On opting out: How to make life choices when you’re a professional ditherer

On Saturday, I put the final nail in the coffin of my plan to do a masters. You may not know that I’d applied for UCL’s Comparative Literature MA, got in and even found some (very partial) funding, but for a few months at the end of 2015, that was officially The Plan. Then, over the first half of this year, I gradually wobbled towards a change of heart. And just the other day I sent the email that made my declining of the offer official. Continue reading


Oxford problems: Why things need to move on from 1096

The rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia have become increasingly opaque since my graduation, but I promised a post about the darker side of Oxford, and with great effort it’s finally emerged. Before I start, please note that I’m abundantly aware that going to Oxford is a massive privilege in a lot of ways (some of which I’ve previously discussed here), but that doesn’t negate the gaping areas for improvement. I’ve thought a lot about how to point these out without falling too far into a dank pit of cynicism and unjustified self-pity, but it will no doubt be impossible to navigate the murky waters of talking about the Oxford university experience without occasionally straying from the invisible/non-existent channel of “reasonable, insightful and entertaining commentary”. It is also, as usual, based on my own experiences and opinions, and is intended as a personal viewpoint, not a factually supported study. So please read generously, and start a friendly discussion if you disagree with me or if I manage to cause hideous offence in some way.

P.S. This post is about course pressure and mental health. For the sake of focus, I’m not addressing social issues such as class; other people are doing that better than I could. For obvious reasons of experience, I’m only discussing Oxford, but I know that plenty of courses at other universities are hideously stressful, and this is not intended as a comparison with those. Continue reading

Oxford: The good bits

Since I finished finals (yes, I FINISHED FINALS!) a week ago, I’ve been having a lovely time and thought I’d do a slightly sentimental rundown of my time here while everything is looking rosy. However, every silver lining has a cloud, as they say, and I’m currently also working on a post along the lines of “everything that is horribly wrong with Oxford” – stay tuned. I intend to make it more interesting than a rambly rant, so it will be aired either next week, or in about a month and a half, depending on whether it reaches completion before I jet off to Vietnam (yep, I’m going to Vietnam for a month. Currently we have booked flights to one end and back from the other, but planned absolutely none of what we’ll do there. Wish me luck!) In the meantime, please enjoy this list of things I like about Oxford life. 

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The end is nigh: Wisdom gained among the dreaming spires

You might be wondering why you haven’t heard from me lately. The answer is simple: Oxford has sucked out my soul, put it in a blender and returned it to me as humourless soup in a leaky paper bag. Melodrama aside, I have been working pretty flat out, and somehow creativity has ended up on the back burner. So, in a sudden and alarming bout of heroism, I’m going to fight the system and assert my rights by doing a couple of posts DURING FINALS TERM (*dramatic music*). 

And so continues the slow descent into finals madness. It would be both tragic and untrue to claim that I haven’t had any fun since Christmas, but it’s probably fair to say that learning in many forms has taken precedence over literally everything else. Much as I’m sure you’d like to share in the tiny amount of knowledge of Rabelais that I’ve managed to retain since second year, I’ll be writing quite enough about him in the near future so, instead, here are a few newly reinforced truths about Oxford life. Continue reading

The twelve days of Christmas 12: Empty nest syndrome

Well, here it is, number 12 – the finish line. I MADE IT! Against all odds, I have struggled through and written… twelve paragraphs. Well, it’s something, although I don’t suppose I’ll be getting a medal anytime soon.

While this ridiculous idea of doing daily blogs has felt increasingly like a millstone I’ve hung around my own neck, I have to admit my life suddenly feels a tad directionless without it. This is a happy coincidence (a.k.a. deliberate piece of motivation engineering) with the fact that I’ve just returned to Oxford and therefore to the increasingly terrifying prospect of writing my extended essay.

However, the exceedingly tiny life-crisis brought on by my own personal christmas-blog-baby being all grown up is nothing in comparison to the empty nest syndrome Mum’s exhibiting now that Duncan and I have both disappeared off to uni in the space of two days.  As I’ve pointed out, it’s probably better that your children (temporarily) fly the nest than that they remain in it past their sell-by date, lolling uselessly about and eating all the food like a monstrous human cuckoo. This observation apparently wasn’t all that consoling.

Still, eight weeks isn’t all that long, and we humans are lucky enough to have things like phones and the internet. So don’t worry Mum, I’ll stay in touch!

empty nest syndrome

However, there probably won’t be any more posts for a few weeks/months, unless I’m dramatically more efficient with my work than expected. I may try to upload the odd cartoon or brief, ill-formed reflection on something or other, but for now, goodbye and happy new year, and try not to miss me too much.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who’s followed me – you’re inflating my ego beautifully!

Oxford Myths: Some common misconceptions dispelled

Well, I said I’d be back eventually, and here I am. The three month interval between the last post and this one is due to the unwelcome intrusion of an eight week term in which I was supposed to be producing thirteen essays (amongst other things) whilst somehow retaining my sanity. I’ve compromised, in that I wrote twelve essays and have emerged, if not intact, then at least only slightly cracked.
Rather than a boring account of the daily events in my life as the dreaded Library Hermit of Somerville College, I thought I’d give a few snapshots of Oxford life in the process of dispelling some myths you might have heard about the city of dreaming spires.* Without further ado, here are some cartoons and their associated text.