Five Favourite Films

As someone who claims to like cinema (sometimes arguably too much), I always come up embarrassingly short whenever I am asked my favourite films. So here are five favourite films (and then some) for me to frantically refer to on my phone next time the question is asked.

Rebecca, dir. Alfred Hitchcock

If the unfortunate majority of the world didn’t hate horror, and the unfortunate majority of horror films weren’t awful, scary cinema would form 90% of my recommendations. I love to be scared. In lieu of properly horrifying recommendations  Hitchcock will have to do, an undisputed king of making you feel afraid. And although Rebecca unlike Psycho is more of a slow-burning thriller than an outright horror film, I actually think it does its job of terrifying a lot of better than his more famous screamers. Based on one of my favourite ever novels and part of Hitchock’s love affair with adaptations of Daphne Du Maurier, that creeping fear of people past and present translates perfectly from page to screen.

I love Hitchcock, and to be honest I rate Vertigo, Dial M For Murder and Rear Window just as highly. (Not The Birds though. The Birds is bad.)


The Grand Budapest Hotel, dir. Wes Anderson

This isn’t necessarily my favourite Wes Anderson film, but all Wes Anderson is fabulous so it seems as good a place to start as any. Colours, actors, whimsy, humour – he’s got it all, and he also still shoots on film but in the least dogmatic way possible:

“In a year, in two years, I don’t know if it will be a reasonable option to shoot on film. Sometimes I see a movie now that is shot digitally and I don’t even know. I am interested in all different kinds of filmmaking. I don’t know if I see something slipping away. There are lots of very strong-minded, personal filmmakers and they will always do what they believe in.”


Three Colours: White, dir. Krzysztof Kieślowski

French and Polish cinema are my all-time faves, and Kieślowski combines both in his Three Colours trilogy of fab cinema. Three Colours: White is the one I have been drawn back to again and again, a strangely sympathetic tale of loss and revenge set between Paris and Krakow. It is understated and beautifully shot, and has more in common than a language with one of my favourite pieces of cinematography of all time, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida. Like Fish Tank’s Andrea Arnold, Pawlikowski lifts non-actresses off the street to find the most magnetic faces out there, and by gosh it works well. (Seriously, every frame is gold.)


Samsara, dir. Ron Fricke

Samsara is a non-narrative documentary film about nature, humanity, life, the universe and everything etc etc, and that may not sound tempting but it is life-changingly excellent. My hard-of-hearing aunt and I stumbled across it at the amazing Eye cinema in Amsterdam, as a conveniently dialogue-free viewing option. It has soaring images and a soaring soundtrack, and I recommend it and its prequel Bakara as feasts for the eyes and the mind. They examine the ways – good and AWFUL – that humans interact with the planet in a refreshingly un-didactic manner – this is no An Inconvenient Truth.

(For watching on as enormous a screen as possible.)

Mean Girls, dir. Mark Waters

I don’t care what you think, I don’t care, this is probably my no. 1 film of all time.


We’ll Miss EU

Yesterday, the UK voted to leave the European Union. It has been a while since anything made me so very, very sad. I’m profoundly ashamed of my country – of our politicians, our media, but mainly our electorate – and I am anxious and pessimistic about the future. I won’t bother outlining why I voted to remain, or indeed why the majority of my compatriots decided that they did not feel the same way; we voted. We fucked it. We will leave. Much as I may hope that a technicality means Article 50 cannot possibly be enacted, or a minor electoral misdemeanour scandal forces a second referendum, or London strikes out on its own as a renaissance style city-state with Sadiq Khan as it’s Muslim-Medici prince, the reality is that my country has made a decision that disgusts me and now we all have to live with it.

However, I did discover that nobody I associate with was a passionate Brexiteer. It’s hardly surprising considering the demographic split of the vote that my Facebook newsfeed was devoid of #VoteLeavers; age, geography and education converge to mean that the overwhelming majority of my friends were statistically likely to vote the same way as me. But it’s not the validation of my own views and the affirmation that I respect the politics of my nearest and dearest which has been the silver lining of this shitstormcloud – instead, it’s the way that those I know have reacted to news they were so deeply unhappy with that has been the glimmer of hope in this horrible mess. The myriad exclamations of despair, disbelief, anger and sorrow that have filled my communications channels for the last 24 hours all deserve sharing, but my friend Henry’s response rather succinctly expressed the stage of acceptance that I hope we can all reach in our own time:

“This is the saddest confirmation in my lifetime that we live in a totally divided England, separated by education, wealth and age. Immigration has been made a scapegoat for the failings of a struggling welfare state. Still, a majority has spoken. Now what the hell do we do next?”

I’m proud of us, even if I’m ashamed of what has turned out to be the majority of my country. And my favourite reaction is still the first text I received post-results:


We Are Afraid

Photo 02-04-2016, 14 37 31.jpg

I spent this weekend in Brussels, against the advice of the Daily Mail and several of my friends. My cousin lives in the city and it was our chosen location for the annual family meet-up; we are scattered across Europe, and we weren’t going to miss a chance to get drunk and laugh/row hysterically.

The impact of last week’s attacks were obvious before even arriving in Belgium: an intense queue and security check to get onto the Thalys at Paris Nord, bags being scanned and grumpy businessmen being patted down by grumpier station staff. On arrival at Brussels-Midi half the station was closed, police tape wrapped around the building and army trucks and machine guns out the front in the rain. It felt like stepping into a city under siege. My mother was already there for a public health gala dinner, for which 50 of the 200 attendees had cancelled – “of course all the Americans pulled out straight away – the wets”. On my first night we went to a gig in the old town, and walked past La Bourse, with its forest of flags and attendant fireman checking the sea of candles don’t cause a catastrophe. The mood in the immediate vicinity was subdued and quiet, but on returning in daylight hours there were crowds lining the steps, musical performances, and a whole lot of police. I saw one Belgian old lady stop a group of them and tell them how reassured she was by their presence – though I’m not sure I felt the same way.

My cousin Alice works at the European Commission and on Friday we went to their end of week press briefing. Bar signs proclaiming “yellow level alert” there was very little changed since my last visit eight months ago. Security hasn’t visibly increased, despite the mountain of flowers and scribbled cards a 2 minute walk south outside Maelbeek metro. Alice heard the explosion – one of her colleagues was cycling past as the first victims began flooding out of the station, and at the beginning of the press briefing the spokesperson announced the funeral date for the EU commissioner who died. That was it though – the journalists’ questions were mainly focussed on the migrant legislation coming into force on Monday, there was a lot of sparring between spokespeople and journalists, and there was no mention of the attacks.

At brunch in a packed second floor restaurant Alice’s boyfriend was discussing a proposed right-wing march this weekend for which the police were already out in full force on Saturday. Hooligans from rural Belgium travelling in to “clean up Molenbeek”, Brussels’ alleged “hotbed of terrorism” to which several of the Paris and Brussels attackers had connections. “They don’t know what they’re doing. They have no idea about Brussels. There are 10 guns stashed away in Molenbeek for every one of those idiots.” On my journey to the station earlier today we paused in a traffic jam and my Uber driver pointed out a group of armed policemen in balaclavas assembling outside a flat, battering rams, machine guns and all. Twenty of them. “It’s terrible isn’t it?” he remarked, before changing the radio station and revving through an amber light.

It is this paradoxical combination of “business and usual” and simmering fear that struck me most about a city still reeling from violence. How soldiers armed to the teeth are around every corner, but we all still crammed into an unprotected hall on Thursday night to listen to Låpsley play some music. How half the metro system is closed and the whole thing shuts down at 7pm, but restaurants and bars are buzzing every evening. I remember very little about the 7/7 bombings in London, except the sense of it being a horrific and isolated attack – how we all got straight back on the tubes and the buses and everyone continued with their way of life, unashamed and unabashed. On the surface that is the way things are in Brussels, but I’m not so sure. The message across the media is one of defiance and not giving in to fear: we cannot change our behaviour in light of the perceived threat of possible death at the bistro, or on the commute, because then the terrorists win! We must go on with it all unchanged, as if death may not lurk in in every oversized rucksack on the metro.

Alice summarised it the most succinctly, I think:

“After Paris everyone said “we are not afraid”, and everyone is saying it now. But it’s just not true. Everyone is shit-scared.”

Atrocity as Ordinary


View from the watch tower at Auschwitz-Birkenau

I recently finished reading The Complete Maus, Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel depicting his father’s experiences as a Polish Jew under the Nazis. It’s the most moving Holocaust narrative I’ve read since Primo Levi’s Is This A Man, and I really do recommend it (do ask if you would like to borrow it), but it also reminded me of the continual struggle I experience in connecting with the Holocaust. That is not to imply that I am a David Irving, that I in any sense deny the absolute reality of Nazi genocide. I’ve studied the period more than once, I’ve read and watched numerous memoirs, I’ve visited Holocaust museums from Berlin to Washington DC. I’ve been to Auschwitz. It is true that mine is a generation separated from the event by over half a century – many people my age will never have met anyone directly involved in the Holocaust, or perhaps even the war itself. But even then, I don’t think that it’s the degree of separation that is the clincher in this disconnect; and I don’t think that it’s a phenomenon limited to the Holocaust.

I think your first exposure to the concept of Holocaust is akin to “where was I when John Lennon died?”. Many people distinctly remember that first encounter – perhaps because it’s often the first realisation of the horrible depths of suffering that humans can inflict upon each other. I was 9 or 10 when I stumbled across a history project display in the building where I had Saturday music school. I remember my mum asking me why I was so upset on the car journey home, and asking her to reassure me that people didn’t actually put other people in ovens. That people didn’t actually push other people into gas chambers to claw at the walls and suffocate in a pile. I don’t remember what she said, but I can’t imagine it was very reassuring, because nothing short of outright lies would be.

That same feeling – disbelief followed by incomprehension followed by horror – is one that was experienced across Europe following the liberation of the death camps, and I think that that’s where the generational difference begins to step in. Would the photographs that horrified Europe in 1945 have the same effect now? Or has the ubiquity of horrifying images of tragedy, death and violence sapped us of our ability to engage with the reality behind them? It’s true that iconic photos still make their mark – a skeletal Sudanese child followed by a vulture, a three-year-old lying dead on a Turkish beach – but with a media saturated with pictures of Daesh militants hurling gays off towers and smiling with handfuls of decapitated heads, it becomes harder and harder to connect to the reality of suffering. Susan Sontag has written extensively about the desensitising impact of photography, and she summarises her argument in Regarding The Pain Of Others:

“Flooded with images of the sort that once used to shock and arouse indignation, we are losing our capacity to react. Compassion, stretched to its limits, is going numb.”

But even that is not the only reason that tragedy is hard to digest. I will cry every time I watch Sophie’s Choice and Schindler’s List, or read The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, but I didn’t cry when I stood in the room full of hundreds of thousands of leather shoes at Auschwitz. The West gasped at the tragedy of Aylan Kurdi’s death, but continues to harden its heart towards the million and counting migrants that have made the journey to Europe since the beginning of 2015. Iconic images are rare, as are books like Maus. An outstanding photograph can fight its way through the numbness of a society overloaded with images of pain, and an outstanding narrative can crystallise a tragedy of enormous proportions into something emotive. But gosh, it is not easy.

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

(The title also comes from Sontag: photographs have produced a “familiarity with atrocity, making the horrible seem more ordinary – making it appear familiar, remote … inevitable”.)

Fear Itself

8397086166_552e46a6f8_o (1)“Time after time I never see fear coming till it swallows me whole”

I love horror films. I’ve loved horror films ever since I watched The Ring age 9 and had to sleep with the light on for a month. My next door neighbours and I used to descend on our local Blockbusters every weekend and stalk the aisles in search of the DVDs with the scariest covers – checked out by my father, obviously. Movie-rental stores were a defunct concept by the time we looked anything close to R-Rated age. We sat in their cellar under a pile of duvets, screen barely visible through gaps in our fingers, listening to our hearts beating their way into our mouths as the camera slowly pans around a darkened room; the heroine painfully rounds a corner; the hero twists a key in a lock. Because it’s that excruciating second right there – not the moment when the music crashes and the protagonist’s screams are drowned out by your own – but that preceding eternity in which every muscle in your body is coiled like a spring and your breath and heart are frozen in your chest. That is the true Nirvana of horror cinema.

“When you only have so much to go on, you tell yourself the worst story you can possibly imagine.”

Those neighbours have since moved away, the B and the K have fallen off the empty Blockbusters store, and I’ve yet to find anybody who will sit through a horror film with me. People just don’t seem to like being terrified half as much as I do. I’m asked by everyone from my housemates to my other half how I can possibly enjoy being scared witless time and time again – because it really is the fear that I enjoy, and not the more absurd trappings of horror films that suck me in. I don’t keep coming back for more because I find them funny; I don’t love to laugh at the special effects and the absurd overacting (as prevalent as these are in both the modern and the old-school). It’s because I love the feeling of fear. I sometimes try and explain my desire to live in fear as similar to people who love roller coasters or extreme sports: pushing yourself to the limits of physical and emotional feeling and seeing how you react. Isn’t it only in moments of extreme fear or panic, buzzing off adrenaline and shaking head to toe that you know who you really are? Unless you’re a soldier or a Ghostbuster (or possibly a parent), there are very few moments in which you can claim to have been gripped by an overwhelming, all-encompassing, absolute fear. In my own life I can think of but two instances, discounting the artificially manufactured fear of haunted houses and horror films. It’s a visceral, physical rush that I find endlessly tempting to attempt to recreate. Putting on a horror film in full knowledge that those images will come back and haunt you when you’re alone in bed at night is effectively just taking that power in hand. Some people do drugs, some people jump out of planes, some people watch The Descent and lie awake every night for a month. It’s empowering; it’s ridiculous.

“Maybe when we indulge the things that scare us we stop becoming the innocent victims of fear, and become co-conspirators.”

I don’t think scaring myself silly with horror films is something that I’ll tire of as I age – I think it’s about as likely as growing bored of love, ecstasy or grief. I’ll continue on my quest to convert people to the joy of the horror film, even if current horror seems to be 90% torture porn and Blaire Witch found footage rip-offs (go back to Hitchcock, Italian black and whites, The Babadook – BE PROPERLY TERRIFIED). Because we may all be scared by different things, but the feeling of fear is something that we share, across cultures and across species. It is universal, it is primal, and it makes us feel alive.

“Over time you’d think that some kind of immunity would start to build up; but the effect is still just as strong as it ever was.”

(This was prompted by Charlie Lyne’s haunting BBC documentary Fear Itself, charting the history of horror films and the history of being horrified. It’s where I’ve pulled all the quotes from, and if you’re into horror it’s really worth a watch.)

Film vs Digital


From my first ever roll of film, and still a favourite

I’ve been taking photographs as a hobby for about five years now, and up until recently all on film. This was never a conscious artistic decision; the cameras that lay around my house were all analogue fossils used by my father, a man who never embraced the digital revolution and who simply stopped taking pictures roundabout when Kodak stopped making film. Age 16 I bought new batteries for his Canon EOS 500 and ignored his disparaging grumbles of “expensive” and “outdated”, pointing my new weapon in the faces of all my friends and skipping to Boots for the pricey development process. Over the years I acquired my own cameras, experimenting with films and lenses until I found my favourites, and semi-learning the technique to take a good picture. Although I still think it’s mainly luck. But it’s pointless to deny that my father was indeed right in his typically pessimistic proclamations; film is costly, time-consuming and old-fashioned, and noone is going to pay for your processing when “any other photographer can sling a preset over a digital shot on Adobe Lightroom and produce the same effect” (quote from a prospective client). In July I caved to modernity and bought a Canon 5D Mark II, some of my first attempts with which you can judge over here.

I have been finding the digital transition very difficult. I have always subscribed to that Cartier-Bresson cliche of “the moment” – a photograph as a method of solidifying a moment in time, a way of capturing a memory in tangible form. It requires spontaneity and not much forethought. When I’m heading out of the house I can’t bring myself to sling my DSLR in a bag as I would one of my film cameras – partly because it’s the most expensive thing I own aside from my violin, and it would not survive the appallingly haphazard treatment my Olympus OM-10 is used to – mainly because I know that I won’t enjoy using it. It’s large and unwieldy and rather daunting to have shoved in your face; its shutter sound is enough to make you jump; I’m not comfortable enough with its settings to just point and shoot without the result being rubbish. By the time I’ve whipped it out and set it up, the image of laughter/sunlight/cat that I wanted to capture is gone. I become a joyless perfectionist, examining my work as soon as it has entered the camera, adjusting the aperture a notch and becoming frustrated when it doesn’t produce the expected result. And sure, shooting digital gives me a more concrete assurance of at least a couple of quality snaps than shooting on film does, but where’s the pleasure in three fantastic photos when you’ve had to sift through seventy mediocre ones to find them? It’s so hard having an expensive toy you don’t yet understand.


I have written a lot about why I like film photography on various platforms, and in particular film photography. In this post for one of my favourite analogue blogs two years ago, I talked about some of my favourite quirks of 35mm film. Light leaks, double exposures, looking cool in selfies – the usual deeply intellectual commentary you have come to expect from me. But despite my confident assertions on the superiority of film – both in results and in influence on the artistic process – I had always questioned whether the justifications were nothing more than excuses for my failure to give in to modernity. I didn’t have the funds to invest in digital, or the confidence that I would stick out from the crowd once the quirk of analogue wasn’t on my side. Since entering the digital arena, I do realise my claims were justified. The process itself is what has defined my photography; when you have 36 exposures to last an entire week of holiday then the consideration and effort put into every shot is tantamount. Photos are fewer, but better. I revised my technique and learned much faster on a film camera because everything is in manual, and fucking up was expensive and disappointing. Getting physical copies of every roll changed the sort of things I wanted to photograph – it made me really think about what I was taking pictures of, and – particularly when it came to holidays – what I wanted to remember and how I wanted to remember it. I do think film is the best recorder of an instant in time, and it is often the flaws – the dust granules trapped in the lens, the light leaks and lens flares, the slight overlap of frames – that can make a film photograph so much more real and emotive than something digital. Anything can happen. Film has even penetrated my usual tendency to WANT EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW, and the anticipation of picking up a packet of photographs from the lab remains one of my favourite feelings in the world.

I will admit that I am being unfair to digital, and that a lot of my resentment of my new camera is down to teething problems. I’m still learning how to use it. When it comes to portraiture and head shots it has indeed proven a blessing – I have been able to track my progress and improve markedly over a matter of weeks as opposed to the years it took me to establish a style on film (see if you agree). But I’m still very thankful that the majority of my development as a photographer was done through the medium of 35mm. 

Over three years ago I was interviewed by Norwegian blogger Hei Astrid in her regular segment on analogue photographers. I said many of the things I have said above, but the final sentence strikes me as the most appropriate summary of why film, for now, remains my favourite way to photograph:

“I shoot film because when it comes to really capturing a moment, I would rather something I cannot retake.”


A Good Portrait


Ever since finishing my finals and committing to the unpaid internship game for the conceivable future, I have been considering my options for making any form of money before the age of 23. It has led to finally biting the digital bullet and deciding to invest in a big old fancy DSLR, and one of the most lucrative uses of a big old fancy DSLR is making people pay you to photograph them. People bloody love pictures of themselves. During my my last few months pre-finals I decided to give some portraits a shot; a Facebook status appeal for subjects elicited so many responses that I managed only about a quarter of respondents. At this time in our lives where we’re all so painfully aware of change and transition (and job applications), the appeal and value of a good picture of self can’t be over-estimated, and it got me thinking: what exactly makes a good portrait? Or perhaps more importantly, who?

For me, posed portrait photography is somewhat new territory. I like to take candid pictures, and most of my favourite personal portraits are in no way posed – something a lot of photographers from Diane Arbus to Brassai would denounce as a terrible way to document others. (I prefer Susan Sontag’s view that “there is something on people’s faces when they don’t know they are being observed that never appears when they do… their expressions are private ones, not those they would offer to the camera”.) It’s something I often get flack over from my friends – “can you please WARN ME NEXT TIME” – but I take photographs in order to record my life and create physical moments that I want to remember, and most often those are not the ones where you’ve all lined up in your most flattering positions and smiled for long enough that you look dead inside. It’s gotta be natural, man, it’s gotta encapsulate the moment, evoke an emotion, tell a story, blah blah blah – but I will insist that it’s the candid photos that you look back on with fuzzy sentimentality, not the bared grins into the iPhone selfie camera. When I look at my favourite portraits that I have taken over the years, they are almost without fail of people who mean the most to me; my very best friends, romantic interests, my family. It’s easy to argue that that’s mainly because they’re the people I spend the most time with and therefore photograph the most, and perhaps that’s true, but there’s also a question of intimacy and trusting someone to record you at your most relaxed and most natural. What I appreciate most about photographing my closest friends is that they have come (been forced) to accept that the camera is just there as a part of the conversation, and it doesn’t need to be posed for.

Last year my mum and I went to the David Bailey exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, where his iconic celebrity portraits of everyone from Diana to Johnny Depp were displayed in the context of his wider body of work. It was a decent exhibition, but at the end my mum commented that having now seen all Bailey’s other photographic efforts she wasn’t so sure that he was actually such a fantastic photographer after all; his portraits are indeed fantastic, but even more so in their contrast to the distinctly average nature of everything else. A good portrait is not as entirely dependent on equipment and technique as the kind of relationship a photographer can foster with their subject, whether they’ve known them for a day or a decade. The very best pop culture photographers – Bailey, Leibovitz, Testino – often achieve the results they do from being fun, interesting people that their subjects can relate to, that people want to spend time with, and who can make those they photograph as comfortable and enthusiastic about the presence of a camera as if it wasn’t there at all.

My highest mark in my degree was an elective essay on the impact of photography on 19th century painting (pick what you’re interested in, right?), and I particularly focussed on its impact on the style and process of portraiture. Instead of staying in and actually reading for the essay I went to a party a few nights before my deadline – all in the name of research – and interrogated a friend halfway through an oil painting degree at the Florence Academy of Art; what extent are they encouraged to use photographs as an aid when producing oil portraits? He told me that they avoided it as much as possible; that a successful painting process was painfully dependent on your sitter being present in the flesh; that it was the visual interaction between artist and subject that entirely defined the finished product. And I thought that a very succinct summary of a good portrait – in any medium.


I Hazard A Poem

A few weeks ago I brashly proclaimed to a literary friend that it’s been a very long time since I found any poetry that resonated me, and I had therefore written off all of it. Her response was to send me a poem that has set me off on a personal poetry renaissance that has been a delight and a pleasure. Here is the piece that set off the chain reaction, and I challenge you not to relate to this little gem by Brian Patten.

If You Had To Hazard A Guess Who Would You Say Your Poetry Is For?

For people who have nowhere to go in the afternoons,

For people who the evening banishes to small rooms,

For good people, people huge as the world.

For people who give themselves away forgetting

What it is they are giving,

And who are never reminded.

For people who cannot help being kind

To the hand bunched in pain against them.

For inarticulate people,

People who invent their own ugliness,

Who invent pain, terrified of blankness;

And for people who stand forever at the same junction

Waiting for the chances that have passed.

And for those who lie in ambush for themselves,

Who invent toughness as a kind of disguise,

Who, lost in their narrow and self-defeating worlds,

Carry remorse inside them like a plague;

And for the self-seeking self lost among them

I hazard a poem.


What a load of wank. In James Franco’s masturbatory ode to youth, weed, and partying it up with attractive high school girls, he’s  managed to make life imitate art onscreen with a sleazy Lolita love story starring himself as Humbert-the-gym-teacher-Humbert. Equipped with the perfect director to peddle his pretentious autobiographical tales of growing up in suburban California (in the form of the latest Coppola to network her way into the industry), the whole thing is so up its own arse it probably can’t even hear the indie synth soundtrack. Eff off Franco, no one likes you.


Sometimes I aggressively review films in 100 words, and sometimes I tone it down for other publications. You can check out my more measured review of Palo Alto on the Oxford Film Journal.

My Mega Mansion

Living out of college accommodation is a daunting prospect for every university student, but in Oxford it’s an especially rude awakening. We’re coddled from the outset at this ‘public school finishing school’ as a safely-graduated friend recently termed it; scouts take our bins out and clean our bathrooms, porters are on hand from midday to midnight to help with an emergency leak or a dodgy alarm, and you can go so far as to demand a lightbulb delivered right to your room post haste – hell, even a new lamp. People will cook for you, and serve you the food, and then take your plate away, and no one’s forcing you to deal with anyone else’s piles of dirty colanders in the sink. You can lock your room and ignore all human interaction for days save awkwardly bumping into someone on the way to the loo (or the shower, if that’s a thing you choose to partake in), and the library is but a ten minute stroll away. Given this seemingly luxurious and extravagant existence, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would opt out of a system that might accommodate them for their full degree, instead choosing to pay extortionately for lodgings an Oxford marathon from the centre of town, with a boiler that breaks every fortnight and must be repaired by a man who has to turn sideways to fit through your front door.

True, there are the obvious pros: we can throw massive parties that drag on until 5am without suffering the judgement of the porters (just those two noise complaints from the council). We can smoke without schlepping all the way across three quads and out through the main gate, to huddle five-to-an umbrella whilst shivering forlornly and suffering the judgement of the porters. We can walk five minutes from bedrooms, in our pyjamas, to any number of delicious and multi-ethnic cuisines – or indeed order them right to our door, without suffering the judgement of the porters. So yes, the number 1 reason to suck it up and make a decision on the living-out dilemma may quite clearly be that we want to behave in embarrassing and borderline-irresponsible ways, and we don’t want to be judged for it – which from what I can tell seems to be the main incentive of becoming a self-sufficient grown up anyway. It’s pretty understandable why one would choose the liberation of living independently over continuing to eat/sleep/party within the walls of the institution that controls both our work and our future and everything in between. Slightly less clear is exactly why one would choose to do this with eleven other people.