jump to navigation

Holiday July 13, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Uncategorized.
add a comment

I’m off to Larmer Tree festival tomorrow morning.  I’ll be back on Monday.  It’ll be exciting, see you soon – and rain dance on my behalf, yes?


Eurovision May 12, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Uncategorized.

On Tuesday night, I watched the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest.

If you’re in the UK, the concept of doing so is probably a little bit foreign to you: deliberately watching the acts that don’t even make the Eurovision final?  On purpose?  Without the added temperance of a bottle of wine and Graham Norton (who, it must be remembered, is good but shan’t ever be as good as Sir Terry)?  Eurovision, is, after all, something that if British people watch they do it with a sense of superiority.  European music is a bit like going back in time.  Don’t forget: we’re responsible for the Beatles.

I’m a bit of a Europhile in general: I think being part of the European Union is a great thing for the UK and the single market is a phenomenal piece of co-operation, no matter how much I’m currently regretting having to revise for an exam on it.  The EU is a fairly left-leaning organisation, and even if I don’t agree with it on everything I think what it’s trying to do is admirable and I utterly refute the idea that it’s trying to make Europe homogenous.  I’m perfectly secure in my national identity, thanks.

I would support the UK joining the Euro even though I’m well aware of all of the arguments against it.  (The Euro is like religion and tarot cards: the moment some types of people discover you subscribe to it, they suddenly seem to assume you’re a bit simple and just parrot what you’ve been told by People In Positions Of Authority.  Remember the Irritating Liberal?)  Personally, I think we should have joined the Euro in about 2007, but I can understand why we didn’t.  I think the ECJ needs a kick up the proverbial and a beginner’s course on the separation of powers and how to form sentences with fewer than ten clauses, but you can’t have everything.

Unrelated to all of that, though, I love Eurovision.  Yes it’s all political, everyone votes for their friends and We Get Saddled With The Cost (did you know this is the first time since the late 90s, I think, that Italy has had a Eurovision entry, and yet it still pays for quite a bit portion along with the Big Four?) but it’s one of those occasions that I love like I love Last Night of the Proms.  Last Night of the Proms is great because we get to sing Rule Britannia in our living rooms and feel kind of a little bit proud to be part of this sort of tradition.  Eurovision is the same only on a broader scale.  As a British person, as someone living in England, I don’t feel like a European very often and I think that’s very sad because that’s a hell of a lot of culture and all round good fun to miss out on.  It’s also very different to the kind of music I usually listen to out of choice, and generally hear every day, so that’s kind of refreshing.

On a personal level, I watch  Eurovision with people who know a lot about it.  They can name the last ten winners.  They met the production manager at a trade show two years ago and know what kinds of lighting desk are probably being used.  We play spot the techie, marvel at the sprinting abilities of the cameramen, discuss the layout of the green room.  (Did you know how they get all the instruments and bits of set and what have you in exactly the right place?  Several highly trained stage crews, and lasers from the ceiling.  Actual LASERS.)

We get a group of us over, eat dinner together, pile onto the sofa and rank the contestants based on how far they’ll go.  Tell each other how much better Spain’s entry was a year ago.  Gleefully gang up on the Dutch friend and wonder how on earth Switzerland managed to stay neutral if they present themselves as a nation like that.

This evening is the second semi-final, and we’re doing it again.  And that’s why I love Eurovision.  It’s idiosyncratic, there’s nothing else quite like it, and its idisyncracies fit quite well with mine.

The Irish entry still need a smack and a darkened room, though.

And now it’s over. December 1, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Look what I did, NaNoWriMo, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Uncategorized.

Yesterday, at the last NaNoWriMo write-in of the month, I went up to the counter to get another cup of coffee, and there was a boy leaning against the counter.

“What are you all doing?” he said, indicating the seven or eight people with their laptops out, surrounded by packets of sweets and stuffed rabbits wearing capes, typing furiously.

“It’s National Novel Writing Month,” I said.  “From the beginning to the end of November, we’re writing a novel.  And it’s November 30th, so we thought we’d get together to boost morale a bit.  The target is 50,000 words,” I added, helpfully.

“Oh, right,” he said, looking impressed.  “Between you, or each?”

When I got back to the table and recounted this, there were roars of laughter.  As you can see, I’ve also got the adverbs-boost-wordcount bug right now, which should tell you a little about how it went.

A little about my NaNoWriMo this year.

When you’re writing a lot, very regularly, you learn a lot about your own writing style that maybe you didn’t really think of before.  For instance: my average speed for writing fiction comes up to abou 900 words in an hour, although if I’m competing with someone else, or writing as fast as I can against a clock, I can do that in just over twenty minutes.

I can’t sprint for longer than half an hour, otherwise my brain freezes up and I end up starting sentences with “And then”, and ending them with prepositions, and then the adverbs start appearing and when I reread what I’ve written I feel very embarassed indeed.

On an average day, it’d take me two-and-a-bit hours, including short breaks, to write my word count: usually between 1,500 and 2,500 words.  Any more than 2,500 words and I’d start with the prepositions and the and-then-ing again.  I wrote at least 300 words every day, just to be keeping going, except for the four days in France last week when I didn’t have access to a computer.

On two occasions, though, I wrote substantially more than 2,500 words in one go: once about a week from the end, and on the very last day, when at midnight I had 9,000 words to go and just went for it.  Unfortunately, on the last day, which was yesterday, I also had three hours of tutorials to prepare for and attend and a tech rehearsal to run in the evening (come and see Travesties, everyone, it’s going to be really good!), so it was all a bit of a panic.  I ended up going to bed at 2.3o after writing about 2,000 words, getting up at half past six, reading for my tutorial and then sprinting another 1000 words, then taking five hours out for my actual degree.  (If you’re not counting a sneaky 200 words handwritten in a tutorial and typed up afterwards…)

After that, there was an afternoon’s write-in at the Gala Café, without which I am certain I wouldn’t have finished.  Writing for me has always been a very personal thing, but having six or seven other people around, also writing very personal things, and daring you to catch them up, is amazing.  There were gingerbread plot bunnies:

And some real ones with capes and everything.  I got to 1700 words short of 50,000 before I had to disappear off and run the rehearsal, then left that abrubtly at ten to eleven, in a panic.  Do the maths, you can probably tell why.

So I finished, in the end, with ten minutes to spare.  50,097 words in 30 days.  111 pages in Microsoft Word.

If I’m lucky, in another ten or twelve thousand words I might actually have finished the story.

Back to the old degree, then, I suppose.

I’m disappearing November 25, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Uncategorized.
add a comment

…until Sunday.  Impromptu road trip.  It’s going to be a really busy week after that too, so if you don’t hear from me for a while, I’m either in France or I’m feverishly chasing deadlines.

Have a good week.

On tuition fees and protests November 12, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Uncategorized, University.

I find, at the grand old age of twenty, that I am getting more and more conservative about the things I find important. My values can essentially be summed up in the two things my mother taught me: do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and that people can do whatever they like as long as it’s not hurting anyone and they don’t necessarily want me to join in.  Other than that, I seem to be developing a far less aggressively socialist approach to life than I used to have.

This is quite interesting.  I used to be very aggressively socialist.  I now feel bad, on an increasingly regular basis, for not being so.  The fact is, that sometimes I am embarassed to be a student, and sometimes I don’t like student protests.  I know Johann Hari Of The Independent Comment Column Fame says that protests are actually useful, even if we don’t think they are at the time, but personally I find Johann Hari self-righteous and irritating.  (This also appears to be a minority opinion.  Please don’t shoot me.)

There are two overarching clichés attached to students, and the first of these is a load of rowdy layabouts pissed out of their skulls and breaking things, and the second is a highly motivated but pathetically idealist group who will protest about the nearest thing and be fervently socialist until the moment they graduate, when they realise it was all an impossible dream, go away and work for big corporations.  Now I don’t like either of these stereotypes, but the fact is that they’re there, and the fact is that if you get 50,000 students together, they’re both going to come out of the woodwork and be the first thing used to demean everyone who takes part.

And then, when any one of those 50,000 steps a toe out of line, suddenly nobody between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five gets taken seriously any more.

I don’t like violence.  Quite frankly, if it’s used at all I’d rather it were used for something other than determining how many years you can afford to stay in the ivory tower for.  I am aware that is a very inflammatory way of putting it, and that it probably says a lot about me that I don’t like at all, but honestly, what with the state that everything is in at the moment, I think tuition fees are the least of our worries.

I also hate not being taken seriously.  Over the last year, I’ve been around while two protests have been going on: this, and the Union Society BNP Debacle of last year.  I think students protest too easily, and if they carry on like this, it’ll just be crying wolf.

The trouble for me is that when I talk about tuition fees, like when I talk about numerous other contentious topics, there is a little voice in my head at the end of every rationalising thing I say, and it goes, ‘but that doesn’t make it right!’ There is a lot that is wrong in this world, and as far as I’m concerned, not having lots of funding for education, research, and the arts, is one of them.  I would bloody love to live in a society with all those things, and I think it is the greatest shame that the budgets on them are being cut, and I feel on some level cheated because I didn’t ask for that, I didn’t want it and I didn’t vote for it.  Rather grudgingly right now, I value democracy more than all of those things, even though that doesn’t make it right!

It’s all so conflicting.  There are too many students.  There are not enough places.  There are not enough graduates.  There is not enough funding.  There are degree courses in Celebrity Media Studies, Criminology and Dance, and that course on Lady Gaga.  There are too many new applicants per job.  Poor students are missing out, rich students are having to work harder to prove they can actually work rather than get a degree off Daddy’s back, and we’re so out of line with Europe it’s not even funny.  I just want to scream, what do you want?! People are just pulling and pulling in every direction and the upshot of it all is that yes, if I’m honest with you, I would pay £9000 a year for the degree I’m getting.  And yes, I’d consider a Masters course on top of that.  And I would do it, and enjoy it, and I wouldn’t mind much more than I mind at the moment having to pay it back for the next few decades.

I hope that doesn’t make me a bad person.

Spot the knitter September 8, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Uncategorized.

I know this advert has been out for a while, but every time I see it I laugh out loud.

It’s like coming home.  And did you see the knitter?  Of course you did.  How else would I have come across the advert?  You learn well, my friends.

It’s been busy round here  – I’ve finished at work for the summer, for which I cannot be thankful enough.  After being in Arran, spending four days a week in an airless room grates, even if the company makes everything go faster.  After I finished that, I went up to London to see Linguistic Housemate before she heads off to pastures new and Don’t Drink The Water Territory.

I’ve been knitting like nobody’s business, of course, and I’ve nearly finished the body of the cardigan I’ve been making out of my skein of Wollmeise.  It looks wonderful.  People have been commenting on the colour.  I have to stop every half-hour to bury my face in it and inhale.  Having said which, it appears my plan isn’t working – I’m still going to have quite a lot left at the end, even if I make it longer and give it full-length sleeves.  The weather is slowly but surely starting to turn, but I am determined to get some wear out of a laceweight cardi before autumn properly sets in.

I also have a skein of terracotta-coloured Malabrigo Sock that I bought at I Knit when I went into London to see Linguistic Housemate.  It’s intended for a pair of socks.  I know in my head exactly what sort of socks I want to make with it.  And yet… I can’t bear the prospect of putting Malabrigo on my feet.  I may chicken out and make a shawl instead.  Or a hat.  I haven’t decided yet.  Input welcome.

I went into town yesterday to go into the library (and do some work! yay) and happened to go into the sort of place where one might get hold of quite a bit of felt, and sequins, and zips, and those little safety pins you put on the back of brooches.  I think you can guess what I’ll be doing the next few days.

In which Scotland was big enough for the both of us August 29, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Knitting, Look what I did, Really good day, Uncategorized.

Dad and I went to Scotland.  It was stunning.  I will now proceed to bombard you with pictures of mountains.

Following streams is not always a clever idea, as we found, especially if you’re following them downwards.  Wet trouser legs all round!

The north of the island is just in every way glorious.  We walked along the top of this, and never saw a single person:

Can you imagine that?  I can’t think of anywhere else I’ve ever been that I could say that about.  Which means either I haven’t travelled much, which is entirely likely, or that’s rare.  On the way back, the Peak District seemed to contain a stifling number of people.  I couldn’t believe it.

This is probably my favourite view of the year.

Hope Island.  We unfortunately didn’t have time to visit, but seeing that from a trig point, very high up and from not all that great a distance, and I assure you it hasn’t been misnamed in the slightest.

There was also knitting!  And outrageous posing with same!  And there were definitely tights.

This might just be the best photo taken of me all year.  I don’t generally take photos particularly well.

There was also knitting, of course, and that’s probably going to be blocked tomorrow, so hopefully there will be pictures soonish.

In other knitting news, the Incredible Custom-Fit Raglan is, I can confirm, a terrifying piece of machinery.  Having knitted one cardigan and half a jumper of upperwear in my life (the former of which is what’s being blocked tomorrow), I decided to jump in at the deep end and make something from scratch myself.  I’m blaming Knit and Crochet Blog Week from a few months ago – having admitted I wanted to design my own cardigan, I haven’t been able to get the idea out of my head.   As far as I’ve got, which is just starting on the waist shaping, the logistics are fiendish and they’re making my head hurt.  However, with the judicious use of time, a lot of chocolate and numerous spreadsheets, I think I’m getting the hang of it.  Probably.  If I finish this thing, it is getting worn til it falls apart.

Adjourning for a week August 15, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Uncategorized.

I’m leaving, at disgusting o’clock tomorrow morning, to go to Scotland for a week.  Arran, to be precise, and the Lake District briefly on the way up and the Peak District even more so on the way down.  There will be lots of walking, and a fair bit of knitting, and I imagine some very good food.  It’s just going to be my dad and me, and I’m really looking forward to it.  I shan’t, however, have any internet access for most of the week except to occasionally check my e-mails on my dad’s computer.  Until then, it’s radio silence, I’m afraid.  Don’t miss me too much.

Hiatus July 14, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Uncategorized.

I’m disappearing off for four days or so as of tomorrow.  There will be good music, and crafting, and tents and rain and probably quite a few photographs.  I’m looking forward to it.  My preparation thus far has consisted of checking out my tent by putting it up in my living room (haven’t used it in several years now, more’s the pity), experimenting with marginal success with that gradual fake tan stuff that never looks gradual on me because I’m ginger and freckly and ordinarily look just this side of undead… and buying a pair of shorts.

So far, the shorts are scaring me more than the rain.

The shawl I’ve knitted this week is now blocked, but I’m too lazy to take a photo of it.  Never mind, I’ll be taking it with me, so I’m sure you’ll see it sooner or later.  I’m planning on casting on Kate Davies’ Cloud (Ravelry link) this evening with some dark grey-blue Araucania Ranco Solid I got last time I was in York from Ramshambles, and taking it with me so as to have some simple-ish stocking stitch to do that I don’t have to look at too hard.  I may also take a sock.  Taking knitting on holiday: it’s srs bsns, I assure you.  (I am as yet undecided about the cloud pocket on the front, although I fear that if I do make it then His Nibs will not be seen in my vicinity when either making or wearing it.  This saddens me a little.)

I’ll leave you with Baz Luhrmann, because I’ve just rediscovered him and frankly, looking at the Met Office website, I think the sunscreen and I shan’t be making each other’s acquaintance much for the next few days.  Maybe knitting Cloud is surprisingly appropriate.

That’ll do June 23, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Durham, Law, Lovely people, Theatre, Uncategorized, University.
1 comment so far

It has been said among law students that, in an essay or paper marked out of 20, only God can get 20 marks.  His angels and archangels can get a maximum of 19, the lecturer’s lecturer can get 18, and the lecturer himself can get 17, so the best a student can ever hope for is 16 marks.

Got my results back today.  They’re not sparkling and wonderful.  They’re not even particularly great.  I probably couldn’t get an overly spectacular job with them (yet) but hell, they’re so much better than last year that I can’t bring myself to be disappointed.  I’ve scraped a 2:1 (if you round up by 0.3%, which of course I do) and because of what I got last year, and what I was honestly expecting based on how I think the exams went… I’m just unbelievably relieved not to have to resit anything in August.  I couldn’t be happier.  It’s odd, I’ve always been the girl who looks for A*s, who vies for a spot in the top three of a class.  Now I’m just happy to have scraped an average.

Anyway, I improved by nine percent this year, so it’s onwards and upwards, I suppose.

The last few weeks have been very busy: college ball, the D’Oscars (student theatre awards), A Chorus Line rehearsals 9 til 8 most days and then, of course, last week was production week!

So much fun.  The cast were spectacular, the music almost entirely hummable, there were some exciting bits from my point of view and I enjoyed almost every minute of it.  Although as far as I’m concerned, no cast will ever be as good at it now, and I’ve spent the days since with the main song running through my head.  It’s so scalp-tearingly catchy…

(The line is, “Loaded with charisma is my jauntily sauntering ambling shambler.”  Just try it very fast!)

Oh yeah.  And the mirrors.  Well they seemed like a very good idea until they actually got to the theatre.  Do not get me started on those mirrors.  But of course, you can’t do A Chorus Line without the mirrors, and they looked very good even if they were a royal pain in the proverbial.  Luckily, though, Lawyerly Housemate was the stage manager, which meant that they were in the best possible hands – although neither they nor we escaped without injury – and most importantly those best hands weren’t mine.  Joy!

I went to see His Nibs for a few days, which was a breath of fresh air.  I’ve been stuck in Durham for too long.  We drank coffee and went charity shopping and cuddled because it’s not been an easy, or a comforting term for either of us.  I spent a fortune on dresses and impractical shoes, and finished a shawl, of which I hope there will be pictures shortly.

Oh!  I tell you what I’ve missed out!  Just found the pictures for it: from the people who brought you rubber rings and broom handles paddling down the Wear, comes…

…Durham University Giant Chess Society.

How would I sum up my experience of Durham in one picture?  Probably something like this.  Silly hats and all.

Still, I’m tired now, and I’m missing home.  The end of term is full of people and very late nights, and while I am generally a great fan of both, it is all a matter of extent.

I’m planning to check out the new yarn shop in York (where Sheepish was) on Friday, and, of course, Duttons, under the pretense of a visit to see Captain Shakespeare and his new theatrical endeavours.  (Oh yes, and there shall be ogling of his theatre also, no doubt!)  It’s only going to be me, depending on when CS can get away from preparations (law of the universe: expect nothing from anyone involved in the theatre twenty-four hours either side of opening night) but you know… I might just dress up.