Calm before the storm. Tomorrow I must speed through several books, and think up an essay plan too, but tonight I can sit – London Overground mug in hand – sipping tea contentedly and listening to relaxing jazz covers of Rihanna songs. (Spotify really does allow me to indulge my taste for the slightly peculiar.) It helps that the end is very much in slight now: no matter how crazily I have to work tomorrow, Tuesday will be my final essay writing day of the term, and then it’s back home on Saturday for a room that doesn’t freeze over at night, a door that doesn’t automatically lock and a self-replenishing fridge. Sorted.
Thursday night was absolutely fascinating, courtesy of fellow political thought student Sona, who invited me to dine at
New Hall Murray Edwards. Whereas Caius adorns its walls with portraits of (mostly deceased) white men, Murray Edwards goes for contemporary feminist art, which is a vast improvement. The downside is that it’s one of the remaining all-female colleges, which means that walking through it makes me desperately wish that I had longer hair to not stick out so much. (Hey! So this is what it feels like to be in a minority group… )
Once I had escaped disapproving stares – the purely imaginary disapproving stares, I must add, but you can’t help but feel they must be there – I was treated to vanilla tea with honey (mm) and lots of conversation about scholastic political thought, a certain fellow and the Slovakian education system. Apparently, history is taught purely as a series of facts, and examined as such in a speaking exam by one of your teachers. Presenting a written argument in an exam, it seems, is not as universal as I had assumed. And there’s more! Lucy later suggested that this excessively fact-based approach was still in place in British grammar schools a couple of decades ago… say it isn’t so?! Not that I have any desire to uphold the reputation of grammar schools, you understand, but I’ve been so conditioned to think of history as argumentative analysis that the idea of purely regurgitating learnt material seems very alien. (No snide comments about A-Levels, please. Don’t you remember your source-based analysis paper?) I therefore invite all of my older readers to set the record straight on this matter.
We then went to see a performance of The Chairs at the ADC, and this 1950s absurdist French play left me not really knowing how to respond. I did enjoy it, yes, very much so, and it’s very true that you don’t need to be able to fully understand what’s going on in order to feel the rising tension. It’s just perhaps slightly symptomatic of my education that I couldn’t rest until I went home and found some good, solid analysis to discuss the symbolism. The playwright must have had really clever intentions, dammit, and I need to find out what they are in case I ever have a surprise exam on it.
Over the weekend I went to see Lucy in Sussex… and (for once) also remembered to bring a camera! So here’s a nice coupley photo where I’ve finally mastered the trick of sitting a little behind so as to avoid coming out with a giant head:
The primary difference between Cambridge and Sussex is that the latter is actually based in the real world, and as such Hall does not exist. So here we see the completion of proper cooking, in a proper kitchen, in a way which in no way perpetuates traditional gender roles as I was also to be found helping with such vital tasks as ‘increasing the size of portions’ and ‘opening things’:
I might as well come clean at this moment and admit that all of our photos together either involve food or trains, so the next image is of me on the latter. Now, normally I try and look Livingstonesque in train photos, all happy musing about future re-nationalisation and such. So it was to my slight dismay and worry that my face and hair appear to have conspired against me to produce a much more, erm, Boris effect. Tell me I’m being paranoid?
It really was a lovely visit, also featuring a full English breakfast/brunch, inappropriate shuffling and Crisis Control – a truly worrying children’s programme in which competing teams of kids are presented with large-scale natural disasters and have to determine the most effective response in a couple of minutes. So a bit like the Bush administration’s response to Katrina, then? [tumbleweed] Seriously, though, it’s a format with some potential if only they’d go a little bit further. I never really got the sense during the tsunami episode, for example, that any child was really going to be held to account if it all went terribly wrong and Cornwall became flooded with decaying corpses and some last, desperate survivors killing each other for food. They really need a Crisis Aftermath: Select Committee programme for that.