…was Tony Blair and back for an hysterical third term is Gabriel Webber. The books are packed – three fewer than I took home with me, sorry Library! – and my freshly-sharpened pencils are in my nice new shiny satchel. It’s time to head back Falmerwards!
Because exam season will rapidly be upon us (unless you’re a grown-up in which case it won’t be upon you), I thought we might celebrate these impending doomful questions by imagining what it will be like when Question Time eventually gets its brain in gear and visits Sussex University.
Art imitates life?
A 24-hour play is a play entirely conceived, written and performed within 24 working hours. Over Pesach, I took part in one with The Deckchair Collective and thereby entered into a wholly plausible world where mermaids sink cities, ‘Thames’ is pronounced ‘Thay-mees’ and a ruthless Admiral rules the New British Empire.
Here is a brief outline of how some of the time passed:
- 1 minute: “So does anyone want to riff on mermaids’ hair?” / ME: “Can you say that sentence again please, I enjoyed it!”
- 1 hour 30 minutes: Four of us traipsing up and down Ealing Broadway, Apprentice-style, desperately trying to find a print shop, then giving up on that and trying to find an estate agent (!) willing to let us use their printer, then giving up on that and coming across Ealing Central Library with its public printing facilities. Sadly, unlike the many shops, who, on hearing, “We’re running a community drama project,” literally showered us with free props, the librarian insisted that we wouldn’t be allowed to pay 10p per page (!) for printing without first showing proof of signature and joining the library. Then she asked how many pages we wanted printed. I replied, “It’s four pages and we need six copies.” / “Sixty copies?” / “No, six copies of four pages, 24 pages in total.” / “Yes I know what the total is, there’s no need to be patronising.” Ouch. Ealing Council 1, Gabriel 0.
- 5 minutes: The writing team decided that the grammar in Churchill’s Fighting on the Beaches speech was a bit dodgy and got a little carried away correcting it.
- 10 minutes: Adapting wartime propaganda slogans to be suitable responses to a mermaid incursion, eg. “Keep dry and carry on,” “Swim for victory,” etc.
Jolly good fun, highly recommended, you can watch a very brief extract on YouTube; and I can’t wait for the next one!
I’ll have my usual
Months ago, I wrote to my friends at Southern Rail to ask why the ticket office at Falmer station was always closed when I went there to buy tickets. I gave them a list of 12 occasions, within their advertised opening hours, when it was mysteriously shut. They finally got back to me last week, and this what they had to say for themselves:
Now, as all my readers well know, I’m not a cynical person, but this list of excuses strikes me as being completely made up.
I mean, tomorrow I have to hand in two essays by 4pm. If I waltz in at 4:30 and try playing the “no early turn cover” card, I’ll surely be laughed out of the Global Studies Office! And as for “dealing with TVM issue” – well, let’s be honest, we’ve all been there, haven’t we.
However, I never like to criticise without also making constructive proposals, so here are my suggestions of some more plausible excuses that Southern could use in response to future complaints:
Sussex University Estates Management: Philistine Incompetence Since 1972
After driving me and my baggage all the way down to Sussex, Webbers Senior decided to go for a family day out to Monk’s House, formerly the home of some writer-type person called Virginia Woolf.
One of the National Trust ladies told us that, in 1972, the remaining members of the family sold the house to one University of Sussex, but – “because it didn’t go to the Literature Department but to the Estates Management Department” – Ms Woolf’s extensive library of key historical books was rather carelessly sold off, whereabouts currently unknown.
Now wouldn’t it just be hilarious if the enthusiastic young Estates Management staff member who made a bad decision in 1972 grew up to be my very own Porter in Lewes Court. Not that there’s any link between their respective levels of competence, of course.
My family seder takes place in Bromley, and so before arriving, we naturally took my younger cousins to visit that famous Bromley tourist attraction, Chislehurst Caves.
The caves are artificial, and, according to the guide, were dug out by the Romans, the Saxons and “the Druids.” (Yes, that’s the famous Druids of Bromley, a town whose Wikipedia article lists “free wifi” under the heading ‘culture’.)
This guide merits further discussion, however, largely because he was a total lunatic. He clearly thought it would be a good idea to deliver the entire tour in Cockney rhyming slang, thus baffling almost everybody in the group: “Now you dustbin lids, don’t run around … If you’d had too much pig’s ear, and you were a bit elephant’s … They got through gallons of rosy every night … When you went to Bo Peep, you didn’t get your own Uncle Ned … If you were boracic you didn’t have to pay.”
(I thus spent much of the time muttering made-up Pesach-related rhyming slang under my breath, eg. lone raider = seder, broken ladder = hagaddah, Olympic runner = Mah Nishtanah.)
Even worse than his public speaking, however, was when he gave a graphic description of how these fictional Druids carried out human sacrifices. He enlivened this description by using two “beautiful young girls” from the tour (about 8 years old) as examples, explaining to them, “Your blood would run through this crack…” – so when, later on the tour, he told us about how he once saw a ghost which “wrestled” him to the ground, I suspect it was actually just an enraged parent.
When we emerged into daylight, mum said that he “looked like an ex-hippie,” though I had to disagree over the ‘ex-‘ bit.
Chislehurst Caves are open every day and tours cost £5, £3 concessions.
“A good example of a confederal state: Star Wars.”
“I expected Germany to talk about Europe a lot more than could have been expected.”
[Dr Hough, in his first lecture of the new term, lasted a record 4 minutes and 21 seconds before making his first reference to Shrewsbury FC, which I understand to be a sports team of some sort.]
“By completing a demo, you will get the chance to win some fantastic prizes. (Xbox, USB sticks etc).” [So quite a range then…]
“Special and Different Treatment – or STD [laughter] Well it’s a good way of remembering it!” [Although it’s not strictly speaking a correct acronym!]
Law, order and human sacrifice
All this talk of carrying out human sacrifices put me in a bit of a criminal mood. It’s never good when that happens (as I’m sure you all well know) so I decided to wind down by reading up on one of my favourite people’s views on crime and punishment.
Here is his smug little story of how, standing in as a judge in colonial India (as one does…), Sir George Campbell personally intervened to save the soul of a local good-for-nothing. What a true angel of mercy that Sir George is!