I have recently come back from Spain where I spent a week with my sister, her partner and my mum. It was a little warm; 37 degrees most days and on one occasion the humidity rose to around 80% causing my swollen ankles to reach new levels of tumescence. So attractive.
These excessively large measures did wonders for my own language skills, and when introduced to a French woman who was the friend of a friend of my sisters (are you following this?), I suddenly became totally bilingual. The next time we met, naturally enough this woman expected me to parlez, but I was sober by then and not quite so fluent, although she was evidently overjoyed at my attempts to at least try. I couldn’t really understand why, since my French is distinctly average at best, perhaps a couple of stages up from ‘la plume de ma tant’, but nothing to write home about! Tres amusante n’est pas? Apparently the woman she was staying with speaks no French whatsoever, so quite what their friendship is based on is a bit of a mystery. No wonder my many blunders were so readily overlooked; she probably would have remained mute for days had I not come along.
I brought back a few gifty type goodies for my husband, who was largely pleased with them. Perhaps he might not have been quite so pleased had he known that my €20 excess baggage fee went on his credit card... My case weighed nearly 14.9kg on the way out there, but a weeks worth of gin and tonics caused me to forget I was on the brink of my 15kg allowance, so it came as a surprise to find I was toting 17kg on the return journey. My mums case only weighed 13.5kg, so in my book went (remember, I do have GCSE maths so I am an expert now). That means my case was in fact only half a kilo’s worth overweight if you take into account the combined weight of both allowances. After much discussion and not a little heated exchange, the lovely Ryanair representative would not budge on their promise of giving you absolutely nothing unless you pay for it, including their airport trolleys which now cost a non-refundable €1 to use and are kept in a corral, rounded up and herded into a compound where they stand forlorn in the hope someone will take pity on them and put money in the slot to release them.
So, I had either to open my case and remove stuff whilst running the risk a week’s worth of dirty knickers cascading onto the concourse, or pay up. For the sake of my sanity and to lessen the spectacle, I decided to pay and get it over with. In the meantime of course the people queuing behind us waiting their turn at the check in desk were sighing and shuffling their feet in that holier than thou ‘we would never do anything so dumb’ manner people adopt, when in reality they are only thankful it's not them who’s on the spot! Of course the excess baggage payment desk is across the other side of the bloody airport, so by the time I got back I think they wanted to kill me.
It's my sons birthday today, and whilst I was away in Spain speaking no Spanish and eating burgers at Bobby’s, it was my husbands birthday too. So yesterday I took the pair of them on an English birthday treat to a pub in Birmingham where at least 20 real ales are guaranteed available at any one time. The place was heaving when we arrived, not least because a band of merry Morris dancers had decamped there for the afternoon, and were giving their legs a rest in favour of their vociferous vocal chords. It has to be acknowledged that they were in fine voice and quite entertaining, but I perhaps made the teeny weeny mistake of knowing some of their tunes (but not their words), and so joined in. Not the best move I have ever made to be honest; could I get rid of this bad breathed bearded inebriated hanky waving numpty who came and sat beside me – not a chance. It was only when one of their number decided it would be a good idea to do one of their dances IN the pub, that he stumbled away. A lot of table re arranging and bell tinkling later, they moved on to another venue, leaving a strange calm in their wake. Their head honcho had shouted out improvised indoor dance instructions via a loud hailer crafted from an inverted brass conical decanter with the bottom cut out, and the echo from that together with a percussion section comprising a bloke on the spoons and someone playing an upturned plastic dogs bowl drum, was becoming a little too much in a confined space! Full marks for ingenuity and inventiveness, even if it was all a bit Heath Robinson.
Is it winter now? Only I have come back from Spain where the temperature was around 35ᴼ every day, and I cant believe how quickly I acclimatised to the heat, and how cold I now feel. As I said I hate high humidity, but it's pouring here today. I was hoping to have a barbecue or two before the winter set in, and was hoping to get a few tips from a friend whose husband expertly built a barbecue the size of a funeral pyre whilst they were on holiday, so described because they could have cremated a body on it had they wanted! I was thinking more along the lines of one of those disposable aluminium foil things from Tesco’s to be honest.
I have started Uni now and there was to start a frightening similarity with college. I experienced déjà vu immediately, negotiating my way round campus as I did, via the various toilets of which there are literally hundreds. To the exponents of literalism, no I haven’t counted them ok, but it took nearly two weeks for me to get some semblance of control over my nerves and consequently, my bowels, so it felt like hundreds! But here the similarity ends.
Timetables are not provided so I had to produce my own. One is advised when core lectures will be, thereafter registration for optional module lectures and seminars at the beginning of term, is a bun fight. I was put in mind of the January sales, queuing as we were outside the door in a swirling student mass. I didn’t spot any sleeping bags, but when the door opened everyone surged in, swept along on a tide of anticipation and hope. We had been briefed on procedure, but the reality was somewhat different. We were greeted by a labyrinth of red room dividers upon which were pinned lecture times and corresponding available seminar (tutorial) times. It was a question of getting close enough to be able to see to find your module, since all modules across the discipline were displayed, and then grabbing a seminar time best suited to your lecture. Naturally all the best slots had gone by the time I elbowed my way to the front!
That apart, everything is done electronically. My student card is also my library card, my NUS card, my ID card and my gateway to the eateries dotted around campus. All lecture and seminar notes, all essential readings, all forthcoming events, all notices and announcements, all reserving of books is done online. So if you don’t regularly navigate around and miss something as a consequence, its entirely tough shit I’m afraid. Trust me, even though I am a self-confessed non computer savvy technophobe, Warwick has recently been recognised as: Warwick most digitally-savvy UK university “Warwick is the UK's most digitally savvy university according to a recent survey by Virgin Media Business. The University comes out tops when it comes to using online communication channels, scoring 92 per cent for use of intranets, virtual tours, and social media presence to attract students”.
What could be more fun?! Today I had to download a zip file from Project Gutenberg, establish the format I needed for the download, and then unzip it in order to get to the chapter I needed about the words of wisdom from Alexis de Tocqueville. Fortunately it was in English and not French, though quite honestly it would have made little difference for all I understood it. There's a lot to this Sociology business so I am beginning to realise.