Category: Student


Poetry and Pints

Ok, I’m stealing the very clever title for the gatherings held by the English Society at Queen’s – but I’m stealing it because it so aptly describes a recent night.

This week I went to a poetry reading. I’ve been to prose readings before, but up until a few months ago you’d have been as likely to find me at a poetry reading as a football match. (I have been to both you understand, but neither would be high on my list of top entertainments). We were there en masse from the MA course – partly because we’re all ‘writers’ now, and partly to support one of the readers – poet Paul Maddern, who teaches us http://www.templarpoetry.co.uk/paulmaddern/index.html. He was reading, along with Alex Wylie.

So, there we all were, crammed into the Crescent Arts Centre auditorium. It was another reminder of the shift in orbit my life has taken. The gathering was like a Who’s Who of the literary world of the Seamus Heaney centre – writers, journalists, poets, lecturers – and students of all the above. Not a politician to be seen though.

I was there to show my support too, and not really expecting to be really engaged with the whole thing – but it was amazing. Alex Wylie http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SeamusHeaneyCentreforPoetry/pal/alexwylie/ is clearly one of the bright young stars of the Seamus Heaney centre. Listening to and reading poetry again, after so many years, has made me realise it’s not a test – you can just enjoy it on whatever level you access it. I would love to read Alex’s work though, as on first hearing I was sometimes running to catch up.

Paul read some of The Beachcomber’s Report from the collection of the same name and absolutely spirited me away. As I gushed to him afterwards: “It was like a novel!” High praise indeed from me, whereas one suspects probably not what most poets want to hear. But what I meant was,  that it took us on a journey – a journey that ranged from Donegal to London and in between – and it compelling and engaging – rather than leaving us wondering what it was all about. I loved it.

So, bouyed up by literary enthusiasm and cheap red wine, our ‘group’ – the young’uns, the Carrick Lovely, and me – sat and chatted and eventually drifted to a nearby bar. Now here’s the worst thing about being a student – everyone shuffles up to the bar and orders their own drink. Of course totally sensible when we’re all living on a shoestring, but it seems so anti-social! But, even so, one drink led to another, and the chat ebbed and flowed, until, perhaps unsurprisingly in such a diverse group, age came up. I actually thought the young’uns were in theri mid-twenties, they seemed so mature. But no, it transpired they were all 21. The Carrick Lovely was admitting to early thirties I think, and then came my turn. I think, by the time you’re in your mid-forties, age has become pretty irrelevant, so I blithely spilt the beans. Most gratifyingly, there were disbelieving looks all round. “We thought you were 35!” gasped one of the young’uns. I was delighted, until I thought about it and realised that at 21, you can’t really imagine age beyond 35!

 

 

 

 

A new beginning

As the excellent political analyst Alan In Belfast asks,  http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.co.uk/  - does the world really need another blog? The answer to that is that it most definitely does need one like his, but it probably doesn’t need one like this quite so much!

However, that’s not going to stop me I’m afraid!

Having spent the last twenty years as a journalist, I have taken redundancy from my job with the BBC and made the mid-life-crisis like decision to return to university. But I’m not just studying any old course. Oh No. I am testing the life-long belief that all journalists have that they can write a novel, and I am studying towards an MA in Creative Writing.

This move has changed my life – and my buying habits – considerably. It’s an adventure, it’s a challenge, but it’s also something that I feel could decend very easily into cliche – a bit like my writing. However, although I am lucky enough to have chosen this, rather than to have had it thrust apon me, I suspect that the kinds of changes I am having to make will resonate with a lot of people. Whatever your circumstances I will bet that your life is not the same as it was two years ago. And increasingly I hear from people who still have the ability to make a choice, that they no longer want to live in the same way. So maybe these posts will have some relevance to others. I hope so.

But for now, let me entertain you with my experiences of being a student again! Although I am by no means the eldest in my classes, I am certainly among the oldest, and that includes the tutors. This was brought home to me forcibly when, during Freshers Week, I was handed  a free condom by a young woman advertising a night at a bar. Mutley, as my partner shall be known here, said, “Just the one? That’s not going to be much of a night…” But after I had chortled, it gave me a pang. If the university experience is about experimenting with sex, drugs and rock’n’roll – where does that leave you when you’re happily settled in a relationship, and can no longer drink more than a couple of glasses of wine??

Well, watch this space…

 

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