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‘My Cultural Life’ – Mrs R Peterson

‘My Cultural Life’ – Mrs R Peterson

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.

 

This entry is provided by Mrs R Peterson, Teacher of Science at Stamford High School:

The box set I’m hooked on…

Catherine the Great. This series included a sumptuous re-creation of the Russian Imperial Court. I am was impressed by the two principle actors’ ability to convey the years that they aged throughout the period and the love that they shared as it changed yet endured. The power that Catherine wielded over the huge, disparate and dynamic empire even well into old age, as a woman, all those years ago, was incredible.

My favourite play…

Not a play but an opera. I recently attended an opera for the first time and watched Carmen, which was so vivacious and engrossing. I was transfixed watching the situation spiral out of control, powerless to do anything and nearly forgetting to breathe. Since watching Carmen I have been taking advantage of the wealth of free screenings and live recordings screened on Sky Arts. I particularly enjoyed La Boheme.

My favourite author or book…

I love a good historical biography to make up for a mis-spent youth in which I dropped history at GCSE, to my shame. I am now learning what I missed through the study of individuals and their perspectives that echo through the ages in the pages written about them or by them. My favourite book is ‘Bess of Hardwick’ by the British writer Mary S Lovell. I think that I am on my 5th reading of this beautifully researched and completely engaging story. I love how the author’s description releases and makes human Bess’s motivations, struggles and relationships from all the disparate historical sources it brings together.

The book I’m reading is…

‘Mudlarking’ by Lara Maiklem. From typefaces to beer bottles with innovative stoppers and from shoes to dreams, Maiklem’s systematic journey down the Thames shows how the river washes away evidence of everything only to throw it back out for the confused perusal of later river historians. I have just finished this and although I am a country girl at heart, I feel a tug to all things London having been born there. This book combines history, geography and human struggle in a way that has drawn me in for far longer than I should have read each night!

The book I wish I had written…

‘The Human Body – A Guide for Occupants’ by Bill Bryson. As the owner of a degree in Biological Science, I was bowled over by the pace and depth of this book and fascinated by its content. Like another book I love, Extremes by Dr Kevin Fong, this one makes use of the life stories and the challenges faced by scientists from history as a context to introduce how medical or biological breakthroughs occurred.

The book that saved me…

This is probably the hardest one to answer so far as I think many books have saved me from difficult situations at different times. Fantasy tales such as the Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien have allowed me to briefly escape the real world when I have needed to mentally log out, whereas, when my body has physically failed me, as it has a number of times on quite a spectacular scale several times in recent years, I have turned to inspirational biographical stories. The ones I love detail experiences of endurance, courage and return from places both physically and metaphorically dark, and these have lifted and restored me. I am thinking of books such Erebus by Michael Palin and South by Ernest Shackleton, both of which detail the hardships of polar exploration. I was also very moved a number of years ago by reading the autobiography of the cricketer Marcus Trescothick which documented his struggles with mental illness throughout his international career. I guess that all of these have reminded my that we all have far greater reserves of mental and physical strength than perhaps we know.

The book I couldn’t finish…

The Romanovs by Simon Seaborg-Montefiore. Quite a detailed tome. I think I need to get a better grip of the dynasty this book describes before I can cope with making sense of the minutiae therein, however, as a famous gentleman once said: “I’ll be back!”

The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read…

War and Peace, mainly because it means I can never accurately utter the line: “It’s not exactly War and Peace, is it?”

My favourite film…

I was going to try and be really deep and complex here but actually I am not a massive film watcher (and suspect I am not very deep or complex either). My favourite film right now is probably the 2017 Pixar release ‘Coco’. I watched this with my children and enjoyed the colourful animation and the hints of darkness, and I cried like a baby at the end. I do enjoy the opportunity that a film can give you for emotional release even if it is over someone else’s problems. That said, about as far from Coco as you could get is another film that sticks in my memory: ‘Into Thin Air’ by Jon Krackauer, which is an account of one of the most deadly seasons on Mt Everest in modern times. It really illustrates that there is a very thin line between what the human body can endure to come out victorious and what it cannot!

My favourite TV series…

I am into quite a strange range of things at the moment. In these difficult times, I love the gentle therapeutic qualities of the skills demonstrated by the individuals in ‘The Repair Barn’ and ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’. I also love a good science documentary and I have recently really enjoyed Pain, Pus and Poison, a 2013 release fronted by Dr Micheal Mosley; to my mind, this is a must for all aspiring doctors and pharmacologists. Quick spoiler: you come to really feel for the dogs of 19th century chemistry researchers!

My favourite piece of music…

Swan Lake Op. 20 Act 1: 9; by Tchaikovsky. It takes you somewhere dark, powerful and beautiful. That is all!

The last TV programme that made me cry…

I honestly do not remember crying at a TV programme as such, just films (see Coco in No.9 above!)

The lyric I wish I’d written…

For this, it would be almost anything by Snow Patrol – their songs speak my words. Specifically, it would be the song Run. I love the part that goes, ‘Light up, light up. As if you have a choice. Even if you cannot hear my voice. I’ll be right beside you dear. Louder, louder. And we’ll run for our lives, I can hardly speak or understand, why you can’t raise your voice to say.’ As a rather reticent person, this eloquently puts into words how I often feel. I also would have loved to have been responsible for any part of The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel.

My guiltiest cultural pleasure…

is being on my own in the countryside, preferably the Scottish or North Welsh mountains. Also, chocolate – good stuff and mountains of it!

If I could own one painting…

‘Artilleryman Saddling His Horse’ by the French impressionist artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. His pieces are so vibrant and expressive yet casual and unposed. He was a huge inspiration to me during my A-level in Art. I particularly love this one due to the raw but relaxed power of the horse in this piece. The answer to this question would change every day. If the question had been to pick a piece of art (rather than just a painting), then the answer would have been The Kiss by Rodin.

The instrument I wish I’d learnt…

any. To say I am a talentless musician is an understatement, but I have the utmost respect for anyone that can render a pleasant sound from an instrument!

The music that cheers me up…

Wake Up Boo by the Boo Radleys or Bohemian Like You by the Dandy Warhols.

The place I feel happiest…

I feel a wonderful sense of relief, joy and anticipation when the ferry sweeps me into Brodick Bay on the Isle of Arran in the Western Isles of Scotland.

The film/play I walked out of…

I tend to be pretty careful about what I walk in to and as a consequence I do not think I have ever walked out of anything; however, I was pretty close when a comedian knocked over my beer at the Edinburgh Festival……

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

I am super shy so just the idea of inviting strangers to a dinner party has me break out in a cold sweat, but if I had to: Liz McColgan (Scottish long distance athlete and World Champion, who once beat me in a race whilst 6 months pregnant), Bill Bryson (because that man in the most curious creature I know of), James Clark Ross (an explorer who arguably knew when to quit) and Victoria Wood (because she is so funny).

And I’ll put on this music…

probably best not. My play lists are recognised as shockingly bad and often a bit depressing.

I wasted an evening…

in retrospect, I have wasted quite a few but I never go into one planning to waste it and opportunity often comes in the most unexpected forms.

Underrated…

maybe not for much longer, but scientists don’t get the recognition they deserve. I recently watched an awesome scientific documentary and found myself interested in something one of the research scientists said. I googled him to find out more about his research and he barely existed online, yet you look up a minor TV actor and … well, enough said.

Overrated…

reality TV. Every time.

 

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

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