Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Top Ten: Things to know before going to University

Five years ago I was on my way to Sussex University. Sitting in my Dad's car, next to an old toaster that wasn't needed and a kettle that would burn me more than it boiled water, I felt excited. Anxious. Completely unprepared. It seemed crazy. I'd relished in writing endless lists, delighted in trips around IKEA. Upon arrival, fear gripped me. What should I do now? Where do I go? What do I do? I wanted to vomit. Thankfully, I didn't. What a first impression that would have been...

As students across the UK enter the world of academia; all eager to jump start on destroying their livers, I thought I'd make this Top Ten an educational one. Here I impart with four years worth of experience. Wisdom. And it's free. Take it, please:

1) It's okay to introduce yourself to every person you see, including the maintenance guy. He may come in handy when the light bulb blows at 3am and everyone has to pee in the dark.

2) Make every single moment of Freshers' Week count. No one told me this. Or they did but in a really flippant way as if they had asked me to buy them a pint. 'You want anything at the bar?' 'Yeah, I'll have a Bud, oh and by the way, make freshers' week count.' Doesn't really get into the thought processes, does it? Maybe if they had written it down in capital letters; they seem to do the trick. MAKE FRESHERS' WEEK COUNT. GO TO EVERY BAR CRAWL. CHAT UP THAT CUTE GUY OR GIRL. DANCE ON THAT TABLE. You'll know what I mean in four years' time. Comprende?

3) Don't buy every book on your reading list (or read them). Not only will you still have those books (unopened, in pristine condition) five years later, your wallet won't thank you for it. Then you'll be all, 'Sorry guys, I can't go out tonight, I bought a book instead of dancing and laughing and generally having a good old time.' Sitting in halls, penniless and alone, your new books will start to mock you and that's never fun.

4) SAVE SOME MONEY. The capital letters return. By the third week of uni, after you've paid rent, bought way to much food for one person, and wasted enough money getting wasted, you'll be scraping inside the smelly communal sofa for extra coinage. So be prepared. It will save you sticking your hands down that sofa. Worth the effort alone.

5) Learn how to cook. Even just the basics. A diet consisting mainly of toast, kebabs, chips, and alcohol will age you thirty years. And possibly give you an eating disorder.

6) Go to the Freshers' Fair. You may think it looks like a load of drab tables lined up in the drizzly rain with naff home-made posters pinned to trees. You'd be right. But there are freebies. Baked beans. Light bulbs. Spoons. What more could you possibly want?

7) Sign up for the Doctor asap. Yes, there is such a thing as Freshers' Flu. No, it is not a rumour and/or a conspiracy theory. I wish.

8) It's okay to not go out drinking every night. It doesn't make you un-cool or antisocial. It makes you normal. This is good.

9) Attend lectures. You never know, you may actually learn something. Learn, she said? Of course! Remember that grey matter inside your head? The brain. It's quite handy.

10) Whatever you do, DO NOT break your foot a week before starting University. Crutches and drunken people do not mix. Trust me...

So reader, anything you'd like to add?

Thursday, 17 September 2009


We are crazy. Unhinged. No not really. We're fine. Normal. We even went to school today. We were taught Pythagoras' theorem in Math and contour lines in Geography. We zoned out in Science.

At lunch we stood under the blue tarpaulin that hung from the side of the music block, listening to the rain making soft beats that blended with the guitars and drums humming through the wall. Sam lied to us. He told us it would be quiet by the music block 'cos of all the building work, but we heard those guitars and those girls who can't sing for shit. We heard them and boy were we pissed.

We found Sam in the science block. He's always there. He likes that sort of thing; burning shit with Bunsen burners. He's in room 413, his 'safe-haven' he calls it; thinking we can't find him there. Dumb. He's there all the time. We smile when we see him lighting up an old Bunsen under a condenser thingy. As we said, we zone out in science.


Sam jumps, dropping the glass bottle to the floor.

'C'mon guys. Not now. Please. Science is my time. We agreed.'

'You lied to us, Sam. You said the music block would be quiet and it wasn't so our agreement no longer stands.'

'I want to do my experiment. I need to pass this. I'm failing everything else.'

'Not our problem.'

Sam starts banging the table with this fists. He gets angry easily. We smile.

'Now, now Sam. What did that table ever do to you? Take this.'

We hand him a shard of glass from the floor.

'What am I meant to do with it?'

'You know what to do.'

Sam sighs and presses the glass into his arm. We feel his pain but pain is good. Red blood trails over his knuckles, staining skin creases. Blood is better.

Now we're back at Sam's house. We go up to his room. He's at his desk trying to finish homework. We start poking him.

'Leave me alone,' he says.

It is so easy to wind him up.

'C'mon Sam. Live a little. You said yourself, you're failing. Why bother trying?'

Frowning, Sam raises from his seat and starts marching the room. Back and forth. Back and forth. We feel dizzy.

'I don't want you here. You're always here. Always here. Go!'

We laugh. Sam starts shouting loudly, bashing his fist against his temples.

'Get out! I can't take this anymore! Stop laughing. Get out!'

We like it when Sam is like this. His face goes all red, eyes go hazy, and he starts twitching and shit. Then his mum bursts into the room with that worried face again. She never changes, always worried.

'Sam! What's wrong? Who are you talking to?'

Sam looks at us, quickly. We press our fingers to our lips.

'No one mum. Just talking to myself.'

And we're the crazy ones...

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Land of Hope and Glory

Friday night I flicked idly through the channels in vain hope of something inspiring to watch. I'd pass up inspiring for vaguely interesting, I was that bored.

I stumbled across the BBC Proms. It always seemed a tad too conservative for my musical tastes, despite my liking for Barber's Adagio for Strings and Fauré's Pavane. This time, however, I persevered.

Held in the Royal Albert Hall, the orchestra played in synchronised supreme. British, English, Scottish and Welsh flags rose up from the audience whom waved them freely, proudly, with the music.

As these flags fluttered and 'Land of Hope and Glory' filled my living room, I felt the stirrings of a patriot. An old patriot that I have hidden under lock, key, smothered with dust and a collection of Spice Girls records.

Though in no way staunchly patriotic, I have always felt some pride in being British. Growing up I felt lucky, grateful even, to belong to a country that stood up for its beliefs and marched forth into a new world, however poorly the outcome.

As with anything, however, our positives began to fade. What once made us great, a leader, made us tired and weary. A second in command. With each election and passing year where the true message of what our country stands for was lost, my little patriotic light diminished.

And so I hid it. And it was lost.

But we have a history that cannot be ignored. We may not have made the right choices. We may have needed help, as most countries do. But we have always paid back in kind. And we have always been there. The little country surrounded by water, so small it would get lost in the corners of some lands. We have produced some of the most incredible minds, some of the most ingenious inventions. We have led and we have followed. But we have always been there.

In spite of what is presently occurring in the world and what will continue for future generations, last night I realised; I am still proud of my country's history. However dusty or faded; my patriotic self will always be there. Sometimes lost. Sometimes hidden. Never forgotten.

Monday, 7 September 2009

I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate

God be damned, I cannot sleep. Again. My insufferable affliction forces my body through sleep deprivation for the forth day in a row and results in the use of phrases such as 'insufferable affliction.' I sound like I ate an Austen novel. Indeed.

During my sleepless state my mind starts to wander to insane possibilities. I have discussed this previously. I won't recount how I discovered the secret of time travel but you can read that lovely episode here.

At 1.05 this morning half the world was quiet. The only light was the orange flicker of street lamps and the moon's milkiness behind scattered clouds. Out of my bedroom window I peered at the black, the still. The quiet tried to soothe my heavy lids, to no avail.

I paced; quick fevered strides that didn't care if they woke the house. My hands gripped my temples. Eyes narrowed. Blinked once, twice, a hundred times. In the corner of the room stood Rick Deckard. What the hell was the Blade Runner dude doing in my bedroom? I smiled. He smirked.

I got into bed certain I should be certified. 'It's only the insomnia. Not real. Not real. You're just sleep deprived that's all. Not real. Not real.' I pulled the duvet over my eyes like a child who'd just spotted the Bride of Chucky crawling in the shadows.

Eyes scrunched tight, I willed my brain to shut down but Rick Deckard had ignited my imagination, was pushing it into gear. All of a sudden, I was off...lost in a world where illegal replicants were causing havoc on Earth and a man suspiciously like Rutger Hauer was spouting poetry at random intervals. Oh, wait a minute...

It begs the question; why does my sleep deprived mind always end up trapped in a science fiction film? Maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something. Should I be worried, like, Matrix worried? It's possible...isn't it?

See. I told you. My level of crazy rockets to demonic heights without sleep. This morning I was a sky high ninety-five.

But for now, all these moments will be lost in time...like tears in rain...time to sleep...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Until tonight...

Hello, moon.
Chalky captive in bloody sky.
Hopes of shepherds delight dashed
as the sky weeps,
and rain heals her wounds
She fades to grey.

Tell me moon.
What did you do?
When daylight recedes beyond your
nacreous gleam,
her shameful retreat brings
night to menace.
Confess your sins;
you have time.

You can't see me moon,
from your crescent perch.
Your light can't reach our faults
hidden within the shadows.
But I see yours.
Luminous imperfections
across your face.
I wonder if you know.

I'm sorry, moon.
Lonely sole deserted in an
ordinary sky.
Where stars burn universal,
a galaxy determined
to surpass your shine.
You only have yourself to blame.

Goodbye moon.
The sun may scold you;
chase away the darkness
but she too brings new shadows to hide.
You recoil into the blue,
fade beyond the clouds.
But I know you're there...