Friday, January 26, 2007


Today I finally got round to going to see the careers advisor at my university, which meant trudging through the snow* to the strange building round the side of Keynes College. The careers advisory service at UKC is located in a building designed as the house for the master of Keynes College and it's not the prettiest of buildings - unique, I'm sure, but not pretty. It looks like the architect, who'd been denied the opportunity to do anything fancy whilst populating campus with concrete squares, decided to add all the quirky architectural features he'd wanted to put on Keynes College on this one small building. The result is a odd, pointy building with a very high Apsi** and a fairily serious damp problem.

I wont bore you with the details of what was discussed, suffice to say it was useful: it would seem that my employment prospects aren't as grim as I tend to decide they are. There is one cause for annoyance, however, which was not dispelled by the talk. That is the very annoying way which I'm told employers, as a whole, assess the merits of someone's time at university. You are a desirable applicant if you spent your time at uni working for societies, writing for the uni paper, working for the uni radio station, doing summer internships and just generally working towards some specific career goal from the age of 18 onwards. They also see merit in those who manage to graduate with first class honours, presumably because it shows them as dedicated and intelligent. If you don't fall into either of those categories, however, then you are apparently a worthless burden on the state who may as well just send his CV to McDonalds.

I am currently precariously balanced on the first class honours side of the fence, however, my average mark is barely more than the minimum for a 1st, so it would only take one bad essay to throw me into the 2:1 category. This is worrying when I consider the fact that A: I'm working pretty much to the edge of my ability at the moment, if I screw up an essay I can't just cancel it out by writing another worth 80% or something, and B: I have concluded, from my experience of university, that the marking of work is, to a large extent, arbitrary - So when I say I only need one bad essay to screw this all up I mean that I only need one essay that my seminar leader takes a dislike to.

Needless to say I think that I'm going to have to spend the rest of this term either in the library or whispering sweet nothings to the faculty.

how wonderful


*ok, so there wasn't really enough snow to 'trudge' through per se, but I was in a stompy sort of mood.

**Architecture per square inch

Friday, January 19, 2007

Odd Coincidence

In the nearly three years I've been studying english at uni I've written many lengthy and dull essays; I think the total stands at nearly 30 individual pieces and probably enough paper to choke an elephant.

Amongst this heap there have been four essays - two in the first year, one in the second year and one - so far - in the third - which, as a result of various blunders* and personal issues**, got written in 24 hours rather than a more sensible amount of time: like, for example, a week.

Only one of them was actually entirely constructed in one day, all of the others were just high speed condensing of the notes and research I'd done a few weeks earlier before I was distracted by something (usually another essay - they hunt in pairs)

The strange thing is that these essays, despite being marked by different people, on different subjects and written in different states of mind, have all received the exact same mark.

It seems that when I write an essay in 24 hours it is automatically given 68% (a high 2:1) and left at that.

considering I often get lower marks than that for essays that I labour over for weeks it's a bit strange, especially when you consider the fact that these essays, whilst they do have a sort of nervous eloquence that comes from being very stressed and tired, are generally shite.

not that I'm complaining.


**Like forgetting which week it is, how many essays you've been set, what your network password is, etc.

*ie, drinking too much.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A good day

today I woke up at 9am - not because I was hungover, not because I was being beeped at by an alarm but because I was sufficiently rested. This was a good start. Also, my new glasses look good. Which is another good thing

I had a seminar which was like pulling teeth - basically about 90 minutes of me talking about Ezra Pound with the occassional long loaded silence in which I desperately tried to get someone else to say something. Hopefully next week won't be another monologue, they make me self conscious and I have a sore throat. This wasn't such a good thing, but I managed to make myself sound reasonably clever (I think), so the fact that no one else spoke isn't going to make me look bad.

I had an essay to pick up and a book to buy from the school of english - which was, of course, closed for lunch (a state in which it seems to spend most of the day) So I wandered off to the computer room where I checked my email and found this on the net, which is one of the coolest things ever.

With essays picked up (70% - another good thing) and books bought, I went home.

I spent the next hour or so laboriously deciphering the comments my seminar leader had written on my essay and the cover sheet. I didn't get very far (in a shock event Prof. Scofield has taken the award for most indecipherable handwriting from the previous holder - Prof. Carabine) but what I managed to understand seemed mostly positive (a good thing). Better, however, was the fact that whilst I was doing this a plumber sent by the landlord was fixing the leak in the pipe leading from the boiler which had made a sizeable patch of distinctly swampy carpet outside my flatmate's bedroom over the last day or so.

I managed to plow through around half of the book that I bought today (a good thing).

We bought a new tv - phillips 28" screen, £50 from ebay - which is also neato.

Generally it has been a good day, in between these events I've mostly been chatting with my flatmates, playing the guitars and listening to music.

a little list

The Good:

William Carlos Williams

Django Reinhardt

Slim Gaillard

Joseph Bazalgette

The Bad:

Ezra Pound

John Kellogg

The Ugly:


Thursday, January 04, 2007


I often recount the story of how, during the easter holiday of 2002, I set a new fastest time in 1080 snowboarding*, a time that beat all previous records, a time good enough to send into a magazine if I was so inclined - a time, in short, which required a great deal of practice and perseverance to achieve. This was at a stage when I was at a fairly low ebb mentally, generally feeling all fat and emo, and this achievement made me feel good, 'what!' I claim I said to myself, 'could I do if I applied this perseverance and concentration to something worthwhile, like playing an instrument!' The very next day, as the story goes, I took my dad's bass out of its case and started to learn to play a couple of really simple songs.

This is, insofar as I can be sure about anything with my rather easily altered memory, an accurate retelling of the events and thoughts of this time.

What I refrain from mentioning, however, is that this was not my first flirtation with music. Around 6 weeks previous to the day when I started playing the bass I reached a similar epiphany and resolved to learn to play the guitar. I picked up one of the many guitars that were lying around in my house and started to play.

After a day or two of atonal musical ineptitude I gave up.

Like so many others I concluded that my hands were too big, or too fat, or too clumsy, and stopped playing at that stage; deciding that I just wasn't cut out for that sort of thing, destined instead for a career as a mediocre tambourine player. Many months later, when I realised that I was really quite good at playing the bass - perhaps even talented to some degree - the attempt at playing the guitar got shoved into the embarassing episodes folder of my mind**.

The main reason for this was that a lot of guitarists look down on bass players, they see them as simple people, people who can't manage all six strings, and I was already worried that my lack of experience would prevent anyone from taking me seriously. Afriad of admitting to having tried to play the guitar and given up, I started telling other people and, in time, myself, that I'd never tried to play the guitar, feigning disinterest in the hope that people wouldn't assume I was just a rubbish guitarist who'd moved to something simpler.

That isn't to say that I was, though. Not exactly anyway. The opening stages of learning to play the bass are much easier than learning to play the guitar - whilst there are the bruised fingers, blisters and bad rhythm to put up with, there isn't the horror of dischords, or the pain of trying to mangle your fingers into the various chord positions - This meant that I wasn't discouraged that time. To an extent my feigned disinterest was real, I have no desire whatsoever to play the electric guitar, they bore me, but my growing interest in jazz and folk has made me interested in playing the guitar, what with the absence of funky bass solos in folk music.

Anyway, to get to the point, due to various circumstances I have recently come into possession of what is, after a couple of serious modifications, quite a nice acoustic guitar. I've started playing it and I'm hoping that I'm not going to suck as badly as I thought I would the first time I tried.

If I do, then I'll probably delete this post and go back to feigning disinterest. If I don't then I think I'll learn to play to a reasonable degree then move on to something else, the banjo or the mandolin perhaps.

Sorry if this post isn't hugely coherent, I can't use my copy of word because I changed my CD drive and it has become convinced that it's being stolen or something and won't let me use it. Also I'm listening to brand nubian and dancing around like a nerdy cracker who knows no-one is watchingm, which tends to distract me.


*A game, in case you hadn't guessed.

**it's very big, and bulging.