I didn’t quite go into detail here previously on the massive holiday I was planning, apart from the Thurston Moore squee, so I should state briefly for the record that I spent about 6 weeks from mid-October to early December trying to be young again across London, Montreal, New England, New York City and Berlin. A wise man would stake no money on the chances of me blogging about that in any comprehensive way, but I do usually manage the first few days! So here’s the first day I spent in London, and let’s hope I’ll get to a few more later on.
We cooked dinner on Wednesday night for various old friends at the hall. Alec made chicken rice, and I made Thai beef salad. A simple, fairly healthy, fairly nutritious meal combining the smooth mild flavour of chicken rice with the piquancy of the Thai beef salad.
If only such meal-planning and flavour-mixing decisions could be equally applied to after-dinner drinking with similarly enjoyable, innocuous consequences.
The available tipples, mostly what Alec and I had managed to accumulate and needed help in consuming, included wine, vodka, mead, Sheridan’s, whiskey, schnapps and absinthe. After consuming almost everything there the hall bar’s stocks of Bacardi Breezers, Smirnoff Ices and a bottle of Jack Daniels were also raided. In the course of the evening I consumed almost all of the above, as did most others present.
Suzy provided an extremely appropriate cocktail for this evening involving former residents of a Catholic hall. The Weeping Jesus involves absinthe, schnapps and grenadine. The green of the absinthe is the Garden of Gethsemane, and the red grenadine gets dribbled down the sides to represent Jesus’s tears of blood. The instructions on the absinthe bottle say you must always dilute it before drinking, given that it’s 68% alcohol by volume. I don’t think they really meant diluting it with schnapps though.
As I write this (it was written on Thursday) it’s 2.32 pm. As of an hour ago, Chris was still in bed. Alec has taken some Resolve, and is now just about capable of vacantly watching old episodes of Jeeves and Wooster. And I am listlessly trying to tear myself away from this random typing and back to civil liberties and the responses to terrorism.
A lot got done today, though nothing in completion. Shoe rack bought and lugged (but they were out of desk lamps and laundry baskets, so I have to go back). Textbooks obtained (but I have to go back in search of one more tomorrow). The one thing I managed to do quite meticulously was injure the right side of my body while falling down some stairs. Right knuckles grazed, right elbow whacked, and an impressive bruise coming up on the right side of my back in pretty twilight colours.
I went to mass at my old hall for the first time since returning to England. It felt immensely comforting from the minute I walked in and sat down, but I’m still trying to figure out if that was because of the chapel’s nostalgia and familiarity for me, or because it happened to be the first time since returning that I’d gone into mass feeling unhappy enough to be in need of comfort. A poem got written about it, but as usual I have too little confidence in the quality of my poetry to make it public.
Being around theology students makes life that little bit more surreal. Two conversational snippets with my hallmate Stefan:
Me: You look troubled.
Stefan: Yes, I am trying to write an essay. The Trinity, it is annoying me.
Me: So how’s the studying for ancient Greek going?
Stefan: Oh, I decided to focus on human salvation instead today. I thought it was more important.
A week without Internet access leaves lots of blanks to be filled. More for my sake than yours, I propose to fill them. Here goes last week:
Ken has already given his/our impressions of Vertigo on Monday, except more coherently than we managed to express at the time through manic chortling on what I think was Waterloo Bridge.
Tuesday was a pleasant reminder of the fact that I’m still a moderately good debater despite a year of rustiness, and winning the friendly at QMW with Mark as partner was a fitting way to end our debating year. Dinner was my first ever carbonara, and then mixed-bag hip-hop and cringeworthy stand-up comedy at 93 Feet East. A sign attached to one of the bar tills said FUCK OFF in big red letters. It was a flyer for an upcoming Sonic Mook Experiment night. I brought it home.
Wednesday was the first day of the beginning of hell. Preparing music for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday masses took the entire afternoon and most of the night. Choosing psalms. Compiling hymn packs for the choir. Practising everything on the organ. Photocopying, hole-punching, stressing, praying, cursing.
I realize it is probably inappropriate to describe making a joyful noise unto the Lord as hell, but even though the music all went splendidly well in the end and I’m actually really happy about that, I never, never want to go through that ever again. That is all I will say about the liturgical music aspects of last week, and, I suspect, more than anyone else would be interested in reading about.
At some point on Good Friday, at the same time as I was ploughing through Bentham as Proto-Feminist? in my room, Alec and Mark were apparently cosied up in Mark’s room having some lesbian tea. (On inquiry I was told lesbian=herbal in this context. Perhaps this is reassuring. Perhaps not.)
At some point on Holy Saturday, when asking choir members to get themselves hymn packs, which I had by now started referring to as fun packs, I nearly called them fanny packs. (Note: if you are American, your understanding of the term “fanny” is quite different from ours. Over here the fanny is the bit even bikini bottoms cover.)
Later that night my hallmate was using a window-divider as an improvised pole against which to pole dance. It was a ground floor window opening out onto Gower Street. Gower Street’s a busy street.
Alec describes the content of this site as “pointless meandering”. I’m beginning to see what he means, but don’t care. That was the week. Some called it Holy.
When your priest, while doing a stint behind the hall bar, mimes the plonking of huge pendulous breasts on the bar counter and asks wot you’ll ‘ave, luv, a la East Enders, you suddenly realize that you are no longer thirsty. In fact, you may never drink again. Ever.
The tournament was great. Will won Pop Idol. A good weekend!
Before I say I think the tournament went pretty damn brilliantly the typical Michellian disclaimer is necessary – ideally, I’d have liked more teams and judges involved, and ideally the first proposition team in the final wouldn’t have turned a motion which had great potential for something interesting (This House Would Shaft The Axis Of Evil) into an incredibly boring debate about removing Oxbridge privileges. But apart from that, everything seemed to run almost disturbingly smoothly, which actually worried me quite a lot – I kept thinking I’d somehow overlooked some huge glaring problem and waiting for the anvil to drop, but it just never did, and I’m reasonably proud that in roughly four years of tournament debating (since ’98) mine was the first tournament I’ve ever been at which ran on time.
So thank you, Mark, for putting up with all my malaise and moodiness, for being lovely in so many ways, and lastly (and very importantly) for booking rooms that actually existed this time. We were both admittedly mightily pissed while exchanging affirmations of love and friendship and each other’s general wonderfulness on Saturday night, but I stand proudly by everything I said, even now in the sobering light of day. Been great working with you, dear.
I raced home from the tournament with a beatific smile on my face, headed straight to the TV room in search of Avril, who’d taped Pop Idol for me, and did a lot of girlie screaming. Realized later that this is the only British pop cultural whirlwind I’ve actually gotten sucked into in my two and a half years here, but this one really did manage to reel me in, hook, line and sinker. I’ve explained to Alec that I came upon it at a vulnerable time; that having not seen him for two weeks due to our respective ski trips and missing him dreadfully I was just there for Will’s taking (oof, perhaps a bad turn of phrase there) that fateful Saturday evening in December when I wandered into the TV room and was transfixed. He remains unconvinced. Oh well. Good luck and best wishes, Will. Your profile is distinctly primatial but from the front you’re lovely, cheesy grin and all.
Much like the Sunday after the last debating tournament I organized, yesterday was a whole lotta wonderful nothing. Woke up at noon. Lunched and coffee’d with Russ, whom I dearly wish hadn’t brought me that belated Christmas present of American Gods, because he inconsiderately went and bought himself the tripod I was going to give him, and now I’m stuck for ideas. Treated the congregation at mass to an unusually muted and reflective version of Shine Jesus Shine (the hymn Fr J disdainfully refers to as likening Jesus to Brasso). Lingered downstairs with soup, John, Tay and bizarre conversation that involved coffee sugar Nazism (Me: “Does it make me some sort of lesser person because I like two sugars in my coffee, goddamit?”) and awful puns about a strange guy called Terry who comes to our hall and makes trouble every now and then. (Tay: “Man, this is scary. I’m terrified, man. I’m developing terranoia…I really don’t like it when he comes over here. I get all territorial.” And so on.)
Strangely fun weekend. Dreadfully disappointed on Saturday night when plans of going to a strip club with the boyfriend fell through; we had to settle for a quiet romantic night in instead, bah.
Downstairs in the hall on Sunday night, Natalie decides to discard clothes she can’t fit into any more, and offers me a bra. “It’s a lovely bra, Nat, but somehow I think my mother might not be pleased if I told her I spent my time in England wearing other girls’ bras.” Zad cheerfully offers to take it, but then decides his mother would probably be even more worried than mine. He does, however, accept a “Let’s Party!” baby-tee and strips off (in the dining room) to try it on. Given that it’s way beyond skin-tight on him and ends somewhere at his ribs, his nipple ring is obvious to all. Natalie’s just twiddling it when Father Jeremy walks in.
Tiny glittery stars are strewn along the floors of my hall, incredibly well dispersed from their original places on the tables at our Christmas dinner party by getting caught and carried in clothes and under shoes, or unstuck from noses and cheeks and foreheads. It’s rather nice.
The Christmas party had highs and lows, lows being the mediocre cuisine and people who couldn’t sing particularly well deciding they’d sing for what felt like particularly long, but of course we all clapped and squealed and hollered “Encore!” because that’s what this hall is like, highs being Mark’s unfailing ability to choose the exact moment a priest is walking by to be saying PUBES!!!, giggling with Tay about him getting his guitar out and leading everyone in a rousing chorus of “FEEEEEEEED THE WOOOOOORLD”, and a brief period in the bar where a small number of people were going absolutely apeshit dancing until everyone promptly decided they were far too drunk to continue and went off to vomit/attempt to pull/sleep.
Neither high nor low but just in a whole other dimension was Father J dressing up as the Queen (complete with handbag) and giving his version of the Queen’s speech (tailored for the hall), which included statements like a new pricing system for showers which would involve “50p for a 30 second spurt”, and then dancing to, unsurprisingly but terrifyingly, Dancing Queen.
Life was somewhat back to normal yesterday, or at least it seemed normal by the time I’d woken up at 2 pm. Have been grappling with a morass of practical really-must-do’s since then – Conflict of Laws reading, choosing my Big Jurisprudence Book option for next term (see below if interested), badgering NatWest about the Switch card they’re supposed to send me but haven’t.
[I’m going for Plato’s The Last Days of Socrates as first choice and Machiavelli’s The Prince as second. Discarded Kymlicka’s Multicultural Citizenship and Montesquieu’s The Spirit Of The Laws early on because they take a more sociological approach to the law than I’m interested in, decided against Finnis’s Natural Law and Natural Rights, Dworkin’s Life’s Dominion and Mill’s On Liberty despite their legendary status because they felt like ground a little too well trodden, and finally eliminated Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals and Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic rather reluctantly later on because they sounded a little less fun than my final two choices, and also because, as Alec pointed out, it might ultimately feel unfulfilling and difficult to take them on without a wider grounding in philosophy.]
Pleasant distractions abound, though. Amazing dinner at Alec’s, cooked by Larry (home-made bread, tortellini, duck, The Mother Of All Chocolate Cakes, wine, some other alcoholic beverage that tasted of lemons). Excitement about Friday’s Tori Amos gig, and Saturday’s outing to Rent. Slight consternation as to how to avoid nudity and freezing in Andorra in a few weeks, note to self: find out about renting skiing clothes.
The jurisprudence essay that was due on Thursday is finally finished (yes, I’m aware that today is Tuesday), which means I can finally come into the computer room with a conscience slightly less muddied than usual. I say only “slightly” because the past few days have been classic chronicles of Michellian essay avoidance mechanisms, and I’m not terribly proud of myself right now.
Friday started off normally enough with me snoozing my way through a company law seminar, wandering into Waterstones on a textbook hunt and leaving with the necessary textbooks but also with Birthday Letters (£1.99!) and A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius (£2.99!), which I then obviously spent considerably more time reading over the weekend than Hart’s The Concept Of Law.
Much of Friday night was spent crouched in front of a fridge laughing hysterically over magnetic poetry at a housewarming party. Justyn’s magnum opus was:
I dream of a goddess
with peach-like breasts
whom I can fall in love with
These somewhat romantic sentiments got unfortunately abandoned later on when the poem was modified to:
I dream of a goddess
with peach-like breasts
who can fiddle with
my boiling meat apparatus.
Our collective muse inspired this, which we’re all rather proud of:
luscious sordid butt puppy
raw finger love smear
screaming frantic chocolate lather
heaving sausage, lust juice.
After a lengthy and satisfying girl talk session with Avril, at 2.30 a.m. I was ready to either sleep or attempt some reading, but was foiled by Russ, who dropped in for quality time and sprawling conversation till the Tube started running again at 5.
* * *
Not content with setting a plastic chopping board on fire and leaving the gas on in the kitchen, Mark decided to continue his mission of chaos on Saturday night by persuading me to go ice-skating. More specifically, ice discoing.
And so it was that instead of a quiet night in with Ronald Dworkin and my laptop, I found myself attempting to get my groove on to the Wu Tang Clan amidst daredevil twelve-year-olds and strobe lighting while flailing around on badly fitting ice skates.
Stranger things have happened, but not by much.
* * *
Sunday involved dejection after an absolutely dreadful choir performance in morning mass, elation after an incredibly beautiful choir performance in evening mass, and ultimately, a very worn out and stressed me after having to play the organ for both masses and the choir practice sessions before them. Having said that, sitting at a piano flanked by a charming Gibraltan improvising jazz and a mad composer dude improvising Pavement (I kid you not) proved to be a bit too much of an antidote, and I ended up returning to my neglected textbooks far too late to do anything worthwhile.
* * *
As a result of all the weekend indiscipline, I expected Monday’s attempts to finally write the bloody essay to be excruciating, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. It certainly involved prolonged mental agony and intellectual self-scourging, but somehow the pain was vaguely pleasurable. This jurisprudence thing might just work out. Fingers crossed.