Weekend in Colchester

Last weekend, I spent two days in Colchester with some family. It was a nice break from revision, I have to say – there’s only so much you can sacrifice of a social life without going insane. I’m proud to say I did absolutely no revision for two entire days.

Shocker.

Anyway, the weekend was great – we went to Mersea Island on the first day, and to be honest, there isn’t a great deal there, but the beach was nice (we spent an inordinate amount of time looking at oyster shells, and I’m pretty sure my aunt took about 20 home with her… moving on) even though the weather was rather changeable. We could see from the shore that it was raining over on the other side of the bay, back on the mainland, which was certainly amusing from our slightly sunny spot.

The second day we went into a more central area of Colchester (I’m hopeless at locations, so I don’t know exactly where we were), but it was wherever was near our Premier Inn because we walked there. The castle was pretty awesome:

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I have to say, having studied the Normans (well, from Anglo-Saxon to Norman England) last year for my A Levels, my appreciation for castles has gone up 100%. I got an A in that exam, purely for my essay about castles. Call me a geek.

We spent about five minutes doing an ‘experiment’ with the 10m deep well, where we basically just stood there throwing coins in and seeing whether 10p coins, 5p coins, or 20p coins reached the water first.

(In case you were wondering, 5p won more often than not.)

The grounds were pretty, particularly in the sun that eventually decided to make an appearance. It wasn’t the most activity-filled place in the world, but the main purpose of the weekend was really just to spend two days chatting… It was great.

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Debating the Devil

Think about this:

Hell is supposedly a place of punishment.

Hell is ruled by Satan… or the Devil, depending on which you prefer.

If you go to hell, you’ve sinned.

And you’ll suffer for it.

If Satan’s the one punishing you for sins…

Does that not make him the good guy?

This is an interesting stance on the Devil that a few people I know like to think about now and again. It’s one of those weird things, where you hear something often enough – ‘The Devil is evil’, ‘Hell is a place for sinners’, ‘Hell is punishment’ – you just accept it, no questions asked, as the common view.

But then you think about it.

I don’t have a religion, and the little I had in the way of Religious Education was pretty dire, but the idea of the Devil enjoying all evils, while also ruling the land where everyone’s punished for sin, just doesn’t seem compatible.

I’d love to know how people thought this was logical.

Seriously, if the Devil was really that evil, surely he’d just be down there having a party with all the other sinners… Imagine it. They’d just be plotting, and dancing, and drinking, and partying like hell. They’d probably be critiquing all the still-alive sinners, like “You can do better than that!”

Honestly though, if you go to Hell to be punished, I very much doubt that if Satan’s evil, he’s either right there with ya, agreeing with you but punishing you, or alternatively that he’s punishing them at all… Come on now.

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Never the Ordinary

Writing about the ordinary, in a way that makes it interesting, is something I think requires a certain set of experiences. Or, at the very least, the experience of having already found intrigue and excitement in the ordinary.

I thought about this the other day, when I realised that most of the books I’ve been reading, the shows I’ve been watching… they all have fundamental differences to the real world: magic, Greek gods, a dystopian parallel world-type element – something that makes it distinctly other to that which we see as normal.

It made me start to wonder why. Why is it that the majority of popular pieces of fiction – be it screenplays, books, whatever – aren’t about the world that we live in? Surely it would make sense to write about that which you know, following the age-old edict. Using experience is one of those things you just assume every writer does.

I’ll admit, it didn’t take me too long to figure out an answer. People tend not to write about the ordinary, or the ordinary world, because for the majority of us, there isn’t anything worth writing about. We wake up in the morning, go to school, or work. We come home, we eat, we go to bed. Occasionally we might break the rota, we might go out at weekends and gain a funny anecdote, but it wouldn’t exactly make for a thrilling novel.

Most of us take delight in fiction set in other worlds, parallel universes, mirrored societies with fundamental differences, because it lifts us out of the world we find boring, or frustrating, or in some way just not stimulating enough.

I feel like, in order to write something entirely based in the ordinary – in everyday life, everyday jobs, everyday relationships – the person writing it must have had the experience of really finding value in their ordinary life. And that seems like something I haven’t come across much in my life, short as it may have been so far. I’ve grown up and lived in the same few streets my entire life. I’ve been to two schools – three if you count preschool. I’ve known a very narrow range of people, most of whom live within a few minutes of my house. And sure, I’ve had some amazing experiences, but they’ve been just that: amazing. Out of the ordinary.

It’s definitely possible to write about the ordinary in ways we’d enjoy. Some of the best classics are entirely normal: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is nothing more than a tale of classes and relationships, especially when it was published. It’s gained that strange quality things from another time do, now it’s been so long since it was published, but Austen wrote about the value she found in the ordinary. The same goes for Mrs Dalloway, one of Woolf’s most famous novels. And I’m sure there are plenty more, but wherever I look, it seems they are far outnumbered by the extraordinary, the fantastic, the magical.

Maybe that’s not a bad thing. It doesn’t have to be, that’s for sure. But I’d like to look out for the value in the ordinary. It can have a certain charm to it that just doesn’t come from separating our world and another.

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