PGCE Diary: Goodbye PP1

So. The term is over. We’re about a third of the way through the course.

It’s been tiring, exhilarating and a little exhausting.

There have been good lessons, and some not so good.

Our time at our PP1 school finished a couple of weeks ago. I finished on a high, with the class teacher impressed with my final double lesson on Larkin’s Mr. Bleaney  for Year 12s.

We spent the final week back in Faculty, having our PREVENT training – this was rather interesting, as the vulnerable targets for radicalisation weren’t always the most obvious. We also had talks on recruitment and applying for jobs, which seems similar to what other PGCE bloggers have experienced recently on other courses.

In the Faculty week, we also did some work on Brian Friel’s Translations, and how to teach drama texts at A Level. As part of this we did all sorts of drama activities – this was my first time doing drama since Year 9! Some of the more ‘icebreaker’ style activities seem like they’d be great for my Cub pack too, which is a bonus!

Our final Faculty day of 2015 started later than usual. This was so we could hand our second essays in. This was the essay that was based on students’ experiences of reading, as well as our short stories (mine’s here!) In this final session, we chatted about our 4th essay (the 3rd is written over Christmas), before we had our Creative Exchange.

The Creative Exchange was – wow. Some of us did things individually, while others worked in groups. We made origami Christmas trees (again, fab for the Cubs!), were witness to a stellar voice-over of the Genie from Aladdin, magic tricks, songs… There was all sorts. I went with a reading from the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo this year – it took a while to find a bit that wasn’t too rough to be read aloud and shared – I also gave a brief intro to NaNoWriMo for those who weren’t in the know.

We finished with the exchange of our Secret Santa gifts, then went off to our Christmas meal – scrummy.


Welcome to the Poetry Journal

There’s been a category hiding under “Reading Journals” for several months now. Some of you may have even clicked on it, only to find an empty page – no posts.

So what’s the deal?

After a brief moment of amazement at my somewhat lacking poetry knowledge pre-PGCE, I started to read more poetry – as several previous posts show.

However, I aim to go one step further and write about the poems and anthologies that I read: What poem am I reading? What does it mean to me? How do I feel? Do I like the poem?

Perhaps the journal will inspire creativity in me?

Who knows? Let’s see!

Post NaNo update: The next bit.


“She’s gone.” Mason repeated again. Everybody in the room looked at him, trying to convey as much sorrow as they could, silently.

“She’s gone. What do we do?”

“Her body is gone, but her spirit lives on.”

There was a thud as Mason span and punched the wall, his fist ploughing through the plaster, dust exploding out. He punched again, this time with his other fist, then again with the first fist, striking up a thumping rhythm.

Reilly dropped from the chair upon which he stood and ran across the room. He grabbed Mason’s fists, struggling to hold them.

“Stop.” He said. Mason struggled against him.

“What’s the fucking point?” Mason shouted, wrenching his arms free and pushing Reilly away. Reilly stumbled, feeling someone grab him from behind and push him back up.

“Stop it.” Reilly said.

“Why? First half the fucking country is blown to fucking pieces. Then the cunts continue to kill us with radiation. Can’t they just let us live in fuckin’ peace?”

Mason stormed away. Reilly followed him, waving his hand behind him, calling back to the others, telling them to stay. He was relieved that he didn’t hear any footsteps behind him.

Mason stood in the kitchen, his face red and his head shaking. He grabbed at his necklace and ripped it from his neck, fumbled with the key and plunged it into the store cupboard door’s keyhole. He twisted it and flung the door open. Reilly leapt forward, tried to push him away from the door, but Mason was stronger. He stuck out an arm and pushed Reilly over.

Reilly felt something crack in his arm, but he stood up as quick as he could, ignoring the pain; the adrenaline that pumped through his body helped. He knew that he had probably broken, or at least fractured his right arm; it hung limply against his side and, although he couldn’t feel much pain, he could feel it throbbing as it began to swell.

Mason disappeared into the cupboard, and Reilly heard metal fall to the floor. He swore under his breath and moved closer so that he could see in to the cupboard.

Red shotgun shells rolled on the floor. Mason was crammming them into the shotgun.

“What are you going to do?” Reilly asked. “Loading that won’t help. You can’t hurt anyone. You can’t kill radiation.”

“Oh for fucking hell’s sakes Reilly. Stop going on about not fuckin’ killin’ things. I don’t want to hear it.” Mason swung the shotgun round, pointing the barrel at Reilly. There was a click as he cocked it.

“Say it again and I’ll fucking kill you.” Mason said.

The kitchen door opening distracted them both, and Reilly siezed his chance. He jumped across the room, rugby tackling Mason. Even the adrenaline was not enough to stop the pain that suddenly shot through Reilly’s arm, and he screamed.

The shotgun blast was deafening in the tiny cupboard. Reilly thought he had been shot. His body certainly hurt enough, and was covered in enough blood. But when he rolled away, he saw that the shotgun had caught Mason. He had fallen on top of it, his head propped up on the barrel; the rest of his skull was plastered across the ceiling of the cupboard. Blood and brain matter dripped from the ceiling.

Ears ringing, Reilly threw up, vomit splattering across the wall and Mason’s body.

There was another scream in the kitchen, and Reilly tuned his head, still vomiting, and saw that Martha was standing in the kitchen, her hands covering her face.

“Help.” Reilly said and passed out.

He awoke to find himself in bed, his clothes changed and the blood and grey brain washed from his body. His ears still ached, and his arm really hurt. He lifted his head and looked down at his arm. It had been splinted with a bit of wood. The table next to his bed was covered in what appeared to be half of the house’s medical cabinet.

His voice was hoarse when he called out. There was a chorus of rapid footsteps up the stairs. Kiera and Martha burst into the room.

“Tell me Mason’s still alive.” He said.

Both of them shook their head. “He died.”

Reilly burst into tears, his body shaking.

“It wasn’t your fault Reilly. It was an accident. He did it himself.”

Reilly wiped his eyes with his left hand. “What have you told the others.”

“Most of them believe that it was an accident, others think that Mason shot himself and hurt you. A few think that you shot him on purpose, but everybody else is arguing with those few, telling them that you wouldn’t kill a fly, let alone Mason.” Martha said.

Kiera sat next the bed and laid her hand on Reilly’s shoulder. “They want you to come down when you can. It’ll be good for you to speak to them. They need a leader now that Mason and Maureen have gone.”

Reilly nodded. “Have you buried them yet?”

Martha shook her head. “No, we’ve dug a grave, and put them in a coffin. We were waiting for you to wake up. We thought that you might want to say something.”

The pair of them helped Reilly out of bed. He was okay to walk on his own by the time that they reached the bedroom door.

“How long was I out?” He asked as they walked down the stairs.

“Just over a day.” Kiera said.

They reached the ground floor without seeing anyone. Martha took him through to the living room and he sat down on the same chair that he had been standing on when Mason had come into the room. The fist holes were still in the walls; he hoped that the kitchen had been cleared of blood.

It took a while for all of the residents to gather in the living room; they waited for the sentries to be called in. It was deemed that the issue was important enough that the risk could be taken. The sentries stood near the door, their shotguns hanging over their shoulders. While people arrived, none of them spoke to Reilly, standing far away from him, until the room begun to become full and they had no choice but to stand closer to him.

This time Reilly didn’t stand.

“I know why you are here. I know what you want to hear: the truth. The truth is, I don’t know exactly which of us caused Mason’s death, but I do know that it was an accident. I did not intend for him to die when I entered the kitchen. Far from it. I tried to take the shotgun from him, and in the scuffle it was fired. It was one blast, and that one blast proved fatal. I am sorry that it happened, and I hope that you believe what I am saying. I know there are multiple rumours going round, but I can only prove two of them wrong: Mason did not try to kill me, although he did threaten to do so. I did not intentionally kill Mason either. Please, trust me and take my word for it. Arguing will not do us any good. Let us not remember Mason how he was earlier, let us remember him for the man he truly was: A man who brought us together and cared for us all.”

Reilly stopped speaking and looked at the people assembled before him.  They stood in silence, watching and seemingly waiting for him to continue.

“That is all.” He said.

The sentries left first, in silence, returning to their posts. The others left in small groups, twos and threes. Again, all in silence. Eventually only Kiera and Martha remained, along with Reilly.

“You did good.” Martha said.

“I don’t think some of them believed me.” Reilly said.

“Of course, but hopefully they will keep those feelings to themselves, or they will argue with the others and have their opinions changed.” Martha said.

“I hope so. Otherwise this could be the end of us.” Reilly said.

What I’m reading: Gavin, Larkin, and more

The reading journal has been a little neglected of late. It’s time for an update.

Much of my (fiction) reading has been related to my PGCE studies. Here’s a brief list of what I’ve been reading:

  • Coram Boy, Jamila Gavin
  • A Girl in Winter, Philip Larkin
  • American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
  • Divergent, Veronica Roth
  • Ghosts In Shanghai, Julian Sedgwick
  • The Circle, Dave Eggers

What I’ve got recently that I still need to read:

  • The Children Act, Ian McEwan
  • Boo, Neil Smith
  • Stone Mattress, Margaret Atwood
  • Thinner, Richard Bachman/Stephen King

I’m bound to get some more books that I’ll be teaching after Christmas – I’ll be (hopefully) finding out what these books are on Wednesday, as I have my induction day at my PP2 school.

Let’s take a look, one by one, of what I read in November:

Coram Boy

I had to read this as part of my course, so that we could practise our medium-term planning skills. We were also treated to a visit by the author – Jamila Gavin. A few pages into the novel, I realised that I had actually read it many years before, but could barely remember it.

Then I remembered why I could barely remember it.

While the premise of the novel and its narrative are brilliant, I found Gavin’s writing hard to read. At times the sentence structure seemed too complicated, and some of the words used didn’t seem to fit correctly with their context; it seemed as though another (or a different) editor should have had a look over the work. That criticism (which might be misplaced as the novel did win a few awards) aside, the novel is good: interesting characters, super premise, enthralling story which was, at times, harrowing and disturbing.

Meeting Gavin was an interesting experience. It was really insightful to talk to an author about the processes behind their writing – where the idea came from, their other influences etc. You can read a more detailed account of her visit here – written by a fellow PGCE student.

We were also fortunate enough that there was a performance of the play version happening at the Amateur Dramatic Club in Cambridge – so we went to see that. Again, it was interesting to see how a text can be transformed for the stage.

A Girl in Winter

I had a bit of a “Larkin” November. I read a lot of his poetry, taught and discussed several of his poems, and learnt a lot about his life. It was helpful, when teaching his poetry, to have lived in Hull; very close to where he had lived.

A Girl in Winter is one of Larkin’s two novels (the other being Jill – still in the post), and A Girl in Winter is the first that I have read. It’s different to his poetry, but the novel is definitely “Larkinesque”, and it is clear that he is the author.

For many years, Larkin was the librarian at the Brynmor Jones library at the University of Hull… I’ve spent many hours in that library. Although it looks rather different now (thanks to a mega-million pound refurb), some of the details that Larkin describes about the fictional library’s entrance conjure up images of the entrance to the Brynmor Jones library in my mind.

The novel itself is nothing ground-breaking. A tale of love-lost and found, it’s interesting and fun but not astonishingly amazing.

As to whether reading it adds much to his poetry, I’m not sure. While I’ve read The Whitsun Weddings thoroughly, I’ve only had a cursory look at much of his other poetry (I do own the complete works), so perhaps a more detailed reading might illuminate further links.

American Psycho

I gave up. I managed about 40 pages of this before I decided that I’d had enough. The crazy attention to minuscule details got a bit too annoying and just made it hard to read – I don’t need to know the make of every individual piece of clothing that someone wears. Just throwing in a couple of names is enough to tell me that they’re loaded.

Bit disappointed, as I had heard great things about the novel and I know that it’s probably really good.

Perhaps I’ll come back to it in the future.


A victim of being binge-read. Although I’m not sure that victim is the correct word there. If anything, it shows that the book was engaging enough for me to read it in one sitting.

A fun read, but at times too similar to The Hunger Games… fits well into the current dystopic YA trend.

Ghosts in Shanghai

Sedgwick visited my previous school while I was there, and gave a number of speeches to the students – I was lucky enough to watch one of them and get a signed copy.

Interestingly, Ghosts in Shanghai is written in the present tense. I’m not sure why, but this always seems harder to write and to read and seems, therefore, an usual choice for a children’s book.

Mixing in various bits of Pinyin adds to the vivid descriptions to create a sense of verisimilitude.

A fun book, if a little confusing occasionally.

The Circle

I loved this. A satire on the dangers of allowing a fictitious company to have all our information. The fictitious company is clearly a blend of Facebook and Google, and the novel shows that while many of their programs have helpful applications, there is something sinister going on in the background.

I just didn’t get the bit with all the animals. I sorta skim read that bit. It’s a shame as the rest of the novel was pretty great.





More posts = more views

Who’d have thunk it?

The more you post, the more views you get.

Last month, when I was posting on an almost daily basis, Thoughtspill was getting a few hits everyday – usually 20 a day.

This month, with a lot less posting, there’s been almost no views of the site.

It’s a pretty simple formula really isn’t it? More posts = more views.

If you don’t give people something to read, then why will they visit?

While we’re almost halfway through this month, I do have a few more posts lined up, so hopefully I can make it to 500 views in 2015 (99% of which will come from November and December).

The aim is to get 500 a month in 2016. 

The Reader Problems Book Tag

Tl;dr version: I saw this on a friend’s blog and thought it would be fun to do. Feel free to skip, or to leave your views in the comments.

1) You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How do you decide what to read next?

Pick one at random. Perhaps pick by the cover. Whoever said to not judge a book by its cover was wrong. I have a lot of self-published books on my Kindle, and there is a strong correlation between crap cover and crap literature.

2) You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or are you committed?

Quit. Life’s too short to read something you don’t like – there are plenty more books waiting to be read. I said a while back that I had started American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I’m sure the book is good, but I found it too dense and overwhelmingly concerned with detail that I got bored and stopped reading.

3) The End of the Year is coming and you’re so close, but so far away on your Goodreads Reading Chalenge. Do you try to catch up and how?

Nope, I’m useless with Goodreads. I forget I have it and then never update it. Perhaps next year?

4) The covers of the series you love Do. Not. Match. How do you cope?

Meh, the story inside is still the same. That said, I do occasionally get a book based on its binding/cover/style. I got a book called Dickens at Christmas which has a wonderful cover and is hardback… I could have got the same stories on my Kindle or in a cheaply produced paperback. I tend to bulk buy (paper) series so I can binge them… that means that they tend to all have the same cover.

5) Everyone and their mother love a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?

Hmm. Not sure. I’ll come back to this in the future.

6) You’re reading a book and you are about to start crying in public. How do you deal?

Suck it up (dry your eyes mate), and carry on reading. It’s unlikely that I’ll be about to cry though.

7) A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book? Skip the sequel? Try to find a synopsis on Goodreads?

Depends on the series, how long the book is, how long ago I read it. I’d probably just find a synopsis on Goodreads/Wikipedia and then read the new one.

8) You do not want anyone – ANYONE – borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people nope when they ask?

I generally let people borrow my books. Books are meant to be read, and I don’t see why someone else can’t read my copy.

9) You’ve picked up and put down 5 books in the last month. How do you get over your reading slump?

Find something that I haven’t read for a long time but like, or something by an author that I know I enjoy and read something by them.

10) There are so many new books coming out that you’re dying to read! How many do you actually buy?

Not that many. I’ll use a blend of libraries (University, school, public) to get notable releases, birthday’s and christmases to pick up a few more.

11) After you’ve bought the new books you can’t wait to get to, how long do they sit on your shelf before you get to them?

You think I can put them on a shelf? They’re all full! I’ll probably binge-read one straight away, then feel guilty as I should be working, so go and do some work. Then forget that I have bought new books. Repeat the process.




NaNoWriMo: The End

I did it.


I didn’t.

After an absolutely crazy typing session last night, in which I wrote 14,076 words over six hours, I reached my final word count of 41,824. At seven minutes to midnight, I knew that writing the whole 50,000 words was going to be impossible – no matter how fast I typed, there was no way that I could write just over 8,000 words in seven minutes. I’m only human.

So, with only minutes to spare, I wrote the final section of my novel. Comprised almost entirely of “and ran,” repeated 4,000 times to make up the word count, I validated the novel with only seconds to spare.

So I did it.


I didn’t.

Technically I wrote a 50,000 word novel in a month.

For those of you who have been reading the novel as I’ve been writing, I shall be uploading the rest of the novel over the coming week.

In my first NaNoWriMo Diary post, I quoted Chuck Wendig:

“I am a writer, and I will finish the shit that I started.”

am a writer, and N-Day will be finished.

Thank you all for reading the novel so far – it’s been a real encouragement to write.