Writing from Quarantine: The University of Home


It’s certainly a strange feeling working from home like this.

Not least because the fact that all of my deadlines have been moved back to the end of May means that I simultaneously both do and do not have work to do. I have assessments to work on, but none of them need work urgently, putting me in a state of limbo. Now, I could work my way through them as quickly as I can, which would at least get them out of the way, but then what? I’d be left with a lot of weeks that are suddenly very empty.

To try and make the amount of work I have go the distance (and I honestly never thought I’d be saying that), I’ve decided to try to increase my range of skills. So I thought I’d do some statistics work. Yes, you read that right. What prompted this burst of insanity? Well, I thought that given the way the world works, which often requires being able to produce stats and statistical analysis, it’s something I should really take a look at. Rest assured, however, I am receiving my just desserts for this attempt to self-improve. Maths is relentlessly fastidious, catching you out on every minor point, and derailing your answer to a degree so lacking in proportion that it should be illegal under international law. And that’s before some of the more advanced stuff. Standard deviation? Standard deviation of either discrete or continuous probability distributions? One sounds illegal, the other excruciatingly painful. Then again, knowing what those things are is satisfying, as is being able to solve a problem, though I maintain that maths as a whole is evil, and should not be regarded as anything other than a terrible necessity.

I do mean what I say about the satisfaction of solving a problem. I do a degree in which the problems are never solvable, and live in a world in which they are equally endemic. Being able to take a set of numbers and offer a clear and incontestable answer is a welcome change of pace, albeit somewhat painful at times.

Otherwise, this week has been strange. It’s been good to get back to doing at least some of my university work, although I am down to recorded lectures and remote seminars regarding contact hours, and I have a sneaking suspicion I may be being more productive here than I ever am at uni. The lack of people is starting to get to me though, I must confess. But being able to video call and message my friends has been a blessing, and helps take me mentally out of the space I’m spending all my time in.

The other, more surprising, aspect of life in lockdown is how much the weather impacts you. Yes, I am indoors. Yes, I am venturing outside on the fewest possible occasions. And yet the difference that the arrival of rain, or a cloudy or sunny day makes is huge; it’s the difference between greeting the day with a cheerful gaze, or a resentful glance out the window. If I were to think hypothetically, I’d say this could be due to some switch hardwired into our psychologies, dating to the time when humans roamed the earth as they hunted and gathered. Rainy days are bad – you can’t see as well, and get damp and cold. Sunny days; vitamin D, good visibility and more animals out and about.  Then again, my degree is in history, nothing connected to psychology or anthropology so I really wouldn’t know.

The weather has been bad recently. The rain’s been persistent, and the air’s been cold. And the national atmosphere has been awful. 26,000 dead, a figure that I can’t believe and don’t really want to process right now. That being said, I’m hopeful of better days ahead, and we’ll get there together(ish).

More articles in Writing from Quarantine
  1. Writing from Quarantine: Staying the Course
  2. Writing from Quarantine, 15th April 2020
  3. Writing from Quarantine: The University of Home
  4. Writing From Quarantine, 8th April 2020
  5. Writing from Quarantine: Politics and Science
  6. Writing From Quarantine
  7. Writing from Quarantine, 30th March 2020: Long Live Society
  8. Writing from Quarantine, 25th March 2020
  9. Writing from Quarantine, 23rd March 2020

Political Editor for the Wessex Scene 2020-2021. Interested in politics, foreign affairs, and just about anything within those to be honest.

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