Scottish Independence Referendum Drinking Game

Tonight’s the night of the Scottish Independence Referendum. As with any major broadcast event, it’s only fitting that people are prepared to participate in a drinking game to ease the passage of the coverage. So here is the quintessential Scottish Referendum Drinking Game (even though there are, I’m sure, hundreds of others available on the internet):

1) Swig of beer every time we see a fluttering Union Jack.

1b) Swig of Scotch for every fluttering Saltire.

2) A finger of Scotch any time someone shouts ‘Fuck her right in the pussy’ on live television.

3) If Charles Kennedy is speaking, you must be drinking.

4) Mouthful of haggis if you can’t understand a Scottish accent.

5) Shotgun a tinny of Irn-Bru if the BBC uses subtitles for a Scottish accent.

6) Finish your drink if an English celebrity comes out in favour of the Union.

7) Take a drink any time a Labour politician mentions the NHS.

8) Take a drink any time an SNP politician mentions the EU.

9) Take a drink any time a Tory politician dismisses a currency union.

10) Spoon of maple syrup any time there’s footage playing of the 1995 Quebec independence referendum.

11) Swig of lager any time there’s footage playing of the 1993 dissolution of Czechoslovakia.

12) Shot of vodka for any mention of the 1905 dissolution of Union between Sweden and Norway.

13) Finish your drink if Flower of Scotland is playing.

14) Refill your drink if God Save the Queen is playing.

15) Finish all alcohol if Prince George comes out in favour of the Union.

16) Drink of Scotch if we visit a whiskey distillery.

17) Open a can of anchovies if we go out amongst the fishing trawlers.

18) Make a forex trade if we visit any financial services institution.

19) Scream and finish your drink if David Cameron mentions his Scottish ‘roots’.

20) Drink any time the phrase ‘Once in a lifetime’ is uttered.

21) Drink any time we see a man in a kilt.

22) Finish the drink of the person to your right if they use music by any of the following artists: KT Tunstall, The Fratellis, Snow Patrol, Amy Macdonald or Susan Boyle.

23) Finish the drink of the person to your left if they quote any of the following writers: Rabbie Burns, Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle or JM Barrie.

24) Each hour, on the hour, drink a finger of Scotch or half a beer depending on whether the latest guesswork poll was in favour of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ respectively.

25) Mouthful of haggis and finger of Scotch for every local count that goes in favour of the ‘Yes’ campaign.

25b) Chew up and spit out some haggis and take a swig of beer for every local count that goes in favour of the ‘No’ campaign.

Original post on VeryApt.co.uk

Grey Rain

As a kid, I always enjoyed a good storm.

I remember being on the East Coast of America for Hurricane Charley in 2004. I was 11-years-old and I’m not sure that I’ve ever been so excited. We all huddled in a room at the top of the house (which was obviously madness and not proper hurricane etiquette) and waited for the storm to hit. It did hit, but in quite a limp way, with some wind and rain, which, after a spell, I slept through. The next day we went out into the yard and there was some trash scattered on the lawn (might’ve been raccoons) and my bike had been blown away. Otherwise, you’d never have known there had been a storm.

But maybe those experiences of stormy summers in the US set the tone for my lifelong enjoyment of the rain. Being in a car, or by a window, when the rain is drumming down is fantastic. It makes me want to toast crumpets on a fire and play Scrabble. I like being protected from the rain, and, provided I have dry clothes at my disposal, I like being caught in it. It’s like having a fun shower from God.

It’s raining at the moment, as it has done for the last 48 hours. People who went to the Notting Hill carnival (not me, I can assure you) were drenched, and I spent all day hovering inside, considering when to make my sandwich dash. I thought the rain would blow itself out overnight, but, reliably, it’s turned up again today. I know it’s a very British thing to do, complaining about the weather, but being really cold and wet on the tube is universally unpleasant. I mean, it’s better than Ebola, but it’s still not great.

Perhaps this distaste for the rain has something to do with the loss of my inner-warmth. I’m not speaking metaphorically; I genuinely feel colder, all the time. I’ve been wearing a jumper for about 50% of August, which is unprecedented. I used to be quite a warm person (I once went skiing without any thermals and had to be taken home by mountain rescue (my first and only skiing experience, I should add)) for whom the rain was a refreshing break from the overbearing sun. Now I just want clouds and a jacket.

London couldn’t be more grey at the moment. I’m staring at the sky now, above a horizon of dark green tree leaves, and it looks like a prisoner’s jumpsuit. The bare blanket sky is hanging over us, like it’s waiting to smother us, looking to press down… But, really, it’s just the weather, shaking its dick at us, and showing how insignificant we dry mortals truly are.

British storms aren’t like American ones. They don’t come with fire and brimstone, hurricane status or tornado shelters. They’re oppressive, rather than aggressive, and, if the rain doesn’t let up soon, people are going to start writing very gloomy blog posts.

Original post available on VeryApt.co.uk

Going North

North London is not an area I’ve ever really experienced. I once had some Anglo-Saxon lessons with a Spanish lady in Archway, but that’s really the extent of my exploration. I know that it’s the Guardian reading heartland of London and, secretly, posher than West London, but I’m basing that mostly on the personalities and affluence of the North Londoners I know.

I’ve been working for the past few weeks on the Holloway Road, which isn’t quite Islington or Muswell Hill. What it is is a well integrated mixture of cheap cafés and expensive supermarkets. Sports Direct sits next to M&S; the Diamond Cafe next to Costa. I buy myself a £1.80 sandwich each lunchtime from a seemingly unbranded restaurant, and delight in my own frugality. Conversely, I go to the vast Waitrose each morning in order to redeem my complementary cup of coffee (an amazing scheme which everyone should be involved in, as a form of legitimate theft) and its packed out with breakfasting yuppies and old people, buying copies of The Telegraph and sniffing the tulips.

The houses on Holloway Road betray something of the Islington spirit – there are some epic Georgian townhouses, with bright, beautiful living rooms from which their owners can frown at people walking down the road. There are some truly lavish curtains, cut in lush cream fabric. These are the things I appreciate; I can comprehend the desire for nice curtains.

In reality, I’m not far from home. It’s 7 stops on the tube (5 on the Victoria line, 2 on the Piccadilly) and only takes me about half an hour. But it does have a different vibe. I’m not sure if everyone feels this way, or if I have a superpower, but if I found myself, for example, magically teleported to the centre of Manchester, I would know that I was somewhere foreign. The wind feels different; the corporate typography looks wrong. I wouldn’t need to see Old Trafford, or hear a Mancunian accent, in order to know that, Toto, we’re not in London anymore. And I feel pretty much the same way about North London. It feels weirdly out of place in my mind.

But I love my £1.80 sandwich, and my free coffee. And Sports Direct is doing a ‘trainer sale’ and I simply cannot argue with that.

Original post at VeryApt.co.uk

A New Beginning

After an hiatus of a couple of months, I’m ready to start writing stuff again!

Now that I’ve left university, it seems silly to continue with the pretence that I give less than the most fractional shit about Anglo-Saxon, English literature or university life. I’ve been there, done that, been obligated to buy the t-shirt.

My new blog is called VeryApt.co.uk and it’s going to be about all the things that come around in life, immediately after leaving university. So pretty much exactly the same, but with fewer books.

I’m going to continue uploading all my blog posts onto this Tumblr account, so this is a very easy place to follow it. Any questions/mail that get submitted to the Tumblr, I’ll try and answer on the main blog. The domain name here will stay the same. In fact, pretty much nothing will change. There’ll be more photos and fun formatting over at VeryApt.co.uk, but, otherwise, there’s no particular reason to visit.

Talk soon.

Epilogue

Two and a half years ago, I started writing this blog, mainly because I’m an attention seeker but also as a sort of mass media group therapy for the fact that I wasn’t overly happy about, well, anything. I think people enjoyed those early posts (what I refer to as my ‘Bitter Privileged Whinging’ period) because, despite the glibness and all the selfies, there was a strain of genuine unhappiness, which most people who’ve been engaged in life on this shitty planet can associate with.

I took the X90 out of Oxford today. Cruising down the High Street, over Magdalen Bridge, into the great wilderness beyond. I felt bus sick pretty much straight away, otherwise it might’ve been quite an emotional journey. Leaving three years behind; moving on to…something.

Because of a genetic predisposition towards suspicion and anxiety, I fully expected to not enjoy Oxford. I expected the work to be hard; I expected the people to be nerds and/or Etonians; I expected ‘university life’ to be just as amorphous and indefinable as it had been all my life. When my Dad would self-indulgently tell me that university would be ‘the best years’ of my life, I’d shrug and privately disagree.

And, for a few months, Oxford lived up to my expectations. I hadn’t set pen to paper on an essay in something like 18 months before arriving. I was rusty, I was bored, I was underprepared. And, for the first time in my (so far) short life, I felt old; everyone was fresh-faced with enthusiasm for this new challenge, whilst I felt like, somehow, I’d been through it all before. I did badly, I enjoyed nothing, and I started to write a masturbatory blog.

Of course, my close readers will have noticed a gradual shift in tone over the years. I neither meant for it to happen, nor wanted it to – I know that I’m at my most lucid when I’m complaining. But, slowly but surely, I ran out of shit to complain about. Yeah, some books are still boring (and always will be) but anything more substantial than yawning at Paradise Lost was all but gone. University rapidly became the best years of my life.

And now…done, dusted.

The X90 out of Oxford was a low-key departure, with none of the fanfare that the occasion deserved. Normally, my go-to Oscar acceptance speech to cite is Sally Field’s 1985 Best Actress win for Places In The Heartbut today I feel compelled to look towards Cuba Gooding Jr’s 1997 win for Jerry Maguire.

'My Nexus account, I love you! Room 16.1, I love you! Mark Atherton's boring-as-fuck guide to Anglo-Saxon, I love you! My bench in the botanic gardens, I love you! Tom Cruise, I love you brother! All the coffees in all the coffee shops, I love you! Dismal picnics in Uni Parks, I love you! Oxford SSL, I love you! My outstanding library fines, I love you!'

It’s all over and I’m more than a little bit nervous about the future. But even though looking ahead to the next few months (or next few years…) causes me the same stormy gloom that clouded my pre-university impressions, I am glad that the grim origins of this blog eventually gave way. Perhaps I would’ve accumulated followers more rapidly if I had continued to use it as an outlet for despair, but sacrificing that has been accompanied by the best months, and years, of my short, uneventful life (so far).

Hopefully I’ll be graduating at the end of July and then that’s done. My relationship with Oxford – stormy and steamy – is over (at least until they offer me an honorary teaching job, or *hint* the Mastership of a college). It’s taken me two and a half years of blogging to get here (God I wish I’d started writing this at the beginning of my first year, if only for the symmetry), but I made it out the other side at last.

And when you stumble along blindly for long enough, you start to realise that not knowing where you’re going, or seeing what’s ahead of you, is almost the best way to travel. Almost.

'Oh shit, what next?'
                     - Nick Hilton, 2014

'Oh shit, what next?'

                     - Nick Hilton, 2014

If you can’t see it in my eyes, I’m listening to Shostakovich’s 10th symphony, and its dramatic pageantry could scarcely be less of a fitting soundtrack to my evening. Elevator music would be too intense for the drama of the library.

I am only 3 days away from the start of my exams, and yet, try as I may to knuckle down to 72 hours of outrageously grown-up, focused work, I am finding myself more bored than ever. I’ve scarcely moved from this spot. When I do move, I do it with reluctance and all the energy of a slowly sinking ship. I got a frappucino from Starbucks’ Happy Hour (the first, and hopefully only, time I’ve been suckered in by a promoted trend on Twitter), but that sugar/caffeine injection only provided me with a slight stomach ache. If I had butterflies in my stomach, they’ve been drowned by coffee and reborn as abominable flying insults-to-God.

My first exam is Shakespeare, which, for better or worse, is the paper I feel most confident about. I find it hard to confine my attentions to it when I know how little of Milton, or Shelley, or Herbert, I understand. So, instead, I’ll dip into Richard II, then freak out and read some of Sidney’s sonnets, then remember my exam order and return to Shakespeare, and then reward myself with a 15-minute break to play 2048 on my phone. As destructive cycles go, this is pretty much as boring as they get.

I’ve actually ‘completed’ 2048 four times now (although, misleadingly, they just keep increasing my target) which is a good reason to stop playing, but I still get some satisfaction from sliding those goddam pieces together. OMFG, what if it’s cos I wish that I could slide the component parts of my degree together in a similar manner? I hadn’t thought of that…

Inside I’m crying, of course. But they’re tears of boredom and frustration, rather than fear and preemptive sadness. The Verve once, prophetically, said that ‘the drugs don’t work, they just make you worse’, and I’m having a similar experience (albeit with revision in lieu of narcotics). It’s a bittersweet symphony in many ways, but I guess I’m a lucky man. What happened to The Verve? Are they still alive? They were great.

As with all destructive cycles, I must soon reenter the first phase and think about Macbeth and, like, violence’n’witches’n’shit. I don’t even know. It’s all just words, words, words, caffeine, words, words, words, 2048, words, Shostakovich, words, and words.

This should really, if I’m being sensible, be my last post before Finals. For those among you who haven’t been avidly following my schedule, I have 10 days until I sit my first exam (Shakespeare). 10 days. That’s all.

For the past two weeks I’ve, somewhat selfishly, occupied an entire desk in the library, night and day. I’ve bedded down to the extent that it feels like home; I stick motivational notes on the wall ('You can do it Nick!', 'Almost there, stay focused!', 'You look glamorous today, babe!’), have a stack of books to block out any distraction, and I keep a steaming thermos of coffee with me at all times. It’s comfortable, possibly to the point where the ‘formal’ atmosphere of the library has evaporated somewhat.

Still, at least I’m not yet in a dark dungeon of despair. A dungeon, yes, but artificially lit, and occupied with something more akin to ‘apprehension’ than ‘despair’. Whichever way I look at it, the post-Finals world is a more worrying prospect than this one. In a sense, it’s not the doing of the exams that concerns me, but the finishing of them. Anyhow, that’s rather indulgent talk.

So yes, with only 10 days to go, it would seem sensible to devote myself wholeheartedly to my task. But though I force myself to put pen in hand, eyes on book, and mind on task, my sense of wanderlust has never been stronger. I dream of doing literally anything – running a marathon, eating extravagant lunches, pissing in the furthest toilet from the library – in order to avoid actually focusing on the work that sits in front of me. I’m sure it’s some form of psychological disorder.

That said, the person who sits next to me on my desk (who shall rename anonymous, so let’s just call him Yuri the Ukrainian) has been adopting an even more cavalier attitude. His work day seems to be filled mainly with funny videos and games of pool, which I find immensely comforting. Maybe the world isn’t such a dark place, when people like Yuri bring lightness and frivolity to it. Of course, we shall have to wait to see his results before knowing the outcome of his strategy…

On New Year’s Eve, the huddled masses on the banks of the Thames – who are largely a combination of tourists and masochists – start to chant the countdown to the New Year, and to the promises and expectations it brings. They start that countdown at 10 – the final double-digit number in a decreasing scale. For the preceding minutes and seconds, the reality of sliding from one calendar year into another had been an abstract concept, but when the projected clock on Big Ben (or the Southbank Centre, I forget) reads ‘10’, people know that we’re almost there. Squeezing into another year, those ten seconds aren’t just ten seconds; they’re the final ten seconds, an immortal ten seconds.

Much as it might irritate people, I choose to celebrate the fact that there are only 10 days to go. I do this in order to keep myself sane and, as previously mentioned, to irritate people. After all, if everyone else succumbs to despair, I will do proportionally better in my exams.

That’s first class logic, and I hope it evens out my third class work.

The single greatest discovery of my adult (or advanced adolescent) life has been puddles.

I haven’t discovered them by the conventional sense in which Christopher Columbus discovered America or Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. In point of fact, I’ve been aware of puddles my entire life.

But, as a child, you are taught to avoid them. They are dirty, wet and potentially infinite. Your shoes are small and usually made of canvas and polyurethane, allowing water to seep in and dampen your Thomas the Tank Engine socks. And, as a child, it is hard to resist the temptation to leap into a puddle; like a neatly raked pile of leaves, or a contentedly resting family of pigeons, they appear to be waiting for destruction.

So I understand exactly why my parents told me not to jump in puddles. The 7-year-old version of myself would’ve taken great pleasure in watching flecks of mud streaking through the air and planting themselves gracefully on my father’s beige trousers, or my mother’s pink summer dress. Glorious, unadulterated childish vandalism.

But now, I can control myself. Not only that, but I almost always wear big size-9 leather shoes. Experience and common sense has taught me that the potentially fathomless depth of puddles is, usually, about 3 centimetres. There is no chance of me disappearing through the street, into the murky subterranean Atlantis beneath.

But still, despite all this, I went a number of years avoiding puddles. The indoctrination I’d experienced as a child left its mark on me – puddles are to be walked around, not through.

It wasn’t until a few months ago that I decided, recklessly, that I would start to intentionally step in puddles. Splish splash. I found it intensely satisfying, fulfilling a childish urge but with an adult sense of control. The water spins away from my feet, lapping over the edge of its boundary, without so much as a soggy sock in sight. The propaganda of my formative years is stripped away, Man and puddles can coexist peacefully.

And thus I discovered a new way of interacting with puddles, a method which might well have been stumbled upon before, but which gives me about 20 seconds of youthful delight per day.

Merry Easter! (I’ve never been completely clear on what the adjective in the greeting for Easter is supposed to be…)

I’ve gone back home for one last, sad weekend before finals, which kick-off in less than a month now (and less than a month before the World Cup, fact fans). Of course, being in a house with patchy wi-fi, non-academic books, and two adorable dogs, has not been without its disadvantages, but it certainly makes a change from my 10-hours-a-day bunkering in the Pembroke library.

'Easter is, I'm told, a time to celebrate-' That’s how far I got through that sentence before I started Wikipediaing ‘easter’. Let’s face it, very few people really know what we’re supposed to be celebrating (if anything) this weekend. It’s the end of lent, right? So we’re celebrating not being punished anymore? Or some resurrection thing? Happy slightly-less-dead, out-of-jail Easter!

My mum got me an Easter card and an Easter present, neither of which are really things, I don’t think. The Easter card has a bunny, on its hind legs, reaching to get to some eggs, which are tied to a tree with ribbon. I’m not sure what the imagery is meant to represent. There’s a vague point about commercialising a religious festival in here somewhere, but, also, I just feel like there’s too much celebrating going on. First, it was the Olympics, then it was Christmas, then another Christmas, now Easter. What next?

As mentioned prior to my Easter digression, it’s less than a month now until I start my exams. I’m starting to think about practical things, like making sure I bring my crummy suit back to Oxford in order to get trashed in, or wondering who the shit is gonna buy me my carnations. I’m even going on an outing to the shops tomorrow morning in order to buy pens. The ink with which I shall write my scintillating, history-making essay about Byron, water and nocturnal enuresis, shall be purchased, tomorrow morning, from the WH Smith’s in the market town of Horsham. Sing, Heav’nly Muse, of the ball-point pen! 

But yeah, if that doesn’t set my pugging tooth on edge (a quote from The Winter’s Tale which I’m very fond of, even though I don’t know what a ‘pugging tooth’ is (though it sounds adorable)) then I don’t know what will. I’ll be back in Oxford on Tuesday for my final stint in the city of dreaming spires, before the real world comes to catch me. Preparations for that, it appears, are somewhat harder to fathom, though I am planning an ambitious collage of all my job application rejections.