The Independence Flail

So here I am. A prospectively, almost graduate student of English literature and given my arguably poor choice of degree I am reaching the end of my study with a slightly limited array of options before me. I have considered everything, from singer on a cruise ship to executive internship position (if only I knew what that actually entailed.) In my post university fantasies I imagine myself preened and starched, striding into an Apprentice style board room. A panel of interviewers swing slowly into view on swivel chairs to eye me beneath investigatively quirked eyebrows. I open my mouth and a stream of executive jargon pours out complete with appropriate hand gestures. I even pull a mini flip chart from my blouse to polite applause all round. I dream of quotas, daigrams, data. Of scraped back hair pulled into effortlessly neat top knots, Sex and the City esque outfits with matching shoes, flirting with date worthy men at the photocopier… It is of course at this point that reality strolls jauntily back in to rap me on the head. I think back on my soujourns into part time work in bars and restaurants where I have been reprimanded almost hourly for day dreaming and to one memorable venue where I was left in charge of the ice cream stall and ended up selling everything at half price in an accounting error. Nope, the business world decidedly does not want me. And once I have carefully stowed away an image of myself, warbling away in a glittery outfit to an audience of pensioners, as one of those things thats never going to happen, I am left with what I always knew in the first place. The only way is literature!

That’s right, despite the throngs of inquisitive aquaintances bobbing eagerly on the balls of their feet to say; “English? Huh, didn’t want to make money then?” when I answer their questions about my degree, I am still a disciple. Now when they say that I simply reply: “No, no I didn’t. I wanted a SOOOOUUUUULLL!” Which is why I’ve applied (well am process of applying: forms make me lazy) for a postgrad- to start in a years time. Which begs the question; what am I going to do with myself?

This is essentially the purpose of the year out; to unearth exactly what prospects are out there for a fairly average graduate with a penchant for Victorian literature, absolutely no business sense and highly developed bar skills. Perhaps some prospect exists, some alternative way of life that would allow me, above all, my independence. The means to live, as Jane Austen put it ‘by my pen.’

The problem of course is, I don’t really know where to start. Acting on some sort of inbuilt homing device I have applied for my old waitressing job that supplied me for two and half years while living at home. Its not a sure thing by any means, but it is at least a start and a much brighter prospect than that of unemployment. Of course, the drawback to the whole senario is, I would be moving Home, and by this I do not mean some lush suburban penthouse on the outskirts of the city still linked by easy transport to civilisation, oh no. My parents, so determined in their own post college bid for freedom, decided to move seven hundred miles from the south of England to the north of Scotland in order to set up the hemispheres most northerly art gallery on the Isle of Lewis- seriously, check the map. It was in this vicinity that I grew up; in a stone house that rattled and creaked in the wind, its walls colourfully dotted with paintings behind reflective glass and vast open spaces in which to grow used to space and independence. It is a beautiful location, ideal for creative pursuits, but moor that spreads out behind my house has in some lights a blasted and forbidding look. It is in part responsible for my strong affinity with the Brontes. Often accused of melodrama, I can completely understand how three sisters might wile away their time watching iron coloured clouds scoot across the sky and dreaming of rich handsome psychopaths to spice up their nights.

The counterpoint of all this external space is that we will be rather squashed indoors, the house having now to cater for myself, my father, my mother, our geriatrically derranged dog and my sister- with whom, in true Bronte style, I will be sharing a bed. There will be readjustments to make. Thankfully I find myself a generally adaptable person and have used my Easter break as a test run to stake out the potentially shaky grounding through which our makeshift domestic bliss could fall:

Number 1: Never be frugal when making coffee. It will make you unpopular and cause your father, while drinking it nonetheless out of a sense of hard done by parental duty, to glare dissapprovingly over the lip of his cup and sigh deeply in dissappointment.

Number 2: Beware of surprising number of things around the house that seem designed to trap you. aka. the sofa bed, the front door that locks itself, the car door that does the same, the coffee table with the leg that falls off unexpectedly etc.

Number 3: Learn to block out external noise. It has come to my attention that dad’s are the noisiest group of people in the world. The simple act of drinking a cup of tea becomes a veritable street party of sighs, throat clearings, slurps and under-the-breath mutterings. The computer however, is the most extreme catalyst for this as it is always accompanied by a running commentary of everything that my father does not understand happening onscreen- that being, EVERYTHING! The resulting chorus of ‘Why’s it done that?’ ‘Well. I don’t know why its’ done that.’ ‘Where’s it gone?!’ is punctuated by bouts of humming, whistling and impersonations of the printer. After a while however, you grow used to this cocophony and it begins to wash over you like a sea breeze…

Number 4: Watch out for the dog- she enjoys occupying doorways. You will be hurled at breakneck speed over her fluffy expanse and as you peel yourself off the floor she will curse you with a half blind, evil eye for being a careless owner and waking her up.

Number 5:  Archaic farmhand skills are not to be scoffed at. Lewis, though not the most cosmopolitan destination, is in some ways one of the more useful in that you can provide your own fuel by ‘cutting peat.’ This usually earns you a blank stare from anyone north of Inverness. It’s a pretty lengthy process, taking a good chunk of the whole summer and is not, as I discovered yesterday, as easy as it looks. In fact, standing ankle deep in mud trying to lop chunks off a bank of mud with a scythe like instrument, is decidedly hard. It does on the other hand give you free heat for the whole winter and allow you to use the phrase ‘we scorn your modern fuel.’

Number 6: The day you decide to stay in your pyjamas and not wash your hair is the day that hundreds of tourists arrive to be shown round the gallery revealing you, sprawled on the couch, singing along to your Disney video collection.

Number 7: These tourists will comment on the fact that you have a video player and, indeed a tape recorder, in your living room. My mother has often joked that we should turn the house into a archeological site for Apple users. My father continues to be blissfully unaware of what an ‘Apple’ is.

Number 8: Do not under any circumstances turn off the computer. It is, like the dog, very old and takes a complicated ritual of several games of Solitaire and a lot of swearing for my father to start it up again.

Avoiding these minefields of argument potential, our summer promises to be a blissful and harmonious one- provided nobody gets really hurt falling over the dog or the tractor sinks in the mud again at peat harvest time. I now return to Aberdeen, to hand in my final pieces of work before the free beer and lie-in lined doors of University education swing shut on me forever and churn me out into the mad, bad jobseeker world. Tally-fucking-ho!

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