raven: black and white photograph of young Hillary Clinton (politics - look who we can grow up to be)
Today after work I went home to change and grab some food, and then headed out to Jesus Green to play a game of rounders with my colleagues (vs. a worthy team of local chartered surveyors), in the twenty-five degree sunlight on the grass, and when I was up to bat I got one rounder and when I was fielding I caught one batsman out (and it turns out playing rounders when you're not at school in PE kit not only an enjoyable experience but positively fun). And afterwards we drifted across Midsummer Common to the Fort St George and drank wine on expenses by the river Cam. The pub has no road access, which is deliciously peaceful, and means you wander across the common in the sunshine to get home.

And, sometimes I miss the US. Swedish Fish! Half and half! I have to walk all the way to the postbox to return my Netflix discs, oh my god my life. And then sometimes I really, really don't. Such a blissful evening. What a wonderful place to live.

In other news, the Supreme Court has not done a stupid thing today; I've read the abbreviated judgement and, as usual, am less than impressed by the reasoning. Which isn't quite accurate - the reasoning is fine, but it seems as though my fundamental ambivalence regarding a constitutional court persists, which means its tortured readings and re-readings, its invocations of the Framers and what they wanted, etc, just don't impress me. I find it hard to internally understand codified constitutions and sovereignty outside the legislature. (On another note, my supervisor and I have been quiet recently and I've spent the last couple of days drinking coffee and reading Fifoot's Law of Contract. After reading a gentle few chapters on mediaeval assumpsit, civil-law considerations and the economic effects on the law of contracts as a result of globalisation before I even got to phenomenal of agreement, offers, acceptance, invitation to treat, all the basic stuff, I decided again that the British way of teaching law is so much more gentle and thoughtful than the American one. It's less ritualised, less pivoted on oral confrontation, and more in the style of the trainee, the apprentice, clerk, whatever, being articled into a noble tradition with care. And I have all the issues with English law and liberal legal systems in general that any person who's familiar with radical political thought would have - it's inherently racist and very inherently sexist, it constitutes itself as rational and neutral when it's as fallible as the rest of us, blah blah you've heard it. It's just I also believe you can't critique the law before you know the law. And here in England and Wales it's a kinder, sweeter way of knowing what you are when you're a lawyer.)

All of which is obiter anyway, because who cares how they got there when they got there. I suspect it will be a long, long time before the US federal government is responsible for healthcare reform that brings the American healthcare system out of a system of total barbarism, but this is a first step.

In other other news I have been feeling very sad recently, but the evening in the sunlight has revived me somewhat; I have only a couple of months left in my current job; in a week I am going to Germany; I have just finished watching Quatermass and the Pit, which I enjoyed much too much for something made in 1958 (not only is it creepy as all-get-out, it also seems to employ a far more liberal hand in its politics than many things fifty years younger); and we crossed the solstice, so eighteen hours of daylight is now getting shorter each day rather than longer, but that's all right.

And we go on. I am much, much too drunk for someone who has to go to work tomorrow before it's the weekend. Tonight the Caped Crusader told me, over his Peroni over our very wobbly table, "When you caught that guy out, I turned to [another trainee] and said, 'I told you she was Indian!' And now I feel bad. Was that bad?"

I told him, fondly and drunkenly, that it was terribly bad of him, but somehow I can never think badly of him when everything he says to me is laced with the most uncomplicatedly joyful affection. I went home feeling like the sunshine was inside me.
raven: (sapphire & steel - newspaper)
Hello, internet. I am writing this in my departure gate at JFK, feeling so tired I could cut loose and float away like a balloon. I begin to suspect it is the horrible harsh exhaustion of my body saying, okay, law school, moving out, four days in Manhattan in the pouring rain, being nice to family in CT all very well, but for god's sake GO HOME AND SLEEP NOW.

I am going home to sleep now.

Actually, internet, I am rather dreading it.

Um. So, I graduated! There was that. The ceremony was in the pouring rain, and a red-gowned warmly-lit contrast to my very staid, proper, weighed-down-by-fur-and-tradition Oxford graduation. Not that I didn't enjoy that - crossing the floor of the Sheldonian in academic dress isn't something anyone gets to do very often - but this had a little joie de vivre. It wasn't in alphabetical order, so you could gather up with your friends and giggle in the wings when waiting, and cheer offstage when someone you knew took their degree. And, a lovely tradition: in both graduating classes, there were a few people who had had babies during their time in law school, and most of them chose to carry their little ones across the stage with them. One tiny little man was sleeping as his mum climbed the stairs, but woke up briefly in the glare of the bright lights and the gaze of hundreds of people, and promptly gave a small, regal wave, to the total delight of the audience.

The faculty speaker was.... trying. Clearly, clearly, he had taken a section from a paper or possibly a thesis and read out a section in lieu of, y'know, a speech. It was exceptionally long and tiresome and I've been to law school, I could at least follow what he was saying. (The Siren, later: "He used the word 'demos'. Who uses 'DEMOS' in a GRADUATION SPEECH?") What the guests and small people thought, I have no idea.

The student speakers, on the other hand, were warm, funny and fond. They told anecdotes and dabbled in nostalgia, and then, with a certain embarrassed gentleness, "We turn now to United States v Carolene Products footnote four" - to an amused murmur from the graduates and possibly groans from the rest of the auditorium.

okay, who wants to hear about law )

Afterwards we filed out into the rain and retreated to the law school to dry off, and because I made the reservation in February we had somewhere to go out for dinner. (Apparently, dinner reservations for the undergrad graduation weekend had to be made in 2007. My mind boggles.) It was a nice dinner, but. But. Oh, I hate goodbyes. I ordered lemon souffle as dessert, and while I was eating it, Baby E looked at me reflectively and said, "Do you remember? When we'd first come? You said to me, if we're going to be friends, you should know that I eat a lot. More than anyone else you know."

"Well," I said, through the souffle, "we are friends and I do eat a lot, so there."

In lieu of actually saying goodbye, I squished her and said, when you sit down and work for the bar exam, for your PhD, whatever else you do, you child prodigy you, remember me marching into your apartment yelling about ALL WORK AND NO PLAY DULL GIRL and go get a cocktail once in a while.

I couldn't say goodbye to the Siren. We stood there and looked at each other for a moment, and then did what we always do, at the end of the evening; wave, giggle, see you soon.

Soon. I hope so.

The day after that, it rained even more. It poured and poured and poured and I was horribly fed up with everything. I had breakfast with some friends, who made me pancakes and bacon and dispatched me out more cheery into the rain, and then I managed to trek over to see [personal profile] livrelibre and say a quick, rainy goodbye before I had to go home and put all my things in boxes and give them to the Salvation Army. I had about a hundred books. Thirty of them were shipped, ten given to Tobermory (I ran to the law school, gave her the books, my free-coffee stamp cards - yes, okay, so I took two semesters collecting enough for six free cups of $5 coffee, but if her thesis proposal kicks a little more arse because I funded her caffeine habit for a week, I am okay with that) and the rest all given away. I managed, also, to pop in and say goodbye to [personal profile] eruthros, and [personal profile] thingswithwings, thank goodness, and I cleaned my apartment top to bottom, shipped the books, arranged for subletters and handed over my keys.

And left.

The last few days have been, okay, if not exactly restful, not law school. My parents hadn't been to New York since 1999, so the three of us had a good time even if we did emphatically get rained on. (Dear climatic conditions of the state of New York: springtime. Get with the programme, okay.) And I had a lovely, somewhat cocktail-soaked evening with [personal profile] macadamanaity, swapping Doctor Who theories (still haven't seen the last three episodes!) and laughing a lot. I wasn't keen on visiting relatives in Connecticut to be the thing I did on my last weekend in the States - Connecticut! is all green and leafy! in every bloody direction! - but oddly enough it worked out fine. I had a genius idea, and my cousin S and I drove to New Haven and picked up [livejournal.com profile] gamesiplay, and the three of us had one of those unexpectedly glorious days you get sometimes when everything is in flux. The sun was shining, I was charmed by New Haven - it reminds me of Oxford, a little, and Boston, a little, and it's something all of itself, too - and certainly it's the only place I've ever been where you can eat mashed potato pizza and for this to be a good idea. So we did that, and then we went book shopping. My cousin has been long-term ill for quite a while, and after a couple of years flat on her back, she's feeling good, happy, ready to take on the world again - but has, in those two years, discovered reading. She never read as a kid, she was telling me, she never read in high school - but suddenly she's found herself in books.

I was reminded irresistibly of That Time I Read Hamlet (and couldn't find anyone to inform that actually it's quite good), and promised I would compile her a comprehensive list of recommendations. In the end Leigh and I went through the Yale bookstore's entire SFF section from A to Z, recommending things, and yes, basically ended up monologuing at each other. It was delightful. We finished off the day with some surprisingly-unbad chick flick and sweeties, and now it is Sunday afternoon, it is raining in New York, and my flight to the UK opens for boarding in forty minutes.

Well. Well, here's what's next.
raven: text: "There's a full and very reasonable explanation that mostly does not involve me being drunk" (sbp - me being drunk)
In these Troubled Times, the Siren and I have taken to having at least one meal together every day to keep each other going. (Well, I say that like I have any agency in the matter. Today I got a text - be in the law school parking lot in 13.5 min - and complied, submissively.)

The law school have taken to putting up signs - Law School Convocation ADA Access - and I am taking deep breaths and writing paragraph after paragraph of the worst academic writing I've ever produced and the days left are burning like touchpaper but we're still here.


the Siren: Want to go to Syracuse tomorrow?

Me: Sure, if I'm done with my paper - aren't you busy in the morning, anyway?

Siren: Yeah, I just have to write the Constitution of Southern Sudan and I'll be right with you.


the Siren [commenting on a law review article about government contracts we've both read]: And it's all about a continuum of this or that. The terms are a continuum, the regulations are on a continuum... I don't like continuums. I like binaries. [pause] That must be why I like that Katy Perry song.

Me: ....what?

Siren: You know, she's hot, then she's cold, she's yes, then she's no, she's up and she's down...


Siren: And we've still got that damn constitution to write... [Baby E] is doing the Bill of Rights.

Me: Wait, you're letting her do the Bill of Rights?

Siren: Yeah, in like, half a day, her mum's here. She's going to take out the substantive ones she doesn't like from the South African constitution.

Me: ....she's going to take out the substantive human rights she doesn't like?

Siren: Yeah. How's your salad?


Me [discussing my paper word-count]: Seven thousand for the take-home, six thousand each for the papers, mostly since Sunday...

the Siren: Iona. How many "buy-nine-get-your-tenth-free" CTB coffee cards have you filled since fall semester?

Me: six.


Words to go: 1550; hours left: 3: hours of sleep: 4; cups of coffee: 2.5. Oh, law school, why do you hurt me when I show you nothing but love.
raven: stock shot of a wall with "I love you" graffiti (stock - i love you)
This is a little early, but what the hell, I'm buzzed and mellow and I want to talk. Today is January 9th, 2011 - another day, nothing special, perhaps. Ten years ago, I was thirteen, nearly fourteen, bright and lost and looking for something; ten years ago, less six weeks, I discovered a fanfiction archive, a television show and a friend.

Ten years ago I met [personal profile] hathycol; today I am twenty-three, nearly twenty-four, and next year I'll be bridesmaid at her wedding. Here's to you, fandom: here's to everything I found, everyone I met, everyone I've loved; everything I've watched and read and seen; every alien city I've slept in among friends. Here's to you, and thanks for everything.

A quiet day, today. Colleen and I went to Manchester with [livejournal.com profile] tau_sigma; we went to Afflecks, and sighed for our rapidly-receding days as teenage goths; we went to Forbidden Planet, and bought doughnuts and drank coffee and talked about everything and nothing. I bought a coat. Tali and I made fun of Colleen's passion for Cardassians; we made hen party plans and cackled with laughter. Colleen and I got through a bottle of mellow wine over dinner, and I am happy, so very happy. Perhaps I don't say this as much as I should, but here it is, anyway: fandom is no longer as important to me as it once was. It's no longer my only passion, the only thing I really care about. But that's because when it was, when it shaped my ideas about community and storytelling and what gives people value, it drew out my talents, and it gave me the strength of that community. I care about other things now - like social justice, law, my career and relationships - because I am what fandom made me, because it made me grow up feeling like I could contribute to what I care about. That I can shine as bright as I see everyone else shine.

And I still care about stories. I always will.

[livejournal.com profile] fandom_stocking went live today. I had lots of very sweet greetings, but some people have been especially kind: [livejournal.com profile] thistlerose wrote me a sweet ficlet, Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores, about McCoy and Spock, whom I adore, and if that weren't enough, she also made some very pretty icons. And [personal profile] icepixie made me a vidlet, Sea-Changed, which is Slings & Arrows, Geoffrey and performance and evolution and applause, and it made me cry while simultaneously being very happy. Oh, it's lovely.

It has been a beautiful ten years; the next ten will be different in their own way, but I am so happy to have grown up here.
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
Dear [livejournal.com profile] grimandancient,

It is 11.34am and I have been awake for about eight minutes.

So far, I have this to say:

sldjgldjgdfkg;dfkgp;fglpf you guys. You. You actually... oh. sdjgdjgdjf, some more.

The community name is perfect.

So are you.

More later when not verklempt.

Iona xx
raven: red tulips in a vase on a balcony, against a background of a city (stock - tulips)
There is a poem by Lisel Mueller that begins, "Speaking of marvels / I am alive together with you." More prosaically, the the Times spent some column space this week on how, all things considered, life's not so bad.

So. I am alive. I am in Edinburgh, a city I love enough to think wistfully about the necessity of my being an English lawyer. Yesterday, the world was frosted; I drew a heart in the covering on a wheelie bin and it stayed there in the ice for twelve hours. We went walking in the crisp and perfect air, met small dogs and little old ladies and a cheerful trio of Highland cattle, leaving snarls of fluff on fences. We stopped in a pub with a log fire and a book exchange, and I gave a pound to charity and took away a novel.

Novels exist! Well, I suppose they always did, but I'm still full of joy reading them again. Writing, too, is possible, and joyous, and I have a slow, steady stream of [livejournal.com profile] yuletide comments in my inbox. I am well in my head. I have nightmares, still, but I always wake up, and I never wanted to be king of infinite space anyway. I am in love, with life and law and my most favourite boots and cheese sandwiches with added tablet and with a human being, who is currently draped fluidly on the end of the bed, considering the logistics of a series of Wikipedia articles, beginning with "Elephants in Scotland".

When I was at home, my parents gave me two birthday presents: a thick, pink and grey scarf from Banana Republic and a dress with silver-sequinned roses on it. Partly, they will be away; partly, my birthday is not the most exciting thing that happens on January 20th, 2009, and they wanted to get in early. Speaking of my parents, they want to go to Hong Kong in the summer, and they want me to come with them.

Christmas was perfect, down to a stocking with a satsuma, walnut and hazelnut in it. (And a slinky, a tiny model of a puppy and The Tales of Beedle the Bard.) I'm going back down south soon, but I think I've actually had a holiday and a rest for the first time in months. And New Year is one of my favourite things, and that's yet to come. 2008 really is nearly over. Usain Bolt and David Tennant and Stephen Fry and the entire cast of Merlin still exist. I still don't have to learn to knit.

The Doctor Who Christmas special was lovely and had only the tinest bits that needed smacking. I am re-reading A Christmas Carol, because of it, and it is lovely. I am lying around after midnight eating sweets, and I'm a grown-up and I'm allowed. The Christmas holidays are nearly over but I never have to go back to school again.

And now perhaps to bed: which is warm, and has a radiator next to it, and is entirely too small for two people, and another reason for uncomplicated joy. Speaking of marvels, I am alive together with you.
raven: (doctor who - hello sarah jane)
So, I may have mentioned at some point earlier this week that [livejournal.com profile] shimgray is the proud and somewhat bemused owner of a canoe. Well, a kayak. Well, a CANOE. (I named it Gnu the Canoe. He objects. He is quite wrong about this. I mean, if you had a canoe, what would you call it? Precisely.) I have spent most of my weekend doing things of and pertaining to said canoe. We got it home yesterday with what others may call a minimum of effort but what I call being squished on the floor covered in blankets in the back of a Ford Fiesta and hanging on to some ropes for dear life. We put the canoe on the roof, tied it down with blankets and rope and bundled me in the back, while they sat in the front and drove out very slowly. And then, over speed bumps and up and down hills and [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata mentioning blithely that she'd have trouble if we had to do an emergency stop.

"Yes!" I yelled, somewhat muffled, at this point. "If you do an emergency stop I WILL BREAK MY NECK!"

Quoth my dear friend and my boy, "It was nice knowing you. Goodbye."

(Note: Shim has just said that he didn't do anything to me yesterday save turn me into a "bonsai Quasimodo". I think I should just let this speak for itself.)

Sweethearts, all. Anyway. We passed policemen on bicycles, and I did hide under the blankets while clinging to the rope, and we were not arrested. We got the canoe home and carried it into the garden and felt very pleased with ourselves. The rest of the day was spent making cakes - glorious sticky chocolate golden-syrup things; we eventually made four batches of the things, and I fully plan to foist the recipe on [livejournal.com profile] likethesun2 later this week - and, once we had a pack of people to eat the cakes ([livejournal.com profile] triptogenetica and [livejournal.com profile] luminometrice found the house by asking the neighbours "which house had asbestos removed recently" and brought with them eighteen tubs of Petit Filous) we watched Doctor Who.

On which I have this to say )

Following Doctor Who, we watched Dr. Strangelove. Which was, frankly, a surreal experience. I'd never seen it before. I probably should have watched it before I spent three months of my life studying the Cold War. The evening descended into soft sticky-cake eating and dissecting Who, and, finally, lying around reading (currently, the latest by Mary Roach - she who wrote a book about corpses (Stiff), one about death (Spook - I bought it at the Strand in New York a year ago) and now, Bonk: a study of sex research. (I have to stop myself reading out the bits about penile implants when there are men in the vicinity; they tend to cringe.)

This morning, bright and early - well, no, at quarter to twelve - we went out to Hinksey Park, onto the boating lake, carrying a canoe down several streets to get there, and had a go. No one fell over, or out! [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata discovered a veritable talent for canoeing herself about, but I had a marvellous time too, pottering about scaring the ducks and just about mastering the art of cleaving a straight line through the water. It's odd, actually, being on a level with the ducks. And there were ducklings, and wee baby froglets bouncing about. It was a delight. I hadn't been in a canoe for about ten years, but it was great.

Tomorrow, quite probably - although, not for certain - my degree results come out. But, right now, I'm happy. I am not up north. I'm here, I'm happy, we have a canoe, I'm getting a cat. Next week, [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata and [livejournal.com profile] shimgray are going out again, possibly on the river. The river leads to the Thames which leads to the estuary which leads to the sea. Next week, I will be on the Pacific coast. I will go down to meet them being washed up in San Francisco Bay.
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (xf - you are here)
Yesterday, on a train from London Paddington into Oxford, I spotted a World War Two pillbox in a field. There are actually two of them; they were designed to be anti-tank defences by the railway line against potential advancing forces up the Thames valley, and after sixty years with no invasion, are getting a little mouldering and decrepit. One might quite reasonably ask why I know so much about one particular WW2 pillbox in one particular field, to which the answer is, well, I had lunch in it a couple of weeks ago. As in, perched on the edge of it, looked out over the field and ate red pesto with ham rolls. It was a strange and idyllic moment.

It's probably worth noting that usually, on a visit of OMG, I am in a foreign city where I barely/don't speak the language, having trouble with currency, public transport and my own shoelaces, and I wash up on a distant shore and [livejournal.com profile] likethesun2 and/or [livejournal.com profile] the_acrobat takes me gently by the hand and leads me to salvation, or at least saves me from liver as a foodstuff and thirty-foot inflatable Komodo dragons.[1]

For this reason - and also the reason wherein my visits of OMG are getting asymptotic, i.e., they seem to be going 1, 1.5. 1.75. 1.875, etc. - I am disinclined to actually call this one a Visit of OMG. [livejournal.com profile] the_acrobat was visiting me in my home city, where I speak the vernacular, understand the peculiarities of the inhabitants and don't get lost on public transport. Instead, we ended up going on a twelve-mile walk across the Oxford countryside, armed with pesto, ginger cake and Three Men In A Boat. At the end of February, we went on an eight-mile walk to Abingdon down the Thames path, which was lovely - although, we did go, buy pick 'n' mix and get the bus back, which no one found strange - and this was the next leg of the journey down the Thames, from Abingdon to Clifton Hampden and back via Nuneham Courtenay. This is a journey well-documented in Three Men In A Boat, which is, for those unfortunates who have never been exposed to it, a minor Victorian travelogue about three men (and their dog, Montmorency) taking the journey up from London to Oxford in a skiff, meeting along the way with such disasters as locks, ukeleles, Hampton Court Maze, Montmorency getting into fourteen fights, and methylated spirit cake. It is possibly my most favourite book. So I took it along, and, sat on a bridge somewhere near Culham, read out the bits that pertained to the trip we were making - "Abingdon is a typical country town of the smaller order - quiet, eminently respectable, clean, and desperately dull" and we did indeed go to the pub recommended in Clifton Hampden, the Barley Mow.

("The heroine of a modern novel is always "divinely tall," and she is ever "drawing herself up to her full height." At the "Barley Mow" she would bump her head against the ceiling each time she did this." We tried this. I am short. [livejournal.com profile] shimgray and [livejournal.com profile] luminometrice are not. It was fun.)

The book also approves of Nuneham Courtenay, and so did we, but I think when Jerome was writing, it was perhaps unlikely that a) the house was owned by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University or b) you had to walk three quarters of a mile down an A-road with no pavements to get there. Just a supposition. But still, it was a lovely day. It's very easy to forget, living where I do, that the English countryside is all laid out there and beautiful, but nicely tame with pubs along the way, and I've started to realise lately how important the river is. The Thames in Oxford is known as the Isis and is rarely deep enough to drown in - that is, it's not like the sea, it's not like the way the landscape defines every feature of where my parents live up north - but regardless, it shapes the way people live without their particularly noticing. There are, for example, only two bridges crossing the river in the centre of Oxford, which means you have to take significant detours whenever you want to go anywhere not in the vicinity of one of them, and it is extraordinary how you can just fall in to taking the landscape as an endogenous variable. I'm not sure how much sense that makes, but I'm very keen on this motif, in literature and real life, of people and their thought processes being made and constituted by their environment. It's interesting.

But I digress. The day was a lovely one, and we ended up crossing fields full of pylons and murderous bovines, and also singing "Jerusalem", because it seemed appropriate when observing our green and pleasant land from such close quarters. That said, after twelve miles, [livejournal.com profile] the_acrobat and I spent the rest of her visit eating pizza and watching DVDs. My poor feet.

And so on, and so on. The next thing on the list - the list in my kitchen, "Things to do when freeeeee!", made while we were all doing Finals and fantasising about free time - was "go strawberry-picking at Stanton St. John!" So we did that. I borrowed [livejournal.com profile] magic_doors' bike, and had a wonderful time flitting around the city on a bicycle, because I've never done it here before, and then off we went on a glorious sunny morning to pick-your-own strawberries. I hadn't done it since I was very young; [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata had never done it; [livejournal.com profile] shimgray had done it as a small child picking raspberries. The three of us sat in the straw surrounded by the plants with a can of whipped cream and picked all the berries in sight. Idyllic, lovely, decadence, followed by stir-fry, Pimms and Doctor Who in the evening.

That was Saturday of eighth week, the last day of full term, my last day as an Oxford undergraduate. [livejournal.com profile] shimgray and I went home in the very last of the daylight, so the sky was black at the zenith but fading down towards the edges, and it was about half past ten as we crossed Donnington Bridge. The water below was black and slow-moving but not still, and reflective, showing us the sunset and clouds, fluffy and underlit with red and pink and purple, and you could see the movement of the currents downsteam towards London. We stood there for a few minutes watching it get softer, darker, and down on the bank below I saw a solitary flash, probably another bicycle light, probably someone else, like us, on their way home.

And that was the beginning of the end. On Monday [livejournal.com profile] slasheuse went away, having spent the evening previously in G&D's making lists of musicals. Once we got to "Song of the South", we started making lists of things that are racist. "Apartheid. Sainsbury's "Ethnic Foods" section. White privilege. Flesh-coloured plasters. Ooh, racism, that's quite racist, isn't it?" And there was a lot of giggling, but a little sharp-edged, because it's the summer and everyone is going away.

So am I, pretty soon. I was in London with [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong and [livejournal.com profile] zed92uk a couple of days ago; we went book shopping (I am now the proud owner of an anthology entitled "Alien Sex", for which some of the rejected titles were "Interstellarcourse", "Love is a Many-Tentacled Thing", and "Really Fucking Weird"); then Victory Dildo shopping (also on the list in the kitchen, but only mentally; we went to Sh! in Shoreditch and looked at vibrators, and I didn't buy anything because I will be in San Francisco in three weeks); dropped in at Villa Straylight (where the inhabitants were very sweet and welcoming and approving of alien sex, and fed us tea, and [livejournal.com profile] steerpikelet did an adorable doodle of me and my new hair) and, finally, went to see the Indelicates play in Islington. Which was great, great fun - I am a perfect child about live music, I love it with a kind of eyes-screwed-up intensity - and they played "Sixteen" and "Fun is for the Feeble-Minded" and "Our Daughters...", but not, alas, "...If Jeff Buckley Had Lived", which iTunes tells me I have now listened to ninety-two times. It was nice to be out of Oxford, actually - the first time I had been for about three months, barring twelve-mile walks across the countryside - and I am here again only for a couple of days, just for the St. John's Ball tonight, packing and Doctor Who tomorrow, and Sunday, home.

Last night, sitting in the kitchen, [livejournal.com profile] triptogenetica spotted two lights in the sky. I started thinking about UFO sightings, because really, they looked like nothing I'd ever seen, and I'd spent the day reading about aliens. But he figured it out: fire-balloons. Lightweight frames covered with paper and holding a flaming wick inside. As we watchd, one of them caught fire properly and combusted, dropping out of the sky above New College. Again, a small moment of unexpected beauty.

Speaking of beauty, I have a dress for tonight, and purple nail varnish, and many beautiful women wanting to come and get ready in my room, and I am happy but restless. Tomorrow is midsummer.

[1]In September 2006, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago was guarded by a thirty-foot inflatable Komodo dragon. I swear I am not making this up.
raven: quadrangle of Christ Church, Oxford, under snow (stock - oxford)
It is 9.07am, I have been awake since eight despite having fallen into bed past three, the sky above my window is a glorious, intense blue and I am happy. This was - hopefully - not my last term doing OULES, and this was definitely not the last OULES play I'll ever see, but, of course, there will be a not-quite-the-same quality about it. Last night was the OULES cast party; today is Friday of eighth week of Trinity of my last year - quite literally, I will still be a full member of this university for just today and tomorrow - and yes, everyone gets their three years as an undergraduate, etc., this is all I was signed up for, etc., etc., but there's still a very vocal part of me making quiet, plaintive noises and considering clinging to the college stonework until they pry my fingers out from between the cracks.

But. That aside. That held firmly aside, I was here for three years. I was here in this city of aquatint, I have lived here and made friends here and been utterly, dizzily happy here. I joined OULES because all the cool kids were doing it, not because I have anything like, you know, acting ability - but in full knowledge and approval of the project. OULES is the Oxford University Light Entertainment Society - it does plays at the end of every term that are low-commitment, low-budget and rife with bad puns, done in small venues to affectionate audiences, giving all the takings to charity and generally finishing with the cast, their friends, admirers and camp followers getting ludicrously drunk and singing obscene songs. And I love it. I do love it. I love the joy of it, I love the enthusiasm, I love how, as [livejournal.com profile] sebastienne explained to me last night, Oules tend to be beautiful, beautiful people safe enough in their skins to get up on stage and be silly in front of everyone they know. If I could have my three years over, the one thing I'd do differently is to go out and join OULES in my very first term, rather than in my sixth - although, right now, I'm not feeling so bad about things as they are. I have been in four shows, co-directed/written/produced one, and I seem to have signed myself up to help write next year's garden shows. And thus everything moves on, etc.

Last night, unlike Tuesday and Wednesday, we didn't do the shows in the garden due to the pouring, pouring rain. I like being out in the garden - it's very convivial - but being in Wadham Chapel has the advantage of not having to yell lines, and being very close to the audience (who are possibily sitting askance at listening to jokes about sodomy when perched beneath enormous stained glass windows). The plays were "Harry Potter and the Generic Adventure" (I got to be Tonks and Luna; I am hoping the casting was not personal) and "The Reduced Tolkien" (I got to be a Dork - I wore sub fusc and snarled a lot) and they were both very good, featuring, among other things, spurious pirates, shape-changers, Weasley wigs made of mop-heads dyed orange, a toilet door stolen from a skip, Dorks and Death Eaters and the goth-elves of Gothlorien. They were marvellous. Afterwards, [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata and [livejournal.com profile] luminometrice and I returned the toilet door to the skip (we carried it through Wadham back door with injunctions to passers-by to hold the door, because we were... already holding a door) and made our merry and well-equipped way to the party.

Which started in the pub, outside, where it was perfectly warm, and people were drinking and happy and merry, and people were kissing [livejournal.com profile] osymandias again, and I was being fed cider and appreciating the entire world, and we sat there until they threw us out. And then, somehow, I'm not entirely sure, we ended up having our party on one of the college roofs. I've been here three years, as I said more than once last night, but I've never been on a college roof yet. And it was, oh, magical. We were right at the level of the skyline, we could see Christ Church and the dome of the Radcliffe Camera on a level with us, and we were scrambling over the slates and lurking between battlements and, finally, perching on the ridgepole, ridiculously close to the sky. And cocktailing people - "A cocktailing, a cocktailing, there's going to be a cocktailing! And after the cocktailing, the intercrural sex!" - which is an archaic and highly traditional ceremony in which new members of OULES are adopted by older members, who then pour wine down their throats whilst they are horizontal (ah, I remember it well, etc.) and welcome them into the fold. And then there was singing, first raucous and gleeful and obscene, but growing softer and softer, so by two in the morning I was leaning against a side of slates and staring straight up, humming silly songs about yoghurt, and looking into the sky towards the west. And - it sounds pretentious, it sounds twee and impossible, but nevertheless, it happened - I saw a shooting star. The only one I've ever seen, burning very briefly down towards the horizon, and I made a wish. It was: let this last forever.

It didn't come true. In the end, [livejournal.com profile] shimgray and I clambered down, made our way to ground level pushing along [livejournal.com profile] luminometrice, who has an exam today, and was happily carrying a sign saying "VOICE IN HEAD", down the roof and down the stairs and down the High Street, and we sang our way softly through Radcliffe Square and home. Where I slept very soundly and had very slow, soft-edged dreams, something distant all mixed up with thoughts about what Oxford's dreaming spires dream of, if undergraduate feet disturb them, or if the city will remain itself, beautiful and unchangeable, long after I've gone. I'm glad of that; that Oxford will always be here, that I will always have been here, that these glorious things that have happened can never unhappen.

I am here another week, more or less. I am going to follow [livejournal.com profile] slasheuse's example and say, if there is anything you would like me to blog about concerning Oxford - or anything, really, but for now, Oxford - tell me and I shall. I've been in love with, and writing about, this city for all my time here, but I don't think I've said everything there is to be said about it quite yet. I will talk about matters trivial or matters deeply profound. At least, I will try. Speak or forever hold thy peace.

And now I return to bed, happy, happy, and happy again.
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: 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: black and white; Tenth Doctor on a bed, looking up at Martha (doctor who - in bed together)
Finally, finally, after days and weeks and respectability and life out of a suitcase, I am on my way home. It's such a lovely feeling that I even managed to get out of bed this morning at nine - and, wow, nine was a lie-in, I really have been being respectable - and venture out into the grey warmth with scarcely a backwards look. There's a softness in the air again, a faint hint of springlike things to come. Of course, it felt like this last week, and well. It snowed. I love England, sometimes.

Last night, I finished work at half five, ran through the city, took the world's quickest shower, was just about to run out again when I had one of those moments, where you're standing holding an eyeliner pencil thinking subtle, subtle, and then, clearly: actually, I don't fucking want to, and what the hell did I do with the glitter? Some rummaging revealed said glitter (Urban Decay heavy metal in Baked - it's sunshine and joy in a tube) and my own very favourite eyeliner, which is actually kajal, and the effect was not subtle at all. I was pleased. And I ran out to Hammersmith in a very cheery mood indeed.

None of this is to say that I haven't enjoyed this vacation scheme or that I'm not glad I did it. If I do go down this route, actually do become a lawyer, then I will have to deal with normality and respectability as part of the job. Respectable is a mantle you can put on and take off. I'm just not very good at it at the moment. As I was bemoaning to several people earlier in the week, I made it to Thursday lunchtime still passing as normal, and then came out accidentally. It was faintly ludicrous, at that; one of the other students started an anecdote with, "My ex once had a mishap with a breadmaker."

"Oh," sayeth I, "I had an ex who once had a mishap with a breadmaker. She put icing-sugar in it instead of flour."

And you could see it - you could see the clicking gears in all their brains, as they processed, first icing-sugar, and laghed, and then the pronoun clicked, and then there was a sort of quiet oh. I was a little vexed at the time, but ah, what the hell. What can you do? You can't watch your mouth all the time, you'd lose your mind. What the hell. And there are compensations to being me. I met [livejournal.com profile] anotherusedpage for coffee that night and we put fandom to rights, as usual - several hours of gesticulating wildly at each other and talking about fannish paradigms and OTW and atypicality and what it means to be a new type of person are very good for the soul.

So, on Friday night, I got on a Tube train to Hammersmith which was clearly being driven by one of the world's nicest humans - "And look at that!" she said, as the train emerged from below ground, "It's sunny! Watch you don't get dazzled and fall on the track! And by the way, Hammsrsmith station is closed!" - and I didn't actually mind. They re-opened the station just before I arrived at it, and some confusion later, I met [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata and there was much glee. We were going to the Apollo to see KT Tunstall and it was marvellous. We timed it well, missed the support entirely deliberately in favour of getting a very nice dinner at a small restaurant run by a pair of exuberantly delightful Italians, who fed us a ridiculous amount of baked pasta and we kept laughing and scaring the other patrons and it was joyous.

(On the way into the gig, we met one of the other people I'd been at the Vaguely Notable Law Firm with - she had warned me that she'd be there, taking her middle-aged mother to her first Rock Concert (awww) - and there was a moment or two of small talk and awkward introductions, and it didn't dawn on me until a few minutes later that she clearly thought that [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata and I were together. I'm surprised that this happened this time around, and no one assumed we were together when we went to see the Indigo Girls last year!)

Speaking of which, the gig itself was ahhh, lovely. KT Tunstall would be very entertaining even if she didn't sing. But she did, and most of her songs are cheering, wonderful things that made the venue bounce, and yes. It was just the right thing to have done, last night. Musically speaking, I think the high point was about halfway through; I'd been reading that very morning in one of the Tube newspaper review sections that she'd been trying out a different cover at every gig on the tour, and this one, she did a haunting, soft acoustic version of "Every Day Is Like Sunday", and I just... yes. I love that song with an unholy passion, and she did it so well, with such clean, sparse layering of instrumentals and voice, and it was... um. Yes. Wonderful.

Afterwards we hung around for coffee and made happy noises at each other before running down to catch the last trains. The journey back was a little surrealist, a little hallucinogenic in quality; I'd been up for eighteen hours and the tunnels and stations were a bit of a clean-lit contrast to the Apollo and the night outside. I saw a man carryig a surfboard onto the last Tube train of the day. It was a little bizarre. Opposite me there was an odd couple, a very pale man and his very drunk girlfriend, whose voice was clear as a bell; she kept saying, "Are you sure? Are you sure? I don't want to be an evil temptress. I'm not an evil temptress. Are you really sure?"

I guess he was; at any rate, they stumbled off into the night at Knightsbridge and I wended my way back. And now, I have had some sleep, I have had some breakfast, and this morning, I was back on a Tube platform looking at the curving adverts on the opposite wall, and I was reading something for Orange pay-as-you-go, with the small print at the bottom, and it talked about limited liability and terms and conditions apply, and, without a break, Thank you for reading this far, it makes our legal people feel valued.

Well, it made me laugh. In about forty-five minutes, I will be back in Oxford, and tonight there is new Doctor Who. I also have about 1200 words of remix to write in the next twenty-four hours, alas. Ah, well. Very nearly home, and the sun's at my back.

(Of course, I wrote all of the above, and it wouldn't post. Fail, internets, fail. So, what else can I regale you with?)

Oxford! Oxford is beautiful. I came back and it was all awash with sunlight and Morris dancers, and I came home and filled my room with my stuff - oh god, I hate unpacking, I still haven't done any - and I let the afternoon drift by in a shamelessly slow sprawl of sunlight and wandering. [livejournal.com profile] shimgray and I were supposed to be making pancakes and hosting the assembled masses watching Doctor Who. (Domestic? Very.) And it was lovely, lovely. Everyone turned up and was sweet and [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata provided a TARDIS cake that dyed my tongue blue and after some technical difficulties - including the procuring of a teatowel to gag [livejournal.com profile] apotropaios with, should he decide to be a classicist about proceedings or indeed harbour a secret desire to resemble Yasser Arafat - there was watching of Who.

Fires of Pompeii )

And then, pancakes - mostly shaped like the Flying Spaghetti Monster - and sugar, and joy, and tea, and sleep. I walked home this morning through showers and intermittent sunshine, and now I must unpack my room, take a shower and get to work. My life, she is hard.
raven: quadrangle of Christ Church, Oxford, under snow (stock - oxford)
I'm on my way back to London. Pause for deep groaning. It's been a week, and there's another week to go, and I don't want to go back.

My job is stressful in a number of significant ways, but most significant of these is perhaps the pressure to be, er, normal. As I keep bemoaning, mostly for comic effect but with a kernel of sincerity, it is hard, after three years as a undergraduate and many many years of being a geek, to be a respectable member of society; to get up in the morning and go to work and come home after five, yes, but more than that, to not say every sentence that comes into my head, to be respectable and respectful, polite and politic, hidden but not hiding. It's hard to explain, but you all know what I mean.

Several things mitigate this, though. Firstly, most importantly: I enjoy the work. I do. As a student attached to a lawyer who is himself a trainee, it's not like I get particularly vital tasks to do, but when bits of paper land on my desk, usually, I can do it. I've been asked to copy-edit things, to draft things, to summarise and neaten things, and, well, while none of these are particularly important in themselves, I see them outlining the shape of the greater objective. I'm a great believer in good writing, as no one in the world can fail to know at this point, but of two types: of the literary type, the type I look for when I read and write fiction, where the object is the art of it, so you catch your breath at it; and of the everyday, prosaic type that is just prose beautiful in its very effectiveness, so it may only be a notice or an article or a note to a friend, but it serves its purpose absolutely and perfectly without a single word out of place.

Working for a law firm, there is a lot of the second type. Litigation happens when there is a word out of place. So I find myself drafting things and using two sets of instincts at once - the ones that say does this scan right? and is this perfectly understandable? and what are the connotations denoted by this and that adjective?, the ones I use every time I put words down, in other words; but also the ones I use when trying to do philosophy, the ones that pop up at the back of my head and say things like there's a hole in that and there's scope for ambiguity there and why hello there vicious circularity my old friend.

Which is all a lengthy ramble in order to say, yes, I can do this. Not now, maybe, but this is work that would suit my brain, eventually. My being intimidated by the whole thing has far more to with the environment - grown-up work! grown-up clothes! not sure what's going on! etc. - than the nature of the work. And this is a useful thing to have learned in these two weeks. We shall see.

(In the meantime, I am amused to note that my usual trick of absorbing other people's writing styles persists onwards. I'm pretty sure my prose isn't usually this carefully punctuated or legalistic.)

The other significant mitigating factor is the fact that the trainee who's looking after me is frighteningly similar to me in personality. A few days ago, he asked me if I was going to a social evening being put on for the vacation students, and I said, "Um... I'm not sure... I don't like..."

He lit up visibly and said, "Oh, thank god, if you don't want to go I don't have to go either!" and disappeared grinning. He has also discovered that I am having quiet fits over my Finals, and has taken to telling me to go and research X, Y, or Z in the library, when we are both safe in the knowledge that X, Y, and Z don't exist, and what he really means is go and hide in a corner for an hour and read about philosophy of mind.

This suits me fine, naturally. It's a nice enough place. I just am frightened about Finals, and a little lost in a new place, and I'm living in an equally nice enough student room at LSE, which would be just fine if it weren't for the fact the people across the landing keep having domestic disputes in angry Polish, the couple next door either fight a lot or have lots of vigorous sex, I'm not entirely sure (there is much thumping) and just outside the window the council are digging up the road. I haven't been getting much sleep.

Which is one of the reasons I was so very glad to leave London. [livejournal.com profile] shimgray was visiting for a couple of days, and then we went back to Oxford on Friday night - I was exhausted and sleep-deprived; he was snuffling and sounding vaguely consumptive - and fell into bed and slept for twelve hours. It was a joy. And then we spent Saturday buying food - I cooked real food for the first time in months! With vegetables and fresh chillies and forethought! - sleeping, reading philosophy of mind (well, I did that; specifically, the functionalist wars over liberal ascription of mentality, which is one of my favourite parts of philosophy on the threefold grounds that it is incredibly interesting, analytically rigorous and sounds to the uninitiated like a one-way trip to dried-frog-pill-land) and finally, in the evening, watching Doctor Who with [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong (my ex-wife is back from Forn Parts! hurrah, hurrah!), [livejournal.com profile] zed92uk, [livejournal.com profile] slasheuse and [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata.

Partners In Crime )

And, so, yes. Today, [livejournal.com profile] shimgray came running in and said, "Iona, you have to see this, you won't believe me if I tell you."

I followed him to the window, looked out, looked at him, looked out the window again, started to laugh. A sparkling blue day, a bright-lit intensity to the grass, the sky, and on the roofs and trees and garden, a thick coat of snow. Snow. On April 6th, two weeks after Easter, snow. I rang [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong and said, in the voice of one profound and undone, "Laura, it's snowing."

To which her very understandable response was, "Are you just getting up now and realising this?"

Two o'clock, oh dear. I walked back into the city mid-afternoon and watched the snow flurry off branches with the sun sparkling through, piles of it dripping softly into the river by Folly Bridge, people laughing and chucking it at each other at Christ Church. Today was the last day of the literary festival, but it looked like they were just playing in the snow. I went to Wadham, dodged the melting snow-creatures on the lawns, and spent the next five-and-a-half hours on in one of [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong's armchairs, reading about psychofunctionalism and drinking peppermint tea, because there are, even now, quiet constants in my life.

It's taken me about an hour to write this, with pauses to look out the window at the landscape whipping past, and there was snow left behind at first, showing through the grass in frozen lines, but this is the beginning of London, just about, and it's gone. And, well. I know Oxford by this time; I know it's beautiful in all lights and moods, but I stepped back on Friday night and it slipped back into place as the background to my life, without fanfare. I'm tired of being up north and down south, I'm tired of travelling, I'm tired of missing my own life; I'm ready to go home. I will be back on Saturday, and then my life gets uncomplicated again. Just Finals, and people who are also finalists, and the rhythm of work and sleep and occasional fresh air and blue sky, and Oxford. It's comforting. As well as the beauty of it, walking through snow, there's another layer beneath; I'm tired, I'm a little ill, I have had a weekend in which I have been quietly, uncomplicatedly happy, and it's still there, like a scent that lingers in your hair.
raven: text: "There's a full and very reasonable explanation that mostly does not involve me being drunk" (sbp - me being drunk)
I woke up this morning with a feeling of impending doom. I find it very hard to articulate my feelings of impending doom; they tend to correlate with grey, thick, raw weather, the freezing-cold equivalent of humidity, the ones that hurt your head. And I was pretty sure that, as they say in the glorious suburbs of Liverpool, that something was about to kick off.

The funny thing was, I had the kind of night last night that involved my going to bed at five in the morning, and it was truly delightful. I got through everything on the dreadful to-do list save going to the lecure on the Cold War - I laugh at the Cold War! - and Maria's birthday dinner was just utterly lovely. Two weeks ago [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong was cooking dinner whilst I read my email (yes, yes, we are co-dependent) and she happened to mention giantmicrobes.com, a company devoted to the production of fluffy plush micro-organisms ("1,000,000 times actual size!"). Best thing ever, I swear. I spent a very happy afternoon looking through the various scourges looking for something Maria would like, and eventually settled on Helicobacter pylori (which is incredibly fun to say), E. coli, and HIV. They arrived two days ago, and they are quite possibly the best things in the universe. E. coli has cute little flagellae, H. pylori is yellow and mutely appealing and people seem divided about whether HIV is cute or demonic. I personally plump for the former. But, yes, we went for Thai food and gave them to her afterwards, and Maria was very, very happy. I have never seen anyone so happy to be faced with giant prokaryotes. I love Maria a lot. We also got her a book about knitting, a book about philosophy and a book about murder, and a lot of wool. (I currently live in fear of waking up in the morning to find civilisation as we know it has ended, because Maria has knitted it into a nice scarf.)

And after that we went to Moya, which, as I have said before, is possibly the only Slovakian cocktail bar in the world outside of Slovakia (my personal favourite aspect of the place is the corridor that leads up to the loos is lined with posters encouraging you to visit Bratislava) where I drank a strawberry daquiri the size of my head and proceeded to consciously not fall off my chair and to talk about aesthetics and films and the forty-something base sounds of the Devanagari script and melon liqueur and pie. And [livejournal.com profile] sebastienne is made of greatness. I have a blurry memory of maybe possibly perhaps teaching her to say "hippopotamus fucker" in Hindi and still not falling off my chair. Following which, there was cake, and Angels In America, and because it was Maria's twenty-first birthday and we are all grown-ups, we filled condoms with water and threw them out the window. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

(Yes, I am quite drunk right now, why do you ask?)

So as for why I woke up this morning afternoon with a feeling of impending doom, I'm not exactly sure. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the atmosphere in and around the flat, and indicators I could feel of one or another of my flatmates hauling off and killing another one. And walking around the city today did not help; this morning I realised I was out of toothpaste, shower gel, shampoo and indeed clean clothes, and whilst I could quite happily go to Boots and buy more of three of those things, it seemed a little unwise, because I'm pretty sure I was giving off the impression that I'd just today discovered the institution of cleanliness. Which is really, really not true. Really.

But oddly enough, my day improved greatly. I didn't want to have a party tonight, I really didn't. I didn't realise that my flatmates and I are amazing people who had cleaned the place and got in sweets and crisps and alcohol and done new playlists and basically done everything you need to do for a party except, y'know, inviting people. So, well, not a lot of people came. (I think a lot of people we might have invited were at Queer Bop, anyway.) And those who did come got drunk and ate lots and [livejournal.com profile] foulds and [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata and I sat in a corner and talked about knitting and giant microbes and various other things all night. Eventually [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong appeared, post-Queer-Bop, wearing a rainbow flag and not a lot else, and I had ended up on Maria's bed sleepily drinking elderflower-flavoured-vodka, and there was knitting going on, so we sort of reached that sort of three-in-the-morning mellow place of joy and love.

Sigh. Yes, I am still filled with love. After I'd finished complaining about it always being three in the morning - it is always the small hours of the morning, nowadays - [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata jumped up and decided home was in order, so I went downstairs with her and nearly froze to death - it's below zero, and I was barefoot - but it was absolutely worth it, because somehow or other we got to have a discussion I wanted to have with someone, about why I am still racked with guilt about the way I am now, about being "other" (more about which in the morning, when I am not drunk and thus have a greater chance of being coherent) and it was fruitful and sensible and worth my feet freezing off. I got back to my room to find lovely people to warm my feet up and make me watch Doctor Who. Time Crash )

Oh, will you look at that, it's five in the morning. Huh. Maybe, possibly, it is time to go to bed. I do babble. Er. One thing my flatmates are perhaps not great at is doing washing-up. Neither am I, really. Cue lots of notes left to each other, stuck above the sink, saying things like "Do the washing-up! Like, now! Love, the Washing-Up Nazi", with swastikas. It is crude but effective.

Yesterday we cleared the back-log. The sink was empty, so was the draining-board. The cupboards were full of fresh, clean kitchenware. Cue this appearing, like magic, above the sink:

are you sensing a theme here? I'm sensing a theme )

It made me very happy.

And now the wind is howling, it took me five tries to get my password right, time for bed.
raven: Geoffrey Tennant making sweeping hand gesture; reflected in glass behind him (s&a - blue)
On the train to London yesterday, an announcement entirely bereft of context: "Could a Mr. Paisley, seated in Coach J, please return to the toilets and collect his discarded underwear and heels."

Clearly, I live in a city of transvestite lunatics.

That was possibly the sole high point of the journey, which began auspiciously with me attempting to pick up my train tickets and being informed that I'd got a ticket from Liverpool to Oxford and another ticket, also from Liverpool to Oxford. I couldn't have done that, I argued, that would've been stupid, and as the time ticked by and I wasn't any closer to getting it sorted out, I got steadily more and more panicky and Scouse until they relented. For the rest of the journey, I had no ticket but a large piece of paper with "The Holder Is Specially Authorised To Travel" on it, which possibly made me far too happy. And the fact I get Scouse in times of stress got thoroughly mocked later on, when [livejournal.com profile] me_ves_y_sufres and [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong pointed out that I can't say the word "work" any other way. (It has an in-built whine, "weeeeeeeeeerrrk!", as in "do not want".)

Anyway, where was I? Going down to Oxford via London, which makes no sense but was what I was doomed to do. I got stuck on the Underground at Paddington and then on the world's slowest slow train and arrived in Oxford in a mood of not-very-good. Which, it must be said, dissipated, because, y'know, Oxford. I was being very indecisive about going, initially, and was keeping my mum company and thinking out loud: talking about how it's very quiet up here, and my friends are elswhere and my family always absent, and my job is unpredictable, and I'm getting introverted beyond what's normal even for me, and jumping at loud noises, and when I was done talking she looked at me warily and said, "I think you should go."

So I went. And it was a sleepy, humid afternoon, with not many tourists and less students, and I popped into Balliol to get my post and marvel at the stillness and the wealth of flowers. And it was all so lovely, and I was walking past the Bodleian when someone on a bike screeched to a halt in the middle of the road and yelled, "What the hell are you doing here?"

Maria! I love Maria so much. We had a breathless catching-up right there in the road and I moaned about the north and she moaned about her surpervisor and we ended up chatting for ages about nothing in particular, and I really have missed the joy of human company. In the end I dragged myself away and popped up to see [livejournal.com profile] narahttbbs, who now has a thesis sufficiently weighty to hit people with, and it was lovely to see her, too. As is usual, we got breathlessly fannish and she tried to convince me that the key relationship in The X-Files is Skinner/Scully. Some bad puns about pine trees later, I was duly scraped off the floor.

I also had coffee with [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata, and it was lovely to see her too. It was lovely to see everyone - I washed up in the King's Arms to meet the army of people celebrating [livejournal.com profile] foulds' birthday and was squealed at and fed Pimm's and generally bathed in loveliness. [livejournal.com profile] foulds pointed out that he was deliberately celebrating his birthday among people who squee, and he was quite right. We were wandering past Balliol and I was trying to explain to [livejournal.com profile] absinthe_shadow what Slings & Arrows is about - I'd got as far as "A Canadian Shakespeare festival where a guy goes crazy mid-performance of Hamlet..." - when I remembered that [livejournal.com profile] absinthe_shadow can make squeeing noises that are actually only audible to bats, being several megahertz beyond the range of human hearing.

I don't object to this. It was a very useful tool when she and I were happily trying to get everyone to sign up the Altered Mental States Ficathon ([livejournal.com profile] hawkfromhandsaw! if you haven't signed up, why not?). For some reason about which I'm not clear, [livejournal.com profile] foulds later proposed marriage to her in a crowded restaurant, to applause from the assembled party and bemusement from everyone else around. Other snippets I remember from dinner include someone telling me at great length about penis-shaped cakes with chocolate filling, and resultant childhood misconceptions, and also, in the second time in as many weeks, someone casually referred to me as a BNF in conversation.

In which case, I give up, I am a BNF, I oppress you all with my repressive-oppressive ways, please to be worshipping me now kthxbai.

In short, it was a lovely evening, and it dawned on me later that one of the reasons to love a city as much as I love Oxford is when it's one of the few places - maybe the only place - in the whole world - where I can turn up one afternoon without warning and know I won't be lost or homeless, that people love me enough to make sure I won't be on the street. Not a very profound observation, but important to note. Which is how I ended up at the new domicile of [livejournal.com profile] withiel and [livejournal.com profile] me_ves_y_sufres (replacing the Pit and now inevitably being known as Pitt the Younger), watching the last episode of Life On Mars.

about that )

I woke up this morning and had a brief moment of where the hell am I? (answer - on a living-room floor in East Oxford, nothing to worry about) and was fed coffee and generally became human again before trekking back up north. Which took hours, and was wet and sleepy and humid all the way up, and it was almost half five by the time I ambled in to find my father unashamedly pilfering my West Wing DVDs. We ended up sitting and watching most of season one, so I think I may win at life when it comes to being utterly unproductive for three straight days, but still. I'm very glad I went.

Tomorrow, I'm planning to embroil myself in LSAT tests again. Whoop. And try and write the two ficathon fics I really need to write, and try not to just sit watching due South all day, as that seems to be becoming a more and more attractive possibility, and also makes me want to move to Canada. Sigh.

Also, someone needs to write a Slings & Arrows fic about what the BBC thought of Geoffrey's six-am-post-breakdown radio interview. Because if no one does it for me, I will, and then I'll end up not writing stories for either of my own ficathons, and that would just be fail.
raven: (misc - thine own self)
So, I woke up this morning with an unappealing and vaguely aromatic mixture of wine, woodsmoke, chapel dust and mud in my hair. I washed it out - and proceeded to get drenched in an unexpected rainstorm - but I feel lots better now. And I love OULES, both people and concept, and mostly, love everybody, and am also suddenly aware that my journal has most likely been incomprehensible to out-of-Oxford people for a while now.

OULES is the Oxford University Light Entertainment Society. Its defining characteristic is the fact it's lots of fun. Unlike most Oxford thesping, which tends to be serious, overwrought and for people with, um, talent (which isn't to say there aren't lots of talented people in OULES, but does explain why I'm involved). I've been to several cast parties - last term I was presented with one of the flamingoes from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, despite not having been in the play - and at the end of Hilary Maria came to visit me one evening to tell me about her research project for this term. After two years as an overworked medic, she said, she was going to have a quite a bit more free time, and it was time to do something fun and extracurricular.

"OULES," I said blithely, and accordingly she and I and [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong presented ourselves at the auditions at the start of this term.

I'm aware that there is an explanatory gap between this and, er, red wine and mud stuck to my head, but, well. The play, yes! The play, which was on three nights this week in various locations - sometimes various locations within the same performance - was a product of the pleasantly twisted comic stylings of [livejournal.com profile] darwinian_woman (I quote directly from the programme here) and was called Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Inanimate Body, and it was, of course, marvellous. The plot features a murder at a manor house in the English countryside, Holmes, Watson and Oscar Wilde, a butler called Fetish, a Narrator (who has a secret identity), various domestic staff, silly jokes and and ridiculous goings-on.

I was the corpse. Well, initially, I wasn't; I was supposed to be one of the bebusbied guards of Buckingham Palace, but in a rehearsal taking place sans the original corpse, it was discovered that I was probably the lightest member of the assembled company. And one might wonder why this is a relevant fact, but, um, it was. Holmes does a reconstruction of the murder in the middle of the play - a play within a play - and, according to the script, "any residual good taste should be expelled from the scene at this point – from now on, this needs to be utterly sick."

Cue several increasingly-bizarre rehearsals where I was carried on stage, dropped, animated from behind (as it were), and hit, punched, slapped and kicked. Except, of course, not, and much as I have complained about [livejournal.com profile] foulds' abuse of me, he did it all very well and only actually hit me once. (This was the second performance, which we were doing in the chapel because of rain and it wasn't until too late that I realised that I was going to have be knocked onto a stone floor. Ouch.)

I was, of course, having to screw my eyes shut and take a lot of deep breaths throughout to try and stop myself from laughing (cue heckling, "The corpse is corpsing!") and I just about managed it during the ordinary run of things, but it was the ad libs that got to me. On the first night, I initially got placed too far away from the audience, and there's a scene where Watson gave me a push and I, well-trained, rolled over; however, that night, they didn't stop rolling, happily ad libbing - "A well-rolled corpse yields more clues!" / "Gadzooks! We didn't see that the third time we rolled her over!" - and I just... argh. I was face down, but people tell me that they could see me shaking with giggles.

By the third performance, I thought we were getting quite good at it. So there I was, cloaked during the interval (I had to hide under it while the audience filed into the gardens; it was curiously relaxing, lying on the grass listening to people talk about me), when suddenly - trouble. Matt, whose job it was to animate me and indeed, carry me on and off, was AWOL. Cue panic. Some brief consultation led to the decision that [livejournal.com profile] osymandias learn all the lines in ten minutes and step in. And he was utterly marvellous - people later professed to having no idea that he'd been substituted in, and the only bits he read from the script were in the play-within-the-play, which was thematically appropriate - but we had a hiccup at the point where I get carried off.

Oh, they tried. They tried. Alas, I got dropped on my head. Oh dear. I wish I'd seen it. I also wish I'd got a record of the moment where [livejournal.com profile] foulds came up to me backstage (i.e., under a tree), in cape and deerstalker, and said, "I'm sorry. Just for... everything."

I still think it was a wonderful role to play, because, well, I can't act. I have no thespian, artistic or creative talent whatsoever; playing dead is clearly my forte. Argh, it was so much fun. And afterwards, fun was had at the cast party, which was something of a farce - after wandering around Oxford for about an hour looking for a venue for dozens of people to have a party at the last minute, we ended up on Port Meadow at midnight, with the Flosscar ceremony happening around a hastily constructed fire. Despite the fact it was wet and muddy and ridiculous o'clock, it was actually idyllic. It wasn't raining, it was lightly warm and the sky was not dark but a curious grey-purple colour, and you could see people as dim impressions of themselves, which led to glorious reunions every few minutes ("Oh, it's you!"), and the fire was deliciously warm if very smoky, and, watching the sparks fly off into the night sky, I got to use the line "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards" to groans from all present.

And also, I was drunk. Looking back, yesterday I ate two slices of bread with honey, some brie, some grapes, chocolate fingers and an apple. No wonder I got so thoroughly inebriated very quickly, and correspondingly maudlin. In an attempt to cheer me up, someone - I'm not sure who, but would like to be reminded - suggested that [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong and I, as new OULES, be cocktailed. Cocktailing is a ritual that I have only recently discovered the existence of, and did I mention I was really drunk? Cocktailing requires you to be adopted, and [livejournal.com profile] darwinian_woman and [livejournal.com profile] foulds stepped up the plate to be mine and Laura's new OULES parents. And so. I got on the ground in the mud, looking up into the still curiously livid sky, aware of the fact I was lying on Port Meadow at two in the morning, and [livejournal.com profile] foulds said, "It'll all be over in a minute..."

It's quite interesting, having red wine tipped on your head in the dark. Some of it got in my mouth, but more of it into my hair and eyes. And it was at this point that someone pointed out the familiarity of a scenario in which I'm on the floor and [livejournal.com profile] foulds gets to abuse me. (This would be the third such context this week - corpsing, cocktailing, and an unrelated performance mnenomic on Christ Church Meadow where he hit me with a baguette.)

There is now a ridiculous quantity of photographic evidence of him abusing me. The thing is, though, I'm going to miss it. I'm going to miss all of this. I leave Oxford tomorrow, before Doctor Who, and I won't be back until September at the earliest. But oh, it was so much fun and I'm going to miss everyone so much.

About two weeks ago, my Mind tutor was trying to get me to talk intelligently about externalist theories of mind. We'd got onto proper names, and how there's a difference between an externalist rendering of my name by someone who's met me, who knows the individual in the world which my name refers to, and the people at the passport office, who have my name as a convenient label.

"What about fictional characters?" I asked. "Are they all like the second case?"

He thought about that, and finally said that no, perhaps the author knows the character in the same way as we know real people, and that Conan Doyle perhaps knew Sherlock Holmes in that way when no one else did. "Although," he said, "there's a spectrum of canonical knowledge here - for example, I believe some people write Sherlock Holmes pastiches..."

I corpsed.

Yesterday morning, I had my Tutors' Handshaking, and my Mind tutor has sent me a lovely, lovely report, which finishes, "She maintained a splendid standard despite, perhaps, the calls of student drama..."

Trying to think about OULES and "student drama" in the same sentence is, perhaps, more than my cognitive function is quite capable of; Sky tried to convince me that what I really wanted to do now was get involved in, or get OULES involved in, "real" drama - but I maintain he's missing the point. I don't quite know what the point is, but I think it's something to do with lying on Port Meadow in the middle of the night, safe in the warmth and mud and wine.

It's time to go.

October 2017

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