Getting into Oxford University is, like, really hard. And it’s, like, really expensive, too. But it must be cool, because David Cameron and Mr Bean went there.
… Let’s Hack it!
Option 1: The Brookes Blag
Oxford has another University. It’s called Oxford Brookes, which sounds a bit like Oxford. Especially to foreign employers. Even more so if you leave out the ‘Brookes’ bit. It’s also a lot easier to get into (though it costs the same amount in fees).
Total Cost: £9,000 per year.
The Pros: Oxford without the geeks. The word ‘Oxford’ in your degree. Life amongst the dreaming spires and all that.
The Cons: That nagging feeling at the back of your mind that whispers “you didn’t really go to Oxford, did you”.
Option 2: An Armchair Approach
While studying in Oxford is all very well and good, it has a fatal drawback: You have to actually be arsed to live in Oxford.
Why not use the power of the interwebs to watch lectures online? It’s like being in Oxford, except without the spotty geeks, three-legged pub crawl participants, hooray Henries and Cowley crack whores.
Total Cost: £0
The Pros: Learn from the greats at your own pace.
The Cons: It is an internet thing and therefore mostly ephemeral.
Option 3: A Scholarly Scam
It’s a not-very-well-advertised fact that members of the public can attend lectures at Oxford University. At the discretion of the college, you could attend a series of weekly lectures for as little as £60 per term. Basically, peanuts. Then you could buy a year’s subscription to the Bodleian Library, costing the princely sum of £38.
But what about the one-to-one tuition that Oxford is so famous for? Well, you could advertise in the Daily Info for a private tutor. You’ll find a PhD student or junior academic is willing to teach you one-to-one for £25 an hour.
The downside? You won’t get a degree. You’ll have nothing to show for your efforts except, like, actually knowing stuff.
Total Cost: £818 per year.
The Pros: An actual Oxford education, without the stress or the essay deadlines.
The Cons: No degree certificate, but then Oxford don’t give out degree certificates, so you’re fine.
Option 4: The Language School Lie
There are private colleges around Oxford which cash in on the ‘Brookes Effect’. You can spend a few weeks in Oxford doing a short course in anything from beginners’ English to advanced Calculus for a few hundred quid. And the colleges have names like ‘St Cuthberts College, Oxford’ or ‘Marlborough College, Oxford’. You also get to hang out in the Turf Tavern, go punting, pick up some received pronunciation and generally feel like an extra from Brideshead, Downton et al.
Total Cost: £200 for a short course
The Pros: A certificate bearing the words “Studied English at Regency College Oxford” or some such gubbins.
The Cons: ‘Con’ is the definitely the operative word.
Option 5: The Deuchars Deception
Sit in The Eagle and Child or The Lamb and Flag, wear tweeds and talk about Marxism. Soon enough, everyone will assume that you’re a Queen’s Fellow anyway.
Total Cost: £3.80 a pint.
The Pros: Beer
The Cons: Can’t remember. Whose round is it?
LIKED THIS? NOW READ: How To Pretend To Be Great At Piano When You’re Not.
Sometimes it feels like a day doesn’t go by when my Facebook newsfeed doesn’t contain the words “When are the new Public Enemy/Sex Pistols/Rage Against The Machine going to appear? We need music with a message instead of all this meaningless pop crap…”… I find this sentiment so quaint. It’s almost cute to think that there are some people for whom The Pirate Bay never happened.
If Punk Rock taught us anything, it’s that people love to feel rebellious and will pay good money for ripped jeans, albums about fighting the power, Che Guevara posters and the $375 Urban Outfitters jacket pictured above. Teenagers love to consume the ideology of rebellion. After all, it’s so much easier than actually Fighting the Power. Remember in Withnail and I when the drug dealer complains that they’re selling Hippy wigs in Woolworths? It’s what they used to call recuperation in the olden days of Socialist yore. Or, as the Clash so elequently put it, turning rebellion into money.
What – let’s call him ‘Facebook Guy’ – doesn’t realise is that sitting on your arse listening to Billy Bragg is no more subversive than sitting on your arse listening to Justin Bieber. Whether it be Britney Spears or Bob Seeger, any major label record purchase is essentially an act of fellatio on a huge corporate penis. Facebook Guy thinks he’s rebelling by listening to Public Enemy, but he’s really sucking Vivendi Universal Music Group dick.
At the end of the day, Bob Dylan didn’t end the Vietnam war any more than The Hoff brought down the Berlin wall. The Economic machinations of the Geopolitical power nexus massively dwarf any ideological merit which accrues through someone – even the Lennons and Strummers of this world – writing a pop song.
If, like Facebook Guy, you are waiting for the next Public Enemy, I think I may have found them. It’s YOU. You can share, bootleg, steal, lend, swop, blog, give away, mashup and remix music. Become a producer instead of a consumer… (and you don’t even need to leave your armchair!). But if you can’t be arsed, don’t worry. Some kid from Hackney with Fruity Loops and a Twitter account is doing it right now. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
The ad hominem argument states that you should not judge what a person says by who the person is. I found myself being reminded of this yesterday when I watched the Russell Brand/Paxo video. To the extent that I’ve followed his career at all, I can’t say that I was ever overawed by Mr Brand. The fact that his autobiography was called ‘My Booky Wooky’ rang alarm bells for starters. And so, too did his breaking of the ‘no skinny jeans on a man over 30′ rule. That’s without even mentioning the hair.
It seems we were all hasty in our dismissal of the bearded celebrity squirrel, however. It turns out that he is in fact a good sort. His non-specific, though oddly persuasive message of revolution, transcendental meditation, toppling the 1% and other such quasi-lefty sentiments struck some sort of chord. And it looks like I’m not the only one.
Liked this? Now watch Nigel Farage’s Best Speeches
This blog has been rather quiet of late as you might have noticed. I spent the summer touring around music festivals, mostly with the rather excellent Disco Shed and any writing I did was for my Bass music blog, which you can find here.
I’ve been totally overwhelmed by the number of views, comments and messages I’ve received from this blog. Thank you for taking an interest in my rather eccentric and erratic posts!
If you’d like to do a guest spot, feel free to get in touch
It’s a truism that Belgium is the dullest country in the world. The weather would give the UK a run for its money; skies of the slate grey variety and endless drizzle compete for room with bracing wind and fog which comes in off the north sea much as in, say Glasgow or Morecombe.
The people, so we are led to believe, are a dull bunch of quasi-French bureaucrats who love nothing more than creating rules about the bendiness of bananas and tending to their ironically waxed moustaches.
Of course, there is a grain of truth in all these stereotypes, but if you are willing to go the extra mile – most notably away from the tourist traps of Brussels and Bruges – you will discover an open-minded and dare-I-say, hip country that warrants a week of anyone’s life. The fact that (just about) everyone speaks English and it’s only two hours from St Pancras also adds to the feeling that a trip to Belgium is a trip to ‘another Britain’, but a bit more continental.
Ever been to Amsterdam and thought, “well, this could be a nice place if it wasn’t for all the narcotourists and sex shops?”… Welcome to Ghent. Ghent manages to be both a picture-postcard medieval town with canals and cobbled streets and also a lively student city with a nightlife famous for its outrageous music scene (the infamous clubnight Breakcore Gives Me Wood was founded here) and its all-night pub crawl marathons.
Competing for the prize of ‘capital of Flanders’ is Antwerp, a slightly more modern, sophisticated city with some of the finest art nouveau architecture in the world and a pavement cafe and restaurant culture which is some of the finest in Europe. On top of this, Antwerp’s fashion scene is still very much at the cutting edge, with students travelling from places like Japan and New York to study with the greats of Belgian design.
Belgium’s history of weaving, architecture and art goes right back to medieval times, when the low countries were the richest seafaring nations in the world. The modern artists and fashion designers are continuing a legacy which stretches back from the bande dessinee of Tin Tin through to the Northern Renaissance and the guild houses of the high Middle Ages. Not only were Magritte, Rubens, Van Dyck and Bruegel all Belgian born, but the rich merchants of Antwerp and Bruges were also the main collectors of fine art from Holland, too. Some of the the innovations which Belgians contributed to fine art include the artist’s self portrait, the use of oil paint and even the idea of secular art itself.
No guide to Belgium is complete without the mention of the cuisine. While the seafood delicatessens of Antwerp and the haute cuisine restaurants of Brussels take some beating, I’m quite content with some (double fried) Belgian chips washed down with a strong (trappist) beer.
Just as the art, textiles and beer industries in Belgium have a long and illustrious history, so too, it turns out, does the European Union. Charlemagne was born in Liege in the 8th Century and went on to unite Europe as the leader of the Holy Roman Empire he created. The rest, as they say, is history.
European travellers are increasingly flocking to the Balkans as a cheap, sunny, relaxing holiday destination. While I rave about Lake Ohrid in Macedonia and the cultural scene in Belgrade, my friends have been returning from Croatia with stories of wild beach parties and 3-day Techno festivals. I’ve always been particularly fascinated by Albania. I always imagine it as a land of impassable misty mountains where marauding bandits roam around on horses with AK-47s, capturing women for a lifetime of servitude either in the sex industry or – worse – the Albanian homestead.
So I asked my good friend, ace short story author and former inhabitant of Tirana, Karen Murdarasi to shed some light on this enigmatic Balkan state and perhaps explode some of these deeply entrenched prejudices. A quick look at the pictures below tells an all-together more positive story of Albania. It kind of looks like an inexpensive version of Greece: Clear blue waters, tasty food and sunshine by the bucketload. So, without further ado, here are Karen Murdarasi’s top five awesome things to do in Albania.
5 Awesome Things To Do In Albania by Karen Murdarasi
I’m not being sarcastic. There are (more than) five good things about Albania, and I’m not including an episode of Top Gear being filmed there. Albania gets a bad press. The menfolk are always the bad guys on TV dramas and films. (Never watch Taken. Never, never, never watch Taken 2.) The women, although beautiful, are assumed to be dim and usually involved in some way in the sex industry. And there’s a scurrilous rumour that Albanians as a whole are very fond of Norman Wisdom films. None of this is true. So, to set the record a little straighter, here are five things that are in fact good about “The Land of the Eagle”.
5) Eat Fast Food With A Twist
Albanian fast food is cheap and delicious. There’s byrek, which is flaky pastry filled with sharp-tasting cheese or meat, and sufllaqe, which is like a kebab, but if kebabs were gorgeous. The drinks available are also gorgeous – peach juice, apricot and orange, natural lemonade. And Coke, of course; Albania is still a place in the world.
It does not, however, have a McDonalds (yet). Instead it has Kolonat (The Collonade) in the capital, which serves burgers and stuff, along with pizza and chicken. The reason I mention it is that the big K above Kolonat is printed in a distinctive curvy way, so that it could easily be mistaken for some other letter…
4) Discover The Controversial History
I’m into history, having studied Ancient History at university, so I realised where Albania was for the first time when I found out it was ancient Illyria / Illyricum. In fact, despite various wars, migrations and occupations, the Albanians are still pretty much directly descended from the ancient Illyrians, and their language seems to come from Illyrian too.
The history of the Albanians hasn’t exactly been a barrel of laughs over the last three thousand years, but it’s certainly interesting. The people they’ve been defeated, occupied or invaded by make up a Who’s Who of history, from the Greeks and Romans through the Ottoman Empire, Napoleon, Mussolini and Hitler. Much of this history is also what’s known as ‘contested’. It could keep a history department in professorships for decades.
3) Enjoy The Fantastic Weather
This is less of a niche interest, I imagine. Albania is on the Mediterranean (as long as you’re not being too pedantic, and allow offshoots of the Med like the Ionian Sea). Therefore is has fabulous weather for most of the year. From March to October, it ranges from warm to very hot and from bright to glorious. Cafes have most of their tables outside and sandals are the only footgear required.
All that sunshine makes you want to go to the beach, of course, which brings me on to number two…
2) Experience The Varied Landscape
Long, sandy beaches. Rugged, picturesque mountains. Pellucid lakes, dark forests and magisterial gorges. Wide, shallow rivers meandering over pure white stones. And also the one large, flat bit where most people live and all the crops are grown. Albania has all the scenery you could want in really quite a small country (the size of Wales), and most of it is breathtaking.
Albania is part of the Balkan Peninsula, like Greece, so naturally it looks quite similar. It’s also blessed with lots of natural springs, like Greece, so you can buy very nice local mineral water very cheaply. My favourite is Tepelena Water which is superior to all the others on account of being, as it proclaims on the label, “suffled how it gush.” You can’t argue with that.
1) Lose Track Of Time
Of all the wonderful things about Albania, the overall winner for me has to be the pace of life. This is what I miss most when I come back to the UK. There is UK time and there is Albanian time, and the two are very different.
It’s not just about being late for everything (although that’s certainly part of it), it’s about valuing certain things above punctuality – things like having time for your friends, enjoying the journey, eating and dressing properly, and not overheating in the glorious sunshine. Once you manage to overcome your western obsession with timekeeping, this attitude is amazingly relaxing and liberating: Whatever it is, it can wait; enjoy now.
Looking for more Albania travel ideas? Click here
Looking for more offbeat European travel ideas? Click here
Find out more about Karen the guest blog author here
Dear Mr Oakley,
I read with interest that Policy Exchange, the think tank who have been given the task of investigating the UK Government’s latest back-to-work/slave labour initiative, are looking for members of the public to offer advice.
I thought I would offer you my insights, as they might help you understand the situation a bit more.
What barriers and challenges do individuals and households face in increasing their hours and earnings (both now and pre-recession)?
1. One major cause of loss of earnings is the wholesale use of private employment agencies (not only to place the unemployed into private companies, but also – scandalously – into the public sector. ) This has meant that private employment companies have creamed off money which should be going to workers. This might be of interest to you, as you represent Job Centre Plus.
2. Another barrier to wealth for the masses is selling them the lies that if you work hard, you will be rich. Back-to-work/slave labour initiatives only help to perpetuate this myth. Money does not come from working. It comes from rackateering through renting out property or investing in companies which will help ‘bring democracy’ to the middle east. Those great British institutions, Hawker Siddeley and BP are generally a safe bet, due to their involvement in oil wars.
3. Another major barrier to wealth creation and cause of unemployment is the privatisation of state-run industries. Private companies bid for contracts and they do this by making themselves cheaper. They do this by cutting wages and removing workers’ rights. This fuels both unemployment and low wages. How much money did the government really save through closing down the mines and turning the north of England into a DLA allowance haven? In the long run, not very much. It is clear, then that the closing of industry was ideologically rather than economically motivated.
4. And finally, the greatest barrier is, of course, the rich themselves. Instead of investing in businesses which might create jobs, they prefer to make money by investing in massive debt chains with the poor workers of the world at the bottom. They also manage to avoid paying the taxes which could be used to create jobs.
How effective is the current system in helping people to do this?
The current system is extremely effective at perpetuating the barriers to higher wages. It should be applauded and given medals for its contribution to perpetuating the barrier. Remember when Barack Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize for bombing Afghanistan? The DWP should get a similar honour.
The current system prevents the working classes from attaining wealth or status by keeping them subservient to the elite through debt. It ensures a constant flow of 3rd world migrants who will depress wages ad infinitum.
It is doing a great job at keeping the people uneducated by lowering teachers’ wages to mean that usually only the very mediocre ever consider school teaching as a profession. It does a great job, too, at lowering educational standards across the board through comprehensive education, league tables and a whole host of other successful Maoist education programs.
It even systematically prevents people from starting their own businesses or ever having a chance of owning their own homes, thus preventing them from becoming mini capitalists themselves. That’s right – the system doesn’t even want ‘normal’ people to be capitalists.
If you are confused about capitalism, you might want to take a look at this video:
What policies have been used and tested in this area across different parts of the UK or internationally? How successful have these policies been?
I could tell you about how in Berlin, the local government caps rent prices to prevent the inflation of rental prices. This prevents people from becoming poorer by the day as more and more of their money is sucked into landlords’ pockets, but I know that you do not have the power to affect such a change.
You also have no power to banish private employment agencies from the UK and allow Jobcentre Plus to place people in jobs. You do not even have the power to allow Jobcentre Plus to exclusively place people in public sector jobs, on a not-for-profit basis.
You might like to take a leaf out of the NBA’s book. The NBA ruled that the best way to prevent wage inequality is to put a cap preventing any one player from earning more than 30 times the average wage. If this were applied nationally, this would mean that if a businessman wanted to increase his own wages, he would have to find a way of doing it that increased the average wages of his own workers. But we know that, powerful as your think tank is, and successful as these policies could be, none of these measures is going to happen.
We both know that if you tried to implement any of the above measures, you would undoubtedly find yourself dead from ‘suicide’ in a field in Oxfordshire quicker than you can say “military industrial complex”.