A (Not Very) Brief History of 2013, Before Everyone Else Attempts One…

After the dizzy heights of national pride experienced in 2012, you would be forgiven for thinking that 2013 would be a bit of a let down. Like a hangover, if you will. If we’re honest, things didn’t start too well as it was discovered that Iceland had been feeding us horse instead of beef in their lasagne dishes and the like. Easy mistake to make, obviously, both cows and horses have four legs, and are relatively large, so why not? By that logic, don’t be surprised if you see a Rhino Moussaka pop up as a ready meal some time soon…

The state of affairs didn’t improve when the goings on of some of Britain’s most famous TV faces from the 1970s were found to have involved a large quantity of utterly deplorable child sex offences. I’m sure the world has heard enough of Jimmy Savile’s name over the course of this year, but nothing ruins a reputation more than being a serial sex offender. It’s all well and good when you’re dead, it’s almost like you think you got away with it… but the world will always know now.

While I’m on the subject of certain dodgy individuals in positions of power, the Catholic Church was forced into choosing a new Pope after the bizarre resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in February. Unless I misread somewhere, the job of the Pope is held until you’re dead. A bit like paying taxes or sitting in front of the television waiting for a weather report to be wrong, just so you can write in and complain. (If there’s anyone out there that actually does that, PLEASE don’t bother…)

It seemed that the only good news in Britain came from sport. The British and Irish Lions rugby team actually beat Australia over the course of three matches, and a (currently) British man ACTUALLY won Wimbledon. Even the English cricket team won the Ashes, but then lost it again. We can gloss over that for now…

In other news, a baby that is more powerful than any single one of us (despite the fact that he is barely six months old as I write) was born. It’s not as if you couldn’t have heard about little baby George, because his name was all over the place. The media took it upon themselves to speculate about every last detail, and the sheer boredom that can come with six hours of broadcasting with no real news took its toll on journalists, as well as anyone that would’ve bothered to have sat through the running commentary of poor old Kate’s labour. To any women reading this, imagine if you were going through childbirth and there were copious amounts of cameras outside the hospital trying to predict what was happening at every given moment. Madness.

In the rest of the world, Robert Mugabe “won” the Zimbabwean election, while Kim Jong-Un got his uncle executed in an attempt to prove his worth on the world stage. Vladimir Putin was caught on camera topless for no apparent reason yet again, Barack Obama has been pretty quiet, and Boris Johnson continues to live in his own little world. As per usual, then. 

Somehow, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) made such strong gains in local elections this year that they were the third largest political party existing at that point. Until they were uncovered as racists, sexists, homophobes etc… but they still remain more popular than Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats. Which isn’t all that hard, but still.

In other news, Miley Cyrus thought it would be a good idea to use a foam finger in the complete wrong way and appear naked in a music video in order to get attention. A song raising an important issue in nature became very popular, making people think about what a fox might say. To this day, no one knows. A woman threw eggs at Simon Cowell and the X Factor song got to Christmas Number 1. Shock, horror etc…

One of the greatest figures in world history to have ever lived died in December as well. Even the great Nelson Mandela couldn’t have everything his own way at his own memorial service when a fake sign language interpreter managed to get through every bit of security going to pretend to know how to sign.

In short, then, 2013 hasn’t been all that great for the world. But the one solace that we can take from this is that Justin Bieber has said he’s retiring. If that isn’t something to be joyous about, I don’t know what is. Happy 2014, everyone.

Diary of a Fresher 2013/2014- Part 3…

So the end of the first semester is upon us and I can’t quite believe how close Christmas is. Because Christmas seemed to creep up on us so quickly, in an effort to make my floor more festive, I took the liberty of buying of what was imaginatively named “Snow in a can;” with which I sprayed on door windows around the floor. Rather than appreciating my handiwork, people unknown to me thought it would be a good idea to write obscene words in the snow within hours of the decoration being up. I was only trying to add some cheer, but hey ho (ho ho…)

In any case, workloads have been relatively heavy, and this culminated in my first proper student all-nighter last night, in order to finish my last essay. 6.19am was when I finally finished. I thought I would shut my eyes for a few minutes afterwards, the next thing I knew was it was suddenly 1 o’clock. Always good. Unlike normal people, I’ve been, let’s say, ‘blessed’ with an ability to not actually find anything to write about until a deadline is approaching. Not the worst trait to have as a journalist, I think (sincerely hope), but it doesn’t exactly help the blood pressure…

With different courses finishing at different times, goodbyes have already been said to some, and the floor definitely feels emptier. That said, my time to leave is tomorrow and I’ll definitely miss the flatmates/friends from the course over the Christmas period. I’m sure this is the same in other places, and as I’ve said previously in this little series, it feels like we’ve all known each for a lot longer than we have done, which means everyone has grown pretty close quite quickly.

As much as I have enjoyed uni life so far, it will be nice to spend some time at home. There are only so many pasta dinners/late nights a man can take… so a bit of time to recharge will do some good. 

Another piece of good news is that I have Fridays off in the second semester, which means I will be able to go home for the odd weekend to break up the time at university; which I haven’t been able to do at all so far. Seeing most people I live with go home for most weekends does leave the place quite empty, and with, frankly, not a lot to do over a weekend. I’m almost certain that my flatmates (that do stay over a weekend) will agree with me as well. 

However, back to now and it is a strange feeling I’m experiencing at the moment. It’s a mixture of excitement to go home again, to get back to my job, sadness at leaving uni for Christmas; and, I can’t stress this enough, massive-bags-under-the-eyes tiredness. But, a night in your own bed is probably the best thing many people can experience, and it is SO underrated…

Diary of a Fresher 2013- Part 2

So tuition is now firmly underway, and time is definitely moving a lot faster. Hard to believe that I’ve been living here for almost a month already! Looking around and from speaking to people, I think it’s actually starting to hit home to most of us that being at university isn’t just about drinking and going out. Who knew?

Time passing will bring different kinds of challenges in every sense of uni life. I know I’m not exactly end of third year, but hey ho. For a start, you’re actually learning again, and that can be an issue in itself! But as previously alluded to in the first post of this little series, the flatmates are there to help each other get through everything that can possibly be thrown at you. Which is always handy as a nice safety net.

But one particular path that we all must cross at some point is the subject of hair. Being the son of a hairdresser, paying for a haircut is something I’ve never had to worry about, nor have I had the dilemma of watching a stranger cut my hair completely contrarily to how I asked it to be done. But I decided to be the ‘guinea pig’, and be the first one from the hall to try the local barber.

I had a thought to myself over the summer, and worked out a little philosophy for myself to live by: If you can afford to pay a little bit more for something, do it. Because nine times out of ten, you’re more than likely to be better off than when you pay half the price for something that will only last half as long/be half as good in general.

Being a student, I now almost see it as my duty to be perpetually skint. So I decided to go against my own advice and choose the cheapest local barber I could find. Bad idea. In short, I essentially paid a distinctly reasonable (I think, I’ve never known the price of a trim!) £9.50 for a very friendly Italian man to ignore how I asked for my hair to be done, and for him to quite literally attack my hair with clippers and scissors for half an hour. It would’ve been less than that had he not decided to have a tea break half way through to chat to his mate, while I sat in the chair scared for my life… I had asked for the top of my hair to be trimmed very slightly but even my trademark quiffe has now disappeared! I’ll now spend what I saved on a hat for the foreseeable future, methinks. On top of that, after the haircut he decided to slap some product in what was left of my hair, and slicked it back to make me look that bit more sleazy. Cheers, Claudio…

Weekends in halls are a decidedly different experience from that of midweek; particularly during the day. From my side anyway, being around 300 miles away from home doesn’t exactly lend itself to simply popping home for the weekend, like most of my flatmates can do. Nor does it exactly fill any friends from home with an immediate urge to come and see me up north either, which is completely understandable. I would be lying if I said that it isn’t a lot quieter at weekends, especially when there’s no football on that we can go and watch! But I suppose that’s just part and parcel of living away from home. There are good days and there are not so good days, but once again that’s when friends come in handy! (I know, I even made myself cringe with that one…)

With this newfound independence of living away from home, I have discovered one thing: I’m terrible at ironing, washing, and just generally keeping everything tidy in my room. Who knew that my parents would actually be right about me being useless at domestic everyday tasks? You can’t fault them for trying to teach me but there’s only so much they could do… I guess I’m just going to have to step up a bit. This could go one of two ways…

 

 

 

Diary of a Fresher 2013/2014

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a fresher already, about to be a fresher, or have memories of being one in years gone by. If you do read this to the end and think “Well, that’s happened to me, what was the point of that then?” The point is that you are going through/have gone through the same thing. Because the main thing that I have noticed already from being on campus at Leeds Trinity University is that EVERYONE is in the same boat. That empathy has led to close friendships being formed instantaneously from walking through the door for the first time. I feel like I’ve known my flatmates for months already, and it has only been five days so far. Being chucked together in the same hallway tends to have that effect, I’d imagine. Perhaps in the same way that cell-mates in prison get to know each other when they’re put away. Or an analogy to that effect that sounds a bit more cheery.

Not that I’m trying to compare University to prison in the slightest; it’s quite the opposite. From a personal perspective I can’t say a bad word about the place as yet. Yes, the ceiling in my room has inexplicable holes in it but I’ll cross that bridge when they become big enough to make me freeze in winter. No biggie. In a sense, that cheap and cheerful student lifestyle adds to the whole experience; we know we aren’t in five-star hotels but we just get on with it and enjoy ourselves.

As I write, tuition hasn’t started yet. When it does, the complexion of life may change somewhat, as we will actually be here for a purpose other than a cycle of drinking, meeting people and sleeping (in that order). I know for a fact that most, if not every student at any University this year will be looking forward to starting their course if they haven’t already. I’ve already had the all-too-uncommon thought “Oh yeah, I actually want to learn…” I can’t say that’s happened to me before any academic year. Ever. The only reason I can think of behind this is that everyone is here because they have the ambition to get the degree and job they want, without having to go through lessons that they don’t like at all. I can’t say that RE was much of a highlight when it was on my school timetable…

Of course, homesickness is a factor, and it will be the same feeling whether you’re three miles from home or 300. For most freshers this is the first time we’ve been away from home, and for some it is harder to adjust to that than others. But the beauty of empathy is that you will always have your flatmates to lean on whenever you’re not feeling great about being away from home.  

In any case, I’m sure I’ll keep you updated through the year; and if you’re going through the same thing, that makes writing this worthwhile. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get changed into a “Where’s Wally?” costume for a themed night. I’m loving Freshers’ Week.

 

Mumford and Sons have already rocked Lewes, and they haven’t even played yet!

Music fans and football fans came together in the hundreds today at Lewes’ historic Dripping Pan football ground to watch Mumford and Sons, selected others from the Gentlemen of the Road tour and teams entered from Lewes itself enter into the arena of 5-a-side football. Bonfire United, a selection of players representing Lewes’ seven Bonfire Societies, won the day; beating Lewes FC comprehensively in the final (ominous, if you’re a Rooks fan…)

Mumford and teachers from Lewes Priory school faced off for third place, and the Priory teachers came out on top in that match. But today was about more than football. I spend and have spent quite a big chunk of my life in Lewes and nothing of the scale of GOTR has ever even looked like it’ll happen in Lewes. Of anywhere that Mumford could’ve chosen to have held this festival, they chose the sleepy little County Town with a deep history behind it, simply because they “like the vibe of the place”. If it’s good enough for them, it’ll be good enough for most of us…

I’ve also seen more than my fair share of matches at the Dripping Pan, and not many have rivalled the kind of atmosphere that was generated there today. For the first time I can remember, Lewes has come alive and I’m not just saying that for the blatantly obvious cliché. This festival has given the town something to talk about, something to look forward to. Now 25,000 have descended onto the Convent Field to see the music unfold. If this was annual, or in a larger city like London, it’ll be forgotten fairly quickly. Not in Lewes. This is the sort of event that will go down in folklore, ‘most definitely something to tell the grandchildren about. 

The best part about this is that Mumford seem to understand the importance of this to a town like Lewes. The football tournament today gave them a chance to meet the fans (including myself, as you’ll see from the picture below!) and they made sure that they made time for everyone. This was from the other players to the referees to the droves of fans on the sidelines as well. 

When I met Ted Dwane, I asked him how he was now after he had an operation to remove a blood clot in his brain, his response? “Yeah, definitely getting there, mate!”, and all four members actually seem like genuinely nice blokes, too. When one player went down injured during a match, even though he wasn’t playing, the first person to run over to offer help was Marcus Mumford (who, by the way, is actually half-decent in goal!)

Unfortunately I can’t make it to the show tonight through work, but you can bet your mortgage on me being there tomorrow. I wouldn’t miss this even if you paid me. I want something to tell the grandkids… So even before the music starts all I can say is thank you, Gentlemen of the Road, because Lewes definitely needed this.Image

Just Why Do Fans Hate Repeated Sporting Success?

I was watching the British Grand Prix from the comfort of the sofa on Sunday to witness the largest cheer of the day from the partisan British crowd coming on lap 42, in which World Champion for the last three years and current Championship leader Sebastian Vettel retired with a transmission failure. Unsporting, yes, but reflective of opinion for sure. Sky commentators theorised at the time that the sheer glee of Vettel’s retirement came from previous events, such as in Malaysia when he committed the ultimate unsportsmanlike act in disobeying the orders of his team/employers to steal the victory from his overall more popular team mate. But I think it’s more than that. The global audience of Formula 1 has had to sit back and watch Sebastian Vettel win from pole position with the fastest car time and time again, with any hiccups being more scarce than Britain winning anything in the Winter Olympics; or Sir Alex Ferguson blaming anyone other than a referee for when his team dropped any points. It’s just not natural.

Pathologically, I think that us sport fans simply lament the continued success of others. I say ‘continued’ because we don’t mind when someone wins something/tastes general success for the first time. We often feel happy that the latest event to herald a new talent is something to revel in. Of course we do. Why shouldn’t we? Someone has achieved a goal and has deserved it. Well done, them. Win the same thing over and over again however, and we won’t like them anymore. Because it’s boring. Put Manchester City up against Grimsby Town and very few of us will want City to win. Because we would expect them to.

One thought is that we might simply want to see entertainment. I’m pretty sure that in football a 3-3 draw between two evenly matched teams would be much more intriguing than a 7-0 rout. And in F1, a race with five different lead changes is far better to watch than the fastest man in the fastest car running away with the race and everyone finishing where they started. We should know, that’s all that happened for the first half of the last decade with a certain German driving a Prancing Horse… Along the same vein, in competition at the highest level spectators would expect to see a strong fight for supremacy, but if one person/team is metaphorical streets ahead of the opponent the spectacle is taken away to a certain extent.

If there’s one thing that sports fans love more than anything, however, it’s a good underdog. The 1000/1 outsider that can bring a brief smile when they defeat one of the big guns. And you only have to mention one word to sum up underdog stories this year so far: Wimbledon. Rafael Nadal crashing out in a tennis Grand Slam first round for the first time in his career against Belgian Steve Darcis; and the almighty Roger Federer falling in the second round against the un-fancied (and virtually unheard of) Sergiy Stakhovsky, who broke the Great Swiss’s run of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarter finals that he had reached previously. The tennis fan pages were in uproar, and rightly so. Because the fact of the matter is that upsetting the norm is what keeps sport interesting.

When Wigan defeated Manchester City to win the FA Cup in May, other than if you’re a City fan, obviously, the sporting fan community was ecstatic with that result. David had befallen Goliath (or another clichė along that line…) and for one day at least, we could smile knowing that people in Bookmakers’ up and down the country had made a lot of money on the extreme odds against the underdogs when they put a cheeky quid on. Drinks are on me tonight, lads. (But Wigan got relegated from the Premier League soon after, so let’s just gloss over that for now…)

Even when people decide to support those that win everything, that seemingly makes them suddenly lower in our expectations. This breed of people are often classed as ‘Glory Hunters’. It must be great for you lot, never having to taste defeat with the team you support. So don’t be surprised to see someone wearing a Man Utd shirt one week and a Chelsea strip the next when you see them at the pub. If you know anyone that does this, give them a telling off from me. Many thanks!

The great voice of F1, Murray Walker said in an interview this month that he was happy that he wasn’t commentating during the peak of the Schumacher dominance, branding it “The dullest period I’ve seen in F1”. And he’s right. It was. The same driver winning race in, race out, week after week. And in football, Man Utd won the Premier League? Again? Wow, I love a bit of excitement, I do, nothing predictable about that at all… So I can conclude with you now that repeated success truly is boring. Simple answer to a big question, really. The one exception I can think of is the Olympics. If the same person wins the same event, it’s only every four years, so we don’t really care. If the same teams/people win everything every week, it’ll get to the point where there won’t be any point wasting our time watching for the results when we already know what’s going to happen. But as Usain Bolt wins his races in the public eye very sporadically, we can let it slide. So there’s my message to you, sportsmen and women: keep it interesting, let someone else win once in a while. Then you’ll be liked more.

Language is changing, just not simply…

Language is not in a good way. Certain new elements of language are popping up and they’re becoming increasingly problematic as they grow. This is especially as they add next to nothing in linguistic terms. If you disregarded these issues before reading this piece, you’ll be pretty much guaranteed to notice them afterwards.

 

Number One: The Pointless Adjective. Fairly self-explanatory, but like any adjective it acts to describe. Fair enough. Using food and drink as an example here, whether you’re describing what you have just eaten as “delicious” or “vile”, that’s generally how normal adjectives serve their purpose correctly. But when the supermarket you buy said food from decides to make your mind up for you even before you purchase the items? That’s just a no-no. “Tantalisingly Refreshing Duck à l’Orange?”, “Horrendously Artery-Clogging Mature Cheddar?” Sounds, well, just lovely. Some among us may actually (willingly) be swayed into purchasing by these needless acts of time consuming nonsense, but I would preferably like to form my own opinion of what Tesbury’s and Adrose are offering me; if that suits you, Mr Corporate? I mean, we have even witnessed the humble Ready Salted Crisp become victim to being known as “Classically Ready Salted” by a certain firm represented by a large-eared retired footballer. How is this helping?!

 

Some linguist-types may well propose that, while the Pointless Adjective has no official place in language lore as yet, I’m fairly sure it won’t be long before this particular neologism is recognised fully. But maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, perhaps an extra adjective is Advertising’s attempt to try and get us to use more words again, as they probably know that a defamation of language is occurring right underneath our noses as much as we do. Utterances are generally getting shorter, with a larger use of word shortening measures such as initialism having a detrimental effect on eloquence among some; in the younger generations particularly. The formation of “Text Speak” can’t have helped too much, either.  There is no doubt that this more ‘clipped’ version of language is often more efficient than fully constructed sentences, seeing as we live in a linguistic universe that now has an acronym for near enough any situation. Maybe we’re too lazy to type/handwrite full words now. Maybe our minds are always on the next part of our day, rather than focussing on the current situation; meaning that less really is more. Or I’m just looking too deeply; one or the other. LOL, if you will. 

 

Number Two: Cele-Blending. Admittedly, the name itself is actually blending (or portmanteau, for the more official among us). Ironic, but the point still remains. You’re most likely to find Cele-Blending in glossy magazines or in a tabloid newspaper, so essentially wherever there’s a “Celebrity Gossip” page… Cele-Blending is more often than not used as an affectionate term for a celebrity couple that everyone will find ‘cute’. Think “Brangelina”, “Kimye”, “Robsten” and the like. This probably has pragmatic links to magazines feeling more ‘in touch’ with their readers by using universal Cele-Blending that everyone will know; possibly even endearing the celebrities involved indirectly. Nonetheless, it remains an inconvenience. Imagine if you were Cele-Blended as an individual without wanting to be, forever being known as “K-Stew”, “R-Patz” or “Sam-Cam”. I don’t think being called “Hen-Val” really suits me, do you? However, as many celebrities themselves irritate me too, let’s allow this one to slide. But don’t let it spread to the civilian world, if you can help it. It could turn into the whole country being blended in one form or another. So now and forever more we live in “G-Brit”…

 

Now, it wouldn’t surprise me if you hadn’t have heard of these features before. Hopefully, you haven’t, as I have just made them up (Unless the internet had invented them already, which is also likely! Please don’t sue me, I plead ignorance…) So they haven’t been recognised as official terms as yet. But I’m sure if we use them enough, the Oxford English Dictionary may have to sit up and take note. They usually do. If “Eurogeddon” and “Omnishambles” can get included, so can Cele-Blending. Your copy of the petition will arrive in the post…

 

I understand wholly that there’s nothing that most of us can actually do to stop language changing. And we shouldn’t. That wouldn’t help us develop at all. Language needs to change for it to reflect the age that we live in, and if it has to be this way, then so be it. But for future reference, if we could make language a bit simpler to understand without having to actually Google who “Speidi” are or read through how “Mature yet Mellow” the cheese I’m buying is; that’d be great. Much appreciated.