Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Viking Raid

Really fun night last night: Viking Raid. That's a bit of a misnomer, I'll admit - it's more of a crawl. Without any Vikings. But a great deal of alcohol, which I'm pretty sure is historically accurate.

Everyone got their t-shirts earlier on in the day (there was, originally, a choice between a pleasant, albeit baby, blue and garish, shocking orange. Guess which was the only one they had left when I went there?), and then headed over to Derwent to get a couple of bendy buses into town (pictured right). I really love the bendy buses in York. They're purple. 'Nuff said.

With the routes printed on our backs (horribly impractical - they should have been upside down on our fronts), we set off into the big wide world in search of bars. And bars we found. I realise this is a bit of an alcohol-heavy post, but it was all in good fun. The route consisted of the Punch Bowl (a Wetherspoons), Montey's (a cocktail bar), BPM (which was closed when we first turned up), Flares (where they play ABBA and Blondie all night - bloody brilliant), Varsity (which was overpriced), Vodka Revolution (which we skipped because it was even more overpriced), the Slug and Lettuce, Lowthers and eventually Gallery.

We went to the Punch Bowl; it was packed, so we stayed for one drink and then headed off. We skipped Montey's for the same reason (and because it smelled like cabbage), and headed straight on to BPM. It was shut, so we continued to Flares. Fourth bar on the crawl, and we were there by 8:30. Admittedly, though, we did go back to BPM later on, which was quite pleasant - assuming you like the mingled smells of vomit and industrial-grade detergent.

I won't go into much more detail, as detailed accounts of drunken escapades can never lead to anything good, but suffice it to say we ended up having a really fun night. We did skip the penultimate two bars in favour of heading to Willow, which we'd heard good things about. It was exactly as it had been sold: a Chinese restaurant that changes to a nightclub and offers free prawn crackers all night. Also, completely empty. It was rather brilliant.

In short, although the name was misleading and the bars overcrowded, we had a really fun night. And a nice, long sleep afterwards. Just so glad I don't have a 9:15 this morning.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


I started to write this post on my phone, which was ridiculously exciting ("Feeling too lazy to get to your laptop? There's an app for that."), but then I closed the application by accident and lost the post. I guess even the great and wonderful Apple isn't without its faults.*

Basically, the gist of it was that I tend to think of blog posts as having to be very long and detailed accounts of everything going on in my life at the time, which is just silly - look at most blogs out there, and they're as boring as a three-hour Statistics lecture:

Today I woke up and looked at the birds. They were really pretty. Here's a poem I wrote about it:
Oh birds, birds, birds,
You are so lovely,
And your plumage is so colourful
It makes you look... dovely...


So anyway, I've started lectures now (*gaspshockhorrorgasp*). The first term of Psychology BSc at York is basically two modules: Scientific Skills for Psychologists (SSP) and An Introduction to Psychology as a Biological Science (ITP). SSP is, obviously, just two weeks' worth of Research Methods and Statistics packed into two months of lectures. Fortunately, though, the lecturer is really animated and enthusiastic, so she manages to maintain interest in the subject to the point where you suddenly realise after about an hour that you're still listening to the differences between Independent Groups and Repeated Measures.

ITP, on the other hand, is a collection of diverse and different lectures, each on a different topic and taken by a different lecturer. So, as you could probably guess, it varies quite dramatically. The first lecture we had was an introduction to the history and methodologies of Psychology (apparently psychologists carry out experiments. Who knew?), which was paradoxically engaging, while the second was Psychobiology and the Central Nervous System, but it was taken by a guy who just read the slides back to us.

Seriously. Quite possibly the most interesting field in the entire bloody subject, and I might as well have grabbed the lecture notes and left. Thoroughly disappointing. It's a good thing that the SSP lecturer doesn't use that approach, or I don't think I'd survive until Term 2.

Still, I read about the subject in the book later, and wrote up all my notes into nice pretty, colour-coded folders, which is ridiculously pleasing, so I can't really complain. And he did talk about his research into Alzheimer's and recognition of words based on age of acquisition, which was fascinating.

Ooh, but the best part of it is undoubtedly the fact that our tenth lecture is on Memory, and the lecturer is Prof. Alan Baddeley. Baddeley!! Of 'and Hitch' notoriety! He's a real person, and he's taking one of our lectures!! I'm sorry for the abuse of exclamation marks, but this is ridiculously exciting. Apparently Graham Hitch also works in this department, but he doesn't associate with Freshers. THEY'RE REAL PEOPLE!!!!!! Why was I not informed of this before? All of my Psychology teachers neglected to inform me of this important fact.

I'm also in the running to be a Course Rep for the Psychology Department on the YUSU Academic Affairs Committee. It's difficult to describe, but basically I get to yell at department heads until they pay attention to us little people down below. Not quite as exciting as discovering that psychologists are real, but still note-worthy, I feel.


*Note: Actually, the app isn't made by Apple, so I don't think they can be held accountable for its faults.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Here endeth the week...

My first week is now over. I have officially been here over a week now. This time last Sunday I was down in the kitchen with a cup of tea, chatting and making friends with my new housemates and eagerly anticipating a week of drunken revelry and little work - a state I plan to recreate in about half an hour.

Last night was odd. Most of the people in my house had bought tickets to Access All Areas (the campus-wide bar crawl), but when the time came to actually head out, we all found ourselves peculiarly reluctant. We were having much more fun in the kitchen, chatting and drinking (juice, obviously, being as we're students).

Eventually, however, the promise of the Cheeky Girls performing over in Derwent made us get up and leave. We had no idea where anything was, predictably, so we just went over to Vanbrugh, following the direction of the lights in the sky, until we happened across a bar or some such where something seemed to be happening.

I think we managed about two places before we gave up and went home (although I did spot a couple of people I knew out and about, which was nice), then I found another group who was just heading out as I came back. So out I went again, but that proved to be as fruitless as the last time (lost them around Vanbrugh again).

At this point, I decided that enough was enough, and so headed back and stayed up 'til 2 in the kitchen, as I seem to have spent most evenings this week.

Other than that, nothing much to report. I start lectures tomorrow (work? What is this strange concept?) and there's a Comedy Night tonight, starring Simon Bird from The Inbetweeners, which should be quite exciting. I hope he's funny.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Freshers Ball and Meet the Department

I'd like to say it's been a hectic couple of days, but... *ahem*

I've been making lots of shiny new friends, going to all the James events and generally having a whole lot of wholesome fun. Last time I posted something was Monday, which was the day of the Psychology ice-breaker and Freshers' Ball. My verdict follows:

Ap-cray onway away ickstay. Actually, it wasn't too bad. The ice-breaker was just weird. PsychSoc got all the Psychology freshers into a room and told us to mingle. Unfortunately, it was packed, and the lecture hall wasn't massive, so I ended up getting a bit claustrophobic and leaving. Did make a new friend or two out of it, though, so it wasn't a complete loss.

The Freshers' Ball was held at York Racecourse, and that was a real experience. We were supposed to get a bus to the venue at 8pm, there were supposed to be a few artists that everyone else assured me were real and fairly decent, and then we were supposed to get a bus back.

Problem #1: everyone in the university was getting the buses, so the queue stretched all the way from James to Vanbrugh, which is quite a way to queue. Unfortunately, the people in my house are too fun to have the patience to queue for so long, so we went back to our house (even those from the other houses came with us, because we're just that awesome), and had a few drinks to pass the time. Then, when we went back to the queue, one of us got glowsticks for being the last one in the queue, so we all had wrist and neck decorations. Success.

Problem #2: when we got there, we couldn't find the dance floor or, indeed, the live music. All we found was four floors of a lot of people packed into a small space, with loud thumping music coming from speakers and a bar (again, on every floor) with a queue to rival the bus queues. Not to mention that, at £3/pint, it was difficult to get drunk without breaking the bank.

Eventually we settled into a rhythm, sending scouts to buy a couple of drinks at a time while the rest of us guarded our carefully protected space in the centre. At some point, we did find some live music, but the main act that had been promised never turned up, so it was disappointing.

Don't get me wrong, though. As far as nights go, I've had a lot worse. Ended up walking around and forcibly making friends with vulnerable-looking freshers who had strayed away from their flocks. Can't remember any names, but it was fun at the time.

Then, of course, we decided not to get a bus back, as we were feeling lazy, so we just bought a taxi. Between a group, it was only a couple of quid each, so it wasn't bad.

Then today, I went to the Meet the Psychology Department thing. From drunken freshers to chatting about hippocampus shape and the effects on topographical awareness with doctors who are going to be publishing their work in upcoming journals, it was a really surreal experience. I was fully aware that I was talking too much, and that now the lecturers probably hate me, but it was a really enjoyable hour.

I don't think it had really sunk in before quite how awesome Psychology at uni would be. It's finally dawning on me, I'm happy to say.

And now I have to start getting ready for the James Bond formal this evening. I don't have a tux, or even a bowtie, so I'll just have to slum it and go in a suit. I'm such a slob. :P No doubt photos will be up at some point.

Monday, 12 October 2009

First night

Well, the first day/night here was really fun. And the fact that I can still look at a computer screen this morning is promising - I've been up since 7am, for Pete's sake. Haven't left my room yet (it was too cold to get out of bed, as I left my window open, so I read. Good times, I love it).

Met all of the people in my house yesterday, and we spent much of the day (after kicking the parental units out, naturally) sitting in the kitchen with tea and biscuits and just chatting. Then our 'Mums' and 'Dads' turned up. :\

Don't get me wrong, the system of second- and third-years helping Freshers and guiding them through the first week or so is a good one. It just seems a bit Freudian for a Psychology student to feel comfortable with. And trust me, Freud would've gone into some sort of fit.

Each house gets two Mums and two Dads. Ours were very nice, and brought us presents (a mug, bus timetables, a pencil and a personal alarm) as well as sweets and drinks, which immediately won everyone over. When in doubt, just bribe people with candy. Always works.

Then we had a fire and safety talk. What was it about, you ask? Well, I have no clue. I was sitting right at the back and the guys suddenly lost their microphone halfway through the talk, so all I got was something about starting fires and putting condoms over smoke alarms. Thanks for the ideas there, guys. Wouldn't have thought of those without your help.

After the talk, there was a barbecue. Well, I say barbecue. We were in a large restaurant hall, and on one side, the kitchens had burgers. This was the only reason people came to the talk, I think; so that they didn't have to cook for themselves on the first night. It was like a bloody stampede. One moment, you're sitting there craning to hear about why foreigners shouldn't be allowed to use ostrich burners (seriously, I have no idea what he was saying - this was the closest approximation I could get, having heard 'foreign students' and 'burners'. I added the ostrich bit myself), and then before you realise he's stopped talking, everyone in the hall is sprinting in the direction of the barbecues.

Gotta love that mob mentality.

But anyway, after that we walked into town. As my parents follow this blog, I can't in good conscience describe everything that happened. Needless to say, it was quiet evening of contemplation, chess and a single glass of wine each. That took half an hour to queue for. Seriously - drunk people in queues are bloody idiotic. You'd think that no one knew how to form an orderly line. It's all shouting, pushing and queue-jumping. Queue-jumping! Doesn't that still carry the death penalty in some areas of the UK?

Freshers Ball tonight, and a Psychology ice-breaker this afternoon, which is something to look forward to. It'll be nice to meet people from my course.

I have to go and investigate now. There's an odd rhythmic sound outside my window, like someone's beating some of that card they use to make thunder in theatres with a sock full of jellied eels. Possibly a fisherman?

Hm. Should probably go and grab some breakfast, though. I hear eating is a promoted idea in this day and age. I'm thinking full English, with a pot of coffee and a copy of the Times. I will be lucky to get a slice of burnt toast and a glass of tap water, methinks.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Leaving and Leaving You

Well, today was the day that I left home. I don't move in until tomorrow, but if I weren't already up here, I'd have to get up at stupid o'clock tomorrow to get here in time to move in, which would immediately put me in a bad place to be meeting new people. I mean, people would end up realising that I actually mean what I say and am a cantankerous old man in a 19 year old's body, instead of just being a sarcastic, if slightly caustic, young man.

You see, that's how I make friends. I try to be as pleasant and quiet as possible for the first couple of weeks, and then when I finally reveal my inner bastard, people think I'm just being funny. If and when they ever discover that I'm not joking, they're normally too emotionally invested that it would be socially awkward to back out of the interaction.

By the way, that technique is patent pending.

Anyway, I left the Home Shire today and headed up north, slowly feeling my tongue lose the ability to pronounce the word 'the' at some point between Junctions 22 and 23 of the M1. I was packed into the back of the car, all but sitting on top of my printer and suitcase. Packing up all my worldly possessions into the car sent me into a bit of a panic attack, but the hyperventilating disappeared at around the same time as 'the', so by the time we got to the M1 Services, I was able to get out and grab a round of coffees without my hands shaking so hard that I threw it all over myself.

We were driving up, steadily approaching Yorkshire along the motorway, and I decided that I wanted to get a picture of a sign saying 'Welcome to Yorkshire'. Other counties have them, so I thought it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to suppose that Yorkshire would.

Turns out that it was. The first thing you have to learn is that Yorkshire doesn't like Southeners, and so don't want to welcome you if you're coming from the South. I haven't come from the other direction, but I've no doubt there are golden gates and a heavenly chorus for everyone who enters from Durham.

However, I did see other signs. All the way up, you have signposts for 'The North'. This scared me somewhat. 'The North' sounds rather ominous, doesn't it? "Now entering 'The North'. Abandon all hope." Naturally, this impression is not an accurate representation of the North. These signs that seem to imply a Mordorian wasteland filled with wandering tribes of nomads who will charge and attack at the sight of something red is completely fallacious. They're actually provoked by any colour.

But I'm here now, staying the night with relatives in Barnsley and studiously avoiding making eye contact with any locals. Tomorrow I soldier on to York, storming the city and moving into a room where I can touch all four walls when standing in the middle.

On, on, on, on, to the breach, to the breach...

Friday, 9 October 2009

First complaint

OK, I don't want to start off on a negative, but here goes: why does York seem to want to start so late? It's October 9th and I don't move in for another two days, which is just plain ridiculous. Everyone else I know seems to have already finished Freshers' Week, developed flu, recovered and are halfway through their first term before I've even started.

Starting in October is just weird. Now, I know I'm probably on thin ice here, questioning the mighty Powers That Be within York University before I've even gone yet, but it does seem to me that I go there, have a week to settle in, and then I'm basically in the Christmas period. I won't have time to unpack before I need to book my train ticket home!

Now, being me, I've entertained the notion (several times (a day)) that this is all some elaborate hoax, and the University picks a Fresher or two at random every year and tells them the start date is October 11th, when everyone else has been working hard since the end of August. It would have to be that, because I've checked it several times; every letter, web page and phone call has told me that this is the correct date.

Having taken a gap year, this is kind of annoying. All my friends went off to uni during that year, leaving me behind (actually, I was the first one to leave, but that's rather incidental), and came back at Christmas with all of these (frankly pretty boring) tales of drunken debauchery and revelry interrupted by occasional half-hours of work. And this year, when I'm actually going to uni, I'm still the last one to get there.

Even one of my friends, who's going to the same uni as me, is going up a day early for some weird reason that only musicians can understand.

Not to mention that I am completely freaking out. I'm not completely packed (yes, it turns out you can procrastinate, even when you have nothing to do), and the stuff that I'm supposed to be taking just seems to keep growing, like the monster from a 1960s horror film. I didn't realise I had quite so much stuff. There is no way that all of that is going to fit into my little room.

I swear, I don't need that many saucepans. Or quiche dishes. And I very much doubt I'm going to be making that many casseroles - I should limit the dishes to two. Three at the most (I don't want to be caught unawares in the middle of a casserole crisis, obviously). What else should I get rid of? It's a choice between the toastie maker, blender, pineapple corer and the Sunday best china. Such difficult decisions...



Well, for starters, we'll have some introductions. My name's James and I'm a first-year student at the University of York, studying Psychology. For my own personal records, and to release some of my pent up genius and aggression (as well as to display my crushing humility and people skills), I have decided to keep a blog of my time living la vida estudiantil. I know. I'm probably the first person to think of this, ever.

First promise: I don't want to start being one of those annoying students who goes to uni and suddenly finds that they can't update anything interesting. I will upload as few blurry photos of drunk people and crowded bars as possible, and limit my "Christ, I've got a splitting hangover" Facebook statuses to 20% at most. I'll also try to make such updates as clever as a dry mouth, pounding head and dizzying nausea will permit.

Second promise: Well, there isn't one, really. I just thought it seemed silly to have a first promise without subsequent ones to back it up.

As I said, I'm keeping this primarily to stimulate my own recall of the events described herein, so I won't be too hurt if no one reads this. It'd be nice, though.