Episode Twenty Six – Words on Paper

Hello, everyone. It’s been a little while.

So last time, I said I was going to make more of an effort to keep you all updated with what I’m getting on with during my time in Scotland. I went a bit crazy for a while, posting every couple of days, and I decided to try and cool it a bit and find a good balance. So this entry has been sitting in my notebook for a week or so but here it is in all its glory. I was on my way to a talk at the French Institute, and because of my pathetic lack of ability in dealing with the 24-hour clock, I arrived a couple of hours early and had to duck into Caffè Nero for a bit. I just so happened to have brought my notebook so I could take notes on Les Musées de Paris, so I whipped it out and knocked out a few words.

So the reason I was at this talk was because I’m hoping I’ll manage to make it to Paris for a weekend or something when I’m in France studying next year.  No disrespect to the Louvre – but I’m planning a less touristy weekend, totally avoiding the Eiffel Tower and all that stuff I’ve already seen. I don’t anticipate having a huge amount of time to spend there, and I’m sure Paris has so much more to offer than just those few things. I got a few good notes from the talk and am intrigued by the Musée Carnavalet, which concentrates on the history of the city of Paris, and the museum of counterfeiting which aims to promote awareness of the damages to manufacturers caused by counterfeiters. Also on the menu are the Musée du Vin (bien sûr!) and the Musée de la Vie Romantique. What can I say? I’ve always been a dreamer. Unfortunately I don’t suppose I’ll have time for the Musée des Lettres ey Manuscrits or the Cinémathèque Française; still, I’m sure I won’t come away disappointed from this fantasy trip to the capital I seem to have concocted.

However, what I did right before sitting down with my trusty notebook must have influenced my blogging topic, because I decided to write about my bookbinding class. I popped into Paper Tiger to pick up some end papers for a book for my next workshop, and ended up writing several pages about the Owl and Lion Gallery where I’m learning the basics of bookbinding.

The course is a gift from my mum for my 19th birthday. She booked me a place last year, and for various reasons, I’ve only just got a chance to enrol in the five-week course.

Why did I ask for a bookbinding workshop, of all things, for my birthday? I don’t really know. Coincidence had me wander into the Imagination Workshop on the way home from my friend Sara’s house, on a day when I was feeling bored, sedentary and particularly susceptible to new ideas for adventure.

I had watched a YouTube video about coptic binding (no idea why), and whil I was buying black and orange glitter for the Hallowe’en pages of the scrapbook I was secretly working on for Grant, I asked the lady if she had any thread strong enough to sew together the pages of a book. She said she didn’t know much about it, but pointed me to the Owl and Lion Gallery which offers classes and might be able to get me started. That was that – just what I needed to get me out of this creative rut I was in. I’d been feeling like I didn’t really have any skills outside of my course; dabbling in a sort of amateur approach to scrapbooking didn’t really count, and my juggling equipment was abandoned in a dusty corner. So I decided then and there that that was what I wanted, and started looking forward to this opportunity to learn something new, something concrete. This would be the antidote to a university course which ultimately just amasses a vague understanding of a concept. Isabelle Ting was going to teach me to take paper and cardboard and cloth and thread, and turn them into a beautiful object. I like reading, I like writing, I like languages, I like making things… It was perfect! And possessions are cool and everything (generalisation of the century); but I think being able to hand craft books and maybe someday sell them to someone who appreciates my skill… Well, I just think I’ll be thanking Mum for this gift my whole life.

So I’ve learned how to cut paper to size and sew it together into a book-like form, and I’ve learned about end-papers and spines and covers and headbands, and how to stick it all together so it becomes a book. I’ve had four classes out of five so far, and I’ve made two whole books and three works-in-progress. Of the two I’ve finished, one is dark blue with a rounded spine (for Grant) and one is bright red with a straight spine (for me). Isabelle told me that in spite of a couple of small mishaps, my books were impressive – and she even crowned my books the top books of the class! I’m super proud of this because it has been a long time since I’ve been top of the class, and because I was totally new to this but I put a lot of work into it and there’s nothing more gratifying than some well-deserved credit and recognition. For me, anyway. Anyone who knows me will already know how much I love to be recognised.

Speaking of which – and if you don’t like people who brag, look away now – I am feeling quite proud of myself lately. I lost quite a lot of self-respect this academic year: I didn’t study anywhere near as hard as I should have, I never got involved in local events or societies at the university, and I spent quite a bit of time holed up in my room feeling sorry for myself. But funnily enough, when classes finished and I took a breather in good old Ohio, I found my passion for what I do slowly returning. That damn linguistics paper was so gruelling, involving a lot of referencing and rephrasing and a LOT of dead ends in my research; but it was also fascinating to look at how language and the way it’s viewed have developed in the UK and in Scotland. It changed my perspective on Braid Scots, and on language more generally, and I am truly proud of what I achieved during those three weeks of study. I’m somewhat disappointed with the 59% my essay received; but I’m more proud of what I learned than what I wrote, anyway. I read around the subject a lot, and nowhere near everything I discovered was relevant enough to make it into the final draft.

And it wasn’t just my linguistic studies that benefited from a break from the classroom. In French, too, my interest in the subject was rekindled (just in the nick of time!) a week or so before final exams, and I read up on the intricacies of Candide, Madame Bovary and Les Fleurs du Mal with a renewed thirst for understanding. After a week of solid study on Baudelaire, I must admit I got a little burnt out; but I had truly needed that reminder that despite the mundanity of some parts of the course itself, I really am interested in French literature. Now I remember why I chose this degree!

Unfortunately my interest in Portuguese was limited to my purchase of Mariza’s latest album Fado Tradicional from iTunes; I’ll give it time. Spanish, however, has soared to new and unprecedented heights in my opinions. I’m preparing myself for going abroad (in TEN DAYS) by listening to Spanish Podcast, a very useful immersion in the Spanish language which I listen to any time I’m walking anywhere: which I do regularly in this city, especially now that I am trying to save pennies wherever I can. I’m also working through El Club Dumas, one of the books I wrote about in the literature exam but never got around to reading (not difficult to see why I didn’t get an ‘A’ in Spanish, is it?). I’ve set myself daily goals of around fifteen pages, which I used to work through with a dictionary for a few hours a day.

And all of this is on top of my new dedication to blogging! I’m writing a lot, whenever I have an unexpected moment (or few hours, like I did when I wrote this), and I’ve been preparing for my bookbinding classes, finalising my visa arrangements for Costa Rica and trying to prepare myself as much as possible. And as it appears I require at least ten hours of sleep each night, it’s probably just as well I didn’t find a job. I did call Julian Graves and the Buccleuch Arms, where I’ve already worked, in case they needed someone temporarily without spending the time training them; but neither of them were in need of new staff on a three-week contract. Surprising? I guess not. And it was so unrealistic to expect someone else to want to hire an untrained newbie for such an awkward period of time that I decided it wasn’t worth wasting the time applying when I could be working towards a job I already know I’ll be doing.

The plan for my next post is a short breakdown of what this next academic year has in store for me. So many new and exciting things will be going on, and yet I still haven’t taken the time to write an entry about it! That’s all in the pipeline, I swear – for now though, I have other matters to attend to: such as the treats I have up my sleeve for my leaving do on Saturday. Last weekend in Scotland!

So that’s that. I leave on the 1st of July; I hope to be back before then with updates.

Peace and love, y’all.



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