So what now? ~ every ending is a new beginning, isn’t it?


So what now? ~ every ending is a new beginning, isn’t it?


Yesterday I taught my last ever lesson in my current job. It’s not even current, so I must get used to that first. I’ve known this was coming, since last summer when a little voice in my head said, “This is the last proper summer school you’ll teach.” I tried to dismiss it but it turned out to be true.

I’m not sure how I feel, to be honest. There’s an undercurrent of relief; there have been aggravations galore I shan’t go into here in detail. But after five and a half years, I wish it were ending better. It feels like a damp squib, this tiny slice of previous glories. The first summer school I taught at we had probably about three hundred students over the July and August, sneaking into September. This year we had just thirteen students over three weeks. Three were Spanish and the rest were Chinese, who had three hours of morning teaching five days a week, and three hours of afternoon teaching four days a week. I did all their tours too. It wasn’t easy. So much of English history and culture is a total blank to Chinese people. And since the kids were all aged about 14, their interest in either culture or history was limited. I felt much of the time I was talking to myself.

So I came home yesterday afternoon and felt flat and a bit underwhelmed.

I’m moving in a few weeks time to somewhere inland, too far to drive back for the money I get offered, even allowing for the fact that I’ve heard only of a possible week of work next March. So time to draw a final line under it and start again with something else, something new.

But what? I’ve tried looking ahead and I can see only a blank, a void. This worries me, though from past experience it tends to mean that the future is still shaping itself, and elements are coming together but not yet enough to see a coherent whole.

I’m looking forward to having a nice view from my study window and a bigger house in what looks like being a lovely place. But work? I can’t see what I’m going to be doing.

My own plans include releasing a new novel at the end of September. Two good friends with eagle eyes are proofreading for me at the moment, my dear friend Andrew has done me a fabulous cover.


It’s a novel I am deeply proud of (not that I am not proud of the others at all, but this one is….. well, it’s different) and one I hope that people will like. I’m not sure what genre it fits into. The cover suggests a mystery or even a horror/ghost story, and while there are certainly elements in it of those genres, it’s not really either. It’s not a romance, though for some there may seem to be elements of it there(at least on the very surface). The only description I can give is of a psychological drama. For those who have read Away With The Fairies, the sequel of this new novel, The Bet, also has Isobel in it, but The Bet can stand alone. (It has two sequels, just so’s you know) Here’s the current blurb/synopsis:


The Bet

by Vivienne Tuffnell




Jenny likes a challenge and Antony is the biggest challenge of her life….



Boys like you get preyed upon,” Antony’s father tells him in a rare moment of honesty and openness, but Richard can have no idea just how vulnerable his eighteen-year-old son truly is. From a family where nothing is quite as it seems and where secrecy is the norm, Antony seems fair game to the predatory Jenny. Her relentless pursuit of him originates in a mean-spirited bet made with her colleague Judy, Antony’s former history teacher, who has challenged Jenny to track him down and seduce him.


Jenny is totally unprepared for Antony’s refusal to sleep with her or to have any sort of relationship other than friendship. She’s never met anyone quite like him before and her obsession deepens the more he rejects her. She’s no idea what he’s already been through and as far as she’s concerned it’s irrelevant.


Pretty soon, for both of them it becomes a much more serious matter than a mere bet and the consequences are unimaginable for either of them.

 Anyway, I’m aiming to get this out around the 28th of September, if t

he move goes smoothly and I’m able to get all the other things done that need doing. In the meantime, if anyone would like to contribute a guest post (I have one awaiting the autumn from a regular commenter Jonathan), I’d be very happy to host it. I’m finding it hard to string words together right now.

Enjoy the rest of the summer, my friends. I’ll try and get myself back to my twice a week blogging as soon as life settles a bit.



Finding the Rosetta Stone ~ communicating and miscommunicating

 Finding the Rosetta Stone ~ communicating and miscommunicating


I’ve been silent here for a few weeks. Part of this is because both work and personal life have been stressful and fatiguing, but part of it is because I felt as though I’d somehow not measured up. I felt as though I’d not managed to convey what was in my mind in such a way that meant it was understood easily. Words are sometimes imperfect messengers; one can use too many or too few and often use the wrong ones, or the right ones in the wrong way.

I felt frustrated by my own inexpertise.

So, I shut up.

About time too, perhaps some might think. Who do I think I am, to be sharing my thoughts with all and sundry?

But it did set me thinking about what could make communicating easier and clearer. About what might scotch the misunderstandings that lead to fights between loved ones and even between nations. And what changes I might need to make to make my own attempts at dialogue with the world better.

I wrestled with metaphors as a hunter might wrestle with bears or crocodiles and inevitably came off the worst.

So I stayed silent.

London was quiet this weekend, and it meant for the first time I could get close to this statue I’d never managed to photograph before without someone else being in the photo:


I stared for some minutes and remembered a poem I’d always loved:



I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

As Shelley wrote this poem, no one could read hieroglyphs, and no one knew the names of the Pharoahs so guesses were made to give names to the statues etc. At the same time, diligent work was being done to decipher this strange writing. By 1822, enough progress had been made to begin to read ancient Egyptian and find the true names of the lost kings of the old kingdoms. The key to understanding was this inscription: which was written in three languages. The same words, using different letters in different languages. It revolutionised the study of ancient Egypt. It was the missing piece of the puzzle.

So what is the missing piece in my problem? What would make communicating difficult, nebulous, mystical concepts easier? What would make sharing the contents of my psyche and soul clearer?

I think I may know the answer.





Words fail me, and I fail them


Words fail me, and I fail them.


Despite my love for the English language, I find my own ability to use it to convey complex, often nebulous concepts is far from adequate. I cast around for metaphors, for analogies and parables to express what I feel deep within. Sometimes it’s beyond my capacity to hit the mark, sometimes I fail the words and the concepts. I get upset by the feeling that while the shades of meaning and the subtleties almost convey what I want to say, in the end I fail to transmit the core of what I want to say. Rather than resort to aphorisms or platitudes, reusing the worn-out and often inadequate but comfortingly familiar phrases and sound-bites that have proliferated in recent years, I’d rather fall back on poetry. This snippet expresses well the feeling of a failing command of words when under great pressure to express what maybe is only something that can be directly experienced:


And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Will not stay still.” T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

So why do I write when the words fail me and I fail them? Perhaps this is why:

You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,

You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know

You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess

You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not

You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.” T.S. Eliot, East Coker