Emma is currently...

  • Addicted to: Fruit and nut mix
  • Listening to: Band of Joy - Robert Plant
  • Reading: Naples '44 - Norman Lewis

Friday, 26 June 2009

The end is nigh!

Tomorrow I leave university and go home for the summer. Today people are starting to leave, and the atmopshere is melancholy. The last few weeks have seen everyone finishing their exams and campus has been buzzing: groups of people sprawled across the fields in clouds of barbecue smoke, music blaring from bedroom windows, queues outside the ice cream van parked in the piazza, the pub packed out with people who have been in there six hours straight and are starting to teeter on their stools.

For many people, post-exam life has been one big sleep-deprived party. Now, everything is starting to wind down. Rooms are bare, the walls stripped of posters and the hideous pastel-coloured and questionably stained university bedcovers returned to the beds. The abusive signs we pin up on each others' doors (I woke up one morning to find one that said I'M GONNA CREEP INSIDE YO LIKE A WARM KITTEN! with accompanying illustration, inspired by the Mighty Boosh) have been taken down. People stagger up and down the corridors with suitcases that look like they're about to explode. Even the sight of the empty fridge makes me a little sad, and I miss having to delve through piles of gone-off vegetables, pizza boxes and bottles of vodka in order to locate my milk for a cup of tea.

I can't believe my year as a fresher is over. It seems like only last week I first walked into my room, nervous, excited and friendless, ready to introduce myself to the strangers in the rooms around me. Those strangers are now my best friends. This year has been so surreal: existing in a little bubble world populated entirely by fellow students, and living side-by-side with them too, cooking and sharing a bathroom. Our first year results don't count towards our degree, so it has basically been like a year-long holiday to the Land of Irresponsibility, going out three or four times a week, sleeping until stupid o' clock in the afternoon. Next year won't be the same. We will actually have to do work, a thing most of us have forgotten how to do.

Since I'm in a nostalgic mood, I'd like to share a few things I have learnt in the first year of university, because I believe I've become a completely different person over the months I have spent here - hopefully in a good way.

  • Your mum (or dad, let's not stereotype) is pretty much the best person in the world. It's only when you're kicking the broken change machine in the laundrette, moving aside mountains of scabby plates and pans covered in month-old congealed food to find enough room to eat your dinner off the kitchen table, or filing outside at 4am in tiny pajama shorts in the rain because some drunken idiot has failed to accomplish the simple task of making toast without setting off the fire alarm, that you truly appreciate what an amazing job your mum does.
  • In the first year of university, your sense of humour recedes to what it was when you were about twelve. Since you're not required to be a responsible adult anymore the most juvenile things become funny again: unpicking the lock and bursting in to the bathroom cheering when someone else is having a shower, jumping on top of someone who has for no reason just jumped spreadeagle into a bush, waiting until your friend has left his door open with his laptop on and then changing his Facebook status to "just wet himself in Tesco, how embarrassing!" and his profile picture to a really, really fat person. The other day my dad asked me how we made each other laugh at uni in the absence of unfunny Dad Jokes. "By throwing each others' mattresses out of the top story window," I replied. He thought I was joking.
  • If you thought you were clever, university soon teaches you that are in fact irrevocably stupid. There are many, many, people who are cleverer than you. You will probably end up in a small room with five of these people listening to them hotly debate, in a deeply philosophical way, whether the bloke who decides what font to print a book in is in fact an artist. You will stare at your shoes and slowly lose consciousness.
  • On a more serious note, you must study a subject that you love. Never choose a subject for its academic prestige, because if you secretly hate it, it will show in your work. Even if you love a subject, when you study nothing else except it, it becomes a bit like a black hole that mercilessly feeds on your enthusiasm and turns you into a bored, cynical wreck. Honestly, I already feel like I've read enough Chaucer to last me a lifetime, and if I ever hear anyone open a friendly anecdote with the line "Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote" I think I will snap and transform into some kind of bizarre literary version of the Incredible Hulk, destroying all in my path. If this is what has happened to me, think what would happen to you if you hated your subject to start with.
  • You'd think that, with only a few hours of lectures and seminars a week, you would have plenty of time to pursue hobbies and spend your time productively. Not so. You will find that you never get anything done, ever. This is because you will spend most of your time doing things necessary to being a respectable human being such as washing, feeding and cleaning up after yourself; when you are not doing these things you will be too lazy to do anything else. Hence you will lie on your back on a field trying to find pretty shapes in the clouds, watch three series of one TV show in a week, take two naps every day, tape over your door with newspaper and then burst through in a dramatic fashion - anything except the work you are supposed to be doing.
  • Friendship is totally different at university. You probably know the feeling when you spend all day with a friend, and then sleep over at their house; by the next morning you are fed up with each other and can't wait to be alone. Well, at uni you spend every day and every night with your friends, but you don't get fed up with them. Instead they become like a second family. You miss them a ridiculous amount when you are split up from them, as I am now split up with my friends for three months, and you can't pop over to see them because they come from all over the country, and often from other countries too. I grew so used to being around them constantly that now I am home alone I am bored senseless. I don't know what to do with myself. Which is mostly why I'm writing this blog.
Anyway, that's all I've got for now. I learnt many more important things whilst at university but I don't remember most of them, meaning most of them probably weren't all that important anyway.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Traumatic bus experience

I have to start blogging now because already strange things are happening to me.

I'm not sure what it is about me, public transport and crazy people, but they seem to come together far too often. I was once stuck on a train next to a man who gave me a very loud half hour lecture on particle physics and the nature of the electron before telling me that the tarot cards had predicted his life and did I know that CHILDREN HAVE AURAS! At least that man was harmless - just a little, er, off his rocker. Today, however, I had a truly traumatic experience on a bus to the effect that I am never going to sit on the top deck ever again, even though when I sit at the very front with the big window it feels a bit like I'm flying.

So there are five of us sitting on the top deck. We'd been out for my friend M's birthday and we were all pretty tired, just minding our own business. Then...she comes. I try not to judge by appearances but there are a few little things that suggest she might not be the most desirable bus buddy: the shabby clothes and hair, the stumbling and screeching, the faint stench of illegal substances, the obscenities. She is followed by her children and they sit right next to us.

She picks up a piece of rubbish someone has left on the bus and, casting us a dirty look, announces that "students are ****ing tramps". I'll add here that I hate swearing and am not going to repeat the words she used here, but suffice to say she would have made Gordon Ramsay look like he belonged on Ceebeebies. She produces a Tesco bag that has definitely seen better days and kindly offers it to us so that we can "shove all our rubbish in here because no one wants to see it."

None of us points out that the rubbish isn't ours. As someone towards whom crazies seem to gravitate, mainly because I am very shy and socially awkward and try my hardest to avoid crazies, I know the golden rule: never make eye contact. It provokes them. So I stare out of the window as if the view outside is the most interesting thing I've ever seen, and the rest of the group follow suit. Crazy lady calms a little, and soon she and her children are lighting up together in some kind of bizarre family bonding experience. On a bus. In a few minutes I am engulfed in a cloud of smoke and am feeling a bit sick.

Soon, the bus driver pulls over, comes up onto the top deck, and tells them to stop. The lady stands up, all in his face, shouting that "It weren't me, it weren't me, you won't find no cigarettes on me, why are you complaining anyway, all you have to do is drive a bus and get paid for it," and so on. She doesn't seem to realise that the driver could see her smoking thanks to this newfangled invention called mirrors, not to mention the fact she stinks of smoke and has yellow teeth and nails. To her, this is DISCRIMINATION! He's picking on her because she's not a student and she doesn't have a "rich daddy" to send her to university. Discrimination, I say! Speaking of discrimination, apparently it's still okay for her to racially abuse the driver. The poor guy obviously gets intimidated and goes back downstairs, leaving us to be on the receiving end of her torrent of drunken spite and malice.

Crazy lady now takes offence at my friend O because O has taken her shoes off on the bus; she jabs a finger at her and shouts, "Her feet are discriminating against me, no one wants to smell her feet, that's just dirty innit! I didn't ask to smell her feet, she didn't ask to smell my smoke! That little ***** thinks she can get anything she wants just because daddy pays for her bus pass, isn't that right, didn't daddy pay for yer bus pass?" I'm pretty terrified to be honest, but O isn't disturbed by this at all, and is in fact staring at the lady like she is some kind of fascinating animal in a zoo. She offers to put her shoes back on but the lady hasn't quite satisfied her daily quota of innocent stranger abuse yet so continues.

"You're really bugging me, you know what? You're really bugging me. Looking at me like a right snob coz of your rich mummy and daddy. You know what, I might live on a council estate, but I'm loving it! I work hard to get on the dole while your mum goes sleeping with the boss for £20. I raised my kids of the dole and it aint done them no harm!"

Oh no she didn't...she didn't just go there....she insulted my mum. NO ONE insults my mum. It was like a "your mum" joke except actually offensive. I know it wasn't personally directed towards my mum, but it still offended me because I have MASSIVE respect for my mum. How dare you, I wanted to say. My mum grew up on a council estate too (I've been there and it's awful, people had just randomly poured milk all over the pavement and it had gone sour and stunk) and she started out with all the same opportunities as you, but she didn't go on the dole and get drunk and abuse people instead of making an effort to find work. She worked in the same job for years and years, in the same office five days a week, completely monotonous, before coming home and then having to feed and look after her family, and she never complained, not once. And now she has made something of herself and has a nice house in a nice area and she and my dad can afford to send me to university so that I can make something of myself too. You clearly didn't care enough about your kids to do the same thing.

Of course, I say none of this. I cower in my seat and continue to stare out of the window as if none of this is actually happening.

I feel sorry for the daughter. She's actually trying to stick up for us, albeit in a scary shouty sort of way, and when the woman threatens to trip O up as she gets off the bus the daughter says don't worry, she won't let her lay a finger on O. I think it was only because of the daughter that crazy lady didn't physically start on us, so I'm very thankful for that. This girl clearly has the potential to be a really smart, but she's never going to be given the opportunity by her mother. What can you do? So we get off the bus, leaving crazy to her own devices. Hopefully she didn't begin abusing any of the other students on the bus, since she seems to have a vendetta against us.

Anyway, that was my traumatic bus experience. In a way I'm glad it happened because looking back it was kind of funny, and it has also made me very grateful that my parents have been so amazing, and that they are happy to spend ridiculous amounts of money on my education to give me good opportunities in life. They also taught me personal hygiene and didn't encourage me to smoke spliffs on public transport, which is also good times. Good times all around.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

A fresh start

I've deleted all my old blog posts because I've decided to start again. It's going to be a lot more interesting than before, but I probably won't start blogging again until after summer when I have moved into my house and crazy student antics recommence. So, yeah, see you then!