My So-Called Life

Did anyone watch My So-Called Life, with Claire Danes (who is now in the amazing new – for us Brits – Homeland that is the latest TV series I am dangerously addicted to)?! I loved it. It perfectly encapsulated the awkwardness of the teenage years and I was devastated when I got to the end of the series – according to imdb I was 9 when it aired so I must have watched a repeat, alongside Party of Five, another much missed show that my brother, sister and I used to watch whilst lying on our stomachs in front of the TV, supposedly ‘doing our homework’. Oh those halcyon days of carefree joy!

I digress. This post is supposed to be about some non book related things I’ve been getting up to. Obviously I’ve been watching a lot of TV because it’s the end of the month and I have no money – alongside Homeland, I tried out the new Upstairs Downstairs on Sunday, but it’s no Downton Abbey and I was bored silly until Lady Persie showed up as a blatantly plagiarised Unity Mitford and made things far more interesting. Ed Stoppard (who knew he was the Tom Stoppard’s son?!) might be knee weakeningly handsome but it’s all just too earnest – Downton Abbey has ruined me and now I want post coital death and cheesy knees-up-mother-brown concerts with uncannily well-timed strategic entrances and lots of gazing into the middle distance with tear glazed eyes otherwise I am NOT SATISFIED. So, unfortunately, the well written, sensible (apart from the monkey) and very historically accurate Upstairs Downstairs is not going to get very far with me.

I went back to Kent for the weekend – my friend Emma and I had a lovely, if rainy, day out at Penshurst Place, which is a gorgeous, still privately owned manor house near Sevenoaks. It was the home of the Elizabethan poet, Sir Philip Sidney, and was visited on several occasions by Elizabeth I. The most impressive room is the original medieval hall, built in 1341, which is often used in films. The room guide took great pleasure in telling me about his experiences with film crews and Hollywood actors; the latest film to be made there was The Other Boleyn Girl, and apparently Natalie Portman was ‘very sweet’ to everyone but Scarlett Johansson was ‘a diva…lorded it around and made everyone’s life a nightmare’. Very interesting! Penshurst Place also has impressive gardens but unfortunately we visited on a depressingly grey and wet day so we didn’t really get to see them. I’ll go back in the summer, I think.

I have been doing my best to keep my new year’s resolutions going, and have done a lot of  random cooking of late. Last night I made up a dish that turned out to be very tasty; garlic roasted potatoes with a sort of vaguely Hungarian inspired sausage and kidney bean stew;  I made it from chopped tomatoes, mixed herbs, garlic, red onion, lots of chilli and tabasco, a can of red kidney beans, two chopped up pork sausages and some curly kale, as well as a dash each of red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It’s great for using up tins of stuff and especially good for when you’re poor as it’s very cheap to make!!

Reading wise, I’ve just started Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory (thanks Charles!). It’s absolutely fascinating and I found my eyes pricking with tears on the tube tonight at some of the poetry quoted inside; I haven’t really read anything WWI related other than Vera Brittain’s terrific Testament of Youth, so this overview and analysis of WWI and its impact on literature and culture is proving to be a fantastic place to start. I’ve ordered a volume of WWI poetry, the complete Siegfried Sassoon memoirs and Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All That from amazon, so I’m looking forward to really immersing myself in the period over the next few weeks. I’m mainly doing this because…drumroll…I have a very important interview coming up. I have applied to a teacher training course, which would start in September, and enable me to become a qualified secondary school English teacher. I really want to make this career move; I am passionate about giving young people the best start in life, and teaching is something I’ve been wanting to do for several years, but I’ve needed to get to the point where I feel ready to settle down and put my all into my job. Part of the interview is proving I have the subject knowledge to teach across the curriculum from ages 11 to 18, and so I am frantically attempting to plug the gaps in my literary education before I get quizzed. I’ve only got a 1 in 5 chance of getting onto the course so it’s all very up in the air and the odds are rather stacked against me, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. If there are any teachers out there reading this, if you have any tips for me, please let me have them!!

Finally, tonight I went to the bookshops on Charing Cross Road to see if I could find the WW1 books I ended up having to order from amazon. Any Amount of Books was having a pre-restock sale, and they had nothing but dregs left, which was rather annoying. Henry Pordes also had nothing, but there’s no surprise – they’re not my favourite shop, though the owner was actually polite to me this evening which makes a change! Finally I wearily made my way to Quintos, which hasn’t been good since they merged with another bookshop and moved down the street, in my opinion, and I was once again disappointed in my quest for WWI literature. However, just as I turned to leave, a magical name glinted in the corner of the basement room. Could it be….Dorothy Whipple??! Yes, it was! Not just any Dorothy either, but THE HOLY GRAIL – her autobiography, The Other Day, just sitting there, waiting for me. I haven’t seen a copy of it for less than £100 (though there’s currently a copy for £14.99 on amazon, get there quick!), and so I tentatively opened the cover to see the price, guessing that it would be unaffordable. It was £4! £4!!! I grabbed it, grinning like a lunatic, and ran to the till before anyone else could spot it. I then sat on the tube feeling smug all the way home. What a way to end a frustrating work day! I can’t WAIT to read it!


  1. Wow, Rachel: I was just looking at minimum $450 copies of The Other Day in the states! I’m actually reading it right now alongside Random Commentary (very funny) and just wrapped up The Great Mr. Knight.

    I finished up Helen R. Hull’s Landfall and reviewed it – good, but not up to Heat Lightning standards. I have a bunch of her other novels in my TBR pile now and have corresponded with Pat Miller who did her dissertation on Hull and is writing the Persephone forward for her book.

    Good luck with your interview – as a professor who regularly interviews prospective grad students, I can say I would be highly impressed to learn about your blog if I were interviewing you (since it is related to your teaching degree) – grad students have to be highly self-motivated and passionate about the subject matter – your excellent blog demonstrates this in spades. Keep us posted! Ruby

    1. bookssnob says:

      Where did you manage to find copies of the Whipples, Ruby? I have been searching for Random Commentary for years but no luck yet!!

      I have Landfall and am looking forward to getting to it at some point…I wonder how her other books will compare to Heat Lightning…I have so many waiting to be read!

      Thank you very much – you are kind! I shall certainly mention it – we’ll see how it goes! 🙂

      1. Hi Rachel: You are very welcome. I’m interlibrary borrowing the Whipples through our university library. Random commentary wasn’t so hard to find, it took them a long time to find her autobiography – ultimately, they got it from the Detroit Public Library – they don’t usually go outside other uni libraries. Take care, Ruby

      2. Hi: You are welcome! I’m interlibrary loaning them through my university library – Random Commentary wasn’t too hard to find, but it took weeks for them to track down the autobiography that you just paid a pittance for… Ruby

  2. Jo says:

    Teaching? Are you sure, I teach secondary history, I LOVE my subject but all the nonsense that goes with it and the constant criticism from ‘everyman and his dog’ is making me misersable. I’m trying to work out what else a burnt out history teacher could do. Check out the paperwork and the new Ofsted framework and the very best of luck!! My problem is most young people don’t want to learn and broaden their horizons, its a straight ‘what’s the minimum I have to do for the grade’ if you are lucky. I wish you the very best of luck.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Jo, thanks for the warning! I have plenty of friends who are teachers who have told me about the downsides, but as far as I’m concerned, anything is better than dying of boredom in an office day after day! I’m sorry teaching hasn’t turned out to bring you the satisfaction you hoped…bureaucracy is the murderer of many an enthusiast. Hope it gets better for you 🙂

      1. David Nolan says:

        Reading Jo’s comment and Rachel’s response one could be forgiven for thinking that everyone ends up hating their job: oh dear! It’s true one does meet a very high number of fed up teachers, but you do still meet some for whom it is the right calling, despite all they have to put up with. I really hope it works out for you Rachel. If it doesn’t you can always try something else.

        Sorry to hear about your situation, Jo. Having grown up in an extended family full of teachers, I was never tempted to go down the teaching route after completing my History degree. The trouble I have found with careers is that I am far more successful at ruling things out than in! Impending redundancy is forcing me to do lot of thinking in this area once more. It seems particularly difficult for literature and humanities types who choose not to follow the money and retrain for the liberal professions. I’d be happy to share my thoughts on the subject with you. I have something of a mission to make fed up historians happier. I can be reached via Twitter and Rachel has my approval to pass on my email address if you want it. All the best, regardless of whether you choose to get in touch. I do hope the job does not tarnish your love of History.

        I had something to say about Upstairs Downstairs too, but not for the first time I seem to be taking up far too much space on Rachel’s blog so I shall save that for now. Thanks, as always for your patience, R.

  3. AJ says:

    A lovely post — so much to respond to! First of all, good luck with the teaching… that’s where I started my working life and have now moved on to trying to write … much of my current research deals with the period in England from 1890 to World War I literature, such a wonderful age for novels, plays, and poetry, and with a host of truly remarkable working women. Congrats on scoring the Whipple — I have only one of her books and it is still in my To Be Read pile. I’m currently on the 4th volume — without having read the previous three — of Edel’s biography of Henry James as it deals with the time period I am working on. I am loving it and it is a treasure trove in terms of my work. But I may go back to the first three volumes for the pure pleasure of the read.

    I have seen all the episodes of My So-Called Life but only in reruns on American TV. Netflix has the entire series now. Claire Danes is quite a wonderful actress I think … I first saw her in an episode of Law and Order many years ago … also really like her in Brokedown Palace and especially a movie called Shopgirl — she reminds me of a Turgenev heroine in that one, Liza in Rudin maybe.

    Agree with you on the new Upstairs Downstairs … I couldn’t get into it although I like the cast a lot. I find aspects of Downton a bit ridiculous … but not the clothes. I adore the clothes. And the sets. And the performances.

    Finally — I enjoy hearing about what you are cooking … I love to cook and to read cookbooks and cooking magazines. In the winter I do lots of soups and stews and braises … and today — after finding some beautiful plums — I made a plum clafoutis. I was not at all unhappy with the result.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks AJ! Your current work sounds fascinating…how lucky to have two careers that you enjoy! I quite agree that the turn of the century period is a goldmine of brilliant literature. Such a shame that it doesn’t really get studied much.

      I really like Claire Danes too. I remember when she was in Romeo and Juliet and everyone said she was destined for great things and then her career sort of fizzled out. I have no idea why – perhaps it was her choice. Either way I think she is a very talented actress.

      Plum clafoutis!! I am jealous! Maybe I’ll try making that this weekend!

  4. Your so called life hit pay dirt, Rachel, with that wonderful find of “The Other Day”. The one thing I love almost as much as finding such bargains of treasured book myself is when wonderful folks such as yourself find them as well. Each time you make discoveries on Charing Cross Road, or elsewhere, I grin with girlish delight for you, Rachel.

    What a wonderful trip to Kent and Penshurst Place you had and wonderful for us to hear about it from you.

    I think you almost needed to see the old Upstairs Downstairs to be interested in the new series. With a year to wait for the next Downtown Abbey, I was looking forward to Upstairs Downstairs, though I hear PBS might not be playing it here. Oh well . . .

    Time to prepare supper. . .

    1. bookssnob says:

      I know, Penny, I was so lucky! I love reading about other people’s book finding coups as well – how sweet you are to rejoice on my behalf!!

      I have only seen a few episodes of the old old Upstairs Downstairs and wasn’t only fussed. Maybe it will pick up next week!

  5. Lucy says:

    Another beautiful outing, so lovely! And with some juicy Hollywood gossip thrown in haha 🙂

    I’m currently teaching English as a second language at an elementary school in South Korea, it’s quite fun and the kids are adorable, but I prefer to teach young adults. In Vancouver I taught at a private language school and most of the students were in their early 20s, and from all over the world. It was super fun! Engaging with your students and bringing real passion and energy into the classroom makes it awesome. If the students aren’t motivated though…it’s really tough. But I think it’s possible to find out what they are interested in and make the subject matter relevant to them somehow. Oops, now I’m going off on tangents!

    I watched the original Upstairs Downstairs and got through quite a lot of it before getting a little bored and giving up. Still haven’t seen the second season of Downton but that will undoubtedly be remedied shortly.

    I think my favourite tv series about teenagers is Freaks and Geeks. I have it on DVD and it’s absolutely brilliant. I also really enjoyed the first three seasons of Gilmore Girls.

    Cheers 🙂

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hollywood gossip is always entertaining, isn’t it! 🙂

      How exciting, Lucy – what a great adventure you must be having! I’m so glad you’re doing something you enjoy – teaching is so rewarding, isn’t it? I so hope I’ll get to join you in the profession!!

      Lucy you need to get on that Downton second series! It’s fantastic!

      I’ve never seen Freaks and Geeks but I went through a phase of watching the Gilmore Girls and I loved it!

  6. Simon T says:

    I once found The Other Day and Random Commentary by Dorothy Whipple in a secondhand bookshop in Cornwall, for £4 each – I jumped for joy! But now I have lent one of them to someone.. and I can’t remember who. ARGH!

    1. Simon T says:

      Oh, and I think you’d make an amazing teacher – hope it all goes v well!

      1. bookssnob says:

        Thanks Simon, I appreciate that! 🙂

    2. bookssnob says:

      Oh of course you did – you are the luckiest book finder I ever met! But you LENT it to someone? You madman! I hope you get it back!

  7. The Whipple is an amazing find! How exciting for you!

    Best of luck with your interview for the course! I remember in school how exciting it was to have teachers who loved their topics and loved working with students, which is just the kind of teacher I’m sure you’d be!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Claire, I know! I am still excited about it!

      Thank you so much Claire – that is so sweet of you! Fingers crossed! 🙂

  8. Jenny says:

    I had no desire to watch Upstairs Downstairs before but now I sort of want to see it so that I can make my own determination about this claim of Ed Stoppard being super handsome.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Jenny, you KNOW I have excellent taste. He is HOT and you’ll love him. Though actually he might be a bit feminine looking for you. Look him up online!

  9. I am envious of the Whipple find, especially at that price. I think My So Called Life is one of the best dramas about high school to ever hit the small screen. So good (and ahead of its time) but so short lived.

    1. bookssnob says:

      It really was quite the find – i still can’t quite believe it – I never see Whipples for sale, ever! I quite agree – such a shame it finished so soon when so many mediocre drama series drag on for YEARS…

  10. Carolyn says:

    I think you’d make an excellent English teacher, Rachel, you are so passionate about books. I started taking Education courses at my university over 5 years ago and even did some student teaching with teenagers, but found it too stressful at that time, and all the work that I did up to that point to get high enough marks to get into the program had just made the whole experience even more stressful! You seem to have high energy though, which is definitely necessary for the job.

    I’ve been enjoying Downton Abbey season 2 even more than season 1. I thought about watching Upstairs, Downstairs, but it just doesn’t look the same, even though I like Keeley Hawes.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Carolyn, so nice to see you back in the blogosphere! Thank you very much – I’m sorry you didn’t have a great experience with teaching – it can be incredibly stressful and I am just hoping that if I am able to get on the course that I won’t find it too much for me! I certainly do have a lot of energy!

      Carolyn I have been rewatching Downton Abbey at every opportunity and as I type this I am rewatching the Christmas special…pure and absolute bliss. Upstairs Downstairs just can’t compare!

  11. Diana says:

    Congratulations on your literary find! I loved the details about the filming that goes on at Penhurst. It’s probably quite gossipy of me, but I love hearing the details of what stars are like on set. I feel that’s where the truth comes out, if that makes sense.

    Good luck on your upcoming interview! If the odds are against you statistically, I think your knowledge of literature and contagious enthusiasm for reading give you a clear edge. It’s exactly what students need from an English teacher.

    P.S. Loved your use of the phrase ‘post-coital death.’ Brilliant!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Diana! Oh don’t worry, I am the worst gossip I know!!

      Thank you very much – you are so kind! I hope you’ll be right!!

      Hehehe – just thought I’d slip that in! 😉

  12. Mrs.B. says:

    Oh gosh what a find! I had no idea Ms.Whipple had an autobiography. I loved Homeland. It was indeed addictive. I can’t wait for season 2.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Oh yes, Mrs B! I can’t wait to find out more about her life. I can’t wait to find out what happens in the rest of the series!

  13. Jennifer Dee says:

    I love the literature before during and after WW1 particularly women writers.Vera Brittain writings is so good and also her close friend Winifred Holtby is also very good. A book I’ve recently read which is just brilliant is ‘A Dance for the Moon’ by Richard Burns. I would be very interested on your thoughts of this book. You also must read Sebastian Faulks ‘Birdsong’, the best book he’s ever written.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Yes, it’s fantastic isn’t it? So much women’s writing of the war period has been neglected – I hope to read more of it in due course. Thanks for those recommendations – I’ll do my best to read them!

  14. Joanne says:

    I watched Upstairs Downstairs last night and I was a bit underwhelmed by it. I will continue to watch it though, for the clothes (I loved the outfit the new nurserymaid arrived in) and the lovely houses. Thanks for the reminder about Homeland, I meant to watch it and completely forgot about it. Are you watching Inside Men – that’s the must see show in our house at the moment.
    Good luck with your interview. One of the mums in my son’s class has just qualified as a teacher of English and Drama. She’s got her first job and is loving it. Hard work though.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Yes the clothes are lovely – and the house is incredible! I love it! No, haven’t seen Inside Men – what channel is that on?

      Thank you so much – I’m glad to hear someone is enjoying teaching! I don’t mind hard work – I’ve just got to be given the chance to go for it!

      1. Joanne says:

        Inside Men is on Thursday nights on BBC1 at 9pm. I think tonight is the 4th episode. I should warn you – nothing like Downton Abbey!

  15. Rachel, I am in your debt for the tip, because it is I who scored the copy of The Other Day for L14.99! I acted swiftly (to put it mildly!). Even with postage to the U.S. it was a bargain, and I look forward to reading it. I have never taught, so can’t give advice about a teaching career, but it does seem to me that with your gift for conveying passion about literature, you would be wonderful. I hope however that you will ALSO have a career as a professional literary lady!

    I’ve also been meaning to tell you how absolutely marvelous your reviews of Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility were. I wanted desperately to join in, but I simply did not have the time, as you can tell by this very belated comment. In both discussions you had the astute analytical acumen of a first rate literature professor, which was particularly beguiling since you also had the “first fine careless rapture” of an early reading (second or third is an early reading to me!) of the Austen novels. Honestly, if I had any power to organize the world, I would make it possible for you to do a Ph.D and become a university professor; I fear you may be somewhat wasted on the secondary level where, as one of your correspondents pointed out, so many of the kids don’t want to learn. But you have your reasons and I do wish you all the best of good fortune in your choices and opportunities.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Ha! I saw that someone had snapped it up! Well done you!!

      Oh Diana, thank you so much – you are always so generous and supportive! If I had the money and the inclination, I’d love to do a PhD and teach at university level, but unfortunately I don’t have the money and I would struggle with the tedium of research, I think. Strangely I really love teenagers – we seem to get along well! So hopefully I’d manage to make it work. We’ll see! Thank you for your support!

      1. I think you know what you’re doing, don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise (as if you would!). Also, since I personally see you as a writer, I’m just as well glad if you don’t mess up your fabulous writing style and talents with a career that could enforce too much academic jargon upon you!

      2. bookssnob says:

        Thanks Diana! Don’t worry, I will always be a jargon free zone – and I will always keep up my writing! One day I’ll write a masterpiece! 😉

  16. Tina says:

    Best of luck on the interview! I teach secondary English state-side, so I don’t think I would be much help in tips for across the pond. I will say this: In America, we are having an educational crisis. Fortunately, not every school system is falling prey to it; however, there are many who have no clue how to move forward nor how to fund the schools in the future. Many teachers are adding to the unemployment lines. And, despite what news media may state that the unemployment rate is going down, many of those statistics do not account for unemployed teachers – those furloughed and those who graduated and could not find jobs without having to move states away from home. Students and parents alike here are not fans of teachers – they view us, in certain parts of the country at least, as the “bad guys” that their tax payer dollars have to fund. What they seem to forget is that we, as teachers, pay those same taxes as well. In a sense, we are no different from the business man whose family buys the product being sold at the store that his company makes. We invest in the future by paying taxes which in turn pay our salaries.

    I don’t think anything I am saying about America should be of persuasion or concern, though, for your pursuit of a teaching certificate. The profession is one of the most noble ones I know and am proud to say that I have weathered it for the past 19 yrs.

    Oh, congrats on the book find…and, I loved My So Called Life…I was a college student when it aired on first runs – EEK!!!!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Tina – I’m sorry to hear that teachers are having such a tough time of it in the US, but glad to hear you are still enjoying it and think it worthwhile – that’s all the encouragement I need! 🙂

  17. Oh I loved Party of Five & missed Upstairs Downstairs last weekend. Hmm to catch up with it?
    Penshurst Place my over riding memory is of a wet family party there where we sat in the porch eating our sandwiches & steamed the car with our wet clothes on our return home….
    All the very best with your teacher application.
    When’s Paris?

    1. bookssnob says:

      Not sure catching up with Upstairs Downstairs is going to be massively worth it…it all felt so dull compared to the shenanigans of Downton Abbey!
      Ha! Not a great day out then!!
      Thanks Rachel…fingers crossed it works out ok!
      Paris is next Tuesday…I am so excited! We must sort out our coffee date when I get back!

      1. Absolutely. Looking forward to it.

  18. Darlene says:

    Sending massive amounts of positive energy, super powers and crossed fingers, toes..well everything really, for a fabulously successful interview, Rachel! Can you tell I’m rooting for you!? You would make such a fabulous teacher with your enthusiasm, good humour and no-nonsense attitude when required and it would only be a matter of time before your class would be THE one to get in to. All the best!
    And I am so thrilled that you have scored yet another amazing book find, you lucky woman and it looks to be in fabulous condition! Roman had instructions to check the shops for Bowen and Delafield last week, I didn’t want to push my luck by adding Whipple into the mix but oh, lucky you!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Oh Darlene, you are too lovely, thank you! 🙂 Hopefully my interviewer will think the same! 🙂

      I know! It IS in fabulous condition, too – I am so so lucky! I’m sorry Roman didn’t find it for you, though…what a wonderful surprise that would have been! 🙂

  19. rfs04 Becca says:

    searched Dorothy Whipple– she has a story in this collection:
    “The editor regrets …” Stories
    by Louis Golding, Alec Waugh, John Brophy, Martin Armstrong, H. A. Manhood, James Laver, F. Tennyson Jesse, G. B. Stern, C. S. Forester, L. A. Pavey, Dorothy Whipple, H. E. Bates, Daphne Du Maurier, A. E. Coppard, L. A. G. Strong. Edited by George Joseph. Introduction by Alice M. Head.
    Author: Joseph, George Sept. 19, 1912-
    Published: London, Michael Joseph Ltd. [1937]

    which is where this “lost” Daphne DuMaurier story was discovered (Telegraph article above)
    As far as exams on Lit go— I was shocked, shocked upon taking the Literature Subject Test for grad school (U.S.), at how many of the texts were published 90s or 2000 and later. Maybe Britain is different? I am still trying to catch up on what I consider to be the classics and was unprepared for so much new stuff, just BTW.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Oh wow, thanks for that link, Becca – how fascinating! I wonder what Whipple story is in that volume? I’m intrigued!

      Yes, very good point – the British school system does teach a number of contemporary novels and I’m really not up on those at all – I need to do some cramming, big time!

  20. helen says:

    Hello Rachel, how exciting that you’re going to become a teacher! I think you’d be brilliant at it. I am thinking of going the same way myself, even though I am one of those people whom children just look at and know they can play up for all they’re worth! Best of luck with the interview, but I am sure that you have a far higher than 1 in 5 chance.

    Do go back to Penshurst Place in the summer, the gardens are just gorgeous. AND while you’re there, ask them why there is NO mention anywhere of Mary Sidney, Sir P’s sister and a poet (albeit not one as great as her brother) in her own right. I was unable to find anyone to rant to when I was there, and then forgot to write the letter I intended… Perhaps you can make up for my failing…

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Helen, thanks so much! I hope you will consider going for it- it’s a great career choice I think, one where you really get to make a difference. I think behaviour management is a knack you pick up quite quickly – people seem to always do as I say – I have a commanding air!! 😉

      Yes I will go back – and very true, there is no mention of Mary Sidney. I am actually going to write them a letter as I am outraged that I had to pay the full price of a house and garden ticket despite the rain and there being no plants of any description to see in February – I’ll take on the bit about Mary Sidney and see what they say!!

      1. helen says:

        Heh heh, I shall always think of you now with a commanding air as I read your blog – and for some reason an admiral’s hat, that’s probably memories of Persuasion creeping in.

        You have two great qualities for teaching, I think – you are enthusiastic and you explain things very well. Fingers still crossed for you!

        As for Penshurst – you’re a better woman than I am!

  21. Jo says:

    I think you will make an excellent English teacher, your structure for these blog posts and the depth of topic makes me blush with shame that I cannot write so well. I do know that it no doubt will be tough, but I wish you every luck with it.

    Upstairs Downstairs did not really grave me either, spoilt my Downton Abbey and I think also because Call the Midwife as so strong, it could not really follow it. I was not keen on the original U/D but I love watching my DVDs of The Duchess of Duke Street.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks so much Jo! You are kind – I am one of those infuriating people who just finds writing essays easy. Maths however – there I am lost!!

      Yes, Upstairs Downstairs has definitely been spoiled by the greatness of Downton and it lacks the cosiness of Call the midwife. A shame! I have never seen the Duchess of Duke Street – I shall have to remedy that!

  22. I just re-watched all MySo-CalledLife last year and was pleased to find that it still has a strong appeal, all these years later. (I echo the recommendation above for FreaksAndGeeks, BTW, which also incorporates a wide storytelling arc so that we can see aspects of the parents’ lives unfolding alongside the kids’.) I’d watch even more great narrative TV series, if only I could figure out how to watch it and read simultaneously! But you know how that goes…

    1. bookssnob says:

      I must get hold of My So-Called Life; I’d love to watch it again. I’ll also hunt down Freaks and Geeks as it comes so highly recommended!! Hmmm…finding time to fit it all in is tough, I know!

  23. pmccmiller says:

    Hope your teacher application goes well. If anyone can make students want to read, read, read, it would be you! Your careful & thoughtful interpretations coupled with your whole-hearted enthusiasm should inspire people of all ages to grab books and immerse themselves in them. Best wishes!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Pat! You are so kind! What lovely things to say! I really appreciate your support 🙂

  24. Ellen Rhudy says:

    I think one of the reasons I like Homeland so much is that there is so much DRAMA. After Downton Abbey, I’m disappointed if at least one totally ridiculous out-of-left-field thing doesn’t happen in every episode of a show. Homeland always satisfies: mysterious suicides! not taking stabilizing meds! is he a terrorist or isn’t he?!

    I’m curious to watch the new upstairs downstairs, but maybe i’ll just wait for season three of downton.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Downton Abbey has ruined us all. If there aren’t ridiculous plot twists every episode, I’m bored!! Homeland is going to have me hooked; I just can’t wait for the next one!!

      I’d wait for series 3. Upstairs Downstairs ain’t a patch on Downton!

  25. Alex says:

    I’m constantly answering the question about how I have time to read *all* the books I read, yada-yada, but sometimes I do wonder at us Readers. How *do* we do it? We read, and watch series and travel.. we’re super-women/men!

    All this to say that I’ve also recently became addicted to Homeland and also tried Upstairs Downstairs and felt very much the same way you did. I don’t think I’ll become a regular viewer. Have you tried Call the Midwife? A much better fix while we wait for Downton Abbey 🙂

    1. bookssnob says:

      I know, we are superwomen! It’s called multi tasking! 🙂

      Oh yes, I LOVED Call the Midwife. I’m really sad it’s over. But there is going to be a second series, apparently – great news! 🙂

  26. Nan says:

    You would be a GREAT teacher. I learn each time I visit your blog. Why is it so hard to get into? Are there not other schools that offer teaching degrees? I don’t quite understand the education system over there.

    I loved My So-Called-Life, even watching as an adult. I thought it was really excellent. I put Homeland in my Netflix queue.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Nan, thank you so much! I am really so grateful for your confidence in me!

      The PGCE is a university based course for postgraduates and is how most people become teachers in the UK – this is what I’ve applied to do. Unfortunately since the economic downturn lots of people are applying to become teachers as it’s viewed as a ‘safe’ job. So they have become a lot more competitive to get places on, and I applied late in the application cycle so a lot of courses are already full as they recruit on a rolling basis. So technically no it shouldn’t be that hard but because more people are applying and I’m limited geographically to where I can study, it isn’t that easy to get a place, which is a shame. BUT I am going to do my best and we’ll see what happens.

      Homeland is brilliant – I’ve only seen one episode but I LOVE it and can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next!! I hope you enjoy it!

  27. Hi Rachel, we haven’t met but I feel sure those who have met you and know you, and say you would make a brilliant teacher know exactly what they are talking about, and I’m saying go for it 🙂 My daughter finished her PGCE for secondary teaching a couple of years ago, after a career at the BBC and various other things dipped into, then she went off to NZ for a year to work, explore (got stuck in Christchurch during the earthquakes!) and to finally decide if teaching was what she really wanted to commit to, and she has decided that it is. She is currently on the supply treadmill whilst applying for jobs all over the country, and though the jobs are very hard to come by at the moment she still feels very enthused…and if anything was going to kill it off it would be supply because discipline (or lack of!) is a huge issue in our schools right now.
    We met up yesterday and she was on her knees after teaching six different classes on six different subjects but she still has that spark about her that teaching has really brought to life (a career at the BBC nearly killed it) …so all I am saying is follow your heart and get stuck in, because I think the profession needs you, and very good luck with the interview…if you want to contact my daughter let me know, I’m sure she will happily talk through what it has all involved and especially the interview bit.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Lynne, thanks for your lovely response – it’s so good to hear of a teacher who actually ENJOYS their job! I am rapidly having my spark put out by my job and I am desperate to do something that actually fulfils me…I love teaching and spending time with young people so much that I am certain this will be the right career move for me. It’s not going to be easy but I’d rather work hard and be happy than work 9-5 and be sticking pins in my eyes out of boredom!! I’m so glad your daughter is having a great time teaching and fingers crossed that she lands a permanent job soon.

      Thanks for the offer of being put in touch with your daughter – I may just do that. I’m so nervous about messing up my interview!!

  28. Look out.........IT'S BOP!!!!! says:

    Right then. Here’s my reference…..

    R is a tremendous sweety. She has a huge passion for books, literature, and it’s rewards, and never fails to enthuse a band of followers at her blog. Indeed her enthuse-ability is exemplary.

    R shows a great deal of personal initiative and self drive, and lived in NYC for one year. This quality will prove very effective at licking wee blighters into literary shape.

    R is fond of tea, cake – and wee blighters.

    So clearly, you fail to give her a place at the expense of literary, wee blighter Britannia.

    You have been warned – We Are Watching You.

    – that should do it.

    I speak as one who’s already done it, dear R, and have to concur with the general grey tone of trepidation. Ofsted blues, anti social aggro depressions, wee blighters more interested in mocking you than learning from you: yep, ‘fraid it’s all true.

    But it largely depends on where you are. If your school is surrounded by a detritus of drugs, dole, and social despair: think sports shop riots rather than books. It would be lovely to change the world through sensitive response to Shakespeare but it’s never happened and never will. I personally think the literary imagination is where good stuff gets done, individually and as a kind of social conscience. We negotiate so much of life, love, morals and conscience when we curl up and read. A wee blighter described to me, not so long ago, what she called “the comfort of my imagination” experienced with a good book. I wanted to cry.

    I don’t do it now, R (never really properly did), and like you I **-^]]””+!! hate my current job – well, like you plus a bit more.

    Anyway, that’s enough indulgent wittering for now, eh what?

    – Bop.

    PS: I’d recommend some curriculum knowledge, Key Stage blah, and general yep-I-know-what-the-job-entails-professionalism rather than trying to project subject enthusiasm. Take that for granted – because it’s there – and consider how to package it in almost a business like manner, when the school is the “business”. You might even consider a school visit – ring! ring! hello? This is R. I want to come and watch you teach English. Yes, you know, R. Yes, yes, that R. With the famous blog. You see, I want to teach. When can I make it? How about next week? Splendid! – etc. It would be rather fine for any interview – really make you stand out.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Bop. I don’t have any illusions about how difficult it will be and neither do I envision Dead Poet’s Society style moments of group bliss on reading Shakespeare, but I do hope that I’d be able to give a bit of encouragement to a few kids that will help them to aim for a better future. And also get some kids to find the joy in literature than I do! I hope the good will outweigh the bad. And frankly anything will be better than what I do now!!

      Thanks for the interview pointers – thankfully I work with a load of ex teachers and work for an educational charity working to tackle the pastoral side of stuff in schools so I have a good idea of the pressures behind the scenes and the wide ranging role of teachers beyond the actual teaching aspect. I’m hopefully going to be able to get a bit of observation experience before I have the interview as well – I agree, thats very important! Thanks again for your advice, it’s much appreciated! 🙂

  29. savidgereads says:

    Lovely round up Rachel.

    I love that feeling when you spot a gem like you did (yes here is me commenting on the most booky bit of your non bookish post) and you have that need to pay and leave the shop as fast as possible. I have had that a few times and you find yourself glowing for the rest of the day.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Simon! I know, it’s such a fantastic feeling, isn’t it!! 🙂

  30. Catie says:

    Oooh, I just read Goodbye to All That last year, and I’ve been going through a bit of a WWI reading phase. I recommend Regeneration by Pat Barker as a companion read, since Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves appear as characters in that. But all books about WWI are so sad! I can’t understand how the soldiers could do it.

    Good luck with the teacher training course! I hope all the study pays off!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Catie – I have thought about reading Regeneration but I want to get those original texts read first! All books about WWI ARE so sad, aren’t they? I keep finding myself moved to tears on the bus!!

      Thank you very much – me too! 🙂

      1. BOP. Just plain, innocuous, BOP. says:


        Though I can’t say much about the novels, apart from Farewell To Arms and non-novel Goodbye To All That – WWI poetry stands distinct, IMO, as uniquely poignant and tragic.

        “I can’t understand how the soldiers could do it.”

        They had no choice, C. And that is the point. Just as, in so many respects of life, nor does anyone in regard to what we do and where we find ourselves located in economic/political/sociological terms.

        I think WWI was truly monstrous, setting it apart from other atrocious humanitarian stains.

        I have a colleague who served in Afghanistan. He seems untouched by his experiences, pretty much, apart from wet eyes when he once conveyed how he lost buddies.

        I think the poignancy of Wilfred Owen – in particular – derives from the collision between his sensitive soul and the horror of the trenches.

        F to Arms is worth a look, too. Its a bit, shall we say, brusque. But there’s one sentence – just one – which is worth the entire book. And I’ve seen other people refer to it too, so it didn’t leap out and resonate only with me. If you ever feel inclined to read it, R, C, it would be tremendous fun to see if you know what I’m referring to.

        OK enough Bop-foolery,


  31. Rina Fong says:

    I totally understand your excitement over your Whipple find. I went through that when I found a hardbound copy of Lark Rise to Candleford at Foyle’s used books section for £4! I was in London for only 4 days and was able to snatch a mere couple of hours to go to Charing Cross. It was really like a needle in a haystack such as your Whipple treasure.

    1. bookssnob says:

      I’m glad you’ve also had the experience of finding a Charing Cross treasure, Rina! It always makes my day when I do! 🙂

  32. Jodie says:

    Oh man I can supply all the recs for you for WWI fiction and poetry if you want! I think I may still have the folders of work we did in college with the poetry and reading list sheets. That’s just one of my favourite literary periods.

    Good luck on the teacher training course, all stuff crossed for you. I’ve a few friends who are teachers and while I know they’ve had some really hard times and probably won’t want to be teachers forever, but I also know that they’ve made such a difference by being enthusiastic and there. Some of the projects they’ve brought in and kids they’ve helped sort out is fantastic. So go in with your eyes open as I’m sure you are, but know that you can achieve things too 🙂

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Jodie, that would be really helpful actually!!

      Thank you – I know it’s not an easy career but I hope the rewards will make it worthwhile. I just want a job that makes me feel like I am achieving something and being challenged, rather than attending pointless meeting after pointless meeting!!

      1. Jodie says:

        I’ll find it out this weekend and e-mail you 🙂

  33. cclayton65 says:

    Hope it’s not too late to comment on this post, I am delighted to hear you want to be an English teacher, and I speak as an English teacher myself! Your passion for literature and your clear sense of a vocation will make you an outstanding candidate, I am sure.

    Are you going by the Teach First route, by any chance?

    Recently I’ve been talking to a couple of people about interviews, one in teaching and another in the third sector, and apparently a popular interview question is to talk about a time when you failed at something. Interesting! might be worth some consideration?

    Look forward to hearing how you get on! Best wishes.

    1. cclayton65 says:

      I’m Caroline, by the way, my user name seems to have altered for some reason!

    2. bookssnob says:

      Hi Caroline, thanks so much for your comment! How lovely to hear from an English teacher!! I hope I will be able to show my passion in my interview, that’s for sure! I have a GTP interview lined up with a school this coming Monday and also a PGCE interview in April. I’d prefer to go down the GTP route as it will save me the extortionate fees for the PGCE course as well as make me pretty much a real teacher from the get go – I think with teaching learning on the job is much better than sitting in lectures, especially when you’ve already worked for a few years and are just raring to get started!!

      Thanks for the tips and keep your fingers crossed for me! I wish I could just know now!!

  34. Ruth Hancock says:

    Hi, this is my first time at commenting on a blog, and I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed reading yours.

    I’m glad I’m not alone in feeling a real anti-climax with Upstairs Downstairs. I am old enough to have watched avidly all the originals and did enjoy the first new one, but now I can’t really remember what happened in it and the characters don’t seem very real.

    Like everyone else it seems, I loved Downton and Call the Midwife.

    I understand you do office work at the moment, though I don’t know what sort of thing, but can understand your wanting a change. I have worked in various professional offices for most of my life and when I began at the age of 16 (almost too long ago to remember) it was great – we were actual secretaries and felt really involved in what was going on, but over the years we just became typists plugged into audio – no shorthand needed, and now people just do their letters etc., themselves and the job of being a secretary, of which I was very proud, has really been diminished and disappeared.

    I did think you might be interested though in my last job where I was an Administrator for a country estate, but previously secretary to the agent who was the brother of the owner of Penshurst Place. I have never been there but was told by my boss , if I was passing, to drop in for tea !!!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Ruth, welcome! I am honoured that I am the first blog you have commented on! I’m so glad you have found what I write enjoyable to read 🙂

      Yes, the new Upstairs Downstairs is more than a bit of a let down – I’ve really been quite surprised by how lacking in *heart* it is – everyone does a very good job and it’s all very attractive but somehow I just don’t care one bit about any of them and that’s a real shame.

      Working in an office is becoming an increasingly demeaning profession, I think. I don’t ever feel like I am valued – anyone could do my job, really – and that lack of a personal touch is another reason why teaching really appeals to me. My personality – who I *am* – will be such an important part of the job, and I would love that. I’m sorry you have found your job being slowly eroded of value too – it’s a real shame. What an interesting job you had last though – you should definitely drop into Penshurst – it’s breathtaking!!

  35. Lulu says:

    I totally agree that the new series of Upstairs Downstairs is dull, but don’t let that put you off the last series. I didn’t see it when it was on, but a friend who knows of my Mitford obsession lent me the box set, and I loved it. Persie really is a poorly disguised Unity in THIS series, but she was Diana in the last, going on Blackshirt rallies and so on. And the sets and costumes really did give Downton a run for its money, though they feel flatter this year. A shame.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Oh really? I’m actually enjoying it more now – Lady Persie and Sir Hallam’s relationship is fascinating. Well as you say so, I’m going to put the first series on my lovefilm list – I am feeling the lack of that background story from time to time. I’m looking forward to it! 🙂

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