What Harry Potter means to me

My mum likes to pull out pages from the newspaper that she thinks I’ll be interested in. She usually sends a sort of blurry photo over Whatsapp where I can kind of make out a dog wearing sunglasses or something to do with Doctor Who. This time however it was a Harry Potter quiz with extremely obscure questions since the 20th anniversary of the publication of Philosopher’s Stone was a few days ago. (21 points could be won – I got 16 5/6ths.)

To the intern who put this together’s credit, the questions were pretty challenging and I couldn’t for the life of me remember Nearly Headless Nick’s full name. Whilst answering these questions it occurred to me how much useless detail about this book series I had gathered and stored away in a filing cabinet in my brain somewhere. How often for example am I going to be using the answer to the first question, who was Harry Potter’s babysitter, and for the bonus point, what is a squib? Arabella Figg and her inability to use magic despite being wizard-born seems lovely but she’s hardly going to help me on my CV.

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Alone in my room. Obviously.

But Harry Potter taught me so much else that I find useful in everyday life and which I don’t even think about most of the time. Harry Potter taught me to read. My parents read me the books when I was about three or four, doing voices for Hagrid and Dumbledore, and by the time I was at school at the age of five I was reading them myself. I fancied myself Matilda, devouring books as ferociously as the library could provide, but always returned, without fail, to the world of Hogwarts. I, like many, dressed up as Hermione on Halloween or fancy-dress days at school, taking delight in playing a character for whom my bushy curly hair and bookish ways were entirely acceptable for a day.

I idolised Hermione and longed to be as clever, brave, loyal and determined as she was. I wanted to read as many books as she did, taking out hardback non-fiction from the library in the name of ‘light reading’, although never quite finishing them. I remember desperately wanting to join S.P.E.W. in Goblet of Fire and getting angry at Ron and Harry for turning their back on her. The moment the three of them fight the troll and dodge harsh punishment from McGonagall is iconic but perhaps maybe not as stuck in my brain as the moment when Hermione reveals her priorities: she could be killed but wouldn’t it be so much worse to be expelled? Emma Watson’s voice is embedded in my memory.

Like most children at that time, I was quietly disappointed when I started at my local secondary school and not Hogwarts. Although I had a copy of Harry’s letter from McGonagall blu-tacked to my wall beside newspaper clippings, movie posters and a drawing of Luna Lovegood of which I was particularly proud, I didn’t have my own one to prove my magical abilities. Slightly devastated, I settled for rereading, rewatching and eventually finding fandom online.

To this day, Harry Potter is kept alive by its fans. Hordes of new readers join the club all the time. Second-hand copies of HP would fly off the shelves at the bookshop I worked at, a thrilling thing to witness as a kid starts the journey for the first time. But Fantastic Beasts and The Cursed Child and the Studio Tour and the theme parks are being made because fans of the original series keep wanting more. (Whether what they’re given is what they want is another question.) The magic is well and truly alive. I still have intense analytical conversations about the morality of Dumbledore or the queer coding of Lupin with my friends today and it’s a testament to the series that something we read as children can still provoke such a reaction.

Harry himself is my favourite. He taught me to always persevere, even if all seems lost. He taught me that kindness is possible even if others have not treated you the same way but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stand up for yourself and what you believe is right. He taught me a little cunning goes well with bravery, that you may believe yourself to be Gryffindor but a little Slytherin doesn’t hurt. It’s the parts you choose to act on and listen to that make you who you are. (Okay, Dumbledore may have told me that but Harry proved it.) His quick wit, piercing and comforting in turn, and his ability to put others at ease combines with his own personal demons, stemming from the horrors he has seen.

His battle in Order of the Phoenix to deal with the return of Voldemort and the suspicion of the wizarding world cast upon him, and latterly the death of his godfather, is by far the most compelling story for Harry’s character. Dumbledore insists that Harry feels things, rage and sadness and pain, because he is human and Harry responds with a roar: “THEN I DON’T WANT TO BE HUMAN!” Harry quits, he backs off, he refuses to continue in his grief and opts out as we see him contend with losing even more of his world.

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The Elephant House, Edinburgh

It is strange to think that I am older than Harry Potter – it is in fact the same age as my younger sister. I existed before you could read about Hogwarts. My childhood would have been very different without it. I grew up with these characters, both in book and film form. I attended midnight screenings and events at bookshops, read them frantically in the car using torches. I mourned for characters, I got hungry when I read about feasts, I visited Alwick Castle and pretended to fly. I have a wand and a Ravenclaw scarf and a Marauders Map mug, given to me last Christmas by people who know me too well. I think in some ways I am late with this post because I couldn’t quite encapsulate just how much this series is built into my life in a way that I will hopefully never lose.

Mischief Managed.

Molly.

Doctor Who: i’m enjoying it and that’s nice.

No one is more surprised to see this post than I am, believe me. I have been outspoken about my opinion of Doctor Who, and what I saw as its gentle decline from a show I was thoroughly engaged with online and offline into a show that I no longer enjoyed. I made gifsets and read conspiracy theories about Moffat’s intense story arcs. I remember the frustration over the inexplicable extra floor of Amy’s house. I even watched a countdown timer for the entirety of that Saturday leading up to the series 6 finale. But gradually my interest has lessened and I’ve become increasingly disconnected with the show.

This won’t be an academic essay nor an unbiased review. This is just a run down of my relationship with the show over the seasons, and a lot of that does depend on my headspace at the time as well. Besides I got to hand in my dissertation last week (!!!!!) so I’ve been having some time off. Not really feeling like doing more formal analysis just now. So strap in for an incredibly informal look back at Doctor Who from my perspective.

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‘Doomsday’ was the first episode of the show that I watched, ironically. Watching it live with a massive fan who was in tears, I failed to grasp the gravity of Rose being trapped in the parallel world but could still tell it was an emotional moment. From then on, when Doctor Who returned, I watched every Saturday, making sense of what was going on and proceeding to adore Martha and Donna (although later finding out that Martha was unpopular amongst die-hard Rose fans made me angry and predisposed to place Rose nearer the bottom of my Companions list, if I have to make such a list). I had pictures of Ten and Donna on my wall at home but it wasn’t until series 5 started with a regenerated Doctor that I fell in love. I was unsure for the first five minutes but fish fingers and custard meant that by the end of the episode I was on board. The pictures were replaced by a full-on poster of Eleven and Amy floating in space, an investment on my part not taken lightly.

Series 5 is my favourite. I love the fairytale motif that runs throughout it – ‘Amy Pond: like a name in a fairy tale’ still makes me smile and conjures up images from episodes where they just travel around having fun. As far as I can remember the end of series 4 with Tennant had gotten pretty heavy with something about saving the universe possibly so it was something of a relief that whilst the Doctor and Amy still ran around saving the day, they also got really excited by the idea of vampires in Venice or meeting Van Gogh.

There was a sense of wonder and innocence that came from the new beginning for the show, the first time in New!Who where a companion and a Doctor had started together since Rose and Nine. The dynamic between Amy and Eleven was and remains one of my favourite relationships on television ever, pulling between friends and soulmates. It wasn’t perfect. And re-watching can be difficult, depending how much I care about editing or dialogue or exposition on any given day. But that music, I Am The Doctor, will still make me daydream about the Pandorica opening or Matt Smith jumping about the TARDIS in his bow tie.

Series 6 was questionable. The pregnancy story-line grosses me out to this day and the River Song stuff felt contrived. And I’ll be honest, by the time we got to ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’, it had become draining, something I expect from a show like Game of Thrones (which I gave up in season 4 for that very reason) but not from a show about a time-traveller in a police box. After that, everything with Clara and the first seasons of Capaldi blur for me. I didn’t watch all of those episodes and the ones that I did (because I tried) bored me or made me angry. Disappointing Christmas specials came along every year. The lack of diversity and the often-played-for-laughs exploitation of minorities had irritated me for a while but it was combined by Peter Capaldi’s aloofness and anger didn’t gel for me, and his relationship with Clara was uninteresting. Nothing about her character was able to be pinned down; she seemed to change and evolve depending on what the episode required of her that week. My interest dwindled. I didn’t bother catching up with episodes and still don’t know quite how Clara left or the past seasons continued.

But hearing the news that Clara was leaving and a new companion was beginning combined with both Capaldi and Moffat’s exit after this season, I was curious. I felt as though a fresh start for the show would definitely help and half-heartedly hoped for something different to white woman who falls for the Doctor in one way or another, remaining sceptical for fear of the disappointment I’d come to associate with a show that used to bring me a lot of joy.

Suddenly presented with Bill Potts, a queer woman of colour who was to be played by Pearl Mackie, I was taken aback and suddenly, and oddly, excited for the new season. And she has not disappointed. From the first episode with Bill I’ve clutched the person watching with me, loudly proclaiming my love for her. In these three episodes we’ve seen so many sides to her: the student to the doctor’s teacher, the traveller, the guardian, the ability to maintain her own identity despite those who may disagree or discriminate based on their own prejudices, her unapologetic curiosity, her kindness, her tenacity and her sense of humour.

Not only that but the show itself seems to have benefited from this change. The Doctor’s dynamic with Bill is not romantic in any way, moving smoothly between teacher and student to a familial relationship to mutual partners within these episodes. The dialogue is tighter (shout out to the reference to the show’s own whitewashing…) and the plots are simple leaving more room for the audience to care about characters. Although we have the long overarching plot of the vault (and Matt Lucas is there too for a reason), so far I haven’t seen too much evidence of a long complex conspiracy or organisation intent on destroying the universe, leaving viewers confused, frustrated and pointing out massive plot holes. Instead, every week I am excited all Saturday for watching it that night. The show feels pared back, no less ambitious but instead managing to focus, and much more hopeful, the kind of feeling I associated with Nine, Ten and Eleven. I’m really happy that we get to see that same kind optimism come from Twelve too.

interlude: make-up

This morning I woke up, sat in front of my small mirror and felt distinctly unlike myself. I looked in the mirror and saw a face I didn’t really recognise. Eventually it came back to me that I was me but I still thought that the “I” in the mirror looked a bit puffy, a bit tired. Had I had an allergic reaction in the middle of the night? Was I just this ugly all the time?

Before these questions had their usual self-hatred spiralling effect, I carefully cleaned the residue of winged liner from my eyes. I ran lip balm over my lips. I filled in my eyebrows, re-lined, mascara-ed and covered my face and back my glasses went. Placed in their usual position, framing my face, another form of armour.

I brushed my nest of hair and tied a bit back in my usual way and with these small changes felt ready to take on the last week of dissertation, the shifts at work this week, the people I will see. Things that can seem like a mountain range shift into an obstacle course; still there but doable.

Sometimes I don’t need the lipstick or the mascara. In fact most of the time I can go about my day with the minimum of make-up on or even nothing at all. I don’t think about it too much until these days when I do. And sometimes I don’t want to think about the feminist ramifications of it. Today, especially, I don’t. I have things to be doing. If I need some mascara to get me through the day, then so be it. As Dodie Clark puts it, what’s wrong with a little bit of paint?

I don’t have an answer to this and my relationship with make-up is something I’d like to think about a bit further. As someone who identified for so long with the idea of being crap at make-up/hair/beauty/clothes, it causes something of an identity crisis to then begin to master winged liner. So this may become a series of little posts about these things which aren’t the focus of my life but turn up in the form of YouTube tutorials.

Get Out: the fantasy of justice

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.

I’m late to the party, and yes, this is another post about something people have already raved about. But I finally saw it on Sunday and had to talk about it. Get Out is a tense horror grounded in the real world but managing to balance realism with hypnotism, brain transplantation and ‘the sunken place’.

Art by Jermaine Rogers (jermainerogers.com)

I was most drawn to this film because of the director, quite honestly. Jordan Peele is one half of excellent comedy duo, Key and Peele and another half of excellent marriage to Chelsea Peretti, queen of all. I’ve liked what I’ve seen of his work up until now and wanted to support his big screen debut. Also the trailer was ACE – I had at least three friends watch it with me on separate occasions and squirm every time.

Because that’s what this film does: it makes you uncomfortable. It’s not a conventional horror film although it does draw on some tropes of gore, a house in the middle of nowhere and the odd jump scare. And yes, as previously mentioned, it tends towards the fantasy side of things, moving into alternate realms where people can be trapped after being hypnotised.

But what made me more uncomfortable, where the tension stemmed from for me, and for most people I’d imagine, is what’s closest to what we know of our world: that racism is still a thing. The microaggressions performed by the white people in this film are on the nose, so like things we’ve heard other people say, have said ourselves or have been on the receiving end of that it is impossible to watch this film entirely without recoiling at least once. I spent the film on the edge of my seat, not because of fear (although it is scary) but because I knew what was coming and I had seen it, am part of it, in my own life: yet more white privilege.

Aside from that, it’s incredibly well-directed, the visuals are gorgeous, the SOUND DESIGN IS SO GOOD as well as the music choices. Redbone by Childish Gambino features in the opening following the credits so you already know. The acting is stellar – I have a soft spot for Bradley Whitford who was perfect in his role as creepy-thinks-he’s-liberal-would’ve-voted-for-Obama-for-a-third-term-patriarch. Allison Williams almost had me, her acting pitch-perfect and would’ve convinced me of her innocence if not for the cynic inside me who knew every white person in this film would end up screwing the main character over. Daniel Kaluuya is ASTOUNDING. The nuance in his performance – the contrasts in the ways he speaks to his girlfriend, his family, his best friend – all speak to the parts Chris has to play in his life in order to get by.

The regulation of the behaviour of black people, the idea that black people are accepted into upper middle class white society if they act ‘more white’ or ‘less ghetto’, is literalised in this film with white people’s brains being transplanted into black bodies. The police presence throughout the film built up to the ending when Williams begins her ‘innocent white girl’ routine. A police car pulls up beside a situation which we begin to see through the eyes of someone who has not been watching the film where Chris has been kidnapped, tortured by the white family who he eventually manages to fight to escape. Instead, we see what the hypothetical policeman would see on arrival, a black man covered in blood clutching a gun and leaning over a white girl next to another dead body, and we understand the prejudices held.

The sinking feeling continues as we wait for Chris, after his heinous ordeal, to be arrested by a white police officer, maybe even shot like so many black men in the US. Peele shows us our own expectations of how this situation will end, and then subverts them in the form of Chris’s best friend driving the police car. Amongst my friends afterwards we debated whether it would’ve been a braver choice to end with what we expected: Chris being arrested. (We were having this conversation as three white people, I should point out.) We see so many black bodies being brutally murdered on camera in real life every day. Rarely does a week go by without police brutality or Black Lives Matter featuring in the news or on Twitter. We may have expected Chris’s brutal end or inevitable jail sentence and that may have been the more realistic ending.

But as I said at the beginning this is a film where we see alternative worlds. Hypnotism is visualised as the sunken place, Chris floats in what looks like space with only a television showing him his reality. Brain transplants give others control over different bodies. To me these are fantastical elements. Maybe Chris being saved from the clutches of a prejudiced police authority and driving off into the night with his best friend, hopefully to safety and to his dog, is yet another one of those moments of fantasy, an escape from reality for the viewer into another world where we can be sure justice will be served.

Nasty Women: publishing as history making

I finished Nasty Women on the train to meet my family for a day out and on the way back, my sister complained about always being bored on trains. I handed her Nasty Women and told her to read it. She read the first four essays on the train and asked me what intersectional feminism was so I count that as a supreme success.

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Since I bought the book at Waterstones in Edinburgh at the beginning of last month, breaking my self-imposed book-buying ban, I’ve been reading it on-and-off, momentarily stopping because the rage at systemic oppression got too much or because I wanted to really concentrate and take in each essay in full. I’ve highlighted passages, reread pages and read out lines and sent photos of titles to my friends.

What struck me when I read the first essay on the train back was that I was reading a book that spoke about now more than anything I’ve read recently. Granted in the last year of an English Literature (and Film!) degree, I’ve mostly been reading course-mandated stuff and although that course was “Contemporary Scottish Literature”, the nature of academia means the most recent novel on the curriculum was published in 2011. For my university that’s really really contemporary but that, combined with my aforementioned book buying ban, has meant that my reading habits have been dominated by novels from the past.

The first essay in Nasty Women is titled ‘Independence Day’, written by Katie Muriel. The opening lines, which stayed with me for the train journey and beyond, are as follows:

“They are calling him my president, and I am scared out of my mind. They are calling him my president, and there is bile in my throat as they ask me to respect him. They are calling him my president, and each time I think about it my chest feels tight with indignation, or rage, or an impending sense of doom. I can no longer tell these feelings apart and I think they’ve evolved into something I can’t entirely give voice to, something that tastes all the more sour each day when I wake up and find that it wasn’t just a vivid nightmare. They are calling him my president and my future has never looked so bleak.” (p. 1)

A gut punch of an opening. The placement of this essay at the beginning was a strong choice, one that sets the tone for the anger, passion, fear, confusion and determination of each and every woman who follows. I was in awe of how present this collection feels, how different it was to read about Trump’s election in a book as opposed to seeing it in a tweet or an online article. It made it feel more real, certainly. It also made me truly aware of our time in the present as history-making, one for the history books, as it were.

And suddenly I was grateful for this book to exist. For if Trump is president and books must be written whilst this is the case, let them be like this one. I want a resistance full of perspectives we never hear from, or at least that I never sought out before. I want to hear voices that are marginalised, have always been marginalised and now more than ever need to be lifted up and heard.

Because it’s not as though the stories we read in this book have happened because of Trump. And he didn’t create racism or misogyny or heteronormativity or oppression of any kind. These voices were ignored before and gradually, through hard graft and much sacrifice, barriers began to be broken down. But many of those barriers still existed which is why regardless of the contemporary political context of Trump’s election this book is a powerful statement of existence from each of the contributors: we’re here, we’re speaking, you’re going to listen.

It’s not an exclusionary experience though. Never whilst reading this did I feel that I couldn’t empathise or understand something of their perspectives. Nor did I feel at any stage set in a position of opposition with those whose work I was reading. I felt included, I felt part of something bigger. The diversity of viewpoints this book presented me with only served to include more, uniting people through factors other than race, class, nationality or other categories so often used to divide. What struck me most was an underlying hopeful determination, a passion that manifested itself in different ways in each account but tied the book together, creating a community between women who have probably (as far as I know) never all been in the same room.

To go through and name each essay one by one, focusing on what I loved about each, would take me forever and I might as well ask 404 Ink to publish my collection “Nasty Women 2.0 – a review” because it would be as long as this book. But a quick rundown of the ones that have stuck with me (except that they all have and choosing between them is kind of hurting my soul BUT it’s fine we’ll deal)

  • My flatmate loves pop punk and punk rock and knows about the communities that Ren Aldridge and Kristy Diaz discuss with such in-depth and nuanced passion but these essays were really my first introduction to those intricate dynamics, social hierarchies that seem to perpetuate the structures these communities strive to rebel against.
  • Laura Lam’s ‘These Shadows, These Ghosts’ was a heartwrenching account of three generations of women who have struggled with mental illness, domestic abuse, marriage and murder. It read like fiction, too unbelievable to be true yet a story unlikely to be heard now solidified as history. Lam has published the story that has impacted her life personally, with reference to larger themes but predominantly just focusing on the story of these women, her family, lifting their stories and considering them as important, worthy of history.
  • Claire L. Heuchan and Joelle A. Owusu’s accounts of their experiences of the intersection of being black and female AND living in Scotland were powerful and harrowing. Often what we do hear of being black and British is based in London (as they point out) so it was incredibly interesting, as I’ve already said, to hear even more. (Further to that Heuchan’s focus on online spaces, feminism online and the ups and downs that go along with that, had a similar impact on me in that reading about online spaces seemed to legitimize them in ways online articles and tweets still don’t.)
  • ‘Hard Dumplings’ for Visitors by Christina Neuwirth gave me Ruby Tandoh food-posi feelings and it was fantastic.
  • ‘Fat in Every Language’ by Jonatha Kottler blew me away.

“Here’s a fact: fat people know they are fat. We live it every single moment of every day. Whether it has a physical cause like a prescription drug that saves your life, but make you gain weight; or an emotional or psychological one; or is even simply a deliberate choice, we know we are fat. And if we ever forget it for a moment, there is a whole world to remind us.” p. 157

I just can’t remember the last time I read something about body positivity that wasn’t accompanied by an image of someone. Instagram is a great place for that kind of thing but I can’t deny the strength of a statement about fatness which doesn’t provide you with imagery, proof of fatness. Kottler just wrote an account which I understood and could relate to but didn’t require me to compare my own fatness to hers, to see if we had the same body type, the same curves, the same issues or disorders. And I appreciated that.

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I have to go now, I have a dissertation to write (and also I might be going to see Get Out tonight, maybe, possibly, definitely) so I haven’t even covered half of the essays in this book but I think I’ve made it pretty clear. You should read this book. (It also helps that 404 Ink is a new publisher in Scotland that is publishing some really great stuff right now and I want to support that!) It’s great. It’s so, so great. Buy it for everyone you know (if you can, if not, I can lend you my copy).

I could talk about this book for days so if you’ve read it, please leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter!

Students, finance and mental health: why we should talk about money.

We are not honest about money.

Sure, in almost every conversation I have with fellow students, at least one of us will make an offhand reference to the dire financial situation we are in or joke about our overdrafts. We might talk about SAAS, saving us every month on the 7th, and how we can’t really do much, pay bills or buy food until then, probably accompanied by an awkward laugh and a desire to move the conversation on.

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One of the coffees I felt guilty for buying. (Not pictured: my electricity and gas bills because I thought that was a bit much.)

It is, I have found, very difficult to tell people ‘no’ at university. Surrounded by talk of ‘making the most of it’ and ‘this is your time to try stuff’ you feel obligated to say yes to going out with people in halls or to spend your money on coffees or jaegerbombs or 3am McDonalds. Socialising outside of class depends predominantly on spending, with fewer and fewer spaces where you can go and sit without buying something first. Certainly in Aberdeen with the appalling weather, the chances of you sitting outside, lazing in a park or walking along the beach, are few and far between during the winter months and the temptation to stay in and order pizza is high.

When you go to university, this new found freedom, the ability to spend your money on whatever you want is exhilarating. I remember in first year the joy of seeing my account go up each month. I was careful with money, knowing I had to pay rent and food but soon as I came to know more people and as the chances to socialise grew, the money started to drain.

It is slightly different now at the end of fourth year. I pay rent, electricity and gas, wifi, food and soon will be paying council tax too. I gave up my retail job last August to concentrate on my studies (and other circumstances) and have felt the pinch, needing to rely on my parents for help for the first time in university. The guilt and humiliation that comes with the first request for financial help continues to stay with me towards the end of every month.

And I recognise that I am in a privileged position in that I was able to give up my job and that in my time of need as a result of this I have parents who want and are able to help me as much as they can. And I also want to state that I am proud of myself for getting so far into my degree without needing much more help; I remember being surprised in first year at how many people had their parents paying for their rent in its entirety and were surprised at my situation. (That is not a judgement, incidentally – if your parents are able to help, that’s great! – but merely an observation.)

Money is and always has been something I’ve been aware of from a young age given my family’s financial situation but it was never something I could really ask about. It can feel isolating to be stuck in your overdraft and surrounded by people who appear to be comfortable enough to buy a cinema ticket without worries or anxiety about the cost plaguing them during the whole film. I’m constantly thinking about my bank account, about the cost of things, how I can scrimp and save here so that I can spend there and pretend that it doesn’t make my insides do somersaults every time I use contactless. When that’s on my mind and someone asks how I am, do I tell them that all I can think of is money or are they able to see the cartoon pound signs flashing in my eyes?

Financial problems can and will contribute to the deterioration of mental health as well. As many as 1 in 4 university students suffer from mental health problems. Research by the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust revealed (to everyone’s surprise) that “financial difficulties and worrying about debt at university increases the risk of mental health conditions such as depression and alcohol dependency among students.”  In England, reportedly, the hike in tuition fees has put an increasing strain on counselling and mental health resources at university.

Whilst that research is not thorough and did not require more than a few clicks, it only reiterates what I already knew from around me. I see some of my friends struggling with paying bills and buying food, working two jobs whilst doing a full-time degree in order to afford a social lifestyle, and resigning themselves to the fact that when they graduate, they’ll have tens of thousands of pounds of debt ahead of them to carry into their new lives. I see people with anxiety and depression amongst other mental illnesses, perpetuated by the fear of the world ahead and the reality now.

In the same way that so many mental health charities and campaigns encourage open and honest conversation about mental illness, I appreciate when I am able to be open about my own financial problems with someone without feeling judged or ashamed and I am glad when they feel they can reciprocate.

To be honest I’d like to encourage us all to be more open. There’s a taboo surrounding money; you’re not able to ask people because it’s considered nosy or intrusive and a private affair. And I’m not asking for numbers or details of your pin number. Instead what I’d like is open and frank conversation about the realities of student life and the budgets we try to stick to but inevitably fail to do so. It will make it much, much easier when it’s the end of the month and we can’t buy that round on Tuesday. Sharing our problems rather than bottling them up as we all know is the far better option. Instead of feeling as though I need to make up excuses or try and negotiate down to something cheaper without bringing up the cost, we will be able to be honest and say, ‘fancy doing something else?’

tips 4 ur dissertation

  • it will not be what you started with and that is ok
  • but also if you do research and find yourself knee deep in books you’re bored with, maybe take a minute and think why you started writing on this topic
  • chances are, you loved what you started with
  • if not, there was something you enjoyed about it
  • going through this process means i refuse to believe anyone would choose to make it worse and write about something they absolutely hated for months on end
  • so, as i said, take a step back and remember when someone asked you last semester what you were going to write about
  • what was the first thing you said
  • and then you thought about it for a bit
  • and went ah yes i’d like to write about dream sequences
  • or yes i’d like to write about social media
  • or yes i’d like to write about the meaninglessness of life and how everything is a lie
  • (for more on this, read my diss. out later this year)
  • anyway, for me, i took a wrong turn somewhere around february and built myself into a fort of library books on globalisation
  • bored out of my skull
  • don’t get me wrong, i find it interesting and it is relevant
  • but it’s not all i wanted to talk about, in fact, it wasn’t anything like what i’d originally been interested in
  • dissertation is, for me, the triwizard tournament
  • harry gets help from neville and hermione and ron and a ton of people
  • and he gets through it partly with help from them
  • but ultimately he’s the one who has to battle the dragon, to dive into the lake, to enter the maze
  • at the end of the deathly hallows he’s the one who has to face voldemort in the forbidden forest
  • i am harry and my dissertation is voldemort
  • and everyone else is secondary texts, my dissertation advisor, my friends and family, random internet forums from 2004 etc
  • i need ron and hermione and neville and all the rest
  • but i have to make the call ultimately whether or not i’m gonna write on globalisation or not
  • i chose to face voldemort on my own terms
  • this is my dissertation, i can do that.
  • anyway, that’s my tip – remember why you started
  • people always say you’ll start to hate your dissertation topic and i understand why
  • but i read a new ali smith novel a couple of weeks ago and fell in love with her writing all over again and felt incredibly lucky
  • when i first read girl meets boy, i was reading a writer who was writing for me
  • i’ve never felt that before
  • her work in all its forms gets to me, stays in my brain and my heart and will (hopefully) continue to do so after i finish this dissertation
  • so do what you love, change things if you get bored, persevere.
  • (don’t worry if you cry a lot, just remember to rehydrate afterwards)

I really miss tumblr text posts sometimes, they were a perfect stream of consciousness format.