Wednesday, 12 January 2011


I receive lots of ''hits'' from various Universities around the world; from Oxford, Cambridge, various colleges of the University of London, Durham, Princeton, even some German and Italian institutions. I the people who read this blog from those various ''sausage factories'' (as Tolkien's tutor Dr Wright said of Oxford in...when was it? 1915 I think) realise that I don't in fact have a Degree, the vast majority of my friends do, and that this is a source of tremendous grief to me? I look at various young people going to University, simply because it is ''the done thing'' nowadays; they come away after three years of study in some absurd topic (such as ''Media Studies''), and have better job prospects than I do because they have a piece of paper...

I studied Divinity for four years at the University of London, but walked out because the work was tedious, I rarely submitted coursework on time (the little that I did submit was first class), and spent most of the time either in the Library in the Classics section and perusing things like 19th century Breviaries and the Sarum Missal, or off squandering my savings on irrelevant books (many of which now embarrass me!) and clothes. Now I am almost 23 years old, I am still living at home because I can't afford to move out, I have no savings, and I am still in the what-I-thought-would-be-only-temporary retail position I started five and a half years ago. I am trying now to compose a personal statement for a UCAS application to study Classics somewhere. Now what do I say? How do I articulate ''I have done nothing since I left school five years ago'' in a way which will successfully get me enrolled upon a Classics Degree (which I know I am more than capable of doing) at a prestigious University?

It's this frustration which probably underlies many of the bitter posts I write on this blog.


  1. UCAS statements were designed by Satan himself. Don't worry too much. You fall into the category of a young mature should get creditation for your University of London years and any top Uni should bite your arm off.

  2. Patricius,

    You are being too negative with your thinking. A freind of mine remarked on Monday "I wish I had as much knowledge as Patrick has when I was his age."

    What has happened to Birbeck?

  3. Thank you both for your kind comments.

    As for ''in nocte consilium'', I think Birkbeck ranks about 85 in the world for prestige. I don't want that, plus I don't see why I should subordinate my education, which is all I am, to my dead end job. I hope to return to full time education at a decent University in September. I wish I had gone to Oxford when I had the chance; I had the grades...

  4. Patricius,

    We will continue to offer prayers that you find a place, in education or work, that fits.

    Take as a starting point where you would like to be in about five years time (and vaguely, ten) and work back from that. I was in a similar position to you two years ago, and I eventually decided to make a huge sacrifice to do a postgraduate degree most Oxbridge types think is ludicrous and not worth it, in a discipline they don't take seriously! At the beginning of 2011 I am ***t scared about it still!

    The most comforting thing for me, though, is knowing that I will fit in (more or less) to both the university and the type of job. My advice would be consider the university and the job you want to go to, Oxford I imagine has a competitive side which would run someone like me into the ground.

    Rubricarius is quite right, you have an astonishingly broad knowledge of Liturgy in the West for someone your age, so if you can make that either your work or your main hobby then you'll do very well.

    Hope it all goes well!

  5. Ex fide, thank you for your comment, sincerely.

    Liturgy, like Tolkien, is just a hobby. My real interest is the Latin language (and Greek, one of my resolutions for this year is to learn Greek), and I hope to get a job where I can use this, maybe even as a lingua franca among my colleagues. Unfortunately Latin is a complex (but very logical) language and although I try to do at least fifteen minutes of translation a day, I sometimes feel as though I am getting nowhere with it. I can still only read Latin, and translate Latin into English. Ask me how to say ''I enjoyed Vesperal Liturgy at Ennismore Gardens the day before yesterday'', or something, and I'd have to sit down and work it out. I picked up French very easily at school, but the difference was that I was taught to speak French, as well as read it etc. I am terrified of forgetting it all don't you know!

    I wish you well with your Masters. I only hope to have my Bachelor of Arts before I reach 30, and my own Masters before 32!

  6. Patricius

    I've never been to university. I do manual work, for well below the average wage. I have barely fifteen years to retirement and no pension. But I have a beautiful wife, two wonderful children and my faith. I used to reproach myself with lack of ambition and lack of self-confidence (my Latin's probably the equal of yours) but don't any more. as Dorothy parker observed, "If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at the people He gives it to". The same is true of "success", obviously. Glory to God for all things!

  7. Sir,
    As one of your readers from a University, I can say with great confidence that you will be just fine! I went back to college to finish my degree in Philosophy at 22 (almost 23!) after I had a spiritual and mental conversion that inspired in me a of learning I have since neglected and would kill to get back. Honestly, I wish I was half as disciplined at 23 as you are right now. Perhaps, you ought to just find a place that is a good fit. My undergrad institution was the closest place to home I ever felt until I was in Wolvercote one fateful summer and now I'm in Chicago working on one of those illustrious but useless degrees. I talk with some of the finest minds in religion and I can only wish that we all were as excited by the Liturgy as you are.

    That in mind, you being an EU citizen may want to look abroad. Check out the Pontificium Institutum Orientalium where I think some of the finest studies of liturgy have come out in the last few decades, and I can say from experience that they do a great job there. Or maybe it's not the best fit, but you'll be surprised what you can find when you cast your net a bit wider.

    Cheers, yet again!