A Sassenach Soliloquy

Sunday, December 26

Cheap thrills

Shopping for Christmas stuff a few days ago with T. we wandered around a few trendy stores in Covent Garden where t-shirts cost £30. Why so much? It's not hard to find a funky, equally well-made t-shirt in a charity or second-hand store, so why pay these silly prices? "Because...", I guessed, "..fashion represents an easy way for people with no style to look good".

You don't have to think much on the high-street; the marketeers who group consumers and channel their product accordingly do all the thinking for you. As a customer you just have to identify the shops that have targeted you as their core audience.

But buying - how shall we say? - independently, you have to think more. Lots of the stuff in markets and second-hand stores and charity stores and the back of your parent's wardrobe is, simply, rubbish. Or perhaps it doesn't work on you. You have to make judgments. You have to think, and have an eye for the aesthetic. But it's fun, isn't it? The joy of finding a real gem of a piece buried among all the crap far outweights the guilty pleasure of buying what you can't afford, consequences be damned. Just like learning to cook well actually reduces your food bill, then learning to dress well reduces your clothing bill. Fashion may cost too much, but style is cheap.

Thursday, December 23


I promised to blog at Christmas, yet I've been back in London for 48 hours now, and semester finished almost a week ago. And nothing. I plead, as ever, busy-ness. (When I first wrote that it came out as business, but that wouldn't be right, would it?)

But I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm presently as happy as I've been for a long time: at least five years, and perhaps longer. My life stimulates me in all the best ways; intellectually, physically, culturally and, yes, sexually, to pick just some. To tease things out a little, dear reader, I'll talk about each of those in that order, thereby saving the salacious bits 'til last.

The MSc. is wide-ranging and fascinating; I have entered a exciting field. I'm working hard but enjoying that work and, as an older(ish) student, I take a more mature attitude to my study than I have previously; my time in other careers has taught me how to work. There are, inevitably, a few minor grumbles, but very little to fuss over. I have eight coursemates, and we have bonded collectively better than I could have hoped. Our academic backgrounds - Maths, Computer Science, Biology, Ecology, Anthropology, Linguistics, Modern Languages, Literature, Classics - are as many and wide as nationalities. Discussion and chat is varied and, often, vigorous, just as it should be.

I am exercising regularly. Some canoeing, but mostly more Ultimate. I have been training with both the student side and one of the non-student Edinburgh sides (a nice way to introduce balance to my life) and next month I will be attending trials for Fusion, the best side in Scotland and the fourth-ranked side in the UK. If I get through them it represents an outstanding opportunity to take my Ultimate skills to a higher level, and perhaps compete in the European Club Championships in the summer. The sport is fun, and I know that the endorphines it produces contribute to my present sunny outlook. Even better, we play in the park that's two minutes from my front door, and halfway between the flat and University. That's right: I walk five minutes across a park to Uni. No commuting for me, and I get to lunch at home too.

As everybody knows, Edinburgh and culture have a close marriage, and I wonder if perhaps I haven't made the best use of that yet. But what I have I've loved: outstanding pubs (that stay open 'til 1am), arty cinemas, good live music, cheap matinee theatre and great funk nights out. In the New Year I will add swing lessons to that list of experiences. Edinburgh will surely never tire of providing; I have simply to search for its treasures.

And then there's the sex. I had some in the first half of the semester, but the last two weeks have perhaps been amongst the most significant of my lovelife, ever. The girl in question is a coursemate. We didn't realise our mutual attraction to each other 'til the very end of term, which is something of a tragedy. But, like new lovers in perpetuum, we are making up for some imagined lost time. As I said to her last week, I feel something rather significant in my life starting. I've blogged before that I'm fussy with women, or least with those I get into relationships with. That remains true, and for the first time in a long time - perhaps ever - I feel like I've met someone from whom I can ask vitually no more. I hope I feel that way for a longtime to come.

So, the decision to go to Edinburgh was, unquestionably, the right one. I am happy, in the very best sense of the word, and that was true even before T. and I began our romance. Since I made the bold decision to quit my career and life in London nearly two years ago I have been rewarded with a series of life-affirming experiences and, I think, become an adult. In many senses Edinburgh feels like the culmination of that journey. So now it's onwards, onwards to the next big adventure.

Wednesday, December 8

Christmas is a comin'

The semester is nearly over, and I will be blogging again soon. Suffice to say that I am tired, but very happy with life as a Sassenach.

I should also mention that I am writing this as a revision avoidance technique.