• Shanley McConnell

Holiday Mornings Mid-Term

Updated: Oct 13, 2019

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Disclaimer: Hello! My friends 🍁 I hope you are well, and have had a lovely, restful summer so far. I haven't written a random blog-post in a while, and so, I thought I'd try something new. Uploading an update with a slightly different format with keywords and random headings.


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Sneak Preview


Deadlines. I have two course-related deadlines to meet this month; 1) the beginning section (prologue and poems) of the upcoming dissertation 2) key-points and a bullet-point argument for a correlating academic essay.


Would you like a sneak preview of the upcoming project? Just a quick premise? It's this:


(Okay, I did write an in-depth synopsis here and then realized I'd better not give too much of the surprise away just yet. Also copyright reasons), so... I'll promise you this! If you email me, I'll send you the excerpt, ok?


This project is distinct from my previous collections because each poem exists to support a complete narrative, making characterization and imagination a little more expansive in that it needs to bring the reader from page one to the end. At the moment, I'm about six or so poems into the collection. Wish me the best for it, please? I'm a little nervous that it'll be a bit chaotic, but I'm looking forward to creating something quite unusual (for me) too.


KPOP to HIPHOP


So some of you may already know this, having seen some photographs throughout the years, but to most of my newer readers: the recap is this.


I used to study dance. Ballet. Jazz. Tap. Lyrical. Back in my drama-performing, pre-stage-fright days, I loved to dance. I would plié behind the mirror, bending at the barre. Half-point pirouette.


I can't say that I was particularly good, only that I practiced often. The arabesque and attitude. And whenever I forgot the choreography, which happened almost every second-class, I wasn't afraid to recompose the steps with new movements. After years of dance, when I was asked to choose between violin and dance, music came first.


However, I still loved (and continue to love) dancing. Be it a skip on the street, a little late-night jazz, the spin of a waltz, the infamous Dundee ceilidh, I'll join in.


I think I'm more of a nervous dancer now; the knee-bopping side-to-side rhythm-keeping kind of dancing.


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About a year ago now, my sister discovered KPOP and became an avid-fan. Along with my youngest sibling, she is right up to parr with Idol choreography and speed. I love returning home cosy on the couch to watch them perform dance after music-video dance.


We were on a picnic------honeycomb cookies, a beach towel and old abbey ruins------when my sister begged me to learn a couple steps. Mmm, yep, ok, it's actually, really, very difficult to keep in time with the routine and hip-hope pace, isn't it? This last month I've been trying to learn at least one choreography so that I can surprise them when I return home for Christmas, and I'm just about halfway through. Dance-battle when I return will most likely still place me in silver, but at least, I can successfully remember measure 1 to minute 2.46.


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Thank You To A Random Blogger


The other night I returned home after a long work-session where I'd written-out about twenty-six cat-post-its and pinned them to my office-board. After a cup of tea, I settled down to read. About twenty pages into Murakami, I was instead scrolling through Facebook/Wordpress and came across a random-blog.


The author lives somewhere in Oxford (I gather from the posts), and yet, I wonder if I'll matric to graduate without ever meeting you, fellow student. Do you know? I can't imagine that you'll never read this post (our studies enter completely different territories), but I wanted to say thank-you. Because reading your updates reminded me of why I loved to write; you wrote with humor and that heart-felt enthusiasm that embraces all the best (and worst) of student-experiences and made them feel as universal as they were personal.


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When Sunshine Is A Picnic In The Shade


I glanced back over my calendar earlier this morning as I was updating the schedule for the upcoming week and realized how I cling to summer as the picnic-planner. Hehe, I could hardly believe how many times my friends and I met for a gathering on the grass. Wellington Square must come in first place for this. There's this beautiful tree that reaches out and shades a majority of the gated circle-park. After the Pompeii-exhibition or a lie-in morning, a takeaway from Gloucester Green is perfect for meeting to discuss upcoming deadlines and highlight of the week.


I also walked to HogAcre this last month for the first time; it's a sweet, relaxed farm with a communal garden. On Sundays from 12-4, the surplus fresh produce is used for a delicious, bottomless brunch. It's the perfect time of year for this, so if you haven't been, I can't recommend enough! It's such a hideaway.


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A Strange Courage


I've been considering courage in all its different weights & wonders, and I think I've come to the conclusion that boldshy is a thing. Like how you can feel shy and bold simultaneously; in one moment, brazen and alive with conversation and courage, and the next, shy and all too curious to be anything but quietly listening.


I've met a lot of people this month, and when I think back to all the times I've spent catching-up with new friends, I realize that it's alright to feel shy.


I've learned that saying hello is enough. A simple greeting is like a smile. It shows someone that you you care to know/speak with them without promising that conversation will be effortless. And I've found that saying hello seems to still a lot of my heart-reverbing fears. Because, in speaking to someone, you find that they may feel the same as you.


To be shy does not mean that you are insecure or quiet. Sometimes these three might align? But other times, "shy" might just be nerves. And that's normal, isn't it?


If you have any other suggestions for overcoming 'shy', please share!


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OK, OhWait MMM, GARAGEBAND WHY

(At Least We've Named This Thing)


As of the last month, a dear friend and I began creating (and preparing to release) a podcast about Art & Christianity. The logline is this: Two creative writers reminiscing on their experiences of engaging with the arts through their christian faith.


Ep. 1 begins with a focus on art as a vehicle for beauty and revelation. How, for both of us as Christians, art is an expression of worship, inherently of value because of who we make it for.


It has been so exciting exploring topics and creating a schedule for the upcoming Michaelmas Season. Because it is our first time dealing with new equipment (the microphones, pop-filters), there have been a lot of re-records and laughs as we figure out how to introduce the podcast, connect the equipment with the editorial programs as well as deal with external interruptions.


I've also learned how easy it is to become tongue-tied, even whilst on script. And how, sometimes naming a project is more difficult than the actual creation of it.


A little plug. Keep an eye out for our podcast coming soon. ...I'll keep the name of it a secret until the release-date coming soon.


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Walking Past Post-Meridiem


I've started having trouble walking home after dark again.


Very few of you will know this, but least year, probably around early winter when it was very cold and extra windy, I was shoved off my bicycle by some young men on my way home from the library after an evening meet with a friend. She had hosted a birthday party, and asked if I would swing by for a while to help her set-up and clean the space afterwards. I think it was around half-ten when I headed home. I was about half-way there when my bike lights sputtered-out, dead.


Because the night was so cold, almost unexpectedly so for the season, and the streets were completely empty, I felt it would be alright to keep on cycling as long as I remained alert and near the sidewalk.


About halfway down one of the main streets, I remember there were a couple of young men walking by. We made eye-contact. Because they looked like students, I didn't think anything of it. It reassured me to see them; I wasn't alone anymore, even if but for that quick cycle-by. What happened next is still a bit of a blur to me, but I remember how it replayed in my mind during the months that followed.


I remember feeling a sharp pain in my side as I rode past; one of the two had stepped out into the road and knocked me off my bike with a hard-elbow. I remember hitting the ground hard, knocking a shoulder against the car parked closest to the street meter. I remember struggling to stand, and seeing both palms scratched and a bit bloodied. What I remember the most was that they stepped closer, spat on the ground near my knee and walked away; they were laughing, and it hurt me to see how unashamed they were in spite of this.


After this moment, I avoided the Ashmolean for the longest time. I couldn't walk alone past dark without being overcome, midway to and from my destination, with an intense panic. This meant that I missed quite a few of my favorite evening activities. I was ashamed by how much this small act of violence affected me. Perhaps I was because it felt too unexpected, so unnecessary. Perhaps it was because, although I knew that many cities struggle with an underlining violence, I hadn't experienced it before. I felt I couldn't explain why I could no longer attend certain events, and struggled to maintain later-night commitments.


Because my bike-lights had gone out, I was too afraid to approach the police. I feared I might mislead them? Or waste their time? I felt that the situation could have been much worse, and I wouldn't be able to recognize the men again? Most of all, I believed that I was truly in the wrong.


Because it's been a while since this incident (around a year), and I've felt much stronger since. However, the other day, as I was walking back from my college around nine o'clock, a man I didn't recognize began to approach me. He seemed slightly drunk, and as I assumed he was only walking in the opposite direction, I moved out of his way to the other side of the sidewalk. Inside of continuing on, he grabbed my arms and began to talk. I was so startled that I jerked free and rushed home. Nothing else happened. I was alright, and he didn't follow.


I suppose I wanted to tell this story now because I didn't realize how much these moments affected me until the other day when I was returning from an event in town around eight. It was early, and the sun was only setting and I stepped in a shadow. The sun was blocked behind a building, and the walk was about a minute from one side to the other, and yet, in those sixty-odd-seconds, I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think straight, and the whole street felt small and claustrophobic.


I'm okay. I have a flashlight now, and also good friends who walk with me to and from home past dark. Sometimes I don't even feel anxious at all. It's a bit strange. Other times I can hardly manage to make it down the street with clear vision. I suppose the reason I felt compelled to include this now was to encourage anyone who has been in any similar situations to please reach out for comfort in friends.


I know that both these moments could have ended differently. How they often have in cases where many people that I have cared about were involved. But I wanted to write and say that I think I've finally learned that feeling afraid isn't anything to be embarrassed about, as I once thought. Rather, it should give me a sense of confidence to approach others and ask for their support as well as fills me with the desire to advocate on behalf of those who have experienced similar situations.


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I Have A Knack For Breaking Headphones


I don't know how it happens, but I've broken two in the last three months. The second, a cheap pair, but still. It's always the right ear-bud too. Sometimes If I twist the input plug round over and again, I've discovered that it's almost-never-but-once-in-a-song possible to fix the sound slightly so that the music can be heard through both ears. I've gotten adjusted to listened intently through one ear-piece, however, I'm starting to think its affecting my balance. I'm walking a bit partial to whichever way the sound comes through. Is this a thing?


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I'm Pretty Sure I Saw A Wolf Today


And I'm not even exaggerating. There was a man walking, rather casually, in front of Oxford University Press. We made eye contact, and he shrugged: yep, acknowledged.


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Every Evening

(Let's Take Another Walk Round The Quad, Shall We?)


I've eaten in my dining hall almost every day this week because I'm currently working as an employee at the college for the next three weeks. It has to remain a secret unless you ask me in person. Then I'll tell you everything, good gossip included too. I feel happy to be working with such a wonderful team of people.


The hall is so vibrant now that all the cleaning and renovations have near-finished.


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Calm Start


I've taken to catching-up on missed episodes in the mornings over a cup of green-tea and breakfast. I've found that watching a bit of TV every now and again in the am is better than late-evening reruns; it leaves me with a sense of nostalgia or momentum for writing, forces me to curl-up and savor the slow morning and often inspires me as I continue the morning with my own narrative-writing. Although I don't have the time to do this consistently, every now and again is nice. This routine swap has made a difference to my sleeping pattern because settling down with a book makes me feel far more rested when I wake. I don't watch a lot of television, especially during term-times, however, when I do, I'd quite like to try adopting this schedule.


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1Q Makes Me Happy


Haruki Murakami wrote a novel entitled 1Q84, a dystopian, suspense-thriller set in a world with two moons. First published in Japan across three volume (2009-10), this narrative was one of my favorites from the year. It crosses a fictionalized year in parallel with a 'real one.'


So when I say that 1Q makes me happy, I mean to say that this year makes me happy. The real one. The one with a single-moon sky.


There's a skylight in our house, and if you look through the window at around 4am in the morning, you can see the moon in its present, crescent state. I only know this because I woke up around that time to get a glass of water because I was feeling quite parched. And that's when I saw it, looking so far away that it was only the shimmer of a silhouette in the dark cloudlessness.


I like the moon a lot. I recently wrote a Descort, which is a French-form of poetry where none of the lines are allowed to connect, and consequently, inadvertently do. It was about the moon, and the the seasons weave its light into the pattern of their night. Summer. Winter. Spring. Fall. I've submitted the work to a competition recently so maybe there'll be positive feedback on this, or maybe it'll take another long while before this poem is released, but either way, it was one of my highlight-poems of the semester.


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Because Of Windy Weather


My eyes have begun to cry at random times again; as if they've just decided to up and spill over. When I'm walking to and from school, cycling home from work, sitting on a bench outside OUP, waiting for a friend in front Tesco, reading on the couch, curled up at the kitchen table with a cup of tea. When I'm doing nothing in particular at all, they waterfall down the sides of my cheeks. Sometimes leaving strange patterns behind. Even at night, I fall asleep with little marks at the corner of my eyes. And I'm not sad. Not even a little bit.


I remember that this used to happen quite a lot when it was cold and windy. Or, when my eyes were dry and sleepless. But now, it doesn't make sense. A couple years ago when I was in my penultimate year at Dundee, my eyes started watering similarly. Allergies, perhaps? But then, why only these years? And also, why when the spring is nearest its end and winter approaches. Aren't we in the in-between season when allergies would fade?


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Neon & Blue Cleat


Every Wednesday I walk to the Farmers' Market in Gloucester Green. Most days, I leave with a fresh collection of fruit: strawberries, raspberries, peaches, a melon. Apples and blackberries. I choose two depending on the season.


Other days, I'll try a new meal at one of the food-stalls: Chinese Dumplings, Ethiopian Cuisine, Tibetan Momos, Nepalese Dal Bhat, Curry from Goa and (one of my favorites) Spanish Paella. I'll wander and people-watch as the students, locals and sellers interact with one another. The chaos of it all calming.


Today I bought blackberries five minutes before closing time; I carried them home with my groceries. It already felt like evening because the sky was already grey and foggy. Children, all boys, were playing football at the park across from the University Press. In their jerseys and cleats, they were shouting: this way, pass, pass! It reminded me of the years when I played football.


I was allocated an all-boys team my first year. It wasn't intentional; just the way the names matched alphabetically, I think. One of my closest friends joined the team the following year, and every year after that, the teams began to even. When I started high-school, I began practicing with an all-girls team. Every afternoon, I would change quickly into football gear, rushing a couple of streets over the highway from my school to the next.


My dad was the coach that year, and my sister, the goal-scorer. I remember how, compared to her skill, I didn't feel as though I was very good. That, and I was always leaving the pitch with some sort of injury. A bruised knee, a scratched elbow, a grass-burn on my ankle. Once, at an away-game, I remember an opponent slipped, crushing my leg with her fall.


I suppose it was easy to become discouraged when I compared myself to the other players; this was a sport they took very seriously, and I was simply another member who had joined for a chance to enjoy the game. I practiced the footwork, but struggled to keep it up to parr with the rest of the team because I was splitting my time and practice amongst other activities. And deep-down, I think I was afraid that I would break my arm. Because my violin was the most important extracurricular for me, and I couldn't bear to miss out on an orchestra-season again.


I loved football. It's a sport where everyone has a chance to feel involved. The rules are simple, and there's a clear way to win. When you leave the pitch in an exhausted state of ecstasy because you know all the practice has paid off. When you know that everyone else feels the same. I like this.


One of my fondest memories from these years was when my dad drove me about an hour away to buy a new pair of cleats. He had kept it a surprise. I think he knew, he must have known, that I was a little discouraged. I hadn't scored a goal the entire season (which makes sense considering that I generally began and ended each game in defensive position).


When we walked in, he helped me pick out a pair of neon yellow shoes, a bright blue stripe around the center. It was as if he was reassuring me that no matter what happened, no matter if I didn't use all the fancy footwork, if I ran and kept on running with the team, that would be enough. It would be seen.


Walking past the little leagues today reminded me of this. In life we may not always seem (or feel) like a valuable member of our team. It may be that our role feels lesser. But this is not the case.


Sometimes we fear the response of others when there is nothing concrete to show for the long-hours spent supporting another. When all of our diligence is seen in the success of someone else.


If we were to look, would we see the heart & hope of our attention at work in the lives of those around us? Would we know that, even when it may appear inconsequential, our desire to uplift others strengthens everyone involved? To humble oneself and live in community. This is the greater success.


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