Holla From Uni

Aloha, Bonjourno Buenas Dias/Noches, Hi, Hello, Wassup, Greetings, Anaeyong hassaeo…

I am alive and guilty – I have been neglecting my bloggerly responsibilities but for good reason I assure you. That educational, unnecessary, expensive yet wonderful resource we call University has called me to its’ hallowed (… plywood…) halls once again and I have begun another academic year at Uni, rendering my time otherwise tied in things of a scholarly nature.

*Ahem* FRESHERS WEEK!! 😛

Ok, so I haven’t exactly been going wild with freshers but Uni has started again and it has taken up a bit of time trying to get into a routine that let’s me be some way to a functioning human being with time to spare. But I’m getting there.

There was an interesting stand at the Glasgow Caledonian University Freshers Fair (the Uni I go to, by the way, I didn’t just wander in off the street looking for something to do). It was to do with the Psychology Society. Now, I don’t study Psychology, but I am sorely tempted to join this society, purely because the guy behind the table refused to ralk to me til I looked like this:

me wearing the hat that was thrust upon me by a “psychologist”

Got lots of work coming my way in terms of freelance writing work so busy busy busy.

Speak soon!

 

SSDD

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The Winds Of Change Smell Like Barcelona, Ottowa and Glasgow

The Winds Of Change

The winds of change are getting me all a tither.

The re-start of Uni is fast approaching (literally 2 weeks!!) and it has only just occurred to me that at long last things may be beginning to change in a very interesting direction for me. Instead of the stagnation I’ve been tolerating in certain aspects of my life of late it seems things are gonna be hotting up in terms of my education.

1185197_10151811904576480_934853721_n (1)I’ve never ventured to Barcelona but a couple of my friends are taking a few months there as part of an exchange for our Uni course. A couple more are already attending classes in Canada  (follow her here!!!!!). Things like, studies of Sex and Equality or something else awesome, which, for my pal who is a bisexual feminist, is the exact most interesting thing in the world for her!

 

What’s That I Sense?

Exciting things are potentially floating on the winds that are heading towards us. The thing is, I’m a little bit nervous. I’ve spent such a long time knowing this is coming and yet now that it’s finally here… There is doubt in me that I can pull it off.

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Sure, I’m well aware that there’s no point in comparing your life with anyone else’s, so I’m not going to. I’m comparing it to my own life so far. It feels like there has been this great chasm of flux for the past few months, one that grew out of the dark hole of hell and change that came before it. It was a period of relative calm for me to regain a bit of the control I lost and learn how to deal with it.

Yet while I’ve been doing that, my peers have been moving on to bigger and better things – literally! Granted, I was not ready for such drastic continental shifts, though I did move house, I guess, technically (if you could call it that), but as far as selfactualisation goes, I haven’t really been in any position to achieve it to the same standards as my friends. And that frustrates me.

Moving On

I guess this is a little bit of catharsis. Or perhaps a touch of narcissism. Examining one’s own faults is never something we find easy as people and yet we relentlessly punish ourselves with a constant practice of it. One persons success suddenly takes on another meaning and becomes a reflection of your own inadequacy. As pleased as you are for their success, as enthused and elated and over-joyed and excited as you are to hear that someone you care about is happy and satisfied by a job well done, there may always be that little niggle of jealousy, or perhaps disappointment, that your own triumphs seem to somewhat pale in comparison.

change

But now that may be about to change. I am embarking on a leg of my own journey that I have long been (re)preparing for and I think the only problem is that I’m nervous I won’t meet the bar my friends have unwittingly set.

That and the fact that the Uni computer system won’t let me bloody register yet!

SSDD

Casual Sexism Has Comebacks

Casual sexism is making comebacks, not just coming back.

So you want to send the women to the kitchen, do you?

So you want to send the women to the kitchen, do you?

Women are w whole lot wittier and less subduable than we were. That antiquated 60s resignment of  kitsch to the kitchen is so abhorred now that FEMINISM is a whole being on its own, not just a whispered idea at a womans’ only book club or afternoon tea ceremony.

Feminism is something that’s not so much grown legs as grown the ability to breathe fire and propel rockets out its ass! We aren’t afraid to tell a man to get the fuck up off his lazy ass and get himself whatever he is asking for, if it’s derogatory. Coz, you know, if you’re in the kitchen already and he’s just asking for a coffee, to say no would be, you, know… kinda bitchy.

Females in general are the “fairer sex” but that doesn’t mean we are the “softer” sex. We have strength and ability, ambition and creativity – but that’s old news. No one wants to hear that about women. Where’s the new angle? Honestly, even the wordFEMINISM” to me is a little discriminative – we’re already a separate gender, do we really need another label to be further distance from the so-called dominant males?

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Honestly, there shouldn’t have to be one, yet it’s an ever-evolving subject. These cute ideas of what women should be, like being in the kitchen and making sandwiches all hours of the day and night are changing too (by the way, the amount of sandwich jokes I hear in a week would suggest that every woman on earth should be feeding about 2000 people a day; I would like to be shown one person with that many male mouths to feed or even one person capable of munching that many sandwiches – men who request these, prove to me you can eat the number of sandwiches you request and them consider me impressed).

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Is THIS the perfect woman to you?? Really??

Now, the idea of the perfect woman has changed. It involves big boobs, make-up and a dependence on the man to save you from the bother of responsibility. You need to look only at most action movies to see this. Exceptions to the rule are slowly on the increase, thought they’ve been around for years. Unfortunately, most of them could be found only in literature. And not the sort that guys were likely to pick up. One of my favourite female writer, Laurie Penny, recently wrote an excellent post for the New Statesman about this. Link HERE. Also, she starts some really interesting convos on Twitter.

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71067-_03_the_amber_spyglass

My favourite book for example, is The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman. For those of you (crazies) who haven’t read it (why the hell not, it’s awesome!?) may need some educating. Aside from it being the awe-inspiring concluding part in one of the greatest, most life changing trilogies ever penned, film watchers might be aware of the (extremely poorly made) film adaptation of the first book, Northern Lights, aka. The Golden Compass.

Dakota Blue Richards as the heroine of my childhood, Lyra Silvertongue

Dakota Blue Richards as the heroine of my childhood, Lyra Silvertongue

The protagonist, Lyra, formed my idea of what a proper children’s book heroine should be. She was (is, is, Lyra will never die in the Neverland of my most intense childhood memories) what I considered to be the perfect character for the books that would pretty much influence and help form my opinion on everything from religion to relationships to the evolution of people as people. What makes you take certain actions? How can an opinion change so drastically with the passage of time? How can the dreamland of a childhood playpen, safety net, the enclosed treasure chest of home, suddenly stop being so, and transform into an extension of a world of suspicion and fear, full of people who seek to exploit and who do not have you best interests at heart?

Lyra in sleuth mode

Lyra in sleuth mode

The answer was simple: because we grow up.

Dakota now... a young adult herself, growing up as her character did.

Dakota now… a young adult herself, growing up as her character did.

In my head, at the time, there was no question as to whether it was her gender that instilled her with such strength and resilience. These were attributes and by-products of her other, sexless qualities; fair-play, a non-judgmental, trusting view of the world through the child-like innocence of rose-tinted specs and the lack of knowledge of the gender divide. Her best friend was a boy. She abhorred “dressing up”. Was a tom boy of a most determined level. She personified a certain androgyny that made her so attractive to read about. I was frustrated at the lack of interest in reading from my male classmates, pawning the practice off as “nerdy” (at the time a less than fashionable label to be assigned).

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As time passed Lyra grew to become a young woman, as she experienced more of life and formed herself as a person rather than a child, yet lost none of the qualities that made her so enticing a character to begin with. Her increasing femininity added to the robustness of her persona and added flesh to the embodiment she gave to the representations Phillip Pullman was trying to convey – about the importance of youth, and the equal importance of losing it. She was a hero despite gender, fighting alongside grown men and being accompanied by a boy her own age. She was not only equal, she was respected. Her individual merits and unique talents were valued. A boy might admire the way she shunned her feminine ways. A girl might admire how she wore them while giving as good as she got.

It is characters like this which are becoming more common in literature and film. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games being the big one recently. She, to me, is like an older version of Lyra. A fighter, a motivator, an action taker in the face of danger who can still rock a skirt should it take her fancy. But most of all,  a protector and freedom fighter.

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The stunning Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

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JL flippin’ the finger like a boss XD

Proving women can be Robin Hood

Proving women can be Robin Hood

...And also pull of an LRD like a pro. Weep boys, for she is far too good for you

…And also pull of an LRD like a pro. Weep boys, for she is far too good for you

So as far as feminism goes, this is what I want to see more of. Not so much androgyny as equality. For women to be looked upon by everyone as whatever they want to be seen as, rather than just pretty little objects. If they exude strength, then treat them with respect. If they want to be nerdy, take an interest rather than scorn them.

We women have minds and we enjoy using them. Men should take note and deal.

SSDD

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Value of a Second Hand Book

People who look through the dirt encrusted window of a second hand bookshop and see nothing but a dark, musty cellar of a room, full of aging tombs nobody wants; you are deluded. Those who peep, nervously through the highly polished window of a second hand book shop and see an immaculate and expansive, scholarly scene of mahogany shelving, displaying perfect yet ultimately unwanted volumes; you are being deceived.

Those people who pick up the books from any of these shelves and see them for their true worth; you are the reason they were written.

Second hand book shops are places few venture anymore, yet that is fine. Their owners probably do not even want patrons. They are too busy appreciating their collection to deal with some other inquisitive bibliophile. For a hardened linguistic appreciator, the grime in the windows, the dank and seemingly dull interior is all a facade, designed purposefully as an illusion to deter custom. The same can be said for the intimidating clinical cleanliness of that shop that feigns upper class authority and reverence in its pristine exterior. These are the brutally dedicated who hold literacy at the very heart of their soul and wish nothing but to harbour their collection as close to its spiritual home as possible. For a customer to interfere and  remove one of those hard found books would be like removing a child from an adoptive parent; they did not always have them, but after a long wait and a heart-wrenching search for the most fitting one, they found that perfect companion, the companion that you will not steal away from them once again.

At least, that is how I like to imagine them. The most determined guardians of literature, even more-so than a librarian of hawk-eyed order and organisation.

To read a good book from years past is something very special. Just because a book is second hand does not negate its value – if anything it only increases the tenderness with which the story should be re-discovered.

Finding a ragged gem in the dusty folds of an old bookshelf is something that gives a reader a buzz, knowing that in your hands you hold something with the potential to contain magic in it’s grimy pages. For an enthusiast, those grains are not the mark of disuse and lack of worth, that broken spine and tatty edge not a tell-tale reminder of a tale no longer relevant or valued; they are the signals that fairy dust is contained within and that such wonder as can be read on those pages, have been seen many times. Those imperfect edges are the consequence of repeated page thumbing, as the adventure is re-lived over and over again.

There is a copy, for example, of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, that can be found tucked snugly on the shelf of a friend of mine. That  particular edition has passed through the care of three generations of women in that family, handed down as an heirloom as valuable as any diamond ring or bone china tea set. The spine is worn thread bare, dust seems to miraculously spring from it at every touch and there is a smell… Yet every one of those blotchy, worn smooth pages has been studied and adored a thousand times. And that is what makes it worth the sneezing.

Part of the allure of an old book or a second hand book is the state that one might find it in. Think; it is one of the few occasions that the level of outward distress shown by a damaged cover can in fact be indicative of its inherent value, having been handled and used to such lengths that it is falling apart. That is one of the many benefits of the written word; it may be printed, written, scrawled in sand, but so long as it is set in letters that can be understood, their meaning never changes, and so their sentiment can never be lost.

In a modern world that places so much unnecessary value on appearance flashy imagery and gimmicks to cover up the pyrite that hides in the reality, a well-read book is something to be treasured. There is something comforting in the rough and yellowing pages of a novel long forgotten, penned by a name no memory lives to remember. It is not only the story the reader brings back to life, it is the hand that wrote it and the heart that breathed life in it to begin with.

SSDD

I Brought My Own Coffee, Thanks

There is a major problem with office workers.

How the hell they expect someone to survive in an office environment with crap instant coffee is utterly beyond me.

This was the predicament I found myself in recently, when I had two days work experience at my local paper. Now this post is in no way to be considered poor reflection on those fine wordsmiths at the Greenock Telegraph – which, in case you hadn’t heard, is in fact the finest local newspaper in the West Coast of Scotland – no, in the whole of Scotland! (and if that isn’t a claim worthy of the Sun then I don’t know what is) It is merely meant to reflect my utter admiration for people who work under stressful conditions – without super quality caffeine on an IV.

When I began my two days I knew roughly what to expect since I had spent some time there before. I felt prepared.

So this time, when I walked through those double doors at 9:30, I did not feel such an amateur. I slid in front of my very own computer booth, tapped in my personal log-in and snapped on my secretary-come-secret agent headset. Reporters notepad on desk, pen in front pocket and handbag stocked with reporter-like things tucked at my side, ready to be grabbed at the click of my editors fingers.

Everything was going well as I spent the morning fashioning nibs from local ads (what we in the industry call those little fillers at the side of the page that tell you of local events and whatnot). It was only when my trust-me-I’m-a-journalist shirt began to feel just a little chilly, that I noticed the other warning signs. The thirst. The headache. The tightening around the eyes that seemed to spread to my jaw. Eventually using a slightly shaking hand to straighten my short-in-a-sexy-yet-sensible-way skirt I had to admit it – it was coffee time!

10:30am. Damn it. I had hoped to make it til at least 11 before I let the caffeine get the better of me but hey, strong coffee is a mark of a true journalist, right?

But when I get to the tea room, I was a little… disheartened. Not so much disappointed, that would be too much. But my heart swelled a little at the sight before me, and not in that joyful way it sometimes does, more in that way that tells you something awful has happened but that your too pumped with adrenaline to appreciate it.

There was coffee, sure. And it was instant, which is fine, more than fine, it’s great. But it was the second most intolerable instant coffee known to man. It was that dreaded fiend, Tescos own brand. Not even one of the decent ones that tasted just like the good stuff but a slightly more aerated colour in a different jar. It was that rubbish that takes two spoonfuls to have a taste, two more to just about bear some morose resemblance to coffee. And the worst part – it was decaf! I know, I felt it too; the horror. I mean for goodness sake, why even bother drinking something characterised by its potentially heart disease creating key ingredient in favour of a version which might boost you concentration a tiny bit more but has only been so far proven to do in mice!? I can think of other kinds of murky water that could well have the same effect and probably taste about the same!

This sad scene put something of a dampener on my morning, but I was not prepared to let it beat me; so I had three more before noon and by then, things began to look significantly brighter.

I have nothing against the humble instant coffee; I drink cups of the sweet brown nectar everyday (black, two sugars, if you’re interested), and I did feel so suave and journalisty sitting in front of my pile of half read dailys, shorthand notes and copy print-outs. The steaming mug to my right was the perfect addition to my completed look; keen young reporter at work, disturb and face her cutting wit. Even the glasses perched half way off the end of my nose since I wouldn’t see the computer screen from the ridiculous distance it was stationed away from me made me appear somehow like I fitted my situation. (whoever sat at that desk before me must have been the most long-sighted fellow ever to have lived, by the way, and I think they superglued that tower to the flippin’ desk because for all my efforts, it would not move closer)

But be serious. I am only 19 years old and while yes, I may have acquired an unhealthy addiction to strong coffee at a young age, the rest of the people in that office were there every dayDrinking that stuff.

I knew I would be flagging after two days of that. My means of remedying a potentially embarrassing situation?

I brought my coffee, thank-you very much.

That’s right, in a sandwich bag. I brought enough of my favourite from home to last me the day and low and behold, my two days ended marvelously. I had a couple of pieces submitted for the paper for the rest of the week and went on my merry way, even with the promise of future days work to come.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the press, I would like to take this opportunity to impart these words of simple wisdom to you: If you work in an environment where concentration is key, make sure you are well stocked in whatever you need. Be that cigarettes for the nicotine addicts out there; biscuits and bananas for the diabetics, as I can only assume Eric, who had the desk next to me must have been since for all the time I was there the man never stopped snacking yet was not fat; or in my case, decent coffee. Make sure you have what you need and it will give you the confidence and the focus to enjoy the experience more.

See you in the headlines!!

SSDD