Musings on friendship, tragedy and Guernsey

Semi-professional owl breeder and Cambridge socialite Yvette Bronwen-Garm tells a poignant story of heartbreak, scholarship and the Channel Islands

Yvette Bronwen-Garm

The idyllic isle of Guernsey THEKAPHOX

While living on the isle of Guernsey, Victor Hugo wrote that “reality, in strong doses, frightens us”. And if that isn’t a good enough epigram for my Easter Term, I don’t know what is.

Krista is from Guernsey, and failed to hit the library with me at 8 this morning as promised. These two facts are not necessarily related. Or maybe they are. How would you know? I certainly don’t, and I wrote them down. Don’t ask me mate, I’m just the writer. I don’t know nothing. Nuffink. Not one thing. Even my digressions have turned into twoddling procrastination. Even my invention of the world ‘twoddling’ has turned into procrastination. Nothing gets done. There’s nothing to do. There’s too much to do. So I had a gin.

Calm down, Auntie Emory! Not in the library at 8 in the morning. In Clare College bar, at 2.30 in the afternoon. I know what you’re saying, ‘Clare College bar isn’t open at 2.30 in the afternoon!’ But it is, dear reader. It is.

Joke. I didn’t have a gin, though I wished I had. Actually I did have a gin. Or didn’t. I’m not sure, I was too drunk. I’m joking, I say. Don’t you get satire, nitwits?

Krista, Krista, Krista. Why didn’t you come? Did you sleep in? Did you have another test? (Medics have tests.) But it wasn’t so much the feeling of having been stood-up or the feeling of having been let-down or the feeling of having been left-out that got me, but the feeling of having been given what one actually needs to revise: solitude. Let’s be honest. Does it really make it easier to revise with another person, or does it just make it less uncomfortable? Does it even make it less uncomfortable? I can think of many things that are only made more uncomfortable by doing them with another person. And no, not what you’re thinking: I’m celibate until finals are over. No more Thaddeus McGowans. I’m thinking of eating, or swimming, or sharing a single bed, or not sharing a double bed, or not bitching about the triple threat who’s been evicted from the ADC and can’t get over it.

I must get working. Today is dedicated to Tragedy, which is my least favourite paper, given that I haven’t read any tragedies. ‘You must have’, I hear you cry. ‘You must have read Hamlet, or listened to La bohème, or seen Season 2 of NBC’s Hannibal’. But I haven’t. I’ve seen none of them. I know because if I’d seen any of them, I’d be able to write about them. My supervisor says I need to broaden my horizons. I tell him I haven’t got any horizons. He says it’s impossible to live in a world without horizons. Krista says I procrastinate, and I’m ambiguous about this in a way that requires further thought in order to form my point of view, which of course means less thought about the oncoming freight train of finals.

My supervisor says I need to broaden my horizons. I tell him I haven’t got any horizons

Last week the playwright Tamina Poose came to Cambridge to discuss her new play, this time touted as a “tragedy for the age of Trump”. Jacob, who does English with me and screws my flatmate for kicks, asked me to go with him. I didn’t. He asked why. I said I was too busy writing an essay. Actually I was reading an article about the smile, and how you can tell whether a smile is genuine by the complex movements of the muscles in the human face. I’m smiling as I write about it, I promise. I wonder if the complex movements of the muscles in the human face have an effect on what I write. I wonder whether if I write all my essays while smiling, the force of optimism produced will have such an effect as to make my writing emphatic. I wonder if the complex movements of the muscles in the human face have just become another means by which to procrastinate. I’m not too happy or too gregarious or too outgoing to revise. I’m just too hung up on the symptoms of being too happy or too gregarious or too outgoing to revise.

Twisting my flangy face into a grin, I open an article on Aristotle’s poetics by the notable academic Andras Güürpa and begin to read. The Gradgrindian torpor associated with fin-de-siècle Catholic criticism of Aristotle has long rendered Müger’s critique prone to charges of positivist hubris. I’m trying to smile, but unlike the complex movements of the muscles in the human face, the complex ideas of Andras Güürpa are not induced involuntarily. There is no way to enjoy his sesquipedalian ego trips without twisting the brain into a splitting grin to which the human face can only aspire. I imagine Andras Güürpa probably reminds you of someone you’ve been reading this week, dear reader.


Mountain View

Why did I get into Cambridge, again?

I scroll down to the bottom of the article to see if there’s anything cited in it that’s a tad more legible than this verbal dishwater. There isn’t. So I google Andras Güürpa. Who is he, this inscrutable guppy, this fisher of words so voluminous in size that they must be tossed back into the sea for exceeding their EU quota? ‘Andras Güürpa lives in…Guernsey.’ Of course. Of course he does. That’s where they all live, the jerks, the flakes, the disinformationalist mandarins of the information economy. I bet Krista and Andras are currently sat having a coffee by a cobbled coastal road, joking about their mutual inscrutabilities of time, place and syntax. Meanwhile I sit here in the library, a toiler of the sea, Gilliat for the Y Generation, while seething panic submerges me in the slimy fronds of my dirty plastic pencil case.

“Maybe I’ll write a play…”, I say to myself, before the librarian shushes me.