gun-fetishising pseudoacademia

The week after my 22nd I had a belated birthday party, and everyone insisted on buying me a drink, with the result that I got Somewhat Drunk for the first time in my life. Which was… well, interesting, but not something I’ll repeat often. Turns out that inebriated me is actually very mellow and carefree, as opposed to normal hopped-up-on-caffeine-and-nervous-energy me, and rather than spitting out my words at 1200 rpm I speak so slowly that I can be easily be mistaken for yawning. I can understand the appeal in feeling so completely detached from the world.

My principal third year modules appear in university material as “Writing the History of Warfare”, “The British Army and the defeat of Napoleon” and “Warfare at Sea from the Armada to Overlord”. However, they appear in my calendar as (respectively) “it is cruelty and you cannot refine it”, “YA BOO FRENCHY” (thanks, Louis) and “Rum, Sodomy & the Lash 1588-1945.” I am, thus far, really enjoying everything.

I brought my dissertation plan before my replacement supervisor and he told me that, in short, my proposal was far too broad and far too ambitious, and that I didn’t have a hope of doing it properly in 12,000 words. Options for continuing were a) a very much cut-down version of the original, focusing on Vietnam infantry tactics, and b) an alternative proposal that had come up in my initial research, involving a small-arms controversy in the early late 40s and 50s (.280 British). He gave me two weeks to gather enough material to justify it, and in the process of following leads, I was pointed at one Dr F, the premier small-arms man in the British Isles, who suggested to me a somewhat-related area of research I hadn’t even considered. This, and the offer of some advice on the understanding that I’d send him my primary research in return, grabbed my interest completely, and I bashed together a bibliography and proposal for my supervisor, who went for it, and I think it’ll be an even more interesting, rewarding and intellectually stimulating piece of work than the last two. So that’s all right then.

Due to the relative lack of shariness in my flat, and the niggling feeling that I may have left some pots and pans in Reservoir Road, I’ve felt myself a bit short of various cooking items: no large saucepan, no chopping board, and no baking trays capable of flapjack. So, when the time came to make flapjack for the L4NL event with BPP, I visited Soraya to avail myself of her baking trays. Unfortunately, the flapjack still turned out too crumbly, and on the way home I experienced a syrup related disaster: the jar came open somehow in my pannier, coating all my shopping in a thick gloopy layer of Mr Tate and Mr Lyle’s finest. I have been up to my wrists in syrup. I cannot see the word “syrup” any more without shuddering. I fear I am going to end up like Lady Macbeth, except with syrup instead of blood. The day after, my phone unexpectedly autocorrected “stripy” to “syrup” and I collapsed in a flood of tears.

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300 words no names no holdsworths

I really haven’t been posting enough. I have been crazy busy round the clock, and while I love it, when I get home I feel more “tea -> collapse” than “tea -> blog -> bed”. And I have been seeing so many people and having so many different impromptu conversations that my wit, such as it is, is being spread out among so many conversations and so many itty-bitty online and text exchanges that by the time it comes to write these things I feel quite drained. But for anyone out there (does anyone even read this any more? – it does seem that the demand side of my net interactions has gone over to FB, as well as the supply) – I am well.

Tis the season for legal events, and applications. I’ve been to such Events with four firms; at Baker & McKenzie’s dinner at the Mailbox, everyone had a wonderful I-want-to-work-with-these-people vibe, even if their applications are utterly, viciously competitive, and everyone was incredibly encouraging except the actual admissions person, who once told I’d got a C at A-level Computing started advising me to apply for regional firms (the hell; my academic record at university is literally first-class, and if this one bad A-level is an albatross round my neck I’m going to be vexed.) Hogan Lovells was a very last-minute thing as another L4NL person bailed, but I’d got a good feeling off the associates I’d met at Cousin Jonathan’s wedding partner, and this was further confirmed: the associates there were delightfully competent and personable and the partner was really genuinely fun. Linklaters, by contrast, seemed rather unpleasantly polished and soulless, an event put together carefully by a marketing committee according to some synergistic leverage algorithm, and I excused myself after scoffing a few canapes. I didn’t even bother asking them about the A-levels. Finally, the lunchtime with Berwin Leighton Paisner was the smallest and most low-key of the events so far, but very warm and welcoming, with two extremely friendly trainees and presentation so comprehensive I was (for once) without anything to really ask at the end.

Plus, free sandwiches. I have to say, as a student, providing free food at these events is about the best way to get people interested. I am as convinced as ever that this law business is a good idea, something that I can do and something that I want. I have so far applied to four firms (Burges Salmon, Herbert Smith, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Slaughter and May) and am planning several more.

Being one of the few who seems to actually pay attention to the my.bham feed, I scored a brief part-time JOB from the university – the Space Utilisation Survey, ie wandering around the Arts block sticking my head round doors and counting students. Basically, a sort of civilised, academic version of the census, sans the slum-exploring, spitting, and threats of random violence, and the hourly pay worked out about the same. Even the feeling of large institutions as facelessly incompetent and corrupt was the same: it was worrying to see how many 60-person lecture theatres had 15 people in them, and how many 12-man rooms contained 20 student sardines breathlessly trying to avoid mutual sexual harassment. Not that it didn’t have the odd smart aleck, as on my first shift:

Lecturer: Yes?
Myself, holding up my clipboard like a shield: Just taking a head count, please ignore the interruption.
Lecturer: Well, that’s a logical contradiction, isn’t it? I can’t ignore an interruption, it’s like-
Myself: Please pay as little attention to the interruption as possible. (unspoken, but thought so hard everyone probably heard it anyway: Wanker.)

friendship time, come on grab your friends/we’ll have a fight and then make amends

Year three; the home straight, the beginning of the end. I start as I mean to go on, and I mean to go on damn well.

Address to all the history freshers went just fine. So did War Studies stall; so did the L4NL pre-term bollocking planning (and, reportedly, the turnout at the first meeting, though I missed it). In fact, everything is pretty swish at the moment. Went to Zoe’s birthday party and reconnected with some BGS chaps that I’d never really known before but am jolly glad I connected with; when I went to the Shackleton pub quiz with Mike Howie, it was almost exactly a repeat of the same trip with Block 12 two years ago (which is to say, not great, but the company made up for it.)

As in second year, I have gone straight for the modules I know the least about; I find I learn much better when arriving without preconceptions or prior knowledge, as it’s all learning, and learning is FUN. So: my 20cr, essay-and-exam option is “Seapower from the Armada to Overlord” which is something I know pleasingly little about, with the new and seemingly very good War Studies tutor who has won early infamy and many exclamations of “lad!” by (reportedly) telling a student “send my regards to your mother” when their phone went off.

Along with that is the 40cr special subject (really two modules masquerading as one): “The British Army and the Defeat of Napoleon”, which is something I know basically nothing about, and is half to be handled by Dr Snape and half by my first year Jacobite tutor. It’s half exam, and half open paper, both of which I am entirely confident about. It sounds fun – really genuinely interesting stuff, and I’ve heard from people I trust that Napoleonic is a great period. The final module is “Writing the History of War,” a new, militarised version of third year Historical Reflections; just from the name I feared it might be a dud module, but it also looks fun. I’m to present for one of the early seminars and aim to make an argument about heroic warfare in ancient Greece; early topics include Homer and the Bible, which is all a bit English Lit but is a pleasant break from seapower (rivet-counting!)

Finally, my dissertation, which is… “hmm” is probably how I’m thinking about it. I have been assigned a replacement tutor; I sent him a state of play email today which included the admission “basically, this is a gunwank dissertation”, and now I really, really hope I haven’t misjudged his sense of humour. It will be done, and when it is done it will be good, but I fear it’ll be more of an uphill struggle than the rest.

Mason is quiet and civilised, basking in this late summer. The only cloud has been a mob of paintball scammers who almost foxed my flatmate Ruchi out of £60, and I’ve heard of various other attempts to scam Masonites (who are, let’s face it, the most obvious target for the doorstep short con for miles around) out of daddy’s money; we got an extremely long and poorly worded email from accommodation services warning us not to buy discounted hi-fi equipment from blokes in white vans. For real.

Olly and Lizzie came round for dinner, and to pick up the various things he’d left in the car at Leamington; the walk back along the dark towpath was more than a little surreal. (“Are there any muggers? What do we have that they want?” “A solid brick of iron, a 22″ monitor, a bag of clothes hangers and five smartphones.”)

It’s fun being a third year; it’s a bit like the last year of school, only more so – there’s this great sense of familiarity with the tutors and each other, and the camaraderie among warbros at this point is a palpable thing. (“And if you all write down your SRNs, I’ll have you signed up to a resources site on WebCT-” “We’ll believe it when we see it, sir.”) Snape told us all at the start of Historical Reflections that, after two years, War Studies had yet to produce a First. And that he’d be really chuffed if this year one or two of us managed it. Significant glances at myself and the seat where Louis Reynolds ought to have been. The game’s afoot.

I begin third year enthused and confident, head held high.