Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Fees, Cuts, and Tory propaganda

The second post i want to publish tonight is of a much more serious nature.

This post is looking to address the issue of the student protests which have taken place over the last month. By that very admission of scale i accept that i simply can't hope to cover all the diverse and complex issues involved in the debates surrounding the cuts being inflicted on education.

I have a whole range of points to make on this topic so i'm going to separate them numerically.

1) There has been a suggestion, repeatedly broadcast by the BBC and other news media, that both current and prospective students fail to understand that the cost of fees they will have to pay is not immediately reclaimable and that this delay in repayment makes the figure of £45,000 somehow more manageable. First of all, when did an absolute minimum debt of £27, 000 become a figure which suggests future wealth and security. Secondly when did short term loans become a template for long term gain (i'm pretty sure the small print in dozens of different loans adverts have warned me against the precise concept of considering a loan as somehow a basis for a supportable income). Thirdly, when it is announced a mere 6 days after the amelioration of previous tuition fees laws that unemployment is in fact rising, where precisely are the graduates of university degrees meant to find jobs?

Those three arguments, among others, are the the reasons why the last month has seen a dramatic reassessment of the so called 'apathetic generation'. Turns out we aren't a generation prepared to be fobbed off with a substandard higher education which is paid for through an extortionate fee system. The older generations have spent years dismissing my generation as lost, a decade of teenagers who cared for nothing more than our most recent facebook status and are now horrified to discover that in fact we are extremely angry at the dismissive nature with which the education of the year groups to follow mine are being treated. Raise tuition fees, do away with E.M.A (A hugely important source of finance for a large number of people from lower incomes hoping to pursue further education), entrench the concept that higher education is something for the wealthy rather than anyone with the intellectual capacity.

2) One element i'll take issue with is the suggestion by countless BBC journalists as well as numerous reporters for other sources; that students want a free education. I've read more times than i can comfortably deal with that students expect unreasonably a free education. There's enough holes in this idea to form a pretty effective collinder. For a start a large percentage of students i know have completely accepted £3,290 fees per year as fair. I personally am happy to concede that some degree of paying for a further education is fair. However, by raising the fees to a potential £9,000 a year the government is instantly placing a value on higher education that many people will feel insurmountable.

I have seen several interviews where journalist have suggested that the students who are protesting are doing so because they don't appreciate that they won't have to pay back the loan until they are earning £21,000 or more. To the contrary, most current and future students not only appreciate the short term impact this will have on them but are also aware of the more long term affects they face.

The anger seen on the streets of London over the last month stems not from the ignorance of reality but from the disgust at watching the ladder of higher education being pulled up by a generation who enjoyed free university education

3) It has suited media outlet's to portray the protests as simply a product of Nick Clegg's betrayal but this is a pathetically simplistic view. Undoubtedly many students, me included, are furious at Nick Clegg for going back on a principle he was only too happy to foreground when in the pursuit of votes. I voted for the Liberal Democrats at the last election, in the hope that they promised something different to the alternating Labour/Conservative governments. I can't see myself voting for them again because to put it simply, they managed to reveal themselves as a more blatant version of the traditional political spectrum of lies and mistruths than even the Conservatives or Labour had managed in several years.

However to dismiss the anger as simply a product of his back-tracking is to over-simplify and dismiss the true power behind the unrest. Clegg is simply a manifestation of a more far-reaching anger at the political system. The anger stems from the fact that despite proudly offering something different to the populace, he managed to provide a sickeningly similar option. My generation are not apathetic but they are disillusioned.

4) The second major issue relating to the protests is the nature of the coverage when relating to the violence. Even the guardian, a paper which tends to be more sympathetic to the student cause than most, labelled a video of an assault on a disabled protester as an 'Alleged assault'.

The BBC a supposedly objective source of news coverage made their position clear with their interview of the victim of the assault, Jody McIntyre, . If the attempts to claim that a man with cerebral palsy being wheeled towards a police riot officer constituted a threat doesn't suggest a painfully clear bias in the BBC coverage i don't know what will. In what other scenario could the assault upon a wheel chair-bound man be justified by claiming that the disabled man was being threatening?

Alfie Meadows has only recently returned home after going through surgery on the brain after a hit to the head from a police man's baton. A large number of other protester's injuries have gone unreported in the last few weeks as the idea of the police assaulting defenceless young men and women doesn't fit within the accepted view of 'a violent group of "anarchist" students attempting to provoke violence'. Some papers have at least attempted to portray the other side of the protests but overall the national media has come down in favour of the Metropolitan Police rather than the protesters exercising their democratic right to protest against Government decisions they disagree with.

I am not for a moment condoning the actions of the protesters who have injured police officers, or the idiot who threw a fire extinguisher from the roof of Tory HQ , they are idiots and i reckon they probably deserve to be punished within the full force of the law (to the extent of their crimes, i'm unsure that extreme idiocy is the same as attempted murder).

However, I strongly believe that if the police can use the established media to publish the faces of those they believe were involved in the riots in London, it is only right that the student community pull together to make sure that footage of Police officers assaulting peaceful students is broadcast all over the internet.

I have a cynicism about the capability of the police to punish those within their own ranks who over step the mark, born out of the failure to bring the police officer whose actions killed Ian Tomlinson ( to any real sort of punishment.

It is my interpretation that at least during the initial few days following the protest, the media were only too happy to portray the December 9th protests as an all out assault on the police who operated solely within the boundaries of public interest and public service.

This ignores the simple fact that for every violent idiot among the protesters i would be willing to bet there was a violent policeman spoiling for a fight. What so much of the coverage, in their haste to take sides, has failed to acknowledge is that both sides have their violent, borderline psychopathic idiots and to pretend otherwise is inconceivably naive.

The portrayal of the student protesters as a violent, uneducated and ungrateful rabble, is precisely what has provoked the anger rather than what has explained it. The violence has been evident on both sides, yes there is a reasonable number of protesters who have made the decision to attack the police, but it can equally be argued that the afore mentioned decision stems from the aggresively defensive stance taken by the police. The decision to kettle people on Westminster Bridge until 11pm on a freezing cold December night (a fact gleefully ignored by the majority of papers) was one designed to provoke violence among the radicals within the protesters and discourage future demonstrations amongst the more casual of protesters.

It may sound like a conspiracy theory but i believe that the vandalism of the police riot van on the 25th of November ( was a exquisitely managed example of staged anger. I have been in enough cities where i have been a member of a group of away football fans or opposition to EDL groups to know how well the police tend to organise and protect themselves and their equipment. The fact that they 'accidentally' left a riot van right in the middle of the area they knew the students would be protesting in seems more than a little suspect to me. If there'd been reports of police having to genuinely flee the vehicle then my view would have been different, but the fact is most reports suggest the vehicle was abandoned. This leads me to believe it was a calculated ploy by the police service because they appreciated the impact photos of a trashed riot van would have in supporting their cause. Now many people will choose to believe they police line and i'm not conceited enough to believe that i'm categorically right. However i study politics and journalism at university and the effect of that is i am beginning to become cynical about situations like this due to the idealistic nature of the photo opportunity.

The third, and in some way simultaneously most ignored and most important, issue is the fact that a large proportion of students are protesting not because of fees (which has been reported as the sole issue at stake) but because of the 80% cuts to most universities funding. Now if the Conservative government (and let's be honest that's what we have seeing as the Lib Dems have performed one of the most graceful if depressing swings to the right) was really concerned with tackling the deficit in Britain it would attack the issues of tax evasion by big business' and wealthy individuals rather than putting such a high price on education. Vodafone, Topshop and Lord Ashcroft would all have to face up to the reality that their tax evasion is costing this country billions of pounds. If the amount owed in unpaid tax by those three evaders was reclaimed suddenly Britain's deficit would look a lot less ominous. However both the current Conservative government and the previous Labour one have shown a worrying reliance on big business, believing that free market economy is the way to solve all economic woes, despite a cornucopia of evidence to the contrary. Letting big business' and banks' act in their own self interest regardless of the national impact has appeared to become the accepted method of global economy and depressingly there is little evidence to suggest any chance being imminent.

Basically, the aim of this post is to attempt to make people realise that the student anger is not uniformed, non-specific or reactionary. The anger is knowledgeable, targeted and purposeful and despite the best efforts of the government and media under it's sway, is not just going to evaporate.

Life is far from shit

Right, the first post i want to write tonight is about one of the most broad and vague issues around. I admit and specify that so that anyone who reads on is braced for one of the more rambling additions to my blog.

I've been thinking a lot recently about life, about the way i look at my own life and about the way people in a more general way perceive their own achievements and limitations.

I've heard one particular phrase once too many times, and i see no reason to deny the fact that i've uttered it a couple of times; "Life is shit". It's a three word sentence that ever so succinctly sums up the frustration, anger and often sadness, I and other people feel about the life they live.

But i was thinking about this last night and i realised something, undoubtedly influenced by other peoples thoughts on the matter. Life is never shit. The circumstances you're faced with can be shit. The friends you have can be shit. So can your family. It can be utterly shit that your denied the romantic companion you so desire. So many factors and elements in your life can be shit, but life itself is never shit. Life in fact is the most incredible thing we possess. Surely if we measure all the good things that impact on our existence by whether they make our lives shit or not, surely that suggests that our lifes base value is pretty high, that life is a good thing until our choices and circumstance make it otherwise. This is something i'd agree with. I'm far from the most optimistic of people, as anyone who's met me would testify, but i believe in the basic sanctity and beauty of life.

While we're still alive we have a choice, we have a say and we have a determination to improve ourselves. I refuse to accept that everything is out of our hands. Undoubtedly some elements are, as in all walks and times of life, simply outside of our control. However this doesn't mean for a moment that we should sit back and accept what we face unquestioningly. We have a life and it is to a pretty large degree what we make of it.

I acknowledge that an appreciation of the wonder of my own life is not one of my strengths. Too often i focus on the negatives, too often i end up reading the worst possible interpretation into a scenario. However even the slightest bit of detached evaluation makes me realise that no matter how crap the current scenario facing me may be is, it doesn't mean that life in it's broadest sense if shit.

You see, i think that though many people manage to evaluate their own lives as separate from an individual circumstance, i am not alone in viewing a crap comparatively momentary issue as somehow representative of a greater concern in my life. Despite any advice or inference to the contrary, i struggle with the fact i'm single. I struggle not to draw conclusions beyond my own situation from the loneliness that that inspires.

In the end, for all my rambling, this blog post boils down to a fairly simple principle that i hope that anyone who reads this will understand. No matter how shit your life may seem at any one moment, no matter how much you wish you could change the circumstance you are faced with, no matter how insurmountable the obstacles in your way are, life itself is never shit. In fact life is the most incredible gift we have.

Now i'm a melodramatic and overly romantic chap so you may choose to ignore this post as simple hyperbole, and maybe there's an element of truth to that assessment, but it doesn't change the fact that i completely mean it and that regardless of any idealised stance on life, my claim that life is the most incredible gift holds true. There's so much crap that every human being has to face on a daily basis that could drag one down.

Maybe i'm just over sensitive but it seems to me that at some point in the not too long forgotten past it became uncool to care, to hope for more, to look at your life and want more from the future that faced you than may initially present itself.

So my basic, over arching point is this; No matter how much you may hate your life, no matter how desperately you might wish you could escape from the situation you are in, it's that particular situation that is shit, it's that day, week or month that is shit. Life is never shit, because from the most pessimistic outlook, the alternative is worse, and from a less negative view, life and the pursuit of a happier existence is actually the thing that makes our existence worthwhile. We have around 80 years to make our mark, and when you think of it that way surely it seems futile to limit yourself to a narrow and ultimately negative view of what our potential is.

I really hope that anyone who reads this knows me, because if they do then they'll understand that anything i write is as much advice to myself as anyone else, rather than a condescending critique on their attitudes. I never envisaged this blog to be a portal for projecting my views on other people, rather i'm simply trying to reflect my ever changing approach and values when it comes to life in the broadest sense.

Life is what we make of it, life is a relatively blank slate and life is a fragile sense of ideals and intentions which we have to protect against the inevitably degrading nature of existence.

Basically i hope that anyone who reads this will appreciate that no matter what their current outlook on life is, life is infinitely better to the alternative and so i pray (and i don't exactly make a habit of that) that they gain every possible benefit from that and experience every joy that our humble existence has to offer.

I'm an atheist (bordering on agnostic, i pretty much completely don't believe in god or any other higher spirit, however i refuse to believe that i have the degree of absolute wisdom required to rule out the afore mentioned higher spirit's existence.) This particular approach to the broader issues facing every human being have led to me taking a view which i would like to think is fairly pragmatic. I don't believe in a life after death but i do believe that our choices have an impact not just on our own lives. This means that i truly believe each and every person should do their best to ensure that, regardless of the religious outlook of the person looking in, you live what could be considered to be a virtuous life. I drink too much, i think too much, i in particular ways covet too much, yet i would like to think i have done a sufficient job of living a "good" life and i have come reasonably close to being a "good" person.

I put "good" in speech marks because i believe good is a highly subjective adjective and so I generally attempt to avoid it but in this case i find it kind of appropriate as it suits the very vague conditions i am considering in this particular post.

I could ramble on about the highly personal definitions of 'good' and 'bad' but this isn't the post and to be honest i'm not the writer to attempt to qualify those two concepts, even on a highly personal level. Instead i reckon i'll finish with one moderately simple sentence.

Life is not just good, but incredible, and it is each and every human being's responsibility to appreciate that fact.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

A decent day

I guess I'm getting in the Christmas spirit. I handed in both of the essays which I've been working on for the last couple of weeks today. It was the kind of winter day I love, with a clear blue sky, cold without being unbearable and a layer of frost covering most surfaces but thankfully not the pavement. There's something kind of beautiful about trees when every one of their branches has been coated white with frost, making them look skeletal and festive at the same time. It was one of those fairly uneventful days where the simple fact that nothing went wrong actually makes it a great day. Nothing big or dramatic happened, I went to Uni, handed in some work, played on the Xbox for a bit, went round to a friend's house and watched a DVD before wandering home well before midnight. But for once I've reached the end of a day without a single thing going wrong or frustrating me, without anything to dwell on or regret. It's a nice feeling and one I allow myself too rarely. It's not like the things that have caused me to feel a bit crap at various times this term have gone away or been solved, in fact they're completely unchanged, it's just I guess they don't seem to have mattered so much today and I'm grateful for that.

I watched 'Home Alone' this evening for the first time in ages and I'd forgotten how enjoyable that film is, simple, funny, charming and intensely evocative of a whole host of Christmas based memories and associations. It also struck me just how violent some of the traps the burglars fall for are, something which had passed me by when I'd watched it as a child, those guys would almost certainly have both died from the punishment they receive (don't worry though, I know that strict realism was hardly the aim of the film makers there and nor should it have been).

The main focus of this post, or at least the initial inspiration, isn't my improved mood. It's not about my day today either. It's another post about music, and the role it plays in my life.

I spent a lot of the last week sat in my room working on essays and it's times like that when I truly become aware of my reliance on music to get through a day. I had my iTunes library open constantly, listening to a whole range of songs and I genuinely think it would have been much more of a struggle to complete the essays had it not been for that. There was a fairly heavy emphasis on Frank Turner among the songs I listened to. I know quite a lot of people who simply can't work while listening to music, they find it too distracting but I am the exact opposite. I have a fairly inattentive mind a lot of the time, I quite rarely manage to focus on one thing in particular, even if I'm watching a film or TV show I love I'll find my mind is wandering and I'm tempted to check a few websites or read a magazine while watching them.

I have a theory that it's at least partly a defence mechanism; anyone who knows me properly will know that I have a tendency to over think scenarios. I quite simply think too much, and not in a intelligent or beneficial way, just in an overly analytical and often slightly self-destructive way. I also tend not to draw the most positive conclusions from these periods of thought, ending up with a fairly negative outlook on the way certain aspects of my life are going. It's because of this that I think I often end up doing two or more things at once, if I was to do just the one that would leave me too much room to think about the exact kind of things it does me little good to focus on. Recently I've not even been successful in transferring that energy into being creative and coming up with stories to write, it's just been a kind of self-perpetuating cycle of slight sadness.

Music seems to operate in the same part of my brain as the section which dreams up things for me to over-think (I doubt there's any actual psychological link, it's more just how it feels to me). So combining music with work is quite effective as it keeps the practical and over-imaginative sides of my brain busy and I am intensely grateful for music whenever I'm faced with work.

I was reminded of my gratitude for music at two separate points today. Firstly when I was walking into university, enjoying as I mentioned earlier exactly the kind of winter morning I love, accompanied by the Fleet Foxes eponymous debut album. It was just one of those moments where the music matched my mood and my environment so well. I genuinely feel sorry for all the generations who had to live without iPods and MP3 players. I know that could sound condescending or foolish, but seeing as I pretty much literally never walk anywhere alone without my earphones in, it's just hard to imagine a life without that. Some people might argue that people were more social or just enjoyed the sounds around them, but I never listen to my iPod when I'm with friends and if anyone can explain quite what I'm missing out on by drowning out the sounds of traffic and other people's unrelated conversations I'm willing to listen.

The second time was fairly similar, just about 8 hours later. Walking round to my friends house on my own I decided to listen to an album I'd not listened to for a couple of months. "Until the Earth Begins to Part" by Broken Records is an incredible album, but for some reason I'd not listened to it for quite a while so i enjoyed that wonderful feeling of re-discovering a love for a piece or pieces of music. I tend to listen to albums intensely for a while, then forget about them, and as a general rule the really good ones I'll re-discover, the more average ones tend to stay forgotten. In this case I was very glad to be reminded of just how much I adore that album and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who reads this.

The final musically related thing I can think to mention is the name of my favourite Christmas song atm, which is Christmas in London by Frank Hamilton. It's on iTunes and Spotify and I would really advise people to give it a listen, it's a really good folksy/acoustic Christmas song which so far is managing to make me feel festive without being nauseatingly over familiar.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A Weekend Well Spent

So my plan of writing a blog every day until Christmas fell apart pretty quickly. In my defence when i decided to aim for that I'd forgotten that the combination of a energy sapping politics essay and a trip to Nottingham meant that I haven't had the time or inclination to post sadly.

It's been a great weekend, i got the politics essay done, i saw one of my best friends who i hadn't seen for more than 2 months, discovered an incredibly nice pizza (Deano's beano - from a takeaway place in Nottingham consisting of cheese, tomato, sausage and beans, it was so much nicer than it sounds) and went to a good gig (Pendulum live at Nottingham Trent Arena).

Definitely starting to look forward to Christmas now. Or more accurately i am looking forward to the holidays. I can't wait to be back in Sheffield, because no matter how much i love my life in Leicester (and i definitely like Leicester a lot more this year than i did last, for a whole range of reasons), it isn't home like Sheffield is. I'm excited for the first night out back home, with all the old faces, because there's a guarantee there of a good night in a way i rarely associate with a night out in Leicester.

There's two things I'm definitely looking forward to between now and when i make the relatively short journey home on the 17th.

First up is the coming Friday evening. I am seeing Frank Turner live. This is a huge deal to me, i really can't think of many, if any bands or artists i'd rather see right now than him. I've been listening to his songs pretty intensively for the last week or so. At the moment i'm going on my own, which isn't ideal but won't stop it from being a brilliant night. And afterwards there's "Battle of the Uni's", a bar crawl that tries to cash in on a fairly artificial and half arsed rivalry between the two universities in the city. Last year it was a really good night out, arguably one of the better of the entire first year at uni. Once i leave the Frank Turner gig i'm going to just meet up with a few friends and hopefully it'll be a really great night.

The second one is a Christmas dinner round at a friends house. Big group of us having a lovely dinner and just hanging out. It sounds like the perfect way to end the term, can't wait.

To end this blog I'm going to post 5 links, to 5 songs that I'm really loving at the moment. As it's the main focus of my excitement currently, the 5 today are going to be Frank Turner songs, the ones I'm most looking forward to hearing on Friday.

2. Ballad of Me and My Friends -
3. I Knew Prufock Before He Was Famous -

Thursday, 2 December 2010

They Came From Outer Space.....

This post is basically what I wrote in my journalism workshop this morning, with a few embellishments. We were tasked with writing an article for a magazine of our choice, so I chose to write one for Empire.


This winter Aliens are arriving on our screens in huge numbers and in all shapes and sizes.

The end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 are packed with the resurgence of the alien invasion genre. Our cities will be attacked relentlessly, famous landmarks will be blown up repeatedly and it will seem that all hope is lost on a monthly basis.

The genre has never truly gone away, mostly because people’s interest in things from outer space, and the likelihood that they would want to destroy us in a fiery apocalypse, seems certain to remain strong until the day extra-terrestrial life actually turns up on our doorstep, at which point rolling 24 hour news coverage will take over and provide us with a real life version.

This winter however definitely sees a surge of films that would fit within this bracket, though it has to be said, there’s an exciting variety in what’s arriving.

First to make it to earth is ‘Skyline’, a sci-fi adventure focussing on a predictably small and rag-tag group of people trying to escape a devastating alien invasion by heading out of the city, in this case Los Angeles.

Directors Colin & Greg Strause (Alien V Predator Requiem) have produced a generic but visually impressive thriller that has been met with a fairly dismissive critical reaction. Joe Leydon, writing for Variety magazine described it as: “Imagine a budget mash up of ‘Transformers’ and ‘Independence Day’ and you’re primed for skyline.” By all accounts the film suffers from it's familiarity, it's a perfectly well made film, but we've seen it all before. It lacks the set pieces of 'Independence Day', the grimly apocalyptic quality of 'War of the Worlds' or the charm of a 'Doctor Who' episode.

Following close on it’s heels is a completely different kind of beast. ‘Monsters’, released on the 3rd of December, is as it’s director Gareth Edwards described it to The Guardian newspaper: “A road movie set in a world with giant monsters.”

It’s an accurate summation of a film which constantly places it’s focus upon the two central human characters, a cynical journalist and the shaken tourist he is escorting, and their physical and emotional journey rather than the ‘Aliens’ which inhabit the land.

In ‘Monsters’ the aliens have been on earth for 6 years, quarantined in an area between Mexico and the U.S, which as you may have guessed, the two main characters (played brilliantly by Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy) are forced to travel through.

Made for around $200,000, a relative shoe-string budget in this genre, the film has gained critical acclaim, Mark Adams from Screen International referring to it as: “An intelligent sci-fi film that is absorbing, thrilling and ultimately moving.”

2011 will see several more alien based movies. One of the most hotly anticipated is ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ a big budget action film whose trailer seems to promise a cross between ‘Black Hawk Down’ and ‘Cloverfield’. The $100m production shows one squad of U.S marines attempting to fight back against the Alien invasion. It’s a refreshingly different take to actually see the battle from the point of view of individual soldiers (including Aaron Eckhart an Michelle Rodriguez) rather than government chiefs, top scientists or terrified civilians. My fingers are crossed for this because the trailer looks so promising.

With ‘Paul’ (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s comedy road movie about an encounter with a friendly alien), ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ (Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford fighting off aliens in the Wild West) and ‘I am Number Four’ (an action movie aimed at the teen audience soon to be available with the conclusion of the Harry Potter and Twilight sagas, with Alex Pettyfer in the central role) all due for release in 2011 it would appear the aliens aren’t planning on leaving anytime soon.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

It's that time of year again

I'm going to try and do a blog a day until christmas, though i'm sure i'll fall short at some point, so here goes.

1st of december.

Not long until Christmas, not long until new years, not long until the end of a decade.

Seeing as the snow seems to be dominating everyone's thoughts at the moment, for a mix of reasonable and nuts reasons, i feel like complaining. In Leicester it appears that we skipped right past the 'ooh snow, let's regress by a few years and throw snowballs, go sledging and generally mess around until we get so cold we physically can't continue (i know this seems like i'm slagging it off but i love that stage, i love that snow still makes me happy even though i don't really know why) and just moved into the deadly sheet ice stage where pavements and roads are more ice than anything else and everyone's reduced to cautiously waddling everywhere for fear of decking it and either if they're lucky just damaging their pride, if not then injuring themselves, thus making the next walk on the ice even more perilous.

I think it's a sign i'm getting old that now when i saw the snow start falling for the first time a few nights ago, though the childish excitement was still there, it was tainted by the thought of 'this will be bloody inconvenient when it all ices over'. I never used to think of that, snow used to be a pretty much unqualified good thing, but now the idea of slipping and sliding all over the place just popping across the road really depresses me. The fact that the snow hasn't really settled here at all just makes it worse, i feel like i've been cheated of the 'fun' bit and just have the crap after effect, like waking up with a hangover without having the night out before.

On a lighter note something that brought back a childlike level of joy without any negative sides was the arrival in the post today of Toy Story 3. I got it through love film (a scheme i've made a lot of use of over the past year and one that's definitely been value for money for me) and have made plans to watch it tomorrow evening. I actually can't wait to see it again, because at least on first viewing it was every bit as good as the first two. The animation even sharper, the jokes pitch perfect and often wonderfully complex and subtle, the plot involving and carrying a message without letting that spoil a damn good story.

For me at the moment, if i was to select one genre, director, company or actor i most trust to provide a quality film it's Pixar. Their hit percentage is insanely high, managing to make what are at least on the surface good children's films into simply great films. The Toy Story's are joined by Wall-E, Up, Monsters Inc, A Bug's Life and Finding Nemo. They're the ones i've seen, leaving 3 more (Ratatouille, Cars and the Incredibles) and out of the first list i can honestly say i loved every single one.

Pixar announced that a sequel to Monsters Inc will be released in the December of 2012. Now i'm not a big fan of much delayed sequels, i usually can't shake the suspicion that the decision to revive a concept is more born out of money issues than creative inspiration, much like i have only a limited interest in bands reforming to go on tour after long spells apart, especially when they're now missing integral members who made them great (but that's another rant for another time). However when i heard about this particular sequel i was just genuinely excited. Firstly Pixar are not scratching around for a dollar or two, they are i am sure, even in these economically tough times, filthily rich. Secondly as i said earlier i trust Pixar to do the sequel justice, until proven otherwise i will assume that the animation and writing will be of just as high a standard as usual.

Tomorrow is shaping up to involve a decent amount of journalism work (i might post the magazine article i'm writing for my workshop on here as a blog entry tomorrow if i like what i come up with), more work on my political theory essay, my luck/balance almost certainly failing me at least once on the ice and the promise of an evening watching Toy Story 3 to keep me going.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

An Uneventful Saturday Night

This update is mostly going to be a stream of random consciousness so apologies in advance if it doesn't make much sense, i'm tired and keep zoning out.

It's been a while since i've updated this blog, mostly because i've not thought of anything particularly ramble worthy recently. But i'm determined not to let this blog just peter out in the way so many of my projects in the past have.

I have at last count 8 different stories with over 2,000 words written, but which are still a long way from being finished. I had 4 drums lessons before abandoning that as a lost cause (a growing understanding of my complete lack of co-ordination or sense of timing has left this seeming like a wise decision in hindsight, but at the time I think it was just a result of a lack of focus and sticking power).

I miss playing football a lot, but I know I could probably have fought harder to keep that part of my life going. Due to a mix of good, lazy and just self-conscious reasons I barely play any more, and it strikes me as a bit odd that despite it being something I valued incredibly highly, i've let it go remarkably easily.

I think it's just representative of me as a person, I get passionate about things, some for a short while, some for much longer, but when that passion begins to die I don't really try hard enough to maintain it. My focus is too weak and too fleeting. I'm too easily put off by even the slightest difficulties or lack of results.

It annoys me and i'm sure at times it must have annoyed other people.

It's this previous lack of persistence and my desire (possibly doomed but hey i'll try and be optimistic, there's a first time for everything I guess) that is making me really hope I can keep this blog going.

I'm sat watching x factor currently and laughing at the term 'rock song' being stretched to breaking point. I'm not as against x factor as some people, it's well marketed and frustratingly addictive and there are some pretty decent performances on it.

I'm looking forward to going to two gigs in the next fortnight, it's been ages since i've been to a gig (unless i'm forgetting one then it was back during the summer holidays when I saw Bedouin Soundclash in a tiny little pub in the centre of London, a truly great gig) and I can't wait to go to a couple of gigs and just feel that thrill I always experience when listening to live bands.

I'm seeing Pendulum on the 4th in Nottingham, which i'm looking forward to, though it has to be said i'm more excited about seeing my friend Emma than I am about the actual gig. However i'm sure by the time i'm in the arena there'll be that familiar gig based excitement as well. The week after that i'm seeing Frank Turner and I am almost giddy when I think about that. Frank Turner is one of my favourite artists, several of his songs mean a huge amount to me and I listen to him probably as often as anyone on my iPod. The only negative that occurs to me when thinking about going to this gig is that, just like when I saw bloc party, there's pretty much no way he's going to play every one of the songs I really hope he does. The price you pay for seeing an artist with several albums worth of good material I guess is that a 60/90 minute set is unlikely to completely do their back catalogue justice. I'll almost certainly leave that gig fairly hoarse from singing along and I frankly can't wait.

An evening i have more mixed feelings for is this Monday. Nottingham Forest are playing Leicester City and as most people who read this will now, I'm a Forest fan who lives in Leicester (at least for uni). I wasn't able to get two tickets for the game in the away end (I could have got one but i didn't want to sit there on my own, despite how tempted i was to be in the middle of the crowd), so me and my house mate are going to a pub to watch that, and the El Classico derby which is on the same night. I'm looking forward to seeing a Forest game live, looking forward to a night in the pub watching football. What I'm not looking forward to is the fact that at least for the first half I'll be unsure how passionately I can safely react to any Forest goal without getting my head kicked in by a pissed Leicester fan. So either if Leicester beat Forest then I'll have to watch loads of people celebrating right in front of me, or, if Forest beat Leicester I won't be able to celebrate completely naturally because i won't be entirely relaxed.

Either way it should be interesting.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Enjoying the little moments

This update is going to have a literary theme.

Firstly one of my friends, Abbie, bought me a book for my 20th birthday which i began reading last night. It's called "One Day" and is by David Nicholls. It looks pretty promising both from what Abbie had previously told me about it and from the first chapter. I've been looking for a new novel to read, something to read as an alternative to histories of American politics and excerpts from classical political theorists.

Printed on the page that precedes the first chapter is a quote from a truly fantastic novel, "Great Expectations", the classic by Charles Dickens. I'd forgotten the quote since i last read the novel, but seeing it again last night i remembered just how perfectly i feel it captures a pretty abstract concept that has always intrigued me.

"That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it and think how different its course would have been. Pause, you who read this, and think for a long moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns and flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on that memorable day."

I love that quote because it sums up the idea that a single day, 1 out of hopefully tens of thousands at least, can change your entire life. That the beginnings of a chain of events can be humble yet affect so much which follows. We're rarely aware of the importance of a day until the gift of hindsight is given to us. It's a very similar idea to that of 'the butterfly effect', the idea that even the slightest change in our history could produce a drastically different present and future. It does make a slight mockery of the degree to which we believe we have control over our own lives. How much control can we really have unless we analyse every tiny decision to the point of getting nothing done? Most of the time we just have to let life run it's course, enjoy all the little moments and hope that we don't end up regretting one of more of the myriad of things we do each day.

Also it is impractical to try and attribute all the praise of blame for an eventual destination on an individual decision. So many little decisions combine to bring us to the big decisions which impact on our lives in a more distinct way. Without any one of the many smaller choices we may never have reached the place where that bigger choice would have been possible.

So there you go, this is the kind of thing that goes on in my head when i should really be focussing on something useful.

I don't have any deep or important point to make about this next quote, i include it solely because it's one of my favourite quotes from any book and when i was typing out the Dickens quote this one sprang to mind as well. It's from "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen.

"We can all begin freely –a slight preference is natural enough; but there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement"

Right, the rest of this update is going to be a short story i wrote quite a while ago, the summer before i came to university, but it's one i've not grown to dislike over time which is quite unusual.


Kindred Spirits

A quick glance at his phone told him it was nearly half 11. He’d been dragged into town by a couple of his friends, determined despite past evidence that he would have fun in the bars in the city centre. Now both friends had wandered off, their attentions drawn to girls who’d caught their eye. So he was sat alone at a long and fairly empty bar, perched on a tall bar stool that looked like it was straight out of an IKEA catalogue, all cheap plastic and shiny metal legs. The bar he was in was very student friendly, almost seeming to make a unique selling point of everything being cheap but cheerful.

The beer bottle in his hands offered some minor distraction, both through drinking it at a rate that gave away his discomfort and boredom, and through playing with it, tearing the label, spinning it around, doing anything menial to take his mind off the night. He really wasn’t cut out for the clubbing scene, far too busy living inside his head to enjoy the thrills of a night out. He couldn’t help feeling incredibly jealous as he watched the confident boys and girls of the city meeting, greeting and pulling. He felt like he was doomed to always over think things, to complicate what should be a simple and fun night out into a tumultuous and confusing mess of emotions. He watched people finding a connection, even if only a brief one, with people they’d never met, and he felt that loneliness that had been weighing heavily on him recently, press down all the harder.

He stared unseeingly straight ahead of himself, into the mirror which stretched along the entire length of the bar, but he wasn’t paying much attention to his reflection, his eyes had simply settled on that point to avoid making eye contact with anyone. He resolved himself to wait out another half hour, have another beer and then go home, either with his mates, or alone. He wouldn’t resent them wanting to stay, he wasn’t self obsessed enough to think that they should share his reasons for not enjoying the night; they were more confident creatures than he was, and were both single. This was exactly the kind of night they were supposed to enjoy. Part of him knew that it was the sort of night he should enjoy.

He glanced to his right, half hoping to catch the attention of the barman and order another bottled beer. He’d still got a third of the last bottle left, but he reckoned that the sooner he drank that and drank another one, the sooner he could feel he had fulfilled his promise to himself and could leave. The barman was busy; pouring what seemed like a fairly epic number of pints for a rowdy bunch of lads. The group of guys were all stood around the bar, laughing at each others jokes a little bit too loudly to be completely natural. They had arrived at the bar about 10 minutes ago, clearly already several pints south of sober and though they were in good spirits they had changed the atmosphere in the room by drowning out anyone else’s conversations with their banter and seemingly competitive laughter. He’d not really paid them too much attention until now, having no interest in joining them or annoying them, but as he looked towards the barman he saw reflected in the mirror a sight which focussed all his attention on that section of the bar.

Sat at the edge of that storm of alcohol and testosterone, perched as far to one side of a bar stool as physically possible, and still leaning further away, was a girl. Next to the crowd of guys, so noisy and unpredictable, she looked so small and vulnerable that he felt a sudden urge to protect this girl, even though he’d never seen her before and she probably didn’t need protecting. He imagined he’d be a long way down on her list of the guys in the bar who she’d want to protect her anyway. As he continued to watch the girl in the mirror, he was surprised to find it had taken him this long to notice just how stunning she was. She had shoulder length brunette hair, with a fringe which she seemed to be using as a shield against the world, a slightly tanned, very cute heart shaped face and delicate, kissable lips, but what struck him most was her eyes, peering out from under the fringe, they were such a dark shade of brown that at this distance they almost looked black.

Suddenly she glanced up, away from the drink in her hand that she’d been focussing on, and her eyes met his in the mirror. With a start he realised he’d been indirectly staring at her, so absorbed in both her situation and her beauty. A different guy may have met her gaze, may even have mustered a smile to her, and taken it from there. But he wasn’t that guy and he panicked looking away and staring intensely at the label of his beer, hoping the embarrassment he felt at getting caught staring wasn’t manifesting itself into too obvious a blush on his cheeks. He suddenly felt 10 degrees too warm and considered making a dash for the door. But instead he found himself, slowly so as to try and be subtle, glancing up at the mirror, back at the point halfway between him and her, where their eye’s had met. To his horror she was still looking at that exact point, and his heart seemed to forget quite how to go about its job, as he saw a shy smile spread across her lips as their eyes met. All the sounds of the bar seemed to become muffled as he looked into those dark eyes. He quickly looked away again though, assuming the smile was one of pity, she probably just felt sorry for the blatantly out of place and awkward boy sat a few seats away. He briefly wondered where the girl’s boyfriend was, a girl that good looking almost certainly had a boyfriend, it would be bordering on an injustice if she was single by anything other than her own choice. He’d probably be a guy not that dissimilar to any one of the group of drunken lads that had moved a little further away from her now that they had their pints. At least, he felt it was fair to say, he probably wouldn’t be a guy like him. Girls like her didn’t go for guys like him.

The barman wandered past him and he asked for another beer, paying the guy quickly, while managing to avoid looking to his right at all. He glanced around to see where his mates were, considering going and joining them just to give him an excuse not to sit there, so hyper aware of this girl sat at most 20 metres away. Both his mates were busy talking to girls so he ruled that one out, he’d rather be the weird but potentially a little mysterious loner than the third wheel. Some small part of him, some minute but optimistic part of him made him glance over at the mirror again, tempting his imagination with the idea that the smile might have been born from something other than pity. That maybe she had seen something of interest in him, a hint of a kindred spirit perhaps, someone else who at that moment in time, clearly didn’t want to be sat alone at a bar. What he saw in the mirror confused him; he didn’t know how to react to the sight of her unmistakable sadness. Her head was down, her eyes locked on a seemingly random point on the bar, and it was clear even at this distance that something had disappointed or upset her. He was contemplating going over to talk to her, for he knew as well as anyone the sensation of loneliness, but his body and thoughts froze simultaneously as she glanced through her fringe at the mirror. They froze because the moment her eyes met his, the sad look vanished, replaced by one that despite his better instincts, he could only describe as hopeful and happy.

His eyes went to his beer again, unable to meet her gaze for the sudden string of images that had filled his mind when she smiled made him feel instantly awkward. In that one moment where there eyes had truly met, her hopeful smile and the glint in her eye had thrown his pessimistic and cynical defences aside and caused him to hope as well, and he’d found himself entertaining images of them as a couple. He knew it was foolish and naïve to even dream those things on the basis of a smile and a brief moment of eye contact, but he had done, and now those images were going round his mind; now he’d imagined them, he couldn’t shake either the images or the way they made him feel.

He felt something coursing through him, an optimism and confidence that were fairly alien to him, so he took a long drink from his beer and then before these new found feelings could desert him he stood up and turned to face the girl.

As he started to walk towards her, his heart rate rising with every step, his mind ran through what he could say. He’d gone too far to back out now, but he realised he hadn’t the faintest clue what to say to a beautiful girl. He ran through lines he’d heard other guys use when chatting up girls, but they all seemed so fake and sleazy that he ruled them out. If he was going to do this, he wasn’t going to pretend to be someone he wasn’t, it just wouldn’t feel right.

Suddenly he realised that he was stood only a couple of feet away from her and she was staring up at him from beneath her thick fringe, those deep, dark eyes managing to take away what little breath he had left. He was out of time and so did something he hoped would serve him well. He simply followed his heart.

“I, I think you’re beautiful and I want to kiss you.” He paused, unable to read her reaction, but decided that now he’d come too far to turn back and so he had to keep going, in the face of her silence, “I can think of some clever lines if you’d prefer,” he felt his heart soar as she smiled, a smile so infectious and awe inspiring that he couldn’t help but feel more confident than he’d felt in years, “But I wanted to say that first.”

He finished speaking and just looked at her, knowing that he meant what he’d said and that for once he’d been impulsive and brave, rather than letting fear cripple him. Slowly she reached out a hand to him, the contact between her fingers and his making the hairs on his arms stand up. She took his hand and gestured to him to sit down on the stool next to hers. She’d still not spoken a word, but their eyes had not left each others, and they were telling him enough to make him fight the terror that was lurking beneath the surface and sit down. He wasn’t sure a girl had ever looked at him like this, looked so deeply into his eyes, that he felt like she was examining some deep and important part of him. And by the way that smile which was still ever so slightly shy lit her face up; he dared to hope that she liked whatever she was seeing.

She looked like she was about to speak when a sudden urge struck him, a most atypical urge for him, but following his heart had worked well so far, and his heart was screaming at him to do something he wouldn’t have dreamed of doing even 5 minutes ago. As she started to open her mouth, he placed a finger over her lips and she stopped, slightly startled but not unhappy, merely curious. He took his finger away and started to lean in, moving slowly so that she had every chance to tell him no or move away, but as he’d been staring at that smile, he’d felt like he wanted, no needed, to kiss those lips, right then. He kept his eyes open until the last moment, checking her eyes for any sign that he’d misjudged the moment, but her eyes continued to sparkle with what he was sure was happiness, so he gently, delicately kissed her lips, feeling like all the sensation in his body had transferred itself to his lips. He was more aware in this moment of the contact between his lips and hers, than he could remember being of anything else in his life. Reluctantly he pulled away, because no matter how incredible it felt to kiss those lips, he was already starting to worry. He worried that he’d misjudged the situation and she was going to be angry. He also worried that they were in different places emotionally. He felt so intensely about this girl already, and though he didn’t believe in love at first sight, he was certain he wanted the chance to fall in love with her, wanted to talk to her, hold her, and learn how to bring that smile back to her lips as often as possible. What if she just thought this was a bit of fun? The thought scared him, but he couldn’t deny that by being impulsive like this, he couldn’t be sure even of his own emotions, let alone hers. He realised he didn’t regret it though; he knew in his heart that he hadn’t acted merely out of lust, but out of some deeper emotion, some combination of hope and desire driven by the fact that when he looked into her eyes, he could already imagine a future with her. He didn’t regret acting on an impulse, because the idea of never seeing this girl again didn’t give him the freedom and confidence he’d heard other guys talk about, it scared and upset him.

All these thoughts filled his head in the seconds as he pulled away and as he waited for her to speak they almost overwhelmed him. But she was still smiling as she opened her eyes again.

“Well, that was, special. I bet you say that to all the girls.” Her voice was ever so slightly sing song and though he reckoned she was teasing him, he became a little defensive, worried she’d misjudged him.

“I promise you I don’t.”

Her laugh erased his defensiveness, it disarmed him completely. “I know.” She grabbed his hand again and gave it a comforting squeeze, “If I’d thought you were just yet another guy, like any other, I wouldn’t have kissed you then.” Those few words soothed his fears and he relaxed in his seat. It seemed like she’d felt it too, that strange, indefinable connection.

Maybe this would work. Maybe his dreams of a future with her weren’t completely naïve.

She was beautiful and he had kissed her. Minor details like what she was called seemed insignificant right then.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The challenge of living with yourself

Right, the 3rd update for the day as promised.

This one's a bit more personal and i've been debating how much to put on here in terms of what i'm thinking about the arguably more important stuff, because i reckon there's a limit to how much i should really share, both for my sake and my reader's.

I've been feeling, for lack of a better term, out of sorts for the longest time now. Most the time not unhappy, just most the time not particularly happy either. I really don't know how to describe it well without sounding melodramatic or making it seem like i'm feeling worse than i am. I guess it feels like i'm waiting, waiting for something that will make all the uncertainty that is inherent in everyone's teenage years seem, i don't know, worthwhile, or maybe just make things make a bit more sense.

I'm not entirely sure what it is though that i'm waiting for. My gut instinct suggests it's romance/a relationship/love/whatever you want to call it, i reckon it's the thing i'm most conscious is missing from my life atm. I have a great group of friends, i like my course and i'm reasonably happy with the career i feel i'm heading for. I've always been hyper aware of romance and relationships, it's just the way i'm wired i guess, but i've always put a much greater importance in relationships and trying to find someone than other people seem to.

Recently though i've been thinking that it's maybe that i'm just more open about it, rather than really so much more eager to meet someone. You see i reckon companionship is one of those primal needs, we're a social species and finding someone to be with in a long term way is surely just the natural conclusion to that particular desire. However admitting that, admitting that you need someone else is kind of scary. A lot of people get scared by the idea of a relationship, of something "serious" because despite as i said earlier being social by nature, we also have a pretty strong instinct for self-preservation and the avoidance of pain, and let's be frank, love and relationships can hurt like a bitch. So life ends up being a sort of balancing act, where we try and weigh up whether another human being might be worth the risk. Most people keep their guard up, have some defences between them and the rest of the world that they instinctively put up when it comes to romance.

Plus it's not considered 'cool' or even all that desirable (believe me that realisation didn't exactly fill me with hope) to be overly keen on relationships, or at least that's the way it seems. Turns out that people seem to want to find someone who's as guarded as them, because someone who's open and maybe a little too keen at times, that scares them away more effectively than having a whole load of trust issues and being unwilling to commit. Go figure.

I do dislike that side of our culture (though maybe it's the same in all cultures), the feeling that really caring about something or someone, loving them, openly, isn't something people want. I hate that being openly passionate is either something which scares people or that gets mocked. So most people try to act cool and indifferent, like in some way if they act like it doesn't matter to them, it won't. But i think that's just denying what's going on. I refuse to believe that people don't want to love and be loved, don't want to be free to be passionate about whatever takes their fancy. Maybe i'm reading too much into it, maybe i'm making sweeping generalisations that no one who reads this will agree with, but it just seems we're all so busy hiding how we feel that we run the risk of missing out on what to me makes life worthwhile.

I don't really have much of a defence system when it comes to girls or romance. I'm a complete and utter hopeless romantic as anyone who really knows me will probably have realised and become sick of. I wrote an 80,000 word story trying to lose myself in a created world of romance and relationships. I threw myself into writing that when i should have been revising for my A-levels. It's of pretty questionable literary quality but i love it mostly just because i managed to focus on something for that long and finished it. I was just putting many of the hopes, fears and dreams i had going on in my head onto the page and it kind of developed into a moderately coherent love story. I struggle a lot of the time with the fact that the life i live every day is quite so far away from even the more modest elements of the narratives i've written and the stories i've read. I write quite a lot of the time as an outlet for that frustration i guess, because as i said earlier, to express those things outside of the world of fiction would make people uncomfortable. (maybe this will, i don't know anymore)

I do find it tough a lot of the time being single, i just don't think i was cut out for it really. But that's the reality of my situation and i'm fully aware that if the worst thing i have to complain about right now is a sucky love life and an irritatingly constant feeling of loneliness then i'm really pretty lucky and life could be a hell of a lot worse.

I know i let it get me down too easily a lot of the time but i just hope it doesn't seem to people that i'm not aware of or grateful for how good my life is in so many ways, espescially in terms of the friends i have. Also despite the down sides to the way i am, i don't think i'd change even if i knew how, so i guess that means i need to start trying to like how i am.

Now i debated for a long time whether to post this, or at least the second half of it. For a start it doesn't exactly paint me in the greatest light and it's also a little bit more intense than i'm going to usually aim for with these blog updates. But if i'm honest with myself anyone that knows me at all properly will have worked out most of these things already and despite everything i'm proud of who i am, even if it hasn't always worked out in my best interests.

If this post seems a little intense, that's because i'm a little intense. If it seems melodramatic, soppy, cheesy, weird, incoherent, that's because i'm all of those things half the time.

So i guess i just hope people can deal with that, because i'm really trying to.


I'm thinking i might post on here a short story i wrote ages ago that i'm quite proud of. Not sure yet though, i'll have a think over the next couple of days.

Angry Students and Indifferent Governments

This is the first of 3 updates I plan to write today, two politically orientated, one more personal.

Today students from all over the country travelled down to London to protest against the proposed raise in tuition fees. By the sounds of it the estimated 30,000 students have protested passionately and for the most part peacefully, though of course as with any big gathering there's been some trouble, which will inevitably get a disproportionate amount of media coverage. The direction of the anger is spread between both parts of the coalition, but there is a definite focus towards Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. I, like many students, especially those who voted for the Liberal Democrats in May partly because of their stance on tuition fees and the importance of higher education being affordable, feel that they have betrayed their principles and their promises with their neatly executed about turn.

There's going to be a lot of attention paid to the trouble and destruction caused by what was a minority (though from the pictures/videos a decent sized minority) of the protesters. I don't support it, it spoils the day for the thousands who wanted to protest peacefully and it gives the media and politicians something to be outraged about rather than focussing on the actual issue. However i struggle to really be annoyed at the instigators of the violence and destruction. They've done it at least partly because they're angry and that's an anger that I share. It's an anger born out of being told by wealthy politicians who never had to pay for their education that we will have to pay higher and higher fees, and face increasing debts, in a university system that is having it's funding dramatically cut to gain a degree which, in the case of many subjects doesn't actually offer particularly promising graduate opportunities. So yeah, students are angry and so we damn well should be.

That anger only intensifies when we see the very same politicians who spoke out against tuition fees, who PROMISED that there wouldn't be a rise, advocating the rise as not only necessary but fair. I saw Nick Clegg speak before the election last may, he came to De Montfort University and there was a genuine sense of hope in the crowd that he might be different, that the message he was selling was one of change and honesty. Thanks to him and the other Liberal Democrats who got on board with the Conservatives quite so eagerly, the perception that politicians are guided more by a desire for power than a desire to help the people has only intensified and become entrenched among a group of young adults who, for many of them, May 2010 was their first involvement in British politics at a national level.

I am not against the coalition in it's entirety, i actually support it as the option that was arguably the one most likely to offer stability and cohesive government after the election. Compromise is undeniably a part of coalition government and I'm sure the Liberal Democrats will do some good things while part of the coalition. But to compromise on what was to a huge swathe of your vote the flagship policy reeks of political manoeuvring and dishonesty.

I didn't go to the protests today for a number of reasons, but there are two that stand out. The second one will be explained in the second update i'll post in a bit, but the first is that deep down i don't believe any amount of protesting by students or the people in general is likely to influence government policy making. In countries like ours, where we elect someone and then sit back and hope they don't do anything too abhorrent during the 5 years in charge, i'm cynical about the likelihood of any progress being made by this protest. My belief in the power of people marching in a democratic country like England was damaged in the wake of February 2003.

On February 15th 2003 between 750,000 and 2 million people (depending on whose estimates you believe) marched in London in an anti-war protest about the imminent Iraq war. I was just starting to become politically aware and i remember watching the news that day and listening to the commentators saying it was one of the biggest public protests the UK had seen and feeling inspired to see that people cared enough to travel across the country and protest. It was democracy in action i thought, an expression of freedom of speech and a clear message to the government.

And it was a message they ignored completely. We went to war, and according to wikileaks over 100,000 people died and a country was torn apart. The masses made their voice heard more clearly and publicly than it had been in a long time and the government just went ahead and did what they wanted anyway.

I'd kept a belief in a protests being worthwhile until this autumn. What finally put paid to that idealism was looking at France. During September and October there were widespread strikes and demonstrations throughout France at a highly unpopular reform of the pension system and a rise in the pension age. Several estimates suggest that on 4 or 5 separate occasions the turnout at the marches all over the country topped 2 million. The strikes saw petrol stations run dry as oil refineries were blockaded and schools blocked off by protesting students. Trash went uncollected in Marseilles for 3 weeks and Charles De Gaulle airport almost ran out of fuel. For the most part public support stayed behind the strikes and demonstrations even as they hit the infrastructure of the country and many felt it was a comment not just on the pension reform but Sarkozy's presidency in general. By most standards it was a well attended, well organised and effective protest.

And what happened?

The reforms were passed in full and eventually people had to go back to work.

People get riled up and protest and i'm glad they do, on a different day i might quite possibly have gone along and protested too. I just struggle to think of many examples i've seen where when it comes to the big, national issues, the protests have made much difference to government policy and that's a shame, but it's a flaw in our democratic system where leaders are only accountable once every 5 years and for the rest of the time we have very little power over them.

Studying politics for the last year and a half has definitely made me more cynical and pessimistic when it comes to politicians, their actions and their intentions.

One thing to come out of the BBC's coverage which suggests something interesting could happen is a plan by students to pressure Clegg into implementing a policy he suggested during his election campaign, of voters being able to recall their MP if they feel he has committed some serious wrong doing (Clegg suggested it after the expenses scandal). The students want him to implement it so that they can then get enough signatures in his own constituency (and my home constituency) of Hallam, in Sheffield, to recall him and have another election for that seat. If this goes ahead, which i think is sadly unlikely as Clegg will probably make the decision he's unpopular enough already that it won't make much difference if he goes back on another promise, it would be a much more effective way in my opinion for voters to make it clear they don't approve of a politicians actions, thus making them surely more accountable.

Taking Clegg's seat in parliament away from him would be a brilliantly damning statement by the public of their opinion on his and his party's actions.