As the nights draw in and it be- comes increasingly difficult to re- frain from turning the heating on, unwinding from days spent staring at your laptop and turning to some of the best of art and culture can help pull you through to Christmas.
First is the ultimate comfort nov- el: Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. Made up of the sharp yet moving diary entries of 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, the novel details her colourful life spent with her eccentric yet penniless family in a run- down castle in the countryside in the 1930s. She hopes to become a writer like her father and uses her diary to hone her skill. Smith’s enchanting prose and eminently lovable characters will transport you away from the St Andrews bubble and are sure to at least make the corners of your mouth twinge slightly, if not even leave you with a full-blown grin. Although the plot is a bit absurd, this is part of its magic and will help you to take your mind off the increasing number of lectures piling up on Panopto. The novel charmingly begins with Cassandra writing in the kitchen sink; she states that she has “found that sitting in a place where you have never sat before can be inspiring – I wrote my very best poem while sitting on the hen-house.” So, dare I suggest that writing your next essay in the kitchen sink is likely the route to a first?
Now for the perfect album for unwelcome periods of prolonged stress and self-doubt: Carole King’s Tapestry. Each song is a comforting companion to help you cope with the trials and tribulations of student life. Simultaneously hopeful and realistic, King’s simple but strikingly genuine lyrics will put your essay qualms into perspective. The 1971 soft rock album won four Grammys and stayed in the charts for five years after first release. Furthermore, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” is supposedly Joni Mitchell’s favourite song of all time – and no one’s opinion matters more than Joni’s. King’s album is unwaveringly grounded, intimate, and vulnerable from start to finish. It will allow you to regain a sense of self after spreading yourself too thin this semester. The album features the ever-comforting Gilmore Girls theme tune “Where You Lead” – an accolade of the highest order. Tapestry will bring you some much-needed calm among the mid-semester chaos.
Another great piece of escapism to help you forget impending deadlines is Cameron Crowe’s love letter to music and journalism, Almost Famous. This coming-of-age film set in the early 1970s follows a rock-obsessed 15-year-old who accompanies an up-and-coming band on tour when he is given the opportunity to write an article for Rolling Stone magazine. Witty and thoughtful in equal measure, this charming feat of cinema, replete with impressive moustaches, explores what it means to be cool and the complicated experience of meeting your heroes. Its stellar soundtrack features generous helpings of Led Zeppelin and Cat Stevens and is bound to put some spring back into your step after weeks of sleep-deprivation. Or, at the very least, have your head bobbing and foot tapping during a late-night session at the library. So, give yourself a well-deserved break, curl up on the sofa with as many obliging flatmates as you can muster, and, in the wise words of Penny Lane, “if you ever get lonely you just go to the record store and visit your friends”.