Monday 29th March - Awkward to say the least

I'm not yet sure what to make of it yet but I've just finished reading Lolita.

It tells the story of H. Humbert, a troubled professor who has an unhealthy obsession to what he terms 'nymphets'. Due to what he believes to be the result of an unconsumated affair with his childhood love, he moves to America and marries a woman in order to get closer to her twelve-year old daughter: Dolores (Lolita).

In essence, it is a tale of unrequited love. Humbert is hopelessly under Lolita's spell, and she knows this. As their 'relationship' progresses, Lolita begins to take advantage of the situation even to the point where she bribes him for sexual favours.

The book is written beautifully and details Humbert's struggle to not act on his feelings. However, when he meets Lolita he is swept away by her youthful charm. What is interesting about this book, is that Nabokov writes in a way that makes the reader feel sympathetic towards Humbert. Fully knowing that what he feels is forbidden, the reader cannot help but feel a sense of woe for him. On the other hand, even though Humbert wrestles with his desire to get close to Lolita, his efforts come to no effect and the consequences are damaging. By the end of the book, the stark realisation that Humbert should have known better, is what makes the reader realise their mask of sympathy for him was mistaken.

Shortly after I then watched the 1997 film version. I couldn't get access to the whole film online so went over to a friend's place to watch it. I thought the book was a little unsettling, but being confronted visually with the characters of Humbert and Lolita was shocking, and a little awkward to say the least (not to mention the fact that I was watching this with someone). We later found that there were deleted scenes. And for good reason too. This might make for uncomfortable viewing:

I'd highly recommend reading the book as it's a graceful peace of literature, and an interesting insight into the psyche of what one would call a 'paedophile'. I'd also suggest watching the recent re-make of the film. However you might want to watch it on your own. Just a word of warning.

To use somebody else's phrase it is 'brilliant and beautiful, yet disturbing'.

Saturday 27th March - To London!

Today I caught the morning train to London.

With the Easter break awaiting, I bid farewell to the gloriously sunny and warm St Andrews I was leaving behind...

... Only to arrive in London to grey cloud cover and rain. Did I mention it will be like this during the two weeks I'll be here?


Friday 26th March - Panic! and Sorry

All week I'd been dreading today. What's sort of funny -in a depressing way- is that I've not actually done much to combat this dread.

Today I had an important Greek exam. 15% of our total mark. All morning, I'd been panicking and cramming in as many Greek paradigms and lexicons as I could manage - which I'm sure you can imagine wasn't very much. I'd been distracted the past month and as a result my work had been affected; I'd finally come face to face to what my tutor calls the 'snowball effect'. Flattened by this HUGE Greek snowball, surrounded by omegas, circumflexes and rhos, all I could utter was: Bugger.

It didn't help that I had a tutorial before it. I had contemplated missing it but we were getting back our essays and I wanted to know the result of my tremendously hard effort (i.e. my six hour sitting the early morning before it was due). I was worried that if I'd just passed on my essay (although I would have only had myself to blame) I'd give up all hope in my Greek test. So all through the tutorial I sat with that horrible sickly feeling one gets in the pit of their stomach.

But to my amazement, and I mean this sincerely readers, I was gobsmacked. With only a few minutes before the doomsday clock was about to strike it's last gong, I quickly flicked to see my grade. At first I thought I was mistaken, and that the numbers that I could see were the end of my matriculation number. So I gave it a few seconds and looked again. Dear God! I had been given a First!

I'm not usually one to brag so I ignored my fellow students' questions as to how I did, bagged my essay and strolled to my class. The next hour and a half was a blur. All I know is that I didn't do very well and that I'd be lucky if I pass. However, if I do pass ... well let's just say all I need to do is pass Greek.

I had a point to this post - apart from ranting as per usual of course ... Oh yes. The thing about the grade I got for my essay is that I knew I didn't deserve it. Unlike my friends, I had not worked very hard but had written the essay in a few hours. I always find it uncomfortable when a friend expresses their dismay at not doing very well on their essay and I have. I try to be a good friend and assure them that perhaps the tutor is just a harsh marker and that their efforts were not wasted.

Photo credit to Boo756
But what I dread the most is knowing that they will ask me what I got. Feigning indifference makes one come across as if they are just subtley seeking praise. On the other hand, answering too quickly makes it seem as if one is boasting. There's either too much hesitation or too little, or too high an intonation to one's voice or not enough. One just can't get the balance right.

My essay grade was a fluke. A one off. And yes it is really really irritating when you are the one who works like a dog and only gets a 2:2 to show for it, whereas your friend 'panics' at the last minute and is awarded a First. I've been at the end of both spectrums and I know just how frustrating it can be.

But all I can say is sorry, and I hate to say it, but some people are just better at some things than others.

Wednesday 24th March - What a day!

Started off my day welcoming prospective students for our last open day before Easter. I wasn't feeling great in the morning, and with a long day ahead of me I thought I'd try and work hard at reception so that I wouldn't have to take any groups on tours. However my efforts proved to be futile as I was promptly called to take postgraduates on tours.

The clock struck twelve and I was relieved to have a half our break before I had to dash off again to catch a ride to the south west of Fife. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but on Wednesday afternoons I'm a 'classroom assistant' to a first year (11-12 year olds) RME (no, not rapid eye movement or the band, but Religious and Moral Education) class. But before I come to that, I'll just mention the strange experience of being in a newspaper photo shoot.

Because I'm a senior ambassador I'm expected to arrive earlier and stay later than most ambassadors. So with few available, I was asked if I would be in a photo shoot. 'Sure, why not?' I said. It was not long after that I wished I had just finished eating my lunch instead. Anyway, I thought the shoot wouldn't take very long but as expected it overran. We were briefed that it was for a high profile American business paper, and that the photographer wanted to take photos in various locations around St Andrews. I knew I couldn't stay for all of it but I thought the first shoot wouldn't take very long. Boy was I wrong. We were asked to remove our scarves (it was a pretty gusty day) because the issue was to be released in June. So with teeth chattering we were finally ready to start. Or so I thought.

Photo credit to Royalshake
So after what seemed like 50 shutter clicks or so I said I had to run off. However, things were not that easy, I still had to sign a photo release form before going. Waiting for the forms to be photocopied, I nervously watched as the large hand of St Salvator's clock ticked by. Upon receiving a form, I recklessly scrawled my details down and proceeded to run and eat my lunch simultaneously. Arriving with a parched mouth and cramp, I apologised profusely only to notice that there was still one other person to come *sigh*

After an hour's snooze we were finally dropped off at the school. It was our last week tutoring and I was intrigued to know what the class would be doing. Greeted by Mr Thompson and another of his eccentric ties (this time cluttered with sheep, last time he had one with a panda on it) he said the lessons would be on Ramadan. We'd been studying Islam for the last five weeks and I'm slightly embarassed to admit that I too, like the first years, found myself attentively paying attention to what was being taught. Whilst the class were getting on with things I managed to have a chat with Mr Thompson. He'd asked whether my time at the school had proved useful. I told him - and insisted that it was no reflection on him as a teacher - that I didn't know whether teaching was really for me.

Photo credit to Im4gineTheM4gic
A few weeks ago I had asked him why he had become a teacher. His reply was exactly what I wanted to hear. Apart from it being 'fun' he said that the feeling you get as a teacher on the rare occasions you see the penny drop, makes every late homework, detention and struggle worth it. He then asked why I was thinking of becoming a teacher. I replied saying that I was fortunate enough to have experienced that 'penny dropping' moment, so much so that I went on to study that subject at university. To be able to return the favour and inspire even just one student, would be amazing.

Photo credit to maximorob
My worry though is that I wouldn't be a very good teacher. Someone once told me they thought I would make a great teacher. I didn't believe it then and still don't believe it now. I get unnecessarily anxious about talking in front of a group of people, that getting up in front of a class of 20 odd would make me break out in a sweat. Not to mention the fact that I talk a ridiculous amount of nonsense.

I'd love to teach. To inspire others to think for themselves, to get them to attempt to answer the unanswerable questions of life, to even be taught a few things myself, would be great. Perhaps teaching just isn't for me though.

In need of something lighthearted

Gregorio Allegri's Miserere Mei Deus

The anthem from today's service:

Sunday 21st March - 'We are in community each time we find a place where we belong'

I'm a rubbish Catholic.

I'm not looking for sympathy or for people to go 'no you're not', I'm just making a statement of fact. I say this because today was the first time in more than a month that I've been to church. But wait, I didn't even go to St James', no, I went to Holy Trinity, the Presbyterian church of St Andrews.

I don't want to seem like a church hopper, a 'try before you buy' sort of thing, but it's awkward for someone like me. I'm not making excuses but trying to understand myself why I do the things I do. I question my faith constantly and wonder whether I can really consider myself a 'Catholic', and yet, I'm not ready to give up on being one. At the same time, I feel spiritually withdrawn and attending church is just about as spiritual as I can get right now. And if that means going to another church to feel that little bit closer to God then why not?

One of the great things is how quickly I felt a part of the congregation. I was never questioned as to why I crossed myself or why I don't attend every week. If I'm to be honest, I go to Holy Trinity for the way being there makes me feel. Yes I miss the 'smells, bells and altar rails' and all the other idiosyncrasies a Catholic church has, but fellowship and companionship is something that is important to me too. That feeling of being a part of something, of talking openly and feeling welcomed. Yes going to church should be about glorifying God, but there's no reason I can't do that and be around people I like.

I'm human and like being around other people. No one likes to be alone, or feel like an outcast. I can already hear you saying that being at church is not about socialising, and I know that. But it's the communal aspect of worshipping that appeals to me. And if that means having to attend a Protestant church while I'm at uni, then so be it.


I'm ill and bound to my bed. The doctor said staying up late till the early hours of the morning, hunched over writing an essay is not good for my back. She also said that it doesn't help that I'm 'stressed' and not eating and sleeping properly.

Well for one, the essay had to be written. Yes, ok it didn't have to be done at 4am but I'd left it so late that I had no other choice. And the 'stress', well that's something everyone has. I'm no more stressed than your average student. So I've been under a bit of pressure lately, but who hasn't? Do you know what I tell myself? Deal with it (or as a friend puts it 'suck it up') And if I don't ... well I've only got myself to blame for anything that comes my way.

Anyone for a cress sandwich?

Friday 19th March - Going to the Doctor's

As if I don't talk enough rubbish on here already, I thought you would all be eager to hear about my visit to the doctor's.

It's a fact: I'm an old woman. I've made jokes about my awful memory and how I'm slowly descending into senility, but today going to see the doctor about my back pain just seemed to top it all off. She diagnosed me with back strain and has advised that I don't cycle. No cycling! The beauty of cycling is that it means I get to lie in for an extra half an hour (valuable) AND consider myself 'fit' and 'exercising well' by cycling at least eight miles a day. Now that I have to give my frail back a rest, it will be earlier mornings and several half an hour walks a day.

Someone pass me my zimmer frame, I feel a cramp in my leg coming on.

Gap Yah

You would think that living in St Andrews would mean often hearing words such as 'aye' and 'cannae', but no, what you are most likely to hear while on your weekly shop to Nisa, or alternatively on your way to buy the latest plaid range from Jack Wills is this:

Thursday 18th March - The Catholic Counter-Reformation

Today it was my turn to lead our Church History tutorial. To nobody's surprise the topic was the Catholic Counter-Reformation. I usually get quite anxious when talking to groups of people, and with all eyes on me I was a nervous wreck. It's not even like I had not done the reading, or not written any notes -actually I'd written so many: down the side of page, arrows everywhere, that I panicked myself even more.

Anyway once I started talking, albeit a bit shaky at first, I finally found my feet and got into the swing of things. With a topic dear to my heart, discussion was lively. The question of merit and its role in justification was raised, just as thoughts on whether the Council of Trent was called in direct response to the Protestant Reformation were shared. It was not until afterwards, that I realised it was moments like these that I truly felt what it meant to struggle with my faith. The questions that arose were of great interest to me and I longed for them to be answered.

In a tutorial group of predominantly open Protestants, it was always going to be difficult to clearly get the Catholic view across. But with the little knowledge I had, and with the help of Cardinal Cajetan and St Ignatius of Loyola, I was able to persuade some of them to, at least, entertain the idea that reformation within the Church was not solely dependant upon Protestant criticism. Not only was this tutorial a chance for me to finally voice my opinion, it was also an opportunity for me to learn more about the faith that has made me who I am.

And on that note, I should really write my essay for tomorrow.

It is going to be a very long night.


I walked into the kitchen to find a large black patch on the hob. Something had clearly burnt. It was not until my friend confessed to accidentally leaving our fashionable toaster timer on it, that I discovered the extent of the damage.

I'm surprised the fire alarm didn't go off.

Tuesday 16th March - Details of the Pope's Visit to the UK

Article from Anna Arco's blog:

Here is the full joint statement of the bishops of England and Wales and HMs Government about the Papal visit in September. And here is the new website where most of the announcements regarding the Papal visit will be made.

The UK Government and the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Scotland, England and Wales today welcomed the forthcoming visit to the United Kingdom of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. At a joint press conference, they said that the Papal Visit represents an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen ties between the UK and the Holy See on global initiatives, as well as the important role of faith in creating strong communities.

Her Majesty The Queen announced earlier today that the visit will take place from 16-19 September. It will be the first ever official Papal Visit to the UK – the visit by Pope John Paul II in 1982 was a pastoral visit only.

The Pope will be received at the Palace of Holyroodhouse by Her Majesty The Queen. His Holiness will give a major speech to British civil society at Westminster Hall. He will also visit the West Midlands to beatify the nineteenth century theologian and educationalist Cardinal John Henry Newman at a public mass in Coventry.

Other key elements of the visit will include a public mass in Glasgow, a prayer vigil in London and an event focusing on education. Relations between the Christian Churches will be a theme of the visit as will the relations between the major faiths. The Pope will visit the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace and pray with other Church leaders at Westminster Abbey.

Full details of the Pope’s itinerary will be announced nearer the time.

I'm excited to hear that the Pope will be saying mass in Glasgow. As much as I would prefer to experience the religious fervour and be amongst the crowds in London, I feel there's more chance of me catching a glimpse of our Holy Father up here in wonderful Scotland.

'That seagull is laughing at you'

Seeing as the weather today on the East Coast was glorious, a friend and I decided to take a trip to Anstruther.

Only a 20min drive from St Andrews, Anstruther is known (I assume mainly by Scots and fish and chips fanatics) as being the home of the best (open to interpretation) fish and chips in the UK. If I am to be honest, I cannot really comment on exactly how good the Anstruther Fish Bar's fish and chips are. Although the website says 'No visit to Anstruther is complete without sampling our award-winning fish and chips here at the Anstruther Fish Bar', I felt that my brief time in the town would certainly have come to an abrupt end, had I waited in a trailing queue only for me to not notice the difference in taste, but instead in the lightness of my purse. With this thought in mind, I wandered over to a less crowded place for lunch.

That said, I had quite a good day taking photos and frolicking in the sun. However, it wasn't long before my thoughts had turned once again to the pile of books on my desk. And to add to this, I returned home only to discover that my camera has decided that pink lines look rather fashionable across some photos. Great.

Not to end on a low note, I thought I would share with you this conversation:

Me: I'm not a fan of sunbathing. Where's the pleasure in feeling so hot you could fry an egg on yourself?
Friend: Oh I really like it.
Me: But why? I find it difficult to sunbathe knowing that I'm slowly cooking. And there's the risk of skin cancer.
Friend: Oh yeah, but I really like the way you feel the skin cancer slowly move across your skin.
Me: ...

Free Tea

Saturday 13th March - Total Depravity

After staying up till 5am in order to finish my essay I am, surprisingly, feeling alright.

To recover, from what can only be described as total deprivation of sleep, I have dived straight into my next essay: Was the Catholic Reformation a 'counter-reformation' or an extension of the reforms of the Middle Ages?

My first thought is that it is neither. Using the term counter-reformation seems to suggest that the reforms of the Church in the sixteenth century were only in reaction due to 'provocation' by the Protestant Reformation. This may seem obvious to some, but in reality the definition is quite nuanced. By arguing that the Catholic Reformation was only a 'reaction', implies that reform would not have taken place had Luther not spoken out against the abuse of indulgences. It argues that the Church embarked on a journey of reformation solely in response to Protestant criticism.

On the other hand, it is difficult to argue that it was an extension of the reforms. To say so, suggests that the achievements of the Council of Trent were parallel in the doctrinal teachings of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin etc. I am not saying that Protestants and Catholics vary so greatly in their teachings that there are no similarities between the two (although some may disagree). What I am saying, is that the differences are apparent enough for the concept of an 'extension', or the continuation of Luther's reforms, to be disregarded.

The difference may seem subtle but the effect on how one views the Catholic Reformation is significant.


In other news, the flat's fortress of cress is growing strong:

... And I am still fighting the losing battle of learning New Testament Greek *sigh*

Thursday 11th March - We are moving up in the world!

View Larger Map
I should be panicking about an essay that is due in tomorrow, but instead I thought I would share with you some exciting news: St Andrews is now on google maps street view!

(Click on the link 'view larger map' to access street view)

Monday 1st March - A Reflection on the Book of Psalms

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? ~ Psalm 13:2.

The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish ~ Psalm 25:17.

I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof ~ Psalm 102:7.