Studying the Online Way


[Image taken from ]

I said, ‘Hello’ to a new start as a uni student in my new city, Perth, a few weeks ago  and I didn’t think it had been that long since I was last at uni but a lot seems to have changed.

I’m doing some classes online this semester, which is a first, and I’m really enjoying it. I miss the face to face interaction but it’s kind of neat knowing that you are learning with a group of people scattered about the place.  I also like the freedom of when I study and where, tending to spend the days outside studying and listening to lectures.

Another thing I’m loving is the access to e-resources and the fact that so many textbooks are available online. I know that I’ve blogged about the this concept before, and my views were much keep the book and turn the page. I’m still very much a believer in the book, and will still choose a printed book over an e-book, but for textbooks it does make my life easier. I like the flexibility it brings, just like being able to choose where and when I study I get to choose the format of the text.

The only thing I really wonder about is if I’ve sat next to someone in my one and only internal, traditional, face to face lecture that I’ve conversed with at length on twitter or discussion boards. I wonder if switching from social media to real-life situations gets lost in translation.


Bread Alone

Book Crossing.

Read and Release at

I had never heard of this until Sunday when I was out for walk with a friend and her dog when I found a book in one of the pavilions in the middle of the floor.

Lola- Book Detective

Lola- Book Detective

I picked it up and actually wondered who would just leave a book like that but I noticed the sticker the yellow sticker on the front of the book:

What is it? Book trading with strangers

What do you do? When you find a book registered log on…then read and release me….

I was a little unsure whether I could take the book, having never heard of Book Crossing, but we decided that it was ok to do, especially after we read the sticker on the inside of the book:

Making acquaintances

Making acquaintances

Bread Alone, the  book I found, is probably not one I’d pick up in a bookstore, but it does sound good and is perfect for a drizzly day like today.  So, I’m looking forward to starting it and then seeing how far it travels once I’ve released it back into the wild. 

This is such a cool concept, I love the idea of releasing a book into the wild and being able to see how far around the world it gets. I haven’t released a book yet, but I will and I’m pretty excited about it too! I wonder how many other people have heard of this and are actively involved?  

It would be really cool to get schools involved and have the students take a book with them when they go on a trip somewhere. If I was still working at a school I would definitely use this with the book club programme, anything to keep reading alive.  

So, from now on I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled because you never know when you might stumble up on a book…

Read and Release at



Saying Goodbye is Never Easy


Lots of lovely gifts and cards from my students.

Lots of lovely gifts and cards from my students.

I might have been lucky to live in different cities,  but saying goodbye is never easy. In fact I think it’s getting harder and harder. In trying to prepare for the inevitable sadness that will creep up on me on my last day here in the dusty city of Doha I have compiled a list.


Things I won’t miss so much:

  • The cacophony of car horns all competing to heard in the desert orchestra ( which I can hear as I sit and type this)
  • The varying shades of beige that blankets the city
  • Living in what often feels like an oversized industrial heater- fan on high

Things I may miss a lot:

  • Having the call to prayer punctuate the day
  • Hot fresh nutella pancakes from the local women in the souk, who sit there even on the hottest days
  • The pockets of shisha hanging in the air
  • Mr. Chandran’s shop and the gentle whirring of the old-fashioned sewing machines
  • Walks along the corniche on one of the cool, clear days
  • Having a Saturday morning coffee in the MIA park and watching the boats of all shapes and sizes come and go
  • Chatting with friends in the shisha café after a very busy week
  • A cool refreshing lemon mint drink when it’s unbearably hot
  • A refreshing lemon mint and a shish, always a good way to the end week.

    A refreshing lemon mint and a shish, always a good way to the end week.

  • Shawarma, humble yet mighty
  • Ugly, the security cat of my building, knowing that she’s on patrol lets me sleep a little easier at night



  • Dhows bobbing on the water, decked out in the most radical fairy lights

    The old and the new

    The old and the new


It’s no secret that I’m curious about birds. There have been many posts about them, from picture books I’ve bought, observations I’ve noted and short stories I’ve drafted.

I have a current, more specific obsession with the Bluebird and I’ve recently started doodling ( this is because I’ve cancelled my cable TV, which is a story for another time).  The doodles are a bit scattered in style, just like my thoughts are at the moment.

Bertie Bluebird belongs to the mashup of Mariana and the Lady of Shalott.

Bertie Bluebird- the drawing that started it all off!

Bertie Bluebird- the drawing that started it all off!


Sketching the Blue Bird #1

Sketching the Bluebird #1


Sketching the Blue Bird #2

Sketching the Bluebird #2


The Boss (unfinished)

The Boss (unfinished)

The Boss (above) and Larry are both based upon the story I wrote about the Wolf, but there are also some similarities to my ideas about Frank. Frank, however is a seagull. So I still have a way to go with my ideas but, they are beginning to form and hopefully there will be a story or two in the end.

Larry the lackey

Larry ‘the lackey’ Bluebird

Lady of Shalott/ Mariana Mashup

In my last post I was talking about teaching ballads and trying to find ways to make it interesting. The majority of the class loved the creative task and of course I joined in. Below is my example plot outline for the creative writing task- a mashup of Lady of Shalott and Mariana:

Plot Outline

  • Sir Lancelot meets Lady of Shalott at a banquet in the castle Camelot
  • He really likes her, but has to leave on a quest to slay Pentagon the Dragon

    Pentagon the Dragon: the most feared dragon in all the land.

    Pentagon the Dragon: the most feared dragon in all the land.

  • He tells the Lady of Shalott that he will write to her everyday
  • They part ways, both feeling elated that they have found their one true love
  • Sir Lancelot’s journey is harrowing. The towns are abandoned, the villagers have left in fear of the dragon and its trolls who patrol the area and steel turnips and chickens
  • Sir Lancelot starts to panic when he realises the post office is no longer in operation, how will he send his letter to his dear lady?
  • Meanwhile, days pass by and the Lady of Shalott continues to sit in her tower and weaves her tapestries which are becoming famous in the South Shire
  • On the dawn of the fifth day, Sir Lancelot hears the beautiful song of the bluebird, a sound that was thought to have been silenced by the dragon and its trolls
  • Sir Lancelot decides to use the skills of Bertie Bluebird to deliver his message to the Lady of Shalott.
  • After much explaining andfluffing of feathers, Bertie flutters away in the wrong direction

    Bertie Bluebird

    Bertie Bluebird

  • Meanwhile, Mariana (another fair maiden) was about to feast upon cheese, apple and bread when a bluebird flew into her room
  • Mariana tried to shoo the bird away but realised it had a piece of parchment attached to its leg
  • It read: My dearest love, I think about the day and the beautiful emerald dress you wore. It is this that keeps me going and I long to see you upon my return. With affection, Sir Lancelot.
  • Elated, Mariana thinks back to the other day in the market when she caught the eye of a young lord. Never in her wildest dreams did she think it was the famous knight, Sir Lancelot!
  • Weeks went by and the two passed letters back and forth Lancelot winning her heart with tales of bravery and compassion
  • The Lady of Shalott grew restless, she couldn’t understand why Sir Lancelot hadn’t written, she started longing for the outside world and the markets of Camelot
  • Unbeknownst to the Lady of Shalott, the gold thread that she bought in the market weeks ago was cursed by the old lady who lived in the boot by the river
  • The Lady of Shalott got into her boat and sailed across the moat into Camelot
  • Mariana, looking out of her window and thinking about her dreary life saw a small boat sail by
  • By the time the Lady of Shalott arrived on the banks of Camelot she had died, her soul now trapped in her tapestry in the tower, encased in the gold thread
  • Sir Lancelot, who had ridden all night to get to return to his love happened upon the boat and to his horror saw the pale, beautiful face of the Lady of Shalott
  • Angered by her death he vows to find out who killed her and why and he immediately sets off to consult with the Knights of the Round Table
  • Meanwhile, Mariana is sitting by the window looking out at the moat wondering what all the commotion is and wondering who that handsome man is on a white horse.

“My life is dreary, he cometh not” she said

Mariana in the moated grange  (Image from

Mariana in the moated grange (Image from

I’m not going to lie, sometimes English Literature can be depressing.  We might consider certain texts classics and ‘must reads’ but the fact remains that some of the most famous and important texts of our time are in fact filled with sorrow.

Trying to make these texts interesting to a bunch of teenagers can become tricky, especially when a large portion of the class are not native English speakers.  Keeping things relevant, exciting and engaging is often the bane of a teachers life, but it’s also a highlight when we find something that does inspire creativity.

Two texts I’m using at the moment are The Lady of Shalott and Mariana. It wasn’t until we were discussing them that I realised just how depressing these ballads are. Both women are shrouded in melancholy and one of them dies; they are completely hopeless. Not exactly the poster women for feminism and independence!

So, how do you make these woeful texts interesting to teenagers and, in particular boys?

Both ballads offer an insight in to these women, we never really know who they are pining after, only that a man is at the root of their sadness.  We never know who Mariana is waiting for and why he never makes it. So, I decided it was time to find out…

The task for my class was to write a story from his perspective that would offer some reason for his delay, the additional challenge was to somehow include information from the Lady of Shalott too. It could be a reference to Sir Lancelot, Camelot or the lady herself.

A collection of notes

A pile of stories

The stories were an excellent read and the class offered up some rather interesting reasons for Mariana sitting and waiting- “my life is dreary/ He cometh not”

  • The man suffered memory loss;
  • He was imprisoned;
  • He became obsessed with the Lady of Shalott and forgot Mariana;
  • It was a game of hide and seek that went very, very wrong;
  • A modified memory from Merlin….

As usual I joined in the activity and got a little carried away with my idea. It involves a bluebird, miscommunication and a letter delivered to the wrong address…


Gendered Sentences- Do I Sound Like a Man?

Image from Disney/Pixar

Image from Disney/Pixar

I recently started writing a short story with a split narrative. I decided that I’d differentiate the characters voice by their sentence structures, this seems to be working. I’m still typing away and working on the story, but after reworking what I had already , I think the concept of gender by sentences is working.  But, I’m a girl, so how do I know if my male characters stream of consciousness is authentic?

Here is a small section of the story so far, please read it and if you have any suggestions please let know. Feedback is welcome.


You didn’t see me when I walked in to the bar. You had your back to me, your hair falling down it. That’s what I remember, your hair.  I walked in with Blake; we wanted a few quiet drinks to celebrate making it through another week.  I couldn’t take my eyes off you.


You told me that you noticed me the minute you walked in; apparently it was my hair that caught your eye. I didn’t notice you until you walked past me because I had my back to the bar and I couldn’t see everyone coming in. That was unusual for me, I usually liked to people watch and play, ‘guess the nationality’; as soon as I saw you I had you picked as American. It was the plaid. Fiona and I had an in-depth discussion about the word plaid, we even googled it and then got caught up in yet another discussion about cultural differences and stereotypes.


The bar area was crowded; Blake suggested that we move away. I had spied a table right across from you and your friend. It was the only free space left so it wasn’t difficult to get Blake to follow me. I tried to act all cool, I even walked past you to try to catch your eye. Blake thought I was seeing if there were any free spaces further on. There weren’t.


Fiona needed to go to the bathroom so I stayed to guard the table, I usually hate it when I’m left but this time I wasn’t too fussed because I had my back to the main area of the bar. I hate feeling like I’m some kind of target; the minute I’m left alone I seem to become a magnet for the ultra slick and greased up.  Fiona leaving, gave me the chance to check you out. You seemed so sure of yourself.  When you caught me looking at you I didn’t know what to do, but it didn’t matter because you smiled. “Hey, looks like we’ve both been abandoned by our friends” you said as you moved over to my table, “May I keep you company?”