Monday, 30 July 2012

My Kingdom for a Horse

So the Olympics are here.

I’m not their biggest fan, but the University is awash with excitement and it kind of rubs off on you after a while. I was probably one of the only people in the UK who didn’t tune into the Opening Ceremony on Friday because I just do not care. Okay, so hearing about the Queen jumping out of a helicopter with James Bond the next day made me a little envious and knowing that Voldemort was beaten by 50 Mary Poppins’ in five minutes when it took Harry seven years (and seven books) was a little hard to swallow.  I wish I could have seen both of those things and Kenneth Brannagh reciting Shakespeare, but for the most part I was pretty comfortable burying my head in the sand and ignoring it all. I like a grand total of three events, four by osmosis because my best friend bought us tickets to see the Handball Quarter Finals on the 8th, but my line is drawn just beyond Archery, Gymnastics {artistic} and the Equestrian events. I realise I am including three separate events under that equestrian header, but that’s just the way I roll.

Jumping Saturn {Eventing Course, Greenwich Park, 26/07/12}

I have the good fortune of having the Equestrian events being held in the back garden (almost literally) of the University’s Greenwich campus. I’ve been able to see them up close and personal and oh, if I didn’t already love horses, rest assured I would now. Luckily, they are the most gorgeous creatures on this Earth and I love them. I will never tire of watching the three events in person or on TV. Show Jumping is obviously my clear favourite but then you have cross country where the jumps are just amazingly thought out and put together and finally, the Dressage where horses dance and it’s a testament to both horse and rider when they do it well. I’ve tried the former, cried over the middle and never tried the latter but I have always wanted to.

Zara Philips and High Kingdom

The Equestrian Great British team this year has some brilliant potential; Mary King and Imperial Cavalier are my lifetime idols. She is amazing, no word of a lie, and if she can take home a medal again this year, I would die happy. Zara Philips and High Kingdom are performing well so far. Her former horse, and my favourite eventing horse ever, Toytown, was retired last year so it should be interesting to see how well High Kingdom does. And then you have William Fox-Pitt, of course, and his gorgeous Lionheart. Both Mary King and William Fox-Pitt picked up personal bests in the Dressage on Sunday, so that’s a bonus for them. We’re now third although we’re about to go into the Cross-country events and those are always hit and miss for the GB team, so we’ll see. I’m excited though, as if you couldn’t tell!

Mary King and Imperial Cavalier

William Fox-Pitt and Lionheart

Going back to Good Things about having the University close by, I can annoy my friends and family to maximum potential by reminding them every time they show the University in the background, “That’s my Uni!” Considering the coverage of the Dressage event on Saturday was using the University as a backdrop, I could do this a lot. It’s a wonder I’m still alive.

But beyond that? I will be ignoring the Olympics. I couldn’t care less how many medals we pick up, although I do think the effort and skill that goes into winning them is amazing and all of our athletes deserve the best of luck and admiration. I will be glad when they are over. This isn’t me being unpatriotic. I’m just the kind of person who prefers the Winter Olympics. Give me figure skating, Ice Hockey, skiing and snowboarding over the Olympic events any day. Except Equestrian events. Although now I’m picturing Horses on Ice Skates performing great feats of grace and elegance as they dance their way across an ice rink. Oops.

Source: Pictures are all courtesy of the London 2012 official website; my thanks to them.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

A Game of Risk

So Clearing has begun.

What a scary time that will be for everyone, though mostly for potential students. It’s super busy at work with the setup and taking early Clearing calls and trying to get everything ready for the big push during A level day and beyond. I’m excited but then most people know that I’m weird; I’m probably one of the view people that actually like the whole form filling thing. I was dropped on my head several times as a teenager, that’s probably it.

Speaking of Risk…

My mother and brother stayed with me last week and decided to break out Risk, that horrible game of strategy and family feuds. I like it, but only because I have a tendency to sweep in and steal Australia and just sit there, steadily working my way outwards. However, the rest of my family are pretty ruthless and they’ve developed wonderful strategic minds over the years we’ve been playing. Plus, it’s an excuse not to play Monopoly wherein we all lose because my older brother cheats, so Risk is an acceptable medium.

Needless to say, I lost. I was pretty bad, actually.

Something I’m not bad at, however, is acquiring dogs. I know, what does this have to do with Clearing and work and Uni? Probably nothing but this update has been a long time coming and I need to get everything I’ve done in the interim out there for you guys, so you know I’m not completely boring. I have dogs! I actually have three. Four now! We acquired a new dog a few weeks ago, a gorgeous puppy called Jena. She’s still learning what to do and what is not okay (which includes chewing through her lead.)
My three other dogs, Carrie, Jude and Poppy now have an extra companion.

And now back to studies. Clearing made me think about my own studies, obviously, because there have been some students interested in English and Creative Writing and it’s fun for me to listen to what they want out of it. I don’t even remember what out of it when I started. I’ve always been a great fan of writing and reading, they’re the two things I love best in the world, so it made sense that they were what I chose to focus on in my studies.

I’m about to enter my third year and, as I’ve already spoken about, that means dissertation. I recently got approval for it and I have a provisional title:

The Representation of Homosexuality in
Young Adult Fiction

Now I just have to get into research; something I completely forgot would be relevant. How lovely. Research has never been my forte but now I’m going to have to utilise it if I want to get a decent grade, let alone a good one.  This is usually what my research notes look like:

So you can see why this might be a problem.

Never mind! Time to focus on Clearing and then I can panic about my dissertation the closer it gets to the deadline. 

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Revision vs Procrastination

Revision is by far the worst thing about exam period.

I don’t actually mind the exams themselves because once I’m in there, it’s a case of writing what I do know and hoping for the best. I’m usually pretty good at convincing myself that there’s nothing wrong with exams and that they are easy – a complete and utter lie, to be honest. They’re not easy because they’re not supposed to be easy. I have a complicated history with exams. I don’t believe they’re necessary or even helpful in gauging how much somebody has picked up. Nobody does their best work under timed conditions and when else in life are you going to have to do something similar? However, I do like doing them once I start. It’s just like writing an essay. Yes, that does mean I am usually left to complete my essays and coursework in about a two hour period.

The worst thing is revision. I never know quite what to study in preparation and I’m one of those people who, if I revise too much, end up completely brain dead in the exam hall with no idea whatsoever where I’m supposed to go from there. I’ve just had an exam yesterday. When did I start revising? Well, I had revision scheduled for Friday afternoon, Sunday and Monday. I actually started revising on Monday. I do not recommend this at all. Once I got into the exam it took me a while to hit my stride but most of me wished I’d had a little bit longer to go over my notes. Hopefully I’ll be able to schedule some revision in for my exam tomorrow and the one from Friday. Who knows. I’ve never been very good at balancing revision and exams.

Oh well. Whatever will be, will be, I guess. I’m going to try and do my best but with the knowledge that I can’t take resists due to conflicts with my clearing work, I’m going to have to try my hardest to get a good grade and not fail.

Of course, the whole point of my failure to revise comes from my love of procrastination. I think we’ve all been there at some point. Some of the ways I distract myself: Google becomes my best friend. I once used Google maps to determine how I was supposed to go from Russia to Japan and ended up with a ridiculous answer:

Yes, these are things I do. I also talk to my phone a lot. Now, something you should know about me is that my nickname with my friends is Siri. It has been this way for years and when the iPhone 4s was released, I was amused to learn that they had named their AI interface after me. It was hilarious to my friends and continued to be for me as well because the name I programmed into the phone was Siri. So this is the sort of thing that happens when I talk to Siri:

That probably didn’t amuse you but it did me, so.

The other thing I do to distract myself from exams is to indulge in a little retail therapy. Not just any retail therapy but SHOES. I have a thing about custom shoes at the moment. I’m a big fan of Chuck Taylors because they are amazing shoes and so comfortable. I walked into Office in London and, if you read the previous entries, you would know I have a thing about comics. WELL. When I walked into Office, these stood out at me:

I have batman themed chucks! They were the greatest purchase of the year (so far). That does include my iPad but only because the shoes are new – I’m sure given time, I’ll purchase something just as awesome. For now...

If only they had magical properties... maybe I’ll wear them into the exam and they’ll bring me luck via happiness....

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Of UFOs and Unbirthday Presents!

UFOs! They are everywhere. Unless, of course, they are actually blimps but you spend half your Wednesday night convinced it’s a UFO and then your supervisor kindly informs you that you are wrong. Seriously. Last Wednesday it was my first attempt at manning the chat here at the Enquiry Unit. There were two of us working that night alongside my supervisor S. N and I were sharing stories and we were wrapped up in her photos of which she had two – UFOs! They were legitimate UFO photos and we were convinced there was evidence right in front of us of an alien invasion! We were doomed! Either because they would fly back and attack us or merely because they would find us far too boring and we would never leave this planet. Either way, we were so excited about this UFO sighting until S peered over N’s shoulder and calmly stated, “That’s a blimp.”

(Thank you to N for use of her wonderful pictures!)

We were devastated. Our dreams of selling the photos and getting rich from all the UFO hysteria that would come from this were dashed without mercy. Thankfully we could laugh about it. It was kind of hilarious. I still maintain we knew all along and just got swept up in the moment of having a potential UFO sighting. Say what you like. We knew.

We did.

Swiftly moving on from UFOs lest I cry horribly for the next half an hour and never watch another UFO movie ever again; Unbirthday presents!

(picture courtesy of my copy of Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland)

You may remember from a previous blog that the best friend and I constantly engage in “competitions” to outdo each other re: holidays and birthdays. That doesn’t start and end with merely birthdays. We also have a tendency to celebrate ‘unbirthdays’ made famous by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Instead of gifting each other Easter eggs? We find something else to gift instead. If one of us passed an exam or did exceptionally well in our University work, we buy each other presents! For her “YOU PASSED YEAR TWO YAY” present last year, I bought her a Louis Vuitton bag. This is how much I love my best friend.

If it wasn’t obvious from previous entries, I am the biggest geek on the planet. My geek out currently has been comics, revived from my excitement over the Avengers Assemble movie and the new Spider-man reboot. (Spider-man is my favourite comic ever in the world, seriously). For my “You got two firsts for your essays!” reward, the best friend bought me some comics that I have a little bit of a love for right now.
(Teen Titans and Superboy in case anyone is interested. You’re probably not but I don’t care. I will love and read them anyway.)
(Scanned this picture from my own copy of Teen Titans, which is all DC’s!)

So I now need to come up with something cool to gift her for completing her third year. She’s just written her dissertation. She does Philosophy which I am absolutely not interested in whatsoever but as part of my best friend duties, I promised to look over and read it for her.

It was so hard to do when a) I understood nothing, b) I dislike Philosophy and c) there were much more interesting things I would rather be doing. I powered through regardless and I was actually so impressed and proud. I now just have to imagine writing my own one of those (ha!) which seems like a much too daunting task right now!

This has been a short entry this week but I promise to bring you a new blog soon!
Happy unbirthdays to all of you (and watch out for those UFOs!)

Friday, 13 April 2012

the one about sign language

The fault of this entry actually lies with fellow blogger, Alice (, who I sit next to on Wednesdays. We are together in our pedants’ corner and judge everyone’s usage of apostrophes and their spelling. Not that those things have anything to do with what I’m about to talk about but I thought it was worth mentioning.

I’m actually going to talk about the many skills that Alice says I should share with you that I possess. Namely typing way too fast on my keyboard so that she says she swears smoke flies off of my fingertips. There is also the fact that I can touch type. This isn’t a skill I really talk about because it’s just something that I do and don’t really focus on. If I do focus on the fact that I’m doing it, then my spelling turns out atrocious and I become one of those people we mock in our corner. I learnt to touch type because my mother used to work at a school for the deaf and blind.

How did this teach me to touch type? Well. She used to ask us to (read: make us) shut our eyes and imagine we couldn’t see. Then we had to try and do everyday tasks that we were so used to doing with our eyes open. So I decided to try typing. Obviously this was incredibly difficult to start with but I’ve never been one to back down from something once I’ve started. I’ve also had this fear that one day I would lose my sight and it terrifies me more than anything.

It’s been something like fifteen years since I first started doing it and now it’s just so much a part of what I can do that it doesn’t really occur to me that it’s happening until it’s pointed out to me.

Going back to the fact that my mother worked at the school for deaf and blind; she also taught me BSL at a young age. BSL stands for British Sign Language. I’ve probably just insulted some of you there but knowledge is power! I’ve been able to do sign language because my mother always said that her children would know what it was like to be less privileged than most, in the hope that we would then not pick on anybody who was differently-abled.

It worked because my friends in school were a mix of blind and deaf, and my closest friend in college was blind, but none of them ever let it get in the way of their lives. It was amazing to see it and I’ve always cherished the fact that I got to experience some of the difficulty they face in just being able to communicate. It’s very humbling.

            I was teaching Alice the alphabet and how to say various phrases in BSL. I’ve learned that teaching something isn’t as easy as learning it for yourself. However, once Alice grasped the point of one hand being your ‘paper’ and the other being your writing tool, it was a fairly easy ride from there to teach her the rest.

The other issue we faced was my tendency to use ASL signing (American Sign Language) in some of the letters/phrases. This is completely down to the fact that I self-taught ASL and now I can never remember which sign belongs to which. Why did I teach myself ASL? You never know when you might encounter someone from America who has been taught ASL and not BSL.

I used to work in TESCO back home and we would get a regular customer in the store who would come to the customer service desk. He was deaf – and American – and there were two of us who knew BSL working on the desk, but I knew some ASL. Through talking to him with sign language, and learning just those extra few signs, he became a regular customer at the store and always stopped by for a chat.

Not to say that I am fluent in either of these languages, but I know enough to speak to someone and sometimes, just letting them know that you have a means to communicate with them puts them at ease. I would recommend the alphabet and basic phrases, even if you don’t learn anything beyond that. You never know when you might need it!

Monday, 26 March 2012

A dilemma approaches!

As I am someone who does a combined degree (Creative Writing and English), I have recently run in to trouble regarding my choices in third year.  In my previous blog entry I was talking about how I wanted to do my dissertation – and had my advisor set up and everything. I also wanted to do a creative project as that involves actually finishing the novel that I started years ago. Unfortunately, I have been told that it is not viable for me to do both options. This now means that I need to choose between the two of them – something I am finding impossible as of late. I really want to do a dissertation as I want something academic behind me should I choose to do a Masters and/or PhD. On the other hand, I want to actually finish my novel and I feel as though the only way to achieve this is to do it as my creative project. When you think about the fact that the novel in question was one I showed my tutor last year and she told me it was publish worthy when it was finished, I am of the mind that I should probably get a move on.

I have this problem where I lack motivation. It’s plagued me since the beginning of time, so I doubt that it’s something I’ll grow out of. I probably should have done so by now if that were the case. Instead, I am left with this lingering feeling of disappointment in myself and the need to actually kick myself up the backside and get a move on. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be happening.  It happens with my coursework. It happens with my real life. It happens with everything and anything and it’s really starting to bother me. Don’t let this happen to you! Find something that does motivate you and don’t leave things till the last minute. You’ll regret not setting a pattern for yourself in the first year, believe me. I’m trying my hardest to make up for this in the second year and with my third year approaching, that trying is becoming a lot more focused when I think of everything I’m going to have to be doing.

In less pressuring news, I’m enjoying the fact that I have a two week break in France to enjoy when my studies are over and I break for the holidays. I will still be manning the phones here in the Enquiry Unit, never fear, but holidays are always necessary just to remind yourself that there’s a whole world out there that doesn’t revolve around books and studying and meeting deadlines. Usually the best friend and I are more adventurous in our travels. We’ve been to Canada, America and Rome so far, and none of them have been the kind of holidays where you sit on a beach and get tanned. We like the stimulation of the mind – going to places where you can walk around and see things. Canada was our geek-out, as we’re both pretty avid fans of Stargate: Atlantis and we paid to meet the actors and go around the sets. It was a very exciting experience. America was actually Florida where we went around Disney World, Universal Studios (Harry Potter World!!!!) and Sea Life Centre. Rome included everything you think it would; the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican, and all of the Roman ruins we could get our hands on.

Why France? Pierrefonds to start with. It’s home to a wonderful castle where they film another of our favourite shows, Merlin. Then we’re moving on to Paris where we’re going to indulge our love of sight-seeing. We’re pretty easy to please and considering this is a holiday that could well have included a trip to St. Petersburg in Russia or a trip to Greece where we’re not so sure we want to get embroiled in riots, we’re pretty much taking the easy route.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Post-Modernism in a blog?

Post-modernism just doesn't work in blog form. Or does it?

I've been contemplating a post-modernist blog entry for a while now but what constitutes post-modern? Sorry. This is a question best left to my English literature course in which nobody can still come up with a viable interpretation. This is good for post-modernism but not so for my course. Imagine writing a 2500 words essay on post-modernism when you’re not even sure what it is?

In context with literature it’s probably a little easier. Meta – a thing which is aware it is a thing. So meta-blogging would be blogging about blogging? It’s all very confusing and coma-inducing unless you are, like me, fascinated by things that don’t make sense to you. I have been devouring everything and anything I can get my hands on re: post-modernism. I’ve read so many books that I would actually recommend to people. These include: House of Leaves which is quite a challenge to get through but one that ultimately pays off. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius which is another book that seems to put you off. The preface and the acknowledgments are almost chapter length themselves but I promise this books is worth it. It is very much the kind of book the title suggest! The last one I’m going to recommend now is Generation X. I took this one from the University Library because I wasn’t sure if it was one that I wanted to purchase. Rest assured, that book is now on my bookshelf; a bought and paid for copy.

Somehow my interest in post-modernism somehow led to me thinking about my dissertation. Don’t ask me how or why, it just did!

Apparently said dissertation is, “always worth talking about in your second year!” This quote comes happily from my personal tutor and future dissertation advisor. She seemed almost ecstatic to find out that I wanted to undertake this project and I had a brief moment where I pondered the sanity of actually deciding to do this but I got over it pretty quickly. The only reason I made this choice was because I’m aware that I have to have a title and an introduction before I actually start my third year. “Queer theory,” slipped out of my mouth before I’d really thought about it and suddenly I have three books being shipped from Amazon and a list of things from my tutor that I could research into. Now all I have to do is come up with a question.

            The application form for Dissertation has just literally showed up on my moodle and I’m glancing at it with something close to trepidation. It’s asking for a proposal in 200 words or less and all I’m doing is staring at the blinking cursor and thinking just how do you go from ‘Queer Theory’ to a proposal? This is a question that I am determined to tackle before the 28th of April. Be prepared for a great many blog entries detailing my long and arduous journey into the land of dissertation.
Somehow I am still hung up on the fact that post-modernism has, in my mind, anything to do with Queer theory but I’m sure there was a connection there somewhere. There was! I just need to dig around until I find it. ...