Updated October 2021 | Previous text available here

Itinerant freelance English as a Foreign Language teacher, studying an MA in Creative Writing at the Manchester Writing School, living life in Latin America.

When I last began writing this page, I was trying to pull together the variety of strings that made up my life, and as fast as I pulled those strings, it felt like the edges were fraying, that the friction of the fibres was tearing holes and leaving me with a life of gaps. Catherine, I told myself, don’t pull, don’t grasp, don’t tug. But it’s hard not to tighten one’s grip when it feels like the world is escaping your touch.

Yet, I loosened my grip, released the material and allowed life to begin to flow through my fingers. I was there with my patchwork, with borrowed needles and threads, aware that I could never make my life look like anyone else’s life, that the shape of this fabric would no longer obey the rules of fashion, that wherever I stood in the world, I would be cradling in my hands a life which belonged to no place, and to every place.

Today, my life is softer and yet more durable. I am less afraid of the world impinging itself on the space I call me. Events seem less abrasive. Sometimes I’m uncomfortable in my skin, but I’m better at understanding the sensations I feel; I recognize that discomfort can be valuable, that it is where we begin when we open our eyes and let the light in. I run my fingertips along the gentle folds of the fabric of my life with a sense of incredulity.

At this point, I have been writing a blog – Happenence – for over a decade. I have visited more countries than my parents (although fewer than my grandparents) and I don’t panic when I wake up in the morning not quite sure where I am, because that’s normal. Home is Europe and it’s South America. My heart is torn between the two. These two continents, so different, are like two sides of a coin, which I toss in the air, it spins, head, tail, head, tail, head, tail and I’m running, flying, leaping into something new, something wondrous.

I learn, and I teach, and I learn. My students are mostly Latin Americans, mostly professionals, people who need to express their ideas in English, need to persuade, need to explain. Many work in international companies and need English now. Yet, they are dedicated to the long journey, just as I am with my Spanish, and they are determined to grow their language. To teach is to serve, to provide knowledge in response to questions, to provide a context which generates questions, to believe in abilities as yet unimagined.

I write. I write every day. I wrote as a child, trying to understand the world. I wrote whilst studying my physics degree, trying to create an alternative world to inhabit. I wrote to escape from the chains I’d cut trying to conform. I wrote to overcome trauma. I write because it’s what I do and it’s how I think; I’m not sure how other people think, how they function, how they exist without a pen clasped in their hand. To me, writing is akin to breathing. Now I study writing, but before I just wrote.

I like words.

I am nomadic, and I am Yorkshire. My accent is Yorkshire – and more so when I’m intoxicated or tired – my spoken English is woven with the character of the land which it comes from. A welcoming, warm character, understated with its compliments, laid back with its vowels, a trustworthy sound: home. Be proud of your accent, be proud of your modernismos and dialectical quirk, own your idiolect, but meet your companions halfway, be generous. Be generous with your speech, and kind with your assumptions.

Catherine Oughtibridge

I’m an incredibly lucky person, spoilt by luck, but scarred all the same. With my patchwork, my needle and my thread, I adapt to what the gods throw my way. Yet I’m aware that my life is my own to make, that there are no rules to follow, that wherever I stand in the world I cradle a wondrous life: a life which belongs to no place, and to every place, to me and to all those I love. Here, however bittersweet, is my happenence. Here is my endeavour to share.