Old Orwellian Stories
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Many of these stories were originally featured in the Old Orwellian Newsletter. Scroll to the bottom of the Old Orwellian homepage to browse old newsletters in full.
Will Hackett-Jones (1987-93)
If you’re anything like most of the rest of the world, you’ve probably spent some time in recent years streaming TV series from Amazon Prime, the BBC, or Netflix. You may even be guilty of binge-watching some favourites – Killing Eve, Big Little Lies, Game of Thrones all come to mind. Read more…
Cordelia Sears (2000-08)
When at school, I was told by Dr Q, my French teacher, that things were not really going to improve in terms of my French unless I lived in France, got a French boyfriend, and got a French-speaking job. And that is exactly what happened: not as a result of her advice, or because I particularly wanted to be good at French, but just because things bizarrely turned out that way. Read more…
Tony Paul (1970-74)
I was at Orwell from 1970 to 1974 and did not do too well in classes. I was one of those pupils who always had could do better on their reports and I had to give up Latin after being sent to the headmaster for singing in exams. I ran away from school and always felt ‘home sick’ – in my day we were 99% boarders. Read more…
Michael Bone (1970-75)
I was a pupil at Orwell Park between 1970 and 1975. Today, I am the Director of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH). GOSH is the world’s leading hospital for children and specialises in providing advanced treatment for children with rare and complex diseases. Read more…
Neill Menneer (1965-68)
Neill Menneer is an award winning photographer who has been in the industry for over 40 years. He has worked for the country’s top magazines and design companies. Winner of gold awards for portraiture, landscape and boudoir, he is a highly respected and accomplished artist who, since he obtained his distinction for photography and became the winner of the Observer Photographic prize in 1980, has been winning ever since! Read more…
Emily Hauser (1999-01)
Like many of the most fortunate Old Orwellians, I was lucky enough to be taught by Bob Bass during my time at Orwell (1999-2001). Not only did Bob instil in me a deep love of learning Latin and finding out about the myths of the ancient world—he also gave up his spare time to teach me Greek on the side. Read more…
Stories in full
If you’re anything like most of the rest of the world, you’ve probably spent some time in recent years streaming TV series from Amazon Prime, the BBC, or Netflix. You may even be guilty of binge-watching some favourites – Killing Eve, Big Little Lies, Game of Thrones all come to mind.
If you’re a bit more adventurous, you might even know about Brazil’s 3%, France’s The Returned, Sweden’s Quicksand, Germany’s Dark, or Spain’s Cable Girls, all top TV shows available online – with English subtitles.
Much to my surprise, I’m one of those people who subtitles foreign TV shows. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the honour of working on any of those shows, but that’s because I live and work in Russia, so those we work on are Russian language shows, subtitling them into English for foreign markets.
I own a small translation business; I set it up 10 years ago, though I’ve been living here for 15 years now. There was another business before this one – a magazine publishing business, but that went bust in the crash of 2008/9, leaving me with plenty of debt and looking for work.
Fortunately, for some time, people had been saying things to me like “Great magazine, but no thanks; what I really do need, though, is some translation, can you do that?” “No” was my usual answer; I wasn’t interested in it, because I was running a magazine. “Hey, look, I could really do with an English teacher, how about it?” would be another question to which I’d answer, exasperated: “No. Been there, done that.” When these things repeat, however, it’s worth taking off your stubborn hat, and putting on your curious hat. There’s a reason it’s happening, which you probably can’t see yet.
So, after a good few people had asked me about translation, I started looking into it. Going rates, problems people faced, freelancer fees, etc. I found that:
- There were no companies on the Russian market offering high-quality, expensive translation services
- Everyone was using Russian-speakers to translate into English, because it was many times cheaper than using native English speakers
- Clients were crying out for high-quality work, and constantly being let down
- The margins in translation could be a lot better than the negative margins in publishing
Armed with this research, I set about using my old publishing contacts to find clients for my new translation business. I started off with a business partner, who very fortunately had a credit card. We used that to fund the first month or two of freelancer payments, before we had a cashflow coming in.
Our research had told us that the golden standard in translation is to have three people work on a text – a translator, an editor, and a proof reader, all native speakers of the target language. So if you’re translating Russian to English, they should all be native English speakers. We found these people among freelancers around the world, tested them, instructed those who passed to work the way we wanted, and kept the proofreading, the final quality control check, in-house. As in, that was me doing it.
The quality of our work spoke for itself, and soon we were getting recommendations, so we never had to go looking for clients. The hardest thing was finding freelancers who were keen enough to learn new skills, yet good enough at translation to hit the ground running. It still is a big problem; in all these years, we’ve only found a handful of people good enough to proofread. And indeed, we’ve mostly changed the editing stage out for what we call ‘reviewing’. We found that most editors either weren’t good enough to find the mistakes left by the translators, or (worse still) introduced their own mistakes! In trying to address this problem, we decided to experiment with using a native Russian speaker in the middle stage, to review the translation. They don’t actually change the text themselves, but they write comments on the mistakes they find, categorising the mistake, explaining what’s wrong, and offering an example solution. This then goes back to the translator, who has to fix the errors in their own work (thereby ensuring constant improvement), and then it goes on to the proof reader.
While all this was happening, a few years into the business’ life we got a phone call: “Hi, I’ve been told you guys do translation, with native English speakers.” “Yes, we do. How can we help?” “We need subtitles done for a film we’re working on. Can you do subtitles?” There was a pause. An awkward one. My partner and I nodded at each other – we were game to try anything, and a little white lie here probably wasn’t going to hurt. “Err, yes, sure, we can do that. What’s the job?” She explained the job – fortunately it wasn’t urgent. We jumped straight onto Google to find out what subtitling programmes looked like, what the industry standards were, and basically how to do it. No, we had no idea; but it’s closely related to translating, with an added technical dimension, so we were fairly confident we could work it out.
About a month later, we’d produced our first set of subtitles. We didn’t charge enough money for it at the time, so it took a lot of time and didn’t return much profit. We also didn’t know anyone else in the film industry, so we didn’t really have any idea how much more work like that there could be. So we just left it be: an interesting experience.
But then once again the recommendations started flowing. The same producers came back to us with other projects. Then others turned up. Then more, and now subtitling is about 50% of the business.
It’s great work – sometimes I can’t believe I get to sit and watch films at work! And it’s also challenging – in every single subtitle, you have to balance reading speed with accurate translation; nuance with comprehension; jokes with character counts.
We’ve been lucky enough to work on two Oscar nominated films, at least four Cannes-award winning films, and numerous others from raucous TV series, to experimental not-quite-documentary. It’s been fascinating, and as the rate of consumption of foreign-language films and TV shows increases around the world, it looks like this line of business will only continue to grow.
When at school, I was told by Dr Q, my French teacher, that things were not really going to improve in terms of my French unless I lived in France, got a French boyfriend, and got a French-speaking job. And that is exactly what happened: not as a result of her advice, or because I particularly wanted to be good at French, but just because things bizarrely turned out that way.
So, here I am writing this from my apartment in Annecy, trying to remember what I have been up to since I was standing in the Orwell Park sports hall on leavers’ day, reminiscing about tamagotchis, man hunt on the ha-ha and melting custard creams under the changing room hand dryers at break time.
After Orwell, and having several hissy fits after seeing the film St Trinian’s where it’s not exactly painted in the best light (unjustly), I headed off to Cheltenham Ladies’ College. I say unjustly because, despite the hideous green uniform (we were actually referred to as the ‘green flies’ by other schools), I had an incredible 5 years there where I formed some very strong friendships, and I have found that knowing I have got some extremely strong friendships has enabled me to make some seemingly unconventional decisions and to follow exactly what I want to do.
During my time at CLC I really had no idea what I wanted to do after school, in particular whether I wanted to go to university, and if so what I wanted to study there. I did, however, find that I was more attracted to the languages/humanities side of things and so ended up doing Latin, French and History for A level. By the time applying for university came around, I still did not really know where or what I wanted to apply for, so I made the decision to apply after I had left school, after getting my results.
I found that unless you really know what profession you want to have or you are particularly good at one subject, choosing what to study at university is not an easy decision to make. It was only after talking to a family friend who suggested that university was really the only time in your life where you can just study ‘for the sake of studying’ that I took the approach of trying to figure out what I was interested in instead of focusing on the end job, which was History and people, and so I ended up studying Social Anthropology at The University of Manchester.
Before heading ‘up north’ though, I decided to take a gap year, which I started off by doing a ski season in the tiny French village of Champagny-en-Vanoise. Without knowing it then, it ended up playing a huge role in where I have ended up now. I fell into the chalet girl cliché and started going out with the Frenchie who worked in the ski rental shop, and by the time the end of season came around, I started questioning whether going to university was really what I wanted. Spending some time later that year in Ethiopia, however, made things clearer and confirmed my original decision to go and study Social Anthropology at Manchester. Having the opportunity to spend time in such a fascinating country made me realise that choosing a subject where I could learn about people in other parts of the world for 3 years was not so bad after all.
My time at Manchester was different to how I imagined. The first year was fun and exciting, but also daunting and confusing, and after a few lectures, I was not at all sure I had made the right choice. It was not until my 2nd and 3rd year, when I was able to choose my modules that I really began to enjoy the subject. The great thing about Social Anthropology is how broad it is. One lecture you could be discussing the relationship between vision and truth, and the next how drones affect the notion of sovereignty in the border lands. It is also the way of learning that I think makes studying humanity a privilege. It involves taking concepts, applying them to different worldly contexts, and trying to see the situation from each actor’s point of view, never falling into the trap of assuming what we deem to be the most likely. I do not have nearly enough words to go into detail, but my dissertation, for example, explored the idea of compliance by rural Pashtun women to the Taliban rule, warning against the dangers of romanticising resistance and explaining that it is not always the most likely outcome to oppression.
The course definitely played a large role in the way I try to think now, and has meant that I have a much wider and more rounded perspective on worldwide social and political issues. France too has played a large part in where I am now.
Whenever I could, whilst I was at university, I went back to Champagny, to see my friends and to be amongst the mountains. Whilst there, I got back together with my Frenchie, Tristan, which has played a large part in my decision to live and work in France. But I also spent the summer working in Chamonix, where I took full advantage of the incredible summer scene and all the alpine activities it has to offer. My experience there sealed the love which I had developed for the mountains and made me determined that the Alps was where I wanted to work if I possibly could.
And so that is how I have ended up here in Annecy, translating and editing for Snowleader, The Reblochon Company, an online sports retailer, known for slipping in a free Reblochon cheese with each order. From being nowhere near fluent in French, with only the odd snippets I’d remembered from school, I got myself through the interview and into a full-time job translating and carrying out market analysis for the UK branch of the site.
I can now confirm that Dr Q’s advice was 100% correct if you want to master another language. I can also confirm that not taking the conventional route at school or university can be the right thing to do.
I was at Orwell from 1970 to 1974 and did not do too well in classes. I was one of those pupils who always had could do better on their reports and I had to give up Latin after being sent to the headmaster for singing in exams. I ran away from school and always felt ‘home sick’ – in my day we were 99% boarders.
When I took Common Entrance, my first choice of St Edwards Oxford rejected me although I did achieve a pass – my Maths was the highest of the year and most of the others were above pass. Their reason for rejection was my English mark of 21% and French of 13% so I headed to Kings School Ely. By the time I left there, I had high sporting achievements – I rowed no.1 in the first VIII and gained house and school colours in rugby and hockey – but poor A level results. At O level, despite passing most of my exams with Cs and above, it took me 3 attempts to pass English Language (although I passed English Literature first time with a B). My English teacher said my writing looked like “A demented spider had jumped in the ink well and run across the page”. As a result of this, I went to a crammer in Cambridge where my Dyslexia was finally recognised by my Biology teacher who noticed I did well in oral practice but badly in written work, and she sent me off for tests. The upshot was I had a reading age of 13 but an IQ of 140. Once the examiners made allowances for this, I ended up with 5 A levels and 11 O levels.
From here I went to Aston University on a sponsored 4-year mechanical degree with the Army. When I went I was too young to do the Regular Commissions Board (RCB), being a year ahead, so I went at the end of the first year, only for the Army to reject me as being “too cheerful and independent and unlikely to follow orders” so I was switched to the 3-year full time. I did one year on that and was kicked off for “failing too many exams”, but when I asked for an independent marker my papers had disappeared. In that year I had had 2 full blown arguments with the Head of Department – one over the unqualified definition of a bridge…
From here I switched to Agricultural Engineering and went to Caythorp Court in Lincolnshire (part of the Lincolnshire Agricultural College) and left there with a credit higher certificate and the Challenge Trophy for the most promising student in the whole Lincolnshire College.
I drifted along doing my HGV 1 and lorry driving during the winter and harvest jobs in the summer. You see I had got myself caught in a trap – my father would not use me on the farm because, as he put it, “if you work for me all you will learn is what I know”, and when I went for jobs on other farms I got two responses: if it was a farm worker it was “with your qualifications you won’t stay here long; as soon as a better offer comes you will be off” or if I went for a managerial job the reply would be “you don’t have the experience”. Luckily, I landed a job as a Farm Mechanic/Tractor Driver and worked my way up to Farm Foreman.
After a couple of years of this I had a lucky break and due to an inheritance bought a small farm in Essex. I had, however, got mixed up with a lovely but dangerous lady and to cut a long story short lost my driving licence so had to rent the farm out. My idle fingers turned to drugs and I spent the next 8 years in oblivion.
In 2001 I gave up the drugs and made the decision to become teetotal. While I was in treatment, my mother and stepfather sorted out my finances as I was about 2 weeks away from bankruptcy, and when I came out I started with no money in the bank but a clean slate. I survived for the next few weeks on some small income from sheds I had rented out, and as I became more focused the next-door farmer offered me some small driving jobs. As word of mouth got out that I was capable and available, several farmers started offering me jobs until I was almost back in full-time employment. At this point, I invested in a new tractor and became a ‘man with a tractor’ and the jobs got better. Now, I have two mid-range tractors, two 32ft flatbed trailers and two bulker trailers, one 18t the other 9t, and I have contracts with several farms carting grain, onions, dirt and potatoes in the bulkers, and hay, straw, potatoes (in boxes) and assorted miscellaneous other things on the flatbeds. I can travel up into Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, and down to Southend.
Unfortunately, in July this year I suffered a ruptured aorta which means I cannot do anything for the moment. But I will not be defeated. I have survived several setbacks but have overcome them all and I will overcome this one eventually, though I expect it to take a year to be fully back. I have a programme and timescales to follow as recommended by doctors, but with determination all obstacles can be overcome.
I was a pupil at Orwell Park between 1970 and 1975. Today, I am the Director of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH). GOSH is the world’s leading hospital for children and specialises in providing advanced treatment for children with rare and complex diseases.
As well as being a centre of excellence for hospital care, GOSH is also a leading centre for research, working closely with the University College London (UCL). Upon arrival at my office I switch on my laptop and also a second computer that runs a programme that monitors all of the networks, servers and systems across the hospital. As the hospital computers are critical, GOSH (like many hospitals) has two of everything; this way should something fail there is no disruption to our services.
Today I have an early meeting with the Genomics team to discuss the storage of DNA sequence data. We use DNA data to look for anything unusual which may aid us in identifying what is wrong with a sick child and how we might help to make them better. The meeting is designed to plan the storage of DNA information for the lifetime of each of our patients. After the meeting I have 30 minutes to prepare, as my next event is a presentation to a group of visitors from Norway. The presentation to the Norwegian teams start with an overview of our funding and how we use money from our Chief Finance Officer. I talk about our strategy, including what computer systems we have now, what we plan to purchase new, what we need to upgrade and what is to be replaced or decommissioned. After lunch I spend an hour writing a briefing paper for the Trust Digital Strategy and Transformation Group (DST). The DST Group is responsible for the strategic direction of Information Management, Technology and Transformation services for the hospital. The paper covers the technology required to store images at GOSH and to be able to share them with other authorised healthcare organisations around the world. My next task is a business meeting to discuss the procurement of new data centre facilities.
At present all the computers at GOSH are housed in one main computer room and several smaller backup rooms around the hospital. However, as the demand for computers to support both clinical care and research continues to grow so the space we need to house them also grows. Working at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children is challenging, often tackling complex issues, yet highly rewarding.
The Trust motto is “The Child First and Always” and I am often reminded that, although I hold a senior position within the organisation, I am but a small cog in a far larger machine.
This piece was originally included in the Autumn 2014 newsletter. Michael is now Chief Information Officer at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) in Bury St. Edmunds, one of the leading digital hospitals in the UK.
Neill Menneer is an award winning photographer who has been in the industry for over 40 years. He has worked for the country’s top magazines and design companies. Winner of gold awards for portraiture, landscape and boudoir, he is a highly respected and accomplished artist who, since he obtained his distinction for photography and became the winner of the Observer Photographic prize in 1980, has been winning ever since! He now runs, with his wife Jo, one of the country’s most respected and profitable studios from a converted church in Bath, England.
Spirit Photographic specialises in People and Boudoir photography. He has published three books and has been a major contributor to many others, including Master Photography by Mitchell Beazley. His book on Bath (published by Frances Lincoln) has recently been updated and reprinted and is the city’s premier coffee-table book. It was called a “love letter to the city” and has now been joined by the second volume Bath a Pictorial Journey.
Neill is now turning his attention to training and coaching of photography. With years of experience teaching small groups of amateur photographers Neill now wants to extend this expertise outside his city walls! His range of E-books are called No -Nonsense guides and sum up his practical and down to earth style. As he says: “Photography should be fun but the guides which invariably come with your camera are full of mysterious terms and stuf you rarely, if ever, need to know! My No-Nonsense guides are jargon free and get to the nub of the mater straight away.” Written in plain English Neill’s years of experience have taught him what is important and what techniques are really worth knowing. He is not an academic, not a writer, not a publisher. Neill is a 100% full-time and dedicated photographer and has been all his life, going to photographic college when he was just 18. He has a lot to teach and he wants to pass on what he knows to you. He loved Orwell Park and has many lovely memories under Noel (Nolly) and ‘Toad’!
Neill is married with two children, Phoebe and Rupert, both at University and a dog called Jaspa.
Emily Hauser née Schurr (1999-01)
Like many of the most fortunate Old Orwellians, I was lucky enough to be taught by Bob Bass during my time at Orwell (1999-2001). Not only did Bob instil in me a deep love of learning Latin and finding out about the myths of the ancient world—he also gave up his spare time to teach me Greek on the side. I still remember the thrill of learning the Greek alphabet, unlocking an ancient language that looked so strange and foreign, discovering meaning amongst the disorderly black squiggles on the page. The result was that, when I left Orwell at the age of thirteen, I was already passionate about Classics—and I knew, even then, that I was going to go on to study Classics at university. (I distinctly remember this, as I wrote Bob a letter telling him so.) Little did I know how far that love of Classics would take me—and that it would eventually become my career, both as a university lecturer, and as a writer of novels retelling the Greek myths.
I’ve always loved writing, and have written my whole life; but it wasn’t until I was taking a course at Yale (where I did my PhD in Classics) and we read Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad that I really discovered what I wanted to write about. The Penelopiad is a brilliant retelling of the Odyssey from Penelope’s perspective: sharp, witty, and feminist in its re-voicing of the women who were written out of ancient epic. I had written on Homer’s Iliad for my undergraduate thesis at Cambridge, and on reading Atwood I thought: why had no-one ever tried to write the story of the Iliad from the women’s point of view? And so my first novel, For the Most Beautiful (Penguin Random House, 2016), which retells the tale of the captive women of Troy in the Greek camp, was born. Two more novels followed in a trilogy of reworkings of the women of Greek myth: For the Winner (2017), which tells the story of Atalanta, the only woman to join the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts; and For the Immortal (2018), which brings to life the ancient warrior-women, the Amazons.
In 2018, I took up my current position at the University of Exeter as Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History—which means that my current focus is on writing my first academic book. Titled Authoress: Gendering Poets in Ancient Greece, it looks at the gendering of the canon of Greek literature (and the subsequent male-gendering of the western canon) through the terms that poets used to refer to themselves and others. Ancient Greek was a gendered language, meaning that the very word for “poet” was gendered male—leading to all kinds of assumptions about what it meant to be a writer, and the fact that you had to be a man to do so. However, I’m still very much interested in retelling the stories of the women of the ancient world through fiction—and another novel is definitely on the horizon!
Emily’s novels are available to buy at Waterstones, on Amazon and at all good bookshops, and are recommended for ages 11+. You can find out more at her website or follow her on Twitter @ehauserwrites.