Thursday, September 29, 2005

German? I don't think so...

I have just discovered that I don't believe in German. My apologies to all speakers of the language. Reading New Statesman, there was an article about the current election stuff, accompanied by a photo of a woman cycling past some billboards with the faces of Angela Merkel and Schroder on them. I tried to read what they said then realised they were written in German. Which seemed quite odd to me. Deep inside, I believe that everyone speaks English. I know, I know. They don't. And I'm not xenephobic. Just a bit weird.

University has started. But not to great success. On the university's side, a lot of induction things have been cancelled. Or the programme director hasn't turned up. Monday morning this week I went in for something at9.30 only to be told it wasn't happening. Great! Due to sleeping over at a friend's house on Saturday night (and sleeping badly) and then watching all three extended Lord of the Rings films (12 hours of Tolkien goodness) I could have done with more sleep on Monday morning.

On my side, however, I thought lectures were starting next week. Only to find out that actually they started this week and I missed my lectures. How stupid do I feel? And gutted too. I am nervous about starting studying again and I was really looking forward to lectures starting and going to the first ones to find out how this whole MA thing was going to work. To have missed it through my own stupidity (just why did I think that my school, alone out of the whole university, was starting a week later than everyone else? Partly because we had a two week induction programme. But that doesn't reallye xcuse my stupidity) is pretty annoying. So I've got quite a lot of reading to do to catch up. I'm sure, in terms of a two-year programme, missing one week won't matter that much. I hope not.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Freshers' Flu

As always, I have Freshers' Flu. This year I picked it up from working with postgrads the week before term began. As always, I'm making more of a fuss than is necessary about feeling ill.

I am now a student! I've been getting a little nervous as the start of term approaches. I borrowed a few books on the 'preliminary reading' list from the library - I considered changing to studying maths, which is on the second floor of the library rather than the 4th floor as my books are. Had my introduction to the Government and International Politics centre today, met someone doing my course (though full time) who I got on with and got my hair cut - with a student discount. Not bad. I've got more induction stuff this week and also, I think, next week. Looking forward to getting started on some actual studying.

That is, once my brain is working again.

Monday, September 05, 2005

We need to talk about Kevin

What do you do when your son kills 9 people in his school? Is it always the parents' fault? Can children be born evil?

We need to talk about Kevin (Lionel Shriver) is a book which is hard to describe without reverting to cliches: indescribable... harrowing... profound... It must be beyond a parent's worst nightmare: your life ruined by a school shooting - and your child the perpetrator.

I read too fast. I'm too keen to see how the story goes - What Happens Next - to be patient enough to enjoy the telling. 'Savouring' a book is an idea I have never been able to put into practice.

But this book is beautiful and so I tried. A collection of letters from a woman to her estranged husband, about their son. The descriptive power of the prose is immense. Lionel Shriver's ability to describe emotions, experiences and surrounding make this book rich.

For me, part of what satisfies is the questioning of the sanctity of motherhood. Eva questions whether they should have had a child. This is novel. It refutes the normal line from parents: I felt like you, once upon a time, but this was the best thing I could have ever done. There isn't room in the parental self-image (and maybe rightly) for saying that maybe your child isn't worth it. Maybe your life isn't the way you want it to be.

There's also something about love in here - loving someone as they are, not as you want them to be. Looking beyond who you would like someone to be, your ideal picture, and seeing the person who is there.

This is a painful and unpleasant story. But one which is beautifully written and worth reading.

Now go and read it...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

We're not in Kansas any more, Toto

Definitely not at Greenbelt anymore. I went out with some friends from work on Thursday night. As we were walking across town I wondered if I would see anyone. But no... it's not Greenbelt, where I know maybe 100 or 150 people out of the 20,000 who attend (and who are mostly wandering round the festival village) - in Manchester I know maybe 50 or 75 out of the 3,000,000 who live here. So unlikely to see anyone then.

But someone should definitely tell my subconscious that I'm back home. Every night so far I've woken up convinced that I'm at Greenbelt and should be stewarding. I see people in my room. Once I woke up with no idea who Matt was. It's very strange and I hope it stops soon.