Lessons From a School Blouse

Good Evening Ladies, Gentlemen, Alpacas and Otherwise,

Thought I’d do a quick post about the most interesting thing I’ve learnt today since I haven’t yet worked out how to revise for the exam I will be sitting in… ooh 12 hours and 23 minutes, how quaint. So, at Oxford you have to wear this thing called ‘sub fusc’ for exams which I wrote about in an earlier post (insert imaginary link here with your imagination I don’t have time or energy to work out how to actually do this, just scroll down far enough and I’m sure you’ll find it!). Anyway, part of this includes a white blouse/shirt. In preparation I purchased a white blouse before coming to uni, something I had not owned since finishing GCSEs. I am gifted in the bosom department therefore have always found blouses an awkward fit so ditched them for elastickier (not a word, should be) things as soon as I could. Just to explain, I don’t own much black because it isn’t a colour and is generally miserable and I don’t own much white for the same reason that children don’t-mess. Patterns are key.

However, this week I have three exams, and despite my environmentally conscious nature, my socially conscious nature (no comments, please :P) won out and the conclusion was reached that more blouses would be needed. Or something. My lovely and concerned mother spared me a time-consuming trip into town to try and find something that fit and sent me a blouse in the post, which I wore to my exam today. Now, having come off the phone to my mother I have discovered that the blouse I wore was an aged 14yrs school blouse. After I got over the initial comedy of this I realised that this revealed something very interesting. The blouse was a much more comfortable, looser fit than when I wore it three years ago.

Now, of course there are loads of other elements to factor in, but it boils down to this. The comfort eating required to survive GCSEs was significantly outweighed that for Oxford prelims, just like my body then and now. The importance is not of weight or body shape/size or anything like this but what this represents. GCSEs are so stressful- more stressful in some ways than Oxford! Maybe it’s that when we’re 16 we aren’t yet ready to deal with it well enough or maybe it’s the pressure of being at school with a load of people who you don’t really get on with or the pressure from teachers telling you that if your phone goes off in an exam you will get disqualified from that exam and probably all subsequent exams of that season therefore not have qualifications to get further qualifications and then you will not get employment and then you will have no money and no one will love you and you will end up living on the street in a cardboard box (if you’re lucky). I don’t know, but the point is that for anyone reading this still at school and terrified by the prospect of future exams, perhaps turning you off the idea of uni, I don’t think it is ever quite as bad as school, as demonstrated by the fit of my blouse, now and then. At school you are brought together by circumstance and obligation rather than interest and choice. Sixth form/college is a bit better, then university even more so! And then I suppose you go out into the ‘real world’ and it’s all horrendous and if you don’t get a first at university you’ll end up in the same situation as if your phone went off during GCSEs but we’ll see! 

Please not, I’m not saying uni perfect and there are no idiotic people, there certainly are, and I’m not saying Oxford exams aren’t stressful, they certainly are, but for some reason it just isn’t as bad as GCSEs! On this note I am very unhappy about announcements regarding future of GCSEs, I think that the ramification for students with long term health problems, for example, will be awful and that both the politicians and journalists involved with it all are very uninformed, I don’t know any GCSE English spec that doesn’t feature ‘a whole book’, obviously it is up to the student whether to read it or ‘chunks’ but I’ll save that for another day. Incidentally if anyone can arrange for me to interview Mr Gove please do let me know, I’d love to have a chat with him…

Anyway I really ought to go and learn what Caplin or Rosen or Gjerdigen or someone has to say about phrase structure in music of the 18th Century but I should be posting more after my liberation from exams tomorrow and if anyone does have any concerns about whether further education ‘is for them’/similar/whatever/cheese types/chess types/typing nonsense/how did you guess, then please do get in touch!



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