Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Studentactive Fallout

It's ball time again at Cambridge University.
I knew it was coming because exams finished last week, accompanied by much spraying of champagne (under normal circumstances I'd be livid about wasting alcohol, but champagne is crap and deserves to be poured on the floor) and students running around with great big smiles on their faces for the first time this year.
There has also been quite a collection of trucks and vans gathering on the college grounds since the weekend, which is always a sign. 

As I normally travel to work pretty early to avoid heavy traffic, I tend to see the fallout from these events as groups of tired, disheveled and mostly inebriated students make their way back to their lodgings.
The guys all look the same wearing the standard black tie outfit which proves that in certain areas the University still has its foot wedged firmly in tradition.
In these days of supposed sexual equality, it's interesting that the women don't have to conform to the same rigid control over what they wear.
On the plus side, it does make the scenery quite interesting and sometimes downright distracting as you drive past.
While some are dressed fairly conservatively, other sport dresses with great long slits up the side or neck lines that have been designed as a showcase for cleavage and more besides. Terrible..........

Where was I?
Oh yes...
Although the balls are probably the highlight of the student's social calendar, there are plenty of other occasions where they can don their penguin suits and high-class hooker dresses, and a few weeks ago I was invited to one of the so-called 'formals' at Queen's College by one of the researchers.
Being completely clueless about such things I thought I'd do a little digging to find out what this would entail before committing myself to anything.
As it turned out it would involve having dinner at the college wearing a suit and black tie, while sitting at long tables with a large number of (to me) complete strangers, before being expected to do that social mingling thing, which in my case usually consists of standing on my own with a glass of wine while wondering what would be the earliest time I can leave without appearing rude.
So would I like to accept the invitation and put myself through what amounts to an evening of torture, or would I politely decline and just go home where I can have a normal dinner and put my feet up in front of the telly with a nice glass of Scotch?
Can you guess which I chose?


Thursday, 15 June 2017

Lavatorial

In the original 'Trainspotting' film we were introduced to what was apparently the 'worst toilet in Scotland'.
The scene is one of those iconic moments in cinema along with the "Do you feel lucky, punk?" bit in Dirty Harry, Jack Nicholson coming through the door with an axe saying "Here's Johnny!", and Anne Hathaway getting her glorious thrupenny bits out in 'Love and other drugs'.
OK, so we all have different things that stick in the memory.....
The Trainspotting scene however, does make me thankful that I've never come across a toilet in a state remotely as bad as that, but that's probably because I've never attended a music festival.

I admit to being a bit fussy about the facilities I'll entrust my bottom to, which can be a problem in the workplace where so many people seem to have sprinkler attachments on their arseholes, think flushing is optional, and have no idea how to use a toilet brush.
On a list of things I enjoy doing, running between every gents around the site trying to find a lavatory that is sanitary enough, with an increasing sense of panic because I'm about to give birth is pretty near the bottom; somewhere between having surgery and going to weddings.

It makes me wonder if people who leave toilets in such a vile state behave the same way at home.
I expect the majority do not, but when they're at work they somehow get the attitude of "Why should I clean that when someone else is paid to do it?", and I find that frankly appalling.
Even if cleaning toilets is part of your job, surely nobody wants to walk into a cubicle - mop and bucket in hand - to be confronted by the aftermath of someone's big night out featuring ten pints of Guinness and a dodgy chicken vindaloo.
On the back of the cubicle doors at work there is a sign that says 'Please leave this facility in the state you expect to find it', but I can't help thinking that replacing 'expect' with 'like' would be a considerable improvement, because expectations can often be pretty low.
While they're at it, they could also add an instruction sheet for how to use a bog brush and a small pamphlet entitled 'Hygiene - A beginners guide to moral obligations'.
Rant over.
Please wash your hands.



Saturday, 10 June 2017

Still alive

I've just returned from one of my trips to London to meet up with the guys, and I'm happy to report that I'm still in one fully functioning piece.
After recent events it had crossed my mind to change the location or even cancel altogether, but we're British so it's in our nature to stick two fingers up at the bastards and carry on with life undeterred.

I'm glad we stuck to our plans, because it turned out to be a really good day.
Having met up at Kings Cross we walked to Camden Lock, passing by a trio of the old gasometers which have undergone an impressive revamp. Two have been converted into some sort of residential or commercial buildings with the external ironwork left intact, while the third contains an amazing circular garden space with mirrored pillars supporting an intricate mirrored canopy.
It was so wonderful to see an example of urban regeneration which retains such iconic structures.


We pressed on, taking a rest at the top of Primrose Hill (where I decided that women's yoga is now officially a spectator sport) to admire the view while the sun beat down, making me thankful I'd remembered to bring a hat to cover my virtually bald head.
From there we made our way through Regents Park, ending up at Wetherspoons for lunch and a couple of pints of ale.
Then it was an extended period of chilling out beside the lake in Hyde Park before heading to Blackfriars via Westminster where we chanced upon a very unusual sight - a huge collection of naked cyclists.
It was at this point I began to regret my decision to leave the proper camera at home, because it meant all I had available to take pictures with was my phone.
Apparently they were protesting against the city's car culture and raising awareness of the vulnerability of cyclists, but I suspect the crowds that gathered to cheer them on (ourselves included) were just happy to see a bunch of naked people.
Well, to be honest there were some we'd have preferred to not see, but at least there were plenty of good-uns to offset them.
Obviously I was more interested in the women, but it was impossible to not see the blokes as well, which wasn't such a bad thing because it did serve to make me feel pretty good about myself.


I suppose it was because of it being such a glorious day that there was a phenomenal number of people out and about, with assorted bits of street theatre and plenty of interesting sights.
I've said before that people watching is one of my favourite pastimes, but today that experience was turned up to eleven. London is a fascinating melting pot of all sorts of people, and today certainly didn't disappoint, so for once I actually felt a little sorry when it was time to catch the train home, leaving all that life and vitality behind.
I daresay it won't be long before I return though, because the boy wants a trip to the more affluent areas to go supercar spotting.
Hopefully there will be more naked cyclists.