A Creative Weekend

Screenshot 2015-02-22 at 22.20.55 It’s been an interesting weekend, that is for sure! A meal out with friends exploded into a fully formed story idea by Saturday night, which looks like it will be fun to write together if we decide to take that up. Either way, that definitely got the creative juices flowing. Working on a weekend isn’t exactly my idea of fun but I have managed to do half of the reading for tomorrow’s Stuart Britain seminar as well as flicking through Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Death of a Salesman and All My Sons. Waiting for Godot and Endgame were also for a seminar, for which I am doing a seminar presentation on Endgame…. Screenshot 2015-02-22 at 22.23.50 I have learnt recently that the Introduction to Drama set texts are not the most uplifting things to spend your weekend skimming through! Looked through Death of A Salesman and All My Sons and have the first quotes prepared for my English formative essay, as well as some general ideas for further reading that I’m going to do to try and get the essay off to a good start.

Alongside a JCR meeting and reading copious amounts of FanFiction (as well as, strangely, replaying a game I used to love – Corporation Inc) and finally finishing it, I also wrote a short fanfiction piece. I’ve linked to it in case anyone wants to check it out as it is as close as I am going to come to sharing a recent piece of my work! Well, I have five hours of lectures and seminars tomorrow, which will of course be incredibly fun. Because I love my degree and everything. Well, at least some of it, anyway. I can’t decide how much of that sarcasm was deliberate. As always, I’m going to write a little bit of my novel today as well — can’t miss that part of the day out!

Final word count for the day on novel only – 571 words

Night all, Emma x

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Phew.

As you’ll be able to tell from my lack of posts recently, I’ve been all caught up in university drama.

Today I wrote a two thousand word essay, attended a lecture on China’s Great Divergence, spent some time with friends and wrote approximately 579 words on my novel – finishing the scene I’ve been working on for the last fourteen days. There are some tweaks in terms of medical procedure that I’m going to have to make and I’m going to need to investigate some of the technicalities, but I’m quite happy with it as a rough shape to work with.

From complications with friends to essays to extracurriculars, my time and energy for writing as been quite limited but I still want to aim for a first draft to be completed by the time I leave Durham for the Easter holidays. 

Much love,

Emma

Why No Daily Posts?

Well, I’ve been insanely busy at uni… which goes towards explaining it somewhat.

I’ve:

  • Written two essays, with a minimum word count of 1800 words. One was on early medieval queenship and the other on the political situation in England in the 1650s. Those required a lot of work.
  • Started work on a third essay – yay?
  • Wrote some articles for student newspapers and been involved in an interview with a journalist on students’ views about a topical local issue.
  • Attended my second college ball, one of the biggest events of the year!
  • Creative Writing soc meetings.
  • Time with my friends of course.

Busy, busy, busy! I’ve still been writing daily as my NY Resolution says, even if it is only a little bit, but I haven’t had the time to focus on the blog — it’s been a case of write or blog and I know which one is more important to me, even if i do love blogging.

Slightly awkward cropped image of me towards the end of the night, probably after 4am….

Screenshot 2015-02-11 at 22.18.31

Night!
Emma

We bought a tarantula but had to sell him because he scared our housemates

Originally published in February 2015 on The Tab Durham

He can skateboard

Pets in student houses are a hairy issue and that’s ignoring the whole issue of what kind of pet it is. A goldfish, sure, your housemates might put up with that. A much beloved stray cat or dog might be accepted into the fold, as long as they don’t interrupt student life.

But a massive spider? Or, to be more precise, a “Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula”? Definitely not.

As two Durham second years discovered when they impulsively bought a tarantula online, they aren’t quite as easy to deal with as traditional pets.

Tom Pawley told us how his experience meeting Fluffy for the first time was totally different to most people’s experience of bonding with a new pet. “The postman just turned up to our house with a standard looking parcel, he clearly had no idea there was a fucking tarantula inside it,” he says.

“I kind of felt bad for him, but we were shit scared too.

“He came in like a takeaway inside a standard delivery box too. It was super weird. Poor spider had no idea what was going on.”

“It took us a solid twenty minutes to get him from the box into his enclosure, using tongs and various other kitchen utensils to avoid actually having to put our hands anywhere near him. Lots of screaming was involved too!”

They were aware that their housemates were seriously unlikely to bond with Fluffy as they had and plotted a way to keep their new found buddy.

“We kept him hidden in the house over the whole weekend too, we were trying to strategise a technique as to how we could make our housemates warm to him, but it turns out it’s not so easy to get people to establish an emotional connection with a massive venomous tarantula.

“Naming him Fluffy was part of our attempt to de-criminalise him.”

Sadly calling the spider Fluffy didn’t make things any easier for Tom and James’ housemates.
“Initial reactions were those of surprise and confusion, this quickly turned into anger, followed by hysteria, as the realisation of an actual housemate inhabiting house set in, one housemate even vomited.

“Any attempts to try and defuse the situation were both desperate and futile, and within the hour we were given the ultimatum.”

In the wake of Fluffy’s eviction, desperate attempts ensued to sell the poor creature on the popular Facebook group “Overheard at Durham Uni“.

The post was much more developed than the average For Sale ad. As well as a written description of Fluffy’s possessions (a “house, food and friendly banter”), there was a video of him to allow prospective new owners to see him in action.

On the Facebook post, which now has over five hundred likes, one of Fluffy’s owners James Hudson declared that the pet was “one of those online impulse purchases”.

Fluffy was purchased on the day of the Facebook post and with Fluffy now sent to his new owners, James Hudson and Tom Pawley have released a statement: “It’s been a stressful and difficult few days since our separation from Fluffy. Due to the emotional trauma that ensued, James and I have both had to contact various members of university staff to seek extensions on our summative deadlines.

“We are consoled only by the knowledge that Fluffy is a strong independent spider and can take forth the knowledge that we gave him, to venture into the world and be the best tarantula he can be.”

Tom also offered reassurance to those who fear tarantulas: “I think most people would adapt if given the chance to just hold one for a few minutes. We were literally just as fearful of spiders as any other person at first but he was so chilled out we just sort of got used to him. It turned out he was actually a pretty cool guy.”

At the bargain price of thirty pounds “or highest bidder” it can’t help be wondered whether the new owner of Fluffy also made an impulse buy of their own.

Durham fresher’s mum raises funds for river safety improvements

Originally published in February 2015

The mother of a Durham fresher has started a JustGiving campaign to fund improvements to the safety of the River Wear.

Janis Penn hopes the campaign will provide “safety measures that would not be an aesthetic intrusion to the area”.

After the recent deaths of three Durham University students, the issue of river safety has been broadly discussed throughout the community.

For Janis, the issue of river safety “hit home” after hearing about Euan Coulthard, then still missing. She lives around “200 miles away” and prior to this, was not fully aware of the dangers posed by the River Wear in Durham.

She told The Tab about how important she felt it was to act in order to prevent future tragedies.

She said: “Being a mother my instincts are to protect… I felt heartbroken for Euan’s parents and for the other two students’ parents.

“My heart goes out to the families.”

Inspired partially by the campaign of Katie Cutler to raise money for Alan Barnes, a disabled man who was attacked close to his home, Janis hopes that the money raised will help to make the river safer.

With regards to the issue of student drinking and its relationship to incidents, she occupied a welcomed middle ground.

While she agreed “students should be looking out for each other”, she also stressed how “precautions around the river banks which are permanent fixtures would have a lasting impact.

“I agree the students appear to be intoxicated and that could be a factor…there is some responsibility with the drinking but if the river wasn’t there it wouldn’t be happening.”

The focus of Durham University, the police and council has largely been upon education, with measures such as £50,000 provided by the council for a “social norms campaign”.

Janis pointed out that the pending review by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents “might give a different angle” to the issue of river safety than is currently being provided.

She said: “How many deaths does it need to take before it’s realised that it’s not just drunken students?”

In light of recent events, Janis has seen just how important improved river safety measures are. She asks that students tell their parents about her campaign.

“Mothers like me might donate. Any money, however small, whatever it does to benefit this is a good thing,” she said.

Her fundraising campaign has already been supported by parents of other Durham University students.

With members of the public such as Janis feeling that they should act to “protect vulnerable students, or indeed, other members of the public”, it is possible that the steps which are currently being taken by official bodies will not be enough to satisfy the public.

For more information about the “Safety for Durham Students” campaign visit the JustGiving website.

Now Durham clubs will breathalyse you on entry

Originally published on The Tab Durham in February 2015

Breathalysers are set to be introduced in some Durham bars.

The use of breathalysers at the door will first be piloted only be establishments which agree to it.

And, if you’re twice the drink drive limit, you may be refused entry andoffered help returning home.

The controversial measures will also affect local residents, despite the City Safety Group’s focus on student drinking.

Attempts to curb student drinking are not new however. A college source told The Tab how discussion at Josephine Butler College of “breathalysing freps” took place as early as the 2014 Freshers’ Week.

After recent deaths in the River Wear, police and other interested bodies such as the City Safety Group are concentrating on the issue of alcohol awareness.

Punters have been quick to draw attention to potential problems with the introduction of breathalysers.

Hatfield second year Charlie Capel said: “The issue with breathalysing people on the door is that students are simply going to be pushed away from the clubs to house parties that are not monitored by anyone who is sober.”

After the announcement of the plans yesterday, City Safety Group chair Terry Collins said: “I am sure this demonstrates the wide-range of actions which have been undertaken within just a few days, as well as the important of partnership working in tackling the complex issues which comprise city safety.”

“However, it is extremely important to bear in mind that the agencies and organisations involved can work together to implement a whole range of changes and improvements in city safety but none will replace the need for people to take responsibility for how much they drink.”

Requests for improved safety measures such as fencing of the river have been largely dismissed in a hardline focus on alcohol related causes.

Police chief: We don’t need to fence off the river – just don’t get so paralytically drunk

Originally published on The Tab Durham in February 2015
[Note that most quotations from other news sources]

After the deaths of three Durham University students in the River Wear in recent months, the same question is being asked by all in the local community. What can be done to prevent others falling victim to the same tragic circumstances?

The focus of the police is firmly on the controversial issue of student drinking. Speaking to the BBC, Durham’s Chief Constable Mike Barton drew links between the circumstances in which the students died.
He said: “One thing connected these three young men who died in the river and that was they were so paralytically drunk they were not in control of their bodies. They have then walked or stumbled into the river.”
Despite the recent petition signed by over 15,000 people and supported by the Prime Minister, Mike Barton said: “Some people are saying this means we have to fence off the river. No we don’t.”

“What we need to look at is the personal responsibility of young men and women who are coming away to university, starting their lives and who need to behave a bit more socially responsibly.

“I was incensed when I heard some representatives of the student body saying the answer is for more police officers. It is ludicrous that society is asking me to put police officers on the riverbank to stop bright young things falling in. What sort of world have we come to?”

While his comments are likely to provoke debate, especially among the student body, alcohol awareness is clearly the focus of the police.

P.C. Mike Irwin, who tweets under the handle @AlcoholHarmCop, spoke to ITV correspondent Greg Easteal about his concern regarding student drinking and the impact he believes it is having on river safety.
He said: “What’s alarming me and my colleagues is the levels of alcohol that’s been consumed by the students. They’re putting themselves in a really risky situation on numerous occasions.
“We can’t be babysitters for the students on a night out. We have other responsibilities as well as policing the students in the city.
“We need the students to take personal responsibility for what they’re drinking because what we’ve now seen is that not only are they risking their own lives, but they’re now risking the lives of our officers and of the fire officers who pulled that lad out last week.”
“And that, for us, is enough.”

The Acting Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, Professor Ray Hudson, yesterday released a statement regarding the measures that will be taken to protect the university’s students.

“Durham University’s senior management is treating the matters of student safety and excessive alcohol consumption with the utmost seriousness.”

“We are committed to taking action but we recognise that these are issues which can only be addressed through a multi-agency approach. Addressing the alcohol culture which has developed in our society as a whole will involve a major shift in attitudes.”

Notably, the statement listed seven methods that are currently being used within the university in the hopes of improving safety. Each of these focused on alcohol awareness and personal safety, while none of the suggestions that the “University and Durham Students’ Union are working with our partners in the City Safety Group on” made mention of improved infrastructure.

Tab man Charlie Capel showed ITV correspondent Greg Easteal metal posts which previously were attached to “wrought iron gates” blocking the steps by Framwellgate Bridge, where Euan Coulthard was last seen.

Capel, who works at Hatfield College bar, provided perhaps the most sensible suggestion – blocking access to the river from these stairs “say between the hours of 11 and 4am” and so allowing, during the day, “sober citizens… can go down to the river when they do need to.”

This acknowledgement about the importance of both alcohol and a lack of safety measures to river safety is perhaps the closest Durham will come to a united voice on what must be done to protect residents and students.

Comment competition runner-up: Is Valentine’s Day bad for relationships?

February 2015
Palatinate Comment

First, let’s consider the origins of this ‘holiday’. Valentine’s Day is named after a saint, Saint Valentine, who was actually executed. According to one story, he had his head lopped off. So when you celebrate Valentine’s Day you are actually celebrating the feast day of a very unlucky guy, not exactly the best excuse for a romantic rendezvous with your partner, is it? Then, there’s the Valentine’s Day Massacre but let’s not get into that….
Can you tell I’m single? I should probably get that out of the way, as if it might somehow invalidate my comments if I later rely on something I failed to mention. I am single but perhaps that makes me more qualified than anyone to see just how bad Valentine’s Day can be.

I’ve seen the way previously cool and collected friends start cooing over boyfriends and wondering what they will get for the ‘big day’. The answer is usually a box of chocolates or wine, no surprises there.

Valentine’s Day creates a culture where you are expected to express your feelings for your significant goods through material goods rather than words or actions. That will always lead to disappointment or even unfair comparisons. If your current boyfriend isn’t interested in grandiose shows of affection then that doesn’t mean he cares for you any less.

Be honest. While that box of Thorntons was a thoughtful gift, was it really necessary? After all, Valentine’s Day is a construct and it’s just another day, sandwiched between two ordinary days days. Well,that’s a lie. The day before is arguably more important. It is Friday the 13th, a day for superstition and fear, which is both rarer and more intriguing than Valentine’s Day.

I’ll grant that Valentine’s Day can be lovely when you are in a relationship but when you aren’t, or when that relationship is still being defined, it can be uncomfortable. In both your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend and also the way in which you feel about yourself, Valentine’s Day can be either an immensely uplifting or an incredibly disheartening experience.

Which of these it is depends,unfortunately,on your own circumstances.

Happy Valentine’s Day?