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The Satanic Verses November 7, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Bwargh, Edinburgh, Law, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
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I’ve just gone onto Wikipedia, and found out the plot of Salman Rusdie’s The Satanic Verses.  It was interesting.

Of course, I’ve heard of the book before – who hasn’t?  It’s practically synonymous with Rushdie’s name, with controversy, with all kinds of things – for the last few months, there’s been an exhibition about banned books at the National Library of Scotland, and I’ve gone round at least three times since August.  The Satanic Verses was all over it, that and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

The last time I went round the exhibition, I went with my mother.

“Do you know what it’s about?”  She didn’t.  She remembered the controversy, the protests, the fatwah, but she had no idea what the book was about, and neither did I.  The exhibition wasn’t particularly enlightening on that front, although if I hadn’t known the plot of Lady Chatterley before I went in, I certainly did when I came out.

On Saturday, I went to Leeds, to see DV8’s new performance, ‘Can We Talk About This?’  I had no idea what I was going in to see – I didn’t look it up in advance – but it was one of the most thought-provoking pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen.  It’s based around interviews with all kinds of people, and has the basic premise of comment on how British attachment to multiculturalism means that it is failing to protect people who need to be protected.  It focuses on radical Islam.  There’s discussion of forced marriage, vigilantes, the murder or intimidation of writers and artists and film-makers accused of committing blasphemy, allegations of racism against people suggesting integration, or one law for everyone to abide by, or that Sharia might not be the right legal system for Britain.

I don’t know where I sit about this: it was more partisan than I was expecting.  I think I need to read more about it.

And yes, there was a bit about Salman Rushdie, and The Satanic Verses, and how dreadfully controversial it was and how some people took it as a religious insult.  And yet, until today, I had no idea what the plot of it was.

Other things I have found out in the last month: the workings of an international arrest warrant, what Idi Amin did, the geographic whereabouts of the Central African Republic and Nicaragua, who was in charge in South Africa when they implemented Apartheid, and that there is no actual treaty giving explicit state immunity to national Foreign Ministers.

What do you know?  The more about the world I find out, the more ignorant I am of it.  The more I feel like I’m swayed by anyone I meet telling me what the facts are and saying hey, well, you could look at it like this.  The greater the divide I feel there is between what I think about something, and what I happen to be arguing for this week.  (On the question of “Are human rights universal?”, in the last few weeks I have successfully argued both ways, in two different seminars, and in both I’ve succeeded in swaying several other members of the class.  It’s difficult not to feel manipulative, sometimes, even if it is in the safe confines of a seminar room.)

Having said which, I still don’t think I’ll bother reading any Rushdie any time soon.

LLM October 20, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Edinburgh, Law, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
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It’s hard work, this LLM business.

First of all, I have no lectures (well, one lecture, but the politics department are weird like that).  It’s all two hour seminars, once a week for each of three subjects, the result of which is that I don’t have a lot of contact time, but what I do have is very intense, and requires I reckon in the region of 300 pages of reading for every seminar.  Yes, you read that right.  Come to think of it, chances are I probably didn’t.  Read it right, that is.  Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less.  Most of the time I do as much as I can without smoke coming out of my ears and call it a day.

The content is highly technical, and assumes a good deal of prior knowledge.  For my politics module, International Relations Theory, I started off not understanding any of the technical language and having to sit down with a dictionary and try and work out what this means: “The anti-foundationalism of post-modernism so undermines the discipline… that it often provokes anger and despair among those it attacks.  It calls into question the very possibility of non-normative theory; to charge post-modernists with relativism does, of course, rely on the assumption that it is possible to be non-relativistic!”

For the other modules, the law ones, I (nominally) know what they’re talking about, so it’s just a case of processing the ideas.  Undergraduate law is child’s play.  Well, it’s not.  But it feels like it at the moment.

I am getting through an ink cartridge every six days, on average.  It’s taking me longer to get to sleep, because I have to shut the thought processes down, and longer to wake up in the morning, because I have to start them all back up again and these days it takes a few warm-up exercises.  It’s very strange, to get to the grand old age of twenty-one and be very, very aware of your own intellectual limits, in the sense that at times, I feel like I can’t make my mind go any faster.  I genuinely can’t figure concepts out in my own head fast enough to have time to process them, and that’s something I’ve never really dealt with before.

Oh, but it’s such good fun, though.  In the last five weeks, I’ve dredged the depths of GCSE History (League of Nations, self-determination, post-war social movements), Year Nine Geography (who knew half of these places were countries, never mind where they are and who they border!), Politics-By-Osmosis (I spent an entire afternoon last week looking at Central African dictators in the 1970s on Wikipedia – which, by the way, is an absolute godsend – I really have no recollection of international current affairs pre-2006, which is a bit scary).  It’s like the world’s biggest pub quiz has gone crashing into a newspaper archive, and expected you to have something useful to say out of the end of it.  The remembering, and rediscovering things I used to know about, is just as much fun as the finding out new stuff.  I love it to pieces.

The trouble, then, is working out where to stop.  Historically speaking, I am not very good at this.  It is very difficult to put the brakes on.  But I’m trying to remind myself that if I want to keep going, I have to pause occasionally.  Sometimes your brain freezes up, or grinds to a halt and there’s nothing you can do, and you just have to accept that and take a break.  So it’s taking a bit of practice, at the moment.  We’ll see.

Dreich October 14, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Breaking the fourth wall, Edinburgh, University.
8 comments

Wow.

Well, I thought it was about time I got this up and going again.

A lot has changed since the end of July, and I’ve not been on the internet for a lot of it.  I mentioned before that I was heading off to do a Masters in Edinburgh – well, I’m here now, and I’m completely snowed under a lot of the time.  I’ve been mostly absent from Ravelry for the last few months as well – which is another thing I’m going to have to rectify in the next few weeks.  Frankly, I’ve not really been on the internet so much.  But there’s been a lot going on and I think I’ve been able to cope with it, and adjust to it, a lot better for just keeping out of the way for a while.  I hope you haven’t minded.

Anyway, I’m back now.  I miss blogging and I’ve missed the blogging community as well – I’m sure a lot of changes have happened where you are, too!  So over the next few weeks I’m going to instate a rule of making sure to post at least once a week.  I want to get back into this, and I miss the dialogue of it too.  There’ll probably be a fairly high proportion of knitting posts for a while, partly because I have some absolutely smashing FOs and WIPs to show you, and partly because unless you’ve developed a sudden interest in the law of the sea, you really don’t want to know the gory details of my degree right now.

Also, my god, but Edinburgh is beautiful.  I’m going to have to show you a few bits, you’ll absolutely adore the place.  It’s stunning.

This new adventure July 7, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Edinburgh, Look what I did, University.
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After months of agonising, worrying and trying not to think about things, I’ve finally heard today from Edinburgh University – they’re offering me a place, starting in September, to study a one-year Masters course in International Law.  I am unbelievably excited.  I’ve been not daring to hope for this for most of this year: the course, and the city, look like the best thing I could possibly have wished for and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into both of them.

The course is amazing.  It looks like I’ll have ample opportunity to get stuck into my twin loves of humanitarian law and the European Convention of Human Rights (you know I can’t get enough of it!) and I’m really hoping the seminar format is going to help me get over my main problem of the last few years’ study – that I really don’t like giving presentations or speaking in front of people.  Looks like it’s unavoidable here, though, so fingers crossed I’ll get used to it.  That aside, there’s opportunity for a lot of discussion, and a lot of independent research, and they’re two of my favourite things.

As for the city, well, it’s beautiful.  I’m going to be spending all of August there (if you’re going to the Fringe festival, come and see us!  They’re giving me a lighting desk to play with and everything!) and I gather it’s a good place for everything I love – coffee shops, a vibrant crafting community, a lot of local history and folklore, beautiful walks, it’s going to be such an adventure and I can’t wait.

I almost wonder if a year is going to be long enough.

Academia July 5, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Look what I did, Patterns, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
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It seems fitting that, now that I’ve left Durham altogether – and that they’ve moved the law library to a totally different site to where it used to be – that I should finally be publishing a pattern inspired by weeks and weeks sat in that very library.

I actually had the idea for this cardigan in a café in Lancaster last summer.  I was sat there for a few hours with not a lot to do but read, knit and let my coffee get cold – the best kind of afternoon.  A girl opposite me was wearing a cardigan with a similar sort of back detail and I wondered how one might go about knitting something like that.

It came to me not all that long afterwards, and I knitted up a prototype which is notable only in the fact that it is made of blue Wollmeise, which was lovely, but other than that was totally hideous.  It didn’t fit.  I couldn’t fit my arms into the sleeves.  Everything about it was too tight, or bulged, or drooped, and it had buttons which were far too heavy for it.  Anyway, I thought I could do without buttons.  I’m not surprised it ended up like this – I had knitted a grand total of most of one cardigan in my entire life by that point, and had really no idea what I was doing.  It was a bit of a learning curve.

This year, I have become a far better knitter.  I’ve met the concepts of ease, and drape, and what might actually look any good, and I’m so proud of what this has turned into.  I named it Academia, after something else that it has taken a lot of effort and trial and error to get the hang of, that I’ve spent a lot of time at, and that quite frankly I love to bits.  This sample was knitted mostly over the second term of this year: cast on in the green room of the Gala theatre before the matinee of The Producers, knitted on during my high points and my low points and as a bit of a distraction from work – and, yes, in the law library.  It was finished within about two days of my dissertation, and I love it and wear it often.

The thing I’m most proud of about it is that my test knitters also loved knitting it, and that it looks fantastic on all of them.  If you’re on Ravelry, you can see their cardigans here, and I’m so pleased that it seems to fit different body shapes and sizes so well.  Several of them are already knitting a second one in different yarn, or intend to do so.  And, of course, the banter was the best of any test-knitting group I’ve come across so far.  I fell on my feet with that one.

Oh, and one more thing – remember August of last year, when I said that the thing I aspired to most in the field of knitting was to design my own cardigan?  So do I.  Just goes to show, doesn’t it, that it’s really not all that complicated when you put your mind to it, and that it’s just a case of having your idea and going at it like you think it’s important.

If you can knit in the round, and do left- and right- slanting decreases (which if you knit I bet you can), then you can knit this with no difficulty at all.  The pattern on the back makes it go faster, too – and it really is ridiculously simple to do.  Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s short rows, they’re laughably simple and you’ll have them down to a fine art in an inch or two.

There’s a fair bit of I-cord, but I swear that’s it.  And besides, I don’t know about you, but I think I-cord looks rather good.

You can get the pattern for Academia here, for the princely sum of £3.25.

Graduation July 1, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Durham, Law, Look what I did, Lovely people, Really good day, Theatre, University.
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Graduation means movement.  Colour graduates.  Two days ago, so did I.

My university experience involved a lot of sitting in libraries and accompanying backache.  It involved a lot of coffee, and fruit tea, and late nights, and massive books.  To begin with, I thought I’d read the massive books cover to cover and that’d be fine.  I never did that once.  I pulled more all-nighters than I care to mention.  I blagged a lot.  I slept in, and panicked, quite a few times.  I came home at the end of every term and slept for several days straight, and I cried at eleven o’clock at night because I didn’t think I could keep going but I still had several hours’ work to do.

I didn’t get a first in anything.  Not once.

I learned how to paint floors, and walls, quickly, and how to put up lights and hem tablecloths and take in clothes.  I learned to knit jumpers.  I made gallons of tea and cooked for fifteen with half an hour’s notice.  I gave up my sofa, my living room, my entire house to other people, and I didn’t leave my bedroom for three days at a time.

I got drunk with people I didn’t know and regretted it every time, but kept doing it anyway.  Eventually I knew the people and I still regretted it.  I walked on cobbles and down steep hills in 5″ stillettos, and had to be walked home at two in the morning in the snow.  I ate rice for five days in a row, and spaghetti bolognese four times in the same week.  I stayed up til the small hours, drinking blackcurrant squash and playing Lego Indiana Jones with seven or eight people crammed onto two sofas.

When I graduated, I didn’t go to the law department.  The law department is not representative of my university experience, even though I did a fair bit of law and I enjoyed what I did.  My university experience would not be summed up anywhere near my department.

It’d be here, after working on a show with the other techies, all gathered round a table at the pub, dressed in black and grimy because we haven’t had time to shower for three or four days and so tired we’re all getting distracted by the lights on the slot machines.

Or it’d be here, eating cake backstage and trying to avoid being one of the people who has to move the piano and surruptitiously keeping an eye on my props table.

Or else it’d be at a college do, scrubbed up well and surrounded by friends, and smiles, and good conversation.

I’ll miss Durham, and I’ll miss my degree, and I’ll miss spending hours browsing Westlaw and reading things just that bit off topic.  But if something sums up the last few years, it won’t be the law department.  If I had to pick a building, it’d have to be this one.

Back home now.  You’ll probably hear from me more often.  Not that that’s in any way difficult.

Distractions May 18, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Durham, Knitting, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
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Exams are well under way, and my ability to concentrate has gone the way of the sleepless nights once again.  My biggest worry right now is that I’m not doing myself justice, and no amount of Oh You’ll Be Fine is going to change that – I think it’s just the way of things.

I’m hampered slightly at the moment by the fact that there is a kids’ theatre troupe in the theatre this week (seeing as we aren’t using it) and they’re doing a production of Annie which opens tomorrow.  Imagine if you will, trying to get your head round the difference between entrepreneurship and providing services as explained haphazardly but at great length by the ECJ, to the glorious theme tune of It’s A Hard Nut Life. My room backs onto the auditorium.  I don’t like Annie at the best of times.

I’m taking an afternoon out to daydream a bit.  His Nibs and I got these when we were in Dorset over Easter:

I’m afraid I rather fell in love with them – and I know just what I want to do with them.  Now if only I could get these pesky exams out of the way…

The sock I said I’d started the other week has ground to a halt.  Unfortunately my tension the last week or two has got massively skewed, so I ended up having to go down two needle sizes so that the sock wouldn’t swim on me.  It turns out this is only a good idea for so long, and I’ve reknit the heel twice now and it’s still way too tight.  I want to shout it isn’t fair!  Why must my simple exam knitting go horribly wrong?  But I have decided instead, a little reluctantly, to put the damned thing in time out and work on something else in the few spare minutes I have.  There’s no reason to stress over it, not at the moment.  I’m having to reluctantly admit to myself that hey, they’re only socks.

It was my cousin’s wedding on Saturday, which was a welcome few days out.  I think I’ve made a new friend…

(Mum says I’m not allowed one yet and that I should ask His Nibs first.  On reflection, this is probably for the best.  Look at that arm, though!)

This has been your “I’m still alive, promise!” broadcast, May 2011.

Going round again May 5, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Bwargh, Craftiness, Knitting, University.
5 comments

It’s that time of year.

I seem to be alternating between being unable to sleep for more than three hours at a stretch, and being out like a light for twelve hours straight.  I’m also alternating between subsisting on cous cous and vegetables, and pigging out on bowlfuls of angel delight and bars of Dairy Milk.  My mood is swinging about the place too: one minute, I’m feeling like I have to be alone, and the next, I feel very lonely indeed.  That last is probably kind of related to the first two.  I keep telling myself: this too shall pass.

I don’t really want it to pass, either.

I cast on a sock this afternoon:

The yarn is Juno Fibre Arts Buffy Sock, and the colour is called ‘Seaspray’.  This is pretty accurate, but you can’t see the hints of green particularly well.  It’s such a subtle colour, I had such fun just winding it.

Unlike my usual plain exam sock – I have a pair of toe-up stocking stitch socks for every exam period for about the last three years – this one’s going to be patterned.  I felt like it.  It’s going to be Wendy Johnson’s Catnip socks which are everything I like: toe-up, easily customisable, lacy, with a simple repeat so I don’t have to carry the pattern round with me all the time.  I’m looking forward to them.

I’ve finished a pair of socks, too, in the last day or so – I’ll try and get pictures of them soon, they’re rather lovely.  Again, simple lace.  It’s amazing how comforting it can be sometimes.

It’s all hot and cold hereabouts.  I hardly know what to do with myself.

Captain Shakespeare and I went to see Bellowhead play last week.  They were phenomenal.  Quite possibly the best live act I’ve ever seen – the collective energy was amazing, they can work a crowd like nobody’s business but you just got the impression that they were enjoying themselves and just messing about.  There was spontaneous bursting into jigs, dramatic lunging with a banjo, and trying to make one of the violinists laugh from across the stage while he was doing a solo – as well as at several points the stealing of Jon Boden’s tambourine, whistle, tiny-drum-slash-wind-noise-thing and misc other small percussion instruments.

I’m sure I’ve said before that some musicians have a song that just resonates with me, that I adore above and beyond anything else they’ve done.  Interestingly, that song of Bellowhead’s is one that is very traditional and arranged by a lot of different people.  It’s also the first thing I ever heard them play, and it’s fantastic.  Therefore I’m foisting it on you.  Imagine a theatre full of people bawling their heads off at the words and clapping and stomping along.  What an atmosphere.

It’s never all bad.

Three sweaters May 2, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Look what I did.
6 comments

One.

‘Harvest Moon’ by Heidi Kirrmaier. Wool/alpaca blend DK. Started on Christmas Day, knitted in Brighton and Lincolnshire and Dorset over the Christmas holidays. Grew disconcertingly when blocked so that the bottom of the yoke was around my elbows. Strengthened my resolve to get myself a dress form the moment I have somewhere to put it.

Two.

(Get off my) Cloud by Kate Davies.  Sock weight wool on 3.5mm needles.  (I can’t believe it either.)  Cast on at Larmer Tree Festival, Summer 2010 and knitted on constantly for the entire week.  Taken to my first Ravelry meet-up.  Hood finished over coffee and lunch with the girls in Durham.  I-cord edges knitted over two trips from home to university, alternated with a sock so I wouldn’t go out of my mind with the quantity of it.

Worn, finished, for the first time at my second ever Ravelry meet-up.

Three.

And this one’s mine.  (Wool/angora light fingering.  Conceived last summer.  Cast on last term.  Ripped back, cast on again, ripped back again, cast on again.  Finished a few weeks ago.  Currently being test knit.  More exciting than it looks, but the most interesting detail isn’t visible from this picture.  More to come.)

Breaking things March 16, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Bwargh, Durham, Look what I did, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
3 comments

Notably, internal barriers, my sleep cycle, my ability to function as an adult human being and look after myself and everything and – most excitingly – my record for greatest number of hours spent in the library over a 24 hour period outside of exam term.  Record currently stands at thirteen.  It can’t get any higher than that because that included opening time (9am) in the law library, two hours’ break for food and a tutorial, and closing time (midnight) in the main library.

It’s been that sort of week.

In a way, I’ve kind of enjoyed it.  It’s been good to just be single-minded about work, and just concentrate on one thing for hours at a stretch.  In a way, I kind of feel broken.  It doesn’t show any signs of stopping, yet, though: the end of term is on Friday.  Between now and then I have 300 pages of reading for two tutorials and a 1500 word mini-essay to write.  And then on Monday morning I’ll find out how inevitably dreadful my dissertation draft was, and start on another 6000 word essay due the beginning of next term, and try and get my head round starting to revise.

And do some washing.  I haven’t done any washing in the last two weeks, and I’m running out of things.

And tidy my room.  This is turning into a list now, which is not at all what I meant to say.

I meant to talk about finished things, and how I think I might have started to figure out what I want to do next year, which is great.  And a start.  I also meant to talk about Captain Shakespeare’s new play, which I saw on Saturday and which was a bloody good evening out though I say so myself.

Also, this is a placeholder.  I’m still here!  I’m still going!  I’ve not fallen off the face of the earth!

And look! It’s my dissertation:

Wordle: Public Law Dissertation 2011

(Clicky clicky to make it bigger, although you can probably tell it’s about Parliamentary Sovereignty, its interaction with the courts, and the Human Rights Act.  Soooo unbelievably interesting, and I could wax lyrical about it for ages but I fear I’d bore you.)

I feel quite proud that I’m here and things are still happening.  After my essay’s in on Friday, I promise to show you knitwear.  I know I’ve been promising for the last two weeks.