I walked briskly into my office, pausing only momentarily to nod to my secretary, Shirley. Once inside I closed the door and sunk down into my cold, metal chair. Maybe sunk is the wrong word. I opened my briefcase and tipped out the detritus onto my desk. Crumpled-up paper. Stubby pencils. Tiny springs from pens. Parking tickets. The yellow shafts of sunlight shooting through the blinds painted a zebra crossing on my desk.
This case was big. I knew that I had to write a blog. I knew that it had to be a blog explaining the realities and idiosyncrasies of a BA English course at the University of Leicester. The was only one problem: how could I talk about the major factors of the final year — dissertation, optional modules — when I wouldn’t be thinking about them myself for another year? And how could I talk about my upcoming Erasmus year abroad in Italy when it was as much of a mystery to me as it was to Shirley, or anybody else? I scratched my chin with half a ruler.
How could I possibly explain that I would be choosing my dissertation topic whilst in Europe, and that I had an entire year more than most people on the course to mull it over? How could I communicate the extra refinement I’d be able to add to my dissertation proposal with a year’s extra worldly experience? Even worse, how could I do all this with Big Eye Malone from the ’54 case on my back 24/7? I just didn’t know. I thought about asking Shirley for suggestions, then reconsidered. I didn’t think that she even knew where Turin was.
The hardest part would most likely be to make it clear that when nearly everybody else in my year was heading back to Leicester, to the houses they’d rented, I would be taking European transport to the Alps, to live there for a year studying Letteratura inglese. And how could people even conceive that this turned a three-year BA English course into a four-year BA English (with Year Abroad) one? That it counted towards my final degree grade? That it was an opportunity largely funded by the EU and not to be missed? I tapped down a finger onto the intercom switch and spoke into the mouthpiece:
‘Shirley, could you please bring me some clean paper and a full pen please? It’s alright if there are no springs in it. I have some here.”
One thing was for sure: this wouldn’t be easy.