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‘My Cultural Life’ – Mr S McCormick

‘My Cultural Life’ – Mr S McCormick

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 next entry is from Mr S McCormick, Deputy Head Academic at Stamford High School.

The box set I’m hooked on…

I’ve just finished The Last Dance – the Netflix docuseries about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls – which I thought was superb. I must admit, I’m not normally a basketball fan but the way Jordan transcended global popular culture was something to behold. Watching interviews with former players, I don’t think it was easy to be his teammate. However, I respect the way he led by example and that he had sky-high expectations of himself as well as those around him.

My favourite play…

This is a tough one. I really love James Graham’s This House which is set in the whip’s office in Parliament in the 1970s. It debuted in 2012 but was re-released as part of the “NT Live At Home” programme last month. It offers a wonderfully funny insight into the murky world of the party whip. It harks back to a time when politics was full of subterfuge and the most important thing was not letting the other side win. Thankfully that kind of childish behaviour is behind us…

However, I think I am going to choose Othello. I studied it at school and have taught the play numerous times but there’s nothing quite like seeing Shakespeare performed live. The words are given a different dimension; it’s like music. I’m hard pressed to think of a greater villain than Iago.

My favourite author or book…

I love the Jeeves and Wooster novels by P.G. Wodehouse. I rather think the romantic world of lazy summer afternoons, cucumber sandwiches, a private income and 4pm cocktails quite appealed to my teenage self. I never much fancied the opulence and depravity proffered in some of the classics, but I liked the idea of spending time in the Drones Club. Wodehouse’s use of language is exquisite and brilliantly funny.

The book I’m reading…

I often have two or three on the go at once. Normally I’ll have something a student has recommended, something for work, and some political non-fiction text too. I’m currently reading John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down, Sam Strickland’s Education Exposed and Ken Clarke’s Kind of Blue.

The book I wish I had written…

Waterland by Graham Swift. You should all read it.

The book that saved me…

Is it embarrassing or cliched to say Harry Potter? It didn’t save me as such, but I read the Philosopher’s Stone, aged 11, and the Deathly Hallows was released as I turned 18. I suppose I was part of the original “Harry Potter generation”. There are, undoubtedly, better books out there. But, for me, this is where my love of reading started so who knows where I’d be if I hadn’t read them.

The book I couldn’t finish…

Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I struggled through Far from the Madding Crowd as a set text at school and was really put off Hardy. At 15 I found it all unnecessarily turgid and there is only so much time a teenage boy wants to spend analysing a description of a watch. At 19 I felt I should give Hardy another go, and tried Tess but I gave up about 30 pages in. Mr Mills will be hugely disappointed to read this, and perhaps now the time is ripe to try again.

The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read…

There are so many books I haven’t read, but I don’t think it’s shameful. There just isn’t time for everything. It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that English teachers should have read the works of Jane Austen; I’ve never read a single one…

My favourite film…

Mean Girls. Next question.

My favourite TV series…

That’s easy: The West Wing. Aaron Sorkin’s writing, particularly in the first two series, is masterful. It has pace, wit, humour, pathos – the whole shebang. Is it a little dated? Probably. But my goodness America could benefit from a Bartlet Administration right about now. Two Cathedrals (the finale of Season 2) is, in my opinion, one the greatest pieces of television ever made.

My favourite piece of music…

The theme tune from Ski Sunday. It reminds me of Sunday afternoons on the sofa with my dad.

The last TV programme that made me cry…

I cry a lot. Most things will set me off. I watched Inside Out (the Pixar film) with my daughter at the weekend and had a good weep at that.

The lyric I wish I’d written…

The John Barnes rap in World in Motion.

My guiltiest cultural pleasure…

ITV3. There’s nothing quite like watching re-runs of Midsomer Murders or Morse interspersed with adverts about Saga holidays.

If I could own one painting…

Millais’ Ophelia. I remember seeing it for the first time in The Tate on a school trip when I was about 14. I’ve no idea what makes a “good” painting but I love the contrast between the girl floating in the stream and the colours of the flowers hanging loosely from her fingers. It’s beautifully haunting.

The instrument I wish I’d learnt…

I learned the piano until I was 8 or 9. I hated practising and so was never very good. Eventually I persuaded my parents to let me quit, although my mother said I would regret it. Turns out, mums are always right.

The music that cheers me up…

We currently listen to a lot of Disney soundtracks and ABBA in my house. It’s very difficult not to be cheered up by a 3-year-old making up dance routines and attempting to sing-along to Voulez-vous…

The place I feel happiest…

The kitchen. It’s the heart of any home and I love to cook. Often my 1 year old son will be crawling around under my feet whilst my daughter will be trying to “help”. We try to eat as a family as much as possible and one of the only good things about lockdown has been having lunch and dinner together each day.

The film/play I walked out of…

I’ve never walked out of anything before, but I did fall asleep watching Avatar in the cinema. I’m sorry to say, I don’t get what all the fuss is about.

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

Byron, Shelley, Blake and Wordsworth – can you imagine!

And I’ll put on this music…

For that group, probably The Cure.

I wasted an evening…

As a Fulham fan, I had a season ticket for 5 years at Craven Cottage. Sadly I’ve wasted many evenings over the years watching them lose.

Underrated…

Heinz tomato soup

Overrated…

Craft beer

 

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

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