It’s been a week of pure drama. My penultimate week in London began with the tensions of one final exam, followed by the sheer explosiveness of the election, before ending with further excitement in the F1 and football. It’s been a cracking way to round off a tough year.
The Final Exam
After a tortuous wait of 19 days since my previous exam, Tuesday signalled the date for the final paper of my first year at SOAS. By 12pm, I would have completely finished everything there is to do in one year of university- it was a strange thought. After my fourth exam, I did have the lingering feeling that I had been rather spat out the academic year’s course of events, but this time that sense of completion descended solemnly, and with just a hint of satisfaction after the last two hour paper on Japanese history.
Well, perhaps satisfaction doesn’t quite describe the feeling very well, but then again neither does relief. The essential fact however is that it was pleasing to finish the year in strong style, considering it has been tough and at times like trying to reach the peak of a mountain in thick fog. The morning did however start in similarly treacherous conditions. I watched outside my window for about an hour as everyone got drenched in the relentless rain, and knew I would have to brave it out on the short mile towards the campus. As per tradition in England, once it rains the entire season changes, and I found myself once again dressed in jeans and a jumper- it was obvious that summer was being put on hold until this last exam was done. I got rather wet on my rushed walk, but nevertheless, made it comfortably with an hour before the exam was due to begin.
I don’t know why I got there so early, but in a way it helped me stay focused. Having drunk so much water beforehand though I spent a lot of the time in the toilet, but soon those doors to the fateful 208/209 rooms opened, and I scoffed down a couple of jelly babies to give me one last boost to the finish.
The sense of everyone, including the invigilators, wanting to get this last exam out of the way was obvious. It was the final day of the SOAS exam period, and the entire university was just about ready to depart into summer. Once the timer started, we all got down to business right away.
While the first part to the module of Japanese culture and history was a nightmare of a paper, this second part restored my faith that sometimes, what you spend months revising does come up. This exam paper had excellent consistency with previous years, and the questions were exactly as I had planned.
Experience from this first exam period has taught me that I would do well to ever be time-constrained. I always felt like there was more time than needed in these exams in order to make them more comfortable; a stark contrast to GCSEs and A-Levels where you have to race the clock to the point where you’re actually exhausted. Comfortable with the three questions I would answer, I did the first 2 in half an hour each, leaving me an entire hour to do the last. Assured on what I would write, I took it steadily, and focused on writing down a clear and coherent answer. I knew when I was on my last paragraph. I then knew exactly what would be my last sentence. Once it had been transferred from my mind to paper, I dotted that last full stop in exuberant style- it was practically “Year One- Warren Out.”
I wrote everything I knew I could manage. I’m fully aware and accepting of the fact that I could do no more, and in a way I am pleased. How it will be graded of course remains unknown until I find my results, but this time I could walk out with nothing to moan about. A strong finish, with promise that I can make things right next year.
The rain stopped when I left the building. Near the entrance were a large group of the Japanese teachers, perhaps waiting to see their students after their last exam. Looking around at everyone using the Japanese they’ve learnt this year to try and convey their relief and sense of achievement at the end of it all was nice. I felt as if I was watching from afar; I saw a genuine enthusiasm in those taking first year Japanese, and then I turned to myself. I wondered just where exactly it went wrong, and why I felt different, with no inclination to join in. The magic disappeared this year. Without that enchanting feeling, I’ve been left to study on cynicism and frustration. I do hope I get the spark back, I want to love studying Japanese again, but I suppose as my premonition at the beginning of the year suggested, once your hobby becomes a class, your enjoyment becomes attainment, and the fun becomes work.
“Year One Complete.”
I was not overjoyed when I returned to my flat that afternoon. I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate, nor pour out my emotions. The climax to everything I had worked for was nothing- and that was the reward.
I sat at my desk, turned Love Machine up to full volume, and turned over to the last page of my schedule, the page I had been waiting for.
It was a completely different feeling to the final exams of previous years, as I always had something to laugh about, and someone to laugh with. In 2015, Matt and I walked out of AS media studies laughing at when I wrote a paragraph on Sue Perkins when I meant Sue Barker, and then in 2016 the whole of A2 sociology walked out in a kind of hysteria as the exam paper was made hilariously difficult.
This year it was job done, and then unwind. While I spent last year celebrating the end of exams by getting absolutely hammered with everyone at Casinos, this year I rounded off my efforts by playing Pokemon half an hour later than my bedtime.
But hey, it’s whatever eases the tension. Once you’re released of all that stress that has built up, your mind really appreciates it. It’s no wonder that any fiction I’ve been able to write in past years has come in the summer- the mind’s creativity blossoms when it is at ease.
This time that tension evaporated with the excitement of seeing Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon announced live on YouTube to an audience of over 130,000 people. Once again there’s something to anticipate, something to look forward to. It’s never too long before you have something to countdown towards. Having something to look forward to is a great way of structuring your near future, especially when you’re potentially heading towards a period of great difficulty. We’ll keep the talk about the second year for another time though.
Despite only around fifty days of campaigning, there is no doubt in my mind that this year’s snap election has managed to capture the attention of the nation like never before. With relatively little time for each party to go on the campaign trail and publish their manifestos, it was apparent the tabloid press were going into overdrive to enforce their agendas. As a result we were subject to another year of the same kind of fear-mongering tactics that we saw in the referendum vote- and ultimately we’ve ended up in a bigger nightmare as a result. Although this year both sides couldn’t help but delve into threats and fear, one of the greatest achievements from the rather disastrous outcome was the public proving that they are capable of looking past constructions found in the media (dare I say we have Trump and his ramblings on “fake news” to partly thank for this).
Indeed there are plenty of positives from this election. Rather than hate and division regarding the various crises we face in refugees and terrorism, voters have indicated that they are more concerned with issues closer to home, and to put the narrative clear; once again we have a genuine choice between the left and the right. This election has seen the end of New Labour, and once more we have a genuine alternative approach available. The right have a credible opposition, and now politics once again offers the choice between the two alternatives. The nation is voting on policies and values once again; there is an open-mindedness and an appetite for innovation developing. In an election that was called to tackle Brexit, you can’t help but be in awe at the irony of the pendulum swinging back towards the core fundamental issues faced by the country today.
As such, it is important to mention that by far the greatest achievement of this election was the awakening of a generation. Our generation. We underwent a hefty period in the media following the turnout figures from last year’s referendum, and have since gone from a passive engagement with political issues to a proactive one. Regardless of which party we voted for, seeing people our age engaging with debates, and even going out to campaign with local MPs is a promising sign that we are a generation focused on creating a better future. The turnout figure this time at 72% was exceptional. Japanese Twitter even gasped in surprise that the youth are so political here.
This year’s election was the effort of our generation coming together and for the first time standing up. While we face a coalition of chaos in the Conservatives and the DUP, the long-term prospects look bright if this spark continues. And so it should. It was an absolute pleasure sharing an almost fanatical anticipation with all my friends on polling day and during the results. We stayed up to see the first few seats declared, we called for Labour to park the bus when 1-0 up, and collected as many photoshopped photos as possible of the inspirational, honest, and honourable man that is Jeremy Jezza “The Absolute Boy” Corbyn.
In all seriousness, I believe in the long term, the country’s political future has been given the wake-up call it has needed for a while. This election proved that voters will punish arrogance and ill-calculated policies, because they are gradually breaking free from Murdoch’s chains, and once again have two sides to every argument- a choice between the right and the left.
In the midst of our wounded and corrupted world, maybe we do have reasons to look further forward, and for that I am turning down the national mood from “full-blown pessimism” to the previous “cautious optimism”.
Ease the mind, work the body
I’m sure we can all agree on one thing: the recent political action in the past three years has been exhausting, so much so that afterwards I immediately had to go and have a foam roll.
It’s been wonderful visiting the gym on a free schedule lately, especially when the walk home is made more satisfying by the summery skies. I’ve also had the time to further refine my diet, and take advantage of the season by stocking up on every kind of fruit and berry that Tesco offer.
On the subject of fruit, I experienced an almost biblical revelation on the way to the gym one morning. As we get older, tales die out; Santa Claus stops being real, and so does the tooth fairy. Naturally, I therefore assumed the same for the idea that stepping on a banana skin would cause you to comically slip over to the laughter of an omnipresent studio audience.
It turns out the history books have got it wrong.
Pineapple is what Donkey Kong ought to start lobbing in Mario Kart, because look how far that mere piece of skin sent me sliding.
A superb weekend
I can say fully now that I have left my previous tense state of mind from the exam period behind. I haven’t felt this relaxed and calm in ages, and it’s so nice to take each day at a slow pace.
I’ve just finished an amazing weekend. On Saturday I had a group call with Ethan and Gianni while we watched the Scotland V England match with the F1 Canada qualifying also taking place. After a quiet game, the end was as we all know quite explosive. It was tremendously exciting celebrating two free-kicks and a last minute equaliser before I almost lost the plot at seeing Lewis Hamilton lap Montreal in 1:11.4. As always this year, hearing those two boys from my phone has been real good company. My return home is just around the corner, and I can’t wait to see everyone. While my exam period finished on Tuesday, Ethan and Kiran’s began, and so we’re keeping up the support right until the end of the month, where we will then all be done for good.
On Sunday I began the moving-out process from Dinwiddy. My mum and James drove all the way up to take a few of my belongings so that I’m lighter on luggage once I make that dramatic last train journey home. We went on to have a lovely morning; I’m always glad when I get to show my room, the campus of where I live and study, and above all, the absolute state of my sorry looking kitchen. It’s all well sending photo updates of the almighty tip on a regular basis, but it’s one of those things you have to see in person to really take it in. However brief it was, we had a lovely lunch and a walk around London. With one week remaining, I’m really looking forward to moving back. I feel that now the work is done, it’s time to move out of my office for a while. Just like what a popular blue hedgehog did in 2001, I think it’s time to escape from the city.
But for now, I’m going to enjoy one last week in my flat while I still have it (rinsing out every last penny). The work is over, and the summer is finally here. It’s time for last week of year one, from the capital of the world, and beyond.