Voluntarily Out of Depth

This week marks the start of the second semester of my second year at uni – I’m officially half way through my degree!

The new semester means I’ve just started 3 new modules. And for two of them, I am completely out of my depth. I knew I would be, and that’s why I chose them. One of my modules isn’t even in either of my departments – I study English & History, but I was able to choose one in the Archaeology department for the history side of my degree.

I realised quite how out of my depth I was in my first lecture for my module in archaeology – on the Sumerians. The lecturer threw out a question and I sat there completely nonplussed until an actual archaeology student a few seats down from me shouted out an answer that was probably obvious to around 90% of the people in that room. I can guarantee you that his response would never have crossed my mind.

But it’s all part of the experience. The other module in which I feel I’m completely out of my depth is one on cinema & the making of modern India. I can safely say I have never in my life studied anything about India, and I’ve never even seen a Bollywood film. Thankfully though, the majority of students doing this module are equally out of their depth (the exception being my Indian friend & housemate who’s taking it with me, which is great). Our lecturer asked in our first seminar, just out of interest, why we’d all taken the module if we’d never had anything to do with the subject matter.

All of us pretty much agreed with our answers: why not?

The only reason I’m not entirely out of depth with my English module this semester (on Medieval Narratives, if you’re wondering) is because I happened to choose a history module last semester on the medieval period. That module gave me the opportunity to become familiar with a lot of what we’re covering in the English module. (Reading Middle English is still going to be a challenge though!)

I always think that I came to university to learn about things I hadn’t come across before. I wanted a bunch of new experiences. And new experiences are going to throw you out of your depth – but that’s not a bad thing. I mean, it makes life more interesting, for one. Voluntarily learning about things you’ve not come across before broadens your horizons, and, as my lecturer for the India module pointed out, it makes you more interesting as a person.

Being voluntarily out of my depth is something I try to embrace in a lot of ways – it’s about conquering new challenges, figuring out different methods of approach. I like the challenge.

A Day in Haworth!

On Friday 17th November, a friend and I rolled sleepily out of bed and walked down to university, where we got on a minibus which would take us to Haworth, Yorkshire. It was a trip with the English society, because the main tourist attraction in Haworth is, of course, the Brontë Parsonage.

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I’ll confess now that I’ve only actually read Jane Eyre, and the first time I didn’t even like it all that much (it improved on second reading, many years later). But the Brontë sisters are undoubtedly famous, so it was a good opportunity to take. The parsonage is a good couple of hours away from the Liverpool, so we didn’t get there until around midday. It was raining most of the way there, but by the time we eventually stopped, it was just a bit gloomy, weather-wise (the irony was not lost on us).

So our first stop was getting our tickets to the parsonage! The student tickets cost around £6 (I think the standard adult ticket was £7-8), and apparently they stay valid for a whole year. I don’t know when I’d get the opportunity to go back within a year, but it’s still cool.

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We decided to go around the parsonage before finding something to eat. The house itself had quite a few rooms – it was modest, which I guess you would expect. This year the parsonage has been promoting the story of Branwell Brontë (the brother, if you’re not familiar… I wasn’t), but next year is the celebration of Emily Brontë’s 200th birthday, and the museum has something rather special in mind.

The above photo is one of what will be a unique, handwritten manuscript of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, in a tribute to her as the original manuscript is lost. Curated by Clare Towmey, visitors to the parsonage can take the opportunity to write one line each in the manuscript, and then it will be exhibited at the museum all of next year.

The session to write in the manuscript happened at 4pm on the Friday I went, and while our trip had split up into our various groups basically as soon as we got off the minibus, it was amusing to see all of us pool into the house at about ten to four, eager to take part. To tell the truth, it did feel very strange to sit in the Brontë house, writing in a Brontë manuscript. My line was “by my employer. Hareton would not open his fingers, so I”, but again, I haven’t actually read it so it doesn’t actually mean anything to me. Don’t worry, it’s on the to-read list…

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In between our two trips to the house, I spent some time wandering up and down the high street, mostly just to take photographs. My Instagram is soon to be filled with them. It’s a very pretty place, and clearly takes pride in its Brontë legacy with the amount of references to it and merchandise sold to do with it.

More of our time, however, was spent in the graveyard behind the church by the parsonage. Now, my mum has always liked graveyards, as morbid as it may be, and I’ve never really understood it – but we thought we’d see if we could find the Brontë graves. We were very much unsuccessful, for reasons to be explained, but while we were there, loitering, a man approached us and asked if we would like to help wind up the church clock.

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Figuring hey, why not – we had time to kill, after all – we agreed. Now, you know those doors on the sides of churches that look really small and old, and you walk past them and vaguely wonder if anyone ever actually uses them? It turns out, yes! The man opened the tiny door and led us up what has to have been the narrowest set of stone spiral stairs I have ever come across. They were so narrow that there was a rope hanging from top to bottom for the express purpose of semi-dragging yourself up so you didn’t tumble back down.

We emerged into a small room with a high ceiling, where the man lifted a long ladder and placed it against a balcony, where the clock mechanism is (as you can see below).

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It was a few minutes to three at this point, so we hurried (albeit unsteadily) up the ladder so we could watch as the clock turned three and set the bells off. I’ll admit, it was actually really interesting to see the mechanism go. The man was telling us about the history of the clock tower, and how the clock mechanism had been working since the late 1800s, when it was installed.

Winding the clock turned out to mean winding three separate parts of the clock, one at a time. When you wind it (using some form of crank that attaches to the mechanism), the ropes pull up these ginormous weights – and I mean ginormous. The first one must have been over a metre long, almost a foot thick, and completely solid metal. The other two got progressively smaller, but winding them up was honestly a bit of a workout. The whole process took around 40 minutes.

We signed a book afterwards, which it appears people have been doing for quite a long time, to say that we’d been there – we were also showed the time when a member of Japanese royalty signed the book in 1999, and then on the next page, a few Japanese tourists did it and, according to the man, were thrilled to realise that the royalty had been there only a short while before them.

 

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All in all, my day in Haworth was pretty great. I definitely didn’t expect to end up in a clock tower or writing in a Brontë manuscript! Plus, the trip would have been totally worth it for the photography opportunities anyway. And hey, maybe my mum’s right and good things do come from hanging out in graveyards.

Katy x

New Decade, New Start

Yesterday was my twentieth birthday… Twenty. Wasn’t ready for that one. I can’t tell you how much I’ve been absolutely milking the “I’m still a teenager!” excuse over the last few weeks.

The day was actually surprisingly enjoyable. It didn’t rain (SHOCKER), I had cake for breakfast (told you I wasn’t ready for my twenties), and I went to the theatre. We saw a student production of Lord of the Flies put on by the university, which was actually really good. They moved the stage so it was sort of in the middle of the audience, which worked really well, considering the story is set on an island.

Regardless of all my not-a-teen-anymore-sadness, I’m determined to start off this decade the way I mean to go on. That means getting a hold on all of my work, getting writing done regularly, looking after my health (I’ve basically had an eternal cold since about six weeks ago, and I think I moved right from one onto another…) and trying really hard to stop procrastinating on Netflix as much.

But speaking of… how good was Stranger Things season 2?!?! Best thing to have been released all year.

I think I’m doing alright on the work front. Yes, I was supposed to have finished an essay this weekend rather than be about to start it, but other than that, I think I’m on schedule. And anyway, if I finish this essay tomorrow, it’ll still be a week-and-a-half early!

This week should, theoretically, be a productive one – one of my modules isn’t running because my tutor is away at a conference, and I’ve already done basically all of my module reading aside from one play. I thought I was alright at speed reading during year one, but I have seriously sped up this year! I suppose it’ll all be in preparation for third year. I plan to fill the time with blog planning, book writing, and cleaning the house. Oh, and applying for summer work! I’m hoping to get a position abroad, so wish me luck.

For now though, an essay calls…

Katy x