Wednesday, May 30, 2007

End of days

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." I can't remember who it was that said that, but it seems fitting now. A torrid few days of past-midnight finished in Uni, then one final up-til-5am before getting up at 8.30am to hand it all in the same morning. Not a degree that has ever really been keen to go quietly, naturally the CD-writing didn't work first time round, and it was stress stress stress (stupidly tired, hungry and armed with a pair of scissors while shakily cutting out my final piece of work) til about 11:30am before a 12pm deadline.

That was, however, it. A week that had seen me watch ITV quizcall til the early hours, order a Domino's pizza to Weymouth House and go without a much needed food shop was over (the two rather obviously linked), and with it, three years of University, an entire degree, the end of life marshalled by education. It really was, in a way, the first day of the rest of our lives.

The relief at getting that final work in was replaced almost instantly with a feeling of not knowing how to feel, apart from tired, still. The warm realisation that there went the final piece of coursework I'm ever likely to do was balanced by the shock that the place that had been the centre of my life for three whole years was going to simply send me out into the world without so much as a tender goodbye, barely even a mention. Meanwhile, the prospect of a glorious summer of freedom ahead filled with fun times, fantastic friendships and experiences that only a cycle of time spent at University can create was tempered by the nagging reminder that, in the long term, things were certainly going to change when the sun goes down. Yes, no more Uni work; instead, the five day-a-week 9-5. The pauper's life of living off the student loan is replaced by having to pay off the student loan. Would you rather be meeting deadlines or targets? Can I risk going out tonight, or just start living for the weekend?

There is no way in words or pictures to sum up the last three years of my life sufficiently. Picutres: I'd need thousands from digital cameras that have probably been broken numerous times and photo albums that existed only on someone's old laptop. Words: I could write a dissertation-length narrative describing everything about University. Every single night out, ever. Getting tea in the break in Research Methods. The open top buses to Uni in summer. Friday afternoon lectures. When Elements used to be good. Literally, something worth talking about happens every week while you're at Uni, and the habits that you grow into don't become boring, they become lovingly kept up, looked forward to. The same old places hold new experiences. The great times are prolonged until the dark times can no longer be avoided, but are instead managed and got through by the promise of further great times on the other side. To the Uni, I'm just a name or a number, either 99109116 or bournemouth/d1163660, class of '04, but to me, the Uni and the three years I've spent here has and have been literally life-changing.

They say at the beginning of your degree that starting University is the biggest shift in your life. What they forget to add is "...until you finish". Throughout Uni, there's always been the 'next' thing; the next essay, that presentation, minor exams, second year, longer essays, the placement to sort, final year, the dissertation, more essays, revision. It's only now that the conveyor belt of University deadlines and landmarks has given way to a gaping chasm, called What Now? As one door closes, another opens, but it will be a few long weeks yet before I'm ready to step into the light.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Missing Madeline

Or 'Maddie' as the empathetic press have dubbed her.

I was moved to make some form of comment on this now international news story after watching BBC News 24 try badly to get a rise from a Portuguese spokeswoman about the competence of the Portuguese police and, because I have a lot of time for the BBC, it made me angry.

BBC's line of questioning went in the direction of asking this spokeswoman how the Portuguese were reacting to the British press' accusations of substandard police work and poor organisation and so on. The Portuguese spokeswoman started out by saying how shocked and concerned the country is with news, and then, quite rightly, said how surprised they've been that the fantastic institution that is this country's press has decided to focus on the work of the police and criticise that.

This is, of course, typical of British journalism. Not content with having a three year old Briton girl missing in a foreign country - and, according to latest police theories, kidnapped for a paedophilia ring - our national papers decide to attack the work of the Portuguese police, in a move that will surely inspire confidence in the family, and will raise up in their readers the usual British nationalism stuff. You can almost feel the tabloids, itching to say 'Well, if she'd gone missing in our country, she'd have been found by now'.

But that's not even the point. The BBC, usually able to detach itself from such a mess, instead goes and gets in even deeper, by focusing on those papers being critical of the police, as if THAT is the story!! I mean, come on BBC! It's the British tabloids! What do you expect of them? They're not going to report on the missing girl story objectively when it presents such a clear opportunity to invoke emotions in their readership that they don't really feel.

The Portuguese spokeswoman also managed a dig of her own against the British press, and had clearly been doing her research. There are, she said, 20 missing children in the UK under a certain age - I forget which - including several under 2 years old. Where are the front page stories about these children? What makes Madeline so different? Being blonde, photogenic and missing in a foreign country? What sort of criteria are they, except for making a better news story?

Cynical me again, of course. I'm just disappointed that in the 8 days this young girl has been missing, already the press have put scapegoats in place while they wait idly with nothing better to write, until the juicy finale in which she turns up dead or, miracuously is returned. Of course, everyone hopes for the latter...but we all know which outcome would run and run in the papers longest.