14,105 words later and I’ve emerged, blinking into sunlight and a rash of library fines. The Monster gets handed in today, and I made the usual error of forgetting just how much time suckage goes on with the bibliography and the footnotes, which are prescribed by the MHRA and their inimitable obsessive compulsive approach. The MHRA is a handbook. It is 96 pages long and teaches people to prepare works for theses, dissertations and academic books. Reading it cover to cover is surreal. Who would have thought that quotation marks could mean more than, well, someone speaking? Oh, but they aren’t. In the hallowed pages of the ludicrously assembled MHRA they take the form of vagrant heathens which, if not suitably disciplined, hold the difference between a Merit and Distinction in their murky, quotation paws. Basically, as far as I can understand it, academic institutions figuratively wallop you for not putting your commas in the right place. Having bright ideas is part of the game, but lack of intellectual insight and putting your page numbers in the wrong place are punished with equal vigour. If you refer to a footnote at the bottom of the piece (and academic essays are riddled with those) you must put a full stop at the end like “p. 129.” If the page number refers to a book. If the page number refers to an article in a journal, then they’ve got another fiendish system to fuck you up. Because then you must put it in brackets, like so : “(p.129.)”. This is enough, dear readers, to pull you into regular nightmares where letters and symbols loom out of you from nowhere.
During the last two evenings it has rained heavily and I have sat peering at a lap top, checking things until I cannot see and eating beans on toast. and drinking Yorkshire tea. That has been my life. This is not good. However, I have very much enjoyed the tea.
Imagine my sheer fucking joy, dear dwindled readership, when collecting the 14105 words of academic gold from the printers yesterday, spirally bound according to rules, covered with plastic sheet according to rules, the whole document dripping with the sense of complete anal retention that is invested in every page regarding line numbers and paragraph alignment. The peculiar anti-climax that comes with being free of study is heightened by a lovely sunny day here in London. And soon there will be Bluebird, trundling through Soho en route to Bloomsbury with a suitcase full of library books and a dissertation to hand in (stopping off on Bar Italia en route, oh yes lovely, I’ll have a cappucino please) and ending a relationship with one college that I have had for six years. And then? Who knows. I am certainly not sure. I am working on a spoof novel but got so high on Yorkshire Tea it just went a bit crazy. But at least if you drop Yorkshire Tea over an electric typewriter (all my first drafts are typed) it doesn’t have the same disastrous effect as pouring hot fluids over a computer, whereupon everything, including your unrealised brilliant works of fiction, melts.
The one great big decision has been made. And that is that after the absolute mayhem of the last two weeks I shall be departing for a holiday. Which leads me to announce – brace yourselves – there will be no Bluebird update next week from Italy. BUT from Monday 11th October there will be an post EVERY day, lucky people! And just think how much time I have to annoy now my academic commitments are done, stapled, dusted and spirally bound? My week in Italy will be documented day by day – but with a time delay of a week so please check back on 11th October. In the meantime, I pack my Bluebird knapsack, hop on a Pisa-bound flight with HorridAir with Mr Bluebird, take my Italian grammar book and hope for the best travelling through Siena, Lucca and Chianti, stopping only to sup the wine and bask under the splendid Tuscan sun.