Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Libraries - Further Appreciation

As a reinstated geek, I have been browsing the internet for information on my new favourite location - Senate House Library, the imposing 19-storey building belonging to the University of London, of which I am an addicted library member. And I've learnt some fascinating facts about the building (pictured above) today that I'd like to share:

* It took five years to build and was completed in 1937. King George V laid the foundation stone.

* Adolf Hitler was so impressed by the building that he intended to take it over as his London HQ after his invasion of Britain.

* He wasn't alone. Oswald Mosley also thought it was a special place and wanted to move Parliament from the Houses of Commons to Senate House in the event of him taking power.

* At 210 feet high, Senate House is the second tallest building in London (after St Paul's Cathedral) - apparently this spared it being bombed in WW2 as it was a handy reference point for pilots hovering over London.

* George Orwell was so inspired by the building he used it as the location for the Ministry Of Truth in "1984".

* The gay porn film "Spyboy" features an exterior shot of the building - which it rechristens MI69.

"The Ladies' Paradise"

"The Ladies' Paradise" - Emile Zola (Oxford World Classics, 1886)

At long last I have read a book for the MA that I have genuinely enjoyed - rather than made mumbling noises about obscure premises and unilateral thinking, mumble mumble, in an attempt not to seem too stupid. So much so that I raced through it.

I'm preparing for my first major essay - 5,000 words on something to do with the role of women as consumers in modernist literature (I'm going to hammer out the precise question with my tutor tonight). But I'm an eager beaver and love to organise, and as such I have spent much time on the inernet and library catalogues and databases compiling a reading list, printing off relevant articles and checking books out of the library to photocopy surreptitiously at work. One of which was the 1886 novel "The Ladies' Paradise" by Emile Zola, which bears the original title "Au Bonheur Des Dames" (despite being half French, my French vocabulary doesn't extend much beyond GCSE level so I opted to read the English translation). And I'm so glad I did. I started it on Sunday morning and have just finished reading the 432nd (and final) page.

Denise is a French peasant who, after the death of her parents, moves to Paris with her two younger brothers for whom she feels responsible. Her draper uncle is unable to employ her because his business (along with that of all the other small traders in Paris) has been ruined by the engulfing Ladies' Paradise department store opposite - which acts as a mecca for the rich and spoilt French ladies. With no alternative, Denise accepts a job at the Paradise as a salesgirl, and her humble status as a bullied employee pales in comparison with the nauseating oppulence of the store's owner, the bored Mouret. As Denise's life progresses and she struggles to make ends meet for the welfare of her helpless brothers, it is sharply contrasted with the wealth and indulgence that Mouret is wrapped up in. Mouret is used to being gossiped about by his staff for his indiscretions with his salesgirls, but Denise refuses to be bought - she is a strong-willed girl who is determined to hang on to her morals, while all those around her are happy to drop their knickers to make a few francs. Throughout it all, the spectre of the Paradise grows ever larger and larger, like the shadow of a monster swallowing everything it sees and destroying everything - and everyone - in its wake. The store itself - referred to continually as a machine - is clearly the protagonist of this novel.

"The Ladies' Paradise" shows how one man, Mouret, takes women for fools: as lower class beings he can exploit for his own profit, both in the department store and in his boudoir. And the book also shows how one girl, Denise, unwittingly plays this powerful man at his own game, despite sticking to her old-fashioned morals. It is interesting that although this book was written nearly 150 years ago, the tale of woe regarding monopolisation, globalisation and commodidification still holds true, and it could just as easily be set today in this Starbucks, Virgin and Microsoft embossed world. I wonder when people will learn their lesson.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

When VE returned to her ivory tower last night, she was pleasantly surprised to find a hand-delivered package containing four copies of the latest issue of Smoke - A London Peculiar. Contained within the new-improved, all-colour glossy cover of Issue 9 there is a two-page feature by yours truly, and if that's not incentive enough to make you buy a copy and support this worthwhile enterprise, then I don't know what is. (Click on the link on the left for more details).

Here's a sample from my piece, as teased on the Smoke website:
"The No. 6 swung round Marble Arch and set out up Edgware Road. Foolishly, I’d resumed gazing out of the window, my eye having been caught by the dazzling lights of the Odeon cinema, which was advertising a saucy new blockbuster where bodices were ripped and cherries popped. I say 'foolishly' because, when I turned back, I was both stunned and impressed to see the newly-formed friendship in front of me had progressed to kissing across the aisle. With steadfast British stoicism, my fellow passengers were burying their heads in their Standards, turning up their iPods, and giggling behind their hands; but I, as a diehard romantic, was gripped."
[No.6 Love Story]

Monday, November 27, 2006

World Wide Web

A month or two ago, VE installed a "Site Meter" to this blog to see, out of curiosity, if anyone was actually reading it. And I have been pleasantly surprised by the results.

I have learnt that I have readers all over the globe - from places as far flung as Texas, Kiev, New South Wales, Brooklyn, Tokyo, London and, erm, Norfolk. I have discovered that in the past seven days, 76 people have visited my blog (may not sound like many to you, but it seems a lot to me). And that their reasons for visiting include clicking on links from other blogs, or Googling things like "Woolworths" or "Lee Hazlewood". And I am extremely thrilled to learn that a member of Scritti Politti is among those who have Googled themselves and come to my blog to read about themselves. And leave me messages. I approve of that.

Friday, November 24, 2006


It's mere vanity, but VE has just had a lovely email from my former screenwriting tutor telling me that I should come back to his hallowed classes and bring my torrid script of a psychotic student who becomes obsessed with his school teacher with me. "To be honest, you are missed". Aah, he just misses the lust-fuelled pages of teenage testosterone and the random whales in the Thames. Since my classmates' scripts largely consisted of futuristic sci-fi yawns and middle-aged rom coms, maybe it's time I inflicted my latest script on them - an everyday tale of a nun who gives birth to Satan but the child is brought up to believe he's Jesus. No? Thought not.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Henry Green and Djuna Barnes

And these are some books I read recently

“Party Going” – Henry Green
(Vintage Classics, 2000 – originally 1939)
In the F Scott Fitzgerald vein, a bunch of over-priviledged and super rich London socialities are holed up in a railway hotel as a rog descends on the city and prevents them catching their train to France. On the cusp of the modernist vein, this novel spans a four-hour period in about 200 pages and focuses on the fear of the working-class crowd who are all gathering in the station below, battering on the hotel doors to seek refuge, and the contrasting wealth of our anti-heroes.

“Nightwood” – Djuna Barnes
(Faber & Faber, 2001 – originally 1936)
Apparently a lesbian classic, this virtually unreadable account of a group of thoroughly unlikable characters is highly praised by TS Eliot – who claims that only those who understand poetry will fully appreciate it. Felix marries Robin, who has his baby and leaves to go off with Nora. She then leaves Nora for Jenny. All this is narrated by the cross-dressing Doctor. Lots of metaphors, lots of long speeches about ‘the night’, and a confusing ending. Preposterous!

Films I have seen recently...

I have no time sadly to catch up properly on films I have seen in the last week or so at the cinema or on DVD - instead, here are some mini reviews.

“Orlando” (1992, Sally Potter)
Tilda Swinton is perfectly cast as the immortal man/woman in this adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s imagined biography of the man/woman who spans centuries of British aristocracy. Not a joy to watch, but manageable.

“The Libertine” (2004, Laurence Dunmore)
Johnny Depp in dull period piece about the sleazy Earl of Rochester, the king’s brother who shagged his way around the courts and then died a grizzly death as punishment. Very boring.

“The Hours” (2002, Stephen Daldry)
A re-watching of the re-interpretation of Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs Dalloway”, seen through three women in three eras. A second viewing and a greater understanding of Woolf helped considerably. Got much more out of it this time.

“Shopgirl” (2005, Arnand Tucker)
Steve Martin ‘stars’ in this adaptation of his own novella – in which he plays a rich and dull, emotionally retarded businessman seduced Claire Danes, who is significantly younger than him and has her own neurosis to deal with. Jason Schwartzman plays the klutz who also wants to date her. Unbelievably dull.

“Junebug” (2005, Phil Morrison)
Quirky, meandering account of hick family life seen through the eyes of a rich New York art dealer, played by Embeth Davidtz, who is baffled by their weird customs and family sensibilities. Good soundtrack by Yo La Tengo. Picked up after confusing start. Amy Adams is very good as the sweet but dim, pregnant wife Ashley.

“Borat” (2006, Larry Charles)
Sacha Baron Cohen is hilarious as the spoof Kazakh reporter. It’s noticeable how he only sends up those who take themselves too seriously. Highlights the flaws in petty-minded Americans. Favourite three scenes: the chicken on the subway; the naked wrestling; and the street kissing.

“Casino Royale” (2006, Martin Campbell)
Bond is back and Daniel Craig is better than expected. Quite refreshing to see a Bond who could equally be a Bond villain. Too long, but keeps momentum up, doesn’t get tedious and shows a new side to the super spy. Surprising.

"Amy's View"

Mrs M was in town last night and we met up to see the delightful Felicity Kendall in David Hare’s “Amy View” at the Garrick Theatre. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the play – but I certainly didn’t expect the theatre to be only two-thirds full just one week after the play opened. It must be so dispiriting for the actors to have to put on a stirling performance when they look out and see rows of empty seats. But, to their credit, they gave it their all – doubtless spurred on by the fact director Peter Hall was sitting perched in a first floor box, watching their every move.

The play is set in four different years, with the same small set of characters moving and progressing forward – with life and love threatening their happiness. Felicity plays successful stage actress Esme, and the play starts in 1979 when her daughter Amy (Jenna Russell) comes to visit with her wannabe media tycoon boyfriend Dominic, and this visit sparks off a chain of events that influence the play for later scenes set in 1985, 1993 and 1995.

Parenthood, the Lloyds financial crash and morals influence the later developments. But the whole thing is overshadowed by drawn out discussions between warring Esme and Dominic over the value of the theatre in contemporary society (which seemed ironic considering the half full house). Dominic, who becomes a successful media critic on TV, feels that theatre is dated and offers nothing to young people, who want to watch videos so they can fast-forward the boring bits. While Esme remains true to her art, despite having to later concede and take a job in a hospital TV drama where her co-stars are amateurs in paste bangles.

Felicity was marvellous as the fiesty, determined and strong Esme – a personality it is easy to see Barbara Good having turned in to. But quite why the seats were empty baffled Mrs M and me (although the price of the tickets might have had something to do with it – we rather wish we’d just turned up at the door and got the same tickets for £15 instead of £45. Ho hum).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Scritti Politti in W12

There was much excitement on Sunday night as we headed out in the freezing cold to Shepherds Bush to see Scritti Politti play live. This was a dream come true for me, as I've been a huge fan since I was seven and first heard "The Word Girl" in 1985 (in a cricket pavillion in North Perrott). Green Gartside (for whom Scritti is a musical vehicle) rarely plays live - and until earlier this year, he hadn't played live since 1980 owing to nerves... and his nerves were very evident on Sunday, especially in the early half of the set. But despite this, he put on a fantatsic performance.

Until very recently, Big Brother 2 lived in Dalston Kingsland, two doors down from Green, and frequented the same pub that Green apparently uses as his second home... which is the same pub in which Green (apparently) recruited his current backing band. Sadly BB2 has bizarrely chosen to emigrate to the cultural desert that is Melbourne, so instead of going with him, I had to take P - who barely knew what he was coming to see.

Opening on "Snow In Sun", with a glittery discoball light effect, Green kicked things off as he meant to go on - playing largely from his recent Mercury Prize-nominated album "Black Bread, White Beer", and adding in a few older smatterings such as "The Word Girl" (my personal highlight), "The Sweetest Girl" and even 1978's "Skank Bloc Bologna". As newcomer P observed, Green is nothing if not diverse - mixing in influences from ska, hip-hop, rap and reggae. But since we're talking about a man whose musical collaborators over the years include no less than Miles Davis, Kylie Minogue and Shabba Ranks, what more could you expect? Hell, he even had a track on a Madonna film soundtrack way back when.

It seemed like a very intimate concert experience, with a rather unique audience. There were no noticable smokers, no significant drinkers, and I (at 28) was by far the youngest person in attendance and one of the few females. We also counted three people with walking sticks, and lost count of the number of people with white hair. To sum the audience up, I'd say they went to art college in an out of the way place like Bromley around 1980, and like to wear their hair just a little touselled to show they still have a bit of edge. Quite what this says about Scritti I'm not sure I want to acknowledge.

To me, Scritti are up there with my all time favourites. I remember the excitement of going round second hand record shops, snapping up Rough Trade 7"s of "Asylums In Jerusalem" and "Lions After Slumber", and my joy at finding a German Virgin 12" of "The Word Girl" at a car boot sale in Somerset. But none could match the highlight of coming across a 1978 7" of the legendary "Skank Bloc Bologna" (complete with photocopied wrap-around sleeve detailing exactly how to press your own single) in the darkened gloom of the now defunct Revolver Records on Park Street in Bristol (this was the original HQ for the influential independent Revolver distribution chain, which is now, horiffically, a coffee shop and stands as further proof of the vile nature of global monopolisation by the big cheeses at EMI etc). To clarify this point, "Skanc Bloc Bologna" is one of those records that people like Simon Reynolds and Jon Savage always refer to in their books about punk because it had such a revolutionary new twist on the DIY ethic.

Anyway, I've waffled. But I'm excited. Still. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to see Scritti live, and I'm thrilled that I now have as I doubt it will happen again. For further reassurance of my fandom - if I had to pick just one album for my desert island, I'd make it a Scritti one.

Monday, November 20, 2006

VE Has Returned

Apologies for a quiet week on VE but I've been away. No time to go into proper details now, suffice to say the past nine days have seen me head to Somerset for four nights of babysitting and DVD viewing (including "Junebug" = not bad, and "Shopgirl" = diabolical).

Then back to London for two nights of education (intense three-hour lecture on the pre-history of the postmodern, and a two hour reading group on "Nightwood").

And off to Bath for two nights of high luxury and over-indulgence in a swanky Georgian hotel with Big P (with short breaks from the delights of our rooms to see "Borat" = hilarious, and "Casino Royale" = too long but better than expected). We also took a trip around the Roman Baths, to the aural accompaniment of that highly critical nasal Yank, Bill Bryson, and had a proper Georgian tea in the Pump Rooms.

Last night, one hour after our return to the Big Smoke, we took the 148 to the darkest depths of Shepherds Bush to see Scritti Politti live in concert = truly fantatsically amazing (total joy). This fulfilled one of my lifetime achievements (anyone who knows anything about frontman Green Gartside will understand why).

The break has also seen me bury my nose in "Party Going" by Henry Green, "Little Lord Fauntleroy" by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and "The Wild Body" by Wyndham Lewis, as well as a few Virginia Woolf short stories and some trashy womens' mags and the weekend papers.

However, I'm now back at work - so I sadly expect there to be a considerable downturn in cultural consumption and overall quality of life/joy. Ho hum. If I get a chance, I shall try to expand on the more enlightening of the above over the next few days.

PS - Have now had the sodding Freeview box for three full weeks. Despite claiming it has a five-minute easy-to-use set-up time, I still haven't managed to get the bloody thing to work. Multo grrr. And we're a whole week into "I'm A Celebrity - Get Me Out of Here!" - the only reason I bought the stupid thing. Am not impressed. Stupid technology.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

"Observer Music Monthly"

Yet more joy, yet more recognition - swoon, swoon. Today's Observer Music Monthly (the free magazine that's somehow better than the paid-for titles) saw fit to print my response to its Lee Hazlewood interview last month... and despite being disgruntled at not being letter of the month, I am greatly pleased to see my humble name in print. However, eager readers will have read my letter a month ago on these very pages (see "Lee Hazlewood - Some Velvet Morning" in the archive section if you can be bothered).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Libraries - An Obsession

As a youngster, I was well-acquainted with the book-borrowing process. First of all from the mobile library that came to our village every Tuesday with its range of large-print Maeve Binchys. We then progressed to the town library - housed in a Portacabin. I fondly remember kneeling on the library floor with my Mum, flicking through the choice of Topsy & Tim books.

And then the town library proper was finished, and we moved on to a three-story building that not only lent books but, gasp, music tapes (my ultra-cool brother was one of the first members). I was a regular book borrower until the age of 14, surreptitiously shaking off my school friends to nip in after lessons and borrow a few Virginia Andrews paperbacks. But at around 14 my relationship with the library died.

Only to be resurrected when I went to university at 19... but it was never the same. It took me two terms to find the library (I didn't take my studies seriously) as I felt that by the end of the Easter term it was embarassing to ask where the library was. And I was never one of those students who could spend all day in the library, making copious notes and photocopying compulsively.

And while I often walk past the few remaining London libraries and think what nice Victorian structures they (mostly) are, I have never been in one. (Actually, that's a lie. I went in the one on Rampayne Street last year but lost faith when they didn't have the one book I wanted). Until now. As an MA student I realise that I am studying for a research degree... which means time must be spent in a library. So it's fortunate I have access to all the university libraries in London, as well as the British Library.

In the past few weeks, I've found myself going to Senate House Library (above) more and more often (I even contemplated nipping over in my lunch break yesterday, before realising that most of my lunch hour would be spent on the bus there and back) and borrowing in a fashion that could be termed compulsive. I have stacks of library books in the flat (not that I have time to read them), and have discovered the joy of renewing them online (because I haven't had time to read them). And I've taken to browsing the library catalogues online when I'm at work, and have started a Word document listing all the books (and their shelf references) for future borrowing.

Is this getting out of hand? Is it just a phase? Will I ever read the sodding books?

Just Desserts

Lunchtime found me sitting with Djuna Barnes in the delightfully-named Bernie Spain Gardens, munching a mince pie while a flock of scavenging, filthy pigeons kept getting nearer and nearer in search of crumbs. Until one of the flying rats got hold of someone's discarded sandwich crust and began the ridiculous ritual daft birds have of waving the offending crust around in it's beak and throwing it at the floor. Until a tiny sparrow appeared as if from nowhere, snatched up the maltreated crust and immediately flew off to loftier heights. Leaving the stupid pigeon looking like he couldn't care less. Vive le sparrow.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Gender Divide On The Book Shelf

The errant boyfriend finally returns from his two-and-a-half week sojourn to the heights of Peru and the sunny climes of the Carribean tonight. So last night I found myself frantically tidying up in anticipation of his return... and stumbled across his stack of bedside reading, which I'd previously paid little heed to.

On the top of the pile was a tatty paperback of "Do Not Pass Go" by Tim Moore (an attempt to solve all the mysteries of the Monopoly board via well-crafted sentences). What surprised me most about this (as I remember P reading this avidly a few weeks ago) is that there was a page marker in it... only three pages away from the last one. Could he really not be bothered to read the last three pages before going away and forgetting all about it? The fickleness of the male mind.

Also taking up space was a coffee-table sized book of Man Ray photographs, with a really tatty slip cover - so tatty it had, gasp, rips in it. What is it with boys and treating their posessions like rubbish? Now this book is no surprise, as anyone who knows P knows that he's a photographer by trade (and not just any old photographer either, mind).

"The Diaries Of Samuel Pepys" have been loitering around the bedroom for over a year now. P has a huge obsession with the city of London (as well as with furthering his mind)... but even he has to admit that Pepys' diaries can't be read in one go. That said, there have been numerous occassions when I've been interrupted to be enlightened on some fascinating old Londonioan fact or other.

Looking pristine were "The Collected Short Stories Of Roald Dahl" - a gift from an editor friend. Clearly not hugely appreciated, although a bookmark a third of the way in begs to differ.

To compare and contrast, these are the books on my side of the bed...

"Nightwood" by Djuna Barnes (Faber & Faber) - this is next on my reading list, now that "Flush" has been finished. To be honest, I'm not looking forward to it. But an eager beaver on my course has picked it for our reading group next Thursday, so I'd better get a wriggle on with it.

"The Haunted House and Other Stories" by Virginia Woolf (Hogarth Press) - I picked this up from the ULU library on Saturday hoping it might provide a diversion from my essay on Woolf and alternative realities. I've dipped in a little and what I like most is that the stories are rarely more than three pages long. Which appeals to my current addled state of mind.

"Little Boy Lost" by Marghanita Lanski (Persephone) - I loved "The Victorian Chaise Longue" so I wonder what's not to love about this one? Sadly the lovely Persephone books are having to creep down my priority list as the MA reading list takes over my life. But I still like to know I have a few in reserve.

"The Runaway" by Elizabeth Anna Hart (Persephone) - when I get a free few days between MA books, I shall lap this one up. The etchings look most appealing.

"Wild Highway" by Bill Drummond and Mark Manning (Creation Books) - I bought this over a year ago as I am fascinated by Drummond and his antics (and it also has an astonishing photo on the cover), but I've yet to summon up the strength to read it.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Persephone Joy

After a few glasses of vino bianco, VE finds herself checking the Persephone Books website before bed (don't laugh, some of us have boyfriends languishing in Peru and sadly nothing better to do with the witching hours) and it was with joy that I read the new (to me) Persephone Newsletter... which recommends that eager readers click on this very blog to read up on my humble thoughts on Denis Mackail's "Greenery Street". (I now feel even more guilty than ever for reading a library copy of Woolf's "Flush", but sadly funds are tight at the moment). Click on the Persephone link on the left, and read the letter dated 30 October 2006.

"Flush" - Virginia Woolf

As some kind of respite from the hardcore Modernist texts I've been downing for the MA, I thought I'd compromise with Virginia Woolf's novella-sized biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's pet Spaniel, Flush. (At this point I'd like to apologise for not having read the beautiful Persephone reprint but merely a library copy - ho hum).

"Flush" is by the far the most readable of the Woolf texts that I've read and seems to be intended as a break for her - and she must surely have had fun researching the pup's life through old letters and poems.

A dog's is an interesting point of view to write from since Flush never claims to understand English, however intuitive he becomes to his mistress. And this book also gives Woolf the chance to gently mock the lives of the Victorian women poets (such as Barrett Browning). "Flush" examines class and gender in Victorian era London by putting a new spin on it. Hugely enjoyable (compared to Wool'f s other texts), and I raced through the 100 or so pages in two gulps.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

"The Great Stink"

Very conveniently, Tate Britain is a five minute walk from Velvet Empire's ivory tower, so Matt and I went to see Peter Bazalgette's documentary "The Great Stink" at Tate Late on Friday night. (We'd also wanted to hear Iain Sinclair and Will Self talking about lost London, while promoting their new books, but were too late for tickets - which disappointingly were on a first come, first served basis.)

Peter Bazalgette is best known for being a stinking rich TV big wig who brought "Big Brother" to the UK (and Alan Titchmarsh's "Ground Force"). But his great-great-grandfather Sir Joseph Bazalgette designed the London sewage system - which is largely still in use today - which is credited with being quite possibly the largest feat of engineering ever.

To commemorate this fact, Peter made a documentary for Five about this in 1992, and called it "The Great Stink" in honour of the phrase the Victorians coined to refer to the overwhelming stench generated by rivers of human efluence flowing through the capital's streets (and the ensuing cholera epidemics). Although it's essentially a Five documentary (ie, filmed all in one day with one cameraman and no lighting or boom operators, and Peter's own house seems to form a large part of the set), it is still very informative and very entertaining. For instance, did you know where the expression "to get the wrong end of the stick" comes from? If you don't know, you don't want to. Yuk.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wake Up Sleepy Jean

Velvet Empire is feeling a little tired these days. In fact, on Thursday I was so tired I thought I was going to be sick. (True).

And the reason? The bloody MA. I’ve only been doing it for five weeks, but already I am starting to resemble a grey, tired, haggard and dying heroin addict. The irony is, I haven’t even got the constitution to stomach so much as a glass of wine these days.

Wednesday really took the biscuit. After attending a seminar, my hundredth library tour, and then a workshop on writing a critical bibliography (2,000 words due in 10 days), I met my uni pals Paul and Rebecca and went for a moan and a pizza. A few hours spent sharing horror stories of dictatorial librarians and socially retarded PHD graduates was good therapy.

Anyway, it was midnight by the time I got home and half past by the time I fell into bed - and one minute later before I was comatose under the duvet. And it was 2am before I was woken by a horrible screeching sound, and realised with horror that it was the fire alarm in our building. I debated ignoring it but then had a vision of Trevor in EastEnders burning to death in the Slaters’ house, and hauled myself out of bed, pulled on my coat and joined my neighbours on the pavement. An hour later we were allowed back in but by this point I was so traumatised I couldn’t get back to sleep.

So my day at work on Thursday was spent yawning, blinking a lot and sitting in the ladies’ with my eyes shut for 40 winks. I spent Thursday trying to hold back the tears and the bile! And my double vision made it difficult to sub all the copy I was presented with at work. (So I’ll never get a repeat booking here!)

By the time the No 24 had crawled home from Camden to Westminster (cruelly kicking me out at Big Ben and making me walk the final 20 minutes in the cold), I was ready to slit my wrists. The thought of another few hours reading and preparation for the critical bibliography haunted me, but I had to admit defeat and collapse in bed by 9pm.

So roll on the weekend. I anticipate 10 hour library sessions and late nights sobbing into a keyboard trying to write my first assignment. Help. Anyone who knows anything about Virginia Woolf and the supernatural - please feel free to share.

Do Not Touch The Books

In one of the hallowed university rooms where I am educated, there is a bizarre sign on the wall.

The room is a large, impressive-looking space, with big arched windows looking over Russell Square and contemporary white domed lampshades suspended from the ceiling. And the walls are lined with hundreds of very interesting looking books, going all the way up to the ceiling.

So it's a bit of a shame that attached to these shelves is a tatty bit of A4 with a hand-written sign that reads, "Do not touch the books".

Surely that restricts the pursuit of education? Book worms.