Category Archives: Life

Correct?

Decisions.  I have never been good at making them.  And blaming it on my starsign (‘I’m a Pisces, we swim both ways!’) just doesn’t seem to cut it when the decisions that I am now making are potentially life changing.

But the thing with decisions is that there will always be a gut instinct that tells you what your body thinks is the right answer.  I have had a lot of these pit-of-your-stomach feelings over the past few days.  My impatience and desperation to find graduate employment has led to me signing up to a hundred and one things, thinking that it is the right thing to do and then realising that it just doesn’t feel right – usually when I have successfully got the place.

But should we be able to make these decisions?  Or with newspapers falling around us, jobs generally far-and-few and redundancy figures higher than Murdoch’s weekly wage, should we take whatever we can and hold on to it?  Should we agree to working for a company that we don’t want to, or a job that has never appealed to us, thinking that ‘we can hack it for a year and make some money for the next thing’?  Or should we be picky with what we want to do with the rest of our lives, optimistic that we will be one of the lucky ones who finds a dream job and certainly not one of those graduates who has been searching for over a year, like your mum’s colleague Eileen’s son’s girlfriend.

What I have come to realise is, that making decisions is hard.  And unfortunately our parents can’t (and won’t) be there to tell us what to do anymore.  When I asked my mother to ‘guide meeeeee’ in an overtly whiney, ridiculous and annoying voice she said that I need to do what I want to do.  Not what she does, or my father does, or what her colleague Eileen does.  Decisions are about a day or two of long, hard thinking.  The sort of long, hard thinking that pondering Pooh bear does with Piglet, or Carrie does with her Apple Mac.

Patience truly is a virtue and when our decisions now may change the paths of our lives for the next few years, we really do need to make the right ones.  So when I received a call that I had been waiting for today, on the day before I was about to accept a different offer that I don’t think I truly wanted, then I realised.  You realise what the right decision is and when you’ve reached it – believe me, it feels good.  Good luck to those making decisions over the next few weeks.  Do what is right for you.

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Second Shakespeare.

Ever since studying a module in Literature and Politics in the 1930s for my degree last year, I have been fascinated by the decade.  Its dismal energy, situated between two World Wars and amongst the fallout of the Great Depression allowed for significant and notable art and literature, with Graham Greene, George Orwell, Walter Greenwood and Terence Rattigan as particular favourite authors.

In an exhibition I visited at the Barber Institute of Fine Art, I came across the artist Percy Shakespeare.  Hailed as ‘one of Dudley’s most famous artistic sons’ the Birmingham-born painter carved a successful career out of a disadvantaged, working-class background in the slums of the West Midlands.  Much of his work – including figure drawings and oil portraits – show the ‘Thirties at Leisure’, with people, colours and composition catching the spirit of the Thirties.  He was killed in 1943 after a stint in the Royal Navy, leaving behind work which is now on show at the Dudley Museum and Art Gallery.

 

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Send me on my way.

There are lots of things to consider when writing one’s final editorial.  So, when finally confronted with this inevitability, I looked back to Steve Jobs’ 2005 Commencement speech at Stanford University; the co-founder and CEO of Apple manages to perfect emotion and inspiration and led me to consider how with hindsight, we can connect the dots of our lives to see how the things we originally thought of as setbacks have propelled us to where we are meant to be today.

In first year, my father presented me with an unmissable opportunity. He had fixed a Guardian reporter’s car and as a result, was able to offer me an indispensable email address. I was immediately unsure what to do with it but after days of questioning myself – and severely undermining my confidence – I emailed that reporter and as a result, landed myself a week’s work experience. If I hadn’t conjured up the guts to email the reporter that day, I would not be writing this now and my adoration for journalism would not have been confirmed.

Another setback in confidence in second year saw me cross my name off of the Editorial Assistant interview list for Redbrick, before re-writing, re-crossing and eventually re-writing it again. This hindrance could have led to me not even interviewing for that position, let alone interviewing successfully. My lack of involvement would have disallowed me to progress onto the Deputy Editor role and as a result, it is deniable that I would be so certain of what I want to do with my life after graduation.

Redbrick is a magnificent society and most importantly, student publication. Determined to continually improve and innovate, all of those involved with the paper work daily to provide a platform and opportunity for student voices. I would like to say thank you to all of those who have made my time at Redbrick an incredible and inspiring experience. Exceptional thanks go to the Proof-Readers whose final editorials I have every faith in reading in a few years’ time…

But doing something you love has to be done with people you love and it is now that I should like to especially thank some of the great friends who Redbrick has allowed me to make. Micaela Winter, my co-female ally in the committee, your outstanding generosity has saved my sanity on many a Thursday morning. Likewise, Rosa McMahon, thank you for sharing this experience with me. We were in it together from the start and I’m proud to see how far both of us have come from that first Features meeting back in 2009. And finally, to my Editor Sam, to whom I should thank for tolerating my mood swings, encouraging my creativity and remedying my passion (also known as stress…). You have been so hard working and enlivening this past year, and your enthusiasm and ambition for the paper is true sentiment to its visible excellence. Never afraid to push the boundaries, you have propelled Redbrick to be more professional and sophisticated than it has been before and your abilities in inspiring those around you will allow for the paper to flourish in all of our absences next year. In the words of the Matilda Soundtrack (eh Sam!) I shall say ‘send me on my way…’.

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Student solidarity.

Although last year saw a small eruption in student activism as a result of Cameron’s cuts to Higher Education, withdrawal of the Education Maintenance Allowance and a stark increase in tuition fees, students of today are typically thought of as apathetic to the student cause. Where our predecessors of the 1960s sparked student activism off with protests surrounding issues from the Vietnam war to Racism and Student Representation to canteen prices, the sit-ins and national student rallies which would attract hundreds of thousands of students then rarely interfere with our student days today.

But are we all just disinterested with a useless cause? Or are we showing activism in another way, a way which keeps up-to-date with our time?

In the past few days alone, it would seem that Birmingham students are coming together in matters close to home. Rumours of a suicide at Selly Oak rail station saw students tweeting condolences and passing the awful news onto peers via twitter on Friday. Although not on par with protests against the Vietnam War, this solidarity at a time of sadness is enlightening for our modern yet lethargic student body. The Selly Oak fire at a local tyre yard yesterday saw hundreds of students take to the streets. Again, no protests here but a clear coming together of hundreds of students with high regard for what was going on in their local community.

These matters are not proving the students of today to be excited about student affairs. A minimal amount of us turned up to the flash mob against raising Tuition Fees and protest against the Browne Review held on campus last year; a minimal amount when accounting for the 28,000 of us registered at this University. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t a clear sense of comradeship here at Birmingham.

Although small in the grand scheme of things, our ability to collect together at events that affect us close to home – like those of the alleged suicide and tyre fire – surely prove that a sense of student solidarity still exists today, away from the visible rallies and sit-ins of the sixties. Even the unspoken recognition of stressed and hard-working students in the library at exam time proves the unique ability for students to share compassion for each other and understand the most important things in our life at the moment, these exams. Although laughable, even the appreciation of the ‘Drinks to Go’ man who has become a Facebook favourite, show mutual understanding between thousands of very different people. When graduating from this University in July, I certainly won’t walk away feeling like I’ve graduated from a dismantled and broken University. Although few, the students who do participate in keeping-up-to-date with affairs that affect students allow for our student community to exist, grow and flourish. You just need to tweet to see it.

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Judgement Day.

Is today the day the world will end?  If it is, then why the hell am I sitting here amongst Shakespeare and the Milky Bar Kid (in the form of buttons) and not outside enjoying my last few hours? 

Although 89 year old Harold Camping – who predicts that a giant earthquake will roll around the world today – got his first end-of-world prediction wrong back in 1994, he is sure that today, May 21st 2011, exactly 7000 years since Noah’s flood, is the day that the world will end.  Believing that poor old Harold Camping is a bit of a nut, many have dismissed his Judgement Day prediction and mocked him for it.  But none of us will know until 6pm New York time (roughly 11pm British time) today.

In the spirit of believing that the world might end today, I have compiled a few ‘Life Lists’ of my top times before this beautiful world ends.  I hope you enjoy, and if Camping is right, I hope you will be a sucker like me and claim divine belief in exchange for saviour.  I’ll see you in Heaven…

Things I’ve learnt:

I can’t paint my nails.  It usually looks like I’ve dipped my fingers into the pot.

I am my father.  I’ve got the Shires nose and the Shires big toe, but as well as that, I’ve got the determinism and drive to do anything in the world.

I am actually more like my mother than I thought, and the older I get, the more of her mannerisms I seem to have picked up.  I now think to myself ‘that’s something mum would say’ on a near-daily basis.

I can be horribly stressy sometimes but it’s usually because I care.

I have learnt more about life and the world during University than I have about my degree.  But that’s ok, because I’ll use the things I’ve learnt about the world far more than I will use Chaucer.  I would have said Shakespeare, but his work has taught me a lot too.

I’m a hopeless romantic, probably influenced by my own parent’s relationship.  I want something like what they’ve got.

I’m also Bridget Jones, apparently.

I want to be a big-dog in the media world and my dream is to work somewhere high up in the BBC.

If I eat too much sugar, my brain hurts and my vision blurs.  My weird body also reacts badly to too much coffee, maltesers and crisps.  Or maybe it’s just reacting badly to the revision I’m doing whilst I’m eating said food.

I can be terribly bossy and usually think that I know what’s best.  I rely on the fact that I have more hindsight than my younger siblings, and justify this as my way of bossing them around.

Best days in the World:

A-Level results day.  Checking UCAS every hour through the night before receiving a letter in the morning to confirm my place at my first choice University and then getting three very unexpected A’s.  Needless to say I was handed a jug of water at 7.30pm to sober me up… This truly was the first day of the rest of my life.

Worst days in the world:

When I had a fight with a glass door back in 2004 and ruined my hand good and proper.  Although I’ve got some pretty fierce scars and can say I’ve had ‘plastic surgery’, it was bloody awful to be a fourteen year old kid staying in a Burns and Plastic Surgery Unit.  I think I learnt a lot about humanity in that ward and it put a lot of things in perspective.

I’ve come to learn that I can’t complain about the way that my world has been.  I’m a lucky person with good friends, good family, and opportunities that many don’t have.  I hope you’re happy with how your world has been if this is the end.  Enjoy your day-the-world-will-end.

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What I Wish I’d Known Before Uni: Guardian contribution

Using the powers of social media, Twitter in particular, I managed to blag a contribution into a Guardian article today.  After seeing the journalist tweet that they needed to speak to current students about what they wish they’d known before coming to University, I tweeted back and emailed a small, lighthearted snippet that evening.  It arrived in print in the Education Supplement and online this morning and can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/may/17/university-guide-student-advice?INTCMP=SRCH

What arrives in print and online has, of course, been edited down, so I thought I’d post my original response on my blog.  I’ve received a few comments today from disgruntled Shackelton boys who I lived with in Halls.  I do apologise chaps, in true journalistic style, a few points made may have been slightly exxagerated for effect…

Hindsight, as I tell myself when I’m approaching an essay deadline, is a wonderful thing. If only I’d thought to start this earlier, if only I’d known this before Uni.

But as well as wishing I’d foreseen my 3am coffee and chocolate digestive addiction before coming to University, I also wish I’d known the following:

  • Societies Fairs are there to steal the beginnings of your student loan.  The bombardment of sweets, pens and stickers are just a ploy on behalf of hungry society committees to get you to pay annual membership fees.  To say that joining all of the drama societies in first year – and parting with lots of pennies – is a regret, would be an understatement; if only I had known that only the ‘Drama Kids’ actually got into the plays.
  • I also wish I’d known what a class shock University would be, perhaps just so that I could have prepared more.  Living in the most expensive halls merely for an en-suite bathroom meant that losing my South London (ish) accent would have to happen very quickly.  And as the only one in my flat of eight without a ‘Gap Yah’ behind me and a Private School on my personal statement, perhaps I would have fitted in better in the cheaper halls – the boys were better looking in those anyway…
  • I suppose the biggest advice I wish I’d had before coming to University would be that everything would be alright in the end, and that if it wasn’t alright, then it wasn’t the end.  And I wish that someone had told me it would all go so fast.  And that spending hours making vodka jelly never, ever works.

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Adele.

Back in January, I read a review of Adele’s second album, 21, that told me this was ‘a record I should own.  Not download – own.’  The big voice and emotive lyrics that caught my attention in the debut album, 19, along with the spell-binding live gig that I was lucky enough to see in 2008 had already cemented Adele as one of my all-time favourite artists. 

She is an artist close to my heart, not only for her similar adoration of Nancy from Oliver Twist, but also for her modest beauty and effortless talent.  Melt my Heart to Stone is my favourite track on the debut album, with its slow, sensitive melody and lyrics that any eighteen-year-old girl with a crush can relate to.  Her cover of Bob Dylan’s Make you Feel my Love was a close second, with an epic love ballad quality and stunningly poetic lyrics.  Alongside these poignant and perfect offerings are the seemingly random Cold Shoulder, produced by Mark Ronson, and Tired, both backed by heavy drumbeats and something of an intergalactic quality; but brilliant nonetheless.  At the time, I thought of Adele’s first offering as wonderful, but the true perfection has surfaced in her second album, which lacks the disjointed quality of 19 and demonstrates Adele’s stunning vocal qualities and sets her as a young woman who has found her place and grown up a lot since she was a young girl still searching in 19.

 

I admit that after her first album, Adele – or any of the reviews – didn’t need to persuade me to buy her second and I was sold when I heard her first release, Rolling in the Deep.  Although this isn’t my favourite track off the album, I think it was a congratulatory lead single, with heavy drum beats and strong chords that literally say ‘I’m back!’ 

Widely understood as a ‘break up album’, this record contains a mature view to growing up and, as the title highlights, reinforces the difference between the artist aged 19 and now, a few years on.  The sound of the record is more succinct and the slow and mid-tempo ballads flow effortlessly.  This is not to say that the album holds no surprises; Rumour Has It, with its beats and backing vocals, definitely stands out and her cover of The Clash’s Lovesong is catchy and smooth, proving Adele’s ability to be versatile not random.  My favourite song on the album is another of her slow and stripped down ones, Don’t You Remember; truly showcasing her emotion and outstanding voice, this song is simple yet extraordinary.  Its credentials as a ballad are clear, but Adele also proves herself as more than capable in One and Only and Someone Like You; other obvious ballads that are different in their concept, and thus produce a very different sound.

 

At a time when record labels search for the next Gaga – an artist at the opposite spectrum of Adele – her modesty and humanity prove Adele as genuine talent, who lets her voice speak for itself.  She smashed Madonna’s record for the longest spell at the top of the album charts (for a female artist), with neatly coiffed red hair and a cockney charm, no cone-shaped bras or leotards.  Although after three and a half months at the top you expected nothing less of Adele, initially her success was unexpected in nature.  Surely she is too humble to take over the world?  Surely her plain performances won’t catch on?  It is this endearing quality and ability to comfort in such a time of societal turbulence that has, perhaps, strengthened her success.  And it is this endearing beauty and flawless talent that will maintain Adele as one of the most spectacular artist’s of our generation.

 

 

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