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‘My Cultural Life’ – Mrs A Svoboda

‘My Cultural Life’ – Mrs A Svoboda

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.

 

Mrs Amy Svoboda, a Teacher of Maths at Stamford High School, provides the next interview:

The box set I’m hooked on…

Having two small children, my husband and I tend to just collapse in the evening and watch TV, so we’re big box set viewers. We’ve recently finished the latest season of Bosch which is still very good and makes me yearn to return to LA for a holiday. Titus Welliver (amazing name) seems born to play Bosch and it’s worth watching for the architecture alone. We are huge Breaking Bad fans and have been pleasantly surprised to find that Better Call Saul, which is a prequel focusing on the back story of Saul Goodman, is possibly even better. The transformation of Kim, more than Jimmy, as we get closer to the start of Breaking Bad is heart breaking – where is she going to go? I’m not sure I’m ready to find out.

My favourite play…

I love Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. There is lots of maths in it and at a previous school one of my 6th form students asked me about what it all meant when they were studying it for A Level English. I got a copy and devoured it in a single day as I found it so funny and enjoyable – I remember laughing a lot on the Underground on the way home while reading it. Sadly, I’ve never seen it performed – hopefully one day I will.

The best play I’ve seen was probably Patrick Stewart in Macbeth – the scene where the ghost of Banquo walks along the dining table towards the audience was absolutely electric and genuinely terrifying.

My favourite author or book…

This is so hard. Probably Philip K Dick as his books are astonishing – he was such a visionary and I like that his prose is quite stripped back. Of his books, ‘Do Androids dream of electric sheep’ is probably my favourite. Most people know it as the book behind the movie ‘Blade Runner’ but the book is so much more nuanced and delicate in its exploration of what makes someone human. I also love JG Ballard and his often grotesque weirdness, and Don DeLillo for his sweeping American novels, particularly Underworld which I found breath-taking in its scope. Oh, and Kazuo Ishiguro for such quiet, sad stories, especially ‘A Pale View of Hills’. Damn it, that’s four favourite authors – sorry!

The book I’m reading…

I usually have a few books on the go – I’m still finishing a powerful but somewhat tough going factual book about the disaster at Chernobyl called ‘History of a Tragedy’ by Serhii Plokhy. My ‘lighter’ reading option is a Japanese crime thriller ‘Six Four’ by Hideo Yokoyama. I’m not that far into it yet but am enjoying it immensely – I like the pared down, reserved style which makes it feel very Japanese.

The book I wish I had written…

Anything by David Sedaris – he’s so funny.

The book I couldn’t finish…

I have tried and failed to read The Castle and The Trial by Kafka. I hope to go back and finish them both at some point. I also failed to finish ‘The Book of Dave’ by Will Self which I regret; I’m not a huge fan of books with their own language or dialect but wish I’d persevered with this as I love other books by Will Self.

The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read…

There’s a few that I’ve mentioned I haven’t read and my friends have been horrified – ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and ‘Of Mice and Men’ come to mind. I feel like I should have read more Shakespeare and Dickens but it never seems a priority somehow.

My favourite film…

This is a ridiculous question – how could I possibly choose? A film I’ve enjoyed recently is ‘A Scene at the Sea’ by Takeshi Kitano, which is a beautiful, quiet love story about a deaf bin man who finds a broken surf board and decides to learn to surf.

My favourite TV series…

Again, how do I choose? It would probably have to be Breaking Bad or The Wire. Breaking Bad is centred on a chemistry teacher who starts to ‘cook’ meth and his slow and horrifying descent into the criminal world. The Wire is about a group of police officers in Baltimore with a main focus on ‘the war on drugs’. Both tell compellingly rich and complex stories with amazing acting and writing. Both are funny and devastating. I do also have a soft spot for the BBC Pride and Prejudice adaptation with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. This came out when I was studying the book for GCSE and it just swept me away.

My favourite piece of music…

I love the Bruch violin concerto – it makes my whole body sing. I have for many years been trying to play the great unaccompanied Violin Bach Partita No. 3 in E Major – it is sublime and I might be able to play it at speed in another 10 years if I’m lucky.

The last TV programme that made me cry…

DEVS which has just been shown on BBC. When we finally find out what happens to his daughter I cried. A lot. Having young children has made me highly susceptible to crying when bad things happen to children. The depth of his loss is incomprehensible to me. Thank goodness.

The lyric I wish I’d written…

Almost anything by ‘Bonnie Prince Billy’ – his songs are just so beautiful. Also, most of Radiohead is extraordinary but if I had to pick one lyric it would be this from the song ‘TV Movie’ by Pulp:

Without you my life has become a hangover without end
A movie made for TV
Bad dialogue, bad acting, no interest
Too long with no story and no sex

I remember listening to this album a lot when I was home for the summer from university and missing my then boyfriend (now husband). It was a long, maudlin summer wishing I was back in London.

My guiltiest cultural pleasure…

Grey’s Anatomy is a huge guilty pleasure for me; I only discovered it fairly recently and inhaled the entire series in a frighteningly short period of time. It’s set in a hospital and follows the lives of a group of doctors. It’s so wonderfully trashy but also tackles some fairly tricky topics – I like that it has always, effortlessly, had a very mixed cast both in terms of race and sexuality. For a major US show that is no small achievement.

If I could own one painting…

It would be a Rothko. He was an American, abstract expressionist who is famous for his large rectangular paintings with blocks of colour. I went to the exhibition at the Tate Modern which was the largest collection of his paintings in one place and it was awe inspiring. I desperately want to go to the Rothko Chapel in Houston which is lined with a series of almost entirely black paintings. We drove from New Orleans to Austin, Texas, and would have loved to have stopped to see it but didn’t have time. We did not quite appreciate how large Texas was – it’s bigger than France!

The instrument I wish I’d learnt…

Cello. I feel like I’m cheating on my violin; I love playing it, but the rich, lower tones of the cello are so beautiful. I would love one of my girls to learn the cello so we can have one in the house.

The music that cheers me up…

Abba. Without fail.

The place I feel happiest…

At the moment, I feel happiest out on the water on my paddle board. It’s still and quiet and surprisingly meditative – you have to concentrate all the time which might sound stressful but actually it just allows you to focus on the paddling and forget everything else. I paddled through the arches at Etretat in Northern France last summer which was spectacular. We’re desperately hoping to get down to Cornwall this summer where I plan to paddle all the way around St Michaels Mount.

The film/play I walked out of…

The Producers when it was on in London. We’d heard so many rave reviews and everyone I knew loved it, but I just didn’t find it very funny.

I wasted an evening . .

Watching Code 8 on Netflix. It clearly wasn’t going to be a great film but it at least looked entertaining. Which it was, until the last few minutes when they seemed to just give up and there was literally no ending or explanation of what happened at all. It was very annoying. Do not watch it.

Underrated . . .

Jack Reacher novels – I used to be a snob about these as many other people are but then I read one and it was brilliant. I’m slowly working my way through them all and they are hugely entertaining. I remember my Grandad loved them and used to get the new one each year for his birthday in hardback. I remember when we cleared his house after he died, finding a stack of hardback Jack Reacher books that was almost as tall as me. I really wish I’d kept them.

Overrated . . .

‘Reality’ TV shows – I just don’t get it. Either people look up to some of these preening idiots, which is worrying enough, or they’re basically watching to laugh at and judge them, which is cruel. I can just about cope with The Great British Bake Off and Masterchef as I love cooking and baking but that’s my limit.

 

Read more ‘My Cultural Life’ entries here.

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