A song.

This was a song I wrote while at choir.  Aiming for a Pam Ayres / Victoria Wood style, it was just a tongue-in-cheek look at the soprano experience.  The intended joke was that this would be sung at soprano pitch, the named notes hit perfectly.  Sadly, I lack musicians to set it for me so it languishes as a poem.

Ironically, four months later my new singing teacher told me I wasn’t a soprano but an alto.

Oh Please Let Me Sing With the Altos (A Soprano’s Lament)

Oh please let me sing with the Altos,

I can’t sing as high as I should.

I try but the results are just painful

I can’t sing if I know I’m no good.

 

Oh let me go down to the altos

I’m tired of scaling the heights.

The sopranos are too high-falluting

I never can quite get it right.

It is a G I see there before me,

Camped out on top of the stave

I need a step-ladder to scale it

Or could we just alter the clef?

 

It’s not that I don’t like sopranos

I just feel I lack the support

The ledger lines have me entangled

I’ve forgotten all I was taught.

 

The soloist soars high above me

F-ing, andante, away

Tutti mi hanno lasciato

Long before they get up to the A

Let me come down to earth with the Altos

I really could do with a rest

And, you’ve said it yourself, maestro,

Low company’s often the best.

 

© 11th March 2015 Julia Lee Dean

 

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Stare at this white wall and listen

White wall Haendelstrasse 3_22 June 2015

 

Stare at this white wall and listen;

to the distant-near roar of the resurrecting sea

to the turf in the grate starting to catch: unimagined heat at the heart

of unimagined cold

And the arguing of dead grandparents

–          What are you talking about?  I saw him last week up Rye Lane.

Don’t know who she was, some fancy piece.

–          He’s fucking dead!  Twenty years!

Ah, what do you know, ye fucking eejit?

 

Not Ireland, then, but Camberwell.  The fire not turf but gas,

wheezing tongues

restrained

behind bars,

Hssssssssss

the watery beyond; only the sound of cars passing in the wet street.

Swish-ssh.  Swish-ssh

 

We stand, knickered and vested before the fire.

Kitted out in kilts

Mind!  That pin’s sharp!

There!  How smart you look.  Straight out of the bandbox

(What does that mean?)

 

The jumper’s still on the needles:

One more row, darling’.  Where’s my cable needle?

Wrapped round and fastened in tobacco scented wool;

a jumper’s not the same without the nicotine

Click-click-click

Pass me that ashtray, where’s me scissors?

Click-click-snip-hssss

Put the kettle on love, I’m gasping

Click-click-snip-hsss-swish

And never her own bed until her sister got married.

I remember the day we got hot water – out of the tap!

60s London didn’t swing for everyone

And that one, what’s-is-name – the brother.  Flash sod he was

Which one?

The one on the train

Worked?

Robbed.  All the same that lot.  Mind, she was the only one of us that learned to drive.

 

And tea, always tea; each cup stronger and sweeter than the last

Click-click-snip-hsss.  Clunk.  The dark.  The quiet.

Got 50p for the meter?

Somewhere, I’ve been saving them

I’ll go

Mind yourself on them stairs.

Swish-ssh-ssh- Swish-ssh-ssh.  Clunk.  Lights!  Restart the fire and on with the show.

You’ll never guess who I saw the other week…

I thought he was dead

What are you talking about…?

 

An autumn afternoon.  Surprising for June.

 

 

 

 

Copyright: Julia Lee Dean 1st April 2016

 

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Up on the roof

I’ve been feeling quite miserable this year.  In a way it started in April last year when I realised that, as much as I loved the choir I’d joined, I wasn’t really a part of it.  It had been a delight to find it and it had become the highlight of my week.  When the incumbent newsletter writer had decided he wanted his life back I had immediately volunteered.  I was a good newsletter writer too; some members told me that mine were the only ones they’d ever read because they were entertaining as well as informative.  By informative, I mean the notes from the rehearsals were included.  There never seemed to be any gig information to put in.  Then I found out that this information was available, but that it wasn’t given to me because I was not a member of the “inner circle”.  I discovered this when I overheard one of the inner circle tell a choir member who had asked why the concert information was never included; “Well, we tell the newsletter writers but they never put it in the newsletter”.  When I challenged this, I was shouted at.  So I walked – from the newsletter, not the choir.  I am still very fond of the people in it but this has rather spoiled my overall enjoyment of it.

For some reason it bothers me more now.  Perhaps I miss writing them, I certainly don’t enjoy reading them, but I don’t really know whether it’s that, the flatmate who fills the flat with friends for up to three weeks, sometimes giving them a key, without ever telling me, the language schools who treat freelancers like chattels, or that, once too often, I have found myself fact-checking articles I think I could have written better, but all-in-all it had not been the best start to the year.

Until…

On Tuesday morning I dragged myself VERY reluctantly out of bed for an 8am lesson (I had recently fallen Prey to “House of Cards” on Netflix and had over-indulged the night before).  As I was clattering down the stairs to fetch my bike, I passed the landing window (I do this quite often, twice a day at least.  Unavoidable really, unless I take up abseiling) and saw this:

20160329_114711 Now, to you, this may look like a grotty window sill and a rather uninspiring roof.  To me, it’s a potential GARDEN.  I had been looking at flats.  Even outside London this is a depressing experience when you’ve wanted a home and land more than you ever wanted a career.  Suddenly, I feel less inclination to move.  OK, my nice china will have to stay under the bed for a little longer but with all this space, I CAN GROW STUFF!

So, lesson dispatched, I cycled off to OBI (the German equivaent of Homebase / B&Q) and bought some seeds, a planter and rather a lot of compost (imagine all that in a saddle bag):

Ready & waiting 31 March 2016

(I already had the bin bag).  I have planted tomato and pea seeds and put them in the bag to keep them warm and moist.  I wonder if I should tie the back up but I want to make sure the carbon dioxide circulates.  Admittedly, being an avid Archers’ fan and partial to Gardeners’ Question Time hasn’t really helped on this point but I wasn’t going to pay extra for a lid to the planter.  I have successfully grown tomatoes from seed before.  I think there’s a reason I never attempted peas.  I think it had to do with space I hope friends with balconies will take some plants.  I hope something grows.  Still it’s exciting and it’s quieted the land lust for a while.  I can work on getting my income up to garden-renting snuff while these little darlings are growing.  Now, just one more photo:

Inside the polytunnel 31 March 2016Inside the polytunnel.  You see, Archers’ fans, I think Adam would be proud of me.  🙂

Anon.

 

 

 

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And we’re back!

It has been a long time.  A seriously long time.  Eons in fact.  But I have decided to come back to this blog.  I’m training as a journalist now and, if nothing else, this site will give me an opportunity to practice (ok publish what I can’t sell!)

So what have I been up to?  Well work, obviously.  I’m now working at the Hochschule Rhein-Sieg and the Volkshochschule in Bonn which I love.  There’s something special about students who do a full day at work and then give up an evening to learn English (or anything else for that matter).  I did my drama training (the part-time Actors’ Programme at Rose Bruford College) and my MA in the same way.  Exhausting sometimes but worth it to stay in the black so I think I can safely say respect is due.

I also work for Spotlight Magazine as a Language Author. I wanted to write stories / articles but I’m writing grammar exercises.  Which is fine but it prompted me to finally track down a journalism course I can do by distance learning.  The National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ) was a great find and I am currently working towards the Certificate in Foundation Journalism.  I’ll have to do the Diploma to be properly qualified but the certificate might at least show willing.

I moved out of Weststadt in July 2015 and now live in Bad Godesberg.  My new flatmate is much nicer than the last one though I seem to have become the cleaner.  I take a certain pride in running a house but I’m not really up for domestic service.  Still, it’s a nice flat and well connected by rail and U-bahn and of course the bike still works, even over longer distances.  😉

What else?  Quite a lot of opera: Maria de Buenos Aires and Cosí fan Tutte at the Bonn Oper, then the Handel Festival in Karlsruhe in February.  Very, very good and very very cold.  We’re planning to go back next year with a bigger group and a better hotel.  Fingers crossed.  Don Giovanni was in Cologne earlier this month.  The first time I’d seen that opera (I would recommend!)  Next up is the musical Anatevka or, as you know it in English, Fiddler on the Roof.

German: I’m still flailing around there and it bothers me so much that I decided to temporarily leave the Bonn English Singers to go and do something about it.  As all the German courses (at my level) at the VHS seem to coincide with my English classes I have to go to Cologne for them this term.  However when the VHS asked for my dates for next term I explained the problem and they gave me the list of German classes.  I told them which one I was likely to do and so it looks like they’ll schedule me around those times and the problem is sorted.  This is good news.  Just getting to Cologne is expensive.  Still, I have to get the German sorted.  Quite apart from the fact that one should speak the language of the country in which one lives, it opens up a few opportunities work-wise.  Hopefully.

Anyway, I have another blog post planned.  This is just to “clear the way” so I don’t fall by the wayside.

I hope you are all well.  More anon.

 

J

 

 

 

 

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Hello again

Obviously I meant to resume my blog writing the first Friday after my return but the second Thursday will have to do.  I have just got back from the first rehearsal of 2015 with the Bonn English Singers and, after nearly two weeks back in Bonn, it was a tremendous relief to see everybody again.

You find me now somewhat healthier than I was when I last wrote.  The prophecy of the iron tablets came to pass and my energy levels are not quite back to where they should be but the cough has more or less gone and I can now teach from a standing position.  So all in all, while I didn’t do much over Christmas, three weeks of complete rest – not to mention putting the half stone in weight I’d lost since moving to Germany back on – was a good call.  I had intended to go up to London to see friends (and spend a couple of days in the British Library) and even up to Leamington to see my university lecturer from Warwick – now a friend and always a fan of my writing – but in the end I just didn’t have the energy.

Instead I read and reviewed a book on Conscientious Objectors during the First World War (of which more anon if the review is taken anywhere), did a lot of embroidery, a fair bit of German grammar, saw local friends, two films at the cinema, a fair bit of novel research and a very small amount of writing.

The novel – The Lost Son of Ambrose Garfield – had become a bit of a disappointment.  I had been working on it and I believe I did some good work while I was staying in Konigswinter at the end of September.  Latterly though it just felt like it had wandered into a dead end, felt contrived and I was losing interest in it.   So, mindful of the ever-increasing weight of my return luggage, I decided to fling the novel into a theoretical corner – and leave the typescript in England.  I had then attempted to throw myself into the Blake play (long awaited, especially by me!) but no dice.  I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.  Similarly, this hiatus was not an excuse to switch to the sequel of Healed that I am desperate to get on with.  I was simply too tired.  I decided to leave well alone and do some “stand and deliver” writing by which I mean not a return to stand up but simply writing that can be done relatively quickly (compared to a novel); monologues, articles and such.  I had written the review and have a project for the Writers’ Guild to manage and write for so it’s all there.

And what, among these worthy subjects is now demanding most of my attention?  Yes, that’s right, it’s the novel.  It seems that nothing gets the mind running on a project quite like giving up on it.  I think the space also gave me the chance to work out what was wrong with the book.  I loved the beginning; the strangeness of it, the distance between the central  character and the reader – I even loved the colours of the scene of his first appearance.  Later on it becomes a bit too cosy, the focus is no longer on the nature of the character but on his relationship with the mistress of the house.  It’s all quite sweet but it’s not the book I want to be writing, not this time anyway.  So, back I go and start rewriting the offending scenes.  Because I write in scenes and there is a dual narrative running through this book, this is not the slog it might otherwise sound.  So, how did I re-establish the title character as a remote one?  Simple, I removed his name.  Of course it’s causing all sorts of problems with pronouns and how to refer to him but it’s a lot more convincing for a character who suffers permanent (partial) memory loss.  I am also going to have to rethink how much memory he ultimately gets back.  The ending will be positive but not too neat.  I don’t want readers to  don’t want readers to close the book thinking, “That’s all right then.”

So, I have been doing some writing, but I have realised just how still your mind must be I to write; chaos can reign around you but there has to be a core of stillness within.  Sounds obvious now it’s typed on the screen in front of me, strange it’s taken me so long to catch on.

I other news, I am having a constant battle to get enough work from the language school.  The  first  work schedule of the year offered me only 3 hours.  I complained and got this increased to 11.  The second week I was offered 9 and again, on complaining  got this put up to 14.  It was then also explained to me that, if I would work evenings and weekends they would give me more daytime hours.  No problem with doing that, but why did it have to be a secret?

Anyway, I’m hoping to get more proof-editing work this year.  I have already been asked to proof-edit a friend’s law PhD thesis for which he will pay me.  This is some of the best sort of work.  If I had stayed in England I would have done the CILEX exams so anything to do with law is work I want to do.

The other thing I need to do to ensure my longevity in Germany is learn the language.  I am determined to get it but it’s one step forward and two back at the moment.  I need to find myself some more German speakers but I’m working on it.

It is now Friday morning so we’re back to the old rhythm.

Anon my friends.

Jx

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English Checking Services now available – read on for details!

Hello, I am setting out my stall for English Checking (proof-editing services) so, here’s a bit about me:

I have a BA (Hons) in English & Italian Literature (2:1) from the University of Warwick and a Masters degree in the History of Medicine & Science (Merit) from Birkbeck College, University of London.  In addition I have a Diploma in Copyediting and a Diploma in Employment Law.

I was a member of the Royal Court Theatre’s Young Writers Programme and trained as an actress at Rose Bruford College.  I have written and performed stand up, dramatic / comedy monologues and my plays have been performed around the world.  I published my first novel on Christmas Eve 2013, click here for review.

I have undertaken several English editing services in the following subjects:

Academic (online only)

Nomadic Farming Methods in North Africa

Early Language Development in Bi-Lingual Children

A PhD Proposal in Linguistics

Pre-operative fasting times (Nursing degree thesis)

Astronomy (application for research fellowship)

Professional (online only)

Historical Law Review – presentation

New Marketing Concept – presentation

Creative (online or hardcopy – but see below)

J. A. Clement, On Dark Shores (fantasy series, Weasel Green Press)

Proof-reading / editorial services for poems, plays & longer works (hardcopy must be provided, or print & postage fee will be charged up front, bear in mind that I am based in Germany!)

NB: Please note that, with the exception of creative works, I am looking at the language only.  I do not claim to be an expert in all fields and, for academic work, I may not offer substantive edits.  However, if something does not make sense or needs further clarification, I will flag it so that you can consider it further.

Format:

Word docs only at the moment please.  You are welcome to submit PDF but I will cut and paste into word for ease of editing.

Rates:

Charge per page but final amount will depend on total number of pages, please contact quickbeampress@gmail.com for a quote before submitting work.

Payment:

By bank transfer.  Deposit required for larger works.  Euros or sterling accepted, please specify on initial contact.

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I’ve got some catching up to do

21st November 2014

I could have sworn I wrote the last blog only yesterday.  Weird.  Well it’s been a very good week (so far).  Tonight I am off to the Stiftstheater at the Augustinium to see the Bonn Players’ production of “Blithe Spirit”  I cycled up last week to find out where it was.  Augustinium was easy enough (though I initially sailed past it and had to back track) though I never found the theatre itself.  However, I did find these:

Digestive 15 November 2014

I haven’t opened them yet.  The vicar asked if he could pop around so I’m saving them for tea.  However, as no appointment has yet been made and I’m going back up this evening, I might stock up – I have been asked for chocolate ones – let’s see how long it takes me to write this blog and how quickly I can cycle up Koelnstrasse.

Anyway, mindful that I wanted to go back to German lessons after Christmas and that I would have to do a placement test, I arranged a meeting with my Cologne-based language exchange partner.  The first thing he said when we met was that he had bought my book (And I Shall Be Healed, it’s on Amazon).  Then when I told him that my school had agreed to mentor me for the PGCE by distance and that I would be staying in Germany he declared himself proud of me.  Aw.  That’s nice of him!  So it was only fair that I offered to check his English language presentation – I love doing that kind of work anyway.  I spent most of Wednesday doing that and I have to say, there isn’t much wrong with his English.  If only the same could be said of my German!  On Tuesday I went to the language school I had chosen for a placement test.  The woman put me in a room with a test paper and left me – for an hour.  The test took me 15 minutes.  I had finished it, checked it and begin to prepare my English lessons for the following day before I decided to go and investigate.  She had forgotten me!  The receptionist took over and marked my test.  My level is still A2.2.  This is the level I was when I began my month long course at the Goethe Institut so I was disappointed.  However the woman did agree to let me into B1.1 as it’s very close to A2.2.  More to the point, those lessons are on Mondays and Wednesday which means I get to keep Thursday evenings for the Bonn English Singers.

The teaching is also going well…

 

4th December 2014

OK so it looks like I am getting well and truly behind with this blog lark.  In my defence I have been busy – and am now ill.  I dragged myself out of bed today to go to work and then, just as quickly dragged myself back there.  No singing for me this evening.

I was in Berlin at the weekend and my goodness, I haven’t been so cold since I lived in Italy.  (1997-8, the coldest winter in Tuscany for 90 years and the landlady didn’t really go in for heating).  It was lovely to see my friends again – including a friend I had been rather worried about – and the two little girls of one of my friends who were getting very excited about their advent calendars.  On Advent Abend, we ate Christmas biscuits, drank tea and then had a singsong around the piano (someone could actually play it) in English and German.  Absolutely lovely.  Another nice thing was that both friends, although they have fantastic English, spoke in German that evening and, for the first time in about 8 years of knowing him, I was able to speak to my friend’s partner.

Unfortunately the next morning was the beginning of being ill.  I felt so ill on Monday that I thought I would still be sitting in that Berlin flat, head between knees, when my friend returned from work.  I was determined, however, to get back to Bonn so the day became instead a series of escalating tasks.

First, cross the room without fainting.  Done.

Second, leave the flat.  Done

Third, get from flat to U-bahn.  Done

Fourth, get from U-bahn to S-bahn – correct line.  Done

Fifth, get from S-bahn to Berlin Hauptbahnhof.  Done.

Sixth, you’re an hour early, find somewhere warm to sit, something warm to drink before you freeze to death.  Done.

Seventh, get on correct train and hope no one has booked the seat.  Done.

Amazing how the brain narrows to the most important stuff.

It was cold in Berlin, schrecklich kalt.  Going to the park with my friend’s youngest daughter, my friend handed me a pair of ski-trousers and it’s just as well she did, it was unbearably cold.  The ground temperature only freezing but with a wind chill of -10.  (My cousin in Canada has pointed out that he endures temperatures of -30 so all I can say to that is, Canadians, I salute you).

I have loved Berlin for ten years but I was desperate to get home again almost from the moment I got off the train.  Partly, I think because I was afraid that the friend with whom I had originally meant to stay when I moved to Germany (my first plan being to move to Berlin), who had not been in touch for some months and of whom I had had no news from the friend who was putting me up this weekend, had died and that I would only learn this when I got off the train in Berlin.  (Happily that was not the case and I’m pleased to report that she looked quite well).  Also I was surprised how shabby Berlin looked after Bonn – part of its charm surely – and how big.  For most of the ten years’ of our acquaintance, I had visited Berlin from London and I remember the relief – particularly when I visited ten days or so after 7/7 how cosy and safe Berlin felt.  I didn’t feel that this time and it was the first time in almost four months that I had felt anything approaching homesickness – for Bonn.

So I’m back in the balmy Rhineland – OK it started to snow yesterday but it didn’t settle – and still ill.  I am sitting in bed as I write this – how decadent does that sound?  I’ve been going to work – and even managed to meet English friends who came over from the Christmas Markets of Cologne to meet me yesterday – but it’s back to bed every time.  Oh the joys of freelance work.

I did, however, get my first paid English checking / proof-editing work on Saturday.  The urgent request came in at midnight on Friday by which time I was in Berlin, I borrowed a computer and had it back to the client before lunchtime.  More please!  It’s some of my favourite work.  I’ve been doing a couple of freebies for friends / flatmate but I am now making that service available to all so, if you’d like some work done please message me through the comments box or the e-mail is on the “About” page.

The downside of freelancing with teaching companies is that they can cut your hours without too much warning.  One school gave me only 7 hours this week, of which 2 were then cancelled by the students.  This was justified by the line “But lots of new courses are starting next week”.  Well OK, a lighter week wouldn’t hurt.  I went in this morning, however, and found that I had been given only 3 hours plus 5 on a day on which I am never available.  I had told them that I could not work on Tuesday so they gave me Monday and Wednesday off as well.  One of the other teachers complained about his hours (too few) so I also complained.  Now they have reworked the schedule and I have been given 16 hours, all with a class they know I don’t like teaching.  Perhaps that serves me right.

What it does bring home, however, is the need to keep an eye out for new incomes so that’s the plan now.  English checking / editing; creative writing; private conversation lessons, these are all things that I can offer.

Also, in other exciting news, my play “Mirror, Mirror” which I wrote in a Dublin Hotel bedroom after doing a show on the Shankill Road in Belfast in 2011, is to be given a reading in North Carolina (Soaring High Productions).  It’s a charity fundraiser for Domestic Violence Awareness and there will even be a live YouTube stream on YouTube this Saturday – 2pm Eastern Time.  If you want to read the play, it’s one of three short plays written for women collectively called “Ladies’ Night”.  The first play starts off with my original stand up routine too.  Amazon only I’m afraid.

So that’s it I think, all up to date and now an all-day lesson to plan.  But first, lunch.

Anon!

 

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