1. Which one person from school do you wish you'd kept in touch with? What do you think they're likely to be doing now? What do you think they would think you're doing?
Every time I've randomly got back in touch with anybody from school (usually briefly) they've assumed that I'm a writer of some kind, or doing something fantastically exciting. It's incredibly depressing talking to anybody from school, and having to admit to myself that they knew me when I was at the peak of my intellectual ability, and that what I vainly mistook for potential was actually the best I was ever going to achieve. That I was cleverer at 16 than I am at 25, and that it's probably all downhill from here on. It's also rather depressing (because I'm the sort of horrible person who finds it hard to just be unequivocally happy that all my friends are successful when I'm not) to find that they all walked effortlessly into high-flying careers and happy lives, that they're all travelling the world and doing great things. (They all write in to the Old Girls' newsletter to make sure everybody knows what brilliant lives they're having.)
So, I'm quite glad I've completely lost touch with most of them.
Wish I'd kept in touch more with Sue Griffiths, my sixth-form English teacher. She was always such an inspiration to me, and when I'd got over my embarrassing teenage crush we had some great conversations together and seemed to enjoy spending time together, and for a while it looked like that might develop into a lasting friendship. <sigh> Haven't heard from her for ages, though, & I feel awkward about getting back in touch after this amount of time.
2. Suppose you were somehow transported back in time, say to roughly the 17th century or so, what would you miss most from now? What do you think would be better? Who would you try and meet?
[This answer is slightly hampered by the fact that I haven't the faintest idea what happened in the 17th century. I didn't pay any attention in history at school, and now am just too stupid to learn any.]
I'd miss the rapid communications technology; having got used to being able to talk to people all the time online, I think I'd go mad having to allow a week or so for a handwritten letter to reach its destination. I suspect I'd adjust back in the end, though... depends how long I was staying there.
Mostly, though, I'd miss having even a hope of being understood. I wouldn't be able to talk to anybody about anything that mattered to me, because my modern concerns probably wouldn't mean anything to anybody. ... Maybe in time they'd stop mattering to me either. Maybe that would be a good thing.
What would be better: depends what sort of class I was transported back into -- I'm not sure I can think of many advantages to dying in abject poverty. Assuming I end up well-off enough to not be worrying about such things -- I think the pace of life would be better; things would be less rushed, less chaotic. (This is the up-side of the lack of rapid communication, of course.)
It would be socially acceptable for me to just stay at home and have babies; I wouldn't feel that anybody was expecting me to be good at anything else. I wouldn't have people asking me "So what do you do?", I wouldn't have to explain again and again that "Mother" is a valid role to choose in life, I wouldn't have to try to justify it. I wouldn't be expected to be earning money. ... I think I'd like that aspect of life in the mumbleteenth century. (Although I suspect I'd have a lot of trouble reconciling my modern ideas about children and parenthood with the prevailing ideas of the time...)
Who would I try to meet -- no idea. Depends whenabouts I get transported back to! Probably authors rather than historical figures, because I think I'd find them more interesting, & I'd stand more chance of being able to have a decent conversation with them.
3. Was there any particular book that made you decide you wanted to study English? Or a defining moment or anything? Is there anything you might have done instead, and do you ever regret that choice?
No particular book, no real defining moment, it was just the only thing I both enjoyed enough & was good enough at. I remember being told that I should do English at university & thinking "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea", because it'd mean I could carry on doing it for longer. I'd have been about 13 then. After that it was just What I Was Going To Do, because I had to put something down on the careers forms and stuff. I didn't really realise there was a choice -- you went to school until you were 18, then you went to university. But I always enjoyed reading, and studying books, and writing about them, so it seemed as good a thing to do as any. Very naïve really.
Anything else I might have done instead at university, or anything else at all? At university, music, possibly. I'd probably have enjoyed it, but wouldn't have done as well at it. I probably could have done French at university, but I'd have hated it. As for anything other than going to university -- like I say, it never occurred to me that that was an option.
I often regret doing English, but only insofar as I'm regretting going to university at all. It just seems like it was a phenomenal waste of money, for no real purpose, just because That's What Middle-Class Kids Do. I could have done my current job quite easily at 16, and any subsequent jobs I get are more likely to use the experience from this one than to use my degree. The degree alone isn't enough to get me a job, and I don't have any employable skills except being able to use a computer. <shrug> But what would I have done instead? I wasn't mature enough to do a job, and anyway there weren't any jobs in the village except working on the tills at the garage. I wasn't allowed to go anywhere else, and I wasn't allowed to work at the garage because my parents said it was too dangerous. (I'd have had to work late, which would have meant I'd have got raped and murdered.)
4. What's the first song lyric that pops into your head?
"Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder where the years have gone
They have all passed under sleep's dark and silent gate"
From Jackson Browne, "Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate". Was listening to it in the car yesterday, so that's partly a recency effect, but it's never that far from my mind anyway. Complete lyrics to the song here-ish, towards the bottom of the page.
5. How many beans?
Gah! I can't do this one. A bean, a bean, a half, a bean, a half... no, wait. A bean, a bean, a bean... No. A bean, a bean, a half a bean? A bean? A half? BEAN! HALF! BEAN! HALF!
Bean. Bean. Bean. Bean. Bean. There! Five. BEAN.