The value of Dead Time: why it’s sometimes good to miss the train

Before I launch into another topic, I’d just like to thank everyone for your incredible response to my last post. I always get super excited when people share my stuff and give me feedback (by all means do more of that 😉 ) and talking about mental health is ridiculously important, so thanks for helping me spread the word and being generally lovely about it. If you want to support more work on mental health at Oxford, I was sent a link to this project, which looks really cool. And now for something completely (well, slightly) different… 

Despite the slightly Halloweenish title, this post is not about ghosts. Instead, it’s an impromptu collection of musings about the gaps in between proper activities, otherwise known as Dead Time. A quick Google offers this definition:

Time in which someone or something is inactive or unable to act productively

The most frequent source of enforced inaction is probably travelling, closely followed by queuing. Having done a lot of the former over the last few months, I’ve been coming to the conclusion that, frustrating as it can be, this kind of dead time isn’t always wasted. Continue reading


Strange skies: Voltaire’s physics

I geeked out even more than usual and got a poem published on the Voltaire Foundation blog: here it is!

Voltaire Foundation

Letter XIV of Voltaire’s Lettres philosophiques provides an insight into the early days of modern science, contrasting the theories of Descartes and Newton at a time in which Newtonian physics was new and controversial. The vitality of the debate as approached in this volume struck me, as a humanities student, more intensely than GCSE science lessons ever managed to; it made me realise that even the laws of gravity were a new discovery once.

VA39_Tourbillons ‘Figure des tourbillons de Descartes’, in Voltaire, La Henriade, divers autres poèmes etc. [Geneva, Cramer and Bardin], 1775, 37 vol., vol.26, facing p.355. However, it was the way in which Descartes’ world was depicted that left a greater mark on me, through its apparent strangeness (although, had I heard about it in a physics classroom, no doubt it would seem as banal as gravity). In Voltaire’s portrayal, the emphasis is on movement, ‘tourbillons de matière subtile’,

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An open letter to the party leaders

At the moment, the election is the only thing in my life more important than finals* – or at least the only important thing that I feel immediately (if very partially) responsible for, and as such it’s been distracting me from revision to an alarming degree. Along with many others, I’m trying to move on from my impotent fury at the fact that the election results didn’t directly reflect my lefty-liberal-student news feed on facebook, so naturally I spent much longer than I should have done writing a poem about it. Oxford is, as you might expect, pretty hellish at the moment, but at least the end is near and revision is happening slowly but surely. Adoring and encouraging letters, emails or carrier pigeons all appreciated 😉

*I am fully aware that there are a great deal of things going on in the world that are vastly more important than the swathes of blue covering Britain, and whether I get out of here with a degree or not, but the scope of this blog is restricted. 

An open letter to the party leaders

Dear David,
As we turn the page
on this fateful post-election day,
I’ve got a few things I wanted to say…

I hear you went to Oxford, that’s my uni too;
and though I only speak for me, I’ll guess
that most of us are unimpressed,
we’re less than proud of you. Continue reading