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Counting Blues

I guess being a fresher means that week 5 blues hit you the hardest. I was sitting in a lecture the other day, a lecture on counting, funny because – I study English – but nonetheless… counting.

What struck me most was 1.) I wasn’t counting down the minutes left of the lecture, as some force you to. It was actually interesting. And 2.) the lecturer spoke about poets manipulating counting to lure one into a sense of security; the type that humans tend to get from being able to quantify things (deep, I know).

I now draw your attention back to the blues, the blues that do indeed come in week five. Funny that we use that word blues, blues like the music, I guess. Often poetry is made somewhat synonymous with music.

The characteristics of blues music include: blues shuffles or walking bass that reinforces the rhythm and form, a repetitive effect known as the groove. And early traditional blues verses consisted of a single line repeated four times. Our terms being eight weeks, perhaps mimics a blues-like verse that has been repeated twice.

The repetition associated with the ‘groove’ in blues is perhaps also reflected in the mundane rituals of university life. In fact, according to the un-detestable bible that is Google, blues music was ‘started by former African slaves from spirituals, praise songs, and chants.’

As much as one might find there to be nothing more thrilling than a night at Bridge or Park End, the harsh reality is that we are the slaves driven out of our home every morning by the unavoidable nine a.m. lecture.  

Speaking of nine a.m.’s. Time, itself, is a mode of counting. Week five blues indicates that we are, in fact, in week five (I dare to say it), out of an eight-week term – that is to say we have three weeks left.

A friend of mine said to me this Sunday: “once we get through this week, there are only two weeks left on term.” From a rational perspective, I laughed at this comment, replying “so you mean we have three weeks left.” In actuality, neither of us were wrong.

See, either way, simply stating ‘three,’ or ‘two plus one’ arrives at the same result – we have three weeks left. However, what is interesting about this, is that her version sounded much better. It seems that the same point the lecturer was driving at, was the one displayed here.

What may be comforting to some, during these times of fifth-week hardship, is in fact counting down until the end of term. Whether that is by saying there is just under a month left until the end of term, twenty days left until the end of term, three weeks left until the end of term, or even two weekends left until the end of term – we gain comfort in quantifying the time left until blissful release.

My advice would therefore be, to pick the intervals that best comfort you – regardless of them ultimately being on a uniform number line. Your tutors (as mine did) may suggest for you to eat “comfort food” and “rest” (of course that is after they have sent you a hefty word document of the weekly reading list, which includes Middlemarch).

We all know it will ultimately result in a sense of self hatred and disappointment if we start to count calories or those smashing nights out we have missed at the Oxford clubs. Therefore why not quantify something more malleable into a form that is more bearable to endure. Why not count time?

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