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‘My Cultural Life’ – Mrs V Buckman

‘My Cultural Life’ – Mrs V Buckman

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.

 

Today we present an entry from Head of Stamford High School, Mrs V Buckman:

The Box Set I’m hooked on…

How long have you got? I’ve watched my way through all sorts of stuff, some of it quite mundane and ordinary!

I actually like to think I invented binge watching when I sat up watching endless episodes of “The Forsyte Saga” (the original black and white version!) with my mum; it was, I think, about 3am when we finally called it a halt.

I love anything factual that has old film footage in it so Andrew Marr’s “History of Britain” has been particularly special – but any crime series or anything involving espionage will have me watching. I don’t mind mystery and suspense but I don’t do spooky or scary. We’re currently watching our way through “Silent Witness” and we’re a bit sad that we are almost at the end of the series available on iPlayer. It’s been a long lockdown!

My favourite play…

The first “grown up” play I saw was “Oh! What A Lovely War”.  I still love it and have seen a number of different interpretations over the year, including one with Joan Plowright’s original slides with all the sepia war photographs. The opening razzmatazz which fades as the conflict becomes more and more grotesque gets me every time; I am awash by the finale.

My Favourite book or author…

I am much more a reader of non-fiction than fiction; I devour biographies and descriptions of events or eras or experiences. Sometimes a vilified subject becomes quite fascinating and human – I’ve actually found myself quite warming to Bill Clinton!  On the fiction side, Peter James writes a good detective story – although his more recent offerings have clearly been written with a TV series in mind and thus lack the depth and complexity of his earlier books.

The book I am reading…

“Hidden Valley Road” by Robert Kolker, the extraordinary story of a large American family (12 children), 6 of whom developed schizophrenia. Their lives were terribly sad but so much was gleaned about the condition by scientists fascinated to find so many cases who were closely related.  The horror of the condition and the deterioration of family life, as one after the other fell sick, is , at times, unbearable – and at a time when mental illness was seen as a “bad blood” in a family rather than something to be understood and supported.

The book I wish I’d written

They say that everyone has a novel in them…except me. When I first read Harry Potter to my children, I couldn’t help but marvel at how she had dreamt all of that up.

The book that saved me…

Laurie Lee’s “Cider With Rosie”.  I still love its descriptions and imagery – and the often-poignant tale of early 20th century family life.  Its accessibility meant I read and re-read it endlessly, so much so that, even now, I can quote lines from it.  That familiarity secured my success in O level English Literature.

The book I couldn’t finish…

I tried, very hard, to read Darwin’s Origin of Species – but it is not an easy read. Bits of it are in Latin and it is very convoluted.  Having written extensively about Darwin’s ideas and the reception of his theories as part of my teacher training, I felt I owed it to the great man to give the original a go. I believe copies are kept for their value rather than their readability.

The book I am ashamed I never read…

Oh, the list is endless – I really enjoyed English at school but it never really sparked any desire to explore fiction.  I read far more now than I did then, but I rarely browse in a book shop; I end up reading books I see reviewed in newspapers or recommended by friends. Have I read any of the real classics? I’ve tried, really I have, but sadly no…

My favourite film…

Apollo 13 – something factual, obviously, and even though I have seen it a dozen times, I still find myself worrying that the spacecraft won’t make it back to Earth!  Reflecting on those events from this point in the 21st century, it is truly remarkable that they ever got into space at all – let alone to the moon.  I’ve read lots of books about the Apollo missions, indeed the whole “space race”, and when you know the power of the on-board computer was less than that of a mobile phone, it is no wonder the conspiracy theorists still think they have a point.  But I love anything sci-fi related; I even queued to see the original Star Wars as a child.

My favourite TV series…

BBC2’s “Play For Today” produced a fantastic sci-fi mini-series in the 1980s called “The Flipside of Dominick Hide”; it’s  very dated now but it is the story of a historian who studies the past by travelling back in time. Curiosity overcomes him and he ‘lands’, thereby changing history and endangering his own future and that of others. It actually features an early version of Alexa: there is a home computer who, when you enter ‘SOO’, will answer your questions, keep your diary and even arrange the babysitter, before dispensing dinner in bitesize capsules.  It also showed us a rather sterile future world: minimalist, stripped of emotion, where the past and “the way things were” is hugely attractive.

My favourite piece of music…

Lots of contenders here but I think that Karl Jenkins’ “Requiem” is fabulous – followed swiftly by Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms.  Neither very conventional but the fusion of big percussive pieces and then something very haunting and quiet is amazing. They were the first two albums I downloaded on Spotify! But then I have a very eclectic taste in more popular stuff; having much older siblings means my catalogue of music starts pre-Beatles and has something from almost every genre (with perhaps the exception of punk) right up to the present day.

The lyric I wish I had written…

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make,” from ‘The End’ by The Beatles.

My guiltiest cultural pleasure…

Or perhaps my guiltiest cultural secret: I am very lucky to have travelled to many different places, but I don’t retain place names very well.  So if I were to look back over my photographs of, say, Egypt, I can remember the heat, the sand, the poverty, the sadness of people eking a living through selling tatt to the tourists. I remember marvelling at the ingenuity of the buildings and temples, the endless carefully carved hieroglyphics, the meticulous preparations that were made for the tombs and the “afterlife”, the airlessness of being inside of a pyramid and the collision of ancient and modern. Next time you see The Sphinx, just remember there is a large housing estate just over her right shoulder which they carefully avoid showing in photographs. But ask me exactly where I was?  Haven’t a clue!  I always feel a little ashamed – I love travelling, just don’t ask me where I went…

If I could own one painting…

It would have to be something by Monet probably involving waterlilies. I love the colours and shapes and the composition is always quite perfect: the right number of plants on the pond, the position of the bridge, the willow touching the water.  Sadly, the colours got muddier as his sight failed but they are still fabulous works, and they are even better in real life.

The instrument I wish I’d learned..

Something stringed, I think – possibly the ‘cello.  The sound is glorious, and I think I would enjoy the technical challenge of trying to make it sound good.  My daughter learned the violin when she was younger, and I often had a go – perhaps I ought to try again and find a teacher.

The music that cheers me up…

That could be almost anything!  I sing a lot and just the act of singing always lifts my spirits.  In my first teaching job, we began every day with Chapel.  As a young teacher, with one or two tricky groups, I felt ready to take them on when we had sung a few verses of a good hymn!

The place I feel happiest…

Outdoors.  Walking with family, enjoying a lovely view, pottering in the garden, sitting on a beach.  And the very best is having a sneaky nap on a lovely day in the open air – if you’ve never tried it, I can highly recommend it.

The play I walked out of…

I’ve never done it but there was one I would have done if I could. I went to a very poor production of Peter Pan with my children when they were little. London theatre, famous company, I thought we were in for a treat. I love Peter Pan; get behind the pantomime façade and there’s quite a message there, but this was poorly staged and slow. I distinctly heard the sound of JM Barrie spinning in his grave by the time Peter flew in through the window for the first time. I eventually fell asleep, but fortunately, the children loved it.

Fantasy dinner party…

I would love to invite Professor Robert Winston; I have heard him speak, on a variety of topics, lots of times and he never disappoints. I’ve always been sad to have never had the opportunity to speak to him in person.  Ditto former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion. I’d have Alan Bennett there too – I just love his dry observations of life.   However, someone else would have to do the cooking; all recipes are a science experiment, as far I am concerned, so I’d be worried about the timings and not able to concentrate on my grand guests…

And I’ll put on this music…

I’d rather not – I find it a bit distracting and I’d rather listen to what they are saying…

 

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

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