Instagrammers Anonymous: A Disjointed Week

It’s been an interesting week. A very odd week. But it appears that I still only need to ahve my phone with me for the Instagram addiction to continue. So here are three totally disjointed photos to represent it.

There is the on-going ‘Theme: Britain’ merchandise. Everything is red, white and blue. Including our kitchen roll. This, I’m sure you’ll agree, is completely unnecessary but also quite wonderful.

Jubilee kitchen roll

It’s rained pretty much all week, but there was a brief (and I mean very brief) glimpse of sunshine on Wednesday. Summer? What is this summer you talk of?

Edinburgh Castle

And finally it was Grad week in St Andrews (in case I hadn’t mentioned it enough), marking one year since my own leaving. We all got rather nostalgic and realised how much we miss the people that are scattered around the globe. This is my desk calendar from Nov. 2011, it now sits on my windowsill, I can’t bring myself to get rid of it.

St Andrews railway poster

There was also this fantastic graduate address from Tuesday morning’s ceremony. If you have any connection to St Andrews I suggest you read it. And possibly have a box of tissues to hand…


St Andrews +1: Was Graduation Really A Year Ago?

Who could believe it. An entire year has passed since I was doffed on the head with the graduation cap and the irrevocable “Te ad gradum Baccalaurei Scientiae, cuius rei in symbolum te hoc birretum impono” was uttered. I simply cannot believe Grad Week was a year ago. It just cannot be.

And yet, it so clearly is. This week gowns will billow and hoods will flutter in the St Andrews breeze as another gaggle of graduands traipse up to Younger Hall and process out as Graduates. They will enter the esteemed group of individuals that I am proud to say I am one of, a group 600 years in the making. And many congratulations to them.

Being a student is not, I fear, quite as many stereotypes would have you believe. Yes, it must be based on an element of truth somewhere, but I don’t think that particular ‘where’ is St Andrews. The problem with such an eminent institution is that from matriculation to graduation there is an expectation placed firmly on your shoulders. You’ve beaten (about) 12 other applicants for that place. You’re pretty damn smart. You WILL come out the other end a successful, well-educated, motivated, fantastical citizen of the world. Now try having that sitting on top of each and every deadline and piece of work you do. It doesn’t leave much scope for watching Countdown.A year in photos, St Salvator's, St Andrews

I say that it’s a problem, but really it’s not. In fact I think it’s quite the opposite. Yes, I found the idea an abhorrent distraction at the time, but now, using the wonder that is hindsight, I see that this pressure is also quite useful. I think it was – indirectly – one of the biggest motivators that not only got me through my degree, but it made me push myself to go that extra mile on every piece of work and every extra-curricular activity I did.

When you are surrounded by a group of your peers that are some of the cleverest in the country (if not the continent or the world) you have two options: you lie down and accept that they will always be better than you, or you push yourself to get to their level — and then beyond. The latter is the St Andrean mindset, of that I have no doubt, but it also helps you to prepare for the big bad world. A straight-talking, no-nonsense attitude that also makes you ask yourself some pretty tough questions and allows you to make enormous decisions — and that is invaluable for those who this week find their occupation going from ‘Full-time Student‘ to the slightly less glamorous ‘Unemployed‘.

I left St Andrews jobless, and had pretty much no sensible option other than to move back to my parents’ house. It is hard. If you disagree, then how would you cope when faced with an economy in the worst state it’s been in for decades, where graduates are ten to the dozen and there are a hundred people applying for the same job as you? Suddenly getting into St Andrews starts to look like it was a piece of cake. A truly terrifying thought. Yes, some people will have jobs lined up, but a large proportion (if not nearing the majority) will not. It’s a hard fact; but a fact none the less.

If I look back, I had a pretty crap time last summer. No matter how many jobs you apply for getting a rejection letter/email (or worse still, not hearing back at all) does not get any easier. You can tell yourself that ‘it’s their loss‘, but they have still just told you that they have found someone better than you. And that hurts.

It is here that the St Andrews mentality is completely and utter invaluable. That tough shell can take the rejection, bounce back and sit up until 3am filling in that next application. It can look at the grim reality of the job market and sniff out that elusive opportunity. And most of all it knows how to compete with the very best. How to put on a smile at a networking event when what you really want to do is cry, how to write fluently about how it really wants that job with the temping agency when the notion really fills it with dread, and it knows it has what it takes to see the battle through, however long it takes. It is a lifeline, one years in the making.

I remember the address from our Honorary Graduate – well, the hero that is David Attenborough is not something I’m likely to forget – where he congratulated us, but I recall also the graduation address from my ceremony – one year ago today – and being told that life was tough, but that they knew we would pull through and go on to do a great many things. No two of us would take the same path, but a great many of us would reach where ever it was we wanted to go. That was hard to believe during the months when yet another email popped into my inbox with a merry ping and the first line of ‘We are sorry to inform you…

Yet, the shell held. A year later I am gainfully employed in internet marketing — where I want to be — but I am one of the lucky ones. There are many more who are still struggling to get exactly what they’re looking for. And I am by no means where I intended on ending up; but I am most certainly now on my way.

I am also reminded of something I heard in February of my fourth year — which was requoted during that graduation address — the words of the future king and fellow St Andrews graduate: St Andrews is by “far and a way the best university in the world”. And whilst I would never claim to be anything less than utterly biased, I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree.

Congratulations Class of 2012, you have doubtlessly earned the honour you have been given this week.

Enjoy this week, it will fly by. It is a time of great joy, as well as a parting of ways. But if you take one thing from your time in St Andrews let it be a statement — one you won’t yet fully understand, one which I have only fully understood the significance of since leaving —  put into words by Prince William that windy February day: “St Andrews still has that uncanny knack of feeling like home.”A year in photos, st andrews, sunlight


The End of the St Andrews Chapter? Not a Chance!

Well, I don’t really want to let the cat out of the bag but I’ve sort of mentioned it a couple of times (for example here and over here and lots more here), anyway here we go – I graduated in June. Ok, now that’s ‘out in the open’ the rest of this might make sense.

For the time I was at St Andrews my email address and other related things all carried the abbreviation cfc4 (those being my initials and a random number). After you graduate you are meant to get six months to move anything you need from your University email and computer account, but for some reason we’ve been given a slightly longer reprieve. Sadly, however, that time is over and as of today cfc4 no longer exists.

This has led to all sorts of ‘Oh no…’s and waves of nostalgia each time an email from the IT people has come through saying that ‘your university computer account will be closed  in X days’. I should probably point out at this juncture that I am fully aware of how pathetic this all sounds, but please indulge me.

Through all of this I keep getting reminded that there’s something I’ve been meaning to sort out since August and now seems an appropriate time to share it.

Although I officially left in June I was actually back working in the Bubble for the first part of August. On one sunny afternoon, buoyed the success of a Walk in the Park, I took my camera for a walk in the brilliant summer sunshine. When the sun shines St Andrews is an absolutely stunning town and on this occasion it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. I walked from the very tip of the Pier down to  West Sands – via the Cathedral, the Castle, Younger Hall, St Salvator’s Chapel, United College Quad, The Scores and (of course) the Royal & Ancient Golf Club at the Old Course.

Whilst this is one more connection being severed this is not the end. The email address might be going and I can no longer log on to their computers, but let’s be honest how much time did we spend complaining about the email system and the rubbish computers? Probably quite a bit. And how often did we pass comment on getting emails from student societies that we had never signed up for? And now that we’re not actually there aren’t those emails even more annoying?

A lot has changed since the 22nd June 2011 and my time as an undergraduate student is forever over. But regardless of the passage of time we’ll always have St Andrews, and it will forever have that uncanny knack of feeling like home.


A Year in Photos: Saturday – Black and White St Andrews

Today is the final post of A Year in Photos, ending a week of posts celebrating the first birthday of Contemplating the Clouds. Throughout this week we’ve had cakes, Munros, ice skating, lobsters, buildings, gin and snow (to name but a few); but now we’ve reached the final part of the saga – my love of black and white photos, and of St Andrews.

Having lived there for the majority of the time I’ve been writing this blog St Andrews has, unsurprisingly, featured with great regularity. Black and white photos have also appeared fairly constantly too, so in honour of this (and because I really like these photos) here are the final two photos.

The first of the photos was taken on the day of the Procession, in April, however, I used it in the post before, so it could stand alone. St Salvator’s was published on the 17th April. St Salvator’s Chapel – or Sallies Chapel, as it’s more commonly known – is the oldest surviving building of the University and is located in the main quadrangle, off North Street. The chapel tower, one of the tallest structures in the town, is a notable landmark on the town’s ever welcoming skyline.A year in photos, St Salvator's, St Andrews

Our final stop on this whistle-stop tour of the year comes from the 20th June and The First Few Days. This post represents one of a series (the only continuous series I’d done, before this week) about graduation week. This series follows my friends and I through our final days together in the Bubble. Doing various things around town we’d never got round to doing, the final days before we graduated, our graduation, and the end of an era, when we were no longer undergraduates of by “far and a way the best university in the world” (HRH Prince William, Feb 2011). Somehow I had never got round to climbing St Rule’s Tower (in the grounds of the cathedral) during my four years of studying, and so it was one of the final things we did. This photo is taken looking North west from the top of the tower, out past the cathedral, to the castle and West Sands, the golf courses and the mountains in the distance. It is one of my favourite views of all time.St Andrews, A year in photos

And there we have it. Those are twelve of my favourite photos that have appeared on the blog. I chose them from the 400 odd that have appeared here over the past twelve months for fairly selfish reasons, but also because I think they are a fairly good representation of the last twelve months. I hope you’ve enjoyed the seven posts of this series as much as I have and that you approve of my choice of photos. If you want to see any of them again there will be a special page with all twelve ‘A Year in Photos‘ photos on it as of tomorrow. If you like what you have seen, then I hope you will come back and read more of the blog soon (there’s a link to subscribe on the right hand side, near the top).


There’s just one last thing. This series wouldn’t be quite complete without my favourite photo of all. It is, of course, my header photo. I waxed lyrical about it in the 100th post back in August, so if you’d like to know the details please look there. Otherwise, just sit back and contemplate the clouds with me…Me at Stella Point, Mt Kilimanjaro

We’ll Always Have St Andrews…

How do you sum up four years? Four utterly amazing years.

To be honest, I don’t really have the answer to this question, I don’t think I can sum it up succinctly. Four years of university: to be educated, to gain experience, life skills, time to grow up (well…). They have certainly been fun – there’s no doubting that – and I think I’ve learnt a thing or two (and occasionally something academic), but how do you sum that ‘learning’ up?

I feel that I should probably try through the medium of photography (this is did start life as a photoblog afterall), each representing some memorable point. NB. There are quite a few photos here, but please bear with me, these have been whittled down from (literally) thousands.

All years:

John Burnet: The place where it all began

John Burnet Hall

You’re not allowed to drink on the street, don’t you know?

First year:

This is from my raisin weekend – in case we were, how do I put it, a little too inebriated to get home…

The Pyramid Stage - Glastonbury 2008

The Pyramid stage at Glasto 2008 (Watching Amy Winehouse and Jay-Z) – 99 Problems, but the mud (luckily) ain’t one. [Note: Bad grammar, I know, but it doesn’t work otherwise]

Second year:

Abseiling the Forth Rail Bridge

Abseiling the Forth Rail Bridge, representing my time on the exec committee of the Charities Campaign. This is me… erm… I mean this is campaign mascot Rory McLion, ecstatic about that he’d just completed the abseil.

Greece: Four go on an epic holiday. The drinks were named after the Seven Dwarves – I will never forget your Greek Birthday and blagging that free bottle of ‘champagne’.

Mt Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro for ChildReach International – one of the best things I have ever done. And getting to raise £2,500 for others in the process in the process.

Third year:

St Mary's Quad in the Snow

St Mary’s Quad: Where I spend most of my days.

The Bute Computer Lab: How I felt for the two years of honours (Aptly demonstrated by Toothamanga, the oven mitt).

Fourth year:

Monkeys: My dissertation. It didn’t go very well, but you live and learn. Plus, I got to play with the wonderful capuchin monkeys. (This is Kato, one of the few who participated)

The Champagne Tree – Does this need an explanation? This is actually here to represent the general shenanigans with people and places that revolve around it. How could ‘you up for some bondage?’ possibly mean anything apart from asking if you want to watch some James Bond?

The last Visiting Day – after four years of working with the Admissions Dept. talking to prospective students and parents. Working my way up to Vice Principal – this was a day I’ll never forget. A lot of hard work to get there, but entirely worth it.


Who thought I would ever get this far? Who thought uni would ever end? Somehow it happened, Craig Cockburn BSc (Hons) Behavioural Biology, 2:1

I will happily admit that St Andrews was not my first choice of University. However, with retrospect I am entirely happy with the way things turned out. In fact, I couldn’t be happier.

Perhaps it should be looked at as one big adventure? I’m not saying that there  weren’t any tough times – I still have the memories of dissertation/lack of sleep/coffee induced delirium firmly in my head (there is a dance to Karl Jenkins’ Adiemus, who knew?) – but maybe (or perhaps most probably) you need those times to really make you take stock and appreciate those times that you’ll remember when you come to look back on it all with those rose tinted glasses.

I think I was naive when I left home to come to uni. Not entirely without wisdom, but needing to experience a bit more independence. I also think that if you don’t come out of university with more than an academic education you have somewhat missed the point. As well as honing your academic prowess university is there to grow you as a person. Of course the academics are important – after all, knowledge is power – but I know for sure that I have gained skills from all my other experiences and my other follies. And maybe some of these are more important than anything you learn from a book, only time shall tell.

When I first got to the town that I’ve called home for the last few years I never imagined that I would come out of it with friends from all over the world, a different outlook on life (a more balanced, and perhaps – note room for denial – a more mature one), and a set of skills ranging from the ability to manage the bringing in and distribution of £78,000 for charity to not being afraid to stand up to a room of 150 people and tell them precisely what they didn’t want to hear. I didn’t know that I’d learn to ski, find that passion for photography and an enjoyment of exercise (weird, I know). And never did I imagine I’d abseil from the Forth Rail Bridge, climb to the highest point in Africa, or find a town that I will forever adore for helping me have four years of my life I will never forget.

St Andrews, I have now left you, but I have not said goodbye. You have undoubtably helped me to grow, but now I have to go into the wider world and act like a grown up (one can always hope – my parents certainly do). It is time to make my own way. So thank you St Andrews, thank you for the hard times, and especially for the good. But don’t worry, I doubt it will be long before I come back to visit because it’s true, you will forever have “that uncanny knack of feeling like home”. 

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