Monday, 28 September 2009

Major(ca)ly excited

T-minus six sleeps until LB and I flee London for a week of self-imposed dissertation exile. In the Mediterranean no less.

I was about to say that Saturday cannot come fast enough but having just glanced casually to my left and spying the fat pile of notes and scribbled essay plans I strategically placed yesterday for maximum guilt impact, well, Saturday can come when it's ready - I need this week to write another 5,200 words. Give or take.

It was always the plan to put the whole bloody thing in a drawer for a week once I had the bulk of it written - a bit of breathing space, some time out, some distance... Yes, I know how it sounds and yes, my dissertation and I are involved and yes, we're going through a rough patch... More than anything it's just a chance really to recharge physically and intellectually without the aid of stimulants and a daily contribution to the profit margins of the local corner store and their Diet Coke supplier.

Last week was designated for all things writing and general genius. It turned out to be a week of soggy, foot-dragging exhaustion and academic ennui. Thank god for dramatic death scenes and overwrought acting on Australian afternoon soap operas. To be fair, I did spend an awful lot of time thinking last week, and the week before, trying to find those elusive signposts for my elusive argument. Fortunately the concentrated brain frying wasn't entirely in vain as I did have a couple of significant eureka moments - elusive flashes of intellectual clarity - that struck, somewhat oxymoronically, while battling noisy, shoving, hectic public transport experiences. Honestly, if the Circle Line had wi-fi I'd sit there all day.

Anyway, I have a lot to do this week, including buying a beach towel, but I can't wait for Saturday because I know that irrespective of how much Redbull I need to drink over the next five days (read: A LOT) and how utterly crap I feel by the end of it (read: VERY), I know it will be done. Because my dissertation does not have a passport and is not allowed to travel.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

(B)right on! A weekend away

It is still officially Monday and already the weekend feels like it was decades ago. I'm not sure if that's the sign of a terrible week to come or a fabulous weekend just gone. A little bit of both perhaps?

Brighton was just delightful and the perfect remedy for a long last week. LB and I had a great time, staying in this cute-as little B&B with sea views and not a hint of chintz (though some serious wafts of incense...) Arriving late on Friday we had dinner in the Lanes before waking up on Saturday to a beautiful, sunny, near-cloudless day - ideal conditions for a coastal walk and some sooking about a lack of hat.

Hopping the bus to Rottingdean, something of a Brighton ritual these days, we began our walk with some perilous hobbling over the pebbles for a token dip of the toes in the freezing water of the English Channel. After some considerable thawing we meandered back to Brighton for a further wander around the Lanes and a stroll through the Sussex Food and Wine Festival (with a well-timed arrival for a cocktail-making demonstration. Gin o'clock anyone?)

Friday, 11 September 2009


First drafts of introduction and chapter one? Tick.

It is an unbelievable relief to have this first big hurdle out of the way. The next big hurdle will be surviving the feedback from my tutor on Monday afternoon. But one thing at a time.

It's late here and I should probably head to bed - I've had a collective 8 or 9 hours sleep over the last few days trying to get this chapter written by today's deadline and I would be feeling elated that I got it done if I wasn't already busy feeling woolly headed and dopey.

Anyway - my capacity for clever has been drastically reduced, 5,112 words later so I am about to crawl into bed. Tomorrow is a new day and me, LB and my new "you finished your chapter, you look like shite, go on you deserve it" haircut are off to Brighton for the weekend and I am so excited a) to be getting out of London and b) to be leaving my computer behind. Am I done yet?

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Prom date

I'm toying with the subtitle "This Dissertation has been brought to you courtesy of the good folks at Redbull and Diet Coke."

I am tired and a bit teary and generally feeling not like some epic mountaineer but like the epic mountaineer's sherpa. Dissertation writing is lonely, heavy business and I am s-l-o-w-l-y going insane. My days run something like this:

8.30am: alarm goes off
8:40am: snooze button
8:50am: snooze button
9:00am/9:10am/9:20am: snooze button
9:30-10:30am: shower, breakfast, faffing, 1st visit of the day to the Costcutter for Redbull and Diet Coke
11:00am: Sit down at computer
11:02am: Get up and find something else to eat, struck by pangs of procrastination masquerading themselves as peckishness
11:05am-2:15pm: write, struggle, smack head against wall, (optional 2nd visit to Costcutter), write some more
2:15-2:45pm: Half Hour of Shame (read: Home and Away)
2:45-3:00pm: miscellaneous faffing
3:00-7:00pm: write, struggle, write some more, smack head, (optional bout of tears), (optional 3rd visit to Costcutter)
7:00-11:00pm: all or any combination of the above, plus occasional guest starring events such as movie dates, dinner dates or, as happened this week, a Prom date.

One of the myriad adventures LB and I added to our list several weeks ago was a date to the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall and so on Tuesday we headed off to Kensington for some high brow culture. And by high I mean Up in The Gods high, back row, count the bald heads below high. It was so fabulous. A bit of Mendelssohn, a bit of Sibelius, a bit of schizophrenic pretentious contemporary and we had ourselves a ticked box. The whole point of the Proms is that for not very much money (our tickets cost 11 pounds) anyone and everyone can come and experience classical music at the Royal Albert. While the whole experience is designed to be unpretentious and relaxed I'm still not sure how I feel about seeing someone in their tracksuit pants sipping a glass of rose at the interval. I think I feel, well, "just no."

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

If you can't say anything nice....

...Don't say anything about the Midlands. In fact, don't go to the Midlands. It is, as the name suggests, the Middle of England. It's also, as fittingly described by most other English folk, a Shithole - quote, unquote.

This bank holiday long weekend has been an adventure wholly lacking in one. LB and I took to the train on Saturday morning to meet his sister and her husband halfway on their trek to Newcastle, their temporary home for the next three weeks before emigrating back to Sydney (via some seriously exotic travels in Europe and Asia of course). Anyway, we were optimistic about a fun weekend away - cute country pubs, walks in the countryside, cute country pubs. Hmm. Not so much.

Uppingham, the little village we were all staying in didn't even have Sky TV - the horror! - I think that nailed it for LB and his brother-in-law when it came to trying to find somewhere to watch the football. For the rest of us, it was a general lack of things to do. There was one great restaurant, that we did manage to dine at, once, a big fuck-off lake, Rutland Waters, that we made a token effort to walk past and then, driving aimlessly from village to nearby village, we got desperate enough to drive as far as Melton Mowbray, home of the famous ye olde porke pie. Only to find Ye Olde Porke Pie Shoppe closed. Ahh the Midlands.