What if?

I started a Creative Writing course online in the first lockdown, and I haven’t really worked on the modules in a few months but I thought uploading some of my assessments here as individual blog posts may hopefully spur me on to finish it the course and then start on my first novel… I still can’t decide if I want to write children’s fiction or adult fiction…hmmm 🙂

Below is the final part of the first assignment where you had to write three story summaries inspired by the image below:

Summary 1

Sarah has just escaped from a religious cult and this road is significant because it is a road to a world that she was led to believe did not even exist; she thought the only world was in the confines of the gated community where she has lived all her life. The cult leader who is also her father is very unhappy that she has escaped and he has sent seven of his disciples to find her. Sarah ends up walking through the forest where this path ends and comes out into a village. In the village Sarah is panicked and very overwhelmed by her sudden change in surroundings; all the cars and all the people walking around who appear to be looking down at small metal mirrored objects, totally oblivious of her.

Summary 2

Sandra is in an abusive relationship and the only joy in her life is walking her dog on the gravel path which is just 100m from her house. Her abusive husband Paul permits her to walk outside without him each day for 10 minutes but she must stay to the path, because he can see most of it from their upstairs window. However, there is a blind spot on this path behind a tree, with a bench underneath it and unknown to Paul, Sandra sits there every day and chats to an old man, who recently lost his wife to cancer. Every day the unlikely pair tell their sad life stories to each other. After a year of Sandra and the old man meeting secretly the old man finally reveals to Sandra that he is an ex mafia boss and his wife was actually killed as a result of his dodgy dealings in Italy. It was all his fault, her death and the deaths of many others and he came to Wales to start a new life but he still has his mafia contacts and they can help her get away from her husband and get her a new identity and new life in Southern Italy or they could simply have him killed and make it look like an accident.

Summary 3

Julia has been blind all her life; but she has been part of a drug trial for the past 3 months. As she walks along this path with her guide dog, a path she walks along every day, she suddenly starts to realise that her vision is coming back. First it is very blurry but as she continues to walk she starts to distinguish some colours. She thinks she can see the outline of the path and the green of the grass on either side. She returns to the research centre that day where they give her some eye tests and confirm that the drug is indeed working. Julia returns to her home where she lives with her girlfriend Fiona, she is understandably extremely excited and so is Fiona, especially when Julia declares she can see the blue of Fiona’s eyes. As the days go on Julia is able to see more and more and her vision is becoming clearer each day. The only puzzling thing for Julia and the scientists is that as well as being able to see the real colours, outlines and shapes of people and items in this world Julia also seems to be able to see brightly coloured glowing white figures. No one else can see them, but Julia insists that they are there, and they are real. They seem to follow around the real people; at least the blurry outlines of those people. She doesn’t feel scared of the glowing figures that she sees, but what is disturbing her is that the figure that seems to follow Fiona around, it doesn’t glow white like all the others, it’s very grey in colour and it seems more menacing somehow. Julia doesn’t know how to tell Fiona about the figures she sees, and she’s especially worried because her guide dog never seemed to like Fiona, it’s always barked at her for no apparent reason, maybe this is the reason. She hopes the drug will continue to improve her eyesight, and she hopes she will understand what these figures are. Julia starts to research the drug company who run the trial and realises that this drug isn’t just for helping people with vision impairments, and she sets off to try find anyone else that might be taking part in the trial to find out what they are experiencing.

Which of my story ideas is your favourite?

Lockdown Hobbies

Hobbies taken up during lockdown, and subsequently got bored of/given up on:

  1. Playing piano 
  2. Chin ups 
  3. Push ups 
  4. Punch bag workouts 
  5. Body combat workouts
  6. Mandala Drawing 
  7. Creative Writing 
  8. Chess 
  9. Knitting 
  10. Online dating 
  11. Meditation 
  12. Yoga
  13. Barre workouts 
  14. Dance workouts
  15. Free writing 
  16. Positive Wellness Journalling 
  17. Playing Sims 
  18. Playing Lemmings 
  19. Rowing
  20. Resistance band workouts  
  21. Cross stitch
me feat. cross stitch … I did this for about 2 hours before I got bored…

Hobbies I’ve taken up/rediscovered during the lockdown and still going strong with : 

  1. Zwifting on the Turbo 
  2. Cycling with a club outdoors 
  3. Running by the sea 
  4. Poetry (writing and reading of)
  5. Reading fantasy/thriller/fiction
  6. Paddle Boarding 
  7. Swimming in pools/open water
  8. Bullet Journalling 
  9. Calligraphy
  10. Audiobooks to sleep 
  11. Embracing curly hair 
  12. Facial skin care routine 
  13. Paint by numbers 
  14. Fidget toys 
  15. Playing Two Dots 
  16. Playing Spider Solitaire 

We need help

We have thousands of hours of aurorae video,

most of which has never been looked at.

We need help from Citizen Scientists. 

         Dazzling, coloured light

aligned with the magnetic zenith.

          Roman goddess of the dawn.

                      Shapes and forms,

                           with arcs and rays.

                          Shimmering curtains, bands, waves.

                   Changing shape.

               Light moves across the sky,

brighten and fade.

             Charged particles in the solar wind,

toward north and south,

                           polar regions.

                                              Crash.

Gases in the atmosphere,

            oxygen and nitrogen.

Collisions give off light.

We have thousands of hours of aurorae video,

most of which has never been looked at.

We need help from Citizen Scientists. 

Me observing the Aurora in real life in Svalbard, Norway

This is another poem I wrote for the ‘Poetic Science’ event. This is an example of a found poem. The majority of text used here was from a website designed to explain the aurora to young children (see here) and the other text was found in the IMPACT case study document which I helped to write describing the impact of our Aurora Zoo citizen science platform. I also tried to make the shape of the words on the page reflect the dancing, waveforms of the aurora and how it looks overhead when you observe it 🙂

The Journey

This is the first of three poems that I wrote and performed at the ‘Poetic Science’ event which was part of the Southampton Science and Engineering Festival Goes Digital in March 2021. The idea of the event was that a group of academics would write poetry about their research, I was one of the academics. Our first task from Dr Helen Eastman, who ran the workshops, was to write a poem about how we ended up doing our research, an origin poem, so this is mine, and it’s called ‘The Journey’.

So,

super

massive

black

holes

exist.

An actual thing,

at the very centre,

of every galaxy:

remarkable, colossal.

One hundred million suns,

squashed beyond physics.

Wheeled into the classroom, the large TV, the creaky wheels, our teacher, she pushes it and smiles.

I’m sat up front, first wooden bench, high on rickety wooden stool. Everyone is fixated in wonder.

The pure excitement of watching television in a science class. This is today’s lesson, watching TV.

Energy grows in all of us, the expectation, the theatre of it. Trolley wheels stop creaking, centre stage.

The show, Horizon, recorded by the teacher last night, she just had to show it to us all. Today.

The room is silent, brown wooden and cold – outside grey. Here we learn about Biology, normally, nature

but these blackholes on the screen, so big. They are nature too. Apparently,

so the screen says. How can they be? Our very own galaxy,

all the 100 billion galaxies, they all have one. A super massive black hole.

Sarah shouts ‘Is this right Miss? Is this really science?’ Miss responds ‘Yes’.

I’m totally transfixed. Behind me Kelly and Alex are giggling, some gossip,

but I don’t care. This new information, immense. My mind sparked. I didn’t know!

Could our Milky Way galaxy really be the host of something so enormous?

The scale and mass of it. It’s all so vast. Yet, it is… real.

The centre of everything.

You can do it. You. Make maps of active galactic nuclei A.K.A supermassive black holes.

See, examine. Be the first. You know, some have jets that extend for hundreds of light years.

Some don’t. It’s a mystery. You’ll get paid – to look at space, explore, travel to big telescopes.

Be the first to unravel it all, analyse data – this puzzling light.

You will be the centre. No-one else. No-one before you,

not this galaxy anyway, not in this way. It’s an enigma,

this science,

a dark art.

Radio waves

extending,

tracing jets.

X-rays too,

mapping

the swirl.

Become

an artist,

a witch.

Interpret

EM light.

The secrets.

The event

horizon.

Singularity.

It will be you.

You, the centre.

Image credit: here

This poem is also a ‘concrete poem’ in that I have tried to reflect the shape of the region around a supermassive blackhole in the shape of the words on the page so the middle section, the block of text represents the accretion disc around the black hole and then the longer stanzas either side represent the jets that are launched from near the edge of the blackhole and are linked to strong magnetic fields. You could also think of the final stanza’s shape as the path of material inside the blackhole to the singularity – which links well with me being at the centre of the research at the end of my PhD journey.

Found Poems

Next month I am taking part in an online live event for Science Week, where academics write and perform poetry linked to their research.

I’ve currently in the process of writing 3 poems ; about Supernova, Black Holes and Aurora. I hope to perform all of these at the event on Thur 11th March at 6pm. Link here to register for your free tickets.

Anyway, as part of this ‘Poetic Science’ event I am taking part in 3 online workshops run by the wonderful Helen Eastman. And in the 2nd workshop we had to make found poems by cutting up text and rearranging it.

My 3 found poems are shown below:

Who have you spent the most time with over the past month, and how have these people affected your life?

Well, I haven’t done a morning journalling blogpost for a while… since Lockdown 1.0 actually and now we are in Lockdown 3.0. *sigh*

It sucks doesn’t it?

But I am very grateful that I am still able to work from home – where ‘home’ is still my childhood home in the Valleys with my parents.

They say you will become the people you spend the most time with and being locked down with my parents I am certainly spending ‘ALL’ my time with them…and no time with anyone else haha.

But I don’t think I mind at all.

If I am going to end up becoming like anyone, I am happy to become like them.

Because they are awesome.

Zwifting on m’turbo

So yes, I didn’t really answer the question in the last morning journalling blog post…sorry, I got distracted, I’ll try again.

This whole getting disctracted happens to me A LOT haha.

I go off on tangents or my brain finds something more interesting than the thing I am currently doing…the number of times I’ve been walking out of a room and walked into the door or wall because I am already thinking about the next thing I will be doing…but yes.

anyway, I need to focus on this question below!

How have you stretched your comfort zone in the past month (even slightly)?  What did you learn from this experience?  What’s one new comfort zone challenge you’d like to conquer?

Well the thing that springs to mind, with regards to being out of my comfort zone, it’s cycling long distances.

I did my first 100km ride on Zwift, which is a virtual cycling platform, a few weeks ago while in lockdown with my parents in Wales.

AND this Sunday, I made the jump of joining an ‘in real life’ cycling group and doing my first 97km ride with a group outside. It was so much fun, and if I hadn’t spent so much time on Zwift indoors getting my cycling fitness up I would never have had the courage to do the group ride.

But yes, now I am really excited about doing cycling in the week in doors and my long rides on Sunday, outdoors with a proper group of lovely people.

The cycling club I am hoping to join is called SGCC btw.

I’ll put some info below about turbo trainers and Zwift below just in case people are thinking of buying a turbo trainer to start their own cycling journey.

So, I have the Tacx flux S direct drive turbo it was £599 online. There’s also a Wahoo trainer, that’s about the same price and also direct drive. I mainly just got Tacx as it was the only one available, as alot of people were buying turbos 2 months ago when I got mine. Any cheaper than that and you are looking at the wheel on ones and they are apparently not as good for power accuracy etc but then they are like £300 -£400. My Dad has the Tacx Neo which is the high end one that the pros use that’s £1200. That’s super quick changing in erg mode and has road feel, and is less heavy and easier if you need to pack it away or transport it between two places regularly, which is what my Dad does.

So there isn’t a whole lot of difference that I notice between the two given I have used them both. With my Flux S it is super heavy, but that’s fine for me as the bike just stays set up, with the bike on it in my bedroo, also I am not worried about the road feel :). To join Zwift you need a computer/ipad to attach to it and there is a subscrition, it’s currently £12.99 a month but I believe that price is meant to rise soon. Note for most of the direct drive turbos the bike you attach has to have at least 8 gears on the cassette, and you need to buy an extra cassette with the same number of gears to attach to your turbo.

Out of my Comfort Zone

Another ‘morning’ journalling inspired post…

How have you stretched your comfort zone in the past month (even slightly)? 

What did you learn from this experience? 

Well I guess I stretched my comfort zone by returning ‘home’ to Southampton for 2 weeks.

It’s funny, they say ‘home is where the heart is’ and at the moment my home isn’t in Southampton. I love my job, I find it very rewarding but at the moment in this covid world my job is not so rewarding…it’s the face-to-face interactions I live for in my job. It is seeing those questioning faces of the youngsters that fuels me.

I’ve been reading Scarlett Thomas’s World Quake novels (thoroughly recommend by the way). In those awesome books, specifically the second one, Effy (the heroine) almost runs out of her life force and gets a terrible affliction known as the Yearning. I think this is a good metaphor for how I feel now.

I feel low on life force at the moment; so going back to my ‘home’ in Southampton, my flat, with no garden, where I live alone… it has depleted my life force instead of topping it up.

The distraction of cooking my own food, decorating the spare room, doing my own laundry was not enough to calm my racing mind.

Anxiety stirred in me while I was there, my thoughts run a mock.

Even though I tried to meet with friends in the evenings there was two whole days where I didn’t speak to anyone in real life other than the dentist. I cycled to the common to sit in the sun and read a book but I was truly restless.

Somehow (well because of the global pandemic) my ‘home’ no longer feels like a home. It makes me feel restless and pointless. The pointless feelings are the most worrying; as that when I know depression is looming.

So after 2 weeks there I made the decision to come back to Wales to be with my parents and doggie siblings. I packed up my car last Friday and drove back.

Today it’s the following Saturday, and it’s terribly rainy weather (much worse than when I was in Southampton might I add) but I just went for a run on the beach and I’m now reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley in the window seat, surrounded by dogs.

I feel so much calmer here and my mind is not racing so much.

Environment is so important, as I’ve learned from James Smith’s daily emails (again, thoroughly recommend you subscribe to these!)

I don’t yearn for the ‘old normal’ before Covid but I don’t yearn for this ‘new normal’ either… I think it’s impossible to do so to be honest. How can you yearn for a future that is totally unknown?

I am proud that I did get out of my lockdown comfort zone and return to my life in England. I am proud that I stayed there for two weeks on my own. But I am also proud that I was able to acknowledge that staying there any longer might have significantly impacted my mental health.

For now my home is where my heart is, in Wales, with my family; by the sea.

The Next Steps

Another journal prompt inspired post…

What’s the next step you’ve been thinking about taking, for far too long?

Hmmm, this is a toughy…

I have lots of next steps I think I should be taking…but for me it’s hard to disentangle whether they come from ME…

Do I actually, truly want to do these next steps or are they are something that other people/society dictates that I should want…

Because I am female and 35 and been in the same job for 9 years, have a small flat…

maybe I should be wanting kids and a promotion and a bigger house

but, I’m not entirely sure about this…I don’t think I want any of that if I am honest with myself.

For me I guess the problem is I know pretty well now what I don’t want in life…I just don’t know what I do want.

What do I want? ergh.

and like Matt Haig says the act of wanting something you don’t have just shows there is a void.

But is there really a void?

Maybe not, I don’t feel like there is a void in my life…so maybe that truly does mean I don’t WANT any of those things.

Am I lesser human being because I don’t wan’t those things?

I don’t think so. But it still doesn’t help me with what I do want.

Hmmmmm…

If I am truly happy with where I am now in life then maybe the next step is just to try to grow and improve in small ways…and take small steps

to keep on learning and be positive

But Vex King says you always have a goal to work toward.

but I really struggle with ‘thinking big’ or long term.

So I guess my next steps will indeed just have to mini steps.

I’ll list my intentions for a year from today below:

Next steps to take by 1st July 2021

  1. Finish Creative writing course and start to write first fiction novel.
  2. Complete an Olympic distance triathlon and train with the Triathlon club as soon as I can 😛
  3. Keep up my Spanish learning – at least an hour a week.
  4. Save money for future travel adventures (hopefully more South America/Spanish speaking countries).
  5. Get drafted for a B Team Roller Derby Game.
  6. Don’t buy any more books; read the many hundreds I already have!
  7. Be open to a romantic relationship and try not to be cynical about love and put up defences to such things.

There’s a tremendous amount to risk to playing it safe.

so, another morning journalling attempt…

Over the past month, what have your actions been silently saying about your priorities?

Well we are in lockdown so the past month I have had a lot of my actions enforced upon me by the law!

But, I guess my actions have shown I do have new priorities indeed…

I’m just going to list some of the changes/new priorities here ‘cos I am a scientist and ADHD and deal better with listing things haha, also it’s really bloody hot today and I am having trouble putting my thoughts in order:

  1. I’ve realised for me EXERCISE of some kind every day is very important for my mind and body. I have to do it to stay sane and happy. Even if it is just 2km on the rower or 4 laps of the field next to my parents house. I’m trying to just go running without being super dedicated to a certain distance. I’ve found when I am just running for the love of running and being grateful for what my body can do I actually go further and faster than when I put the pressure of distance on myself. I also get less injures.
  2. READING. Omg so chill time with a book and noise cancelling headphones has been so important. It’s amazing to escape and it forces me to not look at my phone so much which is always a good thing. I now recognise I need to make time to read everyday, even if its an audiobook (which is possibly cheating). It’s so healing and reading really does take you to new places and allow you to live different lives…and travel…omg I miss travelling :./!
  3. SHOPPING. I’ve realised all the things I actually need (toiletries, books, stationary -not food lol) I can buy online and I can buy them from local/small businesses. I don’t need to go to big shopping centers; where I will undoubtedly get stressed and anxious about all the people and overwhelmed by all the items and end up wasting my money on shit I don’t need. AND you can put adblockers on your browser so that’s amazing if you are like me and easily led by ads…and we don’t yet have the technology to block me from seeing end of aisle offers; it’s all too much.
  4. LEARNING a language…I’m still really enjoying taking time each day to do my Spanish learning, even if it’s just a quick Duolingo lesson on my phone. This is something totally different to my work so hopefully it keeps my brain going and expands my mind. Also, it’s nice for me to think that when we can actually travel I can go to a Spanish speaking country and talk to the locals innit. Hola!
  5. I’ve prioritised time OUTSIDE on my own in the NATURE too; I guess lockdown has made me realise how important this is…

I’ll finish this post with this quote I just stole from one of James Smith‘s daily emails…(I thoroughly recommend you subscribe to them!)

Anyway his email today was about being happy and not striving for a life that doesn’t actually make you happy just because you think that’s what you should be doing; and I really needed to hear that today.

Realize that sleeping on a futon when you’re 30 is not the worst thing. You know what’s worse, sleeping in a king bed next to a wife you’re not really in love with but for some reason you married, and you got a couple kids, and you got a job you hate. You’ll be laying there fantasizing about sleeping on a futon. There’s no risk when you go after a dream. There’s a tremendous amount to risk to playing it safe.

Bill Burr
Oh to be at a festival right now!