Notes from the Library

Third year

Before I go any further let me just share the album I’m currently going mad about, Rustie’s ‘Glass Swords’, which is I am told ‘post-dubstep’. To me it’s a dubstep swaggering beat overlaid with liquidy melodies. I particularly like Ultra Thizz, Death Mountain and After Light which have been running through my head these past few days. Check it out.

Third year is sweet, and bittersweet when I note this: being a third year is so much better than being a second year, but as soon as I remember this I then remember that I’ve only got one year of ordinary degree left. There are two main reasons for third year being so good. Firstly I’m living in college again which is so great. There’s the library, the bar, the JCR, lots of friends, Hall, and a place to sleep and I don’t really need much more. My room is a split set which means separate study and bedroom so there’s an actual sitting area, so I’ve had people over for work, StarCraft and just to chat, which is great. I have a lecture every day so I do actually leave college most days but if I didn’t have that, I’d probably stay within the quadrangles.

Secondly I’ve finally ‘got’ the process of doing my degree. When I have too much work e.g. an essay with an imminent deadline it’s a case of “yeah, got an essay, going to be up late” rather than “oh my goodness can’t cope so much work going to have to stay up arggggh”. I know I can do it basically. I’m not so strong on Maths but still, I’m far calmer about it all because I know how it works. This is something older friends have echoed when we’ve discussed the ridiculous fact that I’m as old as they were when I first met them as a fresher.

An example of this came Monday night. Stayed up until 2am doing Maths (well, 12:30ish for my maths before I decided I was too tired, then another good while helping a friend), but at around midnight I was like, let’s play StarCraft, so we did, then we went back to Maths, totally casually.

I’m finding that my organisational setup in Org-mode is mostly redundant nowadays in term time, because all I really do is my work, and I know what that is, aside from Maths deadlines being all over the place which I leave Org-mode to keep track of. I have some JCR duties and some other minor things to be done but they don’t take up very much time really. This means that I get out of the habit of using Org-mode to run things and thus I forget the things it is actually telling me to do, such as JCR stuff or whatever. I will try to find the time to simplify it a bit to make it more useful.

The fact I’m now not doing much extra-curricular stuff, like most third years, makes me wonder what I did for first and second year: did I work hard enough, and if I didn’t, do I actually have anything to show for it? I mean it’s not like I’m going to say “I didn’t work but went out drinking a lot so it was worth it”, like some might. Then again, my work ethic in first year was ten times better than what it’s been since. This is the influence of my peers. I wish I’d worked harder. I could have got so much more out of the maths side of my degree. But then again, I don’t care that much about maths, so is this valuable? It’s not so long as I was busily doing something else, and I’m not so sure that that time was well-spent now.

Speaking of the changing years, I’m increasingly comfortable with the fact that my friends aren’t in my year group because I’ve realised that I’ve been lucky to land in between several groups of interesting people to spend time with. I used to wish that I was in the year above, that I’d been a year older, but actually then I’d miss out on my friends that are younger than me. All the same I was incredibly nostalgic in the bar the other night when a group of people who were third years when I arrived were there after their graduation. I’ve barely been in the bar this term and being there with them reminded me of when I had a clique of my own back in first year and even into last year when several of them were still around for various reasons. I should write about all the different groups I know at some point.

On Sunday we had a memorial service for Vince, Balliol’s night porter who died just before term began from cancer; it was a pretty quick process and he wasn’t in hospital for long. The service was in Balliol’s chapel and was very well done; religion is good at this sort of thing and fortunately there wasn’t too much talk of god and zero talk about heaven/any kind of afterlife. Hearing about someone who really was a very notable member of the Balliol community—I won’t go into details of that here as you had to know him I suspect—really does inspire one to actually live life properly. You know, to get up and to get on with things and to remain cheerful cos it’s basically all alright.

As well as his fellow lodge staff and lots of students (and only about three or four fellows which surprised me), Vince’s family were present, pretty tearful as you might imagine, and the class divide struck me powerfully. Vince was pretty badly overweight and so was basically every member of his family. While the Balliollites wore suits (even me) and smart dresses the family just had shirts and perhaps slightly more formal tops. The children had more vacant expressions, less turned on and aware—I guess this is probably not actually true, but the appearance was there. This has obviously got nothing to do with wealth or privilege or who you were born to because while we have some rich students here, most are really not. It’s just a case of education, right, that we got lucky with our teachers and schools? Waking people up. Why can’t we solve this? Certainly won’t with the Tories in power I guess. And of course I don’t for a moment suggest there is something better about us wearing suits and looking more intellectually awake. It was good to be brought together with the family to remember Vince, whatever else. But the divide, even if only on a visual level, was still there.

So being occupied with my work, even if I’m not really doing enough, stops be from being sad. This is good. It sort of puts sorting out my attitudes on hold, though, which is less good as they do need sorting eventually.

We found your comments re the children at the funeral interesting but cannot agree with your opinion that its just a case of education. It certainly has a lot to do with "who you were born to" both as regards your parent's influence directly and also their decisions regarding choice of school.

comment posted by Jean and Eric at Mon Oct 31 10:40:32 2011

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