Whoever said University was 'a doss' is only two thirds correct. The first two years are fine; essays can be submitted with not much care and attention and results become like a spirit-level of how you felt that day. Third year however is a totally different story. Every essay is meticulous, planned to death and the day of results is akin to the nerves you get when the Police knock on your door and tell you of some bad news. It's because of this work-related purdah that I have next to no social life lately. Invites for house parties are graciously rejected along with cantankerous thoughts of 'where the hell do they get the time?!'. Maybe I'm over-doing it, maybe I am. But I've got 5 weeks to get a First that'll get me in to an MA which will no doubt drain another year of my social life.

Other than my academic purdah I've had two lots of good news relating to a batch of poems I submitted to two local publications - they're going to be printed! Two in Turbulence and one in a new literary journal that aims to highlight creative writing from the University of Hull. So all in all, good news! Aside from this good news, I will on the 22nd of March be heading home for a night to see the amazing John Grant, which I can't wait for. Hopefully I'll be able to find a spare half an hour to review it!

Below is 'Nude', one of the poems that will be in featured in Turbulence Issue 6 available at the end of the month.


Nude, except for a full head of hair
Blackened with the waters’ weight
And the occasional cloud of
Bubble bath, airy stratocumuli
Dusting the fronts of your thighs.

Nude, but for pinkish pale skin lain
Across your bones like fine muslin.
Or clay, worked and smoothed
To a painterly perfection; like a
Magnum opus, an inspired selection.

Nude, nothing hidden or concealed.
No blouse to hide the sudden slash
Of a surgeon’s knife on your left hip.
No trouser leg to hide the silver
Cicatrix where my blood once congealed.

Nude, but for a wry grin and smiling
Eyes; naked as a cloudless sky.

Copyright: Callum Smith


The King's Speech

I saw The King’s Speech on Friday afternoon and, typically, loved it. I'm usually a bit apprehensive when a film receives near unanimous praise, not because I'm an overly-pretentious arse who dislikes anything remotely popular, but because one finds that before the film has begun, you already have unreachable expectations. I was pleasantly and thankfully surprised. Colin Firth's performance should be rightfully rewarded with a raft of awards but I can't help but think he was overshadowed somewhat by the fantastic Geoffrey Rush as the charismatic antipodean Lionel Logue. If Firth is awarded any Best Actor gongs then Rush most certainly deserves any Supporting Actor gongs too. What struck me most about Rush's character is how well thought-out it was; how eccentric - in a typically thirties way - and how challenging he was. I liked too that there was some challenges made against the froideur that the Royal Family are perceived of possessing. There were also various issues of class brought out that few films tend to deal with in such a subtle way. Helena Bonham-Carter was fantastic as the young Queen Mother, alas, she didn't quite capture what a ruthless, money-grabbing old goat she turned out to be. Guy Pearce too, was a fantastically smarmy and petulant Edward VIII - spot on I thought!

Other than cinema-going, I've spent the majority of my weekend entertaining soon departing friends and finalising the seemingly never-ending research for my dissertation. I've been listening to a lot of Elvis (when he was fat, depressed and making outstanding country records like Elvis Country) as well as the new Adele album (which is a blinder). Also, Dexter Series 4 is possibly the best yet. Maybe I'll review it once I've finished it.


David Cameron's back-door privatisation of the NHS

One thing that's been bothering me recently is David Cameron. That's a lie. He hasn't been bothering me recently, he's been bothering me since becoming PM and leading Britain in to selfish Tory territory. His reforms of the NHS are insubstantial and miscalculated. I worry that they are so misguided because of his own prounouncment that he wishes to be the heir to Tony Blair on the NHS. Many political commentators on the left have commented that his 'reforms' are nothing more than a vanity project. Polly Toynbee says it with much more political know-how than me, but speaking from a point of view in which the NHS has played a pivotal role in my life (grandparents, parents, aunts were/are employed by the NHS), it's unsettling.

Cameron's plans to put patient care first yet opening our NHS to EU Competition Laws reeks of back-door privatisation. To make a commodity of the NHS and people's health is to make a mockery of everything the NHS was set up to do. Cameron's attitude to the staff is disgusting too. Expecting doctors and nurses to help his plans while calling the service they give 'second rate' shows an appalling lack of understanding from a PM who prides himself on rebranding the Tory party as a party who 'cares'. He showed in those remarks that like any rebranding, it's still essentially the same product despite a new media-friendly face. Diane Abbott raises an interesting point about the speed at which these changes are being implemented. Many senior medical spokespeople are urging David Cameron to trial his plans for longer. But the ever ruthless PM just want to have his shot at being remembered as a great reformer in a similar light to Tony Blair. Little does he realise that Tony Blair's plans worked because he had (at the beginning) a great affinity with the working man, David Cameron has shown himself as a ruthless and contemptible of the working man. I just hope the NHS can withstand such an onslaught. His grand plans for GPs (already over-worked and under-valued) to organise and carry out the care given to patients is absolutely barmy. GPs didn't endure years of medical training to become proficient in middle management, they wish to help people. What will happen is that the GPs will be forced to seek help from private companies and thus we'll have private contractors slowly but surely working their way through the hierarchy of the NHS. It was raised on Question Time last night that a scheme similar to what David Cameron wants throughout the country was trialled and then ceremoniously dropped because it was such a far-reaching failure. While I haven't had the chance to read in to this, it is clear that there are many harbingers on Cameron's 'modernisation' of the NHS. His cloudy rhetoric of 'modernisation' comes like a bitter after-taste to his 'wholly necessary cuts' which actually masked a right-wing Tory agenda of a smaller state.

I'm casting my mind back to Claire Rayner's immortal last words: "Tell David Cameron that if he screws up my beloved NHS I'll come back and bloody haunt him." And I think it's safe to say that Mr Cameron may start having many sleepless nights.