In A First Class Mood

Well, the day is finally here. The day of the exam results.

And, would you credit it, I only appear to have notched up a First.

How I’ve done it I don’t know. I do know that I worked myself into the ground for most of last year. Well, perhaps not that much, but I did do a lot of work, certainly far more than I did in second year. That may have been down to the dissertation, but I’m sure I also did more work preparing for tutorials and reading for essays.

Either way, it seems to have paid off. All that work to make the “21” sign turn into a “1” on the results website.

I still won’t believe it until I have a piece of paper in front of me telling me I did it. I haven’t even celebrated properly because of a terrible night’s sleep last night (too much dreaming about exams, sad bastard) and the anti-climactic nature of finding out my results before the designated time. The exam results website always releases the results much earlier than it’s supposed to, and it did so again today.

I’ve only just scraped home as a result of procedures allowing an average in the borderline (i.e. 69) to be upgraded if you have enough firsts in general (which I did), but if you’re going to get a degree classification then you might as well scrape home than be comfortable, for the simple reason that whether I get a first with 69 or a first with 80 it is still “only” a First. Would the extra work be worth it? Would it even be possible given the stingy marking of politics lecturers? Somehow, I doubt it.

In a way I’m relieved. After all this hype and all this expectation, and a string of good results this year (all of my essays, exams and the dissertation were firsts, except for one exam), I was beginning to think “I would be disappointed with a 2:1”. I hate saying that. It’s crazy, I know. At the end of second year I was ecstatic with being a solid 2:1er. I thought I’d worked hard that year and deserved a 2:1, so I was pleased with that.

Then I realised this year how hard I hadn’t worked. After all the effort I put it, I thought it wasn’t really worth it because there was no way I could reverse the middle-of-the-road result I’d got in second year. But no, it was possible.

And once things started turning in my favour I got an inevitable sense of “this is mine if I try hard enough”. And so I did.

And so it came to pass. And I round off my academic career (for now, anyway…) with the top grade possible.

It’s beginning to dawn on me what I’ve achieved over the past four years, but it will take a little longer to sink in.

What a day.

Views On A Nephew

I say “a” nephew, but I mean “the” nephew, because I only have one.

He is the biggest nuisance I have known, but at the same time he’s awesome. But, because his father is useless, I, as his eldest uncle, feel like I should take a bit more responsibility for him.

I would love to, I really would, but it’s not as simple as that. I do play with him. I play games, I play football. I sometimes take him the park. But I have nothing else to offer in terms of doing things. The kind of things a father is supposed to do.

The main reason for that is because I don’t have any money. I would love to take him to the cinema or to a football game or swimming or ice-skating or whatever… but all of these things aren’t cheap.

Furthermore, until now, I hadn’t been around all that often, thanks to university. But now that excuse has gone.

My nephew is now nine years old. He is starting to notice the fact that his dad is a waste of space, but at the same time he will never be able to admit that his dad is not the hero that he claims to be. His dad plays perpetual mind games with his mum (my sister) and the impact of this psychological warfare – and I can see it as clearly as night follows day – is definitely rubbing off on my nephew.

Thing is, I don’t really see him as a nephew. He is more like a brother. If my parents had had just one more child only four years after their eventual final one (and they easily could have done) then I would have had another sibling of the same age. The age gap is not significant enough to make me feel like an uncle (I became an uncle at the age of 13). Spare a thought for my youngest brother and sister, who became an uncle and aunty respectively at the ages of 5 and 4.

And so, not feeling like an uncle, my mindset is trapped in a brother mentality. And much as me and my brothers all like each other, we don’t tend to do an awful lot with each other. We give each other their own space and freedom to do what they want with life. We don’t do anything together, and though this is much more obvious now that we’re getting older, it has generally been the case throughout our lives.

So I treat him like a brother and do not much with him other than brotherly things, like playing with Lego.

I feel like I ought to step up to the plate. His dad is a non-entity, a worthless loser, who does nothing other than fill my nephew’s mind with rubbish about his mum and the rest of the family. My nephew still likes him, but maybe it’s just because he’s the only male role model that gives him some attention, even if it is only on one day a week.

Maybe I can do something about this in the forthcoming summer holiday.

Well, I would if I had some bloody money. And the money I’m owed from the council from a job I did is now delayed until I fill in a medical form so they can tell me I’m fit to do the job. Which I’ve already done and won’t be doing again. Bureaucracy…

Bread Based Idiocy

It is amazing how such a little bit of incompetence can make me feel such a moron.

Only 15 minutes ago I departed to go the shop. The goal, to buy a loaf of bread. A simple goal, you would think. One I have done many many times before without incident.

I was wrong. The problem all stem from the fact that I have to buy bread for more than me this time. If I’m buying bread for me there are only two loaves I ever buy, depending on which shop I go to. Warburtons Seeded Batch or Hovis Rich and Roasted. The best loaves of bread ever, by the way.

But since I’m currently living at home, having good bread is optional for the simple reason that if I buy anything other than crap white bread it will result in a deluge of complaints from my siblings, whose pathetic palates can’t tolerate anything other than white putty-like stodge. So I have to sacrifice myself and buy crap bread.

At the shop, I arrive to the usual dilemma. Which one to pick? My family seems to alternate between different loaves every time. I decided to go for a Kingsmill 50/50 loaf (which they will tolerate because it’s still “white”). But then I put it back down just to look around one final time. Then decided to go with the orignal decision, and took it to the till.

When I got back home I took the loaf out of the bag and was horrified. Not only was the loaf not the Kingsmill 50/50 – it seems I’d picked up the neighbouring white loaf which has almost the exact same wrapper design… but worse, it was thick sliced.

Thick sliced is fine, but it is a con. You still eat the same number of slices despite their extra size, thus meaning you have to buy another loaf of bread in a much quicker time.

I don’t know how I’d managed to make this mistake. I only ever buy medium sliced. But for some stupid reason the thought to check that I was buying medium sliced didn’t even cross my mind.

Idiot, idiot, idiot. How hard can it bloody be to go and buy a loaf of bread? I should be able to do this by now without making one of the most basic errors a food shopper can make.

My penance will, of course, be to go and buy another loaf tomorrow.

Sport Related Thought Springboard

After spending a long day in the sunshine yesterday, and getting slightly sunburnt for my troubles, it seems ridiculous that today is dark, rainy and miserable. Worse is the fact that tomorrow I’m going to a family christening event, and it looks like they might have picked a pretty bad day for it. Such a shame, as this time last year it was my nephew’s birthday and holy communion on the same day, and they got the good weather – possibly the only nice day of last summer…

The reason why I was in the sun was that I went to watch my brother and sister at an inter-schools athletics competition. Unfortunately, their school got trounced in virtually every event, but my sister did well in her two events, coming 2nd in the 200m and 3rd in the 100m. I’m glad she did well, because she spent the last week insisting that she was not going to do it and that she hated having a talent for running. It got most people in the house down. But she did it in the end, and hopefully it’s a vital lesson learned in life.

I think back to when I was in school and the fact that of the all the lessons in the week, PE and games were the ones I dreaded. I’ve already covered a lot of this ground in the old youth reviews, but it seems all semblence of sporting talent passed me by, whereas my siblings seem to have at least something to work from. The only thing I was ever good at and enjoyed was badminton. I don’t quite know why that would be. Maybe I have good hand-eye co-ordination. Plus, I’m not a physical person, so contact sports were always the most hated. Even though I like watching them.

I would dearly love to get back into playing badminton again, but it’s just another one of those things that can’t really be done on your own. I need to find someone else to play it with me. I was thinking of asking my younger brother (aged 14) but I’m not convinced he can be separated from a) his antics with friends and b) his computers.

If I had something to do, another hobby to enjoy then I think I’d feel a lot more balanced as a person. I’ve mentioned before how most of my hobbies are unfortunately individual activities that I do at home, playing playing guitar, keyboard, reading/researching… so it would be nice to have one that got me outside for a bit.

I’ve thought a lot about this recently. What can I do with myself? I thought, maybe I should get back into music and try to make a band. But I tried that in the past and no one was interested. No one seems to get the blend of music I’m into. That would at least turn my musical talents into something a bit more sociable.

Or maybe I could use them to make money by busking? I would probably enjoy that, but I’m not as confident about my musical and singing abilities as I used to be. That’s probably because the last four years have seen me regress somewhat on this score.

I thought about doing some volunteering… but once more the whole thing is fraught with problems. The only opportunities available that I can find that I might be interested in are the ones working with inner city youth or young offenders. I’m not sure I have much to offer for these groups. What do I know about these kids? I may live in an area where things aren’t exactly great, but I don’t think I would be a credible mentor, having not got the experience to relate to myself.

I could retread my old stomping grounds and help in my local school again, but I feel like I’ve been there and done that.

Or maybe, joining a choir, running a choir… that would be cool. But how do you do these things? There are no choirs around her for me (I looked). Urgh.

The problem to me is that I really don’t know enough about myself. In fact, it’s a bit ridiculous that I can’t explain what my real talents and qualities are. What I could bring to the table. By not knowing, I don’t know where I can apply myself. Where I can make the best use of my skills. I know I’ve got some, I’m sure of it!

And all the while the dark spectre of having no money anyway looms. I can’t do anything until I’ve solved that one. Freedom is nothing if you can’t afford to make use of it.

That’s enough introspection for now.

Like A Big Kid

There are some things in life that it is deemed socially unacceptable for an adult to continue to do once they have left childhood behind. Pick their nose in public is one. As is staring idly at strangers on public transport.

But there are some things that mystify me. And the sad thing is that they’re stuck in my mindset too, and I often feel myself trying desperately to justify my activity.

One of these things is the fact that in our garden we have a trampoline. It is a lot of fun to bounce on it. But at 22 years old, I feel a bit odd doing it. I bounce up, and can see over the garden wall and often to people in the street or in other gardens. So it’s not a particularly private affair. People can see that I’m on the trampoline.

It doesn’t bother me to a certain extent, but I do wonder what they must be thinking. Why is it not appropriate for an adult to go on a trampoline in public? At what age does this sudden cut-off occur, when heads will shake, brows will furrow and questions be asked about the mental faculties of such a, clearly, errant adult?

And why? Why is the big question. Why would it be “a bit weird” and leave people somewhat uncomfortable if they saw, say, a 45 year old man bouncing on a trampoline? Or even a woman for that matter.

Don’t deny it. Because I can’t deny it either. If I saw that I couldn’t help but feel a little niggle in the back of my mind saying “There must be something wrong with him/her”.

That really aggravates me. Because I thought I was more open minded than that. But there is just something not quite right about the thought. And yet, if a private individual wishes to have some fun that has no impact on anyone else, what right do we have to sit in judgement?

Going on the trampoline is a lot of fun and is good exercise. But it’s seen as a very childlike thing to do. And it got me thinking just how many taboos we have in our society that stop adults enjoying themselves.

It’s one of those collective action problems that I did so much about in the last year of university. None of us is prepared to break the mould, because we’re not confident enough to believe that if we do it others will follow. Somehow we’d all need to break it together. Otherwise, everyone will wait for everyone else to act, the result being no one acts at all.

Or maybe I just need to learn to grow up and accept that I’m an adult now.

But there’s no way I’ll ever accept that.

Let Them Eat Cake

Since Christmas I have really taken to the idea of baking cakes and various unhealthy items. This has been something of a surprise for me in truth because I normally have an allergic reaction to making food from scratch.

But it seems that with the passage of time I’ve realised just how simple it is. My latest creation was the easiest and yet the best thing I’ve ever made, a microwave golden syrup sponge with custard. Oh yeah. The family enjoyed it, most of all my dad who, despite being very thin, likes anything cakey, biscuity, chocolately, etc. Must be where I get my sweet tooth from. My dad won’t have a cup of tea unless there is something sweet to go with it. Weird.

I don’t know whether I’ll ever be able to make any use out of it. I could, maybe, use these recipes in school when I’m a teacher. But then again, that’s probably unlikely given the outrageously packed national curriculum, which generally regulates every minute of a teacher’s professional life. Hmm. Maybe I’ll have a think about that one.

Meanwhile, my mum is back from her working holiday. It was very interesting to compare notes with her from the time I worked in a summer camp in the USA. She was one of the seven staff there to oversee the school Year 8 holiday to Barcelona so she had a similar experience to me in terms of dealing with homesickness and keeping children entertained. Though they had it easy because there was an itinerary all planned for them. I had to make it up as I went along!

While we talked about this I did feel like I’d missed out again. Really, I should have been back in the USA again this summer. Though this is not yet 100% regret. Maybe by the time this holiday is over I will feel I could have used it much more effectively. To be honest, I would say that is very likely. Right now, I’m not doing enough to justify taking the safe option of staying here.

Naturally, too, there was one other thing that I’d missed out on.

Cake. And food in general. Because out in the USA they looked after us staff extremely well. Lots of food, and lots of dessert. Oh yeah. I put a whole four kilograms on while I was out there. And all that while I was hiking mountains virtually every other day. Perhaps I did overeat a bit. Then again, having M&M thick pancakes (not like the crappy thin British pancakes) for breakfast as well as cereal every day, it wasn’t exactly difficult to overeat.

Anyway, enough reminiscince. I missed out. My fault. I have to make this time here count for something. I’ve not yet worked out what I should do with it. I thought I’d have a job by now, but the good news has not yet arrived from my Contact Who Often Provides Work. If I earned a fair old stack of money then I could feel like I hadn’t wasted this opportunity of lots of free time.

Perhaps I need to get my thinking cap on and see if I can do something more productive with this long summer, probably the last one I’ll ever have.

Abnormal Service

At the moment my mum is on holiday with her job, away until Friday, so the atmosphere of the house is a little different. My dad is having to be the one who thinks about what we need in the house, keeping a check on supplies. Which invariably means we run out of things.

The poor old dog has also been having to rely on other people feeding it. I’m not sure it’s been fed yet this morning. I’m now going to have to e-mail my dad to ask him if he fed it. And if not, it will mean I have to because my brother who is here at the moment is useless. In any case, he has an exam this afternoon, so it’s just easier not to disturb him…

Unfortunately, me and my brother don’t talk as much as we used to. We used to be really good friends but now he’s older things seem to have become a lot more awkward. I don’t really know what that’s the case. I don’t know whether it’s connected to me going away to university. Maybe not. We just don’t know what to say to each other any more, averting eye contact…

At the same time too, my other brother is away with his school on an overnight trip, but he’ll be back later. It has made the house incredibly quiet. Except for when my sister comes back, who is still spending most of her time torturing the dog.

In my life very little is happening. I’ve spent the past couple of days doing the odd bit here and there for my football team, which I am really looking forward to being an integral part of for the first time this upcoming season. On Sunday we were all at the final event of the season, a football tournament, and though we didn’t win (or come close to it), we did better in it than we have ever done before. Plus the sun was shining all day. Absolutely glorious.

Of course, it’s a far cry from football on a big open, near frozen field in December with the harsh north wind blowing. But we do it because we love the game. And I certainly do. Though a couple of the Euro 2008 games have been incredibly boring in the past few days… Romania v France anyone?

Meanwhile, the days tick by… and in 19 more of them I will find out what I got for my degree. Now that is exciting!

A Brief Perfect Moment

There are very few moments in life where I feel “everything is just perfect at the moment”.

Yesterday, however, contained one such time. But it does demonstrate just how easily pleased I am. And in any case, it lasted about 5 seconds… but you just know it when suddenly you get a feeling inside which just simply says “Life is good”.

I was sitting in the warm sunshine with my grandparents after I’d went out with them for the day. We were sitting on a field, a gentle breeze, and I was eating cheese, tomato and coleslaw sandwiches.

I felt I had to note this event. The food was good, the weather was nice, the location was perfect and it was just awesome to be spending some time with my grandparents. After all, none of us know the minute, and my poor grandad is slowly progressing into what is certainly a form of dementia. But at that moment, everything was perfect.

I spent the rest of the day with them exploring and just generally wandering around. I had gone with them to help them carry their stuff up to the static caravan they’re staying in at the moment – and as always they’d picked a nice day for it. I’m beginning to get a little worried that my life contains too many events revolving around caravans at the moment… how depressing.

That was good fun – but not that much else has happened in my life lately. But then again, it summer, and I do deserve a break. There’s not much else I can do right now except wait for the temporary job offers to roll
in. Well, offer. Hopefully I’ll have more on that next time.

There is something else I’m doing at the moment, which is being an exam invigilator in my local school. But that has turned out to be something of a waste of time, since they told me I would be in every day (no one else wants to do it) … except, now the exam time has come around, they don’t actually need the invigilators anyway.

So far I’ve done one two hour exam and I’m doing another one later. And I’m not likely to do any more.

Though Tuesday did give rise to a classic, when one 15-year-old kid pointed to a picture of a swede on the English language exam paper and asked me if it was a fruit or a vegetable.

Perhaps I only want to be a teacher because I want my sense of humour tickled…