Friday, 27 August 2010

10 Things I'll miss about York, the University and the MA in Medieval Literatures

All in all, I've had a bit of a tough Summer. The death of a close friend, illness and a brief stay in hospital and, on top of all of that, having to write this blasted dissertation. Yet, as the deadline hurtles rapidly towards us, I've been reminiscing over the past four years I've spent in York, both in my Undergraduate degree on the main campus, and this year at the CMS. So, I've come up with a list of the 10 things I'm probably going to miss most about this place, the University and the programme. Feel free, if you've been to York, at the University, on this programme or another at CMS, to add to the list below.

So, here we go, ten things I'll miss, in no particular order.

1) The Postmedieval Reading Group - Ben and I came up with the idea for the group, quite unsurprisingly, whilst in the pub, and of all our drunken ideas, this is my favourite. (With the possible exception of our gun-running 'get-rich-quick' scheme). The group met every other week for two terms, with particular highlights being the Chaucer's Cook/Chaucer's Punk group, which spawned the 'Chaucer's Loaded Pies' post I wrote back in February, and also the last meeting of the group, on Chevalier Assigne and Animality. The groups have been indispensable to me, on a purely selfish level, as they've produced so many good discussions which have inspired many of my papers (Collusion alert!)

2) Coffee in the Refectory - The King's Manor refectory: home of cheap, albeit rubbish, coffee; greasy pasties and, of course, of late: beer. This, of course, is the place where we all met on a regular basis, chatted about rubbish, bitched about deadlines and having to write essays, and generally hung out. My favourite moment was, of course, when the lady who runs the refectory told us we were 'being too loud and disturbing the other patrons' when the place was totally empty, because we had the giggles over something or other.

3) The general scent of panic and fear in the BSB around deadlines - this, of course, is not specific to the MA in Medieval Literatures. As deadlines approach, the tension in the BSB (the Berrick Saul Building - Graduate Centre for the Humanities at the University) reaches fever pitch, and you can practically smell the fear coming off the MA students as they frantically write the last thousand words of their essays. Of course, the absolute best example of this is a certain Californian MA in Medieval History student's despair around the Summer term deadlines. "You'll Never Finish" has quickly become the motto of the BSB.

4) The Lake, at night - the University of York, though generally a disgusting blight on the landscape, a cluster of '60s concrete incongruously sat in the quiet village of Heslington, is arranged around one of Europe's larges ornamental lakes. True, it's only five feet deep; true, the first three feet are pure duck poo; and true, falling in will land you in the doctor's surgery, if not in hospital. But, at night, as the birds are beginning to go to sleep, the University takes on new character, and the lake becomes a great place to go and sit, read (if you can find sufficient light, obviously) and even walk around.

5) Gillian and Brittany, CMS Office Administrators Extraordinaire - Where would the CMS be without Gillian Galloway and Brittany Scowcroft, whose tireless efforts to keep beleaguered Medievalists in check never cease to amaze me. They helped so much to organise the Postmedieval Reading Group with Ben and me, booking rooms, sending out emails, giving us (most importantly) access to the CMS wine store to keep the discussion *achem* flowing. Brittany even sent an email to the entirety of the CMS mailing list, which was a forward email from Ben, the first line of which read simply "Michael is an idiot". Without such insight, the CMS would surely fall apart!

6) The bubbling sexual tension of the Campus Library - the JBM, the main campus library at York, is one of the most unpleasant places to work on the planet. The librarians tend to keep the floors on which any books are kept at about the surface temperature of the sun, the books are rarely where they are supposed to be, and the humanities book provision is very poor indeed. The one thing that keeps me going, however, is the underlying current of sexual tension that amuses me greatly. If anyone has ever had the pleasure of being sat in the library, usually during exams or around essay deadlines, it really is as though one spark could set the whole place off. This, to the best of my knowledge, has yet to happen - but surely it's inevitable?

7) J Baker's Bistro Moderne - so far, most of the things I'm going to miss have been focussed on the University or the CMS. However, there is one restaurant above all others I will miss when I leave York, and that is J Baker's. The reasonably-priced, excellent and inventive food is a must for anyone who enjoys local produce worked into brilliantly-conceived and flawlessly-executed dishes. Plus, the restaurant manager, Audrey, is a total dish. Ha. Seriously, though, I've had some wonderful dinners here, and Ben and I have had some brilliant (and extravagant) lunches there, which often have lasted until three or four in the afternoon, have involved seven or eight courses, and a whole lot of wine. In fact, I owe Ben lunch there next week. Visit the website to check the menu here

8) The Evil Eye Lounge - it was here that many of the friendships of the MA in Medieval English Literatures were forged. The Evil Eye is a strange place; a cocktail-bar-come-south-east-asian-restaurant with some wonderful staff, excellent drinks, and authentic food. We've spent so much time (and money) in there as a group, I think we count most definitely as regulars. During the Autumn term, a few of us would often 'nip' there for a quick drink between Palaeography Class and our next seminar, whatever that might have been. I will miss most of all, the increasing generosity of the spirit measures as the evening progresses and the bar staff's 'sampling' becomes more apparent. My favourite moment, however, was with Jeffrey Cohen, Kathy Lavezzo and some other minor medievalists when JJC ordered six Old Fashioneds at the bar (this is a drink that takes 5 minutes of dedicated 'muddling' and 'stirring' to complete). A truly excellent place.
9) York - the city of York is a beautiful place to live, and a wonderful place to study. I feel really quite privileged (sap that I am) to have been able to be here for four years. The city really is beautiful and, coming from Essex, where the vast majority of towns and cities are the victims of post-war development and expansion, I will miss the city greatly. I don't think, on a medievalists' blog, I really need to extol the virtue of the city, but suffice it to say, if you've yet to visit, you really should.

10) Friends and Colleagues - It was always going to come to this, though I promise not to make it too gushy. In my four years at York, I've met some amazing people, many of whom I have the (dubious) pleasure of now calling my friends. Not all of them are medievalists (I cannot, after all, be accountable for the bad choices of others) though many of them are. More than just putting up with my endless dickheaded-ness, caustic sense of humour and near constant lack of propriety, many of them have even sought my company on a regular basis. I've met people I'll never lose contact with and who I speak to nearly every day (Ben, Welsh Tom, J Daniel Herron, Ninja Chris, Sam Gonzalez, to name some of the most important), but also people with whom I hope to keep in contact, whatever they may be doing and wherever they may be, even if it's fairly sporadic. In the past year, I've met some amazingly talented medievalists, from across disciplines and approaches, all of whom I have no doubt will be very successful in whatever they do. Looking back through the previous 9 things I'll miss, I've come to realise that none of those 9 would have been the same had I not been able to share them with my mates, my friends and colleagues.

Gosh, right, that was a bit more gushy than I was expecting - I'm off to do something manly and emotionally repressed, before continuing with the dissertation. Do, please, comment on things you'll miss from York or, indeed, if you're leaving anywhere, things you might generally miss.

Ta-ta for now and, as always, much love,


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