Slow Excavations

Once again, I find gaps in my diary impossible to properly fill. Skimming over the unrecorded seems unfair, but leaving it out altogether seems worse. Am constantly amazed how anyone else gets anything done at all. There seems so much to keep tabs on – literal tabs in the case of the Web. Other people manage to easily write things on Facebook AND Twitter AND update their Goodreads account AND top up their various portable gadgets with power and credit (something that constantly defeats me) AND presumably earn incomes as well. And many of these people have children and partners too! I frequently feel like I’m the slowest person on earth.


Weds 22nd May – Last exam of the 2nd year, as in my BA English degree at Birkbeck. The exam was half on Chaucer’s Troilus & Criseyde, half on a selection from the renaissance plays we’d been studying. I chose The Tempest  and Eastward Ho!

I don’t feel at all confident of getting a decent mark for this last exam, as I’d spent most the time I’d hoped to spend on revising on instead writing the final two essays plus revising for the other exam. I ran out of not just time, but also energy and motivation. By the 22nd of May I was utterly drained and found it hard to care very much about memorizing the names and arguments of Chaucer critics.

On top of that the stress for the exams gave my first ever migraine. The week before the last exam the sight in my left eye suddenly failed completely. It stayed like that for about an hour. The GP packed me off to Moorfields A&E, as he couldn’t rule out something retinal that might need emergency surgery. Thankfully Moorfields and all their eye machines diagnosed a ‘bilateral’ migraine. I was told to lie down in a darkened room and avoid whatever it was that was causing the anxiety. So my exam revision suffered there as well.

I understand why universities still hold exams – they’re proof one can spontaneously come up with the goods without access to books or the internet. But I’m grateful that the rest of the course has the option of being exam-free. They just don’t agree with me.

After the exam, I celebrated with a few fellow students: Jasmine, Kim, Jon et al. Cheap drinks in the university bar, then a restaurant meal in Marchmont Street.


The good news is that my two last essay marks for the 2nd year were Firsts. I also received a First in my overall grade for the Narratives of the Body module, the first grade to actually go towards my final degree grade. I get the other two overall module grades of the 2nd year when the exam marks come in, sometime in late July.

Since then I’ve mostly been recovering from it all. Attended a brilliant talk by Philip Hensher on vocatives, an entertaining one by Will Self on his novel Umbrella and one by Alan Bennett at the ICA doing his usual ‘Evening With’ set-up. Also saw the new Star Trek  film (fun), and the new Great Gatsby movie in 3D (absolute heaven).


Read Clampdown, a new cultural studies book by Rhian E Jones on the effect of 90s UK music on class and gender. What’s unusual is that it focusses on the cultural meaning of Britpop from the personal yet highly academic perspective of someone who grew up with that music – the author. I think previous books on Britpop have tended to be either by people working as journalists at the time (John Harris), or by those who were involved in the music business (Luke Haines). People who were actually informed by that culture during their teenage years logically have a different take, one that is only now starting to emerge. In Ms Jones’s case she talks about the importance to her of Kenickie and Shampoo as signifiers of female agency. But there’s so many other points in the book: many of which just hadn’t occurred to me. I could argue with some of her conclusions, but then I was never a working class teenage girl in the 90s. It’s an essential text for anyone trying to make sense of that ludicrous era.

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