Monday, January 19, 2004

Back to Cambridge, back to the books

Ah, January in a grey and rainy country. The passage of Christmas, the end of the quiet, gently reflective under-graduate free interregnum that is Cambridge during holidays - the arrival of bustling sales shopping, the new term’s whirlwind social calendar, and the onset of those first stirring sensations of Masters-study DOOM.

I’ve not done yet done the new term’s “back to study blog” and there’s a reason. I have been pretty good with my New Year’s studying resolutions thus far, focussing on making headway with my 15,000 word dissertation on armed conflict at sea and intercepting weapons of mass destruction – the paper in lieu of my four exams. (Still awake? It gets better.)

But – I didn’t want to draw the universes attention to my study life. I was trying to study, as it were, below the radar of Murphy’s law. The pact I was making with the universe was: “I’ll go at it steadily, not brag about book-side hours, not jinx myself; just don’t pile on too much pressure yet, huh?”

So, there comes a point where the universe is either on board or decides to give you a nice constructive kick in the pants. (Dammit, I mean “trousers”. Over here “pants” means “undies”.)

I can’t fault the universe for its unexpected use, like Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition, of fear and surprise. Friday had been a good, quiet evening: a couple of pints at the Pickerel with two other guys from my mid-sized Canberra high school, a small and pleasant school reunion. I arrived home relaxed. Which is when, of course, I found the e-mail from my dissertation supervisor:

“Dear Douglas, hope you had a good break. What are the chances you have most of a draft to show me?”


Figuring “Nil” was not a good answer, and “isn’t this due in April?” would be little better - and that she’d probably cotton on if I resubmitted the 6,000 words I churned out before Christmas in a different font – I settled for: “Thanks for chasing me on this. December was not as productive as I had hoped, but things are gaining speed. I’d hope to have a substantial piece of new work to show you by Monday week at the latest.”

A week, ladies and gents, in which to produce another 6,000 words. Which will leave me (if I am still alive) in excellent shape for submitting in April and having plenty of study-time for my other exams.

So, of course, having brokered that deal – I spent none of the weekend studying. I went and did a legal negotiation competition Saturday and on Sunday auditioned for a play some college friends are directing – the “Golden Ass”, a farcical romp first written for the Globe (yes, that Globe) with many, many doubled parts.

We didn’t go through to the regionals in legal negotiation. The judges weren’t entirely impressed with our “creative” and “win/win” solutions in the more contentious round. Apparently we strayed beyond our instructions. (I tended to think the written instructions “renegotiate the contract amicably or come to a financial settlement” put everything up for grabs, but whatever.)

I do, however, have four or five smallish parts in a play rehearsing every Saturday from now until May week.

May week being, of course, in June.

So if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and get quietly panicky about the Cuban missile crisis and treatment of neutral shipping in the Iran-Iraq war.

Exit stage left, pursued by thesis.

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