Essay submission time. Brings it all back.

Brings it all back? You mean, my breakfast? Not quite.


Essay writing. For the MA. First paper due in today, taking us hard-working students neatly right over Christmas and the New Year. Please don’t laugh.

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books”

That’s from Longfellow, and no he didn’t appear in my essay. Freud and D.H. Lawrence did. Modesty forbids me from revealing the title. Suffice to say…no, that’s all I’m going to say. Except, it was about horses. Loosely.


I DID actually thoroughly enjoy both the research and the writing of it, although, at times I thought my head might explode. Voltaire wasn’t in my essay either – but he might have been: “The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”

However, one of the questions  we were required to address in our essay-writing endeavours was this: “Have I succeeded in having a good time (or can I fool the reader into thinking I have)?” What a brilliant, absolutely BRILLIANT way to think about academic writing! I did have a good time, but whether or not that’s evident in the essay remains to be seen.

I finished before the deadline, which was good, but then I found myself having all sorts of irrational panic attacks, as if, in the grand scheme of things, it mattered one jot. Nothing seemed to help…


Silly concerns:

Is it the right font and is the font the right size?

images (1)

That should do, right?

Do I have to number the pages and should my name be on it? Is the paper I used too thin? Have I printed off all the pages? How many copies do I need? Have I remembered to put the essay in my bag now I’m heading towards the university? Was the deadline REALLY 4 p.m.? Was the deadline really TODAY, in fact?

Low down on my list of worries this morning: Is it any good?


That’s what I’m worrying about now.

Yes, brings it all back. I was exactly the same when I did my first degree at the University of Liverpool. I’ve only had, let me see, (maths never was my strong point) – thirty-nine years to develop a better attitude.

Essay DOES mean ‘attempt or effort’ as well as ‘a short piece of writing on a particular subject.’


Pretentious? Moi?

I don’t think I’m pretentious, but some may disagree. Some DO disagree. Okay, perhaps I was pretentious when I was a child. Not many 13-year-olds ask for a copy of War and Peace when required to choose a school prize.  (In my defence, I did actually read it. All of it.) I really can’t remember what motivated me at the time, but I was going through a phase of reading a lot of Russian literature.

See,  now I’m thinking, aaaargh, I really AM pretentious. Then, my second thought is, why should anyone be ashamed of reading classic literature.

I recall that one of my (unkindly-meant) nicknames was Swotty. Maybe I could regard that as a badge of honour?

This position of self-respect is not helped by people like musician Moby, who freely admits, “When I was growing up, I was the most pretentious person I have ever met. I only read obscure books and watched obscure movies and only listened to obscure music.” 

THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Don’t call yourself pretentious.

Pete Townshend had more of an idea. He couldn’t believe that, “30 years later we’re still looking at people who are supposed to write little 2-minute pop songs and when they actually try to do something that’s a little bit more, they regard it as pretentious.”

He is so right. Why shouldn’t people move on and be proud of it? Let’s praise this evolution, not sneer at it.

So what has brought about this sudden self-examination about my so-called pretensions? I’ll tell you, shall I? For my Creative and Critical Writing MA, we were advised to watch Melancholia, the Lars von Trier film. I rented it online, but loved it so much I ordered a DVD from Amazon. Not new, admittedly,  but I thought, what could possibly go wrong? I bravely fended off the comment from nearest and dearest – ‘You’re so ****ing pretentious!’ Everyone’s at it.


Beautiful, yes?

So it arrived. I couldn’t wait to open it and watch it again.

Inside…a DVD of…


Oh, how I laughed! Actually I DID laugh. A lot. I was thinking, ‘Serves me right for being so pretentious…’

Then I stopped myself.











“Students, eh? Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t hit them with a shovel!”

Terry Pratchett said that. I’m not sure in what context, but it’s a cheerful enough thought to start this blog. Better than some profound thing.

So here I am. A student. One of those Masters students. At the University of Sussex. Not to be confused with the University of Brighton.

RIDICULOUSLY proud of my student card.

Student card#3

I can even get students’ discounts in shops and everything, even if I couldn’t get discounts because of my age. Well, I think I should probably get double discount.

I am firmly resisting the temptation — there IS no temptation actually, so I’m not firmly resisting it — to buy one of those hoodies…do they sell them even? Here’s something I found online:


Simply not my style. Never in the never ever. But I am proud to be there at that university and want everyone to know it.

The thought did cross my mind, before the first seminar — would I feel dreadfully old and uncomfortable with those bright young things?


The answer? Nope. Thank you, people. Not even a glimmer. Mature student? Moi? Hardly…

So now I have studying to do. Homework. The stuff that students do when they’re not in the Union bar, so I’m told.

I was struggling a bit the other evening, not wanting to shut myself away in anti-social isolation from Peter, so trying to master Freud on the settee in front of the TV. (Freud would surely have something to say about some of that sentence?)

Peter was watching Master and Commander (again). It was Very Loud. It was, though, one of those annoying soundtracks where if you turn down the volume to mitigate the ear-blasting SFX, you can’t hear the dialogue. My solution? Earphones in. Music on, even louder. I may go deaf.

The album that I came upon, quite randomly, was Supertramp’s Crime of the Century. Dated 1974, when I was at university the first time around. The University of Liverpool, reading English and Philosophy. I was transported back to my carefree youth when life was so uncomplicated. I was transported to a state of bliss. Study came easily after that.

Don’t arrange to have me sent to no asylum. I’m just as sane as anyone. It’s a just a game I play for fun…for fun.

This will be the students’ soundtrack, along with:

  • Selling England By the Pound – Genesis
  • Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
  • Blue – and – Court and Spark –  Joni Mitchell
  • The Yes Album – Yes

Oh, and when I’m feeling particularly mournful in an emo student sort of way: The Songs of Leonard Cohen

Happy days!

I love my life. My life will love me back.