Lasting winter blues

Okay, four months is a long time. Although, maybe it isn't that long, hence why I haven't actually had time to even look at this.

So, obviously I'm in Stage 2 now of the degree. Whenever people warned me that the workload increased in the second year (as well as the fact that it all actually counts from now on in), they weren't exaggerating. The reading has been hardcore, and the essays have been tough. But I seem to be doing okay, a little behind compared to last year, but okay. My first essay was only 40%, which was a shock. I talked it through with my tutor, which shone some light on it, but I still couldn't fully explain myself. I'll just call that one a blip.

The house we're living in is great. We all get on so well as a household, and I've said it before but I'll say it again, these are the only people I wanted to live with this year, and I got them, and I am extremely grateful to have them and this to come back to on these long winter nights.

Before I came to university, I went to Brussels and Amsterdam with some friends. Although it was an interesting excursion and the company was great, I was out of sorts, so I ruined it for myself. The reasons for which will probably stick with me for some time and are too long and protracted to explain here, right now. Maybe another time. Anyway, here are some pictures from the trip:

You know, when I look at the group shot below, it makes me stop and think. I haven't actually looked at these photos until last week when I finally took them off my camera. This was, quite obviously, a staged photo; just for the sake of us all being together, just one holiday snap. And it comes off so well, and I didn't see it before. You've got Kurt, with his inappropriate amount of black clothing for the sun and his positive kilograms of camera gear (which Justin was always 'borrowing', never letting Kurt get much a look in with the pictures). You've got Duncan, the giant of a man, holding for dear life onto that tiny child's park toy. Becky's there, draped unselfconsciously over Duncan. Ayumi's there, self consciously not approving of her face having to be on a photo. There's Hayley, leaning round the back, adding more than a little Ally Sheedy/Breakfast Club feel to the whole thing. And then there's me; a beanied, grinning, sentimental spaz, getting everyone to submit to the indignity of the picture in the first place. But it's the joy that's here in the picture, that's what threw me. I didn't see it whilst I was in it, but there was joy here. There was calm, and there was nodding and listening, and there was laughter. And I need to be forgiven, and I need everyone to know that I know we had a good time. And it will be, here, forever more, only that:

..and then I look at the picture below and it gives a good impression of what I thought Amsterdam thought of me, all those milena ago:

I managed to get a job as a projectionist at the Gulbenkian cinema on campus, just four shifts every two weeks, which is fine. Getting back into that type of work has been great, and leaves me plenty of time for studies (especially on shift).

One of my modules is called Science Fictions - A Comparative Approach. I'm doing a presentation on Solaris next week, and it has gotten under my skin. Stanislaw Lem's 1961 novel concerns a psychologist travelling to the space station orbiting the ocean planet of Solaris, to investigate the strange reports and actions of the small team of researchers on board. Once there, the protaginist realises that Solaris has a very strange effect on the human mind, especially where guilt and memory is concerned. I've found the book distressing, and it can make shadows appear, especially at night. I have so much to say about it, and maybe I'll put something up here once the presentation is done.

That's it for now. Rushed, I know, but I'm still holding tight until this all slows down.

*Some names and events over the last few months have been changed/left out to protect the innocent.

Matt Slater, Wolverhampton

Vanessa Craig, Brisbane

Jenna Bartlett, Nebraska

Tim Conway, Aberdeen

Paul Edgars, Toronto

Sally Gittins, Co. Antrim