Tuesday, 19 June 2012


I've never been terribly interested in computer games. I can't seem to do them and I won't make the time to work out how to play properly. I know that it's just another form of leisure activity like reading a novel or watching a film but somehow I can't seem to get beyond the feeling that the whole thing is a monumental waste of time.

I wasn't even much good at in my youth. I am of the Space Invaders generation. It was new and everyone was at it but I never seemed to have the spare cash to feed in to the machine. I could always think of something else I'd rather spend my money on. We even had one of those Atari games consoles at home with the flashing lines to indicate a tennis bat or what have you but it soon lost its shine for me.

So, imagine my surprise when, over the course of an ordinary 48 for period, I developed an addiction to a game. My son has had a dragon thing going on for a few weeks now and in his search for all things dragonesque he came across this app, Dragon Vale. He seemed to be spending quite a lot of time building his park and then cross breeding his various dragons to come up with a selection of cute looking hybrids. He can talk for England and so rather than just let him rattle on about his new game to an unappreciative audience, I decided to download the app so that I could have a quick look round and then have an idea about what was so catching his imagination. After all, it was free.

I'd say the first half an hour or so was fairly harmless. A friendly looking wizard chap told me what to do, suggested how I might like to spend my money and pretty soon I had a reasonable looking dragon park. And that's where I should have stopped. I didn't. Before I knew it I was hooked it. All I wanted to do was feed my dragons and collect enough coins so that I could afford to buy a breeding cave and create new dragons of my own to hatch. I could just have used the in app purchase to buy myself some extra coins but that's for suckers right? Who spends hard earned cash on virtual money?!

Day 2 and I discover that my husband had allowed an in house purchase so that my son could buy an ice dragon. I am sniffy. We have always had a blanket ban on them in the past. Then it crosses my mind that I am an adult, it's my iTunes account and if I want to spend £1.49 on some spending vouchers then who is there to stop me? Someone really should have.

This morning I began a massive reorganisation of my park to maximise footfall and consequently income. When I looked up over an hour had passed. I know I have some time on my hands now that I'm between courses and the vacuum has not yet been filled with doing everything I usually do but slower. But an hour? On a pretend dragon park.

Now all I want to do is check my park all the time. It's completely addictive. My husband called it dragon crack and I think he might be right. I am a totally lost cause. Me, who eschews all forms of electronic game. I think all I can do is indulge myself for the time being and hope that the novelty wears off and I lose interest....rather like I thought it might with Facebook!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


I've got an exam tomorrow. Three hours on English Literature and I'm nervous. I'm nervous about getting there on time. I'm nervous about my ability to sit still and concentrate for such a long period and dubious about my ability to do it without weeing. I'm nervous about whether my hand can write for three hours and whether the result will be legible.

These are not concerns that I had last time I sat exams. Then it was 1989, Simply Red were at the top of the charts and this was the last step on my eight year campaign to be a solicitor. The Law Society Finals consisted of two or three papers a day every day for eight days and my main worry was still being alive at the end of it. This, by comparison, is a walk in the park.

It's funny how different the whole process is now I'm a) a grown up and b) doing it with absolutely nothing riding on it except my pride.

I have revised but not in that all consuming, no time to eat or sleep or even breathe kind of way that I did when I was young. I've worked in and amongst the demands of the rest of my life, snatching an hour as and when. I made a revision timetable but it was far more nebulous and flexible than those of days gone by and yet I've still got through the material.

But what really is different about revising in my 40s is that I know stuff already. I'm not starting from a stand start. I have learned lots of new things - if not then what would have been the point? - but the new facts have mingled with what I already knew to make something far bigger and more interesting than the muddled concepts and ideas that I tried to cram into my mind the first time round. And it's not a chore. It's fun to slot the pieces into the jigsaw and note the crossovers.

It's such a shame I didn't think like that first time round. University in the 80s was one long list of things I didn't  fully understand and that everyone else apparently did. Of course it wasn't that bad and I passed and went on to work successfully in my dream job but it would be so much easier to study Law now when I can see the wood for the trees and identify the practical application of what I'm learning.

Before I began this course I thought the complete opposite would be the case. I had assumed that my head was so full of all the detritus of life that there would no point even trying to add to its burden with unnecessary titbits about Modernism or Realism. But actually and very surprisingly, my mind has stretched to accommodate it all. My head is full of quotes from James Joyce and John Webster whilst also dealing with who needs picking up from where, which birthdays are coming up and what we might have for tea.

I'm not saying that tomorrow will be easy - of course it absolutely won't. It is degree level study after all and they do expect a standard of insight that won't come from  accumulated trivia. But not only is it not nearly as bad as I thought it would be but in reviewing what I have studied this year, I have learned far more than just the course material. I have discovered how incredibly versatile the human mind is and that mine in particular is up for challenges that I had thought were firmly encased in the past.  And to me that lesson is as valuable as the degree that I hope I will eventually end up with.