To my delight and total shock, I’ve been offered a full AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council) doctoral award from October 2011. It’ll cover University fees, the Oxford college fee, and maintenance. For overseas readers, the AHRC is the major public body for academic research in my field.
After repeatedly reading the small print and receiving excited supervisory emails from Seattle and Bali, I’m starting to believe it’s not an administrative cockup. Despite my deep reservations and scepticism at being suddenly better-off under a Tory-led government, I’m thrilled. Having experienced unfunded postgraduate life to the full, I know how fortunate I am to be getting a break from that. I wish all those awaiting similar funding decisions the very best of luck.
Have no idea how brides do it. Thought I had everything sorted for ball tonight; realised this morning that this was NOT THE CASE. Yesterday mother asked me if I was taking a bag. I said no, will only need keys, that’s what boys’ pockets are for. Mother looked deeply dubious re: this unaccustomed minimalism, as well she might. Realised last night in fact would need camera, phone, bus/taxi money and thus clutch bag. Own nothing suitable; rush to town, buy bag for semi-extortionate sum while in wild haze of despair. Bag is beautiful, certainly, but economic implications do not hit me until am actually leaving shop,when fog of saleswoman-induced stupefaction lifts and instantly remember list of all the cheaper places I should have gone to first. Accessorize fortunately comes up trumps by offering only plastic horrors; Primark again in state of hideousness. Nearly buy black patent shoes in bizarre displacement activity to lift depression re: money just spent, but realise madness.
While still in Primark, get distracted by possibility of things could wear for Pride (v good rainbow selection), then by makeup section (could poss buy nail varnish & eyeliner here in manner of thrift). Then recollect that since I am apparently incredibly allergic to Veet — used it three days ago, legs like sunburn, thank god dress is long — will undoubtedly react like ploughed field to Primark makeup.
Proceed to Boots, acquire incredibly expensive razor blades (toxic Veet originally intended as thriftful alternative to same) and incredibly cheap nail varnish, cheer self up by recollecting that since have borrowed dress and already owned shoes, bag necessary and justifiable purchase. This would be truer if had not yesterday spent £20 on silk wrap. Decide that will use bag for every formal occasion for rest of life, including marriage should I have one (do brides have bags? They should do). Then realise that yet again Have No Food In and will presumably need to eat pre-ball, rectify this, ponder horrific complexity of cosmetic procedures. Field calls re: taxis, wheelchair access, what-constitutes-white-tie (cheering me slightly that boys have some share in the horror) and hungover friend who last night defenestrated his wristband and dreads the consequences.
Is strange. I do not have a particularly large or unusual body – am not afflicted by warts, or fur, extra head or scaly limb AND YET every bit of it seems to require intricate and costly cosmetic procedures. I have not had my eyebrows rethreaded, my nails done or anything waxed. AND YET I am constantly thinking ohgod elbows, ohgod back(ne) ohgod do I need VOLUMIZING SPRAY (I do not). Possibly this makes me a slave to the patriarchy, or slatternly, or a bit OCD. If I do ever get married, there are only two alternatives: have the WHOLE THING (i.e. self, body, maquillage) entirely catered by professionals from moment of waking, or elope and wear jeans. Or in my case, jeans and a cream silk clutch bag.
Friends, I am unemployed. But not, please God, unemployable. This week has brought not one but TWO (count ’em) job rejections, to add to the small but perfectly-formed pile of guarantees that I spend my whole life on JSA, at least until David Cameron gets in and harnesses me to some sort of moat-draining, cash-burning chain gang. It is almost as if two (count ’em) Oxford degrees do not magically guarantee one a life of affluent joy.
I am not dismayed (this is a lie). I have until 1ST JULY to find paid work. This is sort of a lie too, actually. Gather round. My lease, in a total departure from undergraduate Oxford leases, which force you out every holiday, runs from now until September 10. This is standard for one-year-Masters leases, because most Masters degrees have dissertation deadlines in September; mine, however, is due in mid-June. You have to give one month’s notice to break your lease. When I leave Oxford, I will return to the West Midlands, official home of the worst unemployment figures in the country. Now, I bow to noone in my love for the West Midlands, or indeed the Midlands in general. Only today, I engaged a Regents fresher in conversation because in her dulcet tones I detected the LAND OF MY MOTHERS, i.e. Netherton and/or Dudley (home of the amazing castle/zoo combo of Soviet-like depression). My great passion for Stratford-on-Avon is also well-documented. It contains my wonderful parents. My charming cat. The best theatre company on the planet. Any number of beloved schoolfriends are there, being gainfully unemployed at their parents’ expense.
However, there’s one bus an hour and everything closes. If I go home and don’t get a job offer/Distinction/DPhil funding/Lotto win, I will be there forever and I can’t even fall back on the safe Shottery standby of marrying a KES boy and getting a flat north of the river. I can’t do it.
The current plan is that, should I still be jobless and hapless by 1 July, I will give notice on my lease, and go home on 1 August. I am of course returning to the bosom of parents and rent-free living, which of course twists me into the twisty knots of middle class guilt, because it really does take a very special snowflake to worry about dole-penury when she’s got the promise of a warm bed, a stocked fridge and any number of paperbacks set in Cornwall about A Family And What Happens To Them (mother’s preferred reading. I do have sneaking fondness for same). Then again, I do have a friend who shops at Toast then complains she has no money (CHLOE) without spotting any kind of connection, so.
I intend to document my struggle. It will be stirring. It will be inspiring. It will doubtless become very obvious where I’m going wrong. Please tell me when it does. Tomorrow is for an eight-week TEFL contract, based in Oxford. I am hopeful, not to say desperate, and if I tell you all my hope is founded on the fact that the administrator was once an ASM in my biggest Oxford show, you’ll realise just what sort of situation this is. I have also just applied for a tutoring job in – of all places – California.
We shall see.
In the meantime, job tips! Websites! Inspiring stories of how you were once unwaged hopelessness, but are now smug and wealthy! If only in the noble coinage of job satisfaction etc etc etc. Also, please give me a job. I am good at all sorts of things. And I have only once had a job which paid double figures per hour.
In other news: The Costcutter across the road has stopped selling Haribo, and started selling ‘Last Will & Testament’ kits. I don’t want to believe that the two are related.
The chapter is in. And now, just for a few days, my brain can rot. Erode. Turn to mulch. By few I mean two and by rot I mean, well, I don’t do drugs and you don’t get sloshed at home, so, TO THE INTERNET.
There’s something really vulnerable about a woman dressed to suggest lower-body nudity. Perhaps it bothers me because it’s the look Tracy Letts chose for a woman’s first appearance in his 1994 play Killer Joe. Sheila appears ‘naked from the waist down’ on the first page (no equivalent nudity for the boys) and is demeaned and assaulted for the rest of the incredibly nasty play. In the Selby Bostrom/Gentle shoot, Gentle spends most of the shoot looking cerebral/exasperated/lovingly fond and v. practical, while Bostrom shows off her prettily-tattooed inner thigh, and/or plays witha kitten.
Not that the Gentle/Bostrom shoot was the worst offender; I’m willing to blame that on the dreadful Peaches Geldof shoot, for the instantly-engendered rage. I am willing to bet that bloody Bunny (I-christen-thee-Henry-slash-Archie-slash-Quentin if ever there was one, and yes some of my best friends do have those silly names) isn’t a hustler, that Lily’s “Teen Vogue Intern” isn’t a profession recognised by the census-takers, and that Geldof, Flower and Rabbit all get somebody else in to cook and clean (they’re not students. They’re not even real people. Where’s the pasta in their kitchen? The stirfry veg?). But, leaving aside my bile and spleen, leaving it in a little paper packet along with my heart, lungs and brain, some Selby shoots are still amazing – try Daniela Kimiliotis or Annakim Violette, even if the latter’s survey answers indicate that sometimes the beautiful shouldn’t be allowed to talk.
Unfortunately, Gentle tends to shoot women the wayboth he and Selby shoot Bostrom – faux-naive, heavy-jawed stuff (why are we still idolising a style of beauty that’s the second-rate version of a 1920s debutante?), kittens much in evidence, which just ends with the subjects looking underage and a bit, er, thick (pointing out examples here seems, well, cruel. No that comma wasn’t a hyperlink. No really).
I’m aware that I’ve complained about this guy on and off for paragraphs, but the fact that I still can’t get enough of Gentle’s work on men means I HAVE NO PRINCIPLES you should check him out. 1) he looks a lot like Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine. 2) He doesn’t wear socks. 3) Maybe you’ll just really like spoilt, underage-looking girls. Though that’s probably illegal and you should keep it to yourself. Lots of the girls seem to come from nice bits of uptown New York, though, so you should also go if you like rich girls. Which isn’t illegal, as yet.
2. Ladies Against Feminism. Dude, I know. I know. These people are crazy. Crazier than the Merton Time Ceremony (unique to this list for being splendid rather than terrible), crazier than the one Oxford church running an exgay programme, crazier than my extended family and crazier than Tony Higgins’s face (did anyone see the last episode of Lewis? He was playing a formerly-promiscuous closeted-queer rockstar whose ‘hydraulics were shot’ and who’d taken every drug known to formerly-promiscuous queer. His face was presumably why they’d hired him).
But I keep going back. I love it. I love that just when you think we’ve reached our limit of outrages perpetrated in the name of a man who loved, without reservation, prostitutes, centre-right civil servants, gay centurions and the diseased, the loonytunes West just gives us that little bit more. The ladies of LAF doesn’t even make me angry. They probably should, since some of them are actually anti-female-suffrage, but honestly, I just laugh. They don’t have the organisational skills of the Westboro Baptists, and since the core of the movement seems to be that women should sit at home waiting for their wombs to prolapse, I doubt that one of these poor women will be infringing my civil liberties any time soon.
Some of what they say is good. You know, the bits about the love of God healing us, stay-at-home motherhood being an incredibly valid and valuable choice (I’d like to be a stay-at-home mum, if I can, although my current parenting plan involves, so says the co-conspirator, ‘feeding it on make-believe and Ritalin’) and the fact that God made us in his image and has a plan for us that shows he recognises our worth and skills.
On the other hand, you can get that from any sane church or sane Christian (and recognition of the role played by SAHMs surely-to-God from any sane woman), without the encircling doctrine of madness, terror and hate. This is the so-bad-it’s-good face of Christian blogging, and as a special bonus, there are more Daddy Issues than you can shake a stick at. Go marvel.
3. Fantasy shopping. All the crap, all the time. Despite being at least 50% FRUGAL in my real existence (as an antidote to being 50% TERRIBLE WITH MONEY, a genetic trait from a father whose motto is ‘well, you’re a long time dead/you have 40 years to go to work/let’s open another bottle and do another degree, floss’), my imagination spends millions of imaginary pounds every time I click. For the record, were I to win the Lottery I do not play (the gambling equivalent of a Virgin Birth), I would fill my hand with the Tiffany Celebration Rings (I’m not proud), then buy these, this, this and these. And a pony. Note: my female friends are equally as shallow. I did a quick straw poll which threw up mention of Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Brora and Toast. And by my female friends I mean Chloe. In my defence, I would also probably take Arabic lessons and learn to properly paint. Maybe go on retreat. Build a theatre at my secondary school. Go back to Rome. But I’d also buy a mews flat in Soho and start having my nails done. You see.
4. Pop/indie/acoustic/I’ve never understood genre SONGS ABOUT THINGS WHICH ARE NOT TRADITIONALLY SUITABLE FOR SONGS. I cannot tell you how much I love these. Being simultaneously synaesthetic and melodically dead inside means I prefer lyrics to melody (unless it’s baroque or early music which I enjoy because it’s very very structured, just like I enjoy owning cleaning products and keeping things in boxes. In boxes. Boxes), portraits to landscapes, and the weeping scabs of human experience to the vicissitudes of love/above cry/bye baby/maybe. This is not to say that my tastes are either highbrow or gloomy. Hence my first song choice is Cool by Gwen Stefani. WRITE MORE SONGS ABOUT FIRST HUSBANDS, people. Especially cheerful poppy electric ballads that make me slightly want to kill myself. And also convince you that Gwen Stefani’s first husband cannot have got over her, because who possibly could.
I must admit that from here on in, things do get quite depressing. Or at least ambiguously happy. Cue the laceration that is Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin (daddy issues! in the Midwest! Absentee fathers, rubbishness and plausible cycles of appalling horror! It’s so good) and the unbelievably brilliant Daddy’s Gone by Glasvegas. Jenny introduced me to this lot, who also wrote the only extant Ballad of A Social Worker, Geraldine. I also like my mother’s all-time favourite song, many-people-are-dead-but-everything’s-splendid, The Beatles’s In My Life. If I was going to pick an Indelicates song, it would probably be New Art For The People, but only because when I heard the first two verses I vaguely thought it was about Brady and Hindley (and liked it all the better). Actually, no, idiot me, it’d be Unity Mitford, which is actually much better than Our Daughters Will Never Be Free because jesusgod, they wrote a song about Unity Mitford, but anyone can point out feminism’s going backwards. Tho admittedly not so well.
From Rubber Soul, I also love Little Girl (ambiguously paedophilic lovers vow revenge and murder!) and Girl, mostly for the enormous sniffs Lennon and Macartney do, halfway through recording. A lot of popular standards do have wonderfully odd plots – Springfield’s Son Of A Preacher Man (seduction by cleric’s offspring), Turner’s River Deep Mountain High (sexual relationship analogous to childhood love for stuffed toy) and Thriller (I mean, my God).
My favourite line in all music is from Glenn Miller (pick yer own) – there were angels dining at the Ritz (note: I have never eaten at the Ritz. Please add to item three), juxtaposing the surreal with the sublime. I like the incongruous, and so many lyrics are bizarre that I can include plenty of really good music in this post and perhaps remove the guilt. But liking these songs for their weird subject matter is a bit unusual, and although I would very much appreciate song recs about weight loss, paternity tests, ex-wives and tube delays (Yeti’s Northern Line obsessed me last summer – I love that the second last.fm tag is ‘depressing’), I am quite prepared to be judged. Quality is almost immaterial, as long as the subject matter is odd.
5. Lewis. I don’t watch a lot of television. This is due to three things; I don’t have a TV in Oxford, ITV Player won’t work on my Mac and, as a source of media and procrastination, the internet has the ineffable advantage of letting you bite back. I will, however, break any number of laws and kill any number of braincells in search of Lewis.
Guys, I love it. I never got sci-fi. I couldn’t care less about romance. I do like soaps, having been raised on EastEnders and Coronation Street and a daily dose of the Archers (hurrah for Lilian, boo hiss Ruth god RUTH), but Lewis… it has everything I could ever want. Detectives: my huge vice. I went from Blyton to Christie and never looked back. The bits of me that didn’t apply to Oxford for Brideshead did so re: Sayers’ Gaudy Night. Religion. Beautiful Laura Hobson and beautiful DSI Innocent. Ridiculous continuity, impossible plotlines, snarky banter, gay angst, beautiful Laurence Fox and Oxford.
People never cease to save other people from drowning, fires, or (last week) being drowned and cut up with manure-chopping knives. People are constantly leaving the priesthood, perving on their relatives, unzipping corpses and pretending Brasenose is Univ – and at the centre of it all is a crumpled Geordie man and his wife’s amazing cardboard tombstone. Every episode has at least forty-seven establishing shots of the Rad Cam, forty-eight reaction shots of Hathaway and forty-nine instances of somebody stepping out of the Rad Cam and suddenly being opposite St Giles. I love it. I love it so much. The writing is simultaneously ridiculous and makes you glad to be alive.
Also, Lewis loves his sergeant slightly more than air. As he should. Hathaway is a beanlike ex-Tab, ex-rowing Blue, ex-priest who left the seminary after recanting his homophobic Catholic views and who celebrates every setback by having angst in his face (such angst, you guys, such angst) and playing the guitar (actually playing the guitar. In a floppy shirt. He makes me clutch my hair). He weighs eight stone and looks like a horse. He’s part of a world music band, has no friends, is of ambiguous sexuality and is, for some reason, the only remaining TV character allowed to SMOKE CONSTANTLY on primetime TV. Lewis is continually leaving him against railings so he can light up and look hot.
Despite being unbelievably posh and basically despising the working class, the other day Hathaway was also allowed to go all Gene Hunt and slam Our Villain up against Brasenose with the words ‘You’re dirty and I’ll Have You’. And he sulks at the slightest provocation. In Series 2 Lewis carried him out of a burning building (and yes I did link that picture twice. I’m fond of it).
Go and watch it. You’ll either hate it and despise me (I shan’t care – there’s a DVD!), or be seized with uncontrollable love and long to join in some sort of fanbased pilgrimage walking-tour. Oh, Lewis. If ITV don’t recomission him them, I shall probably die. If there’s a word on the internet related to this series, I have probably read it already. Look at the beauty. Look.
[Author’s Note: one day I will blog a list of credible things that I also enjoy. But probably not while academic work requires me to use my brain. Expect the usual fare of smalltown blues, theatre gossip, David Tennant and inanity until such time. If you’re lucky, I’ll start talking about the figures from my thesis like they’re personal friends. Woot!.]