All Grown up

On Monday I graduated. Four years at uni all building to that one ceremony and now it’s all over. After the late nights (of studying and partying), after so much use of Google translate, after all the stress, it came down to a couple of hours wearing a stupid hat.


Dat hat tho.

Graduation was good. It really was. Even if I did feel like a dork in a mortarboard. Everyone was dressed up, everyone was struggling with gowns and hoods, and everyone was just as confused by the fact that we had to bow when we walked across the stage.


My shoes were the prettiest. 

I feel like, to keep with the grand tradition of this blog, I ought to write a semi blow by blow account. But to be honest, it was a lot of talking to friends, waiting for the ceremony to start and clapping. I was seventh on stage so that was stressful. Nothing like having to walk, bow and shake hands in front of over a hundred people to make you want to have a practice.


My uni’s twitter reblogged my graduation selfie. What.

My Dad came to watch, which was great, while my grandparents and aunts watched the live stream from the comfort of their living rooms, and then later, we went back to the West Midlands for a family meal where I got given not one but two stuffed toys with mortarboards on. One’s a bear and one’s a bear/monkey hybrid…

This week has been super busy, mostly because while graduation has only just happened, I’m starting a job tomorrow. Which meant moving out of Nottingham, moving home, and buying work appropriate clothes because I can no longer live in jeans…

I have a tax code. A tax code, guys. I think I’m officially an adult. But you know, I still have a Johnny Depp poster on my wall and too many stuffed toys to count. Ah, the joys of moving back into your teenage bedroom. So this blog will be coming to you from the Birmingham area rather than Nottingham. Seeing as we managed the transition from Germany to the UK, I think we’re going to cope. Stay tuned for posts about me failing to adult.


Harry Potter and the German Dissertation

As I believe I’ve mentioned, I’m graduating soon. All I need now is a) my final results and b) a day of wearing a cap and gown, and I will officially be done with my undergraduate degree. Like a lot of people, I had to do a dissertation to get to this point. I really liked my dissertation, so I’m going to nerd out about it here. Warning: much nerdery ahead.

My dissertation began about this time last year in a bar in Bruges. While on holiday with my friends, which you can read about here, I realised that despite my best efforts I would probably have to do a dissertation, and I had no idea what I would write about. A drunken-ish discussion ensued, and the next day I discovered notes on my phone about what I should write about. It turned out I’d been really insistent about wanting to write about Harry Potter.

I think it’s fairly obvious that I am a huge fan of Harry Potter, but trying to come up with a dissertation that included that was difficult. But I eventually made it work. I was going to look at neologisms (made up words) in the Harry Potter series and how they were translated into German. At this juncture, I’d like to point out that my main motivation to write about Harry Potter was so that it would be interesting, rather than necessarily being nerdy enough to write about Harry Potter. Simply put, I desperately didn’t want to write a 4000-7000 word essay on Hitler and the Third Reich.

So I wrote about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I also wrote about a book called Die 13½  Lebens des Käpt’n Blaubär by Walter Moers, which in English is The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear. (It’s an excellent book. You should go read it.) And somehow I muddled through and handed in a dissertation entitled ‘From Albus Dumbledore to Zamonia: A comparison of the impact of neologisms in fantasy novels and their translations between English and German, focusing on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling and Die 13½ Leben des Käpt’n Blaubär by Walter Moers’. Yeah, it’s a mouthful.

Basically, I looked at four different theories of translation and how they could be applied to the translations of made-up words in Harry Potter and Bluebear. And while it took a really long time to do, not least because the first thing I had to do was write out all the made up words in each book (in English and German) and Bluebear is 700 pages long, it was a really enjoyable experience. I mean, as far as writing an essay can be enjoyable.


Undergraduate research posters. Mine’s the one with the Harry Potter writing.

And while I was doing my dissertation, the Department of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies (aka CLAS aka my uni department) had a post graduate symposium which included an undergraduate poster competition. You could submit a poster of any research you’d done and so, as procrastination, I made a poster of my dissertation. And somehow I won. So that was pretty cool. Especially as when I made my poster, I hadn’t actually written my dissertation.

I had to explain my research to a bunch a postgraduates. I basically said I’m looking at made up words.

I’m not sure if there’s a point to this blog post aside from me going ‘I got to write an essay on this thing and that was super cool, because Harry Potter and linguistics and yes’, but if there were to be another point it would be this: try and do your dissertation on something that interests you. I was terrified that I’d have to write mine on something that I didn’t really care about, that I wasn’t really interested in and that I wouldn’t do very well in. Instead, I wrote about two books that I love with regards to a part of language study that I find fascinating (aka translation with a focus on linguistics). And I got my second highest mark of my university career for it, which was so unexpected. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that Harry Potter got me a first, and if that isn’t magic, I’m not sure what is.


BQC: A Flying Visit

George Weasley: Rough game, Quidditch.

Fred Weasley: Brutal, but no one’s died in years. Someone will vanish occasionally, but they’ll turn up in a month or two!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, (2001 film)

It’s true. Quidditch, even Muggle Quidditch, is a dangerous sport. But the threat of mysteriously vanishing didn’t deter over 400 players descending on Wollaton Park last weekend, all ready to battle to the death if necessary for the honour of being crowned the British Quidditch Champions.

Photo credit: University of Nottingham Wollaton Hall is as impressive as Quidditch skills

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Wollaton Hall is as impressive as Quidditch skills

As I mentioned in my last post, my local team is the Nottingham Nightmares. I’ll can give you three guesses who I support. Yeah, that’s right – Derby. No, I’m kidding. Of course I support Nightmares. Let’s be honest, I live with their team captain. It’d be a trifle awkward if I didn’t. Fair warning: this post will be Notts Nightmares centric. So I donned my nightmares shirt and face paint, and headed out to Wollaton Park in time for the first Nightmares game of the British Quidditch Cup.


All the things needed to support your team: tutus, banners and nail polish. Oh and face paint, of course.

Unfortunately due to various reasons, the games on Day One were running late, which meant there was still waiting around to be done when I turned up. This did mean, however, that I had time to grab some BQC swag and be introduced to various quidditching people. And then finally, it was time for Nottingham to play Bangor Broken Broomsticks.


The official programme is so kickass.

Before I go on, I should probably quickly explain a couple of things. Firstly, the snitch is worth 30 points and catching it ends the game. Each time a Quaffle goes through a hoop that’s 10 points. (And if you want slightly more explanation than that, Sky Sports were at BQC and filmed a (at times kind of cheesy) video explanation complete with actual quidditch players and adorable kids, which you can find here.) On Day One, teams were playing the other teams that were in their groups (See here for more details of fixtures and scores).


Photo credit: University of Nottingham

A Quaffle, a bludger and many broomsticks

I’m not a sports commentator, so I’m sorry but you’re not going to get a blow by blow recount of the match. But I can tell you that both teams played well, but finally Nightmares triumphed, with the score 150*-70. (For the uninitiated, an asterisk means that team caught the snitch.) There was much celebration on the part of the Nightmares, because winning your first game is always a great way to kick off a tournament.

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Nightmares celebrating a well deserved win.
(The guy in the yellow headband caught the snitch.)
(He was mobbed by the entire team.)

The second game Nightmares played was against The Flying Chaucers. Flying Chaucers formed just two months ago and brought a fairly small squad to BQC. They played really well, particularly for such a new team, but the final score was 280*-10 to Nottingham. Winning both matches was a solid start.

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

The Chaucers putting up a valiant fight.

As the games were running late on Day One, Nightmares only played two games on the Saturday, rather than the three they should have done. However, it was a beautiful day, and I don’t think anyone minded too much. Of course, there were plenty of matches to watch in between Nightmare games and it was a really great start to the weekend.

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

“Quidditch face” can strike anyone anytime anywhere.

Saturday night there was a social, where I think everyone I talked to told me how tired they were and they couldn’t believe they’d dragged themselves out, but hadn’t the day gone well? The social was very lowkey due to the excessive tiredness of pretty much everyone, but it ended with a highland dance off, so fun was definitely had.

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Nightmares going for a goal against Durham.

Sunday dawned grey and drizzly, but I didn’t see it because I slept through my alarm. I don’t want to say that watching Quidditch is as tiring as playing because that’s simply not true, but man it takes it out of you. I missed the first Nightmares match which was against Durhamstrang. Nightmares lost, with the final score standing at 110*-60. A close match but still a loss.

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

A reminder that Quidditch is a full contact sport.

By the time I turned up, it had been established that despite the loss to Durham, Nightmares were through the group stage and into the round of sixteen. This meant playing Derby Union Quidditch for a place in the Quarterfinals. To start off with Nightmares were not at their best, but they pulled it back, with the final score being 80*-40 to Nottingham. Which meant they were through to the Quarterfinals.

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Notts giving it all they’d got against the Chimeras.

And in the quarterfinals they were facing Radcliffe Chimeras, who, at the time were both the British and European champions. But Nightmares were prepared for a fight, even when the heavens opened. It was the tensest match I have ever watched. By snitch release (18 minutes into the game) the score was 30-0 to the Chimeras, which meant if Nottingham caught the snitch without the Chimeras scoring anymore, the game would go to overtime which would mean if they caught the snitch again they’d win and be through to the semifinals.

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Solid defensive seeking by the Nightmares’ Seeker.

Sadly, it was not to be with Chimeras both scoring more and catching the snitch, and the final score was 110*-10 to the Chimeras. But Nightmares played fantastically and all of their supporters were so proud of them. And they should be so proud of themselves.

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Southampton about to beat out a Chimeras Chaser.

In the end, the final was between Radcliffe Chimeras and Southampton Quidditch Club 1. Complete with a disallowed snitch catch, injuries, and a pitch move, it was both a long and tense match. But finally, finally, finally it was over. With Southampton Quidditch Club 1 as the new British Quidditch Champions.

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

You’re going to want to click on this photo to fully see how great it is.

If you want full results plus interesting statistics, you should look here, but the final top rankings were:

1st – Southampton Quidditch Club 1

2nd – Radcliffe Chimeras

3rd – Keele Squirrels

It was an amazing weekend, which was made even sweeter for Nightmares (who came 5th overall) who found out that their performance had secured them a place at the European Quidditch Cup, which is in Oxford, 17-18th April 2015. I hope all players at BQC enjoyed their time in Nottingham, because it was fantastic to have them here. And I’m so proud of Nightmares. I said it before, but I’m saying it again because it’s true. I have high hopes for them at EQC. Because #ibelieveinnightmares.

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Watch out EQC. Nightmares are coming for you.


Do you even fly, bro?

So Quidditch is a thing. Like, a real life, honest to god, you can go play it thing. And with the British Quidditch Cup fast approaching, I figured I should probably do at least a semi-explaining blog before you get assaulted with tales of Nottingham Nightmares’ romp to victory. Yes, I have absolute faith in my local team. No, I don’t pay attention to statistics. #ibelieveinnightmares

Photo credit: Helen Freeman)

Nottingham Nightmares: Looking positively electrifying

Let me begin with please don’t ever ask a Quidditch player if they really fly. Responses will range from sarcasm to stabbing and to be honest, I’m not sure which is worse. You want to face down a Quidkid who’s had tons of practice of answering this for full comedic effect, be my guest. But you won’t come out of it well. I once convinced a guy we fly. He looked so crushed when he found out it wasn’t true.

Muggle Quidditch or IQA Quiddditch originated in the USA in 2005, but has spread across the globe with teams on almost every continent. The basics from the Harry Potter books remain true. Chasers, beaters, keeper, seeker. Quaffles, bludgers, snitch. Mixed gender. Three hoops. Full contact. Broomsticks. Ridiculous commentary from spectators. I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of the rules because a) I’m a little hazy on them myself and b) man, that would take a long time. The basics can be found in the infographic below:

Quidditch rules

(Photo credit: Sophie Chrétien/London Unspeakables)

So you may have noticed that I said it’s a mixed gender sport. Much like in books, muggle Quidditch welcomes all genders on their teams. Which means everyone gets to join in the fun and violence. Thanks to the “four maximum” rule, there can only be four people who identify as the same gender on the pitch for the same team at any one time. Not only does it mean the mixed gender nature of the sport is codified in the rules, but it creates a LGBTI friendly space with an environment where people are highly aware of the fact that gender is a spectrum not a binary. If you want to read more about how this plays out in Quidditch in the UK, I recommend this article.

As I believe I mentioned, the British Quidditch Cup is rapidly coming up and this year it’s going to be Nottingham. So Quidkids from around the country will be descending on Wollaton Hall from 7th March to 8th March. Competing teams have been divided into six groups, who will then play a round robin within their group. At the end of the first day, the teams will be ranked based on the results of the round robin, and only the top sixteen will make it through to the next day. Then a round of sixteen, Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and a Final will take place. Standard stuff, right? For more details of the tournament format, see here.

Basically, next week’s going to be an exciting weekend for Quidditch enthusiasts. Watch this space for a blog about it. If you’re in the UK and interested in finding your local Quidditch team, you can use this handy page on the Quidditch UK website. And now, having created a blog post that is a mess of everything Quidditch, I’m gonna leave you with a list of all teams competing in the British Quidditch Cup, because there’s some serious alliteration going on in some of them.

Bangor Broken Broomsticks, Bristol Brizzlepuffs, Cambridge University Quidditch Club, Chester Chasers, Derby Union Quidditch Club, Durhamstrang, Falmouth Falcons, Holyrood Hippogriffs, Keele Squirrels, Leeds Griffins, Leicester Thestrals, London Unspeakables, Loughborough Longshots, Norwich Nifflers, Nottingham Nightmares, Oxford Quidlings, Radcliffe Chimeras, Reading Rocs, Southampton Quidditch Club, Southampton Quidditch Club 2, St Andrews Snidgets, The Flying Chaucers, and Warwick Whomping Willows.

Nightmares 2
Photo credit: Helen Freeman)

How could you not support them? Look how great they look. 


Nottingjam: Sugar, we’re going down swinging

I wasn’t going to put an addendum in the title, because there’s already a pun in Nottingjam, but then I couldn’t resist. I’ve written Nottingjam on my phone so often, it now offers that instead of Nottingham in predicative text. But what is Nottingjam, I hear you cry. Well, dear friends, first and foremost Nottingjam was awesome. But in a more helpful answer, Nottingjam was the University of Nottingham’s first swing weekend.

I may have written about swing once or twice before but prepare yourselves, because this post is going to contain three days’ worth of swing. That’s right – three whole days. From 13th Feb to the 15th life turned entirely dance related. From the welcome dance to final drinks, the weekend became a case of dance eat sleep repeat. An exhausting but enjoyable combination.

Beginning on Friday 13th February, Nottingjam took over Late Night Lindy (which I wrote about before Christmas in this post) for the welcome dance. Starting at 8pm and ending at midnight, the welcome dance was a chance to pick up wristbands (blue for follows, red for leads, yellow for social passes) and begin the weekend right with a social dance. A chance to meet people in town for the weekend, a chance for solo jazz routines if the right song comes on, and a chance to, well, social dance. Late Night Lindy’s always fun and Friday evening was no exception. Even though dancing with strangers is always a bit terrifying, because kicking someone the first time you meet them is never a good impression. Thankfully, I kept my limbs to myself and everyone was lovely.

10626289_10155371417645438_8075961379687861699_o(Photo Credit: Opaluwah Photography)
Swinging the night away.

Bright and early (at 10am) on Saturday, registration opened for those who hadn’t arrived the night before, and then at half past lessons began. I was in the middle stream making me Knee Slapper, rather than an Apple Jack or a Strutter, so I can only talk about the lessons I went to. I mean, you could probably have figured that out for yourself, but I thought I’d make it clear.

The first class was taught by Matthew Lane and Jenny Clapp, and with a warm up to Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, it was an energetic start to the day. Which was great, seeing as it actually woke me up. And then they focused on fluidity. We started by looking at the shapes made by swing moves, by not doing any moves and just moving with our partner and making shapes. Which was far more difficult than you would have thought. Apparently rock step triple step is deeply ingrained in us. Then we got on to swing outs and lindy circles and turns, but the point of the lesson was to do not do one move. Then another. Then another. It was about how to keep movement flowing and to see a dance as one continuous thing rather than as a series of moves. Difficult but useful.


(Photo credit: Opaluwah Photography)
Matt and Jenny

Second class was with Alex Sainsbury and Leanna Fitzpatrick, and we focused on Charleston. My Charleston is not great, I can’t lie to you. I can manage it in classes, but when it comes to social dancing, I’d far rather do Lindy at an inhuman speed than switch to Charleston. However, after the hour we had with Alex and Leanne, I can at least say I improved. I mean, still not in any hurry to take to the social dance floor with Charleston, but I am far less paranoid that I’ll misjudge the speed and ask someone to dance to a Charleston paced song.


(Photo credit: Opaluwah Photography)
Alex and Leanne.

After lunch us Knee Slappers had a two hour class with Cam Mitchell and Cat Foley. First hour was on technique. To be honest the thing I remember most was how little you need to actually hold hands. As in, yes, have the connection with the lead’s right arm and the follow’s left arm, but the opposite hands? They can be left alone for a lot of moves. And even in moves where they’re necessary, they’re not needed for that long. As a follow, it meant I had to pay more attention – absolutely no zoning out allowed. Not that would I ever zone out while dancing… The second hour was full of spins. There were Texas Tommies (How does one pluralise Tommy? Is it Tommys? Tommies?), which were then followed by another spin, and then was a spin with directional rotation to get back into hold and…Guys there were a lot of spins, okay?

And then to end the day, we had Nigel and Debbie Wale teaching us a Lindy Hop routine. There were a few new moves that took a decent amount of brain power to master, but it was fairly chilled, which was great because after five hours of classes my feet were mutinying.

I then walked home because I am a smart bean, and proceeded to eat, sleep and shower in about two hours, before heading out again to the social dance. Taking place in the Great Hall at the university, it was amazing. With Me and Mr Jones as a live band, everyone dressed up, and a Jack and Jill competition it was such a great night. It started at 8pm and went on until 2.30am, during which time I discovered that there is such a thing as Too Much Dancing. Symptoms include feet mutinying, a desire but lack of ability to continue dancing and a desperate need to sit down. Too Much Dancing brought on by Lindy Hop is the epitome of going down swinging. Thankfully this can be cured by sitting down for about four songs. Then you can go ask an instructor to dance and embarrass yourself by messing up a lot dance again.


(Photo credit: Opaluwah Photograpy)
Me and Mr Jones making the night go with a swing.

Getting up on Sunday was way too difficult, so I did not make to any of the taster lessons. But I hear tell that they were all good, especially Belly Dance. The three available were Indian Dancing, Belly Dancing and Balboa. And as much fun as they sounded, asking me to be on campus by midday was just asking too much. So I turned up at 3pm for the Tea Dance.

With the bunting and cake and dancing it felt very British. As someone said, with it being in the atrium which is all glass and plants, it almost felt like we were in a posh hotel from the 1920s. There was even live music again, with Rosie, one of swing soc’s members, singing. Lasting for four whole hours, it was a really great way to wind down the weekend. Chilled dancing will always be one of my favourite ways to spend a Sunday. Especially when there’s a funky shim sham thrown in too.


Do love bunting.

After much dancing, we headed to the SU bar for farewell drinks, and then, again because I am a smart bean, I walked home. I would not recommend it. Walking after that much dancing was less than fun. And that was the end of Nottingjam. It was University of Nottingham’s first swing weekend and my first swing weekend and it was awesome. A ridiculous amount of fun was had, even if it took my feet three days to recover. Roll on Robin Hood Hop. And Nottingjam 2, of course.


(Photo credit: Opaluwah Photography)
The lovely people of the first ever Nottingjam.

[Note: Where credited, photos were taken by Opaluwah Photography, who you can find here or on Facebook here)


Why I cared about Star Wars for an Hour

4th February 2015 marked the beginning of the popular culture lectures at the University of Nottingham and I went because what else am I gonna do with my spare time other than go to non-compulsory lectures?


Look how pretty the poster is

Open to the public, the physics lecture hall was full, even with some people sitting on the stairs. I’m gonna hazard a guess that the vast majority of people there were students at the university, but one should never underestimate the pull of Star Wars. I feel like I should take a moment to explain that, personally, I am ambivalent towards Star Wars. I’ve seen Episodes I-IV (feel free to rage about how I’ve missed out the best two in the comments) and of course it’s a part of popular culture, so I know a fair bit. Let’s be honest, to not know anything about Star Wars would be impressive. So why did I go? Well, the lecture was entitled “It’s a trope!”: ‘Star Wars’ and/in translation and I’m a sucker for translation, especially when applied to fiction. If anyone wants to link me to articles about how Dothraki and Elvish are constructed, I’d be a very happy Kat. So yes. There I was, in a lecture theatre about to be lectured on the importance of translation in a fictional world I don’t care that much about.

Thankfully, Dr Pierre-Alexis Mével is very engaging and knows his stuff. With an introduction video that was an homage to the opening of A New Hope, the lecture started well and when it became a more standard lecture it was still interesting. Leastways I thought it was. But as previously stated, I am a translation nerd.

Starting with the translation of the films into foreign languages, the problems of translating anything into a foreign language were quickly raised, with Han Solo becoming Yan Solo in French so that it wasn’t pronounced ‘An and thus a girl’s name. Chinese bootleg subtitles were covered, where it was well and truly proven that machines shouldn’t be completely trusted with translation. Then there was a brief discussion on how alien languages are tackled in TV and films, which boils down to either 1) everyone speaks the same language (usually English), 2) there are different languages and it’s subtitled, or 3) there are different language and there is no translation. Fairly standard stuff. Still interesting.

Moving on from general issues of translation, we turned to the topic of translation within the Star Wars films and looked at the various languages spoken within the films, like Galatic Basic, Huttese and Shyriiwook. Which human languages these were based on was covered, including the fact that Shyriiwook is a combination of various animal noises. Then there was discussion on C-3PO’s role as a translator, and whether he is a machine performing what he’s coded for or if he is a self-aware translator. Spoilers: he’s at least semi aware.

All in all it was a good lecture on translation applied to fiction, and I really enjoyed it. Still not racing home to watch Episodes V & VI though. If lectures on popular culture sound like something you’d be interested in and you’re in Notts, the schedule can be found here. There’s vegan ethics in Doctor Who, zombie genomics and even more Star Wars. Happy geeking.