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Lame Fresher Diaries: 10 things to do now first year is over

Alas, this is my final post exploring my life as a particularly boring student. As always, the year’s gone by faster than we could have imagined, but what a year it’s been! The year of Ocean Fridays, of the £5.10 mealcard, of glandular fever, of the £1 bus fare, of short term book loans, of never using the tram. This year I have established an open relationship with Hallward Library, paraded around campus with blue hair then shrivelled with despair as each new day brought a more minging shade of green, looked on in horror as six hours of work per day in the first term dwindled to six minutes in the third, and managed to attend classical concerts more times than I have attended Rock City. Needless to say, we’ve definitely all earned a break before shit gets absolutely real next year, so here are ten things to do to unwind and prepare for second year.

1) Go to a festival. This is a definitive essential for every student summer. Fake flower headbands and tie dye tees you’ll never wear again are strictly non optional

2) Start writing your novel. It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone has a story in there somewhere. Plus, this’ll definitely keep you occupied when the annual British monsoon puts all outdoor activities on hold for about a month.

3) Learn 5 basic recipes. This will guarantee you and your housemates gourmet cuisine until you all give up on cooking after about a week.

4) Take up a musical instrument with plans to start a douchey band on returning to uni. Nail about six chords on guitar and you can literally play any song in the known universe. Especially Wonderwall. 

5) Interrail. It’s always more expensive than you think it’s going to be but at least you can say you’ve been to a lot of countries.

6) Send a mass email to every family member/family friend who is likely to ask you how you found first year – it’ll save you a lot of time at family barbecues.

7) Get to know Aldi; unspecified German delicacies may be all we can afford next year.

8) Read a really really long book – I’m going for Clarissa. At 1,534 pages, it’s a great excuse to lay in the sun all day while you take on one of the heftiest classics.

9) Invest in some suncream because sometimes the sun comes out in Britain and when it does you should enjoy it responsibly

10) Work out what your ‘summer jam’ is going to be – useful for da club and car journeys.

Thanks to everyone who’s been reading this year and have a great summer!

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Personal, Rants

All Made Up: Why we shouldn’t apologise for a love affair with cosmetics

Leaving home/not having to live my life under the strict, identity-crushing jurisdiction of a rural Lincolnshire grammar school has left a whole new appearance-enhancing door ajar for me. Waking up in the morning with a pre-lecture regime entirely at my own disposal has given me leave to step gingerly through this shining portal of cosmetic discovery and go fucking nuts with black eyeliner. An undertaking which has probably given me the need to have a quick sit down to readjust/palpitate more than anyone else.

I feel, personally, as if I had the notion of wearing make-up beaten out of me before I reached an age to really fall in love with wearing it. One of the principle institutions I’ve held accountable for my early-teen perception of make-up as a shitty, shitty thing is (surprise surprise) my secondary school. Although quite a few of us got away with the odd little squiggle of token eyeliner, there was pretty much a zero tolerance policy on all students wearing make-up, which lead to a fair number of grumbling, blazered adolescents being hauled from assembly and marched to the toilets to remove the products accumulated on their visages. The question of make up at school is a difficult one; of course I can see that one’s appearance should not take precedence over one’s principle purpose for plonking oneself down at a desk at nine of a morning – that is, to learn. However, much like the recent dispute over the banning of pole dancing societies at uni, placing restrictions, or totally banning, the casual use of cosmetics is synonymous with a decision being made for a person with the intention of protecting them/the image of the educational institution. However, the bans are also responsible for the increasing preconceived negativity towards the forbidden thing and unjustly demonising or undermining those who take innocent pleasure in it.

For me, it’s all about the fear surrounding the choice to emphasise of physical features an attributes of an individual within the everyday. If a woman, or man, elects to enhance his or her features with a dab of foundation, a common assumption made by the outsider looking in is that the person has done so to sexualise or objectify themselves – image becomes paramount, and attracting a partner a priority. I think the notion that a person may use make up as an extension, a suggestion or a celebration of their sexuality (although, quite often, this isn’t the only or principle case) is unsettling to a society which frequently subscribes to a conservative outlook with a tendency to chastise those who wish to appear desirable, particularly (as ever) in women. Perhaps, like the way removing pole dancing magically removed all sexist attitudes towards women, removing make-up will remove trivialisation, the risk of being targeted sexually as a desirable human being and eradicate potential deviations from study. Outrageously, as we all know, magazines, newspapers, even ourselves in our everyday lives, are just quick to slate someone for lacking make up; those who dare to age, to have blemished skin, to lose sleep also face the wrath of their peers and the media for failing adhere to unreachable standards of beauty. We’re meant to look flawless, yet to use make up to achieve the look we want in order to feel confident is a cheat and a fail.

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I also think the vocabulary we use when referring to make up is pretty damaging and reinforces negative attitudes. I’ve witnessed people frequently judge women by how much “slap” they have on their face, an informal term which carries with it connotations of pain, malice and punishment. In opposition to the “natural” look which I’ve found is praised and basically universally strived for, bronzing your cheeks or choosing a vibrant red lipstick is “fake”, less than human, undermines your identity. There’s even a brand of make up called “Fake Bake”, a name which I’m not quite sure I get; is it satire or inspiring a tut-tutting as people walk past the cosmetics in Debenhams, in a sense condoning the derogatory labels awarded to it? Regarding attitudes to men and make up I don’t have much experience at all; it’d be interesting to learn about the experiences of men who wear it and whether they face similar discriminations to women.

It pains me to think that a younger version of myself subscribed to the belief that the use of make up equated the projection of a “fake” image, and that those who took pride in their appearance lacked substance, even brains. Now, make up gives me confidence, a way to express myself (I wear B I G eyeliner flicks if I’m feeling particularly determined, for instance). When I’m down, it lifts me up; if I feel someone’s gaze drawn briefly to a splash of bright eyeshadow it feels bloomin’ cool – I’m all like “yeah, I do exist, I am worth noticing, my face has colours on it and it looks suave and YOU SAW THAT.” It’s also my most frequent form of procrastination – when my brain is being slowly fried by constant reading and I find all the words on the page are merging into utter gibberish, twenty minutes on my face is refreshing and motivating, particularly when catching sight of myself in the mirror doesn’t reveal a spotty, exasperated face. I see the kind of face I want to, one that’s interesting, fresh, young and intelligent – applying make up is something fantastically easy I can do to make peace with myself, as well as feel really great. It makes me happy. And if it makes me happy, it makes millions of people happy, so I don’t really see how you could justify hating on people who use it to feel its uplifting effects and a renewed sense of self worth every day.

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Personal

Lame Fresher Diaries: Blue Hair

To my mind, a quintessential part of being a fresher is to have a bit of a fiddle around with your identity. It’s a bit like being high on independence – an entire age group countrywide totally belly-flopping into the alien world of making their own pasta daily and operating the iron solo – they literally have not a single domestic higher authority to tell them when to change their socks and it’s enough to make anyone lose a proportion of their shit.

Severing childhood ties with home and parents and asserting yourself as grown up in the world of adults seems to inspire a wish not for total reinvention as such, but for something which illustrates a change in life situation, be it a risky/loud/outrageous item of clothing, an idiosyncratic body piercing or putting a silly colour in your hair that your secondary school wouldn’t allow you to have. For my own personal dynamic transgression, I opted for the latter.

Lame as I am, it will come as no surprise that having blue put in my hair was a highly exhilarating yet deeply frightening experience; after getting all gowned up in the salon and making it VERY CLEAR that I wanted the extent of visible blue to be AS SUBTLE AS POSSIBLE, all that was flashing before me were the cons of the experience. The potential for an horrific reaction to the chemical being lacquered onto my barnet. The various judgements of my peers. The possibility of hindered employment prospects. Looking like a twat. So, sweeping the “women’s interest” magazines boldly aside and fishing out my copy of The Tempest, all I could do was was wait for the dye to seep into my bleached hair.

Reader, I strode out of the salon a new woman. Aside from lamenting the fact I hadn’t worn my Docs to add to the edge, I felt confident in the blueness of my hair – catching sight of it in shop windows on my way to Wilkinson’s to pick up some shampoo for coloured hair WHICH I CAN NOW DO FOR REAL BECAUSE I NEED IT was seriously elating, and I even noticed a couple of fellow pedestrians’ gaze being caught by the shock of blueish strands amongst my everyday brunette. Or they could have been staring at my remarkable, freshly dyed blue ears.

A few weeks later and yes, it *has* gone a bit shitty and green. But do I regret it? Do I hell. It’s encouraged a social interaction (ie “Your hair is blue, it wasn’t blue before”), livened up my otherwise fairly Micky Flanagan hairstyle and, since a vast proportion of my wardrobe is blue, co-ordinated with quite a few outfits along the way. All in all, having blue hair has been rather enriching. And also very much enhanced the hue of several of my paler items of clothing… #semipermenantproblems

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Personal

‘Mother is a figure of speech…’

The title of this post is from Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve – the full quotation runs:
“Mother is a figure of speech and has returned to a cave beyond consciousness”
Today is my mother’s birthday. Perhaps, then, it is little coincidence that this particular quotation has presented itself to my mind when its relationship to me is considered on a very introspective, familiar and local scale. I’m thinking in simple terms here: I’m spending weeks at a time away from home in longer bursts than ever before, and during that time the presence my mother occupies is a figurative one; I talk about her, she is anecdotal, she is a character we as a student community can commonly identify with and she is therefore unifying.

I’m aware of the underlying cliché of leaving home and the subsequent plethora of new responsibilities/ exploration of identity/ making sure I have sufficient clean knickers, but clichés exist because often there is some truth in them (even a cliché of say, a film, is still a truth within that medium, whether it resembles actual reality or not). Hence, it’s been important to me to put a few leagues between myself and home to grow, make half hearted attempts at transgressing the image my mother has helped to shape to prove I’ve developed (cough blue hair cough) and establishing a routine that she will never be fully involved in.

The quotation suggests a physical, perhaps mental, absence that has worked for some people. I asked myself who Jane Eyre would be, if not an orphan? Her parents, supposedly well off had they lived, might have indulged her, aligning her with her cousins and perhaps making her a worthier candidate of her Aunt’s love. She would surely lose, then, her staggering independence, her formal and emotional education at Lowood and the poetry of her revelations in the attic at Thornfield, with panoramic views stretching before her inspiring her will for “liberty!”

Only, my mother isn’t absent. Thinking about this in the pool today I kind of feel like my mother is a part of my psyche. She occupies the portion of my mind that deals with some aspects of morality, she triggers self preservation at road crossings, or is the filter over my eyes that sometimes encourages me perceive things in light of my life at home. The latter is particularly true of mealtimes; when faced with Lenton’s lumpy excuse for jam roly-poly, a pang of mum-sickness is a given.

Carter wanted to do away with the mother because it was important to abandon outmoded ideologies and tenacious 60s gender politics in particular. It’s important to me that I extend beyond the sphere of my mother’s existence and it is inevitable that some of her values will transcend with me, but equally inevitable that some will be scrapped. I like the thought of her return to “cave beyond consciousness”; it makes me think of the alien time before my birth and to imagine my mother as somebody I don’t know, who doesn’t need me, who can shelve the notion of being a mother just for a week or so before the next phone call or visit… it’s exciting.

Many people fear resembling their mothers. I have no wish to be her clone, but when people identify me as my mother’s daughter, when they see her reflected in me, I cannot help but feel astonishing pride to be so intrinsically associated with a woman so selfless, so loving, generous and wise.

Happy Birthday, Mum.

Barcelona Baybaaaaaay 017

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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.

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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:

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(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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