(Probably) My Last CD Recording

This week, we’ve been recording a CD of generally excellent music in the Lady Chapel of Ely cathedral. It’s meant long days – rehearsals in the afternoon, a journey on a packed commuter train, and then four hours of recording before catching the train back and falling into bed just before midnight. In the mornings I’ve been attempting to pack, tutoring, taking school group tours and cooking my meagre lunches.

Last night was the last night of the recording, and also the last of the choir commitments which I 100% knew I would be able to attend. There’s a wedding and a Commemoration service at the start of July but I can’t say for sure that my summer job won’t need me, so it’s rather up in the air at the moment.

Recording is very hard work. We try to sing well all the time, but when you’re being recorded everything has to be perfect. Each piece is sung over and over, sometimes in full and sometimes in short segments, to ensure that every last note is precisely in tune, in time, at the right speed, with the right tone. Occasionally we had to retake a section because a crow had cawed in a quiet moment, or a light fitting had clicked loudly. Sometimes someone involuntarily coughed, or rustled their music, and we would have to start again.

It’s physically challenging, because we’re on our feet for hours at a time and using our entire bodies to create the right sound. Singing loudly requires every muscle in the body to contract. Singing quietly needs strict control and concentration. For the last three nights I’ve been extremely glad to get home and roll into bed.

I’ve also found it harder than most because of the Live Below the Line challenge. Part of the challenge is that you can’t accept food from anyone else – all you can eat during the five days is the food you bought with your £1 per day. Because recording is so strenuous, and because we had two choir birthdays and one boy who came third in his year for his subject, people brought in cakes, brownies, cookies, wine and other snacks every day. Watching all my friends eating delicious home baking and having to refuse it when I was actually quite hungry was a serious test of my willpower. On any other week, I’d have found the challenge fairly simple. This week was a bad week to choose – but when is there a good week to deliberately go hungry?

Last night the CD producer and his assistant brought a video camera into the chapel and recorded us rehearsing for the first take. I’m not sure how usuable the footage will be, because the entire choir kept collapsing into giggles: an epidemic of onesies had broken out, and we had girls in a pink polka dot cupcake onesie, a pig onesie, a crocodile onesie (complete with tail and teeth), a white snowflake onesie, a tiger onesie, and a boy in a black skeleton onesie. Several other people were wearing pyjamas, including one notable outfit of shirt, blazer and snakes-and-ladders pyjama trousers. Almost everyone was wearing fluffy socks or slippers. When you’re standing up for four hours, you want to be comfortable!

I’m going to miss the choir. One of the girls who was celebrating her birthday last night was a guest in the choir, borrowed from the Masters music course to bolster the alto section, and she was amazed that we brought her a birthday cake and sang to her. She also commented that we found something to celebrate every night, which is quite true. Despite any individual differences, on the whole the choir is a tight-knit group of friends who know each other’s lives inside out and celebrate and commiserate together. I don’t know that I’ll ever find a group quite like it again.

And now, far sooner than I would have chosen, I have to finish the mammoth task of packing and moving out that I have to admit I have barely had time to start. I’ve emptied my kitchen cupboard and packed almost all my utensils, and filled two boxes with books and knick-knacks, but essentially my room looks the same as ever. This morning, late this evening and tomorrow morning I will have to focus. Pile things in, wrap up the crockery, pad the kitchen boxes with towels, take old books to the recycling point, figure out what needs to be accessible and what can be safely submerged under mountains of other things. I hate packing. Every year, I hate it more. But this year, finally, I am not facing the prospect of having to repeat the whole operation in twelve months. Pending unexpected disaster, this is the last time for at least three years.

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Guy Fawkes Night

I apologise in advance – I did not take any photos. I put my camera into my bag, and I fully intended to take photos. I even thought about it a few times while I was at the bonfire. But I never actually executed the plan.

Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night, also known as the start of my favourite season. When I was a child we sometimes went to small bonfire parties – I think we might even have had our own once or twice (until we got banned by the council from ever having a fire in our garden again – grumpy complainatron neighbours). But it was not until I came to university that November 5th became such a big deal.

Last night I was tutoring until 6.30, and as soon as the lesson ended I hurried to my bike and pedalled like mad back towards college to meet some choir friends and my new boyfriend Charles (people who I have not told about him, consider this post your official notification). In a feat of contradictory well/badly-organisedness I had not had time to put on tights for added warmth, but had brought them with me, so I made everyone wait while I ran to the bathroom to put them on. It is interesting, incidentally, how much more difficult it is to put on tights when you are in a hurry. Suddenly your feet are all angles and the fabric becomes impossibly fragile and you can’t keep your balance standing on one foot.

Anyway when I re-emerged our group had suddenly expanded from four to about fifteen, mostly Charles’s college friends in an assortment of odd hats. We rabbled our way towards the centre of town, at every road junction meeting another wave of people heading the same way. By the time we reached the main street we were a small group in a crowd of hundreds, all streaming in the same direction. If I were a tourist without knowledge of uniquely British festivals I would have been terrified: it looked like an invasion.

The bonfire is always held in a park at the north of the city, which you can approach from several different directions. All the roads in the vicinity had been closed and were just a solid mass of people flocking forwards towards the entrances. I am decidedly not a fan of crowds, or loud noises, or flashing lights – it is rather ironic that I enjoy Bonfire Night at all.

It has been raining quite a lot lately, so the grass was pretty squelchy and as a result the paths were blocked solid with people attempting to buy flashy plastic toys to wave around. We lost most of the be-hatted stragglers and the original gang made our way to a small empty patch of grass to wait for the fireworks to start.

They were absolutely gorgeous fireworks, I have to say. The louder explosions made me wince, and the ending which was a storm of bangs and screeches made me actually turn away and try to hide in Charles’s jacket, but for twenty minutes the sky was a riot of golds, purples, reds, greens, yellows and silvers. When I was a child we lived across the valley from a firework factory and they would often test their newest batch. We’d kneel up on the bathroom window ledge and watch them – all the colours without the noise, which was lost in the wide space between the two hills. It wasn’t quite as impressive as standing right up beneath the sparks though.

Once the display had come to its noisy end, people started to dissipate and they lit the huge bonfire almost immediately. I hadn’t had time to eat, so we briefly stood in a queue for a burger van – the falafel van was nowhere in sight, to my bitter disappointment – but then realised there were no veggie burgers on sale, so we rejoined the crowded streets to find another purveyer of fried goods. In the town marketplace at night a beacon appears, locally known as the Van of Life although I think its real name is slightly different (it has a competitor on the other side of the marketplace who is called the Van of Death – its real name is entirely different!) and we joined the rabble there. I was quite impressed to see that they were frying my veggie burger in a separate pan and using special green tongs to serve it; I was all set to pretend I didn’t know it had been fried next to beef and chicken burgers, so it was nice to actually know it hadn’t. We sat on the wall outside Kings College and pondered the economic logic of a gift shop which stays open long after dark. I just had a look for the shop’s website and didn’t find one, but I did find a directory page which informed me that the shop closes at 5.30. That clearly is not true – I have seen it open at nearly 10pm, but never have I been tempted to buy a teddy bear wearing academic dress at that time or indeed any time.

Now the next event to look forward to, if that is the right word, is Remembrance Sunday this weekend. We are singing Faure’s Requiem and the well-known stanza from For The Fallen, and in between the two the names of the students and fellows who died in the world wars are read out, until it is hard to sing around the lump in your throat and not a few of the choir are crying.

A Basket of Apples

This time of year is my favourite season, and we are in the middle of my favourite academic term. When I said that to another student they said “it’s the furthest we are from exams” but that isn’t really the reason for me, although it helps. I love the anticipation of a new year; I enjoy starting my new subjects and meeting my new supervisors. The weather isn’t perfect, but it is still light in the early evenings and the air is crisp. I like scuffling through fallen leaves and walking along in my new winter coat, enjoying the warmth compared to the chill of the air. I like the slowly-building excitement as we move towards Halloween, Bonfire Night, Advent and Christmas. November is probably my favourite month ever – even though it is often my busiest, as the writing group I run kicks up a gear for NaNoWriMo and my academic work continues to roll along. Choir gets more demanding with carol services and extra rehearsals, and the days get shorter.

Next week British summertime officially ends. My summer ended the day I landed back in the UK and walked off the plane into my favourite season: autumn. I don’t miss the hot days and the bright sunshine at all. Instead of air conditioning and camping I have fruitful harvest of the choir’s annual apple-picking expedition, ready for an industrious morning tomorrow of quince jam-making and apple-crumble baking. Friends come to visit: this weekend it was KT, and in a few weeks I will be heading off for the weekend myself, to spend some time with my mum and her almost-unbroken wrist. I’ve already got the Christmas vacation almost planned, with train tickets booked back north and a definitive date for my Norwegian friend Jens to arrive for Christmas itself. In a fortnight I will pack up a picnic lunch, find my bike helmet and cycle off with Heidi, another chapel warden, to visit a National Trust property on its last open Saturday of the season. The week after I will dig out my waterproof trousers and help to preserve some of the local fens. The last Saturday of term heralds what might be the most peculiar choir commitment of the year: a wedding followed by a trip to Brighton beach for fish and chips, almost certainly in the pouring rain. And then term will end and it hardly feels as though it has started.

Autumn does have its downsides. I don’t enjoy the dark evenings, or walking through a mist so heavy it might as well be raining. I have to dither every morning over whether or not to wear my coat for the two-minute walk to the faculty building, and I suddenly seem to need even more sleep than usual. But there is so much to look forward to, and so many things which are just on the horizon that I’m constantly feeling anticipatory. It feels as though the world is holding its breath, ready for winter.

Busy Busy Busy – Part II

Well, last time we got as far as Saturday evening and now onto Sunday! I have been waking up early lately (this morning it was not even 6am yet, which I was very unimpressed by) and on Sunday, despite my best intentions, I found myself getting out of bed and going for a run. I still can’t quite understand how it is that I can decide not to go running and still find myself running ten minutes later. Anyway.

The senior ordinand at my college chapel was ordained as deacon on Sunday at a huge cathedral about an hour’s drive away. A group of us piled onto a small coach and went along to the service to support him. It was impressively full – there were eleven people being ordained, and it appeared that each of them had brought their entire congregation with them. We had to sit to one side at the back of the cathedral and watch the proceedings on a television screen, á la Royal Wedding. I was entertained by a small baby who was evidently sitting just in front of the camera, and who kept turning round and beaming at someone just off screen. After the service, we piled back onto the coach and went to the parish church our newly-deaconed friend has been assigned to, and ate a huge quantity of absolutely amazing food. I have never been to such a delicious buffet. Unfortunately we had to leave early to get back in time for various other things, but we were there long enough to wish him all the best and to be reassured that his new church is absolutely ideal for him.

The coach back took an unusually scenic route, which meant we arrived back more than half an hour later than expected. I flew across town on my bike to a church I hadn’t been to for over a year, in order to attend another friend’s baptism. Although I never attended this church for services (I went to a Bible study class with the same friend in my first year), it was very similar to the one I started out in, and I enjoyed singing all the familiar worship songs and seeing people I hadn’t spoken to for a long time. It was also lovely to be present at my friend’s baptism, as she has been a huge support to me since we met and came to my confirmation service last term. She has also just graduated, and will be leaving for the big wide world in a matter of days, after getting married on Saturday (yet another ceremony to add to my list this week!).

Sadly I once again had to fly off on my bike, to get back to my own chapel for a choir rehearsal, but not before I had caught up with yet another friend I hadn’t seen in many moons. It was clearly the day for reunions and church services.

The choir rehearsal was in preparation for the recording of a CD of music by Alan Bullard, some of which was composed especially for us. We rehearsed until late in the evening, and then decamped to a nearby pub for the traditional post-rehearsal socialising. Because it’s outside term time, almost everyone has been allocated a room in the first-year accommodation block or one of the college houses, which is rather nice because it means we’re all together (not so nice for the tiny handful of non-choristers also assigned to the same block, I fear). What with this week of rehearsals here and then two weeks on tour in America, I think we’re all going to know each other even better than we already do by the start of next term.

Monday morning was a slow start, as we were free until 3pm. I wandered around doing a few chores, including informing the college library that I hadn’t actually graduated, and therefore please don’t recall all the books I’ve taken out for summer reading. A group of us met up and meandered into town, where I bought an overpriced slice of fudge and a ridiculous quantity of food. The rest of the day was frittered pleasantly, before another six hours of rehearsals.

On Tuesday the recording began. In total, we sang for nine hours with breaks for meals dotted about. The producer was an incredibly sharp but extremely pleasant man with an uncanny knack for noticing the tiniest of mistakes – and for flowery compliments when we finally recorded a perfect take. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the process as much as I did, but even after nine hours and a state of total exhaustion I was still having fun.

Wednesday was also a day of recording, but we finished by 3.30pm to great jubiliation. There was half an hour of amusement as we put back all the various parts of the chapel which had been removed to improve the acoustics – the altar cloth, the flowers, the communion railings and most laboriously, the carpet. I have some excellent photos of a group of PhD candidates employing a somewhat unorthodox method of reattaching the carpet to its runners.

Once we had finished, I zipped off to take part in a Q&A session at my college’s open day. Then I hurried off again to my second-to-last tutoring lesson, which for once ended on time as my student and his mum were off to see a production of Hamlet in another college’s gardens. When I got home I rather underestimated the amount of time it would take to make a curry, so twenty past eight saw me abandoning a half-cooked pan of curried vegetables in favour of a punting expedition and compline service (complete with cake, port, and much hilarity).

After such a whirlwind of activity, it would be nice to say that I am spending today relaxing and reading. However, I am nothing if not completely barking mad, so in about an hour I will be back at college helping at the university-wide open day and possibly ironing the choir’s surplices in quiet moments, as I have been assigned the tour seamstress in charge of keeping us neat and clean. Then unsurprisingly there is another choir rehearsal, this time for a commemorative dinner to which we are all invited in return for singing evensong beforehand. There’s no rest for choristers this summer.

Jubiliating

I may have three exams this week (it’s not actually a question of “may”. I do) but I am still celebrating the jubilee! Mostly by listening to BBC coverage and feeling a mixture of gladness and disappointment that I couldn’t get down to London to see the flotilla and the concert.

The pageant was great, even on a little tiny laptop screen over video link. I’m a fan of the Thames and I love watching boats – a month or so ago I went down to London to see a Gilbert and Sullivan semi-staged performance and insisted on visiting HMS Belfast afterwards – but I’m not a fan of enormous crowds so perhaps it was best that I had to stay home with my textbooks.

The concert is… well. I think I was rather spoiled by being brought up in the folk world, where people sing in tune during their live performances and don’t use autotune on their recordings. I’m sure the crowd are having a lot of fun but good grief are some of the acts out of tune. Poor Queenie. There are some nice moments interspersed though – the classical performers, even classical performers singing the sort of cliched Classic FM highlights that have been selected for tonight, tend to be a bit more technically adept than pop stars who build their careers on flashy outfits and television interviewers.

Anyway. It is a nice distraction from international law revision. I feel as though I haven’t done much revision for this subject, but I realised when I looked over the syllabus that I’ve actually covered every topic in a reasonable amount of detail. I began revising quite early for this one, on the grounds that I didn’t understand anything at all, so hopefully tomorrow’s exam will go well. Two more after that, and then I’m finally free!

Now seems as good a time as any to write about Friday’s trip to see Singing in the Rain. It was a late birthday gift from Sarah, Henry and Stumo. Friday happened to be the only day we could all go, thanks to Sarah and Henry’s Real Person jobs, my gallivanting off to America for the summer, and everyone’s general commitments, so I put down my flashcards and went. Stumo and I grabbed some dinner from Maoz, which was totally delicious, then met the others at the theatre.

The show was completely new to me, other than the signature song. It took me a few minutes to work out what was going on, and we had fairly terrible seats – not so much a problem with the seats themselves, to be honest, although there was an inherent problem with the forestage disappearing underneath the edge of the balcony, but more a problem with the woman sat in front of me with enormous fluffy white hair. Eventually we shuffled around sufficiently that we could all see properly (fortunately there were spare seats on our row) and I could see the amazing dancing and the gorgeous costumes as well as hearing the singing.

I remain unconvinced as to the plot merits of the show, but it’s not really a plot-based musical. It was basically a dance extravaganza with an incredible rainstorm at the end of each act. I was wearing my stage manager hat trying to imagine how on earth they got away with the risk assessment for the ankle-deep water during the titular dance and song number, and we were all very impressed with the efficient and thorough (but rather incongrously plastic) mopping by members of the crew in full costume. It put to shame the trials that we had with the canal we built for a production of the Gondoliers a couple of years ago.

Going to see the show was the first thing on my list of “Things to Look Forwards To” (genuinely – it’s stuck to the top of my desk as a motivator). The rest of the list runs though a bunch of special choir events, garden parties, trips to various parts of the country, a few days at my mum’s, my friends’ graduation ceremony, a friend’s wedding, and finally the tour in America. It’s rather alarming to think that it’s already June. In just over five weeks I’ll be in the States, and in just under seven weeks I’ll be heading over to Indiana for the summer, armed with a sheaf of contacts for my dissertation research and a calendar of exciting things to do.

Vacating Again

I have to admit, I’m feeling a bit vacant.

In the last week I’ve been in Cambridge, Hemingford Abbotts (no, I don’t know where that is either), Wakefield, London, Leeds and now Halifax. Tomorrow I’m going to see my dad’s new house – not a clue where that is. I saw three of my parents and my brother all in the same house today, which is a very unusual event. I met some people from the internet. I went to a karaoke bar. I ate Japanese curry. Now I’m going to bed. Hopefully when I wake up tomorrow my brain will have caught up with me.

An Adult All Over the World

As of last Friday, I’m now of legal age in every country (or at least, as far as I know). I’m not usually very bothered about birthdays, and it always amuses me to see how few people send me a happy birthday message on Facebook in comparison to a friend who was born exactly a year before – her birthday is visible on her profile, mine is not, and as a result she receives around 50 messages while I got precisely two.

But that doesn’t mean no one knew about it! On Thursday several of my friends from choir went to formal hall and I was hugely relieved when they weren’t given permission to sing to me until we’d left the hall. We went on to the bar and then wound up in someone’s room playing Articulate until the small hours of the morning. Then my mum arrived at Friday lunchtime to spend the weekend with me and we went out to dinner. When I got back I discovered several friends had been to my room in my absence and my door had a poster on it, with presents and cards slipped underneath.

Saturday morning saw mum and I making an epic four-hour trip into town to buy almost everything ever. The Veggie Roadshow was in town and we spent a rather excessive amount of money buying delicious things (and the woman running the veggie sweets stall gave me an extra packet and a toy koala when she found out it was my birthday the day before), before heading down Mill Road to buy even more things. Then a mad dash to Sainsbury’s before hauling our bags back to college for an afternoon tea party with three friends and a phenomenal amount of cake.

Today we woke up to half a foot of snow, which has made getting around quite comical. Mum set off at noon, after half an hour of clearing snow off the car, and I’m about to head out to choir early in the hopes that I might make it there without falling over. Wish me luck!

Juggling Act

By Matthieu Aubry, under Creative Commons Licence

Anyone who is reading this blog probably knows me well enough to realise that I like to keep busy. I don’t think I’ve ever done nothing, apart from those awful six months last summer when I almost went out of my mind and drove my family mad as well. I’m just not cut out for having free time. I work harder under a deadline. I need structure, organisation and timetabling.

But I have to admit that it gets a bit stressful. Today I feel like I’m standing at the starting line of a race along a course I haven’t seen yet. It might be bumpier than I expect. It might have more potholes than I’ve experienced before. Maybe the other runners will try to trip me up. So far, I’ve never fallen, and I’ve always had support instead of sabotage – but the fear is always there. What if I can’t do it? What if I can’t cope? What if I fail?

By Oscar Diele, under Creative Commons Licence

This term will be busier than last term. It’s an indisputible and unavoidable fact. Last term my committments were lectures, supervisions, choir, fortnightly singing lessons, and tutoring. Anything else was optional and occasional.

This term I have all of those things, but I also have more committments. I will have speech therapy – it may be a one-off, it may turn into a weekly session. I won’t know for sure until the 30th. Not doing it will mean leaving my vocal cords to potentially suffer further damage as I use my voice badly trying to compensate for the mess they are in. Fixing the problem should make me a better singer, but it will also solve breathing problems, sore throats and muscle issues. I feel like this is something important.

I won’t just be going to the hospital once a week for that, though, because I am also starting (finally!) as a volunteer on one of the wards. This is the new committment with the biggest question mark over it. Clinical experience is vital for my midwifery application next year, and it is like gold dust. I have been trying to get something since September. It will be the first thing to go if I find I’m not coping, but I’m willing to try it because it is so important for my future career. I figure it is equivalent to the other lawyers writing vacation scheme applications, going to dinner with law firms and taking interview workshops.

It might not sound like it but I have said no to several things. I’ve said no to dance classes, trampolining, theatre, childminding, bar work and orchestras. I have made myself a promise that I will not make any more regular committments, because my timetable is starting to stretch at the seams. But I also have to say no to the one-off things. The “that looks interesting” lectures, the “I’d love to see that” films and plays, the “just for an hour” parties that last until the wee smalls and knock me out for the rest of the next day.

My sleep schedule is ridiculous at the moment. As I write this, I am sitting in my pyjamas. I had nowhere to go today, nothing to get up and dressed for, so I didn’t. As a result I have achieved almost nothing since I got out of bed at 2pm. I got out of bed at 2pm because I couldn’t sleep until 4am. I need to do something radical about this and fast – term starts in under a week and I don’t think any of my lecturers are nocturnal.

By Stuart Richards, under Creative Commons licence

I needed to write this blog post because I needed to get things organised in my head. I have to make timetabling decisions and sacrifices. The speech therapy is at the time I normally tutor. To make the two things fit, I will have to miss a lecture in a subject I am passionate about. Thankfully, that passion means that I will do the additional reading necessary to catch up, but I am still hoping that I can shuffle things around so that I don’t have to.

The volunteering is likewise – if I could teleport, I would not have to miss the lecture. I cannot teleport. Hopefully after a few weeks I might be able to move it to half an hour later, but until I have proven myself to be reliable and useful I don’t want to push my luck. Equally I don’t want to miss all the lectures for one of my papers. But if I have to choose, I will choose to do so. It’s the only subject where I feel the lectures are almost superfluous to the reading. I wish I could say the same about all my other subjects – wish I was driven enough and also understood enough of the basics to tear through the additional reading for all my subjects – but at least it’s that one subject I’m confident in.

Sometimes I wonder whether my life will ever get less complex. Earlier today I watched How To Be a Good Mother on 4oD, a documentary about six different “extreme-style” mothers. The organised, to-do list creating, app-using “iMum” reminded me of myself. Two friends visited my room for the first time last night and remarked with surprise on how many lists and timetables I have around. My excuse is that my sieve brain cannot retain enough information for me to trust it not to forget what I am doing when, and that is true. I can’t trust my own memory any more. But also, my life is ridiculous. I am living two full-time lives in the space of one.

But I wouldn’t change either of them.

Vacating

Well, I’ve left you all on that cliffhanger for quite a while! It’s been a busy few weeks. The G&S Ball was great fun, the amount of detail that must have gone into planning it was incredible – everyone had tiny little golden pencils and cute little dance cards with a gold cord to fasten it to your wrist, the food was amazing, the dancing was very cleverly organised (old-world dance names like cotillion and galop, but simple ceilidh dances with a caller) and the orchestra was brilliant, playing magnificently-arranged G&S medleys. My feet were in a total state by the time I got home, I couldn’t walk comfortably for two days (don’t dance in heels, girls) but it was worth it.

After that, the choir tour got going. We had a whole string of 13-hour days with concerts in Kent, London, Lichfield, Cambridgeshire etc. One of the London concerts was an NSPCC Benefit in Southwark Cathedral where I met Floella Benjamin! She was so friendly and lovely, and chatted to me and my friend Emma for ages – we only stopped because we were dragged away to get the coach home. I loved the Hullaballoo videos as a kid which is why I was so desperate to meet her, but she has done all kinds of incredible things as well. It’s been a good year for meeting my heros.

Some other highlights from the choir tour: carol singing in the freezing cold marketplace to raise money for the America tour, lots of giggling with New Kristie, Disney sing-a-long on the coach, hilarity/panic when four people got themselves stuck at Letchworth Garden City, “electrifying” singing in Lichfield Cathedral, amazingly delicious food in Kent… the list could go on for hours.

By last Sunday I was exhausted and had a stinking cold, complete with hacking cough for extra fun. I cleared my washing up cupboard for the first time all term (noteworthy event) and packed probably way too many clothes for seventeen days.

Monday – Friday I was in Manchester, which was bitterly cold and full of excellent people. On Thursday we went to a boatyard and helped steam two planks onto a canal boat, which probably doesn’t sound like much fun to most people but was fantastic. I’ve met a whole bunch of cool people this week.

Now I’m at my dad’s house for a few days, which always means lots of lounging around and watching films and wearing pyjamas. Last night we went to see the new Sherlock Holmes film. I think I remember the old one being rather better, but it was exactly what we were hoping for – totally devoid of plot, full of ridiculously overblown fights and snappy one-liners, and gorgeous costumes. We were at the Rex cinema in Elland, which is one of a handful of cinemas left that still has an Intermission in the middle of the film, and on Tuesday evenings has an organist who plays during silent films. It’s a great place and I was quite sad to see that there were maybe a dozen people there. But it’s still going against all the odds, and its ticket prices are the lowest in the area.

Today I’m off into town to do some last-minute Christmas shopping, and maybe drop in on my foster family on the way back. It’s very odd being back in the town I did most of my growing up in. I feel this way whenever I come back; I never do see anyone from school, and if I did I doubt we’d recognise each other anyway, but I still feel a bit uncomfortable. On the other hand it’s familiar and I already know I’ll end up back here when I’m older. Yorkshire is in my blood, I think.

A Distinct Lack of Steam

It is now two days until the end of term (humour me – let’s pretend Monday has finished already, and let’s not mention the three supervisions, two lectures and two essays I have after term has officially ended. Please).

Eight weeks of intensive studying, of lectures and essays and four-foot reading lists and choir practice and singing lessons and tutoring sessions and laundry and cooking and cleaning and all the myriad other things that appear out of nowhere and swallow up a day.

Today, I got up for my 9am lecture through a feat of superhuman strength, mostly because I didn’t want to miss the mid-lecture general knowledge quiz. I came back from the lecture and spent three hours reading contract cases, interspersed with forays to the kitchen for multi-stage lunch. Then I went down to the bar to attend a meeting about the current occupation of one of the main faculty lecture halls. Then into town to collect a newly-shortened ball gown and pay in a cheque, which took three quarters of an hour. Back to my room for a bit more perfunctory reading before printing some worksheets and cycling off to tutoring.

After a pleasant hour talking about Christmas foods, different religious traditions in winter, Advent vocabulary and magazine advertising, I cycled back to my room. Twenty minutes of warming up my icicle hands before back out again to a training session for an e-mentoring scheme I blithely signed up for when my weeks contained a full 168 hours. Back home again, with a leisurely en-route chat to a girl from college who I’ve known for ages and only just properly met. Dinner into the oven, two dozen emails dealt with, paperwork strewn around the room, dinner into the stomach, a short phone call with a friend, and I can’t find any motivation to work.

This was basically an average day. There is usually a bit more work, because there is usually a bit less time spent in the bank/at emergency political meetings, but there is never nothing other than work.

At the start of term it was nice to have a busy schedule. It broke my day up into manageable chunks of three-hour work sessions. It gave me an excuse to draw up a pathetically organised hour-by-hour day planner. It made my diary look full without actually being a problem. But somehow as term has progressed, those hours have got shorter. Or maybe fewer. Perhaps it’s the weather. Perhaps it’s the lack of light. Perhaps it’s a sleep debt to rival Greece’s fiscal worries.

Whatever it is, it’s sapping my enthusiasm. It’s making me long for the end of the week, when I don’t get any less busy but at least I don’t have to read any more case law for a few days. All I have to do is show up and get on a bus to whichever town we’re singing in that day. I don’t even have to know which town it is. For once, I’m looking forwards to not having to be organised.