All entries for Monday 25 June 2007
June 25, 2007
A declaration of pale skinned power, from another Boar column.
What is the sound of summer? Is it sunny pop music wafting over the gentle buzzing of wasps as they attack picnics up and down the land, the screams of the stung mixing with the chirpy melodies? Is it a different sort of melody, the promise filled but sinister warblings of icecream vans, the kind which the mother of one of my friends told her children meant the icecream van was empty and on its way back to base to get more supplies? My friend was in her teens when she realised the lie. On campus one must factor in the seemingly constant sound of duck sex which begins as soon as the sun rises and is more effective at waking students than a cleaner with a hoover. Mind you, duck sex makes up for it by resulting ducklings, the number one distraction around with their cute little ducky faces, and cute little ducky feet and ducky ducky ducky, come here ducky… sorry, I was writing a column or something?
For me the sound of summer has a distinct flavour. It’s the age old cry of “Are you ok?”. Yes, yes I am, I just happen to commit summer’s cardinal sin of being pale. Just because I look like I’ve be trapped in a dark room for a billion years does not mean I am unhealthy. Nor does it mean I have not been out in the sun. Summer’s distinct smell is Factor 40 suncream.
The national obsession with getting tanned means those of us who cannot tan spend the entire summer justifying our DNA. It’s hardly my fault my ancestors settled in the cold, dark, cloudy regions where it was more useful to reduce energy expenditure on melanin in favour of being able to run that little bit faster when woolly mammoths attack. Unfortunately we then used our energy to kill all the mammoths thus rendering our justification for pastiness obsolete. Now all that’s left of these hard-as-nails-although-nails-hadn’t-been-invented-yet cavemen and women is a mass market for Factor 40 stuck with an undeserved reputation for being unhealthy and soft. Our case really isn’t helped by the cultural prominence of gothic teenagers who cake their faces in white paint and spend all day indoors writing poetry and not doing sport. They’d be shit in the face of a pissed off hairy elephant but it is them who people see as the representatives of pale.
We pales have our uses. The mocking doesn’t last long after we point out that if our friends stand next to us they look considerably more tanned than they actually are. Suddenly having an ashen friend is the way to instantly looking better. We are even more effective if we stand quite close as the sun rays will reflect off our skin onto yours thus ensuring an all round tan.
It’s not like I’m trying to be pale on purpose. I just don’t tan. At all. I got really badly sunburned once, proper full on sunburn with almost all the skin on my back peeling off, painfully, over the course of three or four days. That was the least pale I have ever been and I was redder than the Kop during a Liverpool – Chelsea match. And the best bit? All this happened not on the rolling beaches of the Costa del Sol, nor the exposed sunny mountains of Italy, but in Wexford. That’s Wexford in Ireland. Ireland the emerald isle, where the emerald grass grows greener than green on a diet of rain, rain and rain. If I didn’t wear suncream and eighteen layers I could potentially combust! And if you think eighteen layers is excessive then please remember that your pathetic modern fibres just don’t have the sunblocking power of mammoth pelt!
For your comfort and enjoyment, this Boar column is so much funnier if you can imagine Anne Hathaway with an uzi.
To be honest it’s Charles Dickins I feel sorry for. His biggest mistake was, like JRR Tolkein, to be around when cameras were active, photographing and documenting the world. We know he was essentially the owner of the second most iconic beard of the nineteenth century (Darwin pips him, methinks) and that apart from that he was rather average looking. He’d fit right in with the English department, right down to looking ever so slightly too eccentric and not corporate business type enough for the currently university administration (don’t you just love their tidy up the lecturers campaign?). But he’ll never get his own 12 rated Hollywood biopic. Jane Austen has. It’s out now and stars that girl with the big brown eyes who does that rabbit in headlights routine in most of her films. We have about two sketches of Jane Austen’s likeness and the real Jane doesn’t look like she was caught in any headlights. Nor did Shakespeare look like Joseph Fiennes. But we know that Brad Pitt does not resemble Mr Dickins, so there is little chance of some unnecessarily rain drenched hunk Dickins running through the dirty streets of London to his potential love interest’s house in an attempt to woo her with his new manuscript. “What’s that Charles darling? A tragedy about workhouses, robbery and murder? Oh, you sure know the words to get to a girl’s heart”.
Truth is it will be hard for future generations to cast sexy actors as dowdy authors; these days authors get recognised more than ever. Obviously some cheat, like Jeffery Archer. Actually no one else cheats like Jeffery Archer, his cheating (and lying and perjuring) is in a league of its own, but a lot of big selling authors are getting us used to their face in other media first but pouncing with their literary side. Take all those frustrated Chaucers on the pitch during your average England friendly. How can they be expected to put in demonstration of something so coarse and transitory as a mere football match when they’d much rather be at home penning great odes to the titanic forces which shape and captivate the world? It’s fortunate for them that humanity’s obsession with football means that they are themselves often those titanic forces, although you’d think this would have resulted in some better odes to beating Ecuador then crashing out to Portugal in a feeble penalty shootout than the crop of whingy books which came out last summer. Imagine if they could do it in iambic pentameter – “I played quite bad, we missed our chance, the shame/And now we wave our coach goodbye, again”. I can think of a minimum of five players in the last England world cup squad who seemed completely distracted by the sonnets they were composing in their heads. At least, I’m assuming that’s why they were fannying around on the grass rather than playing well.
You’d never see Andy McNab on the pitch. Actually, you’d never see him anywhere because he likes to keep up his SAS cred by hiding a lot, and doing interviews in shadows. It means it takes slightly longer than your average Google search to find a picture of him on the internet. In the interests of research I was going to try and find one to tell you how long it would take, but I got bored and decided to check the football scores instead. But McNab is a candidate for the treatment Austen and Shakespeare are currently getting because we’re not bored of his face. Casting directors won’t be too bothered about who gets to play him. Hell, Anne ‘rabbit in headlights’ Hathaway could play him in an attempt to get a story of SAS missions and Iraqi torture down to a 12 rating. I reckon she could do it. I’d probably watch then for the pure incongruity.
A confession of my intellectual inferiority in the form of a Boar column about sports.
Not long back, in the grip of essay fever, I fled from my spreadsheet of Georgian murder trials in search of some relief. It was in short supply being a Sunday night, and so I was drawn by powerful forces (my American coursemate) to watch Superbowl with said coursemate promising to explain the many and varied rules of the sport. To be honest I’m still not entirely sure what the rules to American football are, although it seems to involve most of the rules of rugby combined with most of the rules of chess, only I couldn’t see any horses on the pitch and no one turned into a queen when they reached the end of the board. It was complex, and when it’s 1.30am and you’ve spent the day wrestling with homicidal Cockney animosity in 1718, grasping difficult and new concepts is rather more than a mind can cope with. Well, more than my mind can cope with anyway.
Essentially I’m a moron. Ok, may not a moron, but certainly intellectually rather lazy. I like my sport simple. Even (proper) football, my beloved preferred way of acquiring more bruises and sprains, has one too many rules, and this is taking into account that one of the laws of football can be summed up by nine words – “tuck your shirt in and pull your socks up”. Whilst I can explain the offside rule I cannot remember if you are allowed to score direct from a throw in. And I’m not entirely sure what constitutes a professional, instant red card foul, except for the nagging feeling in my stomach that I’ve probably committed a few in my time and that it’s a miracle I’ve not been sent off. Maybe the refs know I’m a bit of a moron (there’s certainly a consensus amongst some that to be a goalkeeper, like I am, you’d have to be) and are going easy on the girl in the neon goalie shirt who was once charmingly described by some opposition substitutes as “mental, actually fucking mental”. I would have taken it as a compliment but I’d been kicked in the head by one of their forwards and wasn’t really mentally all there.
In theory athletics is the easiest sport to understand. Whoever runs fastest or jumps furthest wins. But that’s a little too simple. See, as much as I like things to not be complicated, I also demand at least a modicum of excitement. The 100m is exciting once. Watch anymore than one race in a day and you just end up thinking “So what? They’re running in a straight line. Where’s the adventure?”. The answer is probably mere metres away at the pole vault. I love watching pole vault. I really could watch it all day. It’s so strange. You can understand the human desire to see who can run the fastest, or jump the highest, but at what evolutionary stage did we acquire an innate desire to see how far a human can fling themselves using only a very breakable pole? It’s the constant risk that the pole will break and send the poor human flying arse over tit which makes it so exciting.
And yet for years women weren’t allowed to pole vault! It took 80 years from the first official men’s pole vault world record before there was a women’s official pole vault record. The 2000 Olympics were the first to allow female pole vaulters. It’s odd to think that even as late as the 1990s there were people in this world who wanted to deny women the chance to land on their heads clutching nothing more than a broken fibreglass stick and the shreds of their dignity. I suppose we’ll never achieve equality in this world until we are willing to allow all members of society to make complete tits of themselves in front of their peers. Now I must go as I have to deliver some fibreglass sticks to George W Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If ever there were two people who I want to see land on their heads it’s them…
Another Boar column. I’ve got behind in putting these things up!
It’s a good thing no one gives a stuff about plants. We all care, or claim to, about animals, but no one actually cares what happens to plants; whether they have enough light, how many we cut down to make student newspapers, or how many we water using cider and vomit. We just don’t give a rat’s ass (although to do so would be rather mean to rats, don’t you think?). Why else does no one stop those plant sales in the piazza in the first term? You know over 75% of the people buying those plants are freshers who will almost certainly kill the damn things. Broken in kitchen parties, neglected over Christmas in Tocil flats, and showered with cider and vomit, they will never grow to achieve their chlorophyll-tastic destiny. Before the age of 21 the only plant I couldn’t kill through neglect and incompetence was my cactus which made its feelings towards me well known by drawing blood every time I needed to move it. I swear it went for me. I think it blamed me for knocking it over and breaking it’s pot even though that heinous act was carried out by my housemate. Guess us humans all look alike to plants.
Plants are nice. Plants can make a room look like more than just a temple to the god of paper/socks/vodka bottles, which is why so many deluded freshers think buying a plant is a good idea. Good to see they are starting their university lives with good intentions of raising a rainforest of intense lushness. Naturally though, they overlook the more mundane and negative side of things. For a start about half the rooms on campus get no direct sunlight. Most plants won’t get watered properly, especially as the tap water on Coventry doesn’t look safe for student consumption, never mind consumption by a delicate organism. Hell, my venus flytrap needs to be given either rainwater or mineral water. I spend more on water for my plant than I do on water for myself (I like fluoride and cloudiness in my water). Some plants require pruning or grow very very quickly, taking over desks and flopping over keyboards when you’re trying to work. Don’t be fooled, they do it deliberately.
But it cannot be denied that a nice plant makes a room look great. Many of us seem to have internalised this curious human habit of bringing indoors the outdoors our ancestors did so much to get away from. A nice splash of green next to the unwashed plates of curry diminishes the impact of the half finished mush. And if you make that splash of green a venus flytrap it will eat the various insects which have been attracted by the crushing communal inability to clean anything plate shaped.
Plants often make perfect companions for students with their multifunctional superpowers and ability to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, invaluable in stuffy student rooms where air circulation is minimal. A nice tree will always provide something for the more inebriated student to support themselves with. Those flowers you bought your tutor to apologise for missing seventeen seminars in a row will no doubt remove much of the tutor’s anger at your complete indifference to the topic they have devoted their lives to. The plant world’s uses for students have yet to be fully tapped, hence why every year dozens of freshers line up in the piazza ready to begin the quest to find new uses for a geranium. If only we could train them to take lecture notes.