Roll Again For Improved Will

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Saturday, 31 July 2010 at 18:21

Well, last week I gave up alcohol. Yesterday, I was downing a dirty pint in a friend's lounge. It's nice to see that I totally lack any sense of willpower at all. Alcohol will just have to sit as my primary vice in life - I can't escape it no matter what I do. I can avoid hard drugs, I can keep away from nicotine cravings, but I can't run from the sweet taste of alcohol...or so it seems.

What I've learnt, however, is that even if it is my primary vice, it doesn't come with any benefits. I pay for it in the mornings with my hangovers. I pay for it on the night with my exceptionally poor-form and emotional outbursts. In short - I probably pay for it more than I should really be paying for something I enjoy. I am shelling out financially, physically and psychologically - eventually, I'm going to be a shell-of-a-man...

In other news: I can start working on filling out the forms to get my ERASMUS grant for next year. The Insurance forms came today, and reading them is one of the criteria for getting the grant approved. I read them, and I laughed at how thorough insurance is these days - "You are not covered for cases of nuclear or biological terrorism, exposure to radiation, or cases of war, uprising, revolt, rebellion, civil war, or military sponsored coups" - could they be any more precise in their findings? I highly doubt it. However - getting this filled out will mean I'm one step closer to living abroad happily!

Also, last week I got around to teaching some Italian. It turns out that my Italian really needs brushing up on. At least the basics - things like foods, body parts, all that GCSE nonsense. I'll end up doing more of these little lessons, but, I'll also have to plan them a  bit more in future. Sitting around going "Uhm..." really drags out the time of a lesson. It'd be so much easier to say "Today, we're covering [x] [y] and [z]." Then again - I like a challenge...

And finally, a bit of AOB, to clear up things I'd rather not ramble about:

1. I've set myself up with a YouTube account. If I can get a laptop with a webcam, you can expect plenty of vlogs along with these updates whilst I am abroad. For now, I'll leave it at that - if things go right, I'll update with usernames (for handy subscribing purposes!)

2. As mentioned, I'm actually (finally) looking into getting a new laptop. While my dad says "Processors are all the same...", I'm on the lookout for a cheap i3. He's thinking via Dell; I'm thinking via PC World. We'll see.

3. The outward journey to Pavia has been finalised. It now stands at a trip from here to there, stopping in Calais, Baden-Baden and Certosa di Pavia. We just have to decide whether or not to travel via Reims, Strasbourg and toll roads to Baden Baden, or via Belgium and the autobahns.

4. The Ukulele is still on the cards. Watch this space!

And that - as they say - is that.

A Lesson Is Learned...

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Saturday, 24 July 2010 at 20:21

Last night, it is fair to say, I hit bottom. So, today has been spent clawing my way back up out of that abyss with plenty of tea and cake. Don't worry - I didn't do something...too silly. Just went off on one for no reason at all, and it made me feel very, very bad. What can you do, eh?

Well, to answer that I'm going to simply analyse the facts. I was drunk - quite so - and I was in the company of my ex-girlfriend. Was it her, or the drink? Personally, I blame the drink, for bringing out my inner demons. I don't like to let them roam - I just let them bubble to the surface and then beat them down with my "Grow the hell up" stick. So, when they come out, they're usually quite cranky and prone to ruin anything that's good about life. Including quadruple Gin and Tonics.

That is why I have decided - and laughably so - that I am not going to touch alcohol for the next month. In any form. So that's beers, ciders, wines, liqueurs, hard liquor, rum cakes, and assorted others. I would make the magical timescale a little longer, but I kind of organised a bit of a leaving shindig for the bank holiday weekend. Can't exactly be all "Well, I'm leaving. Drink up for me...and I'll have a coke." I suppose that would prompt more people to offer to buy me a drink, as I wouldn't be breaking their wallets... Hmm...

As far as this goes, it's a bit of a weak statement of 'learning a lesson'. I should really just say "I'm going cold turkey for a year." or something absurd like that. We'll see.

Time for a bit of AOB:

1. Despite my outburst, I am still going ahead with teaching Italian.
2. I really, really would like a ukulele. Yes, everyone has one these days just because they're "hip" and "cool", but, there's only so much you can do with a bass. I need to step into the land of melody.
3. Finally my ERASMUS forms have arrived. The only problem is that I don't remember the courses I applied to do in Italy (or rather the full names and codes). Oops.

I believe that's covered everything. If not. I don't particularly care. Just means more rambling for next time.

...but the damage is irreversible.

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Thursday, 22 July 2010 at 13:07

This week my parents decided it would be a good idea to take my brother and head off to Kent. I applaud their decision - I've had a quiet house since lunchtime on Monday, and it will continue this way until around 7pm on Friday night! However, it does mean that the day starts to drag a bit after about 8pm. Usually I'll have had the news on, some stimulating conversation about idiots in the workplace, and numerous calls for cups of tea. Instead, I'm marooned; trapped on an island that is slightly more bearable than the version currently inhabited by Noel "Robinson Crusoe" Edmonds on this week's Deal or No Deal.

What I've learned in this week, though, is that the mind is an amazing thing. If you put your mind to something, you can damned-well near do it. I've watched Fight Club, drunk, and managed to suss out key things about it - like the fact that Tyler Durden flashes up on screen during the Narrator's important meeting with his boss early on in the film. I've learnt how to make perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs, that don't burn to the pan, and don't taste like rubber. I've found out that being in an empty house accentuates the noises from other houses - like the shouts from my crazy neighbour, who yesterday was trying to murder his wife, and today was trying to murder his car. I've learnt that when your mind is stuck on 'self-destruct' all you need to do is drink whiskey-laced tea and it'll knock you out. The list goes on, but the damage is irreversible.

In Italy-related news, it's true - we're driving out. Apparently it's a 15 hour drive, but, we're leaving on the Monday, stopping over in France for two nights, heading through Switzerland, and staying at Certosa di Pavia before I get left there for six months. I suppose it seems like an anti-kidnapping - taking me on a long, confusing drive through places I don't even know exist, just to get me to my destination.
I've also managed to take a look at the updated Bioscience Residences page. I am quite excited now I've managed to get a glimpse of the rooms. I'm expecting something slightly bigger than what I had in Talybont North, but slightly smaller than what I had living in Ruthin Gardens. All in all, I don't particularly care - the only downside will be cooking. Living with Italians will make the idea of cooking rather intimidating; in fact, part of me wonders if it's cheaper to just eat in town for six months. Still, we'll jump that hurdle when it is finally reached.

Beyond all this, there's not much excitement going on. The days seem to have converted themselves to sunshine, while it rains at night. That's a new one. They've also been converted to "stare at deviantArt times" by me - I quite enjoy browsing through digital art scenes of cityscapes, science fiction planes of existence, and noir-esque book covers. In short my sense of art is screwed, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say (unless they're playing D&D *ba-dum-tkshhh*)

Now I'm going to head off and make something of my day, by watching Gangs of New York, and an anime re-imagining of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. The only way this day could get better is with human company...or a free pass to Disneyland. Any offers on that free pass?

My Year in Lists

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Saturday, 17 July 2010 at 17:04

Today i think I've added a new low to my life. I've decided to start a Tumblr tumblelog! So far, it's a bit empty, but clogging it up for the sake of clogging it up is no fun for anyone - readers or myself. So, whilst it's still in its infancy, I can try to get to grips with it because "Man, I don't get it at all!" - and I'm no Luddite.

In other, brief, news:

1. My laptop decided to get all sickly today. Finally, after months of struggle and heavy-breathing, it's succumbed to old-age and finally the hard drive has reached that point where it's about to collapse in under its own entropy. So, I think I have a month, tops, left on this thing before it goes kaput! In better news: the Parentals are suggesting buying me a new one, so I'm on the hunt for something in the i3 processor range. Nothing less for my computing needs!

2. In addition to adding Tumblr to my life, I've also agreed to start re-teaching my ex Italian. She was my star, and only, pupil last year. I thought she was progressing rather well - then we hit the wall, and yeah, everyone who's been an avid reader of this knows the rest. Anyway, we got talking last night, while a bit tipsy, and we came to the agreement that I should start teaching her again. I'm hoping to get a bit of an intensive 'revision' session in with her this week, if she can find time when she's not working - that way I know how much I have to do to get her back to her good standard.

3. Italy looks like it's going to bring some interesting things into my life. My dad has decided to drive there, because he's in need of a proper holiday I think. So, it'd mean leaving here at the end of August, and spending a few days driving through France, dropping me off in Pavia, and then they can head where they like. I'm sure they'd do an overnight stay or something, and I can be all showy with my Italian - shouting Buongiorno walking into shops; ordering coffee and grappa after meals; eating Tiramisù. Still, it sounds infinitely more fun than a flight from Heathrow, right?

Beyond all of that - life is progressing at the normal, sluggish pace. There are probably a few more things I could rabbit on about - the fact that I am missed by my housemates; how I'm constantly thinking about my future and the prospects of teaching; the terrible state my room is in now I've moved home, and how there is a slice of Jijona turrón sat on a plate on my TV still being uneaten - but they're probably stories for another day. After all, we don't want to run out of material do we?

Dazed and Confused

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Wednesday, 14 July 2010 at 14:23

You know that feeling you get when things start coming together? Well, I'm starting to feel it now. Seven years of Spanish, and two of Italian, are starting to finally pay off - and the dividends really aren't too bad. I know I've already talked about where I'd applied to go, but now it's so much closer and much more tangible! Well - Pavia is at least.

Yesterday I had the lovely surprise of opening my inbox to find an email from Pavia's Centro Assistenza Studenti. They had received and reviewed my application for accommodation, and were willing to offer me six months in a single room out in the Biomedical Residences. On the one hand, this filled me with glee - I have a potential place to stay! On the other, I have no idea where it is.

You see, Pavia, like most Italian Universities, is old. Its Halls exist pretty much in the centre of town, near all the Faculties. Collegio Nuovo is pretty much in the heart of Pavia, near to the Humanities Department; Santa Caterina da Siena is to the north-east, near to the Sciences Department. Other Collegi are dotted around, close to other departments. The more modern Residences seemed to be in the centre too. Simple enough, so far, right?

Well - I did some research. The Biomedical Residences are funded by the University College of Santa Caterina da Siena, naturally. The logical step, then, is to assume that they are going to be east of the town on the fringes near the Collegio (Santa Caterina da Siena is an all-female Collegio, while Biomedical Residences are mixed). Nope - it's not there. A little more digging led me to a street address - Via Giulotto.

After some time spent on Google Maps, I found out that Via Giulotto didn't far as they were concerned. Was I being led on a wild goose chase? It would seem so. Until I found another link mentioning the opening of the Residences - July 5th, 2010, the Foundation of Santa Caterina da Siena opened the new residences, situated on the Polo Cravino Campus, to students. Polo Cravino! Of course. Wait - where's Polo Cravino?

This is when panic set in. I know that Pavia has links with Mantova and Cremona. I know that they have an entire music department in Cremona; what's to say they don't have a Biosciences one there too? Again, it seemed like Google Maps might be enought to save me. So, I searched, and was led to find that Polo Cravino is the other name of the campus on Via Bassi - half an hour out of the centre. Essentially, I would have a half hour walk from the station on arrival...and a half hour walk to my lectures.

But - I'm used to that. I lived out my entire first year of study at Cardiff in Talybont North - initially a 30minute walk from lectures, but, by the end I could do it in 15. So, with that in mind, I snapped up the offer! I have a place to live in Pavia, for six months!

Now, the only problem is...where can I get a cheap flight out of here?


Posted by Alex | | Posted On Thursday, 1 July 2010 at 14:45

Time for another update. I am officially no longer a student of Cardiff University. Well, at least for another year. I passed Second Year, and with an average quite higher than I was generally expecting. Based off last years "general scraping in" I was going to be happy with a 55 for everything - in fact, I'd have been ecstatic with a 55 average, considering languages mark out of 80. Instead, I was granted the pleasure of a 65 average, boosted up by my spectacular 70s in Catalan and Italian Culture, and only lowered by my average performance in Spanish.

So, boosted by that high, I can genuinely say "I cannot wait to move out again!" - in fact, I've only been officially home-for-good since Monday morning, having spent my last night in the Cardiff House on Sunday. It was nice to sleep there one last time, but kind of disconcerting to see all the items of the new housemate sitting, accumulating dust, while I selfishly kept the room as-near-as-dammit to the end of the tenancy. Yet, since being home, I've been bored out of my skull.

The thing is, when you're going to go to a foreign country to live two things are of vital importance:

1. You're going somewhere new. You're either going to be scared, or you're going to love it. Personally, I am loving the thought of getting the hell out of this country for a year.

2. You have a shorter summer than everyone else, and you're not here after it, so nobody wants to employ you. "Oh hai, I'd like a job...for six weeks." doesn't really cut it in the World Of Work. It's the one downside to all this - since it means I have money for fleeting instances, while bills are still floating in from the house that I am obliged to pay. Joy!

In light of all of this, I've come up with the ingenious plan to visit my local tax office and finally get around to reclaiming back all my erroneous tax from the last 10 months. That'll be a nice £55 which should save my pockets when the dreaded Water Bill arrives in Cardiff. Then, it'll be off to Natwest to beg them every so politely, with maraschino cherries on top, to let me at my Third Year overdraft limit that little bit earlier. Yes - I'm that type of student. Sorry, and all that, Mister Tax Payer.

Anyhow, I'm just blogging to pass the time now. It seems one can only sit in the garden/sit in the lounge/sit on the laptop and read Iain M. Banks/listen to steampunk-esque music/play Assassins' Creed 2  so many times before the cabin fever sets in, and one finds the need to either break one's skull against a wall, or spork one's eyes out, just to add some spark to the day. Sure, I've been for walks. I've found diversions. It's just not enough when you're 'below the poverty line' in terms of your finances, and there is nothing to do for free in this heckhole except walk from A to B or look at things.

As such, I now have a "website of interest" for today and yesterday: where Urbexers (Urban Explorers) go scuttling through the metro systems of Paris, through the sewers of London, and over the rooftops of Manchester. In short: if you like architecture, or things that you don't normally see in your humdrum lives, check it out.  Which is exactly what I am going to do now!