The British, as we have seen, had already developed a clear concept of their unique nationality, one based more on xenophobia than on the brotherhood of man. For them the conflict was simply another round against the old enemy, France, and the fact that the French proclaimed the rights of man was, for many, a good enough reason for rejecting them.
– Michael Howard, “The Invention of Peace.”
On Monday morning, the sun rose bright and hot in a cloudless steel-blue sky, and the birds sang, and the day felt tailor-made to make me feel better.
Uni is going well enough. I learned something about nuclear strategy that came as a surprise to me, and was equally surprised (but pleasantly so) to realise that having (not to blow my own trumpet) a superlative knowledge of weaponry does actually really help in understanding the driving forces behind a lot of military policy and decisions – though, of course, it’s what the decision-makers thought their kit was capable of, rather than what it actually was. More of that in a side post. Also, it says a lot about Rob Thompson that he can make logistics fun.
James texted me to say that the Royal Mail had let us down, and our tickets to the Decemberists hadn’t arrived. I called back, quite angrily, to say that was bollocks and that if we’d paid for them we should have them, and to call up various ticket lines; and he did, and so we got in his car and rolled down to the HMV Institute to listen to Colin Meloy singing nasally about dead girls’ ghosts/indentured miners/doomed love-affairs with spies and wood spirits/riverside towns/the end of the world. They didn’t play many of my favourites (half of which then DID show up at the Bristol set they played the following day!) – but we sang along to The Engine Driver with heartfelt collective melancholy and Don’t Carry It All with boisterous defiance, and screamed like drowned men being eaten by a whale for the second encore as the band swayed madly to the mariner’s waltz.
I have jumped through the numerous hoops the census has so far put in front of me (first online test: 78%, second: 99%), and will hopefully have a job come Easter; if not, I fancy a long slow summer of kicking back and actually read all these dissertation sources I’m accumulating. I guess there are exams, too, but eh.
I’ve been hanging with Redbrick folks much more often; from the pub quiz (at which Online swept the floor with everyone – hell yeah, knowing where Tashkent is) to general chilling in the office of a Thursday, chatting with the excellent people of the Redbrick Jewish Media Conspiracy (most of the online team seem to be of Jewish ancestry one way or another), sneering at Sam’s iPad and occasionally even uploading articles like I ought to. The really rather good new website at http://redbrickpaper.co.uk (good in style, rather than the substance that I don’t really read) has so far not fallen over on its face and required my attention. It’s been suggested I run for online editor next year, but don’t think I will; it sounds like a rather terrifying amount of commitment, and my days seem to be getting inexplicably swallowed up at the moment anyway.
I don’t give a damn about student politics, the stupid slogans, the election garbage that’s turned the front of the library into a rubbish dump haunted with politically inclined muggers – the only good thing the whole sorry process has brought us is Louis Reynolds’ quite vicious parodies (“You don’t understand the guild. But I’ve got sweets, a pseudonym, and I’m dressed like a tit. VOTE FOR ME OR THE TERRORISTS WIN.”) But Sam invited me to help with the online reporting of the Guild elections, so I did, bringing boatloads of doughnuts.
We set up our laptops, and begged a lamp off the tech people in the bowels of the Guild. Up in the gallery of the Deb hall, among all the lights and rafters, the Redbrick crew affected button-down shirts and scholarly pullovers; next to us, the BURN FM (university radio, as we are the university newspaper) team all sat in identical black t-shirts, deploying expensive-looking audio equipment. The hall was lined with light-spangled black curtains, the testing routine included dry ice and garish flashing lights, and while I was still resolutely apathetic about student politics, I couldn’t help but love the pomp and circumstance.
My duty was moderating the comments on the live feed in realtime, as they came in at a rate of about one a second, which was like leaning into a firehose spray of internet idiocy. The crap Guild wireless kept breaking, the BURN FM servers keeled right over under the unexpected pressure of large numbers of people actually tuning in; most things that could go wrong did. I was learning a job I had never done before, making decisions at ridiculous speed. The thermos-load of strong tea and the sugar-dressed, jam-crammed doughnuts probably helped, but it was an incredible rush sitting there in the dark with fingers flicking madly across laptop, no matter how inconsequential my work really was, no matter how divorced I was from caring about the actual issues. I’m now fairly certain I get high off pressure, and was buzzing with exhilaration and adrenaline by the end of it. Rather than ride it out and crash hard, I dropped my kit off at home and spent the evening walking around in the dark cooling off, before coming back to Reservoir Road and falling soundly asleep to the slightly-too-appropriate strains of a Corb cover of Sunday Morning Coming Down.