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‘My Cultural Life’ – Mr M Smith

‘My Cultural Life’ – Mr M Smith

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!

View all of our entries here.

 

Our latest entry is provided by Mr M Smith, Head of Geography at Stamford High School.

The box set I’m hooked on…

I have really enjoyed watching ‘Killing Eve’.  The series follows Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh), a British intelligence investigator tasked with capturing psychopathic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer).  As the chase progresses, the two develop a mutual obsession.  The best character just has to be Carolyn Martens, played by Fiona Shaw, who is head of the Russia Section at MI6; she cold, clever and curious.

My favourite play…

I hope I’m allowed to say ‘Come from Away’ by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, even though it’s a musical play.  I was very fortunate to go and see it last year after reading about it.  It is set in the week following the September 11 attacks and tells the true story of what transpired when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small town of Gander in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon.  I really enjoyed how the actors switch between portraying several different characters so quickly (sorry Drama Department – there is probably a technical term for this), and I also liked how simple the set is, which means you can really just focus on what the people are doing.

My favourite author or book…

I’m afraid I am much more of a non-fiction reader.  I do need to work on reading more fiction – it is one of my major downfalls.  The book I would say is my favourite is ‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel. “Pi” Patel, an Indian Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and metaphysics whilst surviving 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger.  I loved how the magically real elements make the story doubt itself; they call into question the probability of these events actually happening because they are so ridiculously unrealistic.  Yann Martel’s vision-filled paragraphs are so precise that you begin to feel the salt water on your skin.

The book I’m reading…

I am reading two books at the moment.  Step by Step, the autobiography of Simon Reeve (the best travel presenter the world has ever known!), and Lost in the Jungle by Yossi Ghinsberg – a terrifying true account of being lost in an uncharted part of the Bolivian Amazon jungle for three weeks in 1981.

The book I wish I had written…

The Dictionary.  My spelling is atrocious (I used spell-check for that!).

The book that saved me…

For this, I am going to take it ‘literally’ and say the Lonely Planet Guidebook for Vietnam, when I was travelling there in 2011.  I toured the entire length of this fascinating country and certainly could not have done it if it were not for this book!

The book I couldn’t finish…

This has to be The Lord of the Rings for me.  There was just too much fantasy for my tiny brain to process.

The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read…

George Orwell’s 1984.  It’s such a well-known and well-referenced text that I would like to be able to engage in conversations where it is mentioned.

My favourite film…

There are loads.  I have always liked Children of Men, directed and co-written by Alfonso Cuarón.  I just love the attention to detail portrayed in this dystopian world; everything from the logos of well-known transnational corporations to the fact that you never see a blue sky as a result of the thick pollution.  Other contenders include The Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump, Slumdog Millionaire, Captain Fantastic, and I recently watched JoJo Rabbit which was exceptionally good.

My favourite TV series…

The Vicar of Dibley – the jokes are plentiful and cunning, and I always feel there are good messages.  I also LOVE Race Across the World and any of Simon Reeve’s documentaries – he has got such a great way of speaking to the people he meets along the way.

My favourite piece of music…

Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture.  I studied this piece for A Level Music and feel I have a deep connection with the score after going through it with a fine-tooth comb so many times.  I’ve always been fascinated by the section where you can really visualise two seagulls gliding on the wind eddies produced after the storm has passed.  I do also really like his Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream where he allows you to envisage Puck the fairy through the power of music.  A more modern piece would be Outro by M83.

The last TV programme that made me cry…

I’m afraid I don’t really cry at TV programmes, but I did come close with Ricky Gervais’ ‘After Life’.

The lyric I wish I’d written…

Anything in Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.  Imagine writing a song that is as bonkers as it is popular.

My guiltiest cultural pleasure…

Going to watch a live orchestra.  I remember my mum taking me to the Cambridge Corn Exchange when I was very young to watch the City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra play.  Since then I have always been fascinated by watching how each player in their ‘own little bubble’ concentrates on their music whilst always needing to be fully aligned with what everyone else is doing in order to contribute to producing a wonderful overall sound.

If I could own one painting…

One of the following two: Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich or The Geographer by Johannes Vermeer.

The instrument I wish I’d learnt…

The Oboe.  I love its clear, bright, acerbic sound.  I also like the fact that it is like a ‘less-well known clarinet’.  I did want to be a music teacher when I was younger and played the piano and baritone horn, but my passion for Geography overtook that after being inspired by my GCSE Geography teacher.

The music that cheers me up…

Cheesy pop music (I’m sorry for telling the truth).  Am I allowed to say there’s nothing wrong with S Club 7?  Probably not.

The place I feel happiest…

Just walking around Stamford.  It really is beautiful!  I feel that every time I walk somewhere in this town, I spot another piece of breath-taking architecture that I have not seen before.  Why go to the Cotswolds?  Why go to York?  We’ve got it all!  I also feel that not enough people know that Stamford was England’s first Urban Conservation Area, with over 600 listed buildings.  We really are lucky to have this town.  A second choice would be the University of Birmingham.  I spent 5 happy years of my life here and always get a cheerful, tingly feeling when I visit.  I am so thankful for meeting my fiancée whilst training to teach at the university.

The film/play I walked out of…

I have never actually done this, but I was close with The World’s End (2013 science fiction comedy film directed by Edgar Wright).

I’m having a fantasy dinner party. I’ll invite these artists and authors…

For me, I would like a table of geographers (of course!) – Prince William, Lady Jane Franklin, Isabella Bird Bishop, Simon Reeve, Michael Palin, David Attenborough, Rita Gardner, Ben Fogle, Nick Crane and Ian Stewart.  I’d also like to invite Stephen Fry, Michael McIntyre, David Dimbleby and Griff Rhys Jones.  What a night!

And I’ll put on this music…

Summer BBQ Spotify playlist.  Easy-going tunes that will relax people and get them talking (or even singing along!)

Underrated…

I am sorry but I am going to have to say the study of Geography here.  We do get a ‘bad press’!  It is not just field trips, maps and colouring in.  Geography is totally unique in bridging the arts and humanities with the natural sciences. No other subject aims to make the vital synoptic links between these two sides of academia.  Geographers tackle the biggest issues facing our future, everything from human rights and global migration to ocean plastics and climate change – what could possibly be more important?  As Michael Palin once said, “geography students hold the key to the world’s problems”.  Another option I would have said for this question (and one you would probably have preferred) is the BBC.

Overrated…

It is football for me.  They get paid too much.

 

Read all of our ‘My Cultural Life’ entries here. 

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