That Was The Year That Was

It’s customary around these parts to review the year when I finally reach the fag-end of it. And sure enough, today seems the most opportune moment to do so. 

The beauty of this exercise is that I am aided in my assessment by looking back to the post I made on January 1st in which I set down what I expected to happen this year.

This year started coldly, in the same way as it’s finishing coldly. The weather made me dread going back to Hull after Christmas, and it was even worse this year because I had exams awaiting me there. But back I went, nailing the buggers, and getting on with the rest of university life. 

The months ticked by, not a lot happened with me other than ploughing on with my university work. After all, it was my final year and I had a dissertation to write, an absolute monster spanning 15,000 words. But I did it…

Winter gave way to Spring, and yet more exams appeared over the horizon. But all of a sudden I had a new goal. Away had went my previous expectations of being able to get a 2:1. All of a sudden I’d done so well in my previous exams, essays and the dissertation to know that I could, if I pushed myself, get a First. 

The exam revision was hellish. It would be another two months before I finally got the answer I was hoping for.

In the meantime, I moved back home and began preparing for life doing a PGCE. My plan was to become a primary school teacher, as it was something I had found interesting when I did lots of work experience for them. But as the months went by, I found myself backtracking from this commitment. Somehow, it just didn’t seem right any more. Each day another seed of doubt was sewn. I felt like I was just doing it because I didn’t have any other plans.

Days later there was the joy of the graduation result, a First, and the day itself, which was a very happy moment. Then my brain began to think up alternatives. If not teaching, what else? 

Unfortunately, to this day there is no answer to that question, made worse by the fact that the recession seems to be seriously damaging my prospects. I tried and tried, but ratcheted up just two interviews, one of which was a disaster not worth repeating, and the other was a long journey to London which ended with the same result. In any event, I soon learned that a First in politics is not really that useful. 

And so the remaining months of the year have been spent here, where I’ve lived out a rather odd existence as a houseson, spending my time looking after the house while my parents aren’t here, helping my brother and sister with their homework, and generally mooching around watching DVDs or reading books. 

Not good, basically. 

Because of all this, I am, for the first time in a while, not going to label this as a Good Year. Though it started well, and the middle bit was pretty sweet, the end has been a disaster. So this is a Neutral Year. 

For the rest of my family, I have been fortune that the sadness I feared was going to happen with my grandparents has not yet arrived. In fact, things are pretty much as they were at the start of the year. So that is some comfort. But I am still worried about what might happen in the near future. 

Meanwhile, my younger but elder of my brothers has gone to university, and seems to be enjoying it. The other brother has begun his GCSEs and is turning into a right scally. But he’s still my brother, and as amusing as ever. And my sister has gone all girly-girly, but has turned into a massive couch potato, watching soaps, reality TV and endless Nickelodeon shows. Not good at all.

My elder sister didn’t keep up with her nurse training, but now has a job for the first time in a long time. Her son, my nephew, has, unfortunately, become very naughty and very thick, a change which has upset me a lot. I suspect it’s related to the beginnings of a long and tedious legal battle that will kick off in 2009 as his useless father tries to score some points over my sister. 

As for my parents, well, I can’t help but feel that living here has changed the dynamic of their relationship. Some times I feel like I’m the referee of their silly conflicts, like they appeal to me for a judgement on who is to blame for things. I don’t like it, and hope I don’t have to put up with it for much longer. 

So, sorry 2008, but I’ll be glad to see the back of you. Things just haven’t gone anywhere near the way I thought they would. A shame, but we move on…

Advertisements

BA (Hons?)

There is some debate about whether or not people with undergraduate degrees in the UK can legitimately put “(Hons)” after their degree award… largely for the reason that almost all degree courses are honours degree ones, and you only get an “ordinary” degree if you fail a lot of modules in your final year.

I suspect it’s just another part of the general devaluation of everything academic in this country, if not this planet. As I’ve grown up, every qualification I’ve ever received has always been panned by the media at just the time I got it. This is true for GCSEs and A-Levels, and now it is even becoming true of degrees. Great timing, as always. Just when I stop to think “hey, I’ve done all right!” – the world bleats out its usual message of “you haven’t, try again”.

So people have started adding on “Hons” to make it sound better than it actually is. I look at the requirements to get an honours degree in other countries, and thus legitimately call yourself “Hons” but they seem so much harder. But this is where it gets ridiculous because of how low the grading is in the UK for arts based subjects. It virtually impossible to get above 80% (I haven’t heard of it)… whereas this must definitely be possible in Australia. Well, my only source on this is Wikipedia, but still…

The reason why all this is in my mind is because in the past week I’ve had my graduation ceremony. I was up at 6am, and I finally got back at 11:45pm. A very long day, but a memorable one. Me and my parents, plus my sister and my gran came with me. Unfortunately, my grandad couldn’t because he’s not well at the moment, which he was disappointed about. It makes me a little sad too… I know full well that I could have graduated last year had I not took a gap year or did a three year course. Then he could have been there.

Nevertheless, it was still a fairly proud moment. I realised just how few people get first class degrees, so that was a very nice moment. The ceremony wasn’t all good, however, as I was sitting next to two people I didn’t know, but unfortunately, they knew each other – so they spent all the time talking over me. It then got worse when the person sitting next to me kept bugging me to ask what the Chancellor had asked me when we did the little “stop and chat” (to use a Larry David-ism) that only people who get firsts are allowed to do.

It’s nice to get the recognition… but it has also given me pause for even more thought. The Chancellor gave a very good speech in which she said how delighted she was to hear (from her little chats) that so many people with first class degrees were going into teaching. That’s what I told her, cos I didn’t have anything else to say. I didn’t want to say I was drifting aimlessly. But she said how wonderful and noble the profession is and that it will be in safe hands with such high quality graduates.

Then, speaking to my tutors at the reception afterwards, they were all highly approving of my choice to do a PGCE. They believe it’s a very worthwhile occupation.

This is somewhat in contrast to my family. But worse, it is in contrast to most of the teachers I’ve ever spoken to, who take every opportunity to disparage their profession when I talk to them. They often say “You’ve got a first class degree and you want to be a teacher?”. I find this a bit weird.

The most disappointing part of the day, however, was the feeling I got from my gran, and I’ve got from the rest of my family in general. We’re all from very humble origins. I am the first to be a university graduate on both sides of the family. But they don’t seem to realise just how much of an achievement this is. Because my family don’t understand what it means, and a lot of them have a very working class attitude of “we stick together”, some of them think that going to university is just not the done thing for someone from a working class background. I definitely got this attitude to my gran. She has rather bizarre views that won’t let her speak to anyone who isn’t a Labour supporter…

This is all new to them, but they see it all as middle class, elitist and not something the normal workers would do. My gran deliberately went out to thank the people who’d built and were taking down the marquee as we left, (“the world doesn’t run without the workers!”) and told them they should take a bottle of the wine that was left over. It had nothing to do with her, of course.

I agree with her sentiment. But we are all workers. Class is a very sad state of mind, one that is absolutely useless and serves no purpose. But that’s politics, and best left out here…

Overall though, it was a very nice day. I know my mum and dad are proud. But now I’ve really got to get my thoughts into order to make this whole bloody thing worthwhile.