Caffeine’d

Howdy,

First, a digression.

I’m going to tell you the story of what happened last Thursday night, the 17th of November. Astute calendar-watchers will observe that today is a Saturday, the 26th of November, a full nine days after the event in question. Maybe I’m getting old and disinterested in blogging, and so I don’t see a problem with such a delay in written observation as I once did, or perhaps my life is increasingly resembling a gelatinous mess of times and dates and deadlines and banterous stories that a nine-day difference is nothing to me when life is one big, chaotic to-do list to plow through.

But regardless, I am going to tell you the story of being caffeinated up to the eyeballs, so here goes.

As some of you may be aware, I don’t drink caffeine. This is in part an aspect of the Straight Edge lifestyle I lead, where I dislike the idea of being reliant on drugs to the point where I abstain from them entirely, and in part based on my own personal catastrophic experiences with alcohol, that ended with me alternating between Red Bull-fueled lectures and naps in Regent’s Park in first year. It’s been pointed out that abstinence isn’t the most mature of responses to something like this – it betrays a fundamental lack of self-control if one doesn’t trust oneself to only take something in moderation – but for the sake of my health, I avoid caffeine completely.

Until Thursday.

*dramatic music*

Due to a series of unlucky timetabling issues and my own negligence, I ended up with nine hours of Old Icelandic prose to translate for a 10am seminar on Friday. I realised this at about 2pm on Thursday. In theory this would give me ample time to complete the work: start at 2, finish at 11, go home and get a solid night’s rest, right?

Right.

I’d already had about three hours of sleep the night before, and I wasn’t free until about 5pm on the Thursday to work on the translations; so best-case scenario, I’d be working until 2am, by which point I’d have been up for 18 hours after 3 hours the night before. Not impossible, but certainly strenuous considering I’m stressed all the time and haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since September.

So I did what 15-year-old me would consider unthinkable; I broke Edge and drank caffeine.

But I don’t do things in half-measures, so instead of grabbing a coffee or nursing a can of Monster through the night, I bought two litres of Blue Bolt, the Sainsbury’s own-brand version of Red Bull, chugged it, and opened my textbook.

Obviously, caffeine is not the most mind-shattering of drugs, and I don’t expect to be presented with a Hardcore Binge Champion sash any time soon, but it was certainly a shock to the system. I simply didn’t feel tired, nor did I get bored from the work, and I spent the evening chirpily tweeting my experienced to an engrossed audience of about two people, which is two more than I can usually hope for. The nine hours passed relatively quickly and painlessly, and even when I got on the bus home the worst I experienced was a weird lightheaded-ness and an inability to string a sentence together, which is really my default state of being.

I then spent Friday with a constantly high blood sugar and slept most of Saturday, so it wasn’t all peachy.

At the end of the day though, I used caffeine without wrecking my health, which is a huge step forward. It might be an uncharacteristically clinical approach to dismiss it as s purely mechanical force, something akin to an ankle brace strapped to a foot for a few hours for a game, then peeled away at the final whistle to let normal humanity return, but it’s a pretty solid metaphor in all honesty. I might break Edge again over summer for my exams, or even over Christmas to get my dissertation finished, because I’m at the stage in my life where idyllic lifestyles are less important than getting shit done: I have a degree to do, which will get me a job, which will pay for my rent and food, which will allow me to actually live.

But I won’t make a habit of it; I didn’t get to bed until about 4am that Friday morning.

All the Chaucer!

Lordynges, herkneth, if yow leste

Don’t worry, this won’t all be in middle English. I’m not sure if that makes me a crap medievalist or a sensible person for not inflicting the sweet octosyllabic couplets of Chaucer onto unsuspecting bystanders.

But today is a day of Chaucer! The opening line of his famous Canterbury Tales sets the tale in ‘that Aprill with his shoures soote’, and so medievalists, Chaucerians, and people trying to impress that cute student who reads middle English have jumped on social media and are trumpeting these lines in a manner that is doing more for the publicity of Geoffrey than his bloody retraction at the end of The Canterbury Tales.

I’ve also spent most of the day in the library reading Chaucer’s dream visions, so today has been literally wall-to-wall with Chaucer; I’ll read The House of Fame, then take a break and accidentally read The Knight’s Tale on Facebook, then back to some Book of the Duchess crit, then over to Twitter where my friend wrote this hilarious Marxist response to The Canterbury Tales.

It’s interesting how teachers, professors and general adulty authority figures have long told me to take a holistic approach to learning, to not just read a book by itself in working hours, but think about its ideas when I’m relaxing. And while this is certainly true, and I would recommend it wholeheartedly, I’ve never been thumped in the face with holistic reading and penetrative knowledge in quite this way before; I once read some stuff about a knight, now I’m suddenly in on all the Twitter jokes flying around.

Obviously, the goal of art is not to be so well-versed that one can decipher a particularly niche hashtag (probably), but it’s a nice side-effect. I find it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the Classical references and lofty teachings of art that one forgets that art, nine times out of ten, is just good fun. It’s funny when Nicholas gets a poker up the arse in the Miller’s Tale, it’s daft when Fame gives out random legacies to people in The House of Fame, and Pandarus leading Troilus along like a kid sitting atop another’s shoulders, encouraging them to run by dangling a donut on a string in front of them, is cool. I certainly forget that, but today I didn’t; the dry incoherence of some 14th Century poetry suddenly became alive through hashtags and memes.

And it was great.

Now if only we could do something about the 21st century interpretations of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

And here I wol abyden the,
Casey