Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Graduate Myth #5: Culture

It was assumed by my parents that by the time I came out of university I would an utterly unbearable cultural snob. This is not an unfair reflection on them, or indeed on me. When I was seventeen, I went to The Theatre. I watched ballet on the telly at Christmas. They felt that in some way this meant I would go to university and the last of my working-class credentials would be wiped away, and I would never watch the Big Brother finale with my mother ever again.

Quietly, I thought this might be the case as well. I hoped I would come out a witty urbanite who could appreciate cutting edge music, jazz, art, theatre, and all kinds of literature. I was seventeen. You show me people who aren't utterly unbearable at seventeen.

Now I am a graduate, and although I have made the effort to read some Classic Literature, I've only been to any kind of theatre to see Russell Howard perform live, the only classical music I've got around to appreciating recently was the Horrible Histories prom and last year I watched Josie Gibson triumph in the Big Brother finale. (I didn't even have to Google her name there.) Ironically, my mum was at a donkey festival in Spain at the time. There's a moral there, but I'm not sure what.

What I should have taken more notice of when I was seventeen is that what I really liked to read was Terry Pratchett, and thought Doctor Who was the best thing on telly. Crucially, this is still the case.

Unless what you're studying at university is “Cultural Stuff To Annoy Your Parents”, chances are your personality won't radically change in the few years you faff about at university. If you are a budding witty urbanite, university will give you the opportunity to indulge this. If you want to watch plays, learn about opera and attend free jazz concerts, then chances are this is the best time to do so. And why not? It's a wonderful opportunity that, if you were a slightly odd sururbanite like myself, you wouldn't have received otherwise. In university, I did go to some plays, acted in one, and took the time to go to some live music performances, but that was about it. I was and am frankly indifferent to things like art and opera, although I do enjoy a musical here and there.

The thing university did give me was the opportunity to be more well-rounded in my reading, because this was something I already enjoyed doing. To be honest, though, I mostly watch TV. True Blood and The Great British Bake-Off tonight, for those interested.

The thing university really taught me, at the end of the day, was to skim read enough broadsheets to blag my way through most topics. Secretly, I think that's the key to being really cultured.

Which leads on to my final point. Whilst wandering through SeasideTown on yet another fruitless quest to find a greengrocer in walking distance (see what I did there?) I saw this little piece of art. “Ooooh,” I thought, and snapped a picture on my phone. I know enough to work out that this is either a Banksy, or someone inspired by him.

So? What do you think? Or have you all been faking culture too?

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