my back. Ah, yes, I remember it well. 

I often used to walk down to Balevullin from Cornaigmore to visit my friends Doris and Skye Mary.  Here are a few memories from those days. (You may need to click on each image to see each next one – I’m trialing a new Gallery plugin.)

Day 3: Jack and I walked south, this time to Kilkenneth, where I picked up some pebbles, just for old times sake. A couple of them made it back to Liverpool, now gracing my pot plants.

 Heading to the seaside, looking due west.   And here’s Jack, enjoying his stroll, with Ben Hough to the north in the background.

Thursday evening was the Tiree Association Annual Concert, newly re-instituted after a five year break, so I was extremely lucky. It was an absolute joy, a feast of local talented singers and musicians performing tradition music

On my last full day, we picked up my order of lobster from Fraser’s (one of Fiona’s sons) fish van, beautifully prepared by his partner Ruth, and also paid a visit to the Balinoe graveyard, overlooking Soroby Bay, where Mabel and I set some flowers for our husbands Donnie and Donneil.  In the evening, Fiona laid on a banquest – with contributions from all of the family, and there were babies to entertain us, and much laughter.

Cousins! Caitlin and Amy

Great Aunt Flloyd and Great-grandmother Mabel with the two newest members of this side of the family.

Ewan’s dog desperately trying to photo-bomb the family portrait

And here is Mabel with Fiona, her two sons Iain and Fraser, and their daughters Caitlin and Amy. 4 generations. Incidentally Morven, Fiona’s daughter, is expecting her first in October.

Saturday, the wind and rain arrived full force, and for a while there was a suspicion that the plane might not make it – but it did. Here is what it looked, and felt like leaving Tiree once again.

The twin-engined Otter is similar to the one I used to travel in about 150 years ago between Milne Bay to Port Moresby in Papua to and from boarding school.

I’ve created a short movie, covering the return to Liverpool, and put it up on Youtube.

And that’s all folks…

 

 

Photo Journal Part 1 – The Wedding

August already – how did that happen? Silly question. As some of you may have noticed, I took a break from Facebook for 10 days or so. An experiment in several ways, but mostly an attempt to be true to my principles, and boycott the dastardly thing. I detest its organisational structure, its business model, its total lack of any kind of ethics or morality and most of all its ability to suck us into dependence on it. Instead of posting every second thought and experience as it happened, and spending hours reading what people I barely know are saying and thinking, I decided to create a photo journal for these 10 days, and share that with people I do actually know and care about. I’ll put a link on Facebook as well, because there are people who come into that category who still only communicate via Facebook. I’m hoping that will change, but not ‘holding my breath’. So there I was, sitting on the train, about to cross the border from Scotland back into England.  The big adventure of Roderick and Arwen’s wedding had been and gone, and so had my mini-break on the Isle of Tiree with my sister-in-law Mabel Macarthur.  Rather than writing up my blog/journal at reasonable intervals, of course I left it till the adventure was almost over!  Then, having made a start, Virgin West Coast Train’s wifi crashed, and I was left to ‘consider my options’. I’ve been back in Liverpool amost a week now; marvellous how life takes over. But I’ll have a go at re-tracing my steps in an attempt to share the adventure with you all. This is Part 1, The Wedding. First off, before I left, I set up the self-watering system for my houseplants. The next morning I found a huge puddle on the floor, as you can see the lengths of string are drooping between the bottle of water and the plants, hence proving the drip principle does work, but it’s more effective if the water actually drips into the pot!
First, setting up the automatic watering system for my indoow garden
I also spent the evening packing and baking, making Lamingtons to help out with the snacks for the guests after the wedding ceremony.
This is an Aussie favourite, squares of plain sponge cake dipped (or in my case soaked) in chocolate icing and rolled in chocolate.  I also made some Anzac biscuits and my first ever successful batch of shortbread.
My first successful batch of Shortbread
Roddy and I drove up to the Lake District together in his lovely hire car on Thursday afternoon, arriving just in time to enjoy a single malt on the terrace of the Cragwood Country House Hotel, overlooking Lake Windermere, on a gorgeous clear blue skied evening, with Adele and Gerry Grodstein from New Jersey. (My elder son Iain’s in-laws). On Friday morning we met up with Arwen and her family (who’d come in from the Isle of Wight, Home Counties and New Zealand) for the rehearsal.  Iain had arrived (from Seattle) with his wife Jessie and the grandchildren Owen and Natalie the night before, and the twisty, windy roads up the lake to the church managed to lose them. Meantime, in my efforts to connect with them – no phone reception where the church is – I had an adventure climbing up the hill behind the village trying to get some ‘3’ bars on my phone, where I was rescued by a very kind couple who pointed out that this was Vodafone territory, and let me call Iain on their landline. They also treated me to a history lesson about the origins of the church, the glacier traces in the hill behind their house, and the local farmers’ concerns about the drought. That sorted, Roddy found me some lunch and a taxi to take me to Oxenholme station to collect my sister-in-law, Roddy and Iain’s Aunt Mabel, travelling down from the Isle of Tiree. Next up, the boat trip on the lake. Roddy and Arwen had booked a boat to take us all for an hour’s run on the water, with Prosecco and juice and snacks galore, and much laughter.
Roderick offers Adele a glass of bubbly, while Albert and Arwen hand out food
Mabel and me
Iain, Jessie and Natalie
Arwen’s brother Alister photo-bombing the group shot. I love this one!
After some shenanigans, the boat skipper finally got this one, with everyone
Back on land, we enjoyed a lovely bar meal in the hotel, (did I mention, they’d booked the whole hotel for the weekend!), took a stroll in the grounds as the light was fading – around 10.30 in the evening. And then, a really comfy bed, and a great night’s sleep for me, before the big day dawned.

Wedding of the year

Saturday arrived with a fair amount of cloud cover, just enough blue sky to make for great photos. It was warm and delightful as more and more friends and relatives arrived. I’ll try to keep my commentary to a minimum, and let the pictures do the talking.
Roderick
Roderick (the Bridegroom), Owen (Groomsman) and Iain (Best Man)
Mabel and Adele flaunting fabulous fascinators
Jessie, Iain’s wife, with her sister Lauren, mother of Natey and Penelope.
Jessie and Lauren make all those fascinator experiments of mine worth while! Roderick’s friends and work colleagues made the trip. I didn’t manage to photograph them all, but here are a few
Steve, Adele, John and Kate – part of the Liverpool contingent
Betty and Wayne, Chloe and Mike, Baltic Creative folk
St Peter’s is a beautiful little parish church, built in 1873-4, paid for by the owner of the nearby Bobbin Mill. Natalie leads the bridesmaids down the aisle.
The vows.
Yes, I cried. We all traipsed over to the Village Hall which had been decked out with Arwen’s beautifully crafted bunting and balloons and flowers. Wendy’s gorgeous sandwiches and snacks went down a treat, and my goodies disappeared pretty quickly too. I enjoyed my ride back to the hotel in the limo with the groomsmen and ushers, but the bride and groom had an a royal return to the hotel in this little gem, being waved and cheered on their way as they drove through Bowness. Adele Grodstein managed to capture this image (below) of the bridal party arriving back at the hotel I couldn’t resist including this one, of Natalie and Owen relaxing outside the hotel after the wedding.   And then there was the reception – the Wedding Breakfast.  I didn’t take any photos during the meal, or the speeches, but I can tell you the food was tasty, and plentiful, and beautifully presented, the crackers – also handmade by Arwen, burst and cracked fabulously, and the speeches were, without exception, stunningly generous, funny and moving. Of course I cried. Later in the evening, as a very fine Manchester rock band kept the floors bouncing fabulously, Mabel and Adele and I discovered some fun, self-entertaining accoutrements that Arwen had set up in the bar. And there was more… Giant Sparklers out on the terrace after dark, for children of all ages. I had a bit of a jig to the band playing some of my fave hits from the 60s before finally crashing out just after midnight. The Day After Sunday saw the departure of the US contingent. So sad to see them go, but very very grateful for the brief time I had with them all. Look carefully at that image above.  Natey (aged 11, Owen’s cousin) and Owen (aged 12) reading actually newspapers. I call this “Hope for the Future of Humanity”. Left to right, back row first: Adele, Flloyd*, Iain, Jessie, Mabel, Jerry Natey, Owen, Natalie. (*Footnote: I recently discovered that I look much, much better in photos – and even in the mirror – when I smile. Thanks to the Grodsteins for teaching me that) Part 2 continues next time, the Tiree Holiday.    

Roots and all

Now that I live in Liverpool – and doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? – life is taking some unexpected, and not unpleasant turns.

After years of wandering around, rent-free, on the house-sitting turntable, I’ve finally settled into a wee flat, just off the absolute centre of the city, two floors up with two huge windows, so plenty of light.

It has been such fun, furnishing it, sticking photos up, putting the books out where I can see them, buying house plants and – wonder of wonders – baking!  I’ve had a couple of ‘dinner parties’, but I don’t know that many people yet, so nothing grand.

Workwise, it’s been a bit crazy. The first 3 months I was commuting between Liverpool, Cardiff and Manchester. That was enough to prove to myself that I’m not as young as I used to be…

Just now, I’m in Manchester one day a week, working with a beautiful bunch of 2nd year acting students. Fun is being had. Voices grow, hearts and minds take great leaps of faith, and creativity expands all of our horizons.

So far, I’ve had little performing work, but one short film (a public info video for Liverpool City Council Health Dept) was fun to shoot.  On the other hand, I found a little folk club just a couple of block from where I stay, and I trot down there with my trusty ukulele every now and then to do a floor spot. This week, I was invited to perform a full set as “featured guest artist”, so I dug the guitar out of its oh too solid case and actually attempted to accompany myself on it. Oh boy. Practise, practise, practise…

As well as some of my own songs (June’s really), I revived a couple of Scots ballads from my days as a folk singer in the dim dark past, including Yarrow Braes. Roderick dutifully turned up to support me in the audience, and he kindly filmed it, so here it is.

Now I’m working on the third part of the June Bloom trilogy.  It will be called “June Bloom Rising” and the rest is a mystery, although I hope to be able to preview it at this year’s Liverpool Festival Fringe, in June.  We shall see!

A Walk Through My Mind

Recently, I started taking long walks again. Coming out of the slough of despond can have that effect, and vice versa. And as I walked, I began to think. As as I thought, it seemed like a good idea to share some of my thoughts.

So last week, setting off from Crewe Toll towards Princes Street, in Edinburgh, I thought I would share what was on my mind as I was walking.. Siri obligingly opened my voice memo app, and the result is here for you to listen to. There is traffic, and breathlessness involved, so it’s all very ‘in the moment’ as we say in the biz.

There’s talk about theatre, and the weather, and I do apologise for the poor quality of the recording. Clearly this is going to be a steep learning curve.

As I mention in the recording, at the top of Dean’s Bridge, a rather interesting building can be seen. I still haven’t been able to ascertain if it’s a private house or not. Here it is.
           

NOW HERE’S THE THING

Hello, and welcome to my personal website. This is where I give myself permission to ramble on about life, the universe and everything. There are blog posts, and podcasts, depending on whether I feel like writing or talking. Topics mostly revolve and devolve around theatre, voice training, and family matters, but I also occasionally rant about world affairs and life, the universe and anything at all. Right now I’m between jobs/semi-retired/freelance, so more time on my hands to rattle my head and share my thoughts.

If you’d like to subscribe and be notified when I’ve something new to say, just fill in the form. I promise NOT to inundate your inbox.

photo: July 2017. “The Real Mother of Marilyn Monroe”. Cervantes Theatre, London.

Look Back to Move Ahead

I know you shouldn’t laugh at your own jokes, but this – my first ever Philosophy Essay, submitted on 27th April, 1999 – still cracks me up.  The assignment was to respond to The Lier’s Paradox by arguing for one of four possibilities (it’s true, it’s false, it’s neither true nor false, it’s both true and false)

 

To The Editor

Aegean Times

Piraeus

Sir

With regard to the headline of your recent article (The Problem of the Lying Cretan) I wish to make it clear to your readers that I take great exception to the assertion that the esteemed actor Epimenides (of Crete) is a liar.

When he made the statement “I am (now) lying” Epimenides was not lying.  He was expressing himself with poetic licence.  This rhetorical device has been used since the days of Aeschylus to great effect in poetry and drama.  Epimenides, comsummate artist as he is, instinctively incorporates it into his improvisation.

According to your literal interpretation, when Epimenides said “I am (now) lying” he was stating a fact, and a fact is by definition true, in which case he was lying.  By this reasoning it is also possible to say that if he was telling the truth, then the statement was false, that is, it could not have been a fact.

If Epimenides spoke the truth, and was lying as you say, then his statement must be both true AND false. However, it is impossible to speak truthfully and tell a lie at the same time (a lie being an intentionally false statement and the opposite to telling the truth).  Therefore, his statement could not be both true and false.

This being the case, the statement must be neither true nor false.  But this is equally impossible for the same reason, that one cannot lie and speak truthfully at the same time.  So if Epimenides was stating a fact, we are left with the ridiculous paradox that his statement was both true and false, or neither true nor false.

When Shakespeare’s Hamlet utters the words “I am dead, Horatio” (Hamlet, Act V sc ii), he is not actually dead.  If he were he would be unable to speak at all. Yet he is speaking sincerely, without intent to deceive.  It would appear that the statement: “I am dead, Horatio” is not literally true, it is not a ‘fact’, but when spoken truthfully in the circumstances of his status and condition, states a higher Truth – the Truth, in fact, that his aspirations, intentions, and princely potential are finished, along with his life.  The words epitomise the desolation of the moment at the climax of the play. As the distinguished Scots theatre director Tom Fleming stated with reference to a similar line in Macbeth (Boy: “He has killed me, Mother”, Act IV Sc ii), it is not a lie.  It is poetic licence.

Of course, Hamlet is a fictitious character, played by an actor who has not be poisoned and stabbed.  A fictitious character cannot be really dead, since he was never really alive.  The actor who portrays him is pretending, creating an illusion of a character who never existed anyway.  Therefore when he makes the statement, “I am dead, Horatio” it is not, in truth, a matter of fact.

Yet if Hamlet’s words could not, given the same or similar circumstances, be spoken by any one of us, then Shakespeare has failed as a dramatist.  Had he failed we would not still be watching productionas of his plays, especially Hamlet.  He succeeds because his characters do speak for us, expressing our deepest desires and sorrows, only with greater effect. Shakeaspeare’s skill lies in the way he uses langfuage, and one of the devices he uses is poetic licence – the freedom allowed to writers in regard to grammatical construction, and to the use of facts, “especially for effect” (Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, 3rd ed. [1997] p. 1035).

When Epimenides said “I am (now) lying”, like Hamlet he was referring to a greater truth than the literal meaning of the words.  He was engaged in the telling of a tall tale which grew taller by the minute, until he reached the point where his remark “I am (now) lying” was the epitome of exaggeration.  Just as Hamlet’s use of the present tense (I am) heightens our awareness of the wasteful tragedy of his death, so Epimenides’s “I am” heightens our awareness of the gargantuan nature of his fabrications, and of our complicity in them.  Hamlet’s “dead” overwhelms us with the inevitability of loss. Epimenides’ “lying” generates universes of make-believe.  “I am dead” in Hamlet’s mouth makes us aware of our own mortality in a moment of catharsis.  “I am lying” slipping from Epimenides’ tongue awakens us to the vitality of our own imagination and playfulness.

Thus Epimenides was not lying.  He was speaking truthfully, through the device of poetic licence, expressing in the fewest possible words not so much a simple daxt as the great truth of humanity’s endless capacity for invention.

I remain

Yours faithfully

Apallina of Athens

__________________________________

This was the tutor’s response:

Excellent work, Flloyd.  An immensely entertaining (and highly original) essay, that incorporates argument alive precision and clarity within its imaginative format. Well done!”

Time IS the Essence

“Time is of the essence”  What on earth does that mean?  I know we usually use the phrase to get someone else to hurry up. “Time is in short supply”?  Crikey!  That is for sure. [I feel the need for an emoticon.  Facebook, what have you done to me?]

So I just felt inspired to write a new blog post, one that was personal rather than business related, and of course, this is my personal blog. This one. So I open it up, and discover that I haven’t posted here for THREE YEARS!!!  Sorry for shouting, but what the heck, this is ridiculous.  Where have I been? What happened to me? Who even am I?

I’m not going to attempt to fill in the past 3 years, because most of you already know what I’ve been doing.  You probably have a clearer idea than I do, because I forget things.

That’s not strictly accurate. I don’t actually forget, I misplace things in my head, and sometimes it takes longer than usual – whole seconds – to find them. Alright sometimes whole days. And sometimes I don’t bother.

[In brief, I’m now based in Edinburgh, after a stint in the south of England, teaching voice to acting students and touring my solo show.]

Why?

Because I can.

What brought that on?  Comments from a friends, mostly Facebook friends who don’t actually know me all that well (so who does?)  “Aren’t you brave!”  “Good on you, Flloyd!” Or this one, received today: “how fun that you keep traveling the world, playing, and acting/playing, and putting yourself out there. it’s great great great.”

Yes, it is fun. It’s great. I love it. I love being in new places, working in new ways, learning as I go, doing the things I love doing, which are performing and teaching.  And I hate that I have to travel to the other side of the world in order to be able to do it. It’s exhausting. I’m tired. I’m sad to leave good friends behind. It’s hard for me to make friends. I know lots of people, that doesn’t mean I have lots of friends. So I value my friends.

When I was young, I assumed that I wasn’t anyone that people particularly wanted to be friends with, so whenever I moved away I said goodbye and never made any effort to stay in touch.  Fortunately, I eventually learned that friendship is something that has to be worked at (like families). So now I make an effort to stay in touch with friends, to let them know I care about them. As a result, I have a couple of good friends everywhere I go (that I’ve been to before!)

Here in Edinburgh, I’m now beginning to reach out to them, and I’m so lucky that two friends from Glasgow are now living and working in Edinburgh, so I don’t have to reach out too far.  Family members are still on the other side of the country, but as I discovered last weekend, Oban is just two train rides away.

So I was able to connect up with my sister-in-law, Mabel MacArthur, and my younger son Roderick at the Wedding of the Year, and much fun was had by all. I couldn’t dance, because I had a dodgy and very painful wrist, so Mabel performed The Dashing White Sergeant just for me.

But I digress.  And I find myself doing that more and more often these days.  It’s a form of procrastination.  Like writing this blog post instead of rehearsing and re-working my solo show, due to be performed in New York next month.  How good does that sound!  [Rhetorical question, hence no question mark]

Yes, it sounds good. It will be good. A great experience.  Unless my US work visa doesn’t come through in time, in which case I will still be performing in New York, just not in an actual theatre on 42nd Street (book your tickets here), and not for the potential of taking away a portion of the Box Office, but for free in my friends’ and family’s front rooms. Incidentally, if you’ve booked and paid for your ticket already, THANK YOU SO MUCH I LOVE YOU.  If not, but you intend to come, please do, because there is a web page on United Solo’s website that lets us know when we have sold 15 tickets or more, and if we sell out they allocate another performance slot. And IF the visa doesn’t come through, you will be refunded, so no risk involved.

Oh dear, what was I saying?  See what I mean?  Oh yes, Time. Apparently it doesn’t exist without Space. Also, it always exists – past, present and future, they are always in existence. So wherever I have been, and wherever I am now, whatever I get up to in the future – no. I’m exhausted just thinking about that.

I think I need to focus upon the NOW. I am in Edinburgh – oh, and I can’t begin to tell you how happy it makes me to be able to see Roddy more than once in 4 years, to be able to call Iain in the US more than once in 6 months, with the time zone difference much more sympathetic to my sleeping patterns.

Everything Old is New Again

I’ve been house-sitting for about 6 years, and for most of that time those belongings that don’t fit in my car as I move between houses have been stored in a unit in Aspley. Whenever I need something I go rummaging in the bags and boxes, and when I decide there are books, or clothes or whatever that I won’t be needing for a while, I stuff them back into the storage unit.

As a result, it has become pretty messy, and while I wait for my thesis to come back from my son the proof reader I have nothing better to do (apart from developing a new clown act) than clear out a few bags and boxes, sort through them and generally tidy up.  So far I’ve managed to reduce the number of bags from around 20 to 6, and the filing boxes from 5 to 3.  And I still haven’t thrown out all my thesis research files…

So! It’s been quite fun, if hot and sweaty work. I’ve rediscovered old friends, like all the universal adaptors that I had to buy every time I travelled abroad because I couldn’t find the ones from the last trip. I found the loan documents for the car, and discovered I’ve still 3 years to go… Sad face. 🙁

The Great Court, University of Queensland

But I also found my Valedictorian Speech from when I graduated from UQ back in 2005. I quite enjoyed reading it again, so I thought I’d share.

“Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, members of Senate and academic staff, distinguished guests, fellow graduates, ladies and gentlemen.  Good afternoon and thank you for this opportunity to address you.

“How to begin?  A moment of uncertainty.  Where do we go from here?  More uncertainty.  Did we do as well as we could have?  Did we do the right degree?  Should we come back for more?  Should I stop asking questions now?

“There is no straight answer to any of these questions, any more than there is to the question we have all been asked during the past years of study: “What are you going to do with your degree?” Did you ever hear such a daft question?

“Let’s cut to the chase here, and agree for the moment that by ‘degree’, we’re not referring to the piece of paper or the letters after the name. We’re really referring to the process of learning, arguing, realising, procrastinating, sleeping through and breaking through which we have all shared in some measure over the past few years.

“When I left school, well before most of my fellow students were a glint in their grand-parents’ eyes, it was one of my ambitions to become a university student, largely because I was enraptured with the Doctor in the House movies, and the thought of encountering students like the hesitant but heroic Simon Sparrow, aka Dirk Bogarde (and if you never saw him in his young days, just think Johnny Depp times 10).

“I had no thought of actually graduating; I just thought it would be grand to be a student.  That it took me 40 years to take the plunge is merely an indication that I am, in many ways, a slow learner.  Not that the time was wasted – I firmly believe that there are times in our lives when it is right and appropriate for certain actions, when we are ready to make the most of the experience we are being offered.  And my time to gain an arts degree happens to coincide with yours.

“What does it mean to hold the piece of paper, to have the right to put the letters after our names?  It does not guarantee us jobs.  Whereas years ago employers reserved the right to induct new employees into their work systems, nowadays they generally expect to engage people who already know how their filing system works, how to manipulate the software package they just had personalised to their own requirements, or how to create proposals or designs which resonate with their own corporate style.

“Even the most practical double degree doesn’t guarantee that you can walk into a school, an office or an orchestra and competently ‘fly solo’ without having to learn skills you did not acquire as part of your degree.

“So, what do we say when our friends and relatives ask us what we intend to do with an arts degree?  For the past five years, I have been answering that question by saying “well I don’t expect it to get me a job at my age. But I do expect to use it in everything I do.”  At first it was a bit of a cliché.  I didn’t really know how I was going to use it.  But within six months it was so true I could hardly contain my excitement.

“I found myself putting into practice immediately whatever I was learning about.  Every philosophy lecture revealed some new aspect of the human condition which I would eagerly pass on to the (albeit stunned) acting students, every history lecture took me to places which connected in both tangible and intangible ways with my work, my understanding of myself, the societies I grew up in, travelled, lived and worked in.  I was able to consciously, if uncertainly, integrate my studies into my personal process of development.

“Whether conscious or not, that is exactly what we have all been doing for the past three, four or however long it took years:  integrating new found understandings into ourselves, developing our sense of ourselves as articulate human beings with ideas and opinions of our own, and with respect for the opinion of others – well, most others:  because to quote Salman Rushdie, arts degrees “are all about Preparation.  They prepare us for a lifetime of preparation”*.

“What they are not about is certainty.  Certainty is the end of preparation. Certainty stands still, does not move or grow, it is satisfying only until challenged by someone else’s certainty.  Certainty is the end of adventure, the end of discovery, the end of life as we know it, Jim.  Because the only certainty in life is death.

“Our hard won arts degrees have prepared us for a life of uncertainty: and hopefully these sometimes painful, sometimes joyful years have prepared us to be comfortable with uncertainty, which is what David Mamet proposes good acting involves. Of course, the only difference between acting which embraces uncertainty, and life is – well, there’s a doctorate in that…

“Uncertainty has been the one constant ever since we walked into our first tutorial, and asked the first question – which was usually “will I get a good mark if I say that?” only to be greeted by either a blank stare, or “how should I know?” from the tutor.

“Questions, leading to answers which are more questions.  An abundance of uncertainty.  We may have hated it, tolerated it, accepted it temporarily or embraced it wholeheartedly.  I do so hope you have embraced it, that you recognise what a gift it is, to be able to deal with uncertainty, to accept it and to seek it out.

“This degree represents all the hard work we did in order to be granted it.  Even the brightest student knows that consistently good results don’t happen without hard work.  Michaelangelo once said – apparently – that “if you knew how much hard work went into it, you wouldn’t call it ‘genius'”.

“However, no amount of hard work guarantees success.  There are no guarantees.  If there were, life would be very tedious.  Instead, we’ve been given, at this institutions and at universities all over the world which still teach the humanities, under conditions of diminishing funding and rising costs, we’ve been given the opportunity to learn about life, about each other, about the ways in which human beings express their humanity, the wonderful and terrible things we are capable of doing to each other; we’ve learnt to challenge our own, and other people’s assumptions, and we’ve learnt to ask questions.

“This enables us to go out into the world with some sense of what is possible.  Not what is certain, not what should be, not what is safe and comfortable. With the support of our community, our families, our lecturers and tutors, and each other, we have earned the right to be creatively uncertain.  We can enjoy full, satisfying and productive lives in whatever profession or occupation we choose to undertake, as long as we continue to challenge certainty wherever we find it.

“Congratulations, fellow students.  It’s been a bumpy ride, and worth every bruise.  Have a fantastic, peaceful, healthy and uncertain life.

“Thank you.”

* Salman Rushdie, graduation address to Bard College, May 25th, 1996.

 

occasional thoughts of Flloyd Kennedy, for anyone who might be interested