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‘My Cultural Life’ – Mrs L Johnson

‘My Cultural Life’ – Mrs L Johnson

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.

 

Read about the cultural interests of Mrs L Johnson, Teacher of Maths at Stamford High School.

The box set I’m hooked on…

I’m not a great watcher of TV but I’m currently midway through Season 2 of Game of Thrones, mostly because my daughters thought that I wouldn’t enjoy it.  As it happens, apart from the extraordinarily high number of favourite characters that get bumped off in a violent and gory way, it’s alright, in small doses.  I don’t think my nerves would stand binge watching though.

My favourite play…

I do love Shakespeare. For those people who find the intricacies of the language off-putting, the trick is to allow yourself to ignore anything that you don’t understand and just relax into the story and the imagery; before too long, the power of the story takes over. Apart from Coriolanus. I still haven’t been able to get into that – there was lots of shouting and he wasn’t a happy man.

My favourite author or book…

I absolutely loved ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, especially the parallels between the lives of Julian and the mysterious Daniel Carax. Why are Daniel’s books being systematically destroyed?  Another story that stayed with me long after I read it was ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe.  It describes Nigeria before British colonialism with the arrival of Christian missionaries in the 19th Century and the impact they made on the Igbo people.  I think that this was Achebe’s debut novel and I really enjoyed his writing style.

The book I’m reading…

I’ve just started ‘Framley Parsonage’ by Anthony Trollope. I think this also has to count as my guilty cultural pleasure as I love this type of historical fiction in the same way that many people love TV soaps. Be it The Barchester Chronicles,  The Forsyte Saga, The Pallisers – I just love them all!

On a more serious note,  I’m also reading ‘Missing: the Need for Closure after the Great War’ by Richard van Emden, which describes the search of a mother for the grave of her son in 1918 and also considers the history leading up to the formation of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The book I wish I had written…

Mrs Colley’s book about the lives of the Stamfordians killed in the First World War. I have promised myself that one day I will write a companion book which looks at the war time experiences of the 53 fallen and other Stamfordians who served during the Great War, but it may have to be a job for my retirement.

The book that saved me…

I’m not sure I could say that it saved me but Robert Tressell’s ‘Ragged Trousers Philanthropist’ certainly did a lot to shape the way I think and the duty that society has to look after the most vulnerable in society.  It celebrates the fulfilment that work can bring but also the need to make sure that all workplaces are safe environments.

The book I couldn’t finish…

I rarely fail to finish a book as I’m always optimistic that I will ‘get into it’ eventually, but I came very close to abandoning Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserables’. The only way I got through it was by skipping all the great chunks of historical detail that kept getting in the way of the fictional story.

The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read…

Anything by James Joyce. One side of my mother’s family originates from Dublin and were related by marriage to Joyce so I feel that I really ought to read something of his. I will need to make some time to do so as I think it is going to be heavy going.

My favourite film…

I don’t really have one. I do have a soft spot for Hugh Grant though do will happily watch most films of his.

My favourite TV series…

As I’ve said already, I don’t watch much TV but I do like Only Connect, University Challenge and Mastermind.  Other series I enjoy include QI, Have I Got News for You and Taskmaster.

My favourite piece of music…

Holst’s Planet Suite, or Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, or something by the Foo Fighters or The Cure. For something a bit lighter I like Camel, Wishbone Ash (showing my age there) or Jain.

The last TV programme that made me cry…

‘Nanette’.  Hannah Gadsby is an Australian comedian and writer; she’s very funny but also very powerful in the way that she writes. She’s autistic and has ADHD and Nanette included a lot of commentary on social issues from a woman’s perspective, from an LGBT perspective and also from a neuro-diverse perspective. ‘Nanette’ is very funny but also quite hard hitting, so much so that many people (particularly middle aged men) find it difficult to watch. I got to the end, took a deep breath and had a good cry. For something a little lighter, I recommend you try ‘Douglas’ which is her follow-up show. Both are on Netflix I think.

The lyric I wish I’d written…

Pass – I’m not at all poetic.  I could have written the Wheels on the Bus, maybe….

My guiltiest cultural pleasure…

See 4

If I could own one painting…

I already have it. On our first wedding anniversary, my mother in law presented us with one of her oil paintings, a copy of a photograph of me and my husband on our wedding day.  A special reminder of a special day painted by a very special lady.

The instrument I wish I’d learnt…

I love singing; I really wish I had a more powerful voice – yes, the voice is an instrument – and had spent some time developing it.  I’m happy to sing in public but am always aware that my voice doesn’t have anything like the richness of Mrs Bennie’s or Miss Cooper’s.

The music that cheers me up…

Any music, apart from country and western, except if I’m at a line dance.

The place I feel happiest…

Anywhere there is water. I just love watching the way it moves and shimmers – there is nothing more calming.

The film/play I walked out of…

An amateur production of some murder mystery a few years ago. I felt very guilty about it, but it was just dreadful.

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

George Bernard Shaw would be an interesting one; he had a very curious mix of political views, including some which would be very unacceptable now.  I wonder how he would view the current political climate and whether he would still lean towards an authoritarian regime?  Fellow Dubliner, Oscar Wilde would also be on my list; there are certainly a few issues where I hope they would agree but discussion, when they disagreed, would be fascinating to listen to I imagine.

And I’ll put on this music…

It would probably have to include quite a lot of Mozart, another composer that I love listening to and probably better for a dinner party than Holst.

I wasted an evening…

There is very little in life that is a total waste of time as everything can be learned from and nothing in life is to be regretted. Maybe there is one exception though: some aspects of social media.  I always regret any length of time I spend on Facebook but, for me,  Twitter has been a good source for finding out about new books, websites or wider information, particularly for teaching and for the historical research that I do in my spare time. Messenger, WhatsApp and Facetime have been invaluable for keeping in touch with relatives who have been isolating in different parts of the country.

Underrated…

Apples.  Always thought they were very dull fruit until I tried them sliced with peanut butter. What a role apples have played in our culture: getting us kicked out of the Garden of Eden, being the vehicle by which we now understand of gravitational force, The Beatles’ record label,  iPads – the humble apple has been there for us all the way. And they are great in crumbles as well. Incredible.

Overrated…

Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. I really enjoyed the first couple of books from each of these authors and then the thought occurred to me that they both felt that they were terribly funny.  As soon as I became aware of their conscious sense of being funny, I found the humour beginning to grate on me.

 

 

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

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