(Proms in The Park 2006, Glasgow)Having just been awarded a bachelor's degree in history with a first-rate dissertation this summer and won a scholarship from the department, Francesca steps further for a master's with a view to a doctoral programme. She enrolled a week ago, was allocated an office and is officially a postgraduate student now.
It's quite understandable why she is still in sort of over-the-moon mood: What could be more exciting than enjoying full entitlement to all the facilities for research students? What could be more exhilarating than reading what you need instead of what you are demanded?
Lucky her. On the induction day there wasn't an unsmiling stern dean or head of department welcoming new postgrads with a frigid speech laying stress on the solitude, loneliness, frustration and suffocation one would encounter during their postgraduate study. Instead, she met other students and befriended them in Stirling Postgraduate Society, a secret society less secret than Masonry, but so esoteric that I myself didn't even join in during my postgraduate career at Stirling.
However, as her master dissertation will examine post-Mao Chinese cinema and therefore a knowledge in the Chinese language is required, under my cruel yet reasonable supervision, she swots up on Chinese everyday – contorting her vocal cords to produce different pitches in the language, twisting her Brit tongue to pronounce alveolar, alveolo-palatal or retroflex affricate consonants and close back unrounded vowels, puckering her spaghetti lips to enunciate the umlauted vowel 'u', and engaging in mental drudgery to thread up some rosaries of Chinese characters which would make sense all together.
Francesca is making good progress and, I guess, will sooner or later outdo my lovely fiancée Fanne, who always have problems to articulate correctly every single word in one sentence in her mother tongue, Chinese. For example, Fanne can't even be bothered to read (by this I mean 'to browse') my favourite Chinese text The Story of Mr Shi Eating Lions on my weblog, let alone to recite it.
My dear Francesca, you are now desired by your big brother Wei to equip yourself to declaim this Chinese text by the end of this semester.