From St Magnus to St Mungo

You may have read a few blogs ago about my endeavour to create a repository of all human history as the ultimate pub quiz database, entitled “General Knowledge” and consisting of dozens of roughly seven-minute videos starting with early man and culminating (after I decided to shelve the project) in the American Revolution just as September came to a close.

Well. That was impressively surpassed by my Legal Methods lecturer, Professor Kenneth Norrie’s concentration of over 400 years of Scottish history into two half-hour lectures starting with the Union of the Crowns and concluding with the UK’s exit from the EU.

His Q&A, on a fortnightly Thursday, and such Zoom events of this type seem to be a staple of the intra-pandemic university timetable. I’ve also become acquainted with Kahoot – a quiz app where we test our Criminal Law knowledge every Friday morning.

These group Zooms form the best part of my social interaction these days, exempting my flatmates, who are lovely, incidentally.

For a fleeting few weeks on my arrival in Glasgow, organised sport was an exemption to the “rule of six” and I was able to benefit from my flatmates’ connections to the footballing world, thereby securing my place in a seven-a-side game one night to break up the Coronavirus monotony. Although I had significant apprehensions about it from not particularly fond school memories of the sport, I was reassured to find that a lot of players were a long way from professional and I even got a couple of shots on goal, despite not contributing to the scoresheet, which ran well into double figures for both teams.

I’m now midway through the semester and I’ve handed in my first assignments. Studying now is quite different to my first degree. It’s much more closely analytical than a general humanities subject where you can basically draw in anything you want to construct your argument. Although it does satisfy my appreciation for narrative in all the cases you’re expected to read. Law and society, on the other hand, or jurisprudence as it’s otherwise known, is more familiar territory with its open-ended philosophical questions and theoretical speculation. However, I recognise that I’m in a minority of people who actually enjoy that kind of thing.

The Law Clinic part of my degree hasn’t fully got going yet, but we’re due to complete the training for it next week. It all seems very serious and “real life” so far, but I’m glad of that because it’s a big part of the reason I applied for this specific programme.

There is a social aspect of university in group chats and there was a flurry of social Zooms at the start of the semester. It’s no substitute for meeting people though and despite the fact that I’m recognising familiar faces, it’s hard to say that I’ve really made a “friend” on the course (although I do tend to have rather a high threshold for that kind of thing anyway).

Luckily, the great outdoors does exist as something of a neutral zone, if not a no man’s land, which I’ve made use of to meet up with a pal or two last month, as well as getting a pint in before the students were banned from boozers.

I would say I’ve almost reached a domestic equilibrium in terms of settling in and accumulating necessities such as door hooks, a mop, bargain cordless hoover and stick blender, which cumulatively just about make life worth living.

Of course, I’ve also started a new job at Glasgow Cathedral. I was able to transfer through from Skara Brae as an employee of Historic Environment Scotland. We’re not exactly queued out, but there is a steady trickle of visitors and it’s a magnificent building to work in. My preference, naturally, will always be for St Magnus, but really, they’re hardly comparable. Magnus is all red sandstone Romanesque columns and arches, whereas Glasgow is gothic, gargoyled and roughhewn.

Interestingly, they were dedicated around the same time, but most of Glasgow’s construction took place in the 13th century. Like St Magnus, it was a place of pilgrimage where people came to see the shrine of St Kentigern, more commonly known as St Mungo. He was instrumental in bringing Christianity to the kingdom of Strathclyde in the sixth century, so is from a much earlier era than Orkney’s patron saint, although when Magnus and Haakon were around, the institution of the Church had only been ministering to the island populace for a little over a century (if the saga’s account is accurate).

In terms of societies, normally there would be some sort of fair type thing to attend in the first week, but that didn’t happen this time around. Not to worry though, I’ve managed to join something I wasn’t even aware existed until a couple of months ago – mooting.

Mooting is basically like mock court where you have a problem and teams of two argue for the appellant and respondent respectively in front of a “judge” in competition style. However, unlike in a court room, the one who wins isn’t necessarily the side that has the most solid legal position but the side who can present their argument best. I have watched a couple of moots on Zoom and they are very entertaining from a spectator’s perspective; I just hope I can be heard by a sympathetic judge when the first round takes place at the end of the month!

About alasdairflett

German & English Literature graduate. From Orkney. Interested in alternative and indie music, language, writing and politics.
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