Monday, 20 June 2011

Red Carnation

I’m one of the few finalists left who still haven’t finished, but tomorrow it’s finally over! It’s been a fairly awful experience. The last six weeks of my life have been mainly spent in a library, and more recently in exam schools too. I’ve had low revision points where I’ve honestly reacted to not understanding something as if it were the end of the world. Things manage to get a little bit out of proportion when all you’re doing is revising! But I think I’ve survived somehow, none of the exams were catastrophic. So far I think I managed to pull of something vaguely redeeming in each of them so it will hopefully all balance out. I’m going to go all out today and stay up very late revising as it’s the last time I’ll EVER have to do it, so I have nothing to lose. Well, I say that, but I’ll almost definitely lose will power at half 11 and then hit the sack.

I should also add, for the benefit of non-Oxforders, that the red carnation in the title of this post refers to a made up Oxford tradition of wearing carnations to exams. You wear white to your first one, pink to the ones in the middle and red to your last one; resulting in a stream of facebook statuses that read ’[insert colour] carnation’. This carnation gets pinned on to your sub-fusc: the full academic dress that Oxford insists that we wear to exams. So that’s a suit and white bow tie for men and for women, a smart black skirt and white shirt with velvet ribbon in a bow round the collar. To top this off we wear our gowns and mortar boards too. It is honestly the most ridiculous thing to enforce and serves no purpose whatsoever. The last thing I want to worry about before taking a set of really hideous exams is, ‘Where on Earth is that bloody ribbon??’. I suppose the bonus is that once you’re finished it is quite fun to get drunk in a silly outfit, and this time tomorrow that will be me!

Finalist x

Monday, 6 June 2011


I’m currently trying to revise in the library but somebody’s ridiculously loud music is disturbing me. Surely you can’t be working that hard to music that loud and upbeat! And if you actually are, surely you’re not really listening to that music and you’re just annoying me for no reason. Ugh. Definitely one of my pet hates. Many times I’ve found myself thinking, ‘mp3 devices should be banned on public transport’, or, ‘Why aren’t there signs up to warn these people that loud music is not acceptable?!’ It’s so antisocial. At home it’s worse; my brother insists on listening to music in his room the whole time. Most of the music is awful, but even it it’s verging on bearable, it usually has an unnecessary baseline that thuds through the whole house.

Finals now start in less than a week. I’m beginning to get irritable as more and more people finish their exams and I’m still here… However, the thought of it being over does fill me with happiness and I have to remind myself there is still a lot of work to do and it’s not quite time to hurl myself in the Isis in a champagne induced euphoria.

Finalist x

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Fear today, gone tomorrow

THE FEAR. Yeah, it struck me. So the blog has been neglected a bit and a lot of Bon Iver has been played and whined along to. Fortunately, it went away yesterday and I no longer felt that my whole life depended on these exams and I was destined to fail. I also got another gift of chocolate and liquorice (my weakness) from my other adopted parent, so that cheered me up hugely. But I am going a little bit mad; I laughed hysterically at my own joke yesterday while my friend politely smiled along and then asked if I was OK.

On a less finals based note, at the weekend I went to the 30th Anniversary Oxford University Women’s Ice Hockey alumni dinner. It was perfect! We had a champagne reception on the front quad of Hertford College in the sunshine, surrounded by Oxford’s ‘dreaming spires’. Then we had the dining hall all to ourselves for a three course dinner. However, the classiness deteriorated as the evening went on. Discussion turned from hearing how the pioneering women, who set up women’s ice hockey in Oxford, had to travel all the way to Bristol to train, onto whether or not we should crew date the Brasenose Men’s Sex Team. Later, a certain member of the team stuffed a number of the after dinner chocolates down her bra to save for later.

F x

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Revising is Rad(cam)

I had a great start to the week with a late night ice hockey match against Warwick University which we won. They’re guys, we’re girls, so we’re pretty happy with our domination of them!

On Monday I had dinner at Teddy Hall with a very good friend of mine. They have a Michelin star chef so it’s always a pleasure, but they always offer three courses in the price, so how could I possibly turn any of it down? I was so stuffed for the rest of the evening. While we were there my friend pointed out to me the silent Polish twins that also study there. Apparently they are always together and they never say anything to anyone, not even to each other and in tutorials they say nothing and just soak up the knowledge. They came first and second in the entire year last year and, needless to say, they look exactly the same. Sometimes I wish that I was that dedicated to my work…

Obviously I had to get my weekly dose of The Apprentice last night. It’s quite a chore to watch it with me as I have an opinion on absolutely every contestant and on absolutely every decision they make. I constantly change my mind, going from extremes such as, ‘She is so foul!’ to ‘She’s so reasonable, I really like her’, and, ’He’s very clever, I definitely think he should win’, to ’No, I hate him, I actually detest him’. It’s probably quite difficult to actually follow what’s going on in the show with my constant stream of shouting so I’m very grateful to the special person who puts up with it. I think I will avoid confronting you with my Apprentice opinions and just say that I thoroughly enjoyed last night’s show and it gave me many opportunities to shout furiously at everyone on it. Satisfied.

Library Review: Lower Reading Room, Radcliffe Camera

Yesterday I spent a few hours in the Lower Reading Room of the Rad Cam. It’s definitely one of the coolest libraries in Oxford. Inside, the walls are just bare stone and there are huge pillars to section the room into different working areas. I love the big windows that are spaced out all around the circular edge. Overall it has a very dramatic look. But I really didn’t like working there. Unfortunately, Brasenose College next door is undergoing construction so there is the constant noise of machinery in the background at the moment. Despite the distracting noise, it was absolutely packed. There were people just inches away from me on every side; I’m not usually fussy about my personal space, but I don’t think it’s conducive to working for me. A lot of finalists will understand me when I say I don’t really like being that near to other people who are working too because it makes me panic that they’re working harder/better/faster than me and that I am an inferior student. Hopefully, this is all fairly illogical but I’d rather save my brain the stress so after a while I headed elsewhere.

Architecture and design - it did have ugly tables 9/10

Productivity - before panic struck 8/10

Fitties - didn’t spot any, but everyone in there was probably major stressed so not to be mean I’ll give 5/10

Harry Potter-ness - Hogwarts-esque but no actual witches or wizards (except me) 6/10

Finalist x

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Hai(ku) Society

It’s been a few days since I last posted so I have quite a bit to fit in which I’ll briefly mention and then move on to my next library review. On Wednesday evening I went to Exeter college formal. The food was delicious and I met some very nice people. After a mini pool tournament in the bar, where I potted more than one ball(!), we moved on to Park End (Oxford students’ club of choice on a Wednesday night). I was completely justified in going as I was with two other maths students. Unfortunately I lost my purse somewhere on the cheese floor but, lucky for me, some fantastic New College students helped me out. In the morning I found that they had sent me a message on facebook as my name is on my cards. It was very sweet and they even wrote me a haiku:

You were in Park End
You lost cards on the Cheese Floor
Great blokes picked them up

On Friday night I went to see the RSC’s Cardenio in Stratford. I wasn’t sure what to expect as it’s one of Shakespeare’s ‘lost texts’ but my friend and I thought it was brilliant. The acting was great, we enjoyed the story (very Shakespearian) and Cardenio was gorgeous! We looked up the actor when we got back and I was disappointed to find he had also studied at Oxford. I’d planned that in our relationship I would be the academic one who would wow him with my intellect and he would be the dim, gorgeous one who’s amazing at acting. But now the whole dynamic has been confused. I just don’t know what to do.

Yesterday we played our second round croquet match against St Benet’s Hall but we lost so we‘re out of Cuppers. However, the other team did make us tea which we drank on the lawn and it was very enjoyable.

Library review: Rhodes House Library

The entrance to Rhodes House is exceptionally grand. The atrium is circular, with windows below a high ceiling and there are pillars and carvings and a marble floor. As I looked round the rest of the building I though it was all quite showy but still really beautiful. I had a moment when I felt a little warmth for Oxford. Us students spend a lot of time moaning about the amount of work we have and the pressure we’re under, but it’s so nice to come across some hidden gem in Oxford and just think to yourself, ‘I may be suffering, but at least I’m suffering here’. (Saying this does make me cringe a bit. It reminds me of when I sent my best friend a drunken text saying; ‘Oxford is so beautiful. It makes me cry and it makes me smile,’ as I emotionally walked past the Radcliffe Camera on the way home from a night out.) The library itself is more modest and fairly traditional and cosy, with big wooden tables to work at. Out of the windows all you can see is the fluttering of the leaves in the trees in the surrounding garden so when the road is quiet you can only hear your fellow workers and the birds singing.

After a while I noticed that on the other side of the library sat Dean Thomas from the Harry Potter films! (He must be revising for N.E.W.T.S.) Sometimes I get confused and think I go to Oxford University and then I remember I’m actually at Hogwarts.

Architecture and design 7/10

Fitties - boosted by Dean Thomas 7/10

Productivity - distracted by thoughts of how I should have played Hermione (not that Emma Watson) 6/10

Porters - very friendly 9/10 (only my college porters get 10 because they are the best)

F x

PS - I really should get back to revision, so I won’t do an illustration of Rhodes House but I promise I’ll do one for my next library review

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Library Review: Rothermere American Institute (and more...)

Today I worked at the American Institute which is one of my favourite libraries to work in because, as you can see from the picture, it’s mainly made of glass so lots of light floods in while you’re working. Some of the other libraries in Oxford can be a bit stuffy so it makes a nice change and somehow feels a bit more relaxed. If you get a desk by a window you even have your own special control switch which opens and closes the window next to you -  very hi-tech. It is a popular library though, so often it’s packed and difficult to find a seat. Or you’re surrounded by people playing music on their ipods which they haven’t bothered to turn down (I’m trying to suppress my annoyance at this particular habit of many library workers).

Interior design - modern, minimalist and functional 8/10

Exterior design - glassy 6/10

Fitties - could only see the back of peoples’ heads from where I was sat 0/10

Productivity - stared out of the window a lot 6/10

In other news, I had my doctor’s appointment yesterday to check that my eyesight getting worse is nothing to do with my general health. The doctor gave me a tube and told me to collect a urine sample. My mind must have been on other things, because by the time I’d been to the loo I realised I’d forgotten to collect my urine. After a brief panic, I proceeded to drink as much water as I could from the tap… It was all very embarrassing but fortunately I managed to collect enough for the doctor, who really wasn’t that amused, and my health is fine. On my way back from the doctor’s I got onto thinking about why my eyesight has deteriorated so much. The optician had asked me if I used the computer much for my degree, and I explained I’d done a few projects on it. She said that perhaps this was the cause of it, but really most of the work I do is on paper so I think it’s unlikely. So on my walk home I suddenly thought, ‘Oh my God! Maybe I’ve spent so much time on facebook it’s actually made my eyesight worse!’ I contemplated this for a while but now I’ve come to a different decision: I’m blaming Oxford for my deteriorating eyesight. Three years of too much work which I’ve had to complete in the early hours of the morning has caught up with me and my eyes are taking the brunt of it. Well, you wait Oxford, I’m going to get a 2:1, then you won’t be laughing!

Finalist x

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Stereotypical Oxford Weekend

No, that doesn't mean I spent the whole weekend in the library (although perhaps I should have). After handing in my project on Friday I went to formal formal (held twice a term in college and twice as formal as our usual weekly formals) in the evening.  It was probably the last time I’ll go to formal in college so I was very pleased that the food was excellent. The starter was roasted butternut squash, chilli & coconut soup, followed by prawn and dill risotto. The main was medallion of beef Rossini (essentially bread with pate and fillet of beef on top) which was delicious, I’m still not over it. And a toffee apple pastry for dessert.

After formal formal we always have Champagne and Chocolates in the chapel. Most people in college go to Wahoo after that (Wahoo is Oxford students’ club of choice on a Friday night) but, being a sensible finalist, I had no intention of joining them. After a “few” glasses of champagne though, I just couldn’t see why I shouldn’t go. I had a great evening. I did have to spend the last couple of hours of the night trying to locate a certain boy who’d gone walkabout, but don’t worry, he took me out for dinner last night to make up for it.

Yesterday afternoon was my first croquet match in the university croquet tournament, Cuppers. I’m in one of about 23 teams from my whole college. The four of us donned our gowns and sunglasses and waited for our rivals, the St Peters team, to arrive. We didn’t quite pull off the intimidating look we’d been going for. St Peters seemed a little bemused by our outfits. They asked if we took part in Cuppers every year, little did they know that half our team had never played before. Despite this, and the fact that it took numerous attempts to get through each hoop, we won the game! (And I took the winning shot!) So we are through to the next round and now we’re in it to win it.

To recover from a busy weekend, I went to a free yoga class this morning as part of Oxford’s Well-Being week. My favourite bit was when we melted into the carpet.

F x