Relocation, Relocation

I am now safely back home. The journey was easy, having done it so many times now. Packing up was surprisingly simple and even saying goodbye to everyone was remarkably tear-free.

So, all in all, it went off without a hitch. And now I’m back home, where much has changed and nothing has changed. The nothing that ever changes is the family, although my youngest brother and youngest sister are getting progressively more moody and teenage-esque. That is mildly amusing.

Also, their computer exploded last night and died a sad death as the power supply blew up. A power supply that is just 14 months old. But old enough to be out of warranty. Piss poor, I’d say. This kind of garbage that passes for merchandise these days is a disgrace. We talk about trying to become more environmental, but you can guarantee that we’ll never succeed while the throwaway society, here today, gone tomorrow mindset is in operation.

Anyway – that means that I have to fix a computer, again. That normally happens when I go home. Boring but predictable.

The thing that has changed is that I now have a new place to live in this house. My parents, knowing I was going to be spending a lot more time here, decided to be very kind and spend a bit of their savings on converting the loft. I have to say, apart from learning to duck my head in various parts of the room, it is a pretty good job the workmen have done. I like it. Slowly but surely my stuff is being unpacked and I’m stamping my personality on the room. It is, basically, my own bunker, except it’s not in the basement. It’s much more like the student rooms I’ve been used to the past few years, which would have all my stuff in.

The money my parents have spent makes me feel guilty though. I can’t possibly afford to give them much towards it. I’ve bought a few pieces of the furniture to keep their costs down a bit, but it’s a drop in the ocean. My brothers are particularly envious. They would have liked to have been up here. And, we have to face facts, if I leave home next year then that will effectively be the end of its use because everyone else has their own room now.

So I don’t quite know how I can repay them. I’m hoping to get a job in the next couple of weeks which will perhaps provide a couple of hundred pounds compensation to them. Maybe I could get them a good anniversary present. Hmm…

Meanwhile, a foreboding letter has arrived from my PGCE teacher training course. That will have to be dealt with shortly. It’s told me what I’m going to be doing the next year, and, as expected, it is absolutely crazy the amount of work involved. Maybe they should make it two years long to ease the pain.

Oh, and the dog is still a moron. That’s something else that doesn’t change.

Saying Goodbye

I’ve probably mentioned this before but I’m not very good at goodbyes. The words don’t tend to flow very easily, and so today I’ve been planning what I would like to say to my fellow two housemates who are the only people here at the moment.

It seems a useful twist of fortune has given me the opportunity to desert Hull without saying anything to the unhappy section of the Happy Couple, and so it means I won’t have to say goodbye to her. I can use the other half as a proxy, which is excellent.

But it is unreal to think about what’s happened in my life over the last 3.75 years. From September 2004 to May 2008 I have been engaged in this long drawn-out affair of moving house and moving around different parts of the country on an average of once every 12 weeks. That’s actually been quite turbulent, I think, and so it’s not really a surprise that I should be happy to see the end of that.

Hull has been good to me, which I am happy about. I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t like it here at first, but I quickly grew to realise that it’s actually quite friendly and welcoming, and the atmosphere in most of the student areas is really good. But today I will leave for good. OK, I will undoubtedly come back for the odd day trip. A couple of my friends are going to stay here, and I have to come back for graduation in July anyway. But otherwise, this is the end of the road.

I find it easier to say goodbye to an abstract concept. “Hull” is an idea, a collective identity that is held in the minds of all the people who live within an artificially drawn boundary on the map. I find it much harder to say goodbye to people. And so, I will miss a lot of the great people I’ve met over the years. In the past academic year I have really got to know some of the people on my course, helped by the fact that I had no choice but to engage with them after my former housemate quit my degree course. It did actually come as a surprise to me that these were really nice people after all.

But we’re all going our separate ways. We have to, of course. Everyone has to move on. We all have our lives to lead, all off in different exciting directions to fulfil what we want to do with our lives. Well, most of us. Some still don’t know what they want to do with their lives.

It’s quite sad really for the people I’m really good friends with. In a strange way this is the end. Because up to now we know each other extremely well and live for and with each other. There are no greater memories than times spent with friends just laughing and joking. We had some after our meal the other night; it was fantastic and I made a note at the time to savour every moment.

But once we move away that’s basically it. We no longer figure in each other’s lives. Effectively we have to start from scratch all over again. And then the new friends come along and dislodge the old. It feels almost like a betrayal. But what else can you do? Life is all about connecting with new people.

So if you detect a certain somberness in this post you are spot on. That is what I’m feeling at the moment. And it’s entirely natural to.

I’m reminded of a song that always makes me shed a tear or two. It’s from the 1940s, and was a perfect tune for the time. The juxtaposing of two fabulously brilliant concepts – departure with an unknown return, and future, but uncertain, reunion filled with a hopeful optimism simply cannot be beaten in the following words:

We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day 

Its genius is in its simplicity. It implies an absolute certainty: we will meet again, but this is then contradicted by the words that follow, and then even more so by the hopelessly optimistic “know we’ll meet again”. How many times have we all used words in the same way to suggest that we just know we’ll do something we’ve always been planning to do? Used in a way to convince ourselves of the certainty of a certain event. And yet, sometimes, we never do it.

I hope that isn’t the case for me… but I just know that is yet another of those hopelessly optimistic statements.

Here’s to the next phase of my life.

18, 24 and 72

Last night marked the official “Last Supper”. We all went out for a meal and had a reasonably good time, better than the last time I went out for a meal with the miserable Happy Couple.

It was not without its own controversy though, and it brought to the fore something that I find quite annoying in people.

I am a tipper. I like to leave something for staff in restaurants, and taxi drivers and barbers. I’m not as generous as the Americans are (their tipping culture is amazing to us Brits) but I will leave something. 10% or thereabouts is pretty standard.

I see it as a special thank you. Yes, they do get paid for what they do, but they are invariably on the minimum wage, and the tips are an extra special thank you. When someone has personally provided you with service, you should feel a little guilty, and as an act of humility you show your appreciation. It’s fairly standard.

But it seems in the past couple of years my friends have generally not shared this view. Yes, we are students, and yes we are pretty poor most of the time. But the fact remains that they wouldn’t give a second thought to paying £3 for a pint, so neither should they do so when providing a tip.

The problem is simple though – they just don’t tip. I hear stuff like “I don’t believe in it” and “I didn’t think the service was that good” but these are just excuses.

And sure enough, they were all wheeled out last night. We had a meal, 11 of us all together (some of them were friends of friends, alas, my friendship circle is not that big) – and as always large meals are a particular challenge for the staff. People don’t listen to the waiters (or can’t hear and others don’t pass the message on). People forget what they ordered. Lots of meals on the serving tray that all look the same (e.g. lamb korma, chicken korma).

I thought they would automatically add the service charge on. Normally they do if it’s a large group. I almost wish they had because it would have made people pay it. But sadly not. The £180 bill arrived, and most people studied it carefully to work out what they owed. I insisted people put in an extra £2 each to take us up to £200, but it wasn’t happening. The excuses were wheeled out.

In the end it was quite embarrasing to hand over just £185. My meal came to £15, and I ended up putting in £18 (a tip of 20%!) so it meant that just one other person had offered a tip.

Very disappointing. And it left things on a bit of a sour note. We went the pub afterwards and the situation was somewhat awkward, but enhanced too by the fact that the Happy Couple were having one of their typical zero-sum games, where one enjoyed pissing off the other and we all had to sit in the crossfire.

It continued when we got home, when one half of the couple (the girlfriend) decided to go out to a nightclub with her friend, leaving the other half to stay here miserable, and soon went to bed. Urgh. At least it’s over in 24 hours.

And meanwhile, to complete the trilogy, I received my final essay mark yesterday, which was another 72. That’s three 72 marks this semester. Something is very odd about it. In any case, it hasn’t really affected my chances of a first because the exam performance is still the most critical bit of the equation here.

Anyway, let the long, slow and tedious process of packing begin!

It’s Over

I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.

My final exam is finished. There have been a couple of drinks consumed, but not too many. More to come later at a house party.

But that’s it. University is over. Can’t believe it. I have to say the final exam wasn’t as good as I was hoping it to be. The two questions that I wanted to come up did come up. Only problem is that they weren’t questions. They were “critically assess” statements. Which is very open and hence dangerous. Too much scope for not keeping to the point of the question. And in one of them I’m worried I did do that.

So I would now rate the chances of a First now back to as low as 10%. Because it really was all riding on that exam. And since it was no more than 2:1 material, a 67% average is probably as good as I’m going to get.

Never mind. It was a fun ride.

Going home on Sunday. Have I told you before that I can’t wait?

Yes, I have. On many occasions.

Damn. I need to get some new things to talk about now.

The Judgement

Just a quick post to outline what happened today.

My dissertation got a 72 which was worth 80% of the total. Factoring in my earlier research proposal it takes the overall score down to 71 overall. This counts twice, so I now stand with 80 credits at First class honours.

This is an excellent result, which I’m delighted to have got. But in some ways it’s the worst of all worlds. If I’d got a higher score (somehow!) it would have brought my overall average up the necessary amount to put me in with a genuine chance of an overall first.

The equation now runs something like… I definitely need 20 more credits at First class. This is definitely on for one of my modules, the exam for which is on Thursday. The other module is still unknown because I don’t have the essay mark back yet, but I think based on the exam performance last week it’s unlikely I’d get a first in that module. But at the very least I need to get 67% and above.

If that’s the case then for this module on Thursday I really need to finish on a high. That would put me on 68% overall, probably 69% when they only consider my best nine modules, and with a 100 credits at First, and a good solid First dissertation.

If that were the case then I think they might give me a First.

At the moment, I would say the odds have moved. Not decisively, but enough. I would say the chances of me getting a first are now 75/25 against me. But this has moved from my assessment of 90/10 against the other day (which in turn moved from 95/5 before that).

I’m in with a shot. This terrifies me. I like the odds, but the numbers won’t lie eventually. Too many 64/66 marks in 2nd year have made this such a daunting ask.

I’ve got to go for it, I really have to. What else can I do?

Either way I now know I’ve at least got a 2:1. Which is very reassuring. And equally awesome. Whatever happens, it’s been a good university career.

Spidery

The revision has begun again in earnest. I’m fed up with moaning about it now so I just have to get on with it. Only four more days of it to come, at least (including today).

But to make things a little more interesting I have decided to vary my revision techniques a little. My idea of revision has always been pretty simple. Read. Read. Read. Read some more. Then synthesise the notes into a prototype essay. Then read the prototype again and again until my brain can’t take any more.

I now have all my prototypes ready for action, and the plan now is to bore myself into submission. By the day of the exam I tend to be so fed up with reading the same stuff that I often curl up into a ball and feel like shouting very loudly for a considerable period of time. But that’s good, because it makes me eager to get it over and done with. There are always nerves, but I’m sure I’d be petrified had I not done enough work.

Anyway, back to the variation… I have never been a fan of spider diagrams. I thought they were just one of these things they tell you in school to do because no one knows the true secret of effective revision. It’s whatever works for you, basically. But the other day for my previous exam I gave a spider diagram a go – and sure enough, when the exam came around I remembered absolutely everything on it.

So I am going to do them again for this module. If all goes well, this is the module I need to get 68 and above on. If I do that then I will get a first overall for this module. That then triggers up the possible first scenario that has been running through my brain forever. I’m bored of crunching the potential numbers now – I want to see the results.

I say “if all goes well” because that equation above is only relevant if tomorrow I get my dissertation result back and it’s a first. That I am really unsure about. I am never ever confident that I will get a first in anything. But I can’t help but feel that my chances are much better with this dissertation. I hope so.

I really really hope so. If it is the case then it won’t just be spider diagrams that I’ll be trying out to improve my revision techniques. It’ll be any daft and crazy idea I can get my hands on. Flash cards. Timetables. Practice essays under time conditions. Wall charts. Mnemonics. Audio recordings…

More tomorrow, hopefully. At least we have the internet back now…

Seven Days

We’re now into the home stretch.

Yesterday I had my first exam. It was a pretty dull affair – the questions were as expected, and I think I was able to do myself justice to at least get a solid 2:1. Though I don’t know my essay mark yet for that module, I think it will be fine.

The reason why I’m suddenly so concerned was that on Tuesday I got one of my essays back for the other module I’m doing and it had got a 72 – my highest ever essay mark. If ever there was a time to get such a high score it was now. In some ways I didn’t want to see it. What it’s done is get my hopes up that the seemingly impossible first could still be on. If I’d got a 2:1 it would have been over and I could have relaxed.

What it does do is make this Monday coming incredibly significant. Monday will be dissertation mark day. If I get a first in the dissertation then the chances of me being able to get one overall will increase significantly, possibly to as much as 50/50. This is going to be quite a nerve-wracking time for me if it’s there. I’ve been having dreams that my mark for the dissertation was a 69 – which would be truly awful for me because it would be one mark short and that would be the end of the possibility.

I still expect to get a 2:1. The chances at the moment I would put at 90/10 against me, but it’s crept up from 95/5 which it was before I got this essay back.

In the meantime, with one exam down, and the next one a week today, I’ve afforded myself a little break. I spent most of yesterday at the student union and then sat in the front yard of a friend’s house for four hours in the sunshine. Fortunately it wasn’t that strong or else I would have got burnt, but it was good fun. There are many of us all in the same boat – we had all had the exam yesterday and are now counting down to the days to our last one.

There has been one minor irritation to report though… and it’s summed up by the fact that I’m sitting in the library typing this post. The internet has been switched off because our silly ISP have decided to misinterpret my housemate’s request to close the phone line at the end of May. They left the phone line on, but have turned the internet off because yesterday was what we’d paid up until. Great. I’m not even certain we’ll get it back on by the time I leave.

It’s amazing how hard it is to live without the internet now. I’m glad I don’t have long here, because this is going to be one hell of a struggle. I feel completely out of the loop news wise.

Revision will resume tomorrow. Boring. But necessary. As long as the sun continues to shine I think I can live with it…

Mocked By The Weather

One of the problems of this time of year is that it is invariably warm and sunny. Now, that in itself is not a problem – the issue is that I am undergoing some pretty intensive revision for exams, one of which is this Wednesday.

So I am forced to sit here for most of the day, looking out at the wonderful conditions with great envy. It wouldn’t be so bad if we had a garden to sit in – but no such joy. There is an area of tarmac to the back of us, which opens out from our patio doors onto an enclosed space used by the cars for the people who live on this block. It does get the sunshine, but it’s hardly a pleasant experience.

Having said that, yesterday there was no choice. It was sunny and hot. I wanted to be outside. So I managed to cajole another housemate into sitting outside with me, where revision then occurred for a couple of hours. This went pretty well, I thought. There was just enough shade there too to make sure I didn’t get sunburnt.

But it’s always the same. As long as I can remember, I have always been revising for summer exams in glorious conditions. The exam is always on a warm day too, and the exam hall is always stiflingly hot.

I shouldn’t be surprised… it is almost summer after all. But it is actually spring. What we’re seeing here in Hull at the moment is probably all the “summer” is going to amount to. I’m sure by June it will be raining every day again.

With that in mind, I’m worried that, thanks to exams, I’m missing the best of it.

Otherwise, the revision is going pretty well and I’m looking forward to getting this exam out the way by Wednesday. Once that’s done I’ve got one more the following Thursday and then we really will be all over. I’ve said it many times, but I can’t wait.

14 days to go.