raven: crest of Balliol College, Oxford, from a scarf (balliol)
I got a 2:1. Am pleased. Parents really won't be, if I know them. I would have liked a first, but am Not That Sort of Person. No, really. It's to do with, well, I could've got a first, but not without doing at least four times more work than I did do during my degree, and I did not sit around and do nothing during my degree. It's just, I am not an intuitively awesome PPEist, I am not that smart and I am not particularly academic. It's to do with, not having directed plays and danced around Oxford in the middle of the night and made caipirinhas at the drop of a hat and all such manner of glorious things.

Anyway. It's a very wet and windy day, and I am going to San Francisco tonight.
raven: quadrangle of Christ Church, Oxford, under snow (stock - oxford)
I finished my Finals. Yes, gentle reader, I did. It took a week, which is to say it took six months, which is to say it took three years, which is to say I read for the Final Honours School of Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and I did it and I am still here. I think I can also say, without reservation, that my week of exams - eight days, actually, with exams on every day except Sunday - was the hardest thing I have ever done, bar none. By the end of Wednesday, I was somewhere else in my head, I think; I was about the last person to be let out of the East School, and then I was wandering around the halls in Exam Schools and feeling very lost, until they shepherded me through to the back to the finishers' exit, and in this sort of sea of numbness and exhaustion, I was thinking, it's pouring with rain. What if nobody came?

Well, I went outside into the pouring rain - and everyone came. I won't name them all for fear of forgetting anyone, but oh, I was standing in a circle of about twelve people, in my bedraggled sub fusc with my jaunty red carnation, and they covered me with confetti and glitter and balloons and kisses and congratulations and took me home through the rain while I tried very hard not to cry. Even [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong and [livejournal.com profile] apotropaios, who had exams at the same time as I did, came running round to see me. It's all a blur now, really; I was so tired, and so ready to just curl up and die, and it was probably one of the nicest moments of my life. I mean... yes. There's an achievement, right there, to go with the PPE. I made friends here. I was afraid I wouldn't. But those few seconds where it was all over, and people came - oh, god, it's amazing I didn't just burst into tears on the spot, rather than just sniffling through the drizzle.

My exams themselves probably deserve some sort of record, don't they? Politics in South Asia; Philosophy of Mind; Aesthetics; International Relations in the Era of the Cold War )

In sum, I'm not sure what I think of the whole thing. I've seen other people writing about how they wish they'd done themselves better justice in their exams, and I don't what it says about me, but I don't think that: I was never afraid of not doing myself justice, I was afraid of not writing anything, of just failing procedurally at sitting still for three hours and writing three essays, eight times. Because I did manage to do this, it counts as a win. (And, yes, a win: twenty-four essays in eight days at an average of five sides each - that's a win.) I would like a 2:1. I would like that very much. Because my essays were uninspiring all, I'm not entirely convinced this will happen. But I will not get a first, and I'm happy about this. Because, perhaps I am, or was, capable - perhaps if I'd worked harder over the three years. But if I had done that, no one would have met me outside of Exam Schools. I would have worked, and not met people and not learned to drink good coffee and not been in plays; I wouldn't have gone running in the Parks and drifted down the river on summer afternoons; I wouldn't have been on protests or dressed up and gone dancing or been Cerberus Triarch or, indeed, been happy. In short, a first would have come at too high a price.

And, yes, of course, that's something else that has come out of all this. I've realised how much I rely on my friends here, and how lucky I am to have them: over the last month or so, [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong has been the other half of my brain, keeping me amused and horrified and calm and happy, and between us, were kept sane by [livejournal.com profile] shimgray, who, after a point, learnt to say, "You are absolutely right in every particular, and would you like another cup of tea?" as a response to just about everything either of us said. (Worryingly, this then changed to "You are right in every particular, please don't hurt me" and then, finally, "I can has freedom of will nao?", while all the while he was having clothes piled on him and having his feet insultingly drawn on in indelible green highlighter.) I don't think Hallmark have much demand for cards containing the words "I love you and I'm sorry for all the abuse and can we decree the last three weeks of your life to have administratively Not Happened", but it probably won't hurt to look. I am looking forward, very much, to being a real person again. Someone who does not emotionally overreact to everything, someone who does not need to be physically coaxed out of bed in the morning, someone who does not think everything in the world is hysterically funny or hysterically upsetting, someone who eats and sleeps and does not break at the touch. In fact, myself.

Where was I? Wednesday afternoon, I was taken home and fed strawberries in sparkling pink wine, and I was so dizzy and tired and happy that I demanded everyone else be my higher cognitive function and make my decisions for me; they decided for me that I should be taken to the pub and further fed chips, profiteroles and gin. And so it transpired. Sitting around a big table, we started to muse on what will happen when [livejournal.com profile] absinthe_shadow is Queen of Everything, and I was just... happy. I still am. I fell asleep tragically early, and woke up yesterday to glorious sunshine. We were going to go punting (which I tearfully, euphorically, realised I could do), but the water was too high, so we ended up going for a picnic in the Parks instead, which featured fruit and vodka and the G2 crossword and [livejournal.com profile] triptogenetica and I cheerfully singing the Canadian national anthem apropos of nothing at all. It was delightful.

And that, I guess, is that. A few things I ought to mention:

-I now know what I'm doing next year. I still want, very much, to be a lawyer. So, after some kerfuffling, I got a place on the GDL here in Oxford, and here I'll stay, for one year definitely, and quite likely two. It's not quite confirmed - it's an offer condtional on a 2:1 - but if all goes well, yes. I'm going to spend the summer applying for training contracts and house-hunting.

(In fact, if anyone knows of someone looking for a housemate in East Oxford, please tell me. I never lived out, so I have no idea how to start looking.)

Needless to say, I am very pleased about this. I don't want to leave this place just yet. I have loved, and love, it here too much - and now I have ties here. You're not getting rid of me that easily.

-This summer, however, is quite interesting. As it stands, the plan is for me to be here, meeting people out of Finals, applying for training contracts, doing OULES, for the next three weeks or so. If I get vac res, and I do hope I do, I will be living in this flat until June 21st or round about. Following which, I'm going home - I haven't seen my parents for a long time, and it will be nice to be back, if even for a while, and I need to ring the bookshop and ask them nicely to give me work.

On July 7th - hopefully! - the PPE results will be published. I want very much to be in Oxford for this. So, I am coming down, to see my results (ohgod, I will be a nervous wreck, I know it), to see [livejournal.com profile] shimgray (and anyone else who is around), and sticking around a day or so. Because on July 10th, at three o'clock in the morning, I am going from Oxford to San Francisco to spend a week with [livejournal.com profile] likethesun2 and I am ridiculously excited about this. I come back again, via Oxford, go home and this time stay there for quite some time - probably through August, with gaps while I go visiting and possibily more travelling, until I return in September.

...there. That's my life. I'm happy with it. In the long term, I'm going to be a lawyer; in the medium term, I'm going to California; in the short term, [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong finishes her Finals tomorrow and [livejournal.com profile] the_acrobat is coming to visit, and I am very happy about both these things; right now, I'm going to do my laundry.

(And, also? Pretty soon, hopefully, if I haven't failed everything, I'm going to have a degree in PPE from Oxford. I'm happy, and lucky, and this is what I look like now.)
raven: quadrangle of Christ Church, Oxford, under snow (stock - oxford)
In thirty-six hours from now, I will have finished my Finals. Nine of those hours feature exams, hopefully eight of them involve sleeping (would be less, but, two exams in one day tomorrow, ouch), about eight of them involve mad cramming (am I going to fail the Cold War? yes I am), at least one of them will have [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong feeding me risotto and telling me about the Middle East... I lead a busy, busy life.

So busy, in fact, that I missed Vienna Teng in London last week, and I will be just too busy and important to see the Indelicates tonight. (I would possibly be less childishly disappointed about both of these if a) there hadn't been not one but two of my favourite acts in one week) and b) I weren't just being childishly demanding about everything.)

And so, speaking of being childishly demanding. I finish tomorrow, Wednesday 28th May, at 5.30pm at the Examination Schools, Oxford. I have been quite extraordinarily demanding - see above - about what I want (plastic leis! glitter! and a PENGUIN!), but really, what I want is all of you. I know lots and lots of Finalists haven't finished yet, and I totally appreciate that not everyone can come, but, you know. Seeing people even just for five minutes would make me happy. Please come, if you can, and I totally understand if you can't.

I had planned to go punting afterwards, but the current weather forecast is for torrential rain. (Thank you, England.) I imagine we will go and lurk in a pub somewhere. Or something. I am exhausted and dizzy and will have had, by that point, the proverbial eight exams in seven days. I leave myself in all your capable hands, innuendo definitely intended.

[Edited to add: No, the weather forecast last night was twenty-five degrees and torrential rain; now it's twenty-one degrees and sunshine. What, BBC, just WHAT.]

Right. Back to work for me, but I leave you with what was possibly the loveliest mid-exam treat ever: in the spirit of [livejournal.com profile] amplificathon, a ficathon devoted to podficcing and the joys thereof, [livejournal.com profile] likethesun2 has done a podfic of one of my stories: Down and Upping. (Slings & Arrows, gen; it's a story about what happens after Geoffrey's Hamlet - note warnings, if it's not your banana). [livejournal.com profile] likethesun2 claims she can't do Canadian - to which my response is, she's an American reading out my British English, of course she sounds Canadian - and she reads it with such expression, she made me laugh at my own story. Which I find extraordinary, because when I wrote it I was complaining that wow, all these people keep telling me they laughed, and I wasn't trying to be funny - well, I laughed. I get it, and apologise in retrospect.

Ah, back to work yes. The wind is howling.
raven: red tulips in a vase on a balcony, against a background of a city (stock - tulips)
This is a happy Sunday morning. The light is grey, filtering through the glass and and the rain so it's washed out and translucent, and mixed up with all my low reading-lights. There are flowers at the edges of my room, and [livejournal.com profile] shimgray is walking around barefoot singing quietly to Joni Mitchell and I can tell I've had some sleep and a rest, because I'm awake and all these things are lovely.

Further to my feeling quietly happy, I notice my entire flist is not, as is usual, variations on "omg, Doctor Who!" (which I actually don't mind; how nice of the BBC to miss the week in which I have Finals!), but instead, variations on "omg, LATVIA". So far I have deduced that a) Eurovision was good; b) the Latvian entry involved pirates; and c) OMG, EUROVISION LATVIAN PIRATES. I'm sorry for boring you all with the minutiae of my mental state, but I honestly can feel the difference - rather than thinking belligerent thoughts about people having better things to do, I am happy about Latvian Eurovision pirates. I feel like myself for the first time in ages.

(Note for Americans and other aliens: the the Eurovision Song Contest is an annual competitition in which the countries of Europe (and North Africa, and Israel, and whatever else the Eurovision definition of Europe encompasses) each offer up a musical act (with quotation marks inserted there as you see fit) and the other countries vote for them. Politics has nothing to do with this at all. Neither does musical ability. PIRATES. Yeah.)

I am halfway through, as is probably clear by this time, and it has not been, er, easy. Ethics; Political Theory; History of Philosophy From Descartes to Kant )

Afterwards, I had my first lazy afternoon in, oh, forever, and went up to Summertown in the sunshine to meet the medics. [livejournal.com profile] triptogenetica and [livejournal.com profile] luminometrice came out looking dazed and washed-out and glitter-bedecked and happy and beautiful. We gave them ice-cream and covered them with silly plastic leis, and they did seem so happy, and ah, the end is in sight.

I have four more exams to go and a lot of work to do today - I don't finish until Wednesday - but things are a lot better now I have got through the first four consecutive days of hell. (There are another four consecutive days to go, but I think I can face it better now.)

All is well in the world, it seems. It's the Glorious Twenty-Fifth of May, too, and I am not wearing the lilac because I was not there, but I wish you all truth and justice and reasonably-priced love. And a hard-boiled egg.
raven: Alyson Hannigan as vampire Willow with her fangs out, face shadowed  (buffy - vamp willow)
Yesterday, mid-afternoon:

the world outside in focus, it is SYMBOLIC )

Thursday afternoon: Final Honours School of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, paper 0103, Ethics, question 18: "Would your death be good for you?"

Thursday evening, 10.13pm:

I fall over a lot )

Over the course of the last few days:

Tori Amos - Taxi Ride (x51)
Indigo Girls - Let Me Go Easy (x36)
Vienna Teng - Recessional (x179, ohGOD)
The Indelicates - ...If Jeff Buckley Had Lived (x68)

Tomorrow: Theory of Politics, Saturday, History of Philosophy From Descartes to Kant, (Bank Holiday) Monday, Politics of South Asia. Tuesday, Wednesday, also.
raven: crest of Balliol College, Oxford, from a scarf (balliol)
One down, seven to go. As the cool kids say, I am now one eighth of a complete person.

Ahhh, but. It feels so liberating to have just done one, I don't know. I got up this morning and it was a beautiful day - something about an early morning; a washed-out white quality to the light, a strange buoyancy in the clouds by the horizon - and had a shower and had breakfast and got dressed layer by layer, and finally sat down very still with [livejournal.com profile] luminometrice and [livejournal.com profile] shimgray looking at me in some amusement, and thought to myself, also layer by layer, that here I am, after days and weeks and months and three years, oh my, and I am sitting here on a bright Wednesday morning in full sub fusc with a white carnation pinned to me and, yes, yes, now is the time and here is the place.

All very unprofound, I know. But I walked down to Exam Schools and hung around in the big marquee and ran into [livejournal.com profile] apotropaios and [livejournal.com profile] potatofiend and my darling [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong (who has just now asked, "Are you making a post about our DOOMED LOVE?", to which my answer is yes, yes I am, our doomed love) and looking at all the people milling about in sub fusc and the announcements and the signs indicating Honours Schools and appropriate rooms, it felt like I was in an airline terminal for transit to hell. Only, an artfully designed hell with echoing ceilings and giant clocks, but still. Veritas liberat and all that. When they called for PPE, I followed the crowds.

The South School is large and echoes. There are three hundred PPEists. Not all of them were taking this paper, but that's a lot of PPEists. I sat down and got out a pen and tried not to panic. Succeeded, mostly. And then they'd somehow got through all the pre-exam blurb without my noticing, and, yeah. Turn over paper. Panic.

paper 0214, International Relations )

I call that a win. I handed it in, went outside, and it was sunny and warm and [livejournal.com profile] sebastienne and [livejournal.com profile] deathbyshinies had come to take us for lentils and lunch, because they are great. And I went home via college and the Wednesday market - where I bought six out-of-date Wonka bars and nothing else, oh I am so classy - and found that [livejournal.com profile] pridehouse had, collectively, given me all the chocolate in the world (and sherbet lemons!), because they are great and, oh, you guys, thank you, you are lovely. One great thing to come out of Finals - you realise that people are always looking out for you, always. People give me shirts and give me tea and give sugar and fresh fruit and endless good wishes and pats on the head, because they are lovely.

So, finally, I walked home, still in full sub fusc - a brief note on sub fusc, actually, because I think it is great and don't understand people who don't. No one doesn't look hot in it, for one thing, although some people more than others. I meant to do my hair in plaits today, purely for [livejournal.com profile] sebastienne's benefit - people who make fun of schoolgirl fetishism need to see three hundred fully-legal adults in full sub fusc, I am just saying - and on a sunny afternoon wandering home, with my favourite skirt and little black shoes that tap and the really-rather-enormous flower pinned to my gown and the occasional tourist gaping, it was all very Oxford. And if anyone deserves that, I think, finalists do; because you may be in the middle of the hardest thing you've done, but the sun is shining and you look pretty black-and-white ethereal in passing glass-reflections, and and the symbolism of the thing constitutes and surrounds you so everyone knows they have to be nice to you, and you are part of something greater than yourself. I am safe at home with the sun still out, and I can do this, I can do this.

...

May. 19th, 2008 03:33 pm
raven: crest of Balliol College, Oxford, from a scarf (balliol)
nothing to see here, do move along )
raven: black and white photograph of Asian woman smiling and clasping her hands (misc - me)
My father was in London a few days ago, doing exciting things for his college, and came up to Oxford on his way home to visit me. He said he wouldn't come if it would distract me. I said I wanted distracting, by this stage. So he came, and wandered into the city with me, and he came up to my room briefly, noted that if this was what it looked like when I tidied up then he didn't want to know what it looked like before, and then fed me a very nice lunch, and we walked down along the Isis for a bit. I told him the various things I have been reading about/doing to stay sane, and pointed out the prettier bits of the Parks, he told me about the stuff he's doing for the college in India, we paused to take in a few civilised overs as various of the University's cricket teams were playing under the trees. It was very calm, and pleasant, and sane-making.

Before he disappeared, he left me with a bag of stuff: my mum's iPod, which she said she was lending me if I was nice to it; an enormous bag of very very nice jellybeans; the wedge of forms required to reapply for a photocard driving licence; the red Pucca wallet I used when I was fourteen, as I am currently without one. Giving me that last thing, he said, "Don't just put that in a drawer, there's some money in it. Your mum insisted."

I thanked him, and he went off to get his train. Putting the things away, I noted that there was indeed some money in it: £33.50, to be exact.

Which was, I thought, a strangely specific figure, and strangely familiar. It has just now dawned on me - now, at 2.14am when I am awake for no reason and unconsciously grinding my teeth - that it's the exact amount required for a single ticket from Oxford to Liverpool Lime Street.

In other words, my parents would still love me if I packed it in right now and went home without taking my Finals.

I have no intention of doing this, and it's not as if I actually doubted it, but. It is a very nice realisation to have had at 2.14am when I can't sleep and the awful things are five days away and I'm beginning to panic and... yeah.
raven: crest of Balliol College, Oxford, from a scarf (balliol)
finals wangst )

edited to add: [livejournal.com profile] slasheuse and I are moving to the Dominican Republic and running a cocktail bar. On the beach. With maraschino cherries and sangria. Yesyes.
raven: sign, flower drawing and text: "war is not healthy for children and other living things" (politics - war is not healthy)
It's kind of warm. I am torn between jumping up and down and shouting you-call-this-hot? (in defence of that point of view, it's actually twenty-four degrees Celsius) and agreeing with the general consensus that yes, it has warmed up a bit. Obviously this is not like Indian heat - why hello there, forty-four degrees and permanent unconsciousness - or indeed lots of types of American heat (there's an inhospitable continent), but an English summer is marked in that it's experienced by English people, who have no physical or mental infrastructure to cope with heat. So when it gets to not-wearing-a-jumper temperatures, people bask or complain but definitely do one or the other. I love living in a country where summer is a pleasant surprise (nearly) every year.

The other thing that marks an English summer is how beautiful it is, of course. I have spent a couple of days artfully draped over the Master's Field in an attitude of somnolent recumbency, which is supposedly a good idea for revision purposes - it keeps me away from distractions because I have to stand up and go up five flights of stairs if I want to get to any - but in practice not, because I have been lying looking up a sky blue from horizon to horizon, and watching the way the sun flickers through the leaves on the tree beyond my window, and noting the occasional thwap of leather on willow as the Balliol teams play slow lazy cricket, and... yeah. The heat unzips the tension beneath my skin so I just sort of flop, flat, with highlighers and notes in ineffective piles all around.

The thing is, I don't think revising inside makes any difference. obligatory Finals burble )
raven: quadrangle of Christ Church, Oxford, under snow (stock - oxford)
A quiet moment, 1.10am. [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong says, reasonably, "There are worse ways to die than under a pile of your girlfriend's clothes."

From under a blue scarf, a red shawl, a Janpath wraparound, a couple of slogan t-shirts, pink skirt, a pair of jeans and one of his own jumpers, [livejournal.com profile] shimgray emerges with an expression that is equal parts resignation and doe-eyed petulance.

There is a long thoughtful pause.

Then, "There are better ways. Many of them begin 'At the age of a hundred and seventy-four...'"

I tell this story merely as evidence that we are all quite sane here, thank you, and are in no danger of falling into Finals-related madnesses. The natural question to ask is why exactly piling my clothes on him seemed like such a good idea: the answer is the fact he mentioned, possibly without even noticing, that it is no longer April. It's May. May. Ye gods. I try not to think about this too hard, because, let's face it, I am panicking now. I don't know enough, I haven't read enough. I know nothing about South Asia at all. Yeah. Moving very swiftly on from that. It is possibly not a capital crime to mention that it is a certain month, when it is indeed that particular month; but as has been noted, we are all sane here and are not overreacting in comically extravagant fashion to non-existent transgressions. And are also not planting garlic bulbs and naming them after types of quark. Or laughing ourselves into quasi-hysteria at penis jokes. Or anything. Yeah.

Approximately four hours after this incident, the sunrise was visible over the spires of Magdalen and the choir were singing the Hymnus Eucharisticus to greet the dawn. I wasn't there, alas; I really did want to, this being my last May Morning in Oxford, but I couldn't afford to wipe out the day, as I probably would if I stayed up till five thirty. I was in bed asleep and having the sort of dream that involves gunshots and machetes. (I think I may be stressed. Who'd have thought.)

But when I did get up, there was an old tradition to be engaged in, nevertheless. As well as being May Morning, today is Ascension Day. Accordingly, [livejournal.com profile] shimgray and I went to the University Church bright and early - nine o'clock! the city was emptying again by then, with the odd Morris dancer still jingling about - for the beating of the bounds. I don't actually live in St. Mary's parish - I live in Holywell - but this seemed entirely irrelevant to proceedings. The church was filled with a whole bunch of people - [livejournal.com profile] emily_shore had mustered the troops, and there were tutors and children and families and the New College School choir, that is, eighteen cheerful small boys - who were very keen to participate in tradition. It's a moderately old tradition - estimates seem to vary between five and six hundred years of its being done - that involves walking the bounds of the parish, literally "beating" them with bamboo sticks, and chalking the marker stones with the letters to signify St. Mary's. (Apparently, originally, the boys were beaten too. We refrained.)

It reminded me a lot of primary school, actually. Lots of people walking in awkward double-file, draughty churches, hesitant hymn-singing. And it had that same religious irrelevancy; certainly, when I was at school, no one had any compunction about dragging a small Hindu immigrant child to Easter and carol services, and I think my education was probably the better for it. (I go out of my way to go to Balliol carol services; they're beautiful. I digress.) Religion aside, the actual beating of the bounds was fun. We attracted attention from passers-by, from tourists, from the workman on the Bodleian - understandably so, given we were a motley crew of robed vicars, scruffy adults and a pack of small children all apparently taking great pleasure in hitting buildings with sticks. One highlight was undoubtedly All Souls - I'd never even been in there before - where I, personally, hit the Codrington Library with a stick, and the Warden and Fellows gave us tea, coffee and cherry cake. (Cherry, because the land the college bought from the parish for its own buildings originally had a cherry orchard on it.) It was remarkably civilised and unexpected before ten o'clock in the morning.

Following which, we went to Univ, where the mark to be beaten was being obscured by buildings work (as had the Bodleian's; nothing daunted, the vicar had the small boys hit the scaffolding). This proved a minimal disppointment, as we were allowed, possibly for the first and only time, on the grass in the front quad of an Oxford college. And had pennies and sweets thrown at us from the upper windows of the quad, which led to mirth, undignified scrambling and [livejournal.com profile] shimgray stealing sweets from small children. (Which he denies, unconvincingly.)

And, finally, Oriel, where the vicar who'd been leading the tour around the city offered some brief words of instruction. (And ice-cream! [livejournal.com profile] osymandias, [livejournal.com profile] footnoteplato and I were far too happy about this.) Oriel is the original college of St. Mary - Oriel is just a nickname, which I did know - and New College is the new college of St. Mary. The new college, he referred to it as. New College was founded in 1379. He also referred to his "predecessor" as rector - in the fourteenth century. Oh, Oxford, I do love you.

And that would have been that for my very exciting morning, were it not for one remaining detail. I don't often have to think very hard about parish boundaries, it must be said; I think when pressed I could tell you I live in Holywell and leave it at that. But as well as today's being Ascension Day and May Morning, it's election day as well. As well as a parish, I live in a ward. I took my polling card, wandered down Longwall to Magdalen in the beautiful sunshine, and I voted.

This is only the third election I've ever voted in - I voted in the last set of local council elections, I voted in my first general election aged eighteen years and three months, and I'm yet to vote in a European election - but... yeah, I have a minor thrill pretty much every time. Your opinion matters. Isn't that an extraordinary thought? This country has a functioning democracy. Of course it's flawed. First-past-the-post is grossly distorting; we don't do well with the separation of powers; parliamentary sovereignty does lead to a tyranny of the majority; some might argue that one day's enfranchisement every few years isn't enough. But we don't have punch-ups or pregnant chads or illiberalism or fear. We have quiet polling stations with three people in them, we have people deciding whom to vote for on the grounds of their policies concerning that really annoying bus-stop on the High Street. After so many years living here, I am beginning to suspect I rather like England. In its quiet way, its socialised healthcare and state-funded higher education, it's been good to me.

And as I write this, it has begun to rain. Ah, yes. Back to work, alas.
raven: TOS McCoy and Kirk frowning, text: "Well that's just maddeningly unhelpful" (st - MADDENINGLY UNHELPFUL)
You know when someone comes into your room and you have to persuade them that you're not, really, really not trying to jump out of a third-floor window, really, you may have hit a low point in your life. (Actually, I was trying to catch a cushion I had just knocked out of it. Perfectly sensible thing to do, no I am not going crazy at all.)

Speaking of having hit a low point in my life, not only am I accumulating unhappy symptoms with a disturbing rapidity - why, hello there random tinnitus, swinging-from-hysteria-to-somnolence and jumping out of my skin at someone dropping a clove of garlic - I am reading cultural-imperialist articles on the philosophy of forgery and being encouraged by an insane classicist to use my newly-discovered heterosexuality FOR SCIENCE.

...not crazy at all.

Okay, let me backtrack. You - yes, you! - can help out not one but two nutty Oxonian finalists in their quest to retain their sanity and be awarded a degree! There are two ways in which you can do this!

First of all. I am, at the moment, revising for paper 109, Aesthetics and Philosophy of Criticism. I have many criticisms of this paper, it must be said. (Aha, see what I did there?) Most of them involve the way it's not a philosophy paper at all, it is a paper for failed literary critics. Real past questions have included: "The pointlessness of art is not the pointlessness of a game, it is the pointlessness of human life itself." Discuss and Given that horror movies frighten us, why do we go to see them? and so on.

Anyway. Yes. What is very handy for this paper is a ready stream of examples of "subversive" art. You know the sort of thing I mean. Tracy Emin's bed, Duchamp's Fountain, that kind of stuff. Of course, those are the two examples that everyone uses. I would quite like to use something the examiner hasn't heard eleventy million times before. Which is where you come in, dear flist. You all undoubtedly have better artistic taste than me. Tell me about art - things that are unusual, things that are on the boundary between art and non-art, things that a floundering philosopher might find interesting. I really would appreciate it; I'm swamped by awful aesthetics reading and nothing makes any sense.

Second of all. [livejournal.com profile] apotropaios is a very dear friend of mine, he is also a finalist, he is also going somewhat crazy. In the interests of science, he has been asking everyone he knows whether they've ever had intercrural sex. (Apparently, this was a particularly well-represented sexual practice in Greek vase painting of the sixth century onwards.)

This has rapidly devolved into a horror story of soft fruit and armadae of battle penguins. However. Hilarity aside, it is a serious request. If you - or anyone you know - actually has done this, or knows anything about it, he would like to know. Comments - his, not mine - are screened, and he is actually a good human who will be respectful and discreet and indeed, very grateful for any information.

I leave you now for a return to the philosophy of mechanical reproduction. Oh my I am so very fascinating.
raven: (doctor who - welcome to hell)
The first thing I remembered when waking up this morning: we're out of coffee. In retrospect, I should've known it might not shape up to be a good day.

...sigh. Anyway. That sort of day, so this sort of post. Things that are indeed good about life:

1. The fact that the Wednesday market stall that sells the industrial quantities of sugar is back, and the drawer next to my bed is actually, literally overflowing with sugar. Mmm, liquorice. Mmm, dark chocolate. Mmm, biscuts. Mmm, regression to primary school. You get the picture.

2. Nobody has actually ever had "Final Honours School" written in the appropriate box on a death certificate. (Also, I have never accidentally certified my own death. This is not the case for her, my mum reports.)

3. Philosophy is, indeed, an entirely useless degree. However, in my case it is masked by the wonderful, wonderful degree title of "Philosophy, Politics and Economics", despite my having done twelve weeks of economics in my first year and thrown a textbook down the attic stairs.

4. Very few graduates actually starve.

(However, am going to echo [livejournal.com profile] slasheuse in saying hi, my name is Raven, and the only way I could know less about my degree subject is if I were actually dead.)

5. Oxford is a stunningly beautiful city, and springtime cloaks it in blossoms and fluffy clouds and sunshine. Also enormous gaggles of American tourists and random bagpipers on Cornmarket, but you can't have everything in life.

6. For reasons I am not sure I can satisfactorily explain, everything in our freezer tastes of cider. I don't think this is a good or bad thing, exactly, but it certainly adds an interesting note to a stir-fry.

7. The now well-commented-on and well-documented Open-Source Boob Project, otherwise known as skeeviness-onna-stick. It's not a good thing, of course, but the comments and discussion have kept me amused for a couple of days, and I had a very nice chat with [livejournal.com profile] emily_shore today, in which I got all my ranting out of my system.

(I hadn't written about it here because, well, my life is becoming this xkcd at the moment. Seriously. It actually happened word-for-word a couple of days ago. I leave it as an exercise to the gentle reader to guess which side of the exchange I was on.)

(Yes more parenthesis what of it. Um. Why has there been such an outbreak of stupidity on the internet lately, anyway? Seems everywhere I go, someone is saying something grossly offensive about women, about queer people, or about us filthy ethnics. After many, many years - literally - I may, after Finals, finally bring myself to make a post about my experience, yes, me, me-as-person, not me-as-PPEist, of White Privilege and How I Don't Have It. This is entirely far too long a digression, but what the hell. I always resist this sort of post, because I'm a strong disbeliever in anecdotal evidence - citation needed, oh my god, and "it happened to me once" is not a reliable third-party source - but it seems the level of stupidity on the issue is reaching critical mass, at least for me. For fuck's sake, world. Stop being racist. It's Not Good.)

8. If all goes well, it's actually only about a month until I see [livejournal.com profile] the_acrobat again. I have had to sort of push back how excited I am about this to the back of my head, but, er. Much, much excitement.

9. I have awesome feminist friends.

10. I have lots of work to do.

No, that isn't a good thing. I am going to do it now watch me go yes.
raven: crest of Balliol College, Oxford, from a scarf (balliol)
It occurs to me that there is a misunderstanding that I might have to clear up. A few people lately have been doing the ten-things-I-assume-you-know-about-me meme, which I have done in the past. But this is not ten things, this is one thing. I am a finalist. This means that in five weeks from now, I have Finals. When I use that word, it has a capital F. It is not like, as I have been explaining more than once recently, the American concept with the same name, which does not have a capital F.

The reason for the initial capital is this. A lot of Oxford degrees - certainly the "classic" arts degrees, English Literature, History, Greats, etc., and to my sorrow, PPE as well - operate off a truly spectacular system of assessment. At the end of my first year, I took my Prelims. They weren't particularly important. Three exams, which I had to pass, or else be chucked out everyone's favourite institution of higher learning. The pass mark was, um, 40%. Don't laugh, I nearly failed my Economics. I got two firsts and a third, which gave me a perfectly average 2:1, and everyone went home happy, including the department of economics on the grounds that they didn't have to teach me any more.

But it was Balliol who told me my marks for my Prelims; the University itself didn't actually record them. All it wanted to know was if I'd passed or not, and once it'd found out that I had, that was that. And that is the sum total of assessment that I have ever had while here. Since then, I have been reading for my degree for two years. I have - ostensibly - done eight papers, five philosophy and three politics, I have written many essays and gone to, oh, nearly fifty tutes, and the occasional class, and every so often I've even dragged myself out of bed for a lecture.

And now I have Finals. Eight three-hour exams in a seven-day period, and these by themselves will dictate my degree. They are now five weeks away. This, just so it's entirely clear, is why I am crazy. This is why a great deal of my friends are crazy. These are the things you do, when you're a finalist:

(Note: not all these are me. I'm not saying none of them are me...)

-Eat a lot of pick 'n' mix. Also ice-cream. And raspberries. And vanilla fudge. And Maryland cookies. And cheese. And drink a lot of tea. And peppermint tea. And coffee. And more peppermint tea.

-Swear, copiously, at anyone who gets between you and any of the above.

-Have conversations like this over breakfast:

"I had a dream last night."

"Yeah?"

"It had a monster with enormous pointy teeth."

"...yeah?"

"Um. I think it was the Second Public Examination monster. Um. Is that wrong?"

-In something of a dreamy-eyed daze, decide that you really do love your subject, but after days of very dry articles and frantic memorisation of propositions, you probably will lose sight of this fact; consequently, it seems a good idea to print off Plato, "philosophy begins with wonder" and stick it to your door.

-Paint your toenails. A lot. As in, a lot. As in more than you did when you were twelve.

-Get very drunk, and cheerful, and merry, and gain an irrational compulsion to phone one of your friends in particular at three in the morning and sing Happy Birthday to them, even though their birthday was four months ago, and having sung it once, launch into it again but break off halfway to say, "Oh, I found a blueberry!"

-Discover that said friend is reduced to choking, tearful, hysterical laughter at the words "happy birthday" or "blueberry" or indeed "a million a thousand three four". Take advantage of this almost-Pavlovian reaction wherever possible.

-On a quiet night of revision, go out to college to print something, leaving your best friend and your boyfriend peaceful with their books and papers, and at the threshold, say, almost absent-mindedly, "I'll be back in a bit, don't seduce or traumatise him whie I'm gone."

(Be unaware that you'd left a tube of lipgloss out - 17; cherry - below the mirror.)

And when you get back, half an hour later.... yeah.

-Say things like:

"There is a significant lack of pandas failing to copulate in the Middle East."

"Truly, America is a land of opportunity. You can get chocolate-chip pancake and sausage. On a stick."

"The first recorded example of sexual spanking in art! Oh, isn't that exciting!"

-Do odd things to your hair. Bonus points if you look like a) an Asiatic Pippi Longstocking or b) an escapee from a kibbutz. Double-plus bonus points for volunteering your curls to a sixties lesbian fancy-dress costume.

-On a quiet afternoon, go out to college to print something, leaving two finalists behind busy with their books and papers. Say, almost absent-mindedly on the threshold, "I'll be back in a bit, no trauma while I'm gone."

Get back half an hour later and take two bemused seconds to notice they've swapped clothes.

Notice with further interest that four hours pass before they swap back, and the wrong one still looks like he's escaped from a kibbutz.

-Discover, to your lasting horror, that there is no year zero; that you've been misusing "deontological" your whole life; that there is such a thing as a nonce word; that "nonce word" is a nonce word; that the British Museum station was haunted by the ghost of an Egyptian mummy; that you might be a geek; that you might also spend too much time on Wikipedia.

-Notice that, in possibly a similar frame of mind, your next-door neighbour has, in a dreamy-eyed daze, stuck a piece of paper that says "philosophy begins with wonder" to her door. Procure a piece of paper of your own and stick it to your own door with the words: "bacteriology begins with an unhealthy fascination with yoghurt."

-Sleeeeep.

Yes, sleep is good. I go and sleep now. Not crazy really.
raven: rosettes on the wall, text: "Philosophy begins with wonder" (philosophy - begins with wonder)
I have spent most of the last two days in my windowseat, watching the clouds drift by overhead, watching the way the sunshine falls on the leaves in the tree below, really not doing enough reading about philosophical visions of the relationship between God and humanity. Instead I have been doing this:

it be categorical imperative tiem nao? )

You are all very much free to disown me now. In my defence, it wasn't my idea, and I'm a finalist, but personally I would disown me, so.
raven: Martha against washed-out background (doctor who - martha pwns everything)
1. I am in London, I have a job as respectable member of society at Vaguely Notable Law Firm, am bloody terrified;

2. I have no internet;

3. Neither do [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong and [livejournal.com profile] shimgray, which suggests the taking of co-dependency to a whole new level;

4. There is no number four;

5. We are not mentioning the F-word;

6. Do not have to work weekend! Am, therefore, going to Oxford on Friday night and thank god for that;

7. New Doctor Who this week, hurrah for that too;

8. [livejournal.com profile] remixredux08 is killing me slowly;

9. This is a very uninteresting post. Much love to all, see some of you soon, I am going to eat large quantities of strawberry digestives.
raven: red tulips in a vase on a balcony, against a background of a city (stock - tulips)
The house smells wonderfully of incense. It's very soothing, and I am curled up on my bed ostensibly reading Plato but mostly appreciating the scent drifting up and the warmth of the light. Plato can be very inspiring indeed, but not when he's threatening to throw the poets out of the Republic, so he can just sit on the floor face down for a while. Outside, it's cold. No snow, because of the nearness of the water, but everything is bright and clear.

This is my last week here in a while. A good thing, in many ways - much as I adore my parents, I can't live here for too long; I don't get much done, and the landscape is beautiful but that's all there is, I don't have any ties holding me here beyond it, and isn't that a wonderful realisation to come to weeks before my last term at Oxford - but not in others. Because, you see, I am going to London at the end of this week for reasons of actual, conventional, am-respectable-member-of-society employment. The job is a two-week internship with a vaguely notable City law firm. There are two problems with this, as far as I can see:

-Timing. Oh, timing. Finals are very important. Yes, they are, and I really need the time to revise in. After much agonising on this point, I have decided to do this anyway. The logic is, well, I would regret it if I didn't, and after my Finals, I really need to think about what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. I am currently on three of four law school rejections, and while this is what I expected, certainly, and I had been making contingency plans - as well as retaking-the-LSAT plans, wow, there's a depressing thought - I do need to seriously consider other things. And an internship of this type is a very useful thing to have done. It makes me feel very uncomfortable, but I'm trying to tell myself it's ten days - two lots of Monday to Friday - devoted to a very good cause, and although it will be exceedingly tiring, I may have to do some work in the evenings anyway. If my brain is too fried for actual revision, then, I don't know, typing up notes or re-reading primary texts, both of which would have had to be done anyway. So there we are. And on the bright side, I will be back down south and in visiting distance of Oxford.

-The second problem, though, is rather different, and more concerned with the, er, um, what? thing. Law firm internship? Me? No, you must be getting confused with someone else. My mental image of myself is of a peaceable geek with far too much hair who occasionally applies for things on a whim. I'm telling myself, on this point, that the last time I accidentally got a job and went into it with this amount of trepidation, I ended up having a stressful but ultimately delightful fortnight working for BBC Current Affairs. We shall see.

In any case, that's where I'm going to be. On April 11th, [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata and I are going to see KT Tunstall, which should be fun, and after that I'm back in Oxford and everything here will be all Finals all the time, cue lots of panic, etc., etc. On that note, it is probably time to retrieve Plato.

(Also speaking of which. Vienna Teng in London. Please to be telling me I am crazy for even considering this.)
raven: crest of Balliol College, Oxford, from a scarf (balliol)
Please allow me a moment of complete and utter incoherent panic:

...

...

...

...thank you. The Examination Schools website has finally published the PPE timetable. My exams, apparently, begin on Wednesday 21st May and finish exactly one week later on May 28th, which leads me to the not-appealing conclusion that I'll have eight three-hour exams in seven days, with one day of two exams because in their infinite wisdom, the university don't have exams on a Sunday.

what exactly and when; mostly for my own reference )

In some ways I'm glad because at least it's over in one high-energy flash, and over quickly - halfway through sixth week, and I'm done - but also, I'm a little concerned about how exhausted I'm going to be, especially as my day with two exams is my last day.

But still. What this boils down to, basically, is that at half past five on May 28th, you are all obliged to come to Exam Schools and shower me with glitter.

In slightly happier news, Holi mubarek and all of that. Now, back to panicking!

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