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Apr. 28th, 2010


Updates and final Uni decisions

Once again it's been months since I last updated. Oops.

Almost finished 6th form - which means exams are horribly close. Discouragingly, the British Summer this year has decided to coincide with revision time.

With regards to universities, I have a few days to decide between Durham and St Andrews. This would have been a non-choice, I think, had I gotten into the college of my choice in Durham. As is, I've been placed in Van Mildert, which I was fairly underwhelmed by on the open day. Too modern, poky rooms, pretty far out from the town, plus Durham social life seems to consist of terrible nightclubs. St Andrews, alternately, I was really impressed with on the open day. I think I'd enjoy the social side more of St Andrews (house parties/pubs), and the accommodation was much more attractive, and academically, I don't think it's far off Durham. I'm just loathe to give up Durham, however, as it was my first choice for so long. Ditching it because I didn't like the college seems petty, but  can't shake the feeling I wouldn't enjoy my time there.

I've been reading a lot of Jeffrey Ford lately; he's immensely enjoyable. A wonderful blend of period detail with highly original and eccentric ideas. I've been attempting to play the first Mass Effect, but am losing interest. The squad mates are unbelievably dull. Kaiden and Liara are the worst offenders, but I've not seen much from the others either. Citadel is lovely, but everywhere else is varying shades of bland. Grey and white seem to be the dominant colours pretty much everywhere. The combat system doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The Mako is hilariously awful. Nothing like having to restart a mission because you drove too fast and it flipped over. The plot's very poorly handled. Matriarch Benezia's pretty pointless, and the Reapers revelation comes way to early, pretty much from nowhere, and with no real reason for Shepard to be convinced.

Finally: People have noticed the existence of the Lib Dems. Yay.

Jan. 2nd, 2010


Has not updated this in far too long

Happy New Year everyone! First resolution: to update more than once a year.

I'm rather relieved 2009 is dead; not a bad year, but not a particularly interesting one either personally. Creatively, although I wrote more in 2009 than 2008, I don't feel as accomplished, possibly because I failed to reach my GYWO target. GYWO did help me start several projects however, and taught me that constantly aiming for wordcount targets doesn't help, and only fuels a depressing stress and procrastination cycle. That said, I would like to end 2010 with a finished novel.

I'm hoping to have a good idea of where I'm going for University by the end of January: I have Exeter, a random rejection from UCL (being told I was a weak candidate at the end of October, well before UCL would even have had all of its applicants.), an interview for Cambridge (which was interesting. Really didn't expect to be ascked to compare the books of Job and Jonah with Catcher in the Rye and Death of a Salesman. I think it went reasonably well, though not enough to get me a place).  Durham and St Andrews are taking forever.

Currently reading Jeffrey Ford's The Portrait Of Mrs Charbuque. Very impressed with it so far.

Aug. 20th, 2009


AS results

were a weird mixed bag...

I got A's in English Lit and Classics (with full marks in the English paper, and the Greek Tragedy Paper), but was one mark off an A in both RE and History (were I did significantly better in the papers that I'd thought I'd done poorly in).

One mark. One mark. ONE MARK


Aug. 7th, 2009



...I still like it.

The town centre is very pretty and the cathedral is spectacular, and ridiculously huge. The outskirts are a bit dingy, and there's some seriously hideous '60's architecture in places (The Student Union? Oh...my...god). But overall, I like it. I could happily spend three years here, especially with Newcastle being pretty close, if I need to actually do anything. I want to go to uni in a small town; I've grown up in a big city (Liverpool), and in a pretty shitty suburb, so something pretty and vibrant really appeals. I'm not overly fond of campuses, a little too insular for my tastes, and the same with the Oxbridge collegiate system.

And the course...well, had I not already been applying to Durham for definite, the department talk wouldn'tve swayed me. I can't fault that, however, the speaker was an admissions tutor, and was incredibly helpful with regards to that side of the process. But, I've checked out the course online, and it's not perfect, but the best I've seen, bar UCL. The Icelandic exchange is incredibly tempting.
I've noticed though, at every English talk I've been to, has been very heavily female dominated, with about 3/4 of the room being female. There's always one ridiculously hot male student as well. Not that I'm letting that influence me or anything.

All in all, Durham remains my first choice. And I'm pretty certain of my other choices: UCL, Exeter (Falmouth), York and St Andrews. I've ruled out Cambridge, I think, because, as I've mentioned, I found the collegiate system, wherein almost all of your socialising, and teaching is done within the college, far, far too insular for my tastes. I've spent seven years in a small private school, and frankly, it can get a little claustrophobic at times (I've enjoyed it, but I wouldn't want my uni experience to be identical.)

My next post will be about something different, I promise.

ETA Patrick Wolf is beautiful and amazing. Check him out.

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Aug. 2nd, 2009


Papery thing reviews

I suppose one of the advantages of applying to study English is preparation consists of reading lots, and not slaving in a hospital or law firm all summer. And, to avoid feeling guilty about this, I have been reading lots.

Firstly, A S Byatt's Possession, which I adored for about two thirds, before suddenly becoming disappointed and disillusioned with it. It's a very self indulgent book, and you feel as if much of it, particularly the lengthier journal entries, are a vanity on Byatt's part, to prove herself to the literati as a Serious Author. This isn't helped by the weakness of the plot: two academics (one a typical male everyman, another an ice cold feminist, Byatt's strength not being characterisation) discover love letters between a prominent Victorian poet, and an obscure feminist, assumedly lesbian fairy poet, and from there seek to prove their discovery, following a neat and improbably chronologically correct chain of poems, journals and letters, before their work is snatched and taken credit for by The Forces of Darkness (The obsessive American professor's characterisation is pure Goodkind, including implied paedophilia.) I have to say, aside from the aforementioned Literary Points Scoring, I have no idea why Byatt chose to bother with the modern plotline, given the much more compelling nature of the relationship between the poets, which is worth reading for. This subplot is touching, well thought out and characterised, and never rises to the melodrama of its modern counterpart. The present day storyline, however, is weak, improbable, filled with stock characters, awful, clumsy parallels and a truly awful final 'showdown' (I swear Byatt has taken this from a Scooby Doo episode, it is that ridiculous). Possession has at its heart a genuinely compelling story, smothered under a self indulgent literary facade. A shame.

Jonathan Barnes' The Somnambulist also suffers from excellent concept, awful execution syndrome. It's a lurid, ridiculous Victorian romp, packed with eccentricities and freaks galore, which collapses entirely, as many detective novels do, when its central conspiracy is revealed, and turns out to be much less exciting than it had seemed. Unfortunately, The Somnambulist, goes a step further; the revelations is not only uninteresting, but also ignores much of what had already happened, leading to a huge number of loose ends being entirely dropped (such as the titular character himself, and the reverse time travelling King of London, Cribbs, all fascinating, tantalising characters which demand some kind of resolution to justify their presence at all.) and the stupidest ending to a novel I've ever come across: a pitched battle at London docks between the outcasts of London, the Police, secret government agents, a pair of demonic public schoolboys, and the reanimated corpse of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, dripping acid and leaving destruction in his wake. This has little to no relevance to the rest of the book, and is both unsatisfying and entirely bizzare. Only read if you are prepared to be seriously disappointed by the end.

Sarah Water's Affinity, a lesbian tale of Victorian spiritualism and imprisonment, is decidedly superior, and makes much better use of its 19th Century setting. The gloomy, despairing atmosphere of the prison, and the narrator's bleak home-life is nothing short of excellent, without ever resorting to melodrama. It's gripping, and surprising, right to the very end, and reminds me a great deal of Joanne Harris' Sleep, Pale Sister, which is a very good thing. Highly recommended.

Speaking of which; I could really use advice on which Woolf novel I should start with - I've read the opening thirty pages of both Mrs Dalloway and To The Lighthouse, and would like to have finished one or the other (or another entirely) by the end of the summer.


Jul. 17th, 2009


White sun scattered all over the sea

Being home alone for two weeks is an interesting experience. So far I've learnt that I never want to have cats of my own (Being cooped up with THREE of the bastards, and it raining everyday), much as I like them, and that I really, really, really don't like being alone. The novelty wears off very quickly. It's strange, especially given how detached I normally am, how little I'm enjoying this.

Still, I have UCAS to occupy my time. Joy. Still haven't decided on Unis, which is a little worrying - I know I want to apply to Durham (I would be so happy if I were to get in here), UCL ( though living in London is a little daunting), and Exeter (though I'm not sure which campus, Exeter requires higher grades, but Cornwall seems nicer). Considering Cambridge (Surprisingly I quite liked it after visiting the open day, Oxford not so much. Will blog about this in a day or two), though I've heard being accepted for Cambridge gets you an atuomatic rejection from Durhm, the logic being no-one would turn down an Oxbridge place for Durham. Which is irritating, as I would :(
York and St Andrews are tied for my final slot - St Andrews looks wonderful, but I'm not sure I like not being able to do English only until the third year. York seems interesting, if a little inflexible in the course structure. I'veb een able to rule out Warwick and Leeds, on the grounds that I wouldn't want to live for three years in Leeds or Coventry.

Finally, A S Byatt's Possession is many shades of wonderful, despite some issues with characterisation I think you, alankria , would really enjoy this.

Will blog about recent trips, and papery things soon.

Jun. 13th, 2009


(no subject)

Exams is dead.

AS was a lot friendlier than GCSE, I think, or at least in terms of exams. No matter how much harder they might be, five exams is a lot easier to cope with than twenty one. Apart from the 3 hour killers. Hell is a three hour combined Religious Ethics/ Jewish Scriptures (don't ask. We were told it was Black, Liberation and Feminist Theology) paper, involving eight essays.

But it's done now. And onto A2. Yup, apparently this next month where neither pupils nor staff can be arsed is vital to our success. Or something. Especially the huge amount of work to be done in History. You know, the subject I'm dropping in September.

I probably need the time for English Lit, however, given we're starting the comparative coursework. I've picked Hamlet and Gormenghast, which should just about kill me. Haven't decided on a theme yet; maybe insanity, or isolation. Or I might focus on the Gertrudes. Shakespeare's is misrepresented, Peake's is awesome in a bodice and wig.

More sleep now. I really should not be still feeling this drained.

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May. 29th, 2009


The sun sings on plucked bow strings

Today has been weirdly lovely, weather wise, which has been very conducive to revision. I've been able to play cello outside, which is slightly surreal, but the sound is so much richer. Of course, my joy is slightly dampened by the knowledge that today is both the beginning and the end of the British Summer. Come June, and half the country will be underwater, just like last year. And the year before.

Finished Mieville's The City & The City. Disappointing, in a word. There was so much potential, the first half was wonderful, full of tantalising glimpses and promises of strange and cool mysteries and academic disputes to be solved.But then the second half swung around, and the plot devolved into a dull detective novel, with a very unsatisfying conclusion. It's not a bad book, per say, just not anywhere near as good as I'd expected from Mieville (though that said, out of the four novels I've read by Mieville, only The Scar has ever been completely wonderful, with a satisfactory ending).

Back to revising now, joy. I think the thing I resent most about exams is the large amount of time either spent revising, or feeling guilty for not revising, and how both detract from all the things you've suddenly thought of that you'd rather be doing instead.

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May. 23rd, 2009


Exams and other incubi

Once again I have failed to update this in...an embarrassingly long time. *sigh*

Exams are not fun. I'm confident I've got A's in English and Classics, given how wonderful the questions were for Classics (Essay on Clytemnestra's role in the Agamemnon? There may well be a God after all), although English was..strange. The AS course requires not only you to write two coursework pieces on two tragedies (in my case, Emilia's role in Othello, and Linda's role, and what she represents, in Death of a Salesman), limited to 1500 words each (WTF?), but also an exam half of which requires you to write about three entirely unrelated texts, devoting only twenty minutes to each one. The questions, obviously, have to be stupidly vague.

But, yeah, I think I'm confident about those. Re and History nor so much. Largely because of the stupid amount I need to know for the horrile, 3 hour RE exam, and my complete lack of knowledge for the British History paper. History is getting dropped so hard in August.

I really can't wait for these things to be over so I can get back to my life. Unfortunately, having seen several previews for The Sims 3, I think I can say goodbye to that idea.

Also, less interested in Warwick than I was after going to the open day. Coventry's not somewhere I really want to spend the next three years of my life, and I'm thinking the campus might be a little too enclosed for my liking. That and the lecturer giving the English talk was something of a prat.

Mar. 15th, 2009


Universities and other boxes

It has begun. The great "So where are you going to apply to?" question asked by every teacher, brought up at every assembly, over and over again.

And my answer? I don't honestly know. I know what course I want to do: English Lit (No, not theology. If Classics and History can leave me alone, why can't you?). But I don't know where I want to do it.
I know where I don't want to do it: Liverpool, mainly because having lived here all my life, I hate the city. But other than that, I'm at something of a loss.

Durham appeals to me greatly, both the town, course, department, college system, and awesome chancellor (Bill Bryson!). But so does King's College, London, which has a similar course and reputation. To say nothing of Warwick, Leeds, York or St Andrews. Which is all complicated enough before we even mention Oxbridge, which half of my tutors have decided I should go to. And I'm really no sure about that. I don't want to go to make my school look good in the papers, and to be honest, the websites at both universities are very vague on what the courses actually entail. Helpful, yes? But there is aconference in a week for people interested in Oxbrigde, so we shall have to see.

In the meantime, any advice on British univiersities would be greatly appreciated. *Flutters eyelashes*

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