Christmassy Thoughts

So Christmas has come and gone for another year. No matter what, it will always feel like a big anti-climax for me. You get all excited about it in the build up to Christmas Eve… then it’s Christmas Day: presents are always good, as is seeing the satisfaction you see everyone getting from the things you bought them… but then it’s over and in just a fraction of the time you have been waiting for it for.

What is good, however, is being in a position where “Christmas” is a three week holiday, just like it used to be when I was in school. When I think of Christmas as the whole winter holiday period, then things are much rosier. During my gap year, I worked in a retail shop, and my “Christmas” break was a glorious two days long. As soon as it was over we had a depressing day or two getting all the New Year sales rolling. I’m not looking forward to going back to that, but I know it will happen when I return to the World of Work. Bah.

Enough of the negative thoughts.

It would seem that I missed out the exact anniversary of this journal by one day. I started this on Christmas Eve last year, and the closest post to that was my soppy, sentimental post on the 23rd.

Overall, I think it’s been a rather good year. The start was a little turbulent, with me feeling completely lost in direction in life, and the anxieties I had over the evil housemates I had in my house in Hull were extremely stressful at times. University work has never been too taxing, but my friends have tried my patience on several occasions. Yet, my life in Uni wouldn’t be the same without them. Spring was a time of exploration for me, as I took the risk of a lifetime over applying to work in an American summer camp. In the end, the gamble paid off, as I had an amazing summer. Autumn was quiet, and University is a little harder this year, yet it is more interesting. The time flew by… I started to learn how to drive… two essays and two exams later, the semester was over, and I returned home. It’s been great to see my family again after over three months away, and Christmas has been really good.

I have a feeling 2006 is going to be a good one. I don’t know why. Looking back, I’ve noted that 2004 was a good year, and 2005 has also been pretty good. Yet this doesn’t really tally with what I feel about 2004 now. This means that as time goes by, I tend to get more sceptical about what I’ve experienced. So it is useful for me to make these notes because it tells me what I thought of life at a particular time closer to the event, without the “wisdom” of age filtering out various memories with a critical and cynical eye.

The odd thing is that at the end of this year I still retain all the worries I had at the start of it: about lack of direction and lack of much impact on the world. Yet now I feel a little smarter and more mature in dealing with it. I still have lapses, and I still don’t know what the solution is to these questions, but I am beginning to move into an acceptance that this is the case, and it may always be. It’s a little downbeat, and not exactly filled with aspirations, but it’s more realistic. Yet, I know that things may change, and weird opportunities can present themselves in a number of ways.

What’s strange is that I thought I don’t believe in fate. Yet, that last paragraph almost sounds like I’m dealing my life out to it…

It’s a wonderful world.

Advertisements

JCB Song

Allow me to induldge in a little sentimentality…

A few weeks ago I heard talk of a song called “JCB” and so was always referred to as the JCB Song. Two weeks ago on Top of the Pops, I saw the song performed live, and heard it for the first time. Pretty good, I thought. I didn’t really listen to the words. I didn’t really know what it was about. It was just a decent tune.

Last Sunday, the song became the Number 1 in the charts for the UK.

A few days after I came back home, I managed to see the video on a music channel. The video is nothing less than wonderful, and only at this point did I choose to properly listen to the lyrics. I was later amazed to learn that it’s been on the internet for a long time now.

When I properly listened to the words, it really struck a chord with me. It’s such a fantastic tale of a boy’s relationship with his father, one which I imagine is repeated with a lot of children. Most boys elevate their dads to heroic or god-like status. I know I did. Their dad fights off the bullies, the ghosts, the burglars, the teachers and all manner of baddies. They are, in short, our first line of defence. “I’m five years old and my dad’s a giant sitting beside me”

And what a fine tale to tell. A worthy subject for a song, and the sentimental aspect of it gets me every time… especially when I see the video as the JCB lifts off into the sky and they fly off into the sunset. It’s such a happy image, epitomising everything that should be in a father-son relationship (and father-daughter too). I appreciate that it’s not that way for a lot of people, and often the father is at fault for being incapable of doing what they should be doing. Unlike the song, I never had problems with bullying (the somewhat darker undercurrent of the song is also part of its attraction to me), but I was a bit of an outcast, and if it wasn’t for my mum and dad supporting me to be my own person, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

With this in mind, I had to buy my first CD single in about four years. The decision was made easier by the fact that the song was released by a record label who don’t even seem to have a website, and by a band who have achieved no chart success before, and from talented musicians who are telling a genuine story. Now I have my own copy of the song and video which will forever be a reminder to me: of the vitalness and significance of my relationship with my dad; how important the relationship is for father/child in general… and, if I am ever lucky enough to have children, to be the best damn role model I can.

I think that’s worth celebrating. It seems a bit weird to mark out finding this song as a significant moment in my life, highlighting a moment of realisation which I had not properly had before, but hey… it’s my life after all.

And while I’m thinking about all this, what better place to be than with my family over Christmas?

Life is good.

The Good Presents, The Bad Dog and the Ugly Noel Edmonds

Since I arrived home on Thursday night it has been a rather average week. The new dog that my family has is rather annoying, and seems to want to bite everyone and everything. It is only a pup, so it has to learn not to bite people, especially their toes, but it is rather annoying to have to walk around everywhere with shoes on. That’s how I ruined my last pair…

Since I got back I’ve been able to think about Christmas presents for my family. I’ve got most of them now, but sadly my dad has dropped hints far too late for me to include them in an earlier Amazon order. Now I won’t get the free shipping, and the cost of the item is higher on Play.com, probably to make up the “free” postage on their site. Bah.

The present buying has included a visit to Toys R’ Us, where as always the keyboard aisle was my favourite. I spent a good 10 minutes or so testing out those keyboard. Made me want to buy the £170 one because it was so much better than the £60 one I currently have. There was also a shop assistant in the aisle playing a guitar who told me it was his job just to entertain people with it all shift, and helping people who ask him questions. I could do that. Sounds like a job I would not hate quite so much as all the other “real” jobs I’ve done in my life so far. I’ll bet they don’t pay well though.

Of course, no shopping trip is complete without a scandal or two. Upon arriving at the checkout I noticed the cost was much higher than I thought. No, I lie. In fact, I didn’t even look at the price. I put the card in, typed in my PIN and walked out. It was afterwards when I thought… “that £9.99 item was actually £19.99”. So, I went back into the store about 20 minutes later (having gone into the nearby Costco and entertained the masses on a fine £400 electronic piano thingy) and checked the shelves where I bought this item. Nothing else on the shelves was being sold for £19.99, so this was clearly a ploy to put expensive items next to a £9.99 price label and hope no one notices.

In the end I got the difference refunded. So now one of my brothers has a damn good present that only cost me a tenner. Not bad.

Today I am off to visit my Gran and Grandad’s new flat. I’ve not seen them for a while so I’m sure there’s a lot to discuss, including Des Lynam’s performance on Countdown, and whether the Deal Or No Deal contestants are actors with Noel Edmonds hamming it up from the centre…

100%

The euphoria at the end of exam season is often very hard to beat. Again it’s been a week since I posted… most of that was down to a lot of revision, but some of it was just me wasting lots and lots of time watching such classic programmes as “Deal or No Deal?” or down to me buying episode of the classic kids TV programme “Tugs” off eBay. Oh, it has been fun.

But now it’s over. Even better… the revision is over. That’s what gets me the most really. It’s been so tiring reading the same stuff over and over. Indeed, I couldn’t even start a revision session lately without feeling my eyes getting heavy and perhaps catching a few minutes sleep. I think this semester has really taken a lot out of me, and so it’s now just brilliant that I get three weeks of freedom. Total, utter freedom. I’m sure I’ll be complaining of how bored I am a week or so after Christmas.

In fact, it will soon be the first anniversary of this blog. That is an achievement I’m pleased about. I was rather expecting me to stop writing in it just a month or so afterwards. I tend to get bored with new things rather quickly, so I had very little optimism that I was going to keep it going. But now I feel like I’ve got it so entrenched into my routine that I’ll never stop. This is good. It’s occasionally quite interesting for me to look back over all my past posts and see how things have changed with me.

Next semester will be tough, but I will at least be doing two modules that sound enjoyable. I have a research project to do which could prove interesting… and a few other bits and pieces here and there. It should be pretty good. Academic life being interesting would be a bit of a novelty, so I’m not expecting it to turn out that way. But it’s been a while since I felt this optimistic about the immediate future.

I could be going home tomorrow now. I’ll find out more when my mum phones later. It’ll be nice to get back home. A lot of things have happened back there while I’ve been away, so it’ll be good to catch up with everyone. I might even be able to practice driving in my mum and dad’s car. Sounds dangerous…

50%

At the half way stage of exam season is a nice statistic. I actually think that this is nowhere near as difficult as GCSEs. That was 15+ exams squashed into a three week period with never ending revision. A-Levels were six to nine-ish exams over the same time frame. University exams are two, three, maximum four over a similar time period. This time it is just two, and the first of which was dealt with this morning. One of my brothers is sitting his GCSEs this year, so I have much sympathy with him. I remember that time with dread. It’s a time I’d never like to repeat. But this? This is easy in comparison.

The only difference here really is that the exam is not worth quite so much… 60% of the final total, with the remaining 40% made up from a substantial essay produced during the term. This year my exam results actually count for something, and yet I don’t think I’ve done anything differently compared to last year when they didn’t. An optimist might say this is because I was already at optimum study pace last year (I like that) … and a pessimist might say it’s because I just don’t really care. Sure this is my life we’re talking about, but since most other people are going to have degrees, I figured I should probably join them.

Either way, I’m quite happy. I’ve been locked in revision for the past few days now, and it’s bored me shitless. Now I get a couple of days off before I get back to work for the final exam, and then I can finally think about Christmas. But given that today’s exam was the worst, I feel like I’m nearly there. So the 50% may look something more like 70%. Even better. I see my life in terms of obstructions to a goal. Exams are most definitely that. So when I pass through one things always look rather excellent, even if they aren’t as a whole.

I’m just so fed up of exams. Ten years of almost non-stop assessment… and still rising. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I normally do pretty well in them, and that’s because I don’t think they’re by any means the best way to assess at this kind of level. So many other good students suffer because they are just plain bad at exams. And I wouldn’t say I even revise properly. I tend to just read and rewrite. Nothing special. I think that’s pretty unfair, and I’d be very happy to see more coursework instead of exams at this level. Plus the outrageously dull revision and the unrealistic stress levels associated with them… it just equals badness.

It looks like I’m going home a week on Friday now. This is good.

Harry Potter

Since the summer I have been reading lots of Harry Potter. Unfortunately, I have been suckered in to this series – I think it’s excellent – but I’ve had the fortune of picking it up so late that I was able to read books back to back so I never had to wait inbetween them to find out what was going to happen next.

Until now. In the past few days I decided to up the pace on the 6th and most recent book so that it couldn’t be a distraction during my revision, which is supposed to begin today. I finished it yesterday, and am now forced to join the anguish of many others who patiently wait for the next instalment. I’m glad I’ll only have to do this once, but you can be sure that I won’t be queuing up at midnight to buy it when it comes out. I’m sure things won’t get that desperate.

I would also like to go see the fourth film, but there’s not much of an appetite for it here. It doesn’t help the cause that I live with literary and film fascists, who look down their nose at such offerings. Nevermind. I’ll probably go see it with my family when I go home in a couple of weeks time. In fact, in two weeks time exams will be over and I’ll be going home the next day. Hopefully. Deep joy.

Things are starting to feel Christmassy now. It might be the weather. It might be the outrageous cold in this house. It might be the exams. It might just be the change in the calendar. But either way I’m looking forward to getting out of here and seeing my family for a while. Life around here is boring, and we all seem to be getting fed up with each others company in this house. Conversations are getting shorter, tempers are flaring (including mine) and the intensive revision (yeah, right) is driving people round the bend.

Now then. Time to stop procrastinating. And time to switch off the music. That’s enough from the Proclaimers.