Shuttle Piano

At last it feels like we’re getting down to business. I’ve been back in Hull for two weeks now, but it was only yesterday that the first lessons began. After my lengthy four day weekend (Monday now being renamed as “Sunday 2”) which involved very little other than watching too much football on telly, it was nice to actually be doing something.

I just know that once I get myself into a routine the weeks will begin to sail by. My plan is to make Thursday a “work day”, with two lectures in the morning, a visit to the library following them, and then doing all my reading and preparation for the tutorials the following Tuesday. That makes Tuesday a half day of work. Leaving Monday, Wednesday and Friday with nothing going on. Friday will be dissertation day, with Monday also joining it later in the year when I get busier, and the option of working through the weekend will also be open as the deadline draws nearer.

But I still feel like I will have plenty of free time. Which means I need something to fill it with. This will be my last chance to do something like this. Once this semester is over my road to a normal working life is extremely close ahead. Come next academic year I’ll be working pretty much 9 to 5 (and more), and then after that, of course, with a bit of luck I’ll have a job that keeps me busy most of the time. So free time is soon to become a scarce commodity.

This is a really scary thought for me. Student life has been easy. Not the best training for real life routine. Though I did have a glimpse of “real life” last year when I worked in London. That will soon become the norm for me. I’m sure I’ll adapt to it easy, but it is a scary thought that my free time is fast running out.

So I must do something with it this semester. I would like to take up piano lessons, but the cost is putting me off. The only way I could afford it is if I was fit enough to go back to refereeing once a week. My knees are feeling OK at the moment (maybe the other day was just a setback), so perhaps another few more weeks of rest followed by getting myself fit could do the trick.

Alternatively, I would like to play badminton on a regular basis. I’ve always liked playing that sport, but never had the opportunity. I used to play it all the time when I was in sixth form inbetween lessons. I wasn’t any good at it, but it was something I enjoyed. That would be good to get back into. Otherwise, I could go swimming more often. Though I don’t see these two options as leaving me with a “legacy” – the kind of thing I could get from piano lessons. Or indeed, driving lessons. Though the thought of that worries me for some reason. It’s probably the test at the end of it that concerns me. I’ve seen my sister fail four times. The cost to her is enormous. The stakes are so high. I’m not sure I could handle it under such extreme pressure.

So I’m in a bit of a quandary. I think I would mainly like to do the piano lessons, because I think this would give me real satisfaction and it would be enormously helpful when I start teacher training and (hopefully) being a teacher for real. I have reached a ceiling in my playing beyond which I don’t feel I could go past because I really don’t know what to try next. I need some help. Such a shame that help has to cost me £20/hour.

Of course, there’s no reason why I couldn’t do that and the badminton. That wouldn’t exactly cost me much more. It would also be good to keep me fit for the refereeing.

Either way I need to decide this soon. Because time really will be running out.

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Untitleable

It’s been a rough few days around here. My brain has been turning to mush under the pressure of the ceaseless revision that has been going on.

But it’s over. Yesterday marked my final exam and now I am free. Temporarily. The real semester begins next week, and so these few days can legitimately be called a holiday. So I’m delighted. It was just awful reading the same material again and again. I was going out of my mind with boredom.

I think they’ve gone OK. The first one went better than the second one. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping I’ll get a 2:1 in both modules, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the second exam may have been a little dodgy due to some unexpected questions, resulting in me having to use a backup topic. We have to answer two questions from six, so I normally revise four topics. Within that I have a priority list of which ones I like the most… and usually I get lucky and manage to get both my favourites in. But not yesterday. I hope it isn’t costly.

Either way it’s gone for now and I can do ordinary things again. Like play some games on my DS. Or on my computer. Or watch DVDs. Even go outside! Because I’d been trapped in here. Every moment away from the revision (apart from normal breaks, of course) I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing all I can. Because I knew these exams would be hard. I really had to work intensely on them, especially between my first exam on Monday and my second on Thursday.

Tonight I may be going to Doncaster for some odd reason. I understand that my friend’s football team, Swansea, are playing there tonight. We’re in the middle of putting the arrangements together. Would be a nice little escape for me.

The one thing that’s really annoying me is that my knee is still injured. Even after all this time not doing anything too strenuous with it it’s still popping and hurts if I do lots of walking, like I did yesterday (probably about four miles worth). I suspect I’m going to have to go back the doctors, but if it needs anything like an operation to fix I’m not convinced I’m going to take it. Which will mean I’m stuck with this for life.

Not a nice thought to finish on…

Just A Dreamer

I don’t tend to be a dreamy kind of person. I feel I’m a bit too pragmatic and stuck in reality for that. This has it’s advantages but I think broadly I am not as imaginative as I would like to be.

I don’t also have dreams while I sleep all that often. I never have. Even when I was younger. I tend to sleep pretty much uninterrupted on most evenings.

But last night didn’t quite follow this pattern. In fact, it was so far off it I’m amazed that my brain was actually able to invent such bizarre happenings. I think there were three distinctive dreams, one of which was so familiar to me that I am sure I’ve had the dream in the past.

I was milling around in what seemed to be an old covered market. There is one back in the place where I live permanently, but it’s not something I’ve been to for many many years. I don’t remember precisely what I was there for, but I know I was looking for something. It might have been clothes, but I know for sure that they weren’t for me. In fact, I think I was looking for clothes for boys. No idea why. That’s just come back to me.

I was struggling to find anything. In my desperation I followed a path which didn’t look the most appealing (cliched or what?) and sure enough it ended up in a fairly narrow corridor, and a flight of spiralling steps up at the end of it. I followed them, clearly not noticing that there were no shops.

I arrived at the top of the stairs to an area where there were lots of people all talking. They all seemed to be dressed in somewhat Victorian looking clothes. I hadn’t gone back in time though, because ahead of me was an escalator. I asked where the shops were, and I was told the escalator was the place to go. So I did.

Up and up, until I reached the top. Though it wasn’t the top. The escalator simply ran into another one, but it was running at 90 degrees to the existing one. Plus, I would have had to jump over the rail where my escalator was meeting the other one at the side. If I didn’t, I would just carry on going until I fell through the bottom of the first escalator.

Not fancying the jump, and valuing my life more than whatever it was I was looking for (since the drop from the first escalator was immense) I turned round and walked back down.

At the bottom the crowd of people were a bit mystified when I told them what had happened. They had never encountered any problems getting to the top. I never asked if that meant they found it easy to jump or whether I had just personally been encountered with an unusual combination of escalators. I gave up and walked outside.

I think this dream ended there, because I woke up about 6:00am. I fell back asleep almost immediately and a new dream started. This time I was walking along the shore of what seemed to be a very big lake. I felt like I was in a park, though I’m not sure about that. I was wearing fairly formal clothes, unusual for me. I had a pristine white shirt on and black trousers. No idea where I was walking to, but I felt fairly happy.

Up from nowhere pops this fairly small but rather fat boy, maybe about eight years old. He looks devious and mischievous… and is clearly planning something involving me. I carry on walking, trying to ignore him.

Splat. I get a great big lump of mud thrown at me. And then again. My once white shirt was destroyed. I got so angry that I picked the fat kid up and, holding onto his hands, drop him gently into the lake.

I can see his face underwater, and I think “he looks like he’s enjoying this”. I decide to punish him by letting go of his hands. Sure enough his face changes to utter fear, and I seem quite satisfied that I’ve successfully scared the shit out of him, and so reach back in to grab his hands to bring him back out. I’ve obviously decided that I’d “punished” him enough.

He deliberately floats backwards, but his face of terror turns to a face of glee. Perhaps he spots that I’m now the one who’s terrified. Is he doing it deliberately? He’d been under the water for a while now, and I was beginning to think I’d killed him, and the boy was delighted at the grief he was putting me through.

Then he just emerges from the water and swims to the shore, climbing out, and there’s nothing wrong with him.

I talk to him and ask him why he threw mud at my shirt. Now that he was clearly OK I didn’t seem concerned that I’d nearly killed him. Or maybe I realised he’d done it deliberately to scare me. The boy started talking to me, and all of a sudden we’re talking like best friends as if none of it had happened. The dream ended there.

I woke up again, this time at 7:00am. I wanted to go back to sleep but struggled for a long time as my brain tried to work out what was going on. Then into my head popped the thoughts of my exam tomorrow, as I started to revise one of the topics on the Portuguese parliament.

Sure enough the boredom from this made me fall back asleep. Then I had a third dream, in which my nine year old nephew berated me incessantly for not recycling my plastics. That was it. Even though I do recycle plastics. I woke up just before the alarm clock… and my thoughts then turned to revision once more.

Three dreams, all of them stupid, all of them pointless, all of them annoying. They must mean something because the sub-conscious mind is powerful like that. Having thought long and hard about it, here are the lessons I think it’s trying to tell me:

– Beware of escalators
– Beware of fat boys, aged about eight years old
– Recycle your plastics

I thank you.

Sudden Rush

It’s almost as if the last five weeks didn’t happen.

That’s what’s so horrible about the return to uni. I sit here at my computer, again, and feel like I’ve never been away. The only obvious signs of difference are that above me on the shelf are a couple of DVDs and Nintendo DS games that I didn’t have before Christmas.

The journey back yesterday was long, boring and painful. The pain came from the fact that I had to haul my ludicrously heavy bags from Hull coach station back to my house. I was too stingy to pay for a bus, so I just walked it instead. Then I went shopping for food, and because there was nothing left in the house I had to buy lots of it. Which also means carrying it back. My shoulders and arms took another bashing.

So my arms hurt today. As does my neck as it will take a few days before I get used to a different bed. The worst feeling this morning was waking up, hearing my alarm and reaching over to turn it off… and hitting the bedroom wall. My alarm clock is on a different side of the bed here than back at home, so my brain was obviously still a few hundred miles away in my other bed.

But everything else is back to normal. The routine that I follow here is slightly different to back at home… but I’ve slipped back into it effortlessly. Apart from the bit that requires me to work. That will take a little more motivation. I had intended to go the library this morning to look at past exam papers but due to the fact that it’s pissing down outside I’m really struggling to get going. I will go, just not right now. Maybe in half an hour or so.

No. Actually, I’m going now. I’m bored. Let’s go get wet. Yes, I know I only had a shower an hour ago, and the rain will make my hair greasy again… but what can I do? This is England, after all. It always rains.

Hermitage

It’s probably not a good thing to admit to, but I have just realised it’s been about 6 days since I last left the house. And by left the house I mean went out and did something. Taking recycables to the box outside doesn’t count. There’s just nothing to do at the moment, but the end is nigh. I normally go out somewhere at the weekends, either to visit someone, go shopping or watch some football but the bad weather has put paid to that. A bit of a shocking discovery.

So it’s been a fairly anticlimactic end to my stay here. On Wednesday I head back for Hull on a stupid coach journey. But it is cheap and it is available, unlike the trains. It’s startling that 5 weeks have whizzed by. But it’s probably just as well that it’s all over now. I have to get back to my life. Not that I equate my life with leaving home… it’s just the fact that I have work to do away from here, whereas at home I just sit around and do little other than stuff to keep the house clean. I figure that I spent most of my pre-University life in this house not helping out much that I have to make up for it now.

These last two days are to be used fairly wisely. I intend to visit my grandparents and after that hope that they’ll both still be here by the time I next return at Easter. It’s not a long time, but it is still time nevertheless, something that I worry there is not much left of. I hope I’m worrying needlessly, but I do seem to worry about this more than I used to these days. In many respects I will be relieved to come to the end of my time living away from home, but none more so the fact that I will at least be closer to the family again.

I think about the time to come to Easter with a slight degree of trepidation. Easter holidays might be non-existent this year if I don’t do enough work on the dissertation early. I have exams approaching imminently, but I think I can deal with those in my stride. The rest of the work is what worries me.

The times ahead are probably going to be the hardest I have ever worked in my life. I suspect they will eventually be surpassed by the PGCE year, but that’s still in the future. The here and now is what is important. Though at the same time I’m weirdly looking forward to having something to do again. I’ll be regretting saying that within a week, just you watch.

It’s been good to be home for this long. I’ve enjoyed it, and being back makes me look forward to it all over again next time. I know I have more of a long slog to go… but I suspect the harder I work the quicker the time will fly.

And so it’s back to the Student House. Bollocks. There are good friends waiting there, but the awkward silences around the less friendly members of the household are not enjoyable. Perhaps I will be thankful for the work I have which ties me to my room and the library. The fewer social encounters with them the better…

The Price of a Gap Year

On a number of occasions in the past I have posted about how the gap year I took between summer 2003 and September 2004 was a waste of time. In the past few days I have once more been haunted by these thoughts and would love to finally put them to bed.

Unfortunately, this isn’t going to happen any time soon. I really wish I could take my own advice: that what’s done is done, and the past is now irrelevant. But I just can’t believe how badly it’s worked out for me.

I would have a degree by now. And, all other things being equal, I would have been half way through my PGCE course. Even better, I have just discovered that I would have been getting a £6,000 grant, which is being reduced to £4,000 for when I start this September. Though I did work during my gap year, and earned more than £2,000, the discovery of this news would have softened the blow if I had went straight to Uni.

And the annoying thing is that I only chose to do a gap year in the first place because I didn’t want to go to university anyway. I felt like I was being forced into it and so my reaction was to tick the “defer entry” box on the UCAS form. Everyone accepted that was a fairly normal thing to do, being a student we like our gap years. But I picked it because my plan was to get a real job during the year and start life as normal. That would mean I’d have an excuse not to go to university in the end.

But why? Why oh why did I think this? The teachers were telling me it was really important to go. My family didn’t really say anything either way. No one in my family has ever been to university. My mum and dad were just letting me make the decision. They didn’t offer any enouragement either way because they were just as ambivalent about the whole thing as I was. I think that was important. By them not pushing me to go, I had no extra motivation. The gap year sounded good. I really don’t know why I didn’t want to go. I guess it was fear of the unknown, and not being a natural risk taker it seemed such a scary thing to do.

My normal answer is that the gap year forced me to go to university because it showed me what life was going to be like if I didn’t go. This is my only defence. It’s fairly satisfactory, but it’s unconvincing. If only I’d been persuaded earlier I would have just gone and not needed it to be demonstrated in front of my eyes. I can be such a doubting person. I wait for things to happen to me before taking action.

But it just ruined everything. The delay to my life – a life that is incredibly short in the first place – has been interminably frustrating and one that I will continue to live with until I get going. I’m so eager to get all this over and done with. I know it will fly by just like every other minute of my life, but it’s still 18 months away. And that’s assuming I don’t get on the PGCE course and decide it’s not for me. And even assuming I graduate with a 2:1. Which is not guaranteed by any stretch of the imagination. I have to keep pushing.

This whole thing is depressing me immeasurably. This is what happens when I’m left at home, waiting to go back to Hull to carry on with my studies. I end up thinking too much. And I hate listening to my brain churning over all this endlessly. And yet I hate sitting here wishing my life away so I can get back to work. I enjoy my time here. I don’t want to go back. But I know I have to.

I’ll be glad when I only live in one location again. I hate having two “homes”. It makes me feel like I live a divided existence.

6 months to go.

Next Thing

I’m not sure what I’ve been doing since my last post but whatever it is it’s taken up a lot of my time. I seem to have been pretty busy most days, but my definition of busy is stretched to breaking point when it includes things like playing on Guitar Hero III on the Xbox 360. That has been too much fun.

The other thing occupying my time has been too much food. Well, it has been the festive season after all. I have put on a whole 1kg of weight in the past four weeks. That always happens every Christmas though. I have been monitoring this for years now. That’s what happens when you stuff your face with big dinners and then cakes and chocolate. Then again, I was a bit underweight anyway. So no real harm done. Ish.

But now it’s all over. The Christmas tree came down yesterday in line with proper tradition at the end of the 12 days of Christmas (funny how I observe such traditions despite being an atheist). It’s a sad moment but it is also something positive too. Because now every day is another step towards brighter, sunnier, warmer times. Hopefully. Last summer certainly wasn’t any of those three. But at least the daylight hours are getting longer. The dark winter evenings make me quite depressed, but at least there is always something to look forward to in Christmas. Now it’s gone we have to get out of this hole quickly…

Today is the first day my brothers and sister go back to school, and with my mum and dad also in work, the house has been restored to the calm and quiet that I enjoyed during the first week I came home. This is actually not a good feeling because it happens every time I come home. It means I mill around here with not all that much to do but to wait the depressing inevitable of returning to university.

Though I shouldn’t complain too much because I get way more holidays than other people. Looming on the horizon though is my exams, which are on the 21st and the 24th of January. I’m not too concerned about them in all honesty because they are two modules which I have enjoyed and a lot of the material has stuck first time around. I will do my revision when I get back. I hope I don’t live to regret taking an extra week off, cos I know other people have started revising now. But going by my previous standards, if I started revising now I would be so utterly, thoroughly bored of it within a few days, never mind by the time of the exam. I prefer short sharp but intense periods of revising. It’s worked for me all my life, so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t now. Famous last words.

Two days ago was my grandad’s 76th birthday. The whole family (well almost) went for a meal to celebrate, which was really nice. I don’t know how many more of them we will get all together, but for now I should be thankful. July, and my graduation, can not come quick enough. I want to make my last two remaining grandparents proud before it’s too late.

Let the flying of time continue.

2008

It had to happen some time. Another brand new year arrives.

The New Year was brought in with the usual bang. We had a party here for all the family. Or at least those bits of the family that bothered to turn up. Unfortunately it wasn’t as good as previous years due to the absence of some parts of our family for rather difficult reasons. But it still went on till 5am, which was just enough time for me to see New York’s famous celebrations on TV. I always like seeing that.

I noticed it was missing something though. We sang Auld Lang Syne on the street, as usual, but we didn’t quite get into it this year. I detected an odd sense of foreboding amongst everyone. It was strangely subdued. I suspect it’s because we are all beginning to get the sad feeling that this is not going to be a good year. The health of elder family members does not last forever, and my grandad is progressively getting worse with his memory, struggling to hold a conversation with people because he can’t stay focused on what he is trying to tell you.

I look ahead to 2008 with some trepidation, excitement and worry. For me personally, this is now the big one. I’ve been leading up to this moment for a considerable degree of time now. By July I should have graduated. With what I don’t know, but I’m crossing my fingers for a 2:1 because anything more than that is inachieveable. By September I should be doing the PGCE course.

I don’t plan to achieve anything else this year. These are only two different things, but they are pretty significant in terms of my life. I’m nearly there now. This is the last big push. The big wide world, so ludicrously wide and so massively unexplored by me, is coming towards me. It shows just how much society has changed when only a generation ago people left home at 16-18, were getting married not long afterwards and having kids. Here’s me, 22, not having done any of that.

But the day is approaching. I feel in a limbo of “moved out though not yet fully”. And it will actually get worse if I live here during my PGCE study. That option is on the cards, and it’s probably one I will take. But I could look elsewhere. If I do, I suppose that will be a pretty major development this year. Watch this space.

In the equivalent post this time last year I predicted a lot would fall into place in 2007, and it did. I’m not going to make the same prediction this year… as I see this year as yet another in the holding pattern of biding my time for the big one. Now that I’ve got my 2008 plans sorted, it’s just a case of rolling with them.

So let’s do it. Happy New Year.