drove my chevy to the levee but the levee was dry

Back in Bromingham for a couple of days, for the faculty’s Airpower Day School with Bill. Oh, and… results. I was, in case nobody had guessed, pretty worried.

20cr Making of the Contemporary World/Late Modern (panic attack in exam and near-complete lack of connection with subject matter): 24 in exam, 54 in essays, final mark 34.
20cr Analysing Everday Texts (MOMD, didn’t really like the subject, severe difficulties with essays and getting required texts): 57 final mark.
20cr Practising History (first essay the worst I’d done for Stuart, second essay written in the small hours without having actually read the books): 67 in first essay, 68 in second.
40cr War, Armed Forces & Society (great subject, reasonably satisfied with essay, less so with exam): 76 essay, 63 exam, final mark 70.
20cr Making of the Modern World/Early Modern (favourite subject, good tutors, had fun): 70 essay, 71 exam, final mark 71.

Final year mark: 61%. Upshot: 2.1 despite fucking up most things it was possible to fuck up.

I am feeling pretty optimistic about the second year.


no more working for a week or two

Got up at stupid o’clock, rode swiftly to Moor Street in the grey morning. It’s a few hundred metres from New Street, a sort of overflow station for that terminally inadequate terminal. It’s an old station – often quite a good thing – which became a new station and was then refurbished in an attempt its original style, in a sad gimmicky 30s-style-signs everywhere way that appeals more to nostalgia than to transparency and meaningful layout. While I found my platform fairly easily, I overheard several families arguing over where Platform 2 actually was while sitting waiting for the 9:26.

Met family at Great Malvern, on a perfect sunny breezy day, and went stomping on them hills with a picnic lunch, ice cream and general cliched summer holiday joys. It being my dad’s birthday, there was much indulgence and general good feelings. Mused over when would be best to come home from Bromingham, with “today” a suggestion, and wondered if the car would even fit my family, my bike and my summed possessions. Eventually decided that it was in fact doable, so we drove to TC to pack up my first-year life and take it home.

Bike was still in central Birmingham, so train into town (train in: 25 minutes late, train back: cancelled – more exercise than desired) while family dismantled my room and loaded it onto the car. Rather rushed goodbyes to Mim, Jess and James. I need to write a proper goodbye letter to TC people sometime this week. And now I’m suddenly home, reassembling my flat in a room upstairs and have nothing really on my plate.

There are no jobs in this city that aren’t either stupid corporate shill “brand ambassador” bullshit or gay porn (you think I’m joking?). Even being relatively solvent again I won’t be able to pay rent and food next year without help. The proofreading place I poked earlier sent me a month-late rejection, and the student mentoring thing just sent me a long email (always a bad sign, acceptance letters are short) of friendly, encouraging bullshit that boiled down to “nope”.

World just seems full of nothing but insincerity and incompetence and bullshit at the moment, so feeling a bit despondent.

donnelly drove a grey hatchback with no bottom, all the creatures of the tarmac rose to sing to him

Exams are over and the sun is high and bright. Blockmates go to and fro indoors and out, underdressed and sometimes lobster-pink. The weather is lovely, for reading books in the shade or cycling up and down the canal. Except that I got another puncture (in the front wheel this time). So I walked, slowly, up the canal; the gates on the northern side of the Bristol Road are (again) shut, with all the heavy machinery and earthmovers that have been working thereabouts moved to the other side of the canal, but there’s another ramp Selly-side that makes the journey only a hundred metres longer and an extra road crossing more complicated. A good trip; one month into the year-long service plan I got at Halfords, it is one minor malfunction away from paying for itself, and I am now assured of a canal ride back for the next few Sainsbury’s journeys I make from TC, not that there will be many.

According to the grapevine, exam results are supposed to come out on the 18th of June; this is fine, as there is an airpower day school on the 19th that I’m staying to visit (Hovercraft will join me.) After which… My contract for next year’s house, I believe, comes into force on July 1st (so I’ll be paying rent from there; fortunately I’m much less insolvent than I thought I was.) My stay at TC ends on the eighth, I think (must check with Siz and arrange Moving Plans, but I intend to bring most of my stuff home anyway as I’ll be using it over the holidays).

The counselling Dr Basra recommended seems not to be the way. The nice learning support lady I talked to farmed most of my specific academic worries off either to my subject tutors (who I haven’t got so much out of) or to promising-sounding workshops on revision and procrastination LS are running next year.
Then a long list of questions about my general state of composure. How do you get on with the people you live with? Good, none I’m terribly close friends with but no fights either. Diet? Not bad. Exercise? Not bad. Self-harm, suicidal thoughts? No. Good relationship with family? Yeah, I think so. Anyone you’re particularly close to? All about the same, I think. Outside your family? Not in this city, not really, just a couple of good friends. Joined societies to meet people, but none of them grabbed my interest enough to keep visiting. What do you think counselling would help you with? I have no idea. I don’t know anything about counselling. I don’t know many people in this city, I don’t do much with my time, and I don’t really care enough about any of that enough to want to change it. I’m not miserable, but I’m not particularly happy, because I don’t really see the point in any of it, or see where I fit into life or see that I have a happy future. Something I could properly care about, some sort of proper direction, or just tell me what to do; that would be just fine, you know? Anything you can do about that? Not really.


As one of lots of things I’ve been Meaning To Do and now have the time and freedom to, I played Dear Esther. It’s hard to describe what it is exactly – a ghost story with FPS controls? A shooter with no weapons, no items, and no enemies? An audiovisual tour of a dying dream? Whatever it is, it’s amazing, and highly recommended, even to people who aren’t normally into the vidjagaems. Go and download and play it if you own anything that runs on Source (argh, you’ve missed the free Portal offer, damn shame.)

post Black Death Europe, a child wearing its parents’ clothes

On Thursday morning I had an interview for the student mentoring thing, which I think went swimmingly. (Also, congratulations to Tom in order, who finally stopped being messed around by Hertfordshire and should now be a dead cert Stuff-Maker.) We passed our flat inspections (for some reason they didn’t even check my room – a good thing, there were a lot of spiders and biological warfare plants lying around). And on Friday (not Saturday – thank you, Tom R, and damn you exam board for that wretched clusterfuck of a timetable you gave me)… it was the Early Modern exam.

The signs were not initially in my favour.

Although the Early Modern course has a fantastic and comprehensive archive of revision material (there are more scans and sources uploaded to WebCT for one 20% block in Early Modern than the entire Late Modern and WAFS modules put together) and although it seemed to be the topic I liked and understood best of all, I was worried I hadn’t done anything like enough revision. Worse, after the catastrophe of the Late Modern exam and the mixed success of WAFS I was finding it somewhat hard to care, having completely lost confidence in my ability to exam and knowing I’ll clearly be doing retakes anyway. I was not in a terribly good temperament for exams. Oh, and remember The Unluckiest Finger, door-magnet of cars and chip shops alike? Guess what got the chop while slicing onions. That was a lot of blood. Fortunately Jess has a big box of plasters and is a wonderful person not to be put out by a flatmate leaking red all over the place.

And then, to put the tin lid on it, the invigilators were the same two who had been present for the Late Modern panic attack; moustache-man and asian-lady. So it was with serious trepidation I turned over the yellow question sheet at 2pm and read my fate.

I’d revised topics on urbanisation, food and Malthusian crises, demographic changes and population growth, Military Revolution, rebellion and General Crisis, each fairly specifically and without that much reference to others. There was one question on the paper about food and Malthusian crises in relation to demographic changes and population growth, and one about the Military Revolution’s influence on the General Crisis. The questions weren’t the ones I’d revised specifically for, but they were ones I could do confidently; I think it actually helped to be considering answers and angles in a different light rather than trying to remember my down-pat answers.

The essays I wrote weren’t perfect, but they were by far the best I’ve done in exams, and as well as being very happy with the overall structure, arguments and conclusions I planned, I managed my time much better and had myself ten minutes of final proofreading and broad grinning at the end. All in all? Objectively a success, relative to the others a triumph.

So, what’s next? SUMMER!

hustlers, cheats and anglers, fixers, sharps and mutineers

So! I have roundly failed at bike maintenance.

Back tyre went alarmingly flat (again, after I got some Halfords prawns to replace it in the first term). Went to Halfords again, on a bumpy grocery trip (checked the nice independent Selly Cycles opposite, which was shut, first) and the oh-so-helpful service prawn offered to sell me a new inner tube but not to fit it, because he was apparently busy (could have fooled me; whatever.) I thought “oh what the hell, this is a life skill or something.”

I got home and managed to (after much painful prising) remove the wheel. However, no amount of painful prising or bent spoons (fortunately re-bent into proper shape, but damn) would get the bloody tyre off, and I feared I was damaging it in my attempts. Eventually I gave up, and then spent fifteen painful greasy minutes trying to get the wheel and chain back into place. And this is a quick release wheel, mind you.

I resolved to just pump up the tire and hope it lasted long enough to get up to Selly Oak and pay to have the bloody thing fitted. So I borrowed Siz’s bike pump… and the pressure gauge twizzled over and broke off. Fantastic. Sophie saved me with her hand pump, but I am Not Happy about this; I now have to buy a new pump on top of the other stupid expenses this is costing me. I will be damn sure to go when Selly Cycles are open rather than Halfords.

On the bright side I will be visiting family and watching John Boorman’s talk with the explosively talented Mr Reeve next Monday. Also, COGS highlander team is learning lots of lessons about team play at the moment; hopefully we can then put them into practice.

On the dark side I now have a Twatter.

Last week’s costs:
£10 COD4
£26 shopping
£5 tyre
£11 bus ticket
£15 online things
This is being an expensive fortnight, that’s almost two nights’ worth of alcohol more than I usually spend.

Also, I have it on good authority that Londonbros should see this if they’re around Greenwich this week.

save me some sugar, this won’t take long

Last Monday parents left me dozy but content in a brightly lit, fully functional flat. As soon as I woke up from my nap mains power had gone kaput. Of course, I did the sensible thing and surfed the internet – new laptop has quite deliciously hueg battery life, and lights and internet were both functional. Just not mains sockets.

No, it wasn’t Moose.

Called the maintenance number listed on the university site. It rung off instantly.
Called the Shackleton reception. Went “beeeeeeeee” a bit and rung off too.
Checked phone was functional. Repeated. Swore.
Called Siz. For the first time ever, she didn’t have an instant and wonderful solution. I KNOW, I FELT BETRAYED TOO.
Called Security, rather apologetically, who then put me through to Shac, who then put me through to maintenance. (Turns out the extension for Maintenance is 4040. Appropriate.) Half an hour later a friendly and extremely competent maintenance bloke rolled up, took a gander at whatever had gone wrong and fixed it in short order. While he was there I mentioned that the flat had a mould problem and that Jess and I had been bitching about to his colleagues for six months now; he took a look at it, rang through to his maintenance mates and did whatever the olden-timey version of opening a support ticket is, and gave me his word it’d be fixed in a week. I thanked him and he went on his way.

The next day another friendly and extremely competent maintenance bloke in overalls rolled up and took a good long hard look at the mould; I told him there was some in Jess’s room. He took a look (skeleton key – Jess still isn’t back yet :c) and said it didn’t look bad; I said yes, she’d cleaned the worst of it off, and I hadn’t so that I wouldn’t have someone look at it and go “nah ‘s nothing.” He conceded the point, wrote things down and also left. An hour later a third friendly and extremely competent maintenance bloke in a stripy shirt rolled up, cleaned the mould off with one flavour of acrid-smelling chemical, sealed the wall with another, salted the earth and raised a mouse-skull standard to the desert gods. The last two are not true.

Done all my essays, which is a huge load off my mind. Practising History I think went rather well; Analysing Everyday Texts much less so, but that’s less bad time management and more completely incomprehensible texts. Fortunately, AET counts for next to nothing and I don’t have to do it next year! \o/ I liked the tutor, but that module was a mistake.

Upon arriving back in Bromingham, the things I ordered online for myself were:
– Prebble’s “Culloden”
– Copy paper
– Generation Kill on DVD
– Best of Signal
– New electric toothbrush

On all of these but the toothbrush, the shipping was free. On the brush, it was £8. All but one of these items came within three days, except one which still hasn’t been delivered.

I don’t really need to say which one it is, do I?

total expenses for last week:
£26 food shopping
£15 GK
£28 toofbrush
£5 Best of Signal
£3 Culloden
= £77

we do what we can, until we cannot

the de havilland mosquito: sometimes you get wood, and sometimes wood gets you

Towards the end of last term, Block 12 collectively had far too much in the way of perishable supplies. I remember a blockmate on facebook implored everyone to come and take some of her onions, which got a few plaintive replies of “no, please, take my onions instead!”.

Once bitten, nobody in my flat has bought anything for a week and the kitchen is almost bare. My milk has disappeared, which isn’t something I’d usually get annoyed at except that everyone else’s milk has disappeared too, so I am forced to have my tea Sri Lankan style. I’ve long since lost track of whether or not I’m ahead of the game in terms of onions and potatoes (which all go haphazardly heaped in the same cupboard) but there are none of them left, either. My last week’s nomming is looking like some rice, a couple of kinds of pasta, instant mash, a jar of sauerkraut, various powdered drinks/sauces, half a box of fish fingers, some frozen burgers and a couple of tins of beans/tomatoes/custard. While I will not die, it has already led to some… experimental cuisine. (Phlegm, Rake, I tried cutting spam into little slices and grilling it and it was actually amazing. Especially when mixed with rice and chopped olives.) But we’re on the home straight now and I really don’t want to go shopping again this term. I think I may not be able to avoid doing a run of laundry, though.

The university clothes shop was having a sale, so I bought a hoodie! It is warm and soft and black and proclaims my loyalty to the University of Bromingham in large white impermanent-looking letters, providing a useful and cosy middle ground between overcoat and shirtsleeves.

Another all-nighter to finish my MOTMW essay. This is a terrible habit I really should shake; the proofreading isn’t as good, the sleep disruption hurts and the collection of brown powdered things I stir into hot water with sugar to keep body and soul together are probably at this point causing lasting damage. (You know how energy drinks taste kind of like bile? It’s because they are.) While not perfect, it is finished and I am satisfied that it is probably at least 2.1 material.

I sent some rather strange frantic emails and texts this morning while drunk with fatigue and elation. Hope I didn’t worry anyone.

Handed it in, despite the truly inadequate library printing infrastructure, found Siz and congratulated her on her PhD place and hopefully haven’t caught mumps from her. Sat through the last two WAFS lectures I’ll ever have (we thought the good times would last forever… but we were wrong), which were about gender in war and pacifism… the rule is apparently not to finish strong.

I went to see a lecture pitch for an interesting university scheme which is basically paying students to mentor kids in secondary schools. It sounds overall fun, interesting, satisfying, useful for future job prospect things and also MONEY. It probably also seemed this way to the other two hundred first years in the lecture theatre. I collected an application form and then rewarded the essay with my first fish and chips in ages. Yum.

I am still dead tired (can you tell from the sentence structure?) so about to curl up in bed for a proper night off. Then tomorrow I set about my 4k on the Military Revolution for Friday, which I honestly think will be a doddle.

Costs for last week: £19.80