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“This is a tale of shared computers, stealthily ‘borrowed’ printers and iPhones falling out of the sky!”

 

Ruth, 2021

What are you working on?

Hello English language learners and friends of Blue Noun Language Hub in Crieff, Scotland.

I’m clearly procrastinating today. I have a grant application to complete, and I find myself writing this blog post instead.

The grant application is the Digital Boost Grant, which is £5,0000 available for small businesses to help build up the digital side of their enterprise.

Winning this grant would enable us to upgrade our hardware before we launch our new online membership for creatives learning English (beginning early next year).

We would be lucky if we got it and I’ll certainly apply.  I just need to psyche myself up a bit more to tackle it.

Blue Noun (Ruth’s) office

Shiny New Computers

Opening up the grant application, and researching the hardware out there – (and which might suddenly be within reach) has really made me reflect on how well I have done with our existing hardware: a life-changing combination of old and second-hand equipment.

While it is true that our tech is long overdue an upgrade, I’d like to tell you the stories behind the technology which has really served me well this far.

Amongst other things, I’ve built a business out of it. 

I feel you can learn a lot about who I am and what I care about through these objects: my passions, my reliability, my experience and my determination. It’s important to know and like your language coach. If you are choosing an English teacher or English language school, do not underestimate how important it is to be well-matched. It will keep you showing up, engaged and ensure the course content is relevant and interesting to you.

This is a tale of shared computers, stealthily ‘borrowed’ printers and iPhones falling out of the sky!

As ever, it’s written with creative ESL English language learners in mind. Make sure you know the vocabulary in here. It’s universally important to every creative career.

“It’s astonishing what we have achieved with our old tech, I’m just going to take a moment to be very, very grateful for it.”

 

Ruth, 2021

No Thunder up Thunder Mountain

I have a trip to Disneyland Paris to thank for my first smart phone.

Young Blue (age 3 at the time) and I persuaded a very reluctant Kenny to ride the Thunder Mountain roller coaster.

It was a ‘white knuckle ride’, and he gripped the handrail with both hands  – when he should have been gripping his pocket.

On one of the loop-the-loops, his phone tumbled out. (I like to think of it landing somewhere near the fake cactuses).

When he had finished kissing the ground out of happiness at being alive he reached for his phone and happiness melted away faster than a snowball in hell.

I regret that Kenny single-handedly closed Thunder Mountain for at least an hour while staff swept the track (more out of track safety than out of interest in his phone). He sadly left the park without it, and comforted himself by buying the latest model iPhone the day we got back home.

About a week later, his phone turned up, and when it arrived (‘posted by Mickey Mouse”) and he very kindly gave it to me.

It was life-changing stuff for me. Mostly it has enabled me to build up our Instagram following. I love having a camera in my pocket. I guess most folks just take that for granted, but I’m not here yet. 

Team Blue Noun at Disneyland, Paris, with me yawning (definitely not screaming) on Thunder Mountain.

My Iphone. Thank you Thunder  Mountain!
My trusty war horse, my Mac Book Pro

My Mac Book Pro

How I love my first computer. It’s bashed on one side (by Young Blue randomly tossing it to the ground at the age of 2). Much later on its trackpad stopped working. Most recently its battery exploded – but the computer still works!

At least it works in a limited way. It doesn’t connect to the internet anymore as when web browsers updated, they left my Mac model behind. 

It is precious to me for its contents – Photoshop and Final Cut Pro which I no longer own to upgrade. Both are installed in French which makes using them increasingly tricky as my French skills fade away.

Although I tend to use Canva and InShot/FMP combo these days, (they are much quicker to use), I love still having access to the ‘big gun’ editors. I still want the chance to edit film properly.

I bought my Mac Book Pro computer with my very first artist fee – a flat payment ‘award’ of £1,500 for participating as Artist in Residence at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop – a golden month of having access to sculpture workshops, tools, foundry and foundry technicians.

I was there with 4 other ‘early career’ professional artists and it was a total blast! Hard to believe that I got paid to be there as the opportunity was so good in itself.

The award and my purchase of this laptop made so much other stuff in my life subsequently possible.

Printer Antics

I need to mention my printer. It is a similar age. I bought it in Paris as in those days most job applications were still printed and posted. (Some were even handwritten, heaven forbid!)

I need printer security. I have memories of Christmas when I lived in America, as a grad student at Southern Illinois University,  preparing job applications for teaching positions at American art colleges. It was around the time the BBC Iplayer came out, so for the first time, I could listen to radio from home while I worked – something which made me feel simultaneously closer and further away.

In my final year of my MFA, I posted off around 50 job applications, individual letters, each accompanied by a packet of 40 slides (individually labelled) (20 student work, 20 own work), corresponding printed slide lists, return S.A.E. (the cost was astronomical – as was the plastic waste – so happy slides are obsolete in this process).

We had a small ‘grad room’ to work in (or big cupboard, it depends on how you look at it) with a communal Mac set up for different users and a booking sheet pinned to the wall.

I also taught in the art history department, and thus had keys for their office too, which included a pc and printer.  On weekends and holidays, I would cycle over to the art history building and pick up the printer, and cycle with it tucked under my arm, over to the grad room, where, with my packs of expensive paper and neatly addressed padded envelopes, I would pass the night making up job application packs before smuggling the printer back before dawn.

On the particular trip I remember, it was snowing lightly and a dark, New Year’s Eve. I was gliding across campus, under lit-up walkways, with a printer tucked under my arm.

Nothing remarkable happened, its just New Year kind of etches into your memory what you were doing and that one, ethereal moment has stuck with me.

That year, I printed seemingly endless job applications to the sound of fireworks, bagpipes and bells from the other side of the world, wondering which part of America would offer me work (and wondering where even, some of the places I was applying to were). Bring on my my dream job: teaching Foundations at Art School.

black on black tartan screenshot
I don’t have many photos of myself in America – no one had a camera on their phone back then.
 
This image is a shot of me and my old Olympus camera (loaded with slide film), setting up in a group exhibition in the Des Lee Gallery, St Louis, 2003.
My work was a series of balls scattered around the gallery and painted with advertising slogans announcing they were free. A play/exploration on how audiences behave and interact with gallery artworks. 

Another Continent, Another City and Another Shared Computer

It turned out none would, so I moved to Brussels because I didn’t want to go back to Scotland, quite easily finding my first English language teaching job with a business English Language School.

I also began working with a community filmmaking project – Plus-tôt Te laat (PTTL) – as a grant writer, administrator, helper, Photoshop teacher – a long story in itself, but it is where I learnt filmmaking – on another communal computer, with another sign-up sheet pinned to the wall, and different computer occasionally users leaving files you couldn’t reach, cluttering up the memory.

More interestingly, instead of a bunch of like-minded international art grad students, the list was a collection of ‘sans papier’ refugees, who, being trapped in the hellish holding system of bureaucracy had no legal right to work while their citizenship got established – something that took 7 years on average.

The genius of the community film group was to provide free filmmaking access to this community, with little to do, they wandered through their lives with film cameras, gaining skills, training and self expression – and in the process,  creating an absolutely amazing film archive of the city.

The whole group then collectively edited up all the footage into powerful social documentaries, which were absolutely fascinating. One that I worked on even got screened at ICA London. 

Although as a Brit I was legally permitted work (sigh, BREXIT) I did as little paid English teaching as I could to survive financially, preferring the time spent with artists and filmmakers, to the business offices I was dropping into for work.

I lived incredibly cheaply – it was possible to do this in Brussels – and worked as a volunteer with this filmmaking group for years, making my own art and film too, but largely assisting others. (It was this period of my life that I got into several good film festivals and an installation in a  fringe event in the Venice Biennale).

Money was tight, but life was good. The concept of a personal computer was completely out of reach. A printer I could afford though! I bought one when I moved to France, and 7 years later, when I left France, moving ‘house’ with 2 suitcases and hand baggage on a Ryan Air flight, the printer came with.

My printer even survived a few years stored in an attic, working immediately when plugged back in. Respect.

Dark Rooms

Another piece of hardware that has made Blue Noun possible, was my investment in a Nikon DSLR.

When Young Blue was a year old I turned 40, and my whole family contributed to this collective gift. Primarily, I wanted to capture her childhood, but it has also reawoken my love of photography.

I learned old school developing and printing at high school (our deputy head spent lunchtimes with pupils in a photography club) and later at art school. I Ioved moving around in a dark room, lit only by a faint red light, the smell of the chemical baths acrid but pleasant, the miracle of the picture printing. I generally enjoyed the process much more than the resulting photographs, but I am grateful for the two or three that have survived from those days, (the portraits anyway, I don’t know why I took so many photos of swans).

My Nikon is almost always with me now. I put photos of Instagram to show what our language school is up to and I have an ever-growing photo library which I use to illustrate our blogs and website.

Needs Must

When Young Blue was a year old I was still working remotely for an art organisation in Cumbria. My job there was to oversee the development of their website – not the techy stuff, they had outsourced that, but I managed the content and design to make sure that content from their old site was copied onto their new site structure in logical ways. There was much to do. I began the post while pregnant, but continued it long after I had left Cumbria – and her dad.

I’d also just learned to drive, so until the relationship with her dad completely broke down about a year later, I’d drive up and down from Scotland to Cumbria, in a battered blue car, with baby and the art organisation’s iMac safely tucked into the back of the car.

I used my precious weekend time away from baby for intensive time focusing on the Art Gene website; the rest of the time only chipping away at it through naps, Teletubbies and other distractions.

When Young Blue was about 3, I quit with Art Gene to begin full time research on my language school business plan, sadly driving  the iMac down one final time – only to find out much later that I’d filled the art organisation’s DropBox account up with baby photos via some automatic upload.

Hopefully, that was my last ever shared computer!

“I’m still the friendly, ambitious person I have been throughout my career –  but I never want to share a computer again!.”

 

Ruth, 2021

Brighter Days

I bought the iMac I’m currently using second hand, off a Facebook selling site.

I earned the money for it sewing up hundreds of tartan triangles for a bunting company and drove to Pitlochry with Young Blue to pick it up. It’s risky buying hardware second hand, but I’ve had it for nearly 4 years and I’m eternally grateful it still works well.

It’s really not half the computer my Mac Book Pro is; and it’s hard to drop down from fast processing speeds.  It wouldn’t ever be able to run Photoshop or any film editing software as it can be slow and clunky even running web browsers, but thankfully, it is still reliable. It does just fine for Zoom and WordPress – the two bits of software that I need most often for teaching English and building up our business.

“Black Friday”

Together, my haphazardly amassed tech goodies and I have built the Blue Noun website online in WordPress – and got a whole online English coaching business off the ground.

I’m finally using a great deal of the skills I gathered across all those different walks of life too. Working with creatives across different countries to develop their English language skills in order to promote their career is a dream job too. I meet mid-career professionals of art, design, theatre and all kinds of craftspeople.

This Black Friday, while whole nations dash to upgrade their electronics, please cross your fingers for this Digital Boost grant for us!

Tech is just tools, but good tools are vital.

“I’m an English language coach, specialising in training professional artists and designers in the English language skills they need for their international careers – and I love it.”

 

Ruth, 2021

swift in flight Logie Kirk by Blue Noun English language school
swift in flight Logie Kirk by Blue Noun English language school

At Blue Noun we love chatting about all things art and celebrate having excellent, talented people all around us to do it with. We facilitate real cultural and creative exchanges happening, whether it’s in our language learning space – the Blue Noun Hub – or out and about visiting studios and workshops.

We also love showing off the beauty of Perthshire and the food and craft produce that is making it world-famous. Our whisky tastings are legendary!

Our business is also intended to be of benefit to the artist/maker economy of Perthshire. We bring our international creative guests into studios for a genuine exchange of cultures and art-making. Yes it’s an English lesson, but it is so much more!  (Plus we pay all our artists and guest speakers for their time)

Come and join us for an English language learning holiday and grab a taste of Perthshire! 

 

Find out about PTTL here.

Find out about the Digital Boost Grant here

 

red text further reading

We hope that you have enjoyed reading this blog.

We cover a broad range of topics in our language school blogs – some a lighthearted look at Scotland, others an in-depth look at art and culture. There’s something for everyone.

Interested in environmental subjects?

Sew What? | Crieff Tartan Scraps Find New Life in New Zealand | Crafting, Recycling & COP26

 

red text further reading
red text further reading

 Your Blue Noun English Language Challenge is:

 

“What do you think of Black Friday?”

 

For some, it’s the shopping occasion of the year. For others, it’s a feeding frenzy of consumerism. 

Does your county roll out genuine sales on the last weekend of November – or is it all advertising and price inflation?

English language hint:

When we say ‘what do you think of’, it’s your invitation to give your opinion about a subject – but you should normally give a reason, not just a flat declaration of opinion.

Add a structure to your reply to help your listener understand why your point of view is right. 

Structures for giving an opinion can be:

I believe that Black Friday is …

In my opinion, Black Friday is a good thing because…

I think (that) Black Friday ….

I’d like to think that Black Friday helps…

I’d rather not be involved because…

Write as much as you like, and if you would like us to check &  correct your English, write CP  (correct please) at the end.

“What do you think of Black Friday?”