SO, my time at university is over. There is nothing more I can do. I’m fairly certain about the degree classification I’ll be receiving, blighted by two years of diabolical Syntax results dragging everything else down, but I’m happy with it.
The final presentations took place yesterday, including mine. I HATE public speaking, so I was pretty concerned that I’d stand up and go blank. Fortunately it didn’t happen, and bar some bizarre statements I didn’t intend to make (‘The Yorkshire accent is average at worst’, WHAT) it went fairly smoothly. In fact I emailed today to find out what mark I’d been given and it was a nice surprise considering it’s such a weighty part of the year, all things considered. Everyone did really well, I thought. There are very few people who are happy to stand up and have all eyes on them while they talk about their own work, but we all pulled it off.
Then we went to celebrate by looking for ANY OF THE UNI BARS THAT WERE OPEN. We ended up at ULU, which I never really went to at all, and we all had an acceptable number of drinks to celebrate the end of the previous three years. It was so nice to spend time with everyone again, as the next time we’re all together will be at graduation at the end of August.
I feel very strange about finishing uni. On the train on the way back from London I was almost quite sad about it. I won’t miss the insane workload or the stress or the crushing blow of another terrible result (Syntax, I’m looking at you). I will REALLY miss the people though, as my coursemates in particular are great. The group of us who started the course back in 2010 has diminished greatly, so there are relatively few of us who have survived the degree, but if it wasn’t for my coursemates it would’ve been so so easy and tempting to give it up.
There are so many mixed thoughts about leaving uni. There’s the relief, but then the ‘what the hell happens now?’ It’s so easy to drift from school to sixth form to uni, but now I feel like I’m just drifting. It’s not that my life lacks structure or anything, as clearly that isn’t the case as I work more than full time what with all the freelance bits and pieces i do. But it’s more the sense of… what am I striving for now? There is no real end goal. It feels like my life is in sandbox mode. I suppose this is what real life feels like. It’s all just little short term goals, but what’s the main thing I’m supposed to be achieving now?
This is a terrifying new chapter. I’m genuinely scared. I would hate to go back into education now, and it’s not like I’m going to view the uni experience through rose-tinted glasses, but this is the weirdest feeling. I think we probably all feel this way right now. It’s like we’ve been released from captivity into the wild and the freedom is too much to handle. Nobody teaches you how to handle real life.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a long evening with no real commitments stretched out in front of me.
I’ve been up to my eyeballs in work recently. The perils of freelancing I suppose! When I’m not in the office I’m still working pretty flat out. It’s what I’m used to, but fortunately I get to lose a massive burden from my life on Tuesday; the ‘second finale’ I refer to in the title, in fact (the first being the end of my NCTJ last summer)…
On Tuesday I will be completing my final task in formal education EVER: a 10 minute presentation about my dissertation. I hate public speaking but I don’t feel too nervous. None of us are especially looking forward to it but we know we all have to do it so I can’t get too worked up over it. We’re all in the same boat, and after that ten minutes of agony I’ll be free from the shackles of education forever.
Obviously uni hasn’t been great for me, but there have been glimmers of joy amongst all the gloom and stress. I might do something on here to commemorate the momentous occasion on Tuesday night. We shall see.
Anyway, until then I need to finish putting together my slideshow. Hooray!
Oh, as an aside: I apologise if this is riddled with typos, but I received the unfortunate news that I have developed diabetic cataracts in both eyes (very sudden and very unexpected diagnosis) and I can’t see too well at the moment. It’s not a permanent thing and it can be fixed with operations, but I don’t think it’s severe enough yet. Lots of people have asked what I mean by ‘operations’, but it’s a very routine thing. I’ll have anaesthetic drops in each eye, and then my own cloudy lens will be effectively sucked out of my eyeball and then replaced with clear lenses which should actually restore my long distance vision hooray! However for the time being I do struggle to see even with a magnified screen, so please ignore any typos. I promise I can spell!
See you on the other side of my degree!
It’s that time again on Soup du Journalism… we’re back on everyone’s favourite topic, online dating! This time, however, we’re not scrutinising any websites (though watch this space as I have a special one up my sleeve). I’ve been speaking to the people behind some of the biggest online dating sites to find out what you should be doing for a better success rate when you look for love on the internet.
A picture speaks a thousand words
For most people, the very first thing they’ll look at on a dating profile is the profile picture. “You want a variety of different images to show off the all encompassing you,” says Shannon Smith from Plenty of Fish, “not just the same head tilt shot from the same night out at the bar.” BeautifulPeople founder Greg Hodge, who I previously interviewed, stayed true to form, and said that pictures were, of course, the most important aspect of a dating profile. “Beyond all else the most important aspect of people’s dating profiles is the picture.” However, BeautifulPeople comes with an additional caveat: “Unlike all other dating sites, everyone on BeautifulPeople is attractive – no sifting through riff raff, no annoying mails from the aesthetically challenged.” BeautifulPeople’s verification system means that each member is manually checked to make sure they look the way they do in their application photo, a fairly unique concept in the online dating world. Match.com says that providing inaccurate photos is one of the biggest mistakes daters make, trying to trick potential dates with old photos and deceptively flattering poses. “A good guideline would be a picture of you wearing the sort of thing you would choose to wear on a first date.”
… but the words should speak a thousand words too
By that I’m not saying you should be literally writing a thousand words. Nobody will read it and it’s a bit self-obsessed. A couple of paragraphs should suffice. One of the cardinal sins made on dating profiles, says Shannon, is an abundance of negative statements. “Instead of “don’t message me unless you have a job”, why not opt for something like, “looking for someone who is ambitious and driven”. Greg describes the profile description as a ‘sales pitch’, saying that “online daters are selling themselves. If they want to be successful they need to advertise themselves successfully!” All three of my dating website gurus agree firmly on one point, though: don’t lie. Greg gives us some wise words on the topic: “Truth-slaying trolls do not last long on serious dating communities.” Shannon agrees with this, saying that two of the most important things to be on a dating site are ‘honest and upbeat’. However, there’s honest and there’s TOO honest. Match.com advise that you avoid handing over too much information on your public profile, such as ‘relationship history, negative thoughts and [being] too specific in what [you’re] looking for’.
How do I get more dates?
So you’ve written a witty, charming profile description and you’ve chosen your recent, representative photos. Your profile is all set up and ready to go… but your inbox remains empty. Why? “Online, you have the opportunity to talk to lots of people,” say Match.com, “and therefore cast a wider net and narrow down to who you think you’d most like to meet.” The idea here is to be proactive. Don’t expect messages to come to you. Shannon recommends starting conversations about mutual interests. “The more someone thinks they have things in common with you, the more they can visualize spending time with you, the more they’ll be enticed to send you a message.” This means no tedious ‘Hi, how are you?’ messages. Show you’ve read the other person’s profile and have something to say about it. “Users should be articulate, humorous, disarming and sincere,” says Greg. The point about being articulate is particularly important – as Match.com point out, you don’t have the benefit of body language and actions to get your point across, so you need to rely on your linguistic ability to charm potential dates. “Online, your first impression is through your words, so it’s important that you pay careful attention to your spelling and grammar.” Don’t get hung up on it if grammar isn’t your forte, but at the very least, think about what you say. Tailor each message to the individual, and don’t send a reply in haste.
If you’re thinking about signing up…
“First-time online daters need to approach the whole thing with an open mind, and try not to feel intimidated!” says Shannon. “Our matching algorithm also removes users we’re confident you won’t date. For example, if you say you will never date a smoker, we won’t show you any!” Plenty of Fish works by matching users based on their preferences and interests, so if you want to find someone compatible in terms of hobbies and values, join the site’s 55 million users to find out if the love of your life is waiting for you online. If, however, you’re thinking more about what your partner is going to look like, and you’re happy to undergo the rating process yourself to gain access to the site, BeautifulPeople is the site for you. “When using online dating sites the first thing any potential love interest looks at is the picture,” says Greg. “BeautifulPeople.com has been successful because it embraced this fact.” The thing to remember here is that it’s all about the photo. Users voting on whether or not you’re allowed membership will barely glance at the minimal profile information available, instead focusing on your choice of profile picture, so choose extremely wisely, but don’t try to cheat the system as the authentication process will catch you out. The Match approach is to be thoughtful and take advantage of the online environment. “Offline, you would have to answer questions instantly, and you may not come across how you want to. Online, you have more time to consider your response to questions, so you should use this opportunity to put real thought into what you’d like to say and how you’d like to be perceived.”
And this, really, is the most important thing to remember: you should present yourself in the best possible light. As Greg says, it’s a sales pitch. You’re advertising yourself. Leave out the bad points, don’t over exaggerate or lie, and be smart with your photo. Make it friendly, approachable and above all, real.
Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to take a trip to Paris with one of my friends, Sia. We found a deal on a voucher website for three nights in a hotel in Nanterre, about 20 minutes outside central Paris on the RER, with Eurostar travel included, so we snapped it off and on Friday morning, off we went.
After a disturbingly easy journey to Paris, we headed to our hotel (with the rather ominous addition to the ‘amenities’ list on the website: ‘interior corridors’, but surprisingly OK) to dump our belongings and headed off to join a Seine cruise. The weather was – and I apologise for this in advance – inSeine, and in that one 90 minute trip we encountered bright sunshine, hail and a lightning storm. We even saw hail hit the Eiffel Tower. I wish I’d got a picture of that but I’m no photographer. I did, however, get some moody shots of the sky.
After that, we went roaming around the riverside and found ourselves in a little bistro where we eased our way into the Parisian diet (90% protein) with a cheeseboard and some rosé. The interesting thing is that it tends to be cheaper to buy a glass of wine here than it is a soft drink, so naturally we opted for wine much of the time. Everything felt very authentic. People were smoking. The waiters ignored our attempts to attract their attention. A man sat beside us with a tiny beer and a coffee. It was lovely.
We then took ourselves off to the staple of the French capital’s skyline, the Eiffel Tower, behind which a rainbow formed. I’m not quite sure what it was about us that attracted such diverse weather conditions, but as a secret meteorology enthusiast I certainly wasn’t complaining. Souvenir touts jangled endless Eiffel Tower-shaped keyrings in our faces. ‘Non merci’ wasn’t enough and we had to keep scuttling away. For dinner, we ended up in a little café-cum-bar where some of the obvious regulars got up and started inexplicably dancing.
The next day, we realised that perhaps we should do a little more than simply ‘the Eiffel Tower and drinking wine’, so in a blind panic we did pretty much everything else in one day. We started off at the Notre Dame, which was just as impressive as the last time I visited. I have a real penchant for Gothic architecture, so it’s a real treat seeing something so ornate and majestic.
A little bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, was our next stop, perched between the Latin Quarter and the Seine, which was teeming with books and books and books and lots of handwritten notes scrawled on scraps of paper. Our own contributions, for instance, were written in my lipstick (MAC Russian Red) on two old Brighton bus tickets. I wrote a Rufus Wainwright quote because I’m just like that:
‘So I’m leaving for Paris, won’t you try to take care of yourself?’
Lunch was AMAZING. Truly. I think the place we ate was called something like ‘Le chat qui peche’, and our meal was a steal at €12 for three (excellent) courses. I went for mussels in cream (it’s France, you have to), chicken with mushrooms and we both opted to try the mousse au chocolat. Of course, wine accompanied this too. So much wine. I think we drank Paris dry.
In the afternoon, we hopped back on the Metro to Montmartre, where we accidentally ended up walking up the five hundred million steps to the Sacre Coeur (or thereabouts) where for no obvious reason there were lots of police congregating. Once inside, we sat down for a little contemplate (not about Catholicism, unfortunately, more about our burning thighs) and established that the ceiling was gorgeous. It’s interesting the way they play the sound of a man sssh-ing everyone over the speakers if it gets a little rowdy, i.e. if someone coughs or breathes too loudly.
Our attempt to go see the Moulin Rouge was scuppered by our discovery of a chocolate shop in Montmartre. Inside was a chocolate Notre Dame (henceforth: Choctre Dame) and some dustily delicate pastel macaroons. A diabetic in a chocolate shop is an accident waiting to happen, right? Mais non, mes amis: I purchased two small macaroons (rose and pistachio) and a little bag of vibrant meringues to bring home for a staggering €1,80.
Eventually, after another stop in a confectionary shop with some beautiful vintage biscuit tins, we made it to the Moulin Rouge. I’d only seen it at night on my previous visit, and it’s not quite the same during the day, I must say. The gaudy neon struck something of a chord with me when it was illuminating the throng of tourists on my last visit, throwing a punchy red light out onto all the gawping faces watching the iconic windmill, but during the day it felt a little subdued. There is no doubting that Pigalle is as seedy as it comes. For some respite from the impending rain shower, and to protect ourselves in the absence of coats and umbrellas, we went to Les Deux Moulins, the cafe where the most famous French film of them all, Amélie, was set. Here, more rosé was consumed, and we sneakily nibbled on one of our macaroons. I went for rose, just so I could be eating a rose macaroon and sipping rosé. Chic, non?
In a decidedly less chic move, we thought we’d stop off in the museum of erotic art. I think we peaked too soon. We started, accidentally, on the super-explicit, super-graphic artworks, and made our way down to the ‘gentler’ material. Before we left, the man at the desk told us that if we stayed until 7pm, we could have a drink with an artist. It was about half four. We politely declined and made the next leg of the journey.
This time, we ended up at the Tuileries, the gardens running alongside the Louvre. It was raining but there were lots of dogwalkers and runners out nonetheless. Some boys played football. I kept thinking they’d lose control of the ball and it would knock me out. It didn’t. We gave up on the rain and took the Metro to Oberkampf, having heard great thing
s about its swinging nightlife. A word of advice: Oberkampf only has swinging nightlife if you enjoy spending your evenings in estate agents and video game shops. We tried again with a trip to Madeleine, where we took shelter with another cheeseboard and more wine and exploited the free Wi-Fi by entering into the first silence of the trip as we both caught up with the outside world.
For dinner, a further Metro journey took us somewhere I can’t quite remember. I tried beef bourguignon for the first time (I rarely order red meat) which was nice. We also had Kirs to break up the ‘monotony’ of wine. Both torn apart with exhaustion after our exceedingly busy day, we headed back to the hotel where we watched a bit of BBC World News before going to sleep. Thug life.
On our final full day, we kicked off with a trip to the Louvre. It was hot but we got in for free. The architecture was astonishing. The impressionist works were incredible. The Mona Lisa was a disappointment, but the huge painting adorning the opposite wall was far more impressive. There were some nice indoor trees. The Louvre, being so glass-based, became extremely hot so we went outside for some air and to admire the fountains. I even took my cardigan off. That never happens.
Lunch comprised Nutella crepes and more rosé. We were both pleasantly tipsy by the end of the gigantic glasses of wine we were given, and chose to walk up the Champs-Elysées. This was sweltering. We ended up sitting on a step in a back street for a rest in the shade before continuing on to the Arc du Triomphe. It certainly is a big arch. I felt like it was our own personal triumph just making it there in the searing heat.
We spent our last afternoon hot and exhausted in the Tuileries and sat in a cafe where a waiter was exceptionally rude to us for no real reason. Determined not to let him spoil our evening, we floated off to Montparnasse-Bienvenue to eye up the bars and restaurants, before taking the Metro one stop to Edgar Quinet (literally the other side of Montparnasse Tower) and taking residence in a bar for the evening. In a carnal rage most likely inspired by my beef bourguignon the previous day, I went for a steak which proceeded to bleed onto my plate. It was hard to tell whether or not they killed the cow before they plated it up but I just ignored the mooing. We got through a modest two bottles of wine plus another two glasses between us and tried to get the attention of two attractive French boys who ignored us. A cat walked in and sat next to our table for a little bit. We returned to the hotel, merry in both senses, and waved goodbye to our best friend, the Eiffel Tower, from the front carriage of the Metro. That weekend reminded me exactly why it is j’adore Paris, and I can’t wait to return.
A quick one today as I’m snowed under, but a year ago today, on 16th April 2012, I started the NCTJ at Journalist Works. My decision to train as a journalist was the best I ever made and despite the cost, I have no regrets. Everyone agrees that I was right to do it and I still can’t believe I’m a qualified journalist. Isn’t it funny to think that when you read this blog a year ago, I was just getting to grips with shorthand and Media Law?
A proper post is coming soon about my time in Paris (which was lovely), and I’ll be revisiting something of a recurring theme on this blog. Can you guess what it is?
I’d apologise for my absence but I’m not even sorry this time. I’m in the final few weeks of my degree (ergo, the final few weeks of education forever) and working more than full time hours for my various clients. Yes, clients. Because… this morning I registered as self employed so I am now Kayleigh Tanner the business! I could have come up with a hilarious trading name but it was too much pressure and I crumbled and just went for my name. I would’ve just gone for something stupid anyway like Kaytastrophe, and nobody in the world would employ a writer whose name implied that they would destroy their business.
So yeah, I’ve been disgustingly busy. Obviously I’m doing lots of writing and blogging etc. (though ironically, not on my own blog!) and some reviews, but it’s not even just that. It’s the dissertation and the Phonology essay and the Nordic Landscapes essay and all the social events that spring up in… well, spring. I’ve been to some great birthday celebrations over the past week or so which have been so much fun, and I’ve been very grateful for the chance to let off some steam.
This Friday I’m off to Paris with Sia! While I’ll probably have a screaming breakdown and go a bit inSeine (such wit) over my abandoned workload, I can’t wait to go back. It’s been a few years since I was last in Paris and it’s such a great city! Perhaps I’ll even record a little videojournalism piece – ooh la la!
Anyway, I’ll stop dilly-dallying and get back to some cold hard dissertation. Au revoir mes amis!
“SHUT UP. Why can’t I make it stop?”
An interesting thing happened when I started to play Auti-Sim. My browser, laden with tabs upon tabs and massive, complex web pages froze. I couldn’t close it, I couldn’t click anything. Everything on my laptop became unresponsive. Everything, that is, except the cacophony of distant screaming and phantom voices on Auti-Sim.
Auti-Sim is a game created by three programmers which shows the player what it feels like to live with the sensory overload associated with some types of autism. It has so far been hailed by those with the condition as a frighteningly accurate representation of their lives. And this is why, as soon as the words “SHUT UP. Why can’t I make it stop?” left my mouth half an hour ago, my stomach dropped. Because that’s the whole point. Somehow it was a chilling realisation that all I had to do was Ctrl-Alt-Delete my way out of this. Someone with autism doesn’t have that option.
It’s a very difficult ‘game’ to play. Everything is frustrating, and I soon found myself losing patience. Frothy visual white noise clouded the screen, and faceless children stood ‘looking’ at me. Two minutes in and it felt like someone was tickling my insides. I was irritated and had to keep looking away.
I approached a roundabout in the virtual playground. A child’s voice repeated the alphabet over and over again. As I approached this other child, my ‘vision’ began to speckle and blur and it was extremely disorientating. The only thing that abated all of the chattering and wailing was by running away to stand alone so let my vision return to normal and to get some sliver of ‘normality’ back. But even then, unfamiliar screams plagued me, and the frustration became too intense. I had to close the game.
I know a few people with autism, but obviously I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to live like this. I’m aware that not everyone with autism will experience the sensory hypersensitivity, but what I do know is that even one per cent of this infuriating maelstrom would be enough to send me into a seething rage every minute of every day. This game really highlights why it isn’t always easy for someone with autism to interact with others. It’s unbearable. The only way I could regain any vague semblance of ‘normality’ whilst playing Auti-Sim was by leaving all of these frightening, blank-faced characters and standing on my own.
Several years ago, I actually found a similar game said to recreate the experience of someone with schizophrenia. Unfortunately I can’t find that game at the moment*, but that was another alarming insight into mental illness. Pictures undulated on the walls, voices threatened me and every day sounds were distorted almost beyond recognition. Again, I can’t say how accurate it was, but I think that this sort of experience, if done properly, can only be a good thing. Without having the condition yourself, it can be impossible to comprehend what a sufferer of any mental illness goes through, and anything which might provoke discussion and empathy can only be a step forward.
*[one of my lovely Twitter followers found the schizophrenia 'game' I was talking about - you'll need to download Second Life to run it, and you can download a free trial to use for a week]
As someone without autism, I have no idea if this game really does accurately reflect what it is like. I must admit, if this is what autism is like, I can honestly say I had no idea. It’s very easy to sit in my Linguistics lectures at university and learn about how autism can impair a child’s theory of mind or impair the ability to use language, but if this is a fair representation of the condition, I must say that I’m shocked and I truly wish there was a way to make all of this noise and confusion go away for anyone for whom this is a reality.
What do you think? Is this overwhelming sensory overload an accurate portrayal of autism? Are you autistic, and if so, what do you make of this game?