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Graduation July 1, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Durham, Law, Look what I did, Lovely people, Really good day, Theatre, University.
8 comments

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.

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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.

Notes on a Chorus Line June 7, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Literature, Look what I did, Theatre.
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To be involved in any way with the theatre, particularly acting but also elsewhere, takes a certain type of person – the sort of person who is very aware of their own perceived strengths and weaknesses, what they’re good at, and where they’ve come from.  Not necessarily self-aware, particularly, but its the sort of thing that a lot of them seem to think about quite a bit.  I say they.  Obviously I’m including myself in this, at least a bit.

One effect of this is a vast swathe of plays written about the theatre.  Loads of them.  Everywhere.  From the Phantom of the Opera to Noises Off, people who perform are written, imitated and dissected by people who perform.  Essentially, actors, writing about actors, for actors.

Chorus Line is a textbook example of this, being entirely focused around actors during an audition, being insecure, singing monologues, and generally baring their souls about how desperate they are to get to the top and how they’re never going to make it.  It’s good fun.  It’s very good fun to watch, and hum, and clap along to but the people to whom it has special significance, who might say, “Oh, Chorus Line!  That’s my favourite play!” are actors.  You get the feeling, as an audience member, that it’s not really about you.  It’s not supposed to be.  It’s a manifestation of the truism that actors are eternally fascinated with actors.

Authors are eternally fascinated with authors.  Painters are eternally fascinated with other painters.  Anything creative and introspective necessarily means that you’re taking something inside you and putting it outside you, and that, for me, means that a lot of plays like Chorus Line are very interesting.  I’m not an expert on the significance or subtext in plays, and nor do I play one on TV, but I’m finding it surprisingly difficult to get engrossed in the plot and the characters and their motives so much as the actors, and what they think the characters say about them.  A lot, as it turns out.  The director more so.  The choreographer’s just having a whale of a time.

In the meantime… I haven’t really had time to stop.  Saturday was Grey Day, which was wonderful but I was at college at about 6am and got home about 3am after we’d finished clearing up.  A lot of people did a lot more hard work than I did, but it’s all cumulative at the moment.  I recovered from that on Sunday and was in rehearsals from nine o’clock this morning.  I’ve got a formal in half an hour – the first of three black tie events I’m going to this week.  There’s no time to slow down; I feel like I haven’t got exams out of my system yet.

This has helped:

Recognise that yarn?  It’s the Port Ludlow Sock, and I love it.  A simple, memorable six-stitch repeat.  Nothing too complicated or difficult or confusing.  I don’t have to carry a pattern around or count stitches every few rows.  I can just… knit.  Keep knitting.  I took it to Grey Day and turned the heel in the sunshine, with cider and friends and swing music.  It was wonderful.  Some people said that the stitch pattern might get swamped by the yarn, and I can see where they might be coming from but personally I think it’s worked really well.  I look forward to wearing them, and to them reminding me of the occasions I spent knitting them.

More soon, probably – it’s going to be a hectic week, though.  I have to be out of the house in five minutes.

Tap Your Troubles Away June 2, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Theatre, University.
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Not so sure about the dancing (it’s the best recording I could find, sorry), but ‘Tap Your Troubles Away’, one of the big dance numbers from Mack and Mabel, has quite a lot of significance for me.  I stage managed the musical last year, and it always reminds me of some very strong feelings.  At the time, I was very sleep-deprived, I spent a lot of the rehearsal period without a voice, I was worried for my exams and had no opportunity to be on my own for a good month.  Not my roommate’s fault at all – events conspired, but I’m not very good at being with people for too long when I’m stressed.  I tend to need to hide, a lot.  Added to this, my grandmother was dying, and my whole family were running halfway across the country to look after each other.  She passed away on opening night.

Mack and Mabel was difficult for me, because it was the first thing I had stage managed myself, and it had a large cast, and a fair bit of tech, and I felt like I was on my own for a lot of it, with very little support.   The director and choreographer had very strong ideas about what they wanted, and the strong ideas changed roughly every half hour.  When we first plotted the lighting cues, there were sixty-seven.  By opening night, two days later, there were a hundred and thirty odd – and a good thirty or forty in ‘Tap Your Troubles’ alone.  For that reason, the song always speaks to me of ignoring everything around you, everything else you have to deal with and think about and react to, and just concentrating on one thing and not screwing it up.  Of course, I did screw it up, on multiple occasions, standing in my dark corner of backstage with my headset and my score and my pencil yelling “GO!” every other bar as a cue happened.  I am not an adrenaline junkie.  Mack and Mabel taught me the valuable lesson of acknowledging your screw-ups as they happen, but saving them for later.  It’s not the same as self-confidence, but it’s sure as hell just as useful.  On the last night, all the radio mikes that the major cast were using went down.  Luckily my crew were fantastic, and that’s something Mack and Mabel taught me too: if you pick up other people’s pieces, they’ll pick up yours.

I was humming this song earlier and suddenly I realised I’m feeling exactly the same right now: not sleep deprived, this time, and I’ve been able to hide, but I do feel right now like things are out of my control.  My last exam is tomorrow, and I don’t think they’ve gone well overall.  I’m in the library right now, long after most people have finished their exams.  My brain won’t give it a rest, and I know in the next ten days I have one 4am start and at least two more 4am finishes, as well as 9 til 7 rehearsals every day.  I’m looking forward to it all, but the next few weeks are going to be physically testing.  I am not looking forward to tomorrow afternoon, from 2.30 to 5.00, in the slightest.  I don’t know how easy it’s going to be to let go.

In two weeks’ time, I am going to be twenty.  I feel a lot older, sometimes, and sometimes I feel a lot younger.

This afternoon, my new needles, and the yarn for the cardigan, came in the post.  The yarn is beautiful.  I can’t wait to cast on something new, my fingers are itching to, but I’m not going to let myself until at least tomorrow afternoon.  Or, more likely, Friday morning – after all, friends don’t let friends knit drunk.

I feel like I’m reaching the end of something now.

Beads make everything better. Fact. May 1, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Theatre.
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6 comments

Apologies that yesterday’s entry was so short: I had about ten minutes before I had to be off to the theatre to see a production of  Yasmina Reza’s Art.  It was very good.  For a play involving three people arguing about an entirely white painting and how pretentious they all are for an hour and a half, it was very, very good.  It featured three actors who, to me, make a play at our student theatre unmissable purely by being in it.  Ditto the director, in fact.  Unfortunately, all of them are leaving at the end of this year.  Durham’s theatre scene shall be the worse for it, I’m sure.

I went to bed last night at about half past ten and slept for eleven hours straight.  I feel no better.  I am behind with my revision, as I suppose was almost inevitable.  I’m tired and as with every year I don’t really know how I’m going to manage the next four or five weeks.  Please send me mojo – and send it to any other students you know, or are aware of, as well.  Chances are they’re stressed out of their minds as well, and could do with any thought you can spare them.  Especially the finalists.  How they haven’t exploded yet I’m not entirely sure; nevertheless, I am very impressed.

On with the craftiness, say I.

Bring the fortune and life of a past finished project up to the present. Document the current state and use of an object you have knitted or crocheted, whether it is the hat your sister wears to school almost every day, or a pair of socks you wore until they were full of hole. Or maybe that jumper that your did just didn’t like that much…

I’ve knitted quite a lot of things over the last year or so.  I still use a lot of them: socks, shawls, the occasonal hat.  The black and white Op-Art blanket that I made last exam season is still on my bed, and was an absolute Godsend in the Durham winter last year.  A lot of things I’ve knitted for other people – if you read this blog and have been a recipient of one of my FOs (I know there are at least three or four of you! and at least two in waiting, please bear with me, sorry…) – let me know how they’re doing?  Or send me a picture.  There are few greater squee-worthy moments for me as a knitter than to see something I’ve made being used on a regular basis.

(One of the marginally greater ones I’ve discovered in the last week or so, I have to say, is when someone makes something you’ve designed.  Seriously.  That is the absolute business.  I know I keep saying that the pattern’ll be up in a few weeks, but it’s taking so much effort not to post every picture I’ve taken of it in the last month – and there are a lot – and talk about it non-stop.  My housemates are very tolerant people, I’ll just say that.)

The finished project I want to talk about, though, is probably the one I’ve got the most use out of so far.  That’s saying a lot.  It’s not even the blue beaded shawl I wore for months non-stop – which might be my favourite thing I’ve made ever – although it is beaded.  It’s these:

I made these about this time last year.  They were my first outing with beads, and fingerless gloves, and they are glorious.  I get a fair few compliments on them.  Partly I think this is because they’re quite conservative, in terms of the sort of things most people would wear: bluey-green, not too bright,  cables not too gymnastic, thumb fairly simple, really very subdued in fact.  A lot of people might wear them.  A few people might even buy them.  I find that a bit sad, in some ways.  Maybe I just prefer to knit outlandish things!  (It’s a distinct possibility.)  But as an introduction to knitting things, these fingerless gloves tend to put people at their ease.  Added to which, they’re warm, and comfy, and the right size for my wrists.  Oh, and the yarn is Araucania Ranco Multy, and when I started knitting them I just had to show them to everyone in sight because it is so pretty and slightly mottled and wonderful.  I could neither wish nor hope for more, I think.

If you’d like to make a pair yourself, the beads are size 6 seed beads, and the pattern is free on Ravelry here.  Just don’t say I didn’t warn you not to look at the designer’s other patterns – that would be enabling of the highest order.

I’ve had a tough time today not getting distracted by other people’s finished projects – I am in awe of all the pretty things, and especially all the wonderful stories that come with them.

What it’s all about February 23, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Durham, Look what I did, Lovely people, Really good day, Theatre, University.
1 comment so far

Two in quick succession, yes, but I’m so insanely proud of this that I just had to share it with all of you.

The most fun you can have in a darkened room with half a dozen very big speakers, a high cast-member-to-black-cape ratio and a papier maché dragon.

And on top of that, £1800 raised for the Orangutan Foundation.  ‘Whimsical sensibility.’  I’ll go with that.

Challenge February 12, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Bwargh, Durham, Theatre.
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This.  Our theatre.  This week.  I saw the dress rehearsal and it looks very good.

I’m light opping tomorrow at the matinee as a stand-in for Mathematical Housemate.

(Hahahahahaha I hope they know what they’re getting.)

West Side Story January 31, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Theatre.
9 comments

So it’s over.

Ups, downs, very dark corners and very bright colours, fifteen trips to A&E (or so I’m reliably informed), stress, tea, hard work, bad backs, pizza, gin, five different types of tape, late nights, early mornings, black shirts, sore throats, Pro Plus, and the most fun you can have of a week with people you love in a place that is what it is because of the people who’ve had fun in it.

I’m sad that it’s over.  I’ve spent the day partly recovering, and partly mourning.

You know when you work hard at something, and even if it only lasts a week in the end it’s so damned worth it?

(photos by Tim Foster)

Thursday January 29, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Bwargh, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Theatre.
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Thursdays are rubbish.  There is no getting around it; Thursdays are just not a good day.  Not a good day at all.

For what it’s worth, yesterday involved the joy of nightmares, back aches, several hours in the library trying to catch up on work that turned out to be utterly pointless, a telephone call after which I am fairly sure of the myriad of ways at which I fail at life, more Pro Plus than I’ve ever taken in a day before, and a lukewarm shower.  And all this before I even entered the theatre.  At which four members of the cast received separate, unrelated injuries, one burst into tears shortly before the end of the interval, the gun didn’t go off, one of the crew got caught on stage just before the curtain call, and in short it was a typical bloody Thursday.

The girl who got caught on stage had apprently had a worse day than me because she took a little calming down.  I felt for her so much – she, when she’s angry and sleep deprived and kicking herself, reminds me very much of me, angry and sleep deprived and kicking myself.  It is thus a very, very bad idea for us to this in the same place at the same time – luckily I was in autopilot last night, but my heart absolutely went out to her and because that’s what people have to do to me when I’m panicking, I assaulted her with logic (‘Look, even you know it’s not your fault and if you try and tell me it is, you also know that’s wallowing – shit happens, right?’), gave her a bear-hug and bought her a drink.

I earned that G&T.

Today hasn’t been much better, really, except for I was really late to a lecture, did no work and browsed Etsy for ages.  I can’t afford a gorgeous teal-coloured vintage Laura Ashley velvet dress, but my god I’d love one.  (The buttons on the back are such a perfect touch.  I love Laura Ashley so much.)

I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall here.

Sod this for a laugh.  My call time is in half an hour; I’m going to make some more fake blood, mosey down the road, and get me some falafel.  I’ve been looking forward to falafel all week.

Tomorrow: crew brunch, matinee, evening show, get-out, aftershow.  Wish me luck.  I’m the one that reeks of espresso.

ETA: Oh, while I remember – the i-whatever it is has been out for a whole two days now, so I’m going to go right ahead and assume you’ve seen the Mad Men video clip.  Therefore I shall make one witty observation, and direct you to someone else who says it better than I do.

They didn’t say that about the Wii, did they? Here you go, have a little of my technophobia.

Shopping January 28, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Lovely people, Really good day, Theatre.
4 comments

You may or may not have noticed that something I love is handmaking.  The knitting, for a start, obviously.  The theatre, if you think about it: it’s all doing things from scratch, taking the slow way round to having a show in front of you, working at and enjoying everything in the process before you get to the final product.  I love the time that gets invested in making things – I promise not to wax lyrical any more about that at the moment.  I love crafting supplies – yarn, embroidery thread, buttons, fastenings, good scissors.  One of my treats these days is to go into Durham Indoor Market and buy a few metres of narrow satin ribbon, for the colours, for tying around presents, for finding in a paper bag in my rucksack later and thinking ooh, what shall I do with this?  I love the supplies for themselves as much as what they eventually become.

Another way this has manifested itself recently, somewhat to the detriment of my bank balance, is Etsy.  If you know Etsy at all, you’ll know it’s an absolute treasure trove of anything you can think of, handmade, with a conversational link between buyer and seller.  For instance, browsing through sellers local to Durham, I found this absolute gem, the store of a woman who makes notebooks from recycled beautiful things, hand-bound, with enough textures to keep me happy for hours.  (I bought something from her yesterday, it arrived this morning, and I am having a severe crisis of conscience about the fact that I bought it intending it to be a gift.)  If anyone ever feels like buying me this beautiful bag, I will be very much indebted to them.  The whole thing just makes me very, very happy.

Incidentally, if you happen to be in Durham in the next few days, there are four more shows of West Side Story left.  (Matinee and evening performance today, I was out last night and up at 7ish this morning working, I’m shattered.)  It looks amazing – some very impressive fighting, more dancing than you can shake a stick at (I’m sure people aren’t meant to bend that way!), and possibly the cutest heroine in the history of dinky people under five foot three.  It sounds pretty good too.  For reference if you do see it – the blood’s my doing, don’t sit in the front three rows or you may get splattered, orchestra or no orchestra, and if you happen to spot Maria wearing a very pretty blue beaded shawl at the end… ah, well, that “squee!” you heard from the stage right wings was probably me.

I’ll be sad when this week’s over.  I always am.