It’s Sunday evening, I’m back in the Wetherspoon pub, increasing my dwindling dividends in the chain. I’m sat at table 28 and virtually everything is sticking to the surface. It’s horrendous. It’s like the entirety of my knowledge that I instilled into my staff has simply wasted away over the years. Not that this was one of my units, but standards are standards. I may end up getting some D10 and spritzing the table myself (like last time. And the time before).
Anyways, I’m here as I should be writing my final tutor marked assignment, due in less than four weeks. Instead, I’m writing this entry that will hopefully help me get enough ideas down on paper to be able to progress through the academic hogwash that I’m expected to write and hand in, with the aim of obtaining the required 74%. It won’t happen. Relationship, money, work, study, family, bedroom, holiday, stocktake, containers, phone bill, Apple watch, Christmas. At least my rum and lemonade will be here soon. Ten minutes and counting, already.
I’ve completed some preparatory work for this three-thousand-word barrage. Headers count, right? My issue is being in the mindset and (literal) comfort zone to write academically. I’m not sure what I need anymore, I’m honestly not. I can feel myself spiralling out of control and heading toward one of my infamous depressions. I see the signs and yet, I feel helpless to stop my deterioration. The self-help books, the ‘good advice’ from well-wishing do-gooders, and the eternal damnation of experience are great, but this mood isn’t going to shift for a while. I have a week away with my boys at the end of July to the Lake District. Whilst it should help halt my decline, it probably won’t. It will more than likely add to it as I’ll feel more helpless and out of control. But, for the sake of this discussion, it’s irrelevant. My assignment needs to be in before I leave. Not a great position to be in.
I got treated to the Vincent van Gogh Alive exhibition in London, brought to the public eye by Emily in Paris. It took about an hour and a half to get through. It was amazing. The biographical parts were exceptionally educational. I hadn’t known – but should have guessed – that he spent a fair time of his artistic period in France, quite a bit of it in Paris. I didn’t even know that he’d been to England, living in a few different places in London. There appears to always be a spell of bad head health in the genius artistic types, whether they be painters or writers. I wonder if this is why I have such a fascination and affinity with these misunderstood, troubled artists with their fondness for Paris. I knew Hemingway was famous whilst alive and Van Gogh gained popularity after his suicide (incidentally, both killed themselves via guns), but I wonder when my notoriety will kick in. I have no intention of self-harming. I also have no intention of obtaining a firearm unless it’s for the zombie apocalypse. I have a collection of at least a dozen introductions and opening pieces that are lying dormant in as many retired notebooks. These could be worth fortunes or may be inspirational springboards for newer works. One day, in my reading room, I shall reach for these and continue to write. My mind is now opening up to happier thoughts.
I’ve just spritzed my expensive cologne upon my neck, wrist and shirt. I have many little quirks that I use to boost my mind. It’s simply a question of identifying my problem, stopping the decline, reflecting upon where I am and then carrying out these acts of self-preservation and damage limitation. Ordinarily, I’d write down the producer and scent of this magic spray. And in fact, I shall. This clear fragranced mist is called Oolang Infini. It is a cologne produced by the (now L’Oréal owned) Atelier Cologne. I was first introduced to this brand in Galeries Lafayette as I walked through the ground floor of the department store. There was a little table set up with some boxes and a few bottles of an amazing orange smelling perfume. This is not what I am using, though. Oolang Infini, or Oolong Infinity as I call it, was always there lingering in the background. The sample bottle that was sent with my online order of a mixed tester pack had a postcard inserted in the envelope; a typewriter adorned the black and white photograph. Tea and typewriters. An English author’s main weapons of choice. Alongside a fountain pen and a writing desk. I now have all four in my armoury (yep, I went and bought the writing desk on the Saturday). Upon my visit a few years later to the original shop of the atelier in Paris, I decided that I would buy a fragrance. It wasn’t Oolang Infini, but one called Clémentine California. A few months after that purchase, I finally broke through the Covid and Brexit embargos and got myself a bottle of the desired scent. Described on their website as a ‘steamy teacup on a misty blue morning,’ I would say it’s a light smell that reminds me of trees and fresh air. Which, with the right frame of mind, allows a little reset in my thoughts and brings out a bit of the old me. The required me. The creative me. The reflective and contemplative me. The only need one more line to finish a paragraph me.
So, back to the reflective assignment. And what will I be writing about? I’m hoping for a brief introduction and a mild conclusion. In between those, I’ll be mentioning my thoughts on the topic of show and tell and how my Hemingway-influenced writing has assisted in my steering clear of such clichéd shenanigans. I even have a little four-lined self-penned quote taken from oft-used sayings. I shall also be making a reference back to a piece that I submitted for a workshop. Feedback suggested that the reader would like to read about the experience surrounding the event rather than use their own imagination to feel what happened. That’s why books are better than films when it comes to visualising. If you’ve read a book and then seen the film adaptation, you’ll invariably prefer the book. People think it’s because of the emotion that’s invoked by the author’s words. It isn’t. It’s about the reader’s visualisation of the words that the author presents on paper. On screen, there is so much more that can be used to show rather than tell but these are always down to the director, never the viewer. Here is a little example:
The silver-haired gentleman with the newly formed worry lines around his tired eyes, stepped out of the doorway, and, pulling up his collar, looked blankly at his surroundings and took in a deep breath.
Exhaling, his gaze fell to see the visible vapour disappear into the cold, emotionless morning.
Compare that to the following:
Scene opens on a winter street with no traffic. Camera pans across the road to see a man coming out of his house and pulling up his coat collar. He sighs. Lethargic music plays.
Okay, so, here is a thing:
Stepping outside, he was still worried. And cold.
Pulling up the collar on his winter coat made no difference this morning.
The first example is me showing you what’s happening. The second example is telling you what’s happening but, in the context of a film, is also showing. Both show the same thing but in the final piece, I’ve told you everything. But what I haven’t told you has left you able to ask questions and create your own answers. All of this in half the number of words and makes no difference to the story. Yes, the story telling isn’t as embellished. That’s either a positive or a negative, dependant on the reader’s wants and likes. This is where the readership niche becomes the target audience. Write to be read not to be bought.
Another section of my assignment will cover my research process. Not necessarily how I carry out the research but the thoughts behind why I research what I did and what I will cover. My original final fifteen-thousand-word piece was taken from an idea that I didn’t get to produce last year. Flicking though my spider chart on the inside cover of my Oxford Campus Refill Pad, I see a lot of diverse thoughts. It doesn’t include the knowledge that brainstorming was altered to mind-mapping and now they call it a thought-shower. For me, if it’s for business or planning, its brainstorming. If it’s for writing, then it’s simply a cloud, drawn and with a word inserted, leading to a free-write allowing for other ideas to eke out of the subconscious stream. Or prompt, for short.
I do need to go back and look over my work for last year to grab ideas for the final book, but for the final assignment, I think it’s too much. It’s interesting to see how my thoughts have changed, evolved and been nurtured into bigger ideas. It still has Paris as a theme and even a brief mention of Hemingway. I mentioned landmarks, the food I had eaten, the history found on certain streets, a lady from a crêpe restaurant in the Quartier Latin and her story. I also branched into Umberto Eco, fountain pens and the whole issue surrounding their usage.
When I look at what I’ve scribbled down for the actual requirements this year, I’m looking at Hemingway, the Eiffel Tower, food, the Bel Epoque, the Lost Generation, Brexit and Covid. I won’t be using all of these as I know the word count won’t allow it. Interest in my activities will not be a high-grade scorer, unless I’m able to write it in such a creative way, enabling the reader to comprehend, as well as feel, my passion for Paris. This is where my learnings should take precedence. But I know it won’t, as I’ll be using experience over enthusiasm to write it. Make of that as you will. Once this is all over, and my room and mind are both clearer, I’ll be writing and researching much deeper; I’ll have proper notes, files and plastic wallets, not simply internet pages stored on Evernote or bookmarked pages on my Chrome browser. I may try and stick to one idea at a time, though.
Here’s a little weird thing for the blog; I’m on the final page of my blue Ted Baker notebook. The very first page, undated, has my signature and a title. Le Book du Paris. I already knew this book would cover my trips to Paris but, my first ever entry, from November 2019, mentioned that I’d be trying to gather information for my end of year assignment for the first year of my Master’s.
Going forwards, I’ll be using my new blue notebook enshrined in my new brown leathered monogramed notebook holder. An Englishman in Paris has two web addresses, the beginnings of branding and merchandise, an Instagram feed, a blog, a Spotify account with two playlists, an iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch plus a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses.
So, now it’s time to move my fountain pen holder onto the leather cover that is covering the new blue notebook entitled An Englishman in Paris: A Master in Mastering My Master’s.
Blue Ted Baker notebook, you’ve done me proud. Thank you. Time for new adventures, now.
So much change, so much gain.
An Englishman in Paris