I’ve changed the newsletter’s name, to the name of the first blog I ever had: To Strive, To Seek, To Find (which has now been folded into my website, and I’m not sure what to with it right now - anyone out there still blogging?).
It’s part of the last line of Ulysses (pub. 1842), a blank verse poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and, well, I’ve always loved it. Essentially the poem is about a guy who got to have book covers like the one above made about him and his adventures, so when he reaches old age, he obviously doesn’t want to let go of this stuff.
The poem is his internal battle between wanting “to sail beyond the sunset, and the baths / Of all the western stars, until I die” and the reality that he has been “made weak by time and fate.” He knows the answer, really, but he wants to have the scrap one more time before he lets go. We’ve all been there.
There are also hints of his family obligations, that keep him from sailing off: there’s “an aged wife” aka Penelope, and those twenty years she waited for you to return from war while weaving and unweaving a shroud would age anyone, Ulysses; plus their son, “mine own Telemachus, / To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,” so at least he’s carrying on with the family firm (i.e. ruling Ithaca).
Penelope keeping those naughty suitors at bay with a spot of shroud-weaving, like a boss
In reality, Ulysses isn’t going anywhere, but his mind isn’t quite done with the wrestling: “to follow knowledge like a sinking star, / Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.” He’s an example of “old age [which] should burn and rave at close of day.”
Despite his marginalisation of Penelope, he’s kind of lovable in this dramatic monologue, in which he finally, finally gives up - but not before reminding us how great he once was. “I will drink / Life to the lees” he says - yeah you did, champ! It’s a bit “oh, Daaaaaaad, shut up about the 70s!” but also completely compelling.
When was the first time I read it? Probably at school, and that’s why the news this week about making poetry optional at GCSE made me a little sad, even if that ruling is only for one very unusual year.
Still, at least us millennials are still keeping that lucrative poetry market going, with our “hunger for nuance amid conflict and disaster.” At least we’ll have something to hold onto after we’ve killed the housing, diamond and American cheese markets.
Anyway, at some point in 2007 I named a blog To Strive, To Seek, To Find, and now this newsletter can inherit the name.
This is the best explainer on privilege that I’ve ever seen:
Terrifyingly, I’m now one of 16 semi-finalists in the Funny Women Stage Awards 2020. I’m working on some new material…
The last of the Global Letters from Lockdown!
Catching up with Kevin Anderson over lockdown actually sparked the idea for this series, so I thought it would be fitting for his story to round off Global Letters from Lockdown. We worked together on a number of training projects across Reach Plc’s regional newsrooms in 2017-8, and now Kevin is back in the US, and back working full-time. It was lovely to catch up, and it made me realise that we all have so many similarities in our lockdown experiences, but where we are during that time could make all the difference.
Lockdown in Ohio, USA - Kevin Anderson
We live in Shaker Heights, a century-old suburb of Cleveland that was one of the fist planned communities in the US.
Despite a touch of cabin fever, I can be nothing but grateful. I still have a job with the US public media group I work for, and our membership model provides a degree of stability.
My wife Suw and I both usually travel a lot, and lockdown has meant more time together.
I feel a bit guilty that it has taken a pandemic for me to reach out to friends, both personal and professional, more than I usually do.
We just found out the we will be primarily working remotely until October, but things are starting to return to the new normal here. We finally were able to find hand sanitiser this weekend!
I feel the uncertainty of this moment, but I am hopeful. I think that this pandemic might change an unsustainable status quo.
Links of the week
Every. Single. Word. Of. This.
The last days of Brick Lane reminds me that it’s not still 2010 and London is changing very quickly. My university friends and I used to spend a lot of time on this street after we all graduated and moved to London. We got to know the owners of The Monsoon so well, we ended up holding regular quiz nights on upstairs!
How South Asian corner shop culture helped the UK survive Covid-19: I’ve often thought this around Christmas, or on the late-night “let’s keep the party going” booze trips of my 20s. What would London be without these shops, and the seemingly tireless people who run them??
The Profile is SO GOOD, and I love many, many newsletters.
The internet, mon amour - at the height of lockdown, I kept imagining what it would be like if this was happening in like 2000 or 1995 or name any other time before 2000, and we had no internet. This piece goes wayyy in the opposite direction and I am extremely, online-ly, here for that.
30 Years Ago, Romania Deprived Thousands of Babies of Human Contact: Here’s what’s become of them. Sometimes, a story cannot end the way you want. This one doesn’t and it hurts.
The personal essays masterclass happened on Tuesday, and thank you to everyone who came along! Hit reply on this newsletter if you have any feedback.
The next masterclass is for early-stage podcasters.
I’m toying with the idea of running one on how social media works for freelance journalists / writers in terms of finding and then later promoting your stories. Hit reply if you have thoughts about that!
That’s all from me this week - I’ll write again soon! Byeeeee x