Back-to-School Madness

When do normal people grow out of back to school fervour? It is some time since I graduated, yet every time September rolls around I am desperate to buy all the stationery. I want new pens, notebooks (the lure of a fresh exercise book is irresistible), planners, backpacks… I even crave a timetable I can colour code and hang over my desk.

So much so that I have been inspired to start designing my own stationery. I love sending letters and the lockdown gave me the time to create letter paper I will really love to use. Obviously I am back at work now but I am making the effort to try and paint at least a couple of times a week. It has been a lot of fun and I don’t want to lose that.

Most people set resolutions in January. I always want to study in the autumn. It might seem odd but I reason that I might as well make the most of the fact that right now all I want to do is learn. I even dragged out my university calculus textbook because I am all too aware that I have forgotten most of what I learnt.

My actual focus at the moment though is Latin. I wanted to learn Latin ever since I first read the Lord Peter Wimsey books as a teenager but it wasn’t offered at my school and by the time I took my A Levels my priorities were elsewhere. Since university though I have worked through one book by myself and taken two adult classes. I always get on very well to start with but get bogged down as the grammar becomes more complicated. I am one of the generation of schoolchildren for whom only basic grammar was considered necessary so when it comes to things like the subjunctive I struggle to define it in English, let alone in Latin. This time I am determined to crack it. I even have post it notes stuck up by my bathroom mirror.

Of course, Latin is not the most useful subject I could study. Yes I will (hopefully) learn more grammar than I did in English but I can hardly travel to Rome and have a conversation in Latin. I enjoy it though which is really the whole point. Besides, perhaps the apparent uselessness is part of the charm. There is no stress of a looming deadline, no practical situation where I will need to show my skill. I can just revel in the joy of learning for its own sake.

The Joy of Serendipity

On Monday I was hurrying along the street towards the railway station when I came upon an Oxfam bookshop. I didn’t really have time to stop but I could see a very attractive classics section just inside the door and decided I could spare a couple of minutes to browse that at least.

There were some good books there but nothing I wanted to buy and I was just turning away when my eye fell on the poetry section – specifically a book of medieval Latin lyrics.

In a few weeks I will be going to the Cheltenham Literary Festival and I am especially excited about a talk on how to read a Latin poem. This focuses specifically on two poems – one (part of Ovid’s Amores) I have already and the other the Confession of the Archpoet which I have been struggling a bit to find. The problem is that I want an edition with both the Latin and the English translation – although I have done some Latin I am not yet good enough to read a whole poem easily but I didn’t want to just have the translation which would kind of defeat the point!

Anyway, there I was in the bookshop with the Latin lyrics in my hand and thinking that the Confession is a medieval poem – and a pretty famous one at that. Surely it might well be in this very book? A quick flick through located it and even better it was there in both Latin and English. I snatched it up. Thankfully I also managed to catch my train home.

It just goes to show – it is always a good idea to visit any bookshop you may come across!