Weekly round-up: Haggis and hard work

My lovely followers (the 3 of you who are still hanging around despite my sustained absence!),

First up, apologies for my Irish exit last weekend. I fear I’ve treated this blog like a batch of SeaMonkeys™ – I got really keen and overfed it, then lapsed into woeful negligence. Fortunately, unlike a tank of dead mini-shrimp carcasses, this blog can be revived with some TLC. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen within the next week, as I’m heading off to the French Alps on Varsity Ski Trip in T-7 hours! I’m planning to take my laptop so may get a couple of posts up, but brace yourself for a Tignes-mountain-air-chilled cold shoulder.

So why the Irish exit? This was the final week of Michaelmas term (I know, it sounds like a Steve Carrell-centric holiday on The Office) meaning an onslaught of social events and assessments. Frantic essay writing, sleep deprivation and drinking has been at an all-time high. Here’s a Whitman’s sampler:

Oxford Gargoyles A Cappella Evening

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I didn’t get any photos on the night so I snagged this classy lil team shot from their FB page so you can see what an Oxford a cappella group looks like. Basically, a regular a cappella group but in black tie and often found lounging amidst colonnades.

I chose to go to the Gargoyles’ Christmas cocktail concert, held in Magdalen’s MCR, over the Christ Church Regatta crew dinner. The same way I immediately vow never to reveal anything to people who declare themselves trustworthy, I decided against dining at a place whose motto is ‘Beautiful. Stylish. Restaurants’. Pizza Express, if your food and venue are halfway decent, you shouldn’t need to clarify your restaurant status.

The a cappella was amazingly good! It almost makes me want to start a group (called something awesome like the Crushendos, Jazz in my Pants, or maybe the Chorduroys…) but unfortunately I can’t sing for shit. I was choral captain in Junior School, but that was only because my teacher recognised that I was an officious little twerp who would mark the choir register and eagerly change the recorder bucket disinfectant.

Anyway, I thought that the gaggle of weird and wonderful characters presented in Pitch Perfect and Glee was a cinematic trope, but it was totally apparent in the Gargoyles. There was this awesome guy who sang like he was mid-way through a game of Chubby Bunny (mouthful of marshmallows), a sassy little elfin tenor, a sprightly soprano who looked (and sang) like one of those Duloc clock figurines from Shrek, and of course the one mesmerising girl with a voice like soulful butter or husky sunshine (my analogies are failing me but suffice to say that everyone was in love with her by the end of the night). Honestly, she could have been singing Little Drummer Boy and I still would have been stirred to propose/abduct her.

St Andrew’s Day Formal Hall

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The next evening was a college formal dinner for St. Andrew’s Day. I’m pretty familiar with this whole do as I lived at St. Andrew’s College during my undergrad at Sydney Uni, but there were a few differences. At Drews, the haggis was always a bloated greying mass (kind of like a decaying blobfish; which I’ll do as an external link for in case you’re about to eat….) which tasted, well, absolutely offal. Here, the haggis was oaty and almost tasty; like a Christmas pudding you’d feed to your horse. Unlike Drews, however, there was no ‘Ode to the Haggis’. I miss those days of nervous undergrads getting up and attempting to do the poem in a serious Scottish accent, only to have it descend into the hurdy-gurdy Swedish chef voice.

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race! [Tell me that’s not the most amazing image/potential political position you’ve ever heard]
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm :
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
As lang’s my arm…

Also, no bagpipers! We had to content ourselves with a choral serenade and retaining our eardrums.

Essays and Tutorials

So much work this week!! I had 3 tutorials, each requiring a 2000 or 3000 word essay, to be discussed over an hour long meeting with the professor (and 1 or 2 other students). I approach essay-writing much like I do exercise – by getting up really early and trying to smash it out before my brain registers what’s going on. I think the term for this is ‘eating the frog’. Unfortunately, my process means that my essays (when written the day before they’re due) turn out kind of mishmashed. I think the term for this is ‘dog’s breakfast’.

Fortunately, I’m quickly learning how to appear knowledgeable and engaged in tutorials. Buzzwords include:

  • ‘Intuitively’ – say this when you can’t otherwise justify what you’re saying; ‘Intuitively, I’m drawn to this line of argument’
  • ‘Problematic’ – when something seems off but you can’t be bothered to come up with a solution; ‘The treatment of this case is just so problematic’.
  • ‘Interesting’ – when you have nothing else to say; ‘I found this article really…interesting’.
  • ‘Where do you draw the line?’ – all the above; ‘Intuitively, I just find this issue really problematic. I mean, it’s a very grey area. Where do you draw the line? It’s an interesting question…’

Atkins Society Christmas Dinner

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The Magdalen tree: credit

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas in Oxford. The trees are going up in the quads and the halls, and there are carol services and Christmas dinners a plenty. A few days ago we had a Magdalen College law society dinner which was delicious and, amazingly, completely prepared by the undergrad law students. As a grad, I just swanned in and enjoyed the feast. I could taste the love that went into the turkey and trimmings…and the pinch of resentment.

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