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Freshers’ Week October 6, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Durham, Knitting, Lovely people, University.

Well, term Is Go, essentially: the freshers turned up on Saturday and Sunday and Durham has promptly got a lot busier, and a lot noisier.  Everyone’s been rushing around like mad things – I’ve just seen Mathematical Housemate about five minutes ago for the first time since Saturday morning, and he’s disappearing off as soon as he’s had a shower to go back to college, fetch a badger costume and hot-foot it back down the hill.  I kid you not.

First things first, I finished Propello!  It took longer than I’d hoped because it turns out I can’t read instructions even when they’re bolded and italicised in front of me, so I had to rip back about four inches and redo them.  And now I have no access to a camera so here, have a really rubbish webcam picture of me modelling the world’s cutest hat:

Dreadful photo aside, the little I cord bit on the top just kills me.  The whole thing is just so cute.  And, did I mention it’s made of Malabrigo Worsted?  I think I’m in love.

Back to Freshers’ week, I can hear from my open window that matriculation is going on in the cathedral: where new students are entered into the university as students.  I remember my matriculation service – I was surprised to discover that it was really short, that there were no hymns and not so much as an optional prayer.  Durham has an illustrious history of being as divorced from religion as it is possible to be with a theology department and a cathedral smack bang in the middle, and it’s a matter of pride that they were accepting students who weren’t of the UK’s current major religion (I forget which it was at the time) long before Oxford and Cambridge.

Just a little factlet for you there.

I think Durham has something absolutely right about the freshers’ first week, though, which is very nicely illustrated by the shouting and air-horns and bagpipes and loudspeakers blasting the Harry Potter theme tune that have just subsided as they’ve all gone in, and it is this: you turn up, on the Saturday or Sunday, and are presented with teabags, sweets and the phone number of a freshers’ rep.  They then feed you, give you somewhere to sleep, stand around you being disgustingly enthusiastic, show you around the city on a treasure hunt and take you on a bar crawl.  Then, they give you a good list of seven or eight places you can get welfare support: college parents, corrridor reps, college exec, personal and senior tutor, Nightline, probably half a dozen more I’ve forgotten.  The whole time, you’re being indoctrinated with your college song, your college drink, your college banter, and a steady stream of how amazing your college is and how happy everyone is that you’re a part of it too.  And then, a few days later, you head off to matriculation and sing said college song, while clapping wildly, very loudly in the faces of people from other colleges, who are doing likewise.

Essentially, for your first week there, there is no way of escaping the huge community of it all, your college and doing things for your college and people who love your college are the first things you see and for the first week they are synonymous with how you live in Durham.  You start off being really proud of your college, and feeling like it’s where you fit in, and like the people there are going to support you.  They essentially give you four or five days of intensive welcome-to-the-family treatment.  And it works, definitely – it might not stop you getting homesick, or lonely, or sad, but you certainly don’t feel like you don’t fit in.  I hold those first few days directly responsible for the low dropout rate, and while the whole thing reeks a bit of indoctrination and brainwashing (case in point: Mathematical housemate is currently outside the cathedral, dressed as a badger and dancing.  If this is not the result of some glorious powers of persuasion, I don’t know what is) I think it’s exactly what new freshers need.  And I think they’ve got it down to a fine art.

Of course, some people then go away and find other things they love doing, and, for instance, get sucked into the student theatre and never leave (cough), but even if you never go there any more, college is still a little bit special.  Out in the wide world, two Durham students always have a conversation opener before, “What did you study?” and it’s, “What college were you at?”  It always comes first.  And there’s something rather nice about that.


Inspiration September 29, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Literature, University.

It’s been raining on and off here for the last three days, and it’s grey and miserable and generally not particularly pleasant – which is why I’ve not been writing, I suppose, nobody wants that passing on.  People are slowly but surely coming back to the city – both of my housemates are here, now, and a few of the other techies, and it’s so exciting to see them all again.  Plus, the flat is now feeling a bit more like home now that it has three people, about a hundred extension cables and the smells of cooking in it.  This can only be a good thing.

I’ve spent the last few days working: pre-term reading, but also a few other bits and pieces.  I’ve decided this is the year I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, which is in November.  I haven’t written any length of fiction longer than about a thousand words in about the last five years, and it’s something I’m finding I’m having to train myself back into doing.  It’s amazing how these things leave you, but also how quickly they come back.  Contrary to most people’s response, though (which tends to be, “Ooh, and then you can publish it!”), I’m doing this entirely for my own benefit.  For fun.  For the personal challenge.  It may or may not become public, but, given my recent standard of writing, I’m inclined to think it’s unlikely.  Anyway, the planning is under way, and I’m already discovering the perks of being one’s own target audience – I’m really excited already.  How long this will continue is debatable.

Anyone else planning to join in?  I’d love to hear from you.

My knitting at the moment is a bit on the exciting, new side – I’m test-knitting a sock which is beautiful but complicated, and involves a lot of cables and twisted stitches.  Both of these are favourites of mine, and I’m really enjoying testing them.  More to follow, almost certainly, when I’ve finished them.  I have to say, testing patterns for other designers is one of my favourite things.  It’s like one great mystery knitalong where you just immerse yourself in the pattern – so useful for the designer, and so community-building for the testers.  Working with chatty test-knitters is another of my favourite things.

Added to which, finally, inspiration has struck and I’m knitting up the sample for a shawl.  I don’t know whether I love it more because it’s got lace in it, or it’s been such a challenge to put together, or because it’s really, really pretty.  The sample I’m knitting up at the moment is in the teal Araucania Ranco I got in Sheffield over the summer, and I have plans for a laceweight version as well.  Both of which should keep me busy for a while!

I’m crediting the knitting with keeping me sane in all this rain – even my wonderful library isn’t doing the trick.  They’re refurbishing, and I’ve been in there this week and it’s freezing.  I’m looking forward to December so much…

Something scary about laceweight September 16, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, University.

What do you think this is?

It’s (a slightly splodgey photo of) the cuff of a cardigan that, fingers crossed, will be bound off today.  The yarn is the Wollmeise Lace-Garn I got at KnitNation (yes, I know, I haven’t been able to shut up about it).  I decided to knit a long-sleeved, drapey thigh-prodding-length cardigan with it, for the main reason that I wanted to use up all 300g on the same thing, and it’s impossible to use less than 300g knitting a really long cardigan, isn’t it?

There’s still a third of the damned stuff left – I’m estimating I’ll have about 700yds left over.  How did this happen?  I do not understand how you can knit a whole cardigan that weighs less than 200g.

I think I might have to have a bit of a shawl binge now, to use it all up.

Back up to Durham on Sunday.  I don’t want to leave home, I never want to leave the place or the people, but this time I’m really looking forward to being back with something to focus on.  I’m missing my library, and my theatre, and just generally messing about being a student.  One year left.  My, my.  It’s gone before you know it, isn’t it?

Last year, I promised myself I’d work hard, and I think I did.  This year, I promise to up that.

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.

What do you get… May 29, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Durham, Look what I did, Lovely people, Really good day, University.

…when you take eighteen techies, archaeologists, Boy Scouts and assorted hangers-on, twenty inflatables, quite a lot of doctored broom handles, and give them ideas?

A certain brand of distinctly organised chaos, that’s what.  (Photos by Mathematical housemate., with varying degrees of sogginess.)  We boldly went…

…into the river.  It wasn’t nearly as cold as you’d think – although quite cold enough!  And you got very wet very quickly.  Unless, of course you’d had the forethought to bring a paddling pool:

We started off by Shincliffe Bridge, and most of us got out at the Hild Bede boathouse, although a few went on as far as Prebends, just to prove that they could.  This is what Shincliffe to Hild Bede looks like:

…It’s about a mile and a half, and it took us maybe two hours in rubber rings with broom handle paddles, watching out for the rowers and, of course, waving to people on the banks and the bridges.  Prebends bridge – I think, anyway, correct me on this if my geography’s entirely out – do you see the massive meander if you carry on in the direction we were going?  At the bottom of that, on the left a bit, you can see a bridge, at about an eight o’clock angle.  That’s how far the others went.

If you can’t do it when you’re a student, when can you do it?  And what a fantastic thing to have done.  Another before picture:

(Heading across Kingsgate bridge from the theatre, where we left our things.  What an intrepid crowd.  Still can’t believe how many of us there were!)

Afterwards, there were lukewarm showers for those of us who had got a bit too cold – myself included – and hot tea and doughnuts.  And Chinese.  It was a fantastic afternoon, all things considered.  What a way to see Durham, and to enjoy it.

I only have one exam left and it’s not til next Thursday.  There’s still a lot of work to do for it, but I think it’s time to calm down a bit now.

The problem with Southerners May 9, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Breaking the fourth wall, Durham, Lovely people, Uncategorized.

Ah, sweeping generalisations.  They make the world go round.  Therefore I’m going to add the disclaimer that this is all in my experience, as a Hampshire girl living six months of the year in Durham.  One’s about as south as you can go without hitting the water, the other is fairly close, in the grand design of things, to as far north as you can go without hitting Scotland.  This is about the stereotypes that I’ve heard, and some of the opinions I’ve heard expressed in jest, and in all seriousness.  No, I am not going to tell you which is which.  Yes, these are all gross generalisations, but they are closer to the truth, I think, than maybe it’s PC to expect.

“People in [whichever end of the country I come from] are definitely friendlier.”

“You’re the ones that talk funny!”

These two sentiments are bandied about like nobody’s business at either end of the country.  At home, I get the occasional merciless teasing now for pronouncing Newcastle with a short ‘a’ – something for which I am not apologetic for the same reason that I pronounce ‘chorizo’ with a lisp, as opposed to calling it ‘chorit-so’.  Simply because, if you go to Newcastle, that’s what it’s called.  ‘Newcarrrrr-sle’ simply doesn’t exist.

When I’m up in Durham, I am very conscious of my accent.  I can feel that some of the locals eye me with a bit of suspicion, and some of them (generally men, as it happens – and I’ll get to that, I don’t think it’s a Feminist Statement) talk down to me because of how I speak.  I have a fairly RP accent.  It takes about five seconds for anyone to work out whereabouts in the UK I’m from.  When I’m at home during the holidays, and I use a hard ‘a’ sound as in ‘maths’, as I’ve noticed I start doing when I’m trying to ingratiate myself with someone informally, I get eyebrows raised at me.

Personally, I think people from the south are friendlier to me, but that is because for the 99th percent I sound like them.  However, I have a theory as to why people from the south are perceived by people from the north as less friendly, and the opposite isn’t true to nearly the same extent.

It’s because they, from the south, don’t understand what they, from the north, are saying.

The BBC has always been the ultimate purveyors, if you like, of crisp accents.  The BBC is heard nationwide, by everybody.  Institutions other than the BBC use similar accents, and people who speak with an non-RP accent are very exposed to what an RP accent sounds like, and what an Estuary accent sounds like.  They can understand it, no problem.  It sounds different to them, but not that out of the ordinary.  When I got up to Durham for the first time, it sounds like a bit of a cliché or an exaggeration but I had real problems with the local accent – to the extent that I hid from my cleaners for the first few months to avoid conversation, and tried my utmost to go shopping with friends so I didn’t have to hold my own so much in a concentration.  It’s a fairly thick accent, and asking someone to repeat themselves, especially with my voice, sounds very condescending.  So for a lot of the first few months I don’t doubt that I came across as a bit frosty.

I think people from the south-east, where I’ve grown up, can get a little bit snooty about the accents of people who are not from the south-east, and I think the reason for that is that they have to try that bit harder to tune into other accents, because they don’t hear them so often.  I know I find it a lot easier to cope with now, compared with before, and compared with some of my friends: I’ve had to translate for a few of them before, or carry on a conversation while they’re quiet.   It’s very sad, but I think a lot of the perceived unfriendliness of people who, well, live where I do, comes from the fact that they don’t quite understand what’s being said as easily, and maybe they feel subconsciously a bit defensive because they feel like they have a disadvantage.  If you think about it, it makes sense: accents that are more frequently heard on the BBC: your Thames Estuary, your Edinburgh Scots, your Welsh, your occasional West Country, a lot of people find them easier to understand than for instance your Geordie or Yorkshire.

Which brings me to why County Durham men, particularly, are a little bit condescending towards me.  Really, we have nothing in common at first sight.  I’m a woman.  I’m a lot younger than them.  I’m from the university.  I sound like I’m going to be on the defensive because I speak like I’ve just come from tea with the Queen.  Frankly, I revert to stereotypes a bit when I’m talking to a fair few of them, I’m not surprised they do the same with me, at least then we both know how to act towards each other.  It’s not exactly a brilliant basis for forming a brief but meaningful friendship.

You know, I would like to teach the world to sing, and I would like to be taken seriously the country over.  In the meantime, I will content myself with biting my lip at Southern Fairy jokes and the description of anyone’s accent as Horrible or Harsh or Failing To Enunciate, and just put all my effort into trying to understand what they’re saying.  And if I ask you to repeat yourself, don’t tell anyone, but it means I like you.

Who are you and what have you done with Fiona? May 8, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Bwargh, Durham, Knitting, Look what I did, Sheer bloody-mindedness.

I am so unbelievably bored of socks right now.

I know how unlikely that seems.  I am ready to turn two heels right now: I’ve finished the cuff of Purple Sock #2 and the foot of Zauberball Sock #2, and I really cannot be bothered with either of them.

This is unfortunate for several reasons: firstly, one of them is sort of on a deadline (which is rapidly making whooshing noises as it flies by, apologies to all concerned), secondly, the other one is sort of my therapy at the moment, and thirdly, I was using both pairs as counterbalance against each other to ward against Second Sock Syndrome.

So what to do?  The answer I’ve settled upon is this:

Knit another shawl.  (Yes, I am hiding behind it, why do you ask?)  This is Damson, by Ysolda Teague, with Laughing Yaffle sock yarn in colourway Forest, and yes I did start it a few days ago so as not to have to look another DPN in the eye.  It’s most of the way to finished (although I’m planning on mucking about with the edging because I’ve never been sure of the lacey one in the original, however fun it was to work), and I should have it finished in the next few days.

Obviously, I had to knit a shawl, after Midge lost my old Damson on Dartmoor in March.  It’s so nice to knit a project on needles larger than 2.75mm in diameter – and it’s amazing how fast it’s going.

On the subject of ‘Who are you and what have you done with Fiona’, something else amazing happened yesterday morning.  Some of you might know that I’ve been procrastinating starting the Couch to 5k programme since, ooh, probably January… well it turns out Ex-Roomie has been jogging since the start of the Easter holidays, and seeing as she’s already seen me embarass myself fully during the term we spent sharing a room at college last year, I asked her if I could tag along.

A few weeks ago, I marched determinedly to M&S, tape measure in bag, and bought myself a sports bra.  I am convinced that this is the most terrifying piece of undergarmentry I own – and there are some strong contenders.  On Thursday afternoon, Roomie and I went out, and she cajoled me into buying what I am convinced is a comprehensive list of clothes I never thought I’d wear, never mind spend actual money on: running shoes, leggings and short shorts.  (The short shorts on my insistence that yes, she could drag me into wearing leggings if she really wanted, but my arse is still shy and I am not braving the VPL in public.  Yet.)

You guys.  I ran nearly two miles yesterday.  On purpose!  Chased by nobody!  Wearing leggings!  If you are shocked, it is probably less than I am.  I still can’t believe I did it.  I have, however, four observations:

1) The fact that Durham is a city where, in the words of His Nibs, ‘the only flat bits are vertical’, is a definite plus here.  I may go red in the face after about a minute and a half of the quickstep, but I’m definitely fitter than I thought I was.

2) It turns out, nobody is watching you run, and if you do it with purpose they seem to assume you know what you’re doing.  Even if you are wearing hideous trousers.

3) Running after five hours sleep post-election night (where much gin was consumed, and I went to bed at a quarter past four) was probably not the cleverest idea I ever had.  I was pretty much useless all afternoon.

4) You know people who exercise regularly always tell you how much better you feel for it?  That it’s exhilarating, and you don’t have to think about anything else, and you just feel so powerful and capable and, well, better?  Based on my experience of one, it’s a lie.  I felt horrible doing it, I felt horrible afterwards.  I will say for it, though, that now I’m home and I’ve had a sleep and a shower, the sense of smug self-satisfaction is definitely worth it.

We’re going out again tomorrow.  Wish me luck.

An off-beat political post April 24, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Durham, Law, University.

Right, well, my political views are my own and yours are yours and there are hundreds of places to discuss them and flaunt them and whatnot all over the place – which is fantastic, but not really what I want to talk about here.

It’s more of an observation, and it goes a bit like this:

I thought young people were supposed to be ambivalent about politics?  I thought there was supposed to be vast amounts of apathy about the place?  Maybe it is the company I keep, but I’ve found apathy is a lot harder to come by than I expected this year.  In our house as far as I can make out there is a Labour, a Lib Dem and a Tory, and one who probably won’t vote.  I think, actually, this is the only person I know who thinks they probably won’t vote.  Everywhere else there is commentary.  There is discussion.  There are Facebook groups.  Even the person who probably won’t vote keeps reminding me to listen to the Vote Now Show.  (If you have access to BBC iPlayer – this means you – seriously, sit down and have a listen.  Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis make me happy generally.)

Another thing I’ve noticed – and this might be because Durham is a Lab/Lib contested seat, and the Lib Dems are doing a lot of canvassing, and home is a Con/Lib contested seat, and the Lib Dems are doing a lot of canvassing – is that student opinion seems to be leaning in the Lib Dem direction a lot more than I expected.  I don’t know what I expected.  More Tories, I suppose.  It makes me laugh a bit, that the last few years the only time Nick Clegg has made it into the spotlight is when people are making jokes that he looks so ordinary that he blends into the background.  Apparently he doesn’t any more.  Impressive.

I notice also that Iceland has been getting its feminist on and banned strip clubs – or rather, it’s banned profiting from the nudity of your employees.  I’m not going to talk about what’s empowering and what’s not, whether it’ll actually work (probably not, right? it’ll just all go underground),  and I shall leave the vast range of double entendres and sandwich jokes up to you (seriously, guys).  What I think is interesting is this:

So how has Iceland managed it? To start with, it has a strong women’s movement and a high number of female politicans. Almost half the parliamentarians are female and it was ranked fourth out of 130 countries on the international gender gap index (behind Norway, Finland and Sweden). All four of these Scandinavian countries have, to some degree, criminalised the purchase of sex (legislation that the UK will adopt on 1 April). “Once you break past the glass ceiling and have more than one third of female politicians,” says Halldórsdóttir, “something changes. Feminist energy seems to permeate everything.”

Firstly, the gender gap difference.  Just to let you know, the UK is fifteenth globally so we’re really not doing that bad.  It’s a really interesting report.  If you’re interested, have a look at the tables and see if you can find Italy.  It is completely inappropriate that I laughed out loud.

Secondly, this is probably closest to what I think about it without your getting me writing another thousand words and spouting glass ceiling clichés at you.

Thirdly, is there anything, anything at all, socially, politically, environmentally, that the Scandinavians haven’t done better than practically anyone else in the world?  All that and Norwegian stranded colourwork.  It makes me sick to my back teeth, it does.  Well done the Scandinavians.

That’s the most you’re getting out of me for a while, I reckon.  My life is essentially summed up by this at the moment:

I’m sure you’re not particuarly interested in either wills or reckless transmission of HIV.  That’s okay, neither am I.  At least it’ll be out of the way, though.  And I have the lovely Ms Christie to keep me company.

I might have an actual finished sock to show you in a day or two.  Just the one, mind.  2.25mm needles hardly qualify for the fast lane, I’m afraid.

P.S. I forgot to say, it’s Knitting Crochet Blog Week 2010 next week, which I’m looking forward to.  So if it seems a bit knit-centric round here for the next week or so, I make no apologies!  Oh, the exciting things…

Craaaazy Zauberball! April 21, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Bwargh, Durham, Knitting, Look what I did, Sheer bloody-mindedness.

When they say it…

They mean it!

Train knitting for the journey back up to uni: basic 72-stitch toe-up sock, 2.25mm needles, Crazy Zauberball yarn.  Seriously.  The colours on this thing are MENTAL.  The yarn is a 2-ply (meaning it’s two strands wound together), you can see from the pictures that the two plys are different colours and the colour changes along them have very long repeats.  Which means some of the combinations are spectacular.  It’s all about the colour for me: people tell me on a regular basis that the yarns I knit with are eye-wateringly bright, or clashing, or just a bit weird.  And yes, yes they are.  But interestingly, not one person says that when I’ve knitted something up out of them.  I know I’m a bit outlandish but I do find it interesting that people can be so afraid of colour.  Look at it! That right there is 420 yards of exuberance.

Back to the sock.  I thought I hadn’t knit a plain vanilla sock in a while, and all these patterns and calculations and what have you, they’re wearing me out a bit.  This is comfort knitting: a smashing yarn, some lovely needles (Knit Pro Symfonie DPNs, which I love with all my heart and work really well here because they’re really bright colours too, just like the socks!) and just… keep knitting.  Don’t think about it, just keep going.  It’s been eight months or so since I last had the urge to just knit something simple, and every so often, it’s just a bit of fresh air.

Unrelatedly, and because it’s at the forefront of my mind right now (apologies to the vaguely squeamish and/or awkward): I thought I’d been a bit over-hormonal recently.  Haven’t had cramps this bad since I was fifteen.  Yesterday, someone told me aerobic exercise was good for this sort of thing.  After I’d finished laughing heartily and taken another ibuprofen, I wondered if you lot might have something better to suggest, because I’ve left my hot water bottle the other end of the country and this is agony.

The Books Room March 9, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Durham, Law, University.

I obviously can’t speak for other people’s libraries, but just as a bit of background, the Durham law library is a large-ish, single room, two storeys with a balcony at the height of the first storey.  It looks out, on one side, over the river.  It’s dark brown and green and full of dimly bound volumes of books.  The floor, for some reason is heated – so don’t leave chocolate in your bag, yeah?  Ask me how I know.  It’s open to the public, the whole building is, so it closes at nine o’clock on a weekday.

At this point in the term, at coming up to six o’clock in the evening, it rather resembles a lock-in.  Most people have been here for several hours, and will probably be here til closing time, or thenabouts.  They’ve brought food.  They’ve brought their headphones and their water bottles and their notebooks and their cartons of Ribena.  I love this particular library more than the main university library because it’s, well, it’s what all libraries should be, in my opinion.  I’m a bit of a library purist.  You put the books back in order.  You don’t have music that anyone else can hear.  You probably wash your hands before you come in.  You don’t eat crisps.  And you most certainly don’t talk.  Oh no you don’t.  This is a quiet space.  The main library seems to be so much louder than this one.  So did Southampton’s Hartley library when I was there over the summer – you should be able to think straight in a library, in my opinion, without headphones or any necessity to drown out anything.  If I wanted to hear your conversation, I’d go to a coffee shop.

I know some people who definitely disagree with me on this one, who think the law library is oppressively quiet.  Maybe you should be able to have a quiet conversation if you want.  To which I say, no?!  I’m with the librarians on this one, go the hell outside, or at least into the stairwell.  I adore the quiet of typing, and pages turning, and fifty or so people concentrating.  This makes me happy.  Open plan offices?  Don’t talk to me about open plan offices.

Anyway what I was going to say is that I have a 4000 word essay entitled, ‘Recent developments in constitutional law and reform, perhaps most notably the implementation and enforcement of the Human Rights Act 1998, have confirmed the demise of the political constitution.  Discuss’ due this time next week.  So I’m not going to be about for a bit.  I’m going to be immersed in the awesome. You’ll probably hear about it at some point, at great length.  But until then, I’ll be right here, doing this.  For a week.

Have a good one, chaps.