Not Everything Dies In Autumn

I do not believe in fate. I do not believe in a divine plan, or an ordered world but only in constructive chaos – a possible path formed by making every mistake and adjusting, making small leaps forward into the unknown. Chaos can be stressful. When your mind is a marionette doll and your brain is pulling the strings within your body every single direction it is only natural that you might feel overwhelming stress. And yet strangely this hasn’t happened during the plethora of transitions that I have met upon graduation

I know stress. In spring I felt paralysed by the stress and struggle of finishing my final year as a student. Attempting to leave a struggling student newspaper in order (I didn’t), attempting to put together a dissertation that I was proud of (It was alright!), attempting to budget and pay the bills when the money just wasn’t there (multiple bail outs, opps.). However as I moved from the protected and focused world of academia into the wide and chaotic world of work, it has been like a sudden injection of adrenaline experiences in a golden summer of change. I’ve found a possible direction through leaping into the unknown.

Working and waiting in my beloved but slow-paced Portishead, I felt somewhat stagnant and without direction. Whether it was the sedimentation build up in the Portishead Lakegrounds, or Tory inaction over building a railway link. So, moving to Brussels has felt somewhat like an unexpected deus ex machina. The city is buzzing, and walking over 16,000 steps per day on average so am I. It has been an amazing experience to work with so many inspiring and driven people during Britain’s own transitioning relationship with the European Union. For years and years I have fought for the right to live, love, and work abroad as citizens of Europe and now as our generation face these rights and our identity being cut away from us, I have had the opportunity to drink the last of the summer wine in the beating heart of the Europe.

Brussels is rich in public art, inventive busking, and has brought together more cultures and peoples than your fingers, toes, eyes, and ears can fathom. I enjoy walking around the city, day or night, silently observing the city that I must admit I had never really wanted to visit before getting a job in. I felt like I had sacrificed so much in my personal life, and was upset at the prospect of losing friends made at York, and having no work-private life balance when in Brussels. However I’m trying my best not to be a wallflower, and actively trying my best to find my own adventures and forge new friendships during my time here… and at some point I need to sign up for French classes because I feel a small notch of embarrassment with my inability to parse the most basic of french (plus it’s bloody inconvenient when you’re trying to order a haircut restrained by a language barrier).

I most enjoy being able to wake up, buy an orange juice and almond croissant from the boulangerie on my walk to work and be able to sit down on my desk just of Place du Luxembourg and have an espresso to start of my day.

I do not believe in fate, and I do not believe that Britains exit from the European Union is a set deal, nor an ultimatum on our friendship and trade with our closest neighbours. Whilst I live here, I resist our country’s growing isolationism, and every friendship I form I hope builds a more positive opinion of Britain within this Union. In constructive chaos I have found some sort of direction in which I move towards each day, whilst the way forward is a blur – I’m quite enjoying the pastries and beer on the path directly ahead.

Thank You, Alcuin ❤️

After months of planning and preparation, for me Freshers Week is over. 

I first joined Alcuin College Committee because of the wonderful support I had from the wellbeing team in Alcuin College, particularly from my queer mother goose Sophie Jorgensen-Rideout in Freshers Week 2015. The work of STYCs, Head STYCs, College Committees, College Teams, and YUSU goes so far to make a positive stamp for the rest of the year – and certainly did when I was a fresher.

Alcuin in Winter

This year, as part of my Wellbeing duties I spent a lot of time with Visiting students some of whom told me how lovely it was to visit the campus collegiate system because they felt really cared for and this for me is all we could hope for.

For me this year has been hugely stressful – organising events, attending meetings, and dedicating just a huge part of your personal time for the college; but more so than this it has been immensely rewarding and informative to be part of The University of Yorks huge wellbeing support network.

Being Vice President I’ve made a lot of mistakes, some which you could predict some which you couldn’t – what’s important is not that you made these mistakes it’s being able to accept and adapt with them and passing on that knowledge so that following committees can learn.

College Vice Presidents for Wellbeing and former YUSU Wellbeing Officer

Here’s a run through of my Freshers Week:

Constantly popping to and fro Coop and uni of york with huge amounts of water, bread, cheese, and ham. – I’d advise future VPs to do online shopping in advance but it was well amusing either way, plus I could do with the workout.

Bike laiden with water
In CSAC you do so many things you never usually would. check out my awful owl in the bottom right as part of Disabled Officer Rachel’s Crafternoon. 

Events Officer, Laura’s Music Shuffle Bingo Afternoon used such a simple concept very effectively. If you have a talent share it with others – if not you can try and enable other to share theirs.



This year due to good marketing lots of people attended our college presidents brilliant walking tour, every year these tours are run giving a brilliant orientation to the city and some local history too – not to mention gelato.

Being able to use the JCR for cool events such a wine and cheese evenings and board games nights creates a lovely environment for freshers and college memebers to chat and hang out – in a less intimidating environment than club nights or perhaps for some block predrinks 


What also makes freshers week is all of the really lovely and interesting first years you meet. Everyone is so excited and hopeful and you’re all buzzing to start studying and being a student. It’s been a pleasure Wellbeing for you all.

Freshers week went really well due to the hard work of everyone involved. From the committee to the college team and STYC system – those who #GaveAHoot and chipped in to help other have a good time.

And a huge thank you to my amazing wellbeing subcommittee who worked hard all year round to look out for Alcuin College. Roa Tikalali our dynamic BAME Officer, Louise Racke and Zita Hui caring international officers, Rachel McGlone and until graduation Poppie Barnett, who have been excellent help when I’ve been particularly in need, our disabled officers; Mark Quah and Hannah Risser LGBTQ Officers hosting lovely socials, as well as the wonderful Phillipe Lefevre (who will return to alcuin next year) and Sam Linley Men’s Officers and Tara Cahil and Ellie Fenwick our women’s officers who are running really cool events this term!

This is the end of my time on college committee, I’m leaving before the end of my term as of Saturday – while I’ve enjoyed it a lot I needed to avoid the added stress and anxiety on top of my course and think my work is best put into other places for the rest of the year.

Please though, run for college committee next term to learn from my mistakes, to make your own, and to ensure Alcuin’s lovely freshers week and inclusive college environment continues!

I’m off to the pub to enjoy alcohol again🍷🦉

Interrailing 2016: UK to Sweden

Summer 2017, Brexit meant Brexit and after months of long and hard campaigning I had enough of the rolling news feed. I looked for travel opportunities, packed a bag, booked a one way flight out of the UK.

My first destination, Sweden. I was invited as an international delegate to LUF Kongress, the biannual meeting of Liberala ungdomsförbundet, the youth wing of the Swedish Liberal People’s Party.

I got lost almost straight away trying to find the way from Stockholm Arlanda to Uppsala, in a typical Huw-fashion i wandered up and down asking various individuals before caving in and resorting to Google it on my phone with roaming fees.

By Midday I arrived at Uppsala and had booked into my room, now it was time to explore. Uppsala is Sweden’s answer to Oxbridge, the ancient capital of Sweden, it is host to large castles and a huge academic community. I marvelled at the rhunic script, having covered it briefly in Old English classes but in no depth. I was later truly linguistically outdone by most of the Swedish people I met who told me with pride not only had they studied Runic script, but they could also speak Old English, which I most certainly could not.

The Kongress was interesting, it was all conducted in Swedish, a language that I couldn’t speak a word of, however the Norwegian delegates took it as their duty to live translate most of the Kongress to me, with the occasional “nope, this guy’s accident it way too thick, who knows what he could be saying”. The Kongress policy itself was of little interest however the pomp and ceremony of Swedish youth politics was impressive. In Sweden youth political parties get paid a huge amount of money from central government to help encourage democracy – not only was the packed Kongress held in a large high school but there was also a formal dinner with the most exquisite food and old fashioned drinking chants, all expenses paid. Better than the formal dinner, I also had swedish meatballs with gravy, lingonberry sauce, and mashed potato for lunches every day. Living the Ikea dream life.

After Kongress ended I left Uppsala for the astonishingly expensive Stockholm. I was in Old City Stockholm which was so pretty but so expensive i could do so little. I was bored and poor so I used Tinder to find myself a tourguide. he took me around Stockholm and we went on a tram to Skansen, an open air theme park “museum”, designed to preserve the old Sweden that existed before industrialisation.

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I toured it seeing the old houses and some really cute Reindeer, chatting to Ezra, my guide, about Saomi rights for a while. There we watched Allsång, an endearing and wholesome live weekly sing along. It was a really cute mash of songs of praise and eurovision. I had no idea what they were singing but I had a brilliant night and gained so much love for the cheese.

Shut Up & Take My Money

 

Our fatal flaws and weaknesses lead to chaos and failure.I am not naturally organised, and am very clumsy. This is not however an excuse: I must own my weaknesses, and learn how to live with and mitigate my flaws.

Like Jeremy Corbyn, my flaws often embody themselves in financial incompetence. I lose cards, forget passwords, and ignore my troubles creating a snowball effect. However, with something as serious as finances, saying “oh well” isn’t an option. Banks don’t accept “Opps” when I exceed my overdraft by 5 pence. Shops do not accept “Opps I have no access to cash” as a form of monetary transaction. “Opps” doth butter no crumpets  parsnips.

Looking for a solution, I quickly became attracted to “Monzo”, a fintech (financial technology) app, a “new kind of bank” that promises to revolutionise the way we spend money.

Monzo are a banking start up, they lack the funds, features (overdrafts, current accounts, debit and credit cards) and trust to become mainstream quite yet; however they have the potential to obtain these things in the future.

My attraction to Monzo was that it would be an aid to my weaknesses.

Monzo forces the user to engage with smart spending, you set spending targets for the month on a pre-paid card linked to a 3rd party current account, and each time you spend money – online, by contactless, or pin – the transactions appear instantaneously on your phone.

Monzo tells you if you’ve been spending above your monthly target, encourages you to take records of your receipts, and becomes the little financially prudent voice of conscious that you’ve never had.

This level of interactivity and smart data gives users, what Monzo calls ‘monzonauts’, the opportunity to take control of their spending.

Monzo’s security protocols are perfectly suited to people like me, at present they lack the need for endless passwords that i’m bound to forget and have to reset over and over, and they take full advantage of Apple and Android’s fingerprint technology. Not only this, but the dealmaker for me was that if you lose your prepaid card, you can freeze and unfreeze the card in seconds – perfect for those “bugger bugger where did i put it” moments.
img_3051Oh and you can also send and receive money to your friends easily but i’ve not needed to do that yet.

Monzo still has its flaws:

  • the card is not yet universal – it has been rejected quite often when i’ve been using it.
  • the card is not yet a replacement for a current account
  • at present the card is not usable on apple pay.
  • it’s PR team are so ‘london next-big-thing-tech-company’ confident that it provides a bit of vomit at the back of my throat

However it seems like an ideal card for day-to-day spending, and its customer service agent are on the ball and very accessible for the Generation Apple. I like it anyway, that’s why I wrote an blog post about it.

If you’d like to use Monzo, you can do so via ‘Golden Tickets’, it’s currently only in beta mode. Here’s a golden ticket to skip the queue for Monzoimg_3044

(h)U(w)LAB in Aberdeen

“Thank God you’re here”  said the Taxi Driver, leaving the Train station. “Thank god someone’s here, the Oil’s gone, the businesses gone with it, and now the students have buggered off for easter.”
“What even is a linguist when they’re at home anyway?”

In 2016, on the northern coast of bloody freezing Scotland, the Undergraduate Association of Britain assembled upon the great and grey granite city that is Aberdeen, and I was with them. Founded in 2011, ULAB is the undergraduate conference – where students have the chance present their, surprisingly professional projects in seminar and/or poster form – receiving feedback from fellow students of linguistics.

There are about 30 universities that offer linguistics as a course in the UK, about 15 of which were represented in ULAB – and it strikes me that we are a very diverse and broad church as a subject. It was unique how each university presented itself as experts in their own area of research: be it Cambridge’s hardcore understanding of pure generative semantics & syntax, SOAS’ unique understanding of international phonology & sociology, UoY’s specialism in forensic linguistics, or The YSJ’s confidence in Conversational Analysis.

Each university had something to offer, and students were able to share and exchange their knowledge of different parts of our mutually loved topic, language.

As a first year, I had nothing to present to ULAB and thus could only listen to the amazing talks: Investigations into the minimalist merger of Semantics and Syntax, into the gendered aspects of Korean Honorific, pioneering studies of Bermudian English and investigations into the phonology of north Bornean languages, a study into Singaporean language policy, study of managerial language, and studies of Trans representation in the media – the list could go on and on, but the point remains: ULAB enabled me to gain a wider understanding into the breadth of linguistics – and allowed me to see effective, and  subjects that I could look into further in my studies for projects or perhaps even my own dissertation. ULAB gets you thinking, and opened my mind to different ways of viewing linguistic science.

The tradition of academic forum, explaining ideas and discussing ideas to reach a truth, stays strong in linguistics, but nowhere more-so (imho) than in the Undergraduate conference. Why? Because conference is largely subsidised by the Linguistic Association of Great Britain, and organised by the local university hosts. Since conference prices are extortionate, you won’t find such accessible discussion from people with such independent ways of thinking derived from widely separate academic courses anywhere else.

ULAB introduced me to like-minded individuals from across the country, and even as a lone traveller I felt welcomed by my fellow conference attendees during the social events, going to the bar, and going to the conference dinner.

As you can see, I’m rather converted. ULAB next assembles at Cambridge, Spring 2017 – I’d strongly encourage your visit – come for a fun time, a new understanding of linguistics, an opportunity to present research and discuss it with some of the brightest young linguists in the UK – and if not that, just to see what Cambridge is actually like.

 

Trans-Awareness Week & Linguistics

Linguistics Society

This week in the University of York, it’s Trans Awareness Week, a week, in term time, dedicated to advocating raising awareness of the trans community and issues relating to it through education. There’s much that we as linguistic experts can do to support the lives of trans students, and the trans community as a whole.

We as linguists are in a position where we are authorities on language – this puts us in a position of power. Trans and Intersex individuals, on the other hand, are often denied  authority of language relating to their own identity and bodies; people’s identity, gender and sex are often treated as invalid unless it matches those assigned at birth. The linguistic view of gender is defined as a learned set of behaviours based upon the culturally and socially constructed forms of identity such as “masculinity” and “femininity,” whereas sex refers to having biological male and/or female sexual…

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Lost Your Card? Don’t Lose Your Head.

I am forgetful and always losing things, and I am forgetful. Some call this a symptom of cognitive impairment, having exceptionally low working memory; others say this is because I am a ditzy clumsy fuck. Either works. I’ve had a rather privileged upbringing. I live alone in pleasant student digs, and my life is financially supported by the government, by my parents, and by my part-time job, 9-to-5 for 3 days a week on holidays. Never before have I been financially insecure, never before have I needed to worry about eating.

So, at some point or another on Tuesday 15th March I must’ve made the mistake of putting both of my debit cards, from two different banks, in my jacket pocket; and I let it fall off my person and into the abyss. Opps. Thinking nothing of it, I just cancelled both of my cards and let my friend pay for my dinner.

IMG_5940“Silly Huw”, I thought.

Come next day I realised that: “oh.” I have literally nothing to eat. Having realised that neither PayPal, Apple Pay, nor any other electronic payment method of my own would work, a friendly receptionist informed me of the University of York Emergency student loan.

Most universities have emergency loans for those in need. This should probably be your first port of call if you ever come into financial difficulties on campus. To start off, I emailed the campus Finance Team. They responded on the hour and invited me to visit them.

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My voyage led to the Student Support Hub on market square, where my appointment was confirmed
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And from the Support hub, I travelled east (ish) to the Student Financial Support Unite, which is next to the careers centre

A Student Financial Support Unit advisor asked me what my problem was, and talked me through the process of getting the emergency loan.The emergency loan is a zero-interest cash loan given by the university for those in immediate need, of up to £50. I promised to pay back the loan in two weeks, or first thing when my card arrived.

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And thus Huw began the process of being a SCROUNGER.
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To get to the payments office, first visit the information centre
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then once you’re in a lobby, look for a buzzer on the door that says payments
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go down the stairs
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down a corridor
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and there it is

I filled in a form, and was then directed to The Payments Office. The Payments Office is located in The University Admin’s great depths – below the information centre, you press the buzzer, get let in, go down a corridor, and there it is.

At The Payments Office, you will get a signature, and be referred to the Cash Office located between the Student Support Hub and Information Centre on Market Square.

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A rather rushed photo of the Cash Office

In the Cash Office I got a stamp, signed the stamp, and then officially became a scrounger of the university.

I used the money to buy myself lunch and dinner for two day, and on the second day, when I didn’t have work, I bought a bus ticket to the bank.

I mostly bank with HSBC, who advise:

If your debit card has been lost or stolen and you need to withdraw your cash before your new card arrives, just visit your local branch with some identification and the branch staff will assist you further following a few security checks.

Annoyingly, Banks are only open between 9am and 5pm, the exact hours I work. I went on the Thursday afternoon but by then they were closed.

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Much Grumble.

However, Fridays are my days off, so I was able to arrive promptly in the morning.


I took out enough money to get a train ticket to London and some spending money because I had a ticket to Harry Potter Studio Tours for that weekend. I went to the station and bought the tickets to London, only to find that my railcard expired the previous week so I had to buy another.

Suddenly, I had no money again, so I had to resort to asking a friend of mine, a handy Jack Worrall, for a cash loan – leaving me feel very guilty, but also less hungry. Loans such as these are informal, require a high degree of trust, and put unnecessary strain on other individuals – avoid this option if at all possible.

I was able to go to London, where I lived relatively expense free round a friend’s house until I went to see Harry Potter Studio Tours, where I met family and was able to get enough cash to allow comfortable living until the card arrived.

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you’re not in the safety of Hogwartz yet.

Or so I thought.

After a week of working, my bank card still had not arrived. I was meant to be travelling home for the four day easter weekend, however came to some trouble because I had expected my card to have arrived by then. Thus once more was rather out of pocket. Please do not roll your eyes at me…

At this point I was referred to the Porters, who were able to give me a £20 loan, which I used to get to Leeds, where there were buses and trains to Bristol

Travelling home without cash or a debit card is rather difficult but there are ways that aren’t hitch hiking. –
Some trains, and all Megabus services use electronic tickets. This means that someone else can pay remotely for you to travel. Unfortunately the only megabus leaft far too close to when my work ended, so I ended up using a late night electronic train ticket, which arrived at the same time. Upon getting to home, I was able to access all my funds, and thus this whole mess was finally over.

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Work, Travel.

There are a few simple ways that you can avoid this whole mess happening to you:

You can either gradually save up emergency cash in case of situations like this, or you can invest in a top-up debit card, which you can store in case of emergency, and can be topped up externally.

This whole experience has been quite the culture shock to me. I’ve never felt quite so unprotected or unsupported, and yet I have had so many support networks that I’ve been privileged enough to be able to rely on.

Other students I’ve spoken to have had to seek funds through, pawning personal possessions, sex work, other informal employment opportunities, Pay Day Loans, through loans from friends, and through Food Banks.
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Having known what an awful having experience it is to have just the littlest bit of safety taken away from my otherwise easy life, I felt compelled to donate some money to The Trussell Trust Food Bank, I know that’s gimmicky, but i feel that if I do this whenever I lose my card it will serve as a deterring punishment to myself, whilst doing others some good. I encourage you to do so to.

I reverted to middle class home comforts that may have been swiped from the table opposite, lifting my mind away from this whole mess.

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Here’s some bullshit x

 

Huw James' Thoughts & Words