Things I’ve learnt in two days at uni

I wasn’t going to make this post like a list, but there’s an awful lot so it probably will end up being like one. I’ve moved into a flat in Bournemouth with five other students, and everyone seems really friendly here. I’ve learnt a lot in the past two days, and here’s just a sample of what life’s like for a student here.

1. People lie to you. Monday night, we left the club at 1AM and decided to walk to the beach. Being new to the area, we had no idea where it was, so we asked for help. Several times. People kept telling us different directions, until we eventually gave up, sat on a bench and talked to a drunk guy with a kebab before coming back to our flat.

2. Some people are just nice. Walking back to our flat, we found a place offering free tea and toast to us, so we went in and ate. Not quite sure why, but it was a nice gesture all the same.

3. Jagerbombs taste horrible but give you an amazing energy boost. I found this out last night. We went to a club and left after an hour because it was pretty bad in there. By then I was too high on the drink to go to bed for another hour and a half, and that was only because I needed to get enough sleep in case I was woken up by the roadworks at 8AM again.

4. “What’s your name? Where are you from? What are you studying?” The three most repetitive things over the past two days. Everyone you meet, you ask and are asked the same things. I haven’t found anyone on my course, but there’s a load of people doing TV production and business management.

5. 2AM is an early night. One of my flatmates went to bed at 1AM yesterday. I sat up watching the Inbetweeners on 40D. One of my other flatmates rolled in at 6AM and went to bed at 7. He then had to be up at ten to go to the uni.

6. Some people are really smart, and others are just stupid. One of my flatmates got three As at A level and got £1000 from the uni for doing so. One of my other flatmates, in a discussion, said of Margaret Thatcher: “I get her confused with Mother Teresa.” She’s blonde. Enough said.

7. We’re really lazy students. Our flat just seems to pass the time in one guy’s room, laying on his bed or sitting on his floor. This happens any time of the day.

8.Whatever shoes you wear out, you will ultimately end up barefoot. Twice now this has happened to me. The first night out I had to take my heels off because they were killing my feet walking back to the flat, and the second time was when we went to the beach. The sea was cold but we paddled just the same.

I’ll quote a friend of mine to finish up here. “It’s like we’re on holiday with a bunch of strangers.” It is, really. But I love it here already, and I can’t wait to start my course.

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Now That’s What I Don’t Call Music

I put the music channel on as a background to write a completely different blog post, but a couple of songs later I’ve changed my mind. Call me a cynic, but all the songs seem carbon copies of each other. I don’t mean that in the same way that Katy Perry’s Teenage Dreams and California Girls have the same chorus beat (try singing one over the chorus of the other and you’ll find it fits perfectly.) It’s a lot more widespread than that.

It’s the findamental way songs seem to be structured. Pretty, scantily-clad young female singing chorus; man, often dressed in an oversized coat, or at least with more on than his female counterpart, and normally with sunglasses, rapping the verses. Of course, that’s not a rigid format. Sometimes there’s a male singer instead of the female.

How has it come to be that every song seems to be identical to the one before it? It must be a popular format, else it wouldn’t be constantly repeated, but it seems like there’s very little diversity in music these days. The only two songs in the past hour to have bucked the trend were McFly (playing their own instruments like one of the old-school bands that used to exist back in the 90s) and Scissor Sisters (cheesy electro-pop that, again, mirrors the 90s.)

The singer/rap formula isn’t new. Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me A River is an early example, albeit with much less rap intrusion than it would have if it was released today. From watching the video, there is a man who contributes four lines to the song in a sort of rap format. Listening to the song, I wasn’t actually able to tell it wasn’t Justin using a different voice, but the video makes it obvious.

It seems that making a pure song isn’t possible these days. Even songs which have perfectly good vocals have rap over the top of them, ruining them. Call me a cynic, but rap and pop are two distinct genres, and blurring them has somehow become popular in a way that I can’t comprehend. Maybe it was because bands from the 1990s and early 2000s, such as S Club 7, Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls lost their coolness and people were afraid to make pop music for fear of comparison. Maybe it was the American influence on British music that brought rap into the mainstream. Maybe an amalgamation of the two produced the hybrid rap-pop music we hear today.

Whatever the cause, there seems no chance of it going anywhere fast, with previously popular singers such as Enrique Iglesias resorting to including a rapper on his latest song. X Factor winner Alexandra Burke doesn’t seem to have released a single without anyone else’s support on it since her debut Hallelujah was gifted the Christmas Number One spot a couple of years ago. So for those of us who don’t like this new song structure, it’s time to dig out those old CDs and get blaring S Club 7 at top volume. All together now…Reach!

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The new hello and goodbye

Unless you’re a hermit, you won’t have failed to notice the increasing number of people who greet others with a friendly ‘alright’, whether at work, at school or simply passing in the street. I think, in my area at least, I’m one of a small minority who don’t use it as a greeting, preferring the slightly more friendly ‘hey’ or ‘hi’, followed up with an ‘alright’ once the other person has replied. I also answer to an ‘alright’ with a ‘hey’ as well, changing my answer only if I want to have a conversation with the person.

What is it that appeals so much in using ‘alright’ as a greeting? In our fast-paced society, could it be that we simply no longer feel the need to address with a ‘hello’, instead asking the person their feelings straight out? Or is it that we’re more nosy in other people’s business than before, so asking a question helps this. Whatever the reason, there’s no escaping ‘alright’.

The modern departing equivalent, it seems, is ‘see you later’, sometimes shortened just to ‘see you’. Less formal than ‘goodbye’ or even ‘bye’, it gives the impression of a later rendezvous. So far, so good. Except when it’s used when you’ve no intention of seeing the person later or in the near future, it sounds silly. I’m guilty of using this one, actually using ‘catch you later’ if I do intend on seeing the person later. Why, I’ve no idea. I probably picked it up from somewhere, like most of my little speech quirks.

Whatever the origins, alright and see you later are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Whether you like them or not, it seems you’ve got no choice, everyone’s going to ask you if you’re alright even if they don’t care, and see you later even if they don’t.

Alright?

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What do you do with a BA in English?

If you’re a member of the Avenue Q cast, the answer seems to be simple: get a new job. That’s right, the London show is closing after four and a half years of madness. To be fair, the idea of writing the character of Gary Coleman out of the script after the real actor’s recent death probably contributed to the closure, even though the move was later retracted in favour of modifications, at least for the Broadway version.

I’ve heard Avenue Q described as just an adult puppet show, but it’s much more than that. The use of puppets makes it a much more difficult show to perform in than a standard theatre production; despite cynics seeing it as laziness on behalf of the actors, you need a lot more coordination to perform as a puppet, especially the voice actors, some who voice two or more puppets. There’s a lot of skill in the show, and puppeting must be quite difficult to manage.

I’ve seen the show twice now, at different West End theatres, and while it’s definitely not for kids, it’s one of a rare species: adult, but not descending into the slutty, porn side of things. That’s possibly part of it’s attraction, and also why the puppets are a good idea (imagine puppet sex on stage) – all the same, I love it as a show.

It’s a unique feature on the West End, and while I long to see what will replace it, I’ll also miss it’s departure. We waited outside the stage door both times, and the cast are really nice people. I’ll remember those memories as much as the show itself. Of course, the closure could only be for now, but if you haven’t experienced the awesome musical yet, get yourself to London before October 30th.

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Smile please!

Tuesday night. I was in the final half hour of a tough eight and a half hour shift at work, and needless to say, wasn’t in the happiest of moods. Tired, hungry and just wanting to go home, which probably explained why I looked a bit miserable if you’d seen me. Then a guy from one of the other departments who I’d never seen before, let alone spoken to, called out to me as he passed my department.

“Smile.”

Confused, I called back. “Why?” What business of his was it whether I was smiling or not?

“Just smile,” came the reply. So I did. I smiled because he told me to. I smiled because this man, who didn’t need to care about me or my mood, did care. And by telling me to smile, he cheered me up.

That incident got me thinking about what happened the day before. I was waiting for my train home when a woman asked me the time. I told her and we got talking, two complete strangers on a platform. She told me, among other things, that I had a nice smile.

In a world where it’s so easy to be depressed, a smile is often all it takes to cheer someone up. As it happened, I didn’t even know I was smiling while I was talking to the woman at the station; I had a 25 minute wait for my train and was hungry and tired. Yet somehow, I must have found it in me to smile, else she wouldn’t have commented on it.

There’s a lot to be said for a smile. Smile at your friends, smile at your family. Smile at a complete stranger in the street for no good reason. It makes you feel happier, and it’ll rub off on them, too. If we can’t make the world a better place, we can at least make it slightly more happier.

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Summer lovin’, having a blast

For everyone who has been on exams the past couple of months, they’re finally over. The IB results were released today, with GCSE and A Level ones towards the end of August. One of the advantages of exams is the early start to the summer holidays, giving the chance to tan in the garden and beat the crowds to places while the younger years are still in school.

I don’t know if I’m the only one who’s noticed this, but while exams are still coming up, and you’re supposed to be revising, there seems and endless list of things that need doing. Films that are on TV that you haven’t seen in a while, new clothes that need buying for the upcoming summer, a bedroom that is so messy you can’t see the carpet most of the time. Anything except revision.

Once the exams are over, however, it’s a different matter. Try as you might, there doesn’t seem to be enough to do to fill the days. You can get through a box set of DVDs in a couple of days, and there’s only a certain degree of tidiness your room can be. Then shopping takes over, but money is a problem, as there’s only a limited amount of cash that has to be stretched over two months.

I don’t know how I’m going to fill my days. I’m working on a novel, 33,000 words in, that I hope to finish by the end of the summer. I’ve got a few days out planned. But I can still see myself getting bored.

I suppose the summer holidays are like everything, really. When you don’t have it, you want it desperately. When it’s there, it’s not always as great as you’d hoped it would be.

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Just to let you know I’ve not abandoned this blog, honest.

Yeah, so I haven’t blogged in a few weeks. If you’ve been waiting for an update, I appreciate it, and I aim to be back regularly blogging by the end of the month.

Part of the reason I’ve been busy is exams. If you’ve been a teenager, you’ll know how stressful revising can be, and I’ve been spending two or three days straight without going online over the past week just to try and teach myself enough maths, which I’m still struggling with one unit. If you haven’t experienced them yet, you’re lucky.

The other reason is work. I’ve been transferred from the bakery to the cake shop, which in itself is hard work, because there’s a lot more to do. It’s all making flans (which take forever) and cakes and cookies as well as getting stuff from the freezer to defrost, which is a little weird as it means wearing a thick coat, hat and gloves when it’s 25 degrees plus, because I’m going into a classroom-sized room which is -22 degrees. I’ve also been doing overtime, as the department’s understaffed and two full-timers are on holiday one week after the other, so it seems when I’m not revising I’m working, and vice versa.

It’ll all pay off, though, and when I have two and a half months off after I won’t care about slaving through June. Until then, though, don’t expect regular updates, though if I manage to blog, reading it would mean I haven’t wasted my time, and I’ll spam you with posts in July.

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