Archive for the 'Students and University' Category

Regrets, so painful, that I’ll carry forever.

In St Mark's Square, Venice, wearing an outfit that I didn't even like back then, let alone now.

Things that I regret:

  • Not allowing moments to be special. My prom, leaving school, even being at school, birthdays, holidays, being part of big stage productions, I let it all flash past without taking any notice of it.
  • Not taking more photographs. I wish I had pictures, to help remember the memories I try to look back on.
  • Not properly bothering about what I wore, or how I looked.
  • Being too afraid to take chances, and letting opportunities slip past.
  • Not having enough confidence to feel comfortable physically.
I have a feeling, though, that it might not be my fault.  In the last ten years or so it has become Zeitgeist to celebrate the special moments, to photograph everything, to cherish moments with friends, to appreciate how special every day at high-school and college actually are, to revel in and enjoy wearing clothes every day, to have an identity.  It was only when I was about twenty that I discovered clothes, real music, photographs, memories, special moments.  Before that time, around 2002 I would say, it seemed that we just existed, getting from one moment to the next, just *being*, and not celebrating it.  I’m almost sure it has to do with background.  Nineties, northern, working class, being special just didn’t happen.  At school we all had identical pencil cases, shoes, coats, bags, hairstyles, no-one was different.  It was a very dreary, rainy, grey existence, where you didn’t have chance to appreciate something as being special.  I watch episodes of Glee or The OC now, and everything they do is a celebration; one long prom, and high-school is magical, just as it should be.  Looking back, I did have magic, in my small group of friends, we laughed and had moments, but never appreciated them.  I think I might have seven photographs of me, if that, for the whole time I was at school and college.  In one of them I’m wearing a Manchester United football top, lying on the grass in London.  I wish I could live then, as I am now.

Glee's American Dream

On the night of my prom I got ready in the bathroom at home.  It was the first time I’d ever had a proper up-do, and my dress was from Topshop (before Topshop was popular in Runcorn).  I heard the limo beep downstairs, panicked because I thought I had to be in it NOW, and ran downstairs.  My family were all waiting with cameras, but I wouldn’t stop, I ran straight past them, out of the house, and into the limousine, and my Grandad just managed to get a photo of me from behind that’s a bit blurry.  Everyone else has beautifully posed photographs, a treasured keepsake of their sixteen year-old self, to keep forever, and all I was bothered about was that I might keep the driver waiting.  In fact, they’d come early, specifically to give us chance to have photographs taken.
I’m not exactly cool now (far from it), but I wish I’d had the confidence that I have now to defy what I look like and at least *feel* cool, back then.
At primary school I was always a tomboy, never quite felt like a little girl. I’m on the front row, at the end on the left.
Everything was identical, nothing was allowed to be creative or pretty, it was black, ugly, and smelled slightly of sweat.  I’m at the front, crouching on the ground.
The person in the tracksuit is the teacher.  She wasn’t even a P.E teacher.  I liked her though, she once said that when I go on stage I ‘light up’.
 Even in rehearsals, doing what makes me what makes me most happy, I never allowed myself to feel like a real actor, never enjoyed the moment.
One exception to the rule, a moment always guaranteed to make me feel special and glow with pride, is taking the final bow at the end of the performance.

This was one of the first nights when I hadn't planned or expected it to be special, I'd just gone out to a local amateur dramatic awards evening, not expecting anything, and it turned into one of the most special nights of my life. Even though I hadn't thought much about my outfit, it felt right, and I felt confident in myself. As I walked casually onto the stage and was presented with the trophy and handed a bottle of champagne, I was grinning. It was a truly special moment, that I hadn't seen coming.

Maybe that’s the point, perhaps when you plan something so strictly, and build your expectations up, waiting for something perfect and significant, it somehow never manages to *feel* significant.

This was the night of my twenty-first birthday. It was one of the first occasions when I'd spent time thinking about my outfit, and really made an effort. Somehow, I managed to feel radiant.

The good thing is that I have, thankfully, learned.  I still haven’t got it perfected, but I’ve learned that that feeling of surety and inner-poise doesn’t come from how you look, or from careful planning, it comes from feeling confident and at ease in your own skin, and THAT is what I have learned.  I still look as awkward and freakish as ever I did, but I’ve managed to overcome it, and to feel good about myself, even though I know I don’t look how I’d like, or sound how I’d like, or anything how I’d like.
I try to stop myself regretting, and to only allow positive thoughts to develop, but I can’t help wishing I could have those times back, to live those days again, as myself as I am now. (If only to be thin again.) I’d listen to more music, wear better clothes, and cherish every single moment of the the youth that is so precious.  I feel sad and terrified that it’s slipping away, and at twenty-six next month, there isn’t much sand left in the hourglass.

The Stigma of Saying ‘I’m Lonely.’

One of the few things, and there aren’t many, that I’m too scared to say on Facebook or Twitter is that I feel lonely, and that’s because I’m worried people will think I’m weird. In truth, they probably would. Saying you’re lonely implies that you don’t have enough people in your life. The word ‘lonely’ paints a picture of a person with no actual friends, and someone who isn’t close to their family. At least, this is how I feel I would be portraying myself if I were to confess publicly to feeling alone, but it isn’t necessarily the case.

In the modern world we tend to be surrounded by hundreds of people, but most of them are acquaintances, rather than real friends. It’s especially the case with students. We add hundreds of people to our list of ‘friends’ on Facebook, but how many of these people could we actually ring up (if we even have their phone number), and ask for help with a problem, or ask for a shoulder to cry on, even ask to come out for a drink? Last Christmas, the one just gone, I sent out a message over Facebook to about forty of my friends, asking for their address. It occurred to me, as someone who is reluctant to yield to modernity, that I see these people every day, sit next to them in lectures, go out with them for evenings of drinking and laughing, share stories and jokes with them, have real friendships, and yet I don’t know where they live. I had phone numbers for a few of them, but no postal addresses. So I sent out this message, and received a fair few answers, and so I compiled an old-fashioned address book (I bought a Filofax. I’m very happy with it), and when December came I sent out Christmas cards to all of them, just like grown-ups did in the olden days.

Our friendships, and most of our day-to-day lives, are conducted entirely over the internet, through social networking sites like Facebook. I for one feel that we’re losing the traditional relationships and friendships that we used to have. I miss the days when you had one phone number, and you would say things like ‘find me in the book’, and would have to make sure you took ten pence with you when you went out so you could ring home. In those days, friends were friends. These days, we get along with people, we see their holiday pictures and know what they had for tea, we offer advice or support when they need it, we share their ups and downs, and all the details of their life, but if I’m being honest, of the people on my Facebook list, there are only a few that I feel able to ring up and ask to come out for a drink. That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of people on that list that I’d love to ask for a drink; there are, but I feel that if I did, they’d think I was weird. It’s a new social boundary. These new friendships aren’t based on solid foundations, like the old ones. Being someone’s Facebook friend often means you met them once when out in the pub, or you know them to say ‘hello’ to from some extra-curricular club. These people aren’t prepared for you to suddenly invite them round for pizza… are they? Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe they’d be delighted and flattered, and would love to build a more personal friendship. Maybe it’s me who’s too cautious. Maybe I’m the problem.

I have less than ten really good friends. By ‘really good friends’, I mean friends that have been in my life since I was thirteen, eleven, even four in some cases. These are friends I trust, and who really know me. I have 176 friends on Facebook, some of whom I haven’t spoken to in years. They are Facebook friends, but are they actually friends? There are so many of them who I’d love to meet up with, have a drink and a laugh with, who I’d love to know better. There are girls I’d love to go shopping with, but I always feel that if I invite them, they’d wonder why the hell I was asking them to go out, when they barely know me. Maybe that’s the point. The friends I’ve know since I was eleven already know whether or not I’m funny, weird or normal, how I feel about certain things, whether I’m being serious if I take the piss out of them, they know my sense of humour. It’s a frightening thing to suddenly talk to people who don’t know those things. Often, I post a comment on someone’s facebook then panic in case they don’t realise I’m joking. What about those people who have 700, 800, 900 friends on Facebook? How many of those hundreds of people would really classify as friends?

So, where did this all start? This blog wasn’t supposed to be about Facebook, but why it isn’t acceptable in today’s society to admit to feeling lonely. It stands to reason that most of us are. If we’re single, especially if we’ve been single for a long time, and we don’t get out as often as we should, and if our friends live at other ends of the country, as most of them often do, why is it so shameful to utter the word ‘lonely’? Is it because it implies weakness? It is because we think other people will automatically assume that we’re lonely for good reason, that we’re boring, horrendous people, who deserve to be lonely because no-one could bear to be friends with us? I don’t know, actually. I wish I did. What I do know, is that it should be easier to reach out to each other. There shouldn’t be a barrier between us, like there is. We should be able to hold out a hand to anybody, anywhere, and say ‘Hi, do you fancy a drink?’. Maybe that would make us even weirder, and even lonelier, I don’t know.

Procrastination, it’s not my fault!

Why is it, why the BLOODY HELL is it, that whenever I have a lot to do, or a train to catch, or somewhere to be at 6.00 pm, I find myself continually in my pyjamas with unbrushed hair, looking at strangers’ photographs on Facebook?

It seems that the ratio of how busy you should be, and how interesting things on the internet are, are in direct correlation.  Something I would ordinarily have absolutely no interest in suddenly becomes fascinating/highly important if I have ten minutes to wash the dishes, get dressed, and be out of the door to catch the train.  It must be a mechanism in my head.  If I know I should be doing something vitally important, I’ll suddenly become enthralled with the holiday snaps of the sister of someone I spoke to once when I was at college, six years ago.  In my defence, as all of my friends, peers and school colleagues are now around twenty-five, there is a constant influx of wedding photographs, baby photographs, status updates and relationship  changes to make me insanely jealous, so that when I should be straightening my hair and putting on my lipstick, ready to go out the door, I’m seething with envy that someone from school has just had their third child and got engaged.  It isn’t fair.  The internet, and particularly social networking, preys on the vulnerability of the emotionally unfulfilled and the lonely.

I’m not alone in this.  One beauty of Facebook is that at three o’clock in the morning, on deadline day, when a two-thousand word assignment is due in a mere few hours and I’ve only written a one-hundred word introduction, I can take comfort by the fact that at least ten of my classmates will also be awake, will also be equally behind with the assignment, and will also be trawling Facebook, looking for distractions.

Students: Deadline Rebellion

Deadline Rebellion
Vikki Littlemore

Why is it that all students, given weeks and months to prepare an essay or assignment, wait until the day before, the night before, even hours before the deadline? It seems to be an unspoken rule and inherent, mandatory compulsion. Students will spend time doing anything they can to avoid doing work and then panic and hyperventilate the day the assignment is due in. There is no better evidence I can offer than to confess that even now, as I type these words, I am approaching the deadline for 6,000 words of final assessments, due in tomorrow, and I’m only half finished. I’m powerless and simply cannot finish that work until I only have an hour left. This has been the case for every single piece of work I’ve completed this year, and I’m not alone. In this age of technological advancement, the Facebook Generation post status messages leading up to the deadlines of their work, informing their friends of their constantly updating word count or the fact that they haven’t even begun yet, effecting a form of communal atmosphere where classmates feel as though there are working alongside their colleagues. The sense of unity no doubt helps calm and encourage the desperate student and reassures that one is not alone. However, the time spent updating Facebook statuses could obviously be better spent completing the work.
The essay questions and assignment information are all provided at the very beginning of the course, meaning that effectively students have everything they need to complete all the assignments in the first week. Obviously this defeats the object and would negate the content of the course, but it does nevertheless illustrate the point that there is no reason to wait until a day before the deadline, there is ample time to prepare the work in advance. So why?

Is it deficit of time? This does understandably factor into the equation, as there are so many assignments due and so much reading to get through, that it is often difficult to get ahead and often one is merely keeping one’s head above water from one day to the next. This does however apply to the main body of the course, not the assignments. In my experience, students spend vast amounts of time socialising and flirting with alcohol, drugs and each other, and immense periods of time quite literally doing nothing, why then are they unable to complete work in advance? Speaking from very current experience (ie. while I’m typing this), it’s a psychological block. It’s the same principle as your parents telling you ‘don’t touch the iron, it’ll burn you’ and then eagerly waiting for the first opportunity to touch it, just to find out. When we are enforced to comply with something and denied the freedom to form our own judgement, we rebel by doing the opposite. The reason we touch the iron is because we are told not to, despite knowing full well for ourselves that we will inevitably be burnt. Similarly, because the deadlines and workload are enforced, we feel an overwhelming urge to rebel and therefore feel the need to decide for ourselves when we complete the work.
We know perfectly well that sensibly speaking we should begin the work well in advance, prepare it thoroughly and give ourselves plenty of time to complete it, but something in us, the rebel in us, feels compelled to deviate from protocol and decide for ourselves that we shan’t start the work until the date and time that we chose. Even though the brain advises against it, the heart demands that we assert our right to make the decision ourselves, the proverbial ‘cutting one’s nose off to spite one’s face’, doing it ‘just because’.

This is understandable. After twelve years of school and all the regimented discipline, rules and education with little or no freedom whatsoever granted from parents, teachers and the Government, we are suddenly handed on a golden platter the opportunity to decide something for ourselves, the first opportunity in our lives to rebel while remaining within the rules. It is a delicious and irresistible prospect. Why should we do the work when the university tells us we should? We can spend our time watching Jeremy Kyle and do the work in under an hour on the deadline date. It’s our choice to make, our right.

Our time as students has always been traditionally and inherently entwined with acts of rebellion and assertions of independence, whether it be political activism or staying in bed until three in the afternoon. It is the first time in our lives when we are truly independent and adult, allowed freedom and decisions. Unlike school, if we don’t attend a lecture, nothing happens. We don’t get detention and our parents aren’t informed. We have the freedom to make that decision, we decide for ourselves. Thus, the eternal state of studenthood is mythically linked with rebellion and anarchy.

So, is the reason for leaving work until the last minute so profound and dramatic as innate rebellion and a need for independence? Or is it so simplistic as laziness and preferring to drink until we fall over? Is there even a reason for it? Well, there must be, given that every student I’ve met acknowledges and practices this mystical and unwritten law. There must be some reason, or it wouldn’t be as innate and inevitable as it evidently is.

My conclusion is that I don’t know. I wish I did. I wish I knew why I was typing these words rather than completing my enormous piece of work, which is a very important final assessment, 50% of my course mark, and due in tomorrow, and which I haven’t even begun. It is impossible to answer but undeniable nonetheless. Students are powerless to this built-in inability to complete work in advance. As a good friend has just said; so it always has been, so it always will be. That’s it.

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Sylvia Plath said; "Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences". My aim in life is to find things and people to love, so that I can write about them. Putting words together is the only thing I can see myself doing. This blog is an outlet, and I hope you enjoy reading it. Please feel free to comment on posts, or contact me by the special e-mail I've set up ( with your thoughts.

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The New Remorse, Oscar Wilde.

The sin was mine; I did not understand.
So now is music prisoned in her cave,
Save where some ebbing desultory wave
Frets with its restless whirls this meagre strand.
And in the withered hollow of this land
Hath Summer dug herself so deep a grave,
That hardly can the leaden willow crave
One silver blossom from keen Winter's hand.

But who is this who cometh by the shore?
(Nay, love, look up and wonder!) Who is this
Who cometh in dyed garments from the South?
It is thy new-found Lord, and he shall kiss
The yet unravished roses of thy mouth,
And I shall weep and worship, as before.

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Music I Love (In no particular order, except that The Smiths are first)

The Smiths,
The Libertines,
The Courteeners,
Nina Simone,
Pete Doherty,
The Kills,
Amy Winehouse,
Arctic Monkeys,
Rod Stewart,
The Doors,
The Rolling Stones,
Etta James,
T. Rex,
The Jam,
The Kinks,
Jack White,
The Deadweather,
David Bowie,
The Winchesters,
The Cure,
Kaiser Chiefs,
The Kooks,
The Twang,
Kings Of Leon,
The Housemartins,
The Ramones,
Robots in Disguise,
The Klaxons,
Kate Nash,
The Raconteurs,
Regina Spektor,
Aretha Franklin,
The Contours,
Dirty Pretty Things,
The White Stripes,
New York Dolls,
Yeah Yeah Yeahs,
The Clash,
Style Council,
Velvet Underground,
The Horrors,
The Cribs,
Reverend and The Makers,
The Subways,
The Wombats,
Elle S'appelle,
The Troggs,
The Beatles,
Echo and the Bunnymen,
Florence and the Machine.

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

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Will it ever be alright for Blighty to have a Queen Camilla?

One less tree from our window each day

Vikki's bookshelf: read

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Of Mice and Men
Pride and Prejudice
The Hobbit
The Da Vinci Code
Tipping the Velvet
Wuthering Heights
The Picture of Dorian Grey and Other Works by Oscar Wilde
Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Irish Peacock & Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde
The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman
Moab Is My Washpot
The Bell Jar
The Other Boleyn Girl
On the Road
Brideshead Revisited
Revolutionary Road

Vikki Littlemore's favorite books »

Share book reviews and ratings with Vikki, and even join a book club on Goodreads.


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