‘My Cultural Life’ – Caroline Allison
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!
Read about the cultural interests of Year 13 student, Caroline Allison.
The box set I’m hooked on…
M*A*S*H. It’s an American comedy show based on the doctors of a mobile hospital in the Korean War. I used to watch episodes of it with my brother when I was younger, not really understanding the fighting but laughing at the jokes. Now that I can comprehend both sides to the show – the masterfully written satire against the darkly sobering realities of war – I appreciate it so much more. No one has mastered dry sarcastic wit quite like Hawkeye.
My favourite play…
The Cursed Child. Not necessarily for its plot or characters, but because of the flooring special effects and creativity into putting magic on the stage. The huge nostalgia and emotional connection with the original books made watching this play like nothing I’d experienced. The ingenuity behind Polyjuice potion, dementors or even warping the stage during time travel was astonishing.
My favourite author or book…
Neil Gaiman. This man is insane, in the best way possible; his books are just so weird, and I can never put them down. A few of his more famous books are American Gods, Stardust, Coraline and Good Omens. A personal favourite is Neverwhere, a story about an “opposite” London Below and a man who stumbles into this hidden world.
The book I’m reading…
In Praise Of Difficult Women by Karen Karbo. It is a collection of short biographies about female icons who were bold and charismatic – and difficult in the best ways possible. Feminine, empowering and inspiring, it teaches the reader how being a “difficult” woman means being unapologetic for pushing boundaries. So many women are branded with degrading labels for questioning authority or disagreeing with the opinions of others, but this book translates the slander into the true audacious qualities they possess.
The book I wish I had written…
Stoner by John Williams. This is an interesting book, because it’s the most boring book I’ve ever read. Williams took the mundane life of a simple man and wrote with such sophistication that I was gripped. I aspire to have the same level of eloquence with words that this writer does. He doesn’t write with flamboyant language, but a functional, linear prose, and it is for that reason the poignant, heart-breaking moments are amplified. Madeline Gadd on Goodreads simplified why this book is so compelling in a few short words: “it reminds us that ordinary people who live ordinary lives can have a beautiful story to tell too.”
The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read…
The Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird. Both I know are extraordinary pieces of literature, but I have just never got around to reading them. I suppose maybe it’s because I have heard such high praise I am scared of disappointment or because I know the general summaries, I already know what they have to say.
My favourite film…
Atlantis: The Lost Empire. I know, I know. It’s a Disney film. But it was way ahead of its time and remains my go to film if nothing else is interesting. It has a teenage female Puerto Rican mechanic, an African American doctor, a provocative German mercenary, an Italian demolition expert and a French geologist who thinks he is a mole. It sounds like an introduction to a bad joke, but it’s diverse, witty, charismatic and absolutely my favourite movie.
My favourite TV series…
Travelers. It’s a show on Netflix about how humans in the future have developed technology to transfer consciousness and send people back in time into the bodies of those about to die. They save themselves from the situation, whether it be a skydiving accident or a car crash and carry out missions to try to avoid the eventual downfall of man. Brilliantly written, emotional and thrilling.
My favourite piece of music…
‘Youth’ by Daughter. I feel like this is a good coming-of-age song. I first heard it when I was about 14, so it’s been with me through a lot of my teenage angst. It’s slow but has a build-up reminiscent of some of Florence and the Machine classics. It has very evocative lyrics that can strike a chord with growing up and finding your bearings in changing times.
The lyric I wish I’d written…
This is a poetry lyric rather than a musical one, but I came across the poem “A Martian sends a postcard home” by Craig Raine and I really enjoyed it. I’m captured by the perspective of the poem, as it’s so outlandish and quizzical. The idea of night being when “the colours die” and dreams being described as a time when we “read about [our]selves in colour with [our] eyelids shut”. It’s the description of normal activities but from a completely different angle that’s so fascinating.
My guiltiest cultural pleasure…
Re-watching the same movies and TV shows over and over again. I know there are so many amazing undiscovered things that I’ll love but I somehow always end up watching the media that I know won’t disappoint me.
If I could own one painting…
Anything by Leonid Afremov. My only reasoning is that his paintings are so colourful and beautiful. I can’t really describe a painting with words, so here’s the link to most of his work: www.afremov.com
The instrument I wish I’d learnt…
The guitar because it’s such a social instrument. You can carry it around (unlike a piano), and its used in most pop songs and also the most beautiful songs. We’ve all seen the romantic scenes in movies where there’s a fire on a beach, a guitar and a group of people singing. That is the dream.
The music that cheers me up…
This may be an odd answer, but I love listening to really intense and dramatic movie soundtracks while I’m doing seriously mundane things like the washing up or revising. It helps to make the activity much more exciting. I highly recommend the soundtrack from How to Train Your Dragon – it’s beautiful!
The place I feel happiest…
Since lockdown, I’ve had more time to enjoy sitting outdoors on my patio with a good book, a sewing project or just to soak up the sun. We have a hammock under the trees in a little “forest” corner of our garden. It’s very immersing considering it’s so small, but I think that would have to be my favourite place. It’s a shaded and comfy place to read, so it’s brilliant.
Quite a lot of the media I encounter is because the masses are discussing them, but occasionally I stumble upon something more obscure. I think a lot of people my age tend to focus on fantasy or fiction books and are missing out on so many amazing non-fiction reads. I recently picked up Erebus by Michael Palin which is a biography of sorts about a boat. Doesn’t sound very thrilling but honestly one of the best books I’ve read for a while. Maybe this was a genre that only I underappreciated and underrated, but I highly recommend looking into more non-fiction books too!
Frozen. I hated this film, and I know it’s for children, but I really don’t like it. I hate it so much I’m not even going to talk about it.
Read all of our ‘My Cultural Life’ entries here.
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