Thursday, 2 June 2011

A day in the life of an English student

Actually, I lied. I’m describing two days.

Day One

Day one represents two days in a five day week: non-contact days. These are the days in which English students fill the English student stereotype – ‘all you do is read’. One of my lecturers said that the reason we are doing an English degree is because ‘we are the kind of people who have stayed up late reading a book’, implying that we are riveted by the narration, plot, characterisation, form, or whatever floats our literary boats. Bob, you could not be more correct.

Non-contact days are brilliant in one way – you can do the majority of your work in bed, and for me, tea and pyjamas all day are mandatory. The down side is that you usually need to complete copious amounts of primary reading, let alone secondary, for the following day, which is near-on impossible. Other than reading, these days are used for essays and delighting in Google books and JSTOR simply because we cannot be bothered to de-pyjama ourselves and trek to the library for resources.

Day Two

Day two represents the remaining three days in our five day week. Having made the effort to get out of bed to attend a 9am lecture, and drunk the necessary caffeine to stay awake, one generally listens to an interesting lecture, which tells you some, but not nearly enough, information on the novel, play or poem you are studying that day.

It is important for me to mention here that the English lecturers are absolute legends. A particular favourite of mine is Ruth Kennedy, who teaches Medieval Drama. Her lectures comprise of a slideshow of pictures that are almost completely unrelated to the subject area (to give you a taste, we’ve had road-kill, Homer Simpson, Babar, a Rastafarian Last Supper, and ‘God getting a parking fine’), between which she gives little pearls of wisdom regarding the play or poem we are studying. Her seminars are lively, with lots of acting and interaction encouraged. She once prided me on my ability to form a good sentence, attributing such a skill to having read Enid Blyton as a child. Ruth is a very much a ‘marmite-lecturer’, you either love or hate her for her little quirks. For me, she’s definitely in the love category. This is almost entirely unrelated to the fact that I achieved a first in her course.

Lectures and seminars are the main methods of teaching, and although not all the lessons are quite as exciting as Ruth’s, for the most part they are enjoyable and intellectually stimulating, urging you to go to the library to research the topics you’re interested in.

Ah. ‘The library’. There are two libraries at Royal Holloway. By ‘the library’ I mean Founders library. For those of you who don’t know, Founders library is in the main, old castle building of the university. This library is beautifully Hogwarts-esque. It is cosy, with leather-topped wooden desks with lamps, and the smell of old books surrounding you as you study. All the literature books are located here, and I know it like the back of my hand.

However, I have been taking a theory module this year. Being the conscientious student that I am, I looked up an extra theory book. To my dismay, the library catalogue told me that this book was in Bedford library. I literally shivered, perspiration beginning to form on my brow.

I loathe Bedford.

Despite the fact that it’s so evidently inferior to Founders, Bedford tries to be better. It is clinically white all over, with the downstairs non-silent zone being ridiculously loud, and the upstairs silent zone being painfully quiet. There’s a mini-cafe area which sells over-priced pretentious food like quail’s egg bagels. There are never any seats free, particularly around deadline and exam times. None of the plug-sockets work, and the books use a completely different numerical system to Founders. The only plus side is that you always bump into someone you know, generally Jonny Tizzard. As I say, I loathe Bedford, and cannot understand why it is so popular.

Needless to say, I couldn’t find the book I needed, and made a hasty escape.

After such traumatic experiences, wedges in Crosslands (delicious, and affordable) are necessary, before trekking home, almost being knocked off your feet by Judith Hawley (another legendary English teacher who does an amazing pigeon impression and allows ‘cough breaks’ in the middle of her lectures) who is leaving via the back gate on her old fashioned push-bike with bell.

I love my life.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Hometown Glory

Listening to my ‘Tunes’ playlist on Grooveshark (I’ve switched over from Spotify because they are greedy jerks), the fresh, edgy tones of Adele’s voice begin to delight my ears, and I soon clock that the song is ‘Hometown Glory’. Essentially, this song talks about how much Adele loves her home town, and how living there has shaped her life and experiences.

Pretty deep stuff.

So, I began to think about my hometown: Hayes, West London. My favourite thing about Hayes (or more accurately, ’ayes) is probably the smell of coffee from the NestlĂ© factory. Genuinely.

To be frank, Hayes is a hole. One of the famous inhabitants of Hayes was literary genius George Orwell, who was a teacher in a school located opposite my home church. He apparently hated his time in Hayes calling it ‘one of the most godforsaken places I have ever struck.’ Hmm. A little harsh, but I totally get where he’s coming from.

However, in every cloud, there is a silver lining, and in my cloud that is Hayes, the silver lining is the city of London.

London is so often under-appreciated by those who live there, myself included. I take for granted the landmarks which people travel all over the world to see, the amazing cultural diversity, and the incredible history that permeates each street and alleyway.

Lack of appreciation aside, I love London. Whether it’s exploring the markets in Covent Garden, shopping on Oxford Street, tucked in a corner of Gowar Street Waterstones, strolling along the Southbank, picnicking in one of the many parks, watching a play or simply having a coffee with a friend, I love it. It has inspired my love for art and literature, as well as satifying my social requirements. It is exciting, it is vibrant, it is home.

The reason I’ve just gone on a crazy London-loving ramble, is because Adele isn’t talking about her Home TOWN at all. She’s talking about her Home CITY (if you don’t believe me, check out the line: ‘I love it in the city...’ Damning evidence.)

I’m not going to hate on Adele for this apparent mistake, because, frankly, she can call the song whatever she likes; she’s an artist, she can do that. Also, she wrote it in ten minutes. And she loves London. Maximum respect.

To sum up – love Grooveshark, love London, love Adele. There is a lot of love here today.

Friday, 15 April 2011


Procrastination (a.k.a. boondoggling).
It’s something we students do best.
I mean, Wikipedia says it, and we all know that Wikipedia never lies. In fact, there’s actually a form of procrastination called ‘Student Syndrome’. Amazing.
‘Procrastination is the thief of time’ says Edward Young.
Now, I’ve no idea who Edward Young is but I know that he’s a bit of a ledge, because he speaks absolute truth. I mean, I can genuinely resolve to start an essay around 9am, open my laptop to start slogging away, and BOOM. It’s lunch time.
All is not lost. I may have only written the title of my essay, but what I have achieved is knowledge as to what so-and-so (normally Jonny Tizzard) has eaten for breakfast, details of Daniel Thompson’s complex relationship with Polaris the cat, and a general awareness of the word counts of all essays being written by Holloway students.
Edward Young, writing 2-300 years ago (I caved, and looked him up. He was an English poet. Legendary status maintained.), no doubt spent his procrastination time drinking tea, and being inspired by the world and people around him. The tea part may remain the same, but Edward Young was not (thank goodness!) subject to the bane of my life: Facebook.
I hate Facebook. I hate it with a passion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great means of communication with friends and family I don’t see a lot, and for organising events etc. But do you really expect me to sit here and watch for hours as people, of varying intimacy of acquaintance, tell the whole world about their extremely mundane lives? Apparently so, and of course, I do it faithfully. Why?
a) because we all kid ourselves that social networking is essential
b) even mind-numbingly dull status updates are more appealing than an essay that really I can get away with starting ‘tomorrow’ – whenever that may be.
Be that as it may, Google thinks I need a cure, and I’m inclined to agree. I hereby resolve to break free from the iron shackles of the social networking experience, and use my periods of procrastination (inevitable as they are) to live life to the full. I give you, my readers, full permission to rebuke me if you catch me doing otherwise.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, it’s worth 375 (excluding title and this little caption).

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

It's been a while...

Ok, so I deleted all my posts a while ago- bit of an error, but ah well! A friend of mine has just started up a blog, and it reminded my that I quite enjoyed blogging, until it became a means of major procrastination which was affecting my work, somewhat. Now I'm almost a final year under-grad, I feel I have matured sufficiently to keep a blog and juggle my university work... I like to think so, anyway, although I'm sure all my friends and family will entirely disagree!
This is merely a kind of introductory post, so I wasn't planning to write about anything specific. However, I feel compelled to share three things that are running through my head at the moment...
1) 'Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.' What an amazing truth found in the Bible -- so far this week I've really felt a renewed joy in my relationship with God, and I thank God for that!
2) I love tumblr! (feel free to follow me here) Wikipedia describes tumblr as:
'a microblogging platform that allows users to post text, images, videos, links, quotes and audio to their tumblelog, a short-form blog. Users can follow other users, or choose to make their tumblelog private. The service emphasizes ease of use.'
So basically, it's blogging without the hard work or pressure of writing something insightful or witty. It's pretty awesome, and so easy to use (Wikipedia does not lie).
3) Persuasion never gets old! I mean, it's a relief I feel that way, as I'm planning to write my dissertation on Austen. But even so, it's just so refreshing to have an older heroine, a bit of sea air (apparently, I said some of my first words 'dig, dig' at Lime Regis) and as ever, Austen's brilliant, satirical narrative. Classic.