Personal, Rants, Reviews

Lame Fresher Diaries: Pole Dancing

It’s been a weird month for pole dancing: A week or so ago it emerged that Swansea University banned its Pole Dance Society from running any longer, claiming that it validated a career in sex work; furthermore, I have decided to master the art.

To expand upon the former: in a bid to eradicate sexist attitudes towards it, the University of Swansea’s decision to ban the Pole Dance Society, to me, seems utterly ridiculous. In banning the society, surely, the University have applied a negative connotation to pole dancing which will, now, inevitably filter through and damage people’s perspectives of the art form. Hence, the University could arguably create a sexist attitude which, perhaps, didn’t even exist initially. Furthermore, a more common name for the activity is “pole fitness”; is not the notion of banning something design to improve your core strength and physical well-being by using your body to make weird, wonderful, often muscle-pulling shapes totally ridiculous? It’s like banning gymnastics.

And the latter: as a bit of a feministy, wannabe eccentric with an enthusiastic Fresher Complex, it seemed apt to try it after the Swansea controversy. And at £2.50 for a taster which included a sure fire way to transform my body into a graceful, mysterious piece of empowering artwork (which is so far removed from the amateurish swinging on a greasy pole in a club with your knickers on show), I was well up for it.

So there we were, a merry band of woman adventurers dressed to impress in slobby gym wear and our sights set on throwing some epic pole shapes and bent on oozing some kind of sexy, freedom-fighting, self-owning, strong woman warrior kind of vibe thing – especially since some of my peers had attempted to chastise me for wanting to try it. They deemed it “unclassy”, “slutty” and intrinsically linked to sex work, to which I retorted “It’s pole FITNESS, and my body is UNATTAINABLE and BENDY” and promptly flounced off.

The studio, Twisted Pole, turned out to be very well hidden about four floors up in a sort of apartment block, which, admittedly, did kind of add to the sense that it was a slightly illicit and transgressive undertaking. Upshot: it was bloody exciting!

We arrived at the studio already quite red faced, sweating and heaving from clambering up about 500 or so spiralling stairs in heavy winter boots and found a fairly busy hive of activity in the studio itself. For someone like me – a total stranger to dance, lacking grace and the ability to move in time to music – being in a studio in the initial quarter of an hour was a fairly alien experience, particularly when confronted with a wall of mirrors depicting mercilessly the extent to which my bits of skin were bursting out of my skimpy pole shorts, but after growing accustomed to the unshakable presence of my flab it was a pretty relaxed environment. The instructor and experienced members of the society began to demonstrate some moves and we were all absolutely ASTOUNDED by how strong they all were being able to support themselves and sustain such complex, beautiful and awe inspiring routines, all on something so insubstantial as a rod of metal. On watching them, I found you quite forgot the pole and all the connotations imposed on it by the patriarchy, and just took in the art unfolding before your eyes – not to mention the burning desire to replicate the shapes yourself.

As it turns out, after an hour of launching myself at a rod of metal – and discovering I have no upper body strength and turning my inner thighs bright pink through vain attempts to grip – pole dancing is hard, man. Really hard. In fact, far from the sexy, empowered, you-don’t-own-me-bro image I was going for, I have never felt less sexy. The number of bruises I acquired is phenomenal, as were the aching I felt in various muscles the next morning. However, this did prove that pole dancing is an excellent and social way to tone. Plus, when I finally mastered the ‘fireman’ and the ‘sundial’, the sense of satisfaction and achievement was basically unparalleled.

Rather than being some kind of really serious, controversial, topical activity, it was just a huge laugh for all of us, and ignited a wave of determination within me to work at it until I am an impressive, amazing, watchable pole dancer. Watch this space.

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Personal, Reviews

Lame Fresher Diaries: Craft Club @ Lakeside Arts Centre

It’s the end of the third week and, erratic eating habits aside, I’ve sort of unearthed the rhythm to uni life. Getting to all the important places (Library, Mooch, every food outlet, pool to swim off the post-cake guilt infestation) is absolute child’s play to this lame week-three fresher, so it’s time I started getting properly involved/stuck in/fingers in pies. Not curled up under my quilt, trying to master Middle English and spooning most of a Nutella jar into my gob at 1am.

So, when Alice revealed free tickets to craft club with the potential for contributing an informal web article about the experience, I opted in so that a) I would finally stop putting off writing, b) it was free c) there is a cafe at Lakeside Arts Centre. A remarkable cafe, I hasten to add, boasting a wealth of exquisite scrumptiousness – including the biggest, most current-packed scones conceivable.

fabric

Although name of the event evoked the image of dozens of unruly youngsters scampering around minimal floor space smothered in glitter and glue, we were assured that adults regularly attend this event and have a jolly good time of it. The subtext of this was in fact that the adults who come along are parents, and are accompanied by their actual children. Register signing was hence pretty surreal, since it requested we write the name of our son/daughter next to our own. Having only just entered the world of adulthood, we were all of a sudden back in that awkward age category which doesn’t quite fit the context in which it suddenly finds itself.

After pausing to take in the bizarre yet idyllic scene of serene, completely adorable parent/child harmony unfolding before our eyes, we headed over to the gallimaufry of various materials to scout the best fabrics and well and truly stuck in. As it happens, arts and crafts are still just as totally rad and awesome as when you were about seven. Setting the bar pretty high, we become utterly absorbed in fashioning an owl door stop out of various scraps of fabric. Here are the fruits of our labour:

owls

(from left to right) My owl, Hector, and Alice’s, as yet un-named

Not especially owl-y, as you can see. Much less an effective doorstop; poor fabric choice/puny size made our owls ill equipped to wedge open a stonking great door – we gave up on that notion fairly quickly, stuffed them with cotton wool and labelled them desk mascots.

The making process, aside from proving that I am just as unable to handle a needle and thread as I was in KS4 textiles, was actually pretty therapeutic. Absorption in the in the making process alongside casual chitchat and some rather delicious tomato soup made for a totally chilled out, friendly atmosphere. The craft guru who was running the activity was an absolute saint, advising me on various types of stitching and assuring me that that Hector, contrary to my despairing opinion, was a fine specimen of an owl.

It was as if some sort of unwritten social law was in place: if you are sat in a room employed in a crafty activity and a complete stranger is doing likewise, whimsical conversation is entirely acceptable and not even awkward at all. It was so refreshing to share easy conversation with people I otherwise would never have encountered, and to be doing something that was totally alien from my degree – it was lovely to feel as though I was doing something worthwhile productive and, yet there was no pressure on me for it to be exactly right, and I didn’t have to cite the designer and distributor of the fabric I was using.

All in all, a highly chilled and pleasant experience. I have jested, but I really don’t think I could have anything better to do on a Saturday morning. And mark my words about the scones – there are raisins in there the size of your fist. It’s got to be seen to be believed.

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Personal

I am the world’s most uncool fresher.

It’s no excuse, but I really have been a little rushed off my feet of late, resulting in the, albeit temporary, abandonment of my shitty blog . I made the stupid mistake of signing up to an impossible number of societies and now am faced with the heart breaking decision as to which I should commit to, which not.

It’s amazing how quickly we’ve all adapted to brand new situations; we’ve all taken to lightheartedly joking that it feels like we were born here in Nottingham and, rather prematurely, planning the washing up rota for next year when we all move in together.

I myself have a very active and fulfilling study life. The library has become a sort of second home. For me the appeal is studying at night when all’s quiet, save the hypnotic, mechanical whirring of the multitude of printers, computers, coffee machines. It’s literally the most perfect environment for total focus almost effortless productivity, as long as you don’t succumb to the the typical flagship procrastination sites: Tickld, Facebook, YouTube to name but an obvious few.

The hues and undulations of the campus downs are the new focal point of my existence, and I find myself totally and seamlessly absorbed into Nottingham life. And it’s fucking fab.

Greatest achievements so far: joining the women’s network, making a failed doorstop owl, discovering chocomilk is in fact better than hot chocolate and not missing a single breakfast time.

#safe

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