‘My Cultural Life’ – Dr A Crookell
Mr Mark Zacharias, Head of English at Stamford High School, has started our latest lockdown project – ‘My Cultural Life’. Inspired by the Times newspaper, amongst others: the Schools present interviews from individuals across our Stamford community, considering their cultural interests, loves and shortcomings.
We hope that these interviews help you to find inspiration during the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in, and that you enjoy learning a little more about us here at Stamford!
Our next interview comes from Dr Andrew Crookell, Assistant Head at Stamford High School:
The box set I’m hooked on…
At the moment that would be Lucifer, as I find the characterisation of Lucifer Morningstar really interesting to watch and the premises behind the series form the basis for a good story. I have just finished watching all the Arrow series, which was an epic saga although it got rather repetitive through the end.
My favourite play…
Without doubt it is Return to the Forbidden Planet – a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I saw it while living in High Wycombe nearly 20 years ago now and would love to see it again. I understand that many years ago, shortly before I joined SES, this was the senior school play so it is a shame that I just missed it.
My favourite author or book…
I read a lot, and have many favourites, but if I had pick one author it would be Terry Pratchett. I find the Discworld series to be fine reading, with a subtle blend of fantasy and humour, plus some well developed characterisation. Of the whole series, my favourite book would be Raising Steam which tells the story of the industrial revolution coming to the Discworld.
The book I’m reading…
At the moment I am going through a phase of reading novels about life in the Royal Navy in the late 1700s (the Seven Years War). American author Dewey Lambdin has written a 25 book series following one naval officer through from being forced into going to sea by a father intent on stealing his inheritance, to commanding ships of the line in historical sea battles. While his character is fictional, the social and historical context is well researched and gives a great insight into what it must have been like to serve at sea back then.
The book I wish I had written…
Would have to be Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. I don’t think I have ever read books that are so beautifully well written. They are just joyous to read. I wish I could write like that…
The book that saved me…
This isn’t an easy question to answer because I am not aware that any book really has. So I am going to interpret the question as the book that has most set me on the path my life subsequently followed, and I am going to choose Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series for awakening my passion for sailing.
The book I couldn’t finish…
There are quite a few of these, although they are mostly books that because I wouldn’t finish them, I haven’t started. I did try to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace once, but didn’t get far with that.
The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read…
As a scientist I suppose I ought to have read Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’, but I haven’t. Nor have I read Isaac Newton’s ‘Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica’ but in the latter case my excuse is that although I studied the subject at school, my Latin isn’t likely to be up to the task.
My favourite film…
I go to the cinema quite a lot, especially for Marvel films or anything in the Star Wars saga or of that kind. Picking a single favourite is really hard, but Black Panther made a big impression recently so I will go with that for now.
My favourite TV series…
I watch very little television, with the exception of the Formula One series of races. Thinking back over what I felt was quality viewing I’d have to pick Bettany Hughes’ documentaries on the ancient worlds. These can be watched on YouTube now, I think.
My favourite piece of music…
Again there are far too many favourites to be sure, but I think I’d highlight ‘Awaken’ by the English progressive rock band Yes, from their 1977 album ‘Going for the one’. It is an epic work of soaring majesty and musical complexity. Give it a listen!
The last TV programme that made me cry…
I can’t remember what the programme was, but I remember the context. My wife and I were living in the United States, and I was travelling around the country for my job as a business development manager. I was staying in a hotel somewhere down near the Mexico border and watching TV one evening when the wife of the couple on TV told the husband that they were having a baby. As it happened, so were we, and I had just found out shortly before on the phone to my wife.
The lyric I wish I’d written…
From the song ‘Neverland’ by Marillion: “I want to be someone. I want to be someone who someone would want to be.”
My guiltiest cultural pleasure…
I am notorious for my dismissal of classical music as the necessary warm up phase before real music started with the advent of Rock, Blues etc. but I do love Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances. I just can’t help myself…
If I could own one painting…
Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam and Speed’, please!
The instrument I wish I’d learnt…
They say the voice is an instrument. Mine is a travesty. I’d love to be able to control it properly and sing while I play guitar. Actually I used to be able to sing, but when my voice broke I never regained control of it.
The music that cheers me up…
Pink Floyd – the Animals album. It is cynical, bleak and depressing stuff, so I feel better in comparison. I counsel playing it loud through headphones (although I’d never dream of suggesting anyone should play it at a volume that could damage their hearing – perish the thought.)
The place I feel happiest…
My happy place is Snowdonia. I go there frequently to ‘decompress’ and unwind, and it is where I feel most at home and have the strongest sense of being where I am supposed to be. I guess it stems back to early childhood holidays there, because I was born and raised in south east Manchester and I don’t really feel at home there.
The play I walked out of…
I can honestly say I never have. I am too cheap to pay for a ticket and walk out no matter how poor the production is. I can hear my mother saying now, “You’ve paid for it so you’ll stay and you’ll enjoy it.”
I’m having a fantasy dinner party. I’ll invite these artists and authors…
Artists would be David Shepherd and Terence Cuneo, both of whom were painters of railway subjects in the days of steam. Their passion for steam locomotives comes out in their painting and I’d like to share that with them. For authors, I’d like to invite Stephen Hawking and Richard Feynman. Maybe between them they can explain all the bits of quantum theory I can’t get my brain around. As physicist Roger Penrose said, “Quantum mechanics makes absolutely no sense.”
And I’ll put on this music…
Jethro Tull’s ‘Raising Steam’ and ‘Locomotive Breath’ for the discussion with Cuneo and Shepherd, followed by something psychedelic from the Sixties for the discussion on quantum mechanics, just to set the mood.
The period table of the elements – man’s single greatest achievement.
Sad to say, for me poetry is overrated. I just don’t understand what poetry is supposed to do that a good piece of descriptive writing doesn’t do better without the faffing around. Now I get poems like ‘From a Railway Carriage’ by Robert Louis Stevenson because the rhythm of the poem is part of its overall description of its subject but for most poetry I can’t make such a link and find the style of writing off-putting. Perhaps poetry needs to be heard rather than read.
Read more ‘My Cultural Life’ entries here.
- Blue Plaques Unveiled
- Co-education at Stamford
- Stamford School Shortlisted for TES Award
- Stamford Endowed Schools students set for the future
- Celebrating A 50 Year Association With The School
- Prestigious Prize for SHS Student
- Annual Sponsored Walk Returns to Stamford Endowed Schools
- Debate Raises Money for Mental Health Charity
- 'My Cultural Life' Project
- Arts & Culture
- Cross Country
- Design and Technology
- English & Writing
- House Events
- Modern Foreign Languages
- Music News
- Sixth Form
- Stamford High School
- Stamford Junior School
- Stamford School
- Trips and Events