World Universities Debating Championships, Glasgow 2001

I’m back from Worlds. Exhausted, totteringly ill, and considerably more impoverished, but back.

I’ll do this like a debate speech, and break it down into four main points: :P
– the debating
– the socializing
– New Year’s
– Glasgow

The debating:

The debating was relatively satisfying. In general, apart from the first debate, I wasn’t unduly disappointed by the quality of any of my other speeches in the next seven rounds, although I wouldn’t say I sat back down after any of them amazed by my genius either. For posterity’s sake, I’ll list the motions we debated:
1. This House Would Give Europe Its Own Army
2. This House Would Put A Speed Limit On Human Traffic
3. This House Would Make Directors Criminally Liable For The Wrongs Of Their Companies
4. This House Believes That The US Should Get Out Of The Middle East
5. This House Would Make Pollution A Tradeable Commodity
6. This House Would Remove Patents On Pharmaceutical Drugs For The Third World
7. This House Believes That The WTO Should Make An Exception For Developing Nations
8. This House Would Legalize Performance Enhancing Drugs In Sport

What I’m proudest of with regards to our performance was probably our first ever win from first proposition, beating Trinity College Durham Law A (good team) in round 4. I feel we’ve finally managed to overcome the general self-disgust and public humiliation that has happened every other time we’ve had to first prop something. This time it was a simple but workable case, and a solid win over teams who were by no means easy to beat.

What annoyed me the most was what we felt were bad decisions in rounds 5 and 6, where we were placed 3rd and 4th respectively and felt our true performances had been worth a 2nd and 3rd. Our frustration was soothed slightly by the fact that other teams in the same rounds gave us exactly the same assessment and made a point of saying they thought the decision had been unfair, but that didn’t make any difference to the fact that we’d lost 2 valuable points in the team rankings.

We don’t know our final ranking yet, but are pretty sure we finished with respectable points, although, as I’ve said, we felt we deserved a little better.

The socializing:

The most important realization I’ve come out of this with is probably how awful these tournaments might be if I didn’t have a debating partner I get along so amazingly well with. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say that there are extremely few debating partnerships, at least in Britain, that are as solid as ours from a friendship point of view. I guess a significant testament to the great thing we have is that after spending pretty much every waking hour with each other for a whole week, we’ve come out of it as good friends as ever, and possibly closer. We’ve had sprawling marathon conversations, violent but enjoyable arguments about anything and everything, hysterical laughter at our own inadequacies as well as other people’s, and gone crazy both on and off dancefloors to music we like. In general, Nick and me rule. :)

Apart from Nick, lots of time was also spent with Vish, who was at his irrepressible but lovable best. Aaron and Vikram were as lovely as they always are. I didn’t spend as much time with the Singaporean contingent as I would have liked to, but did get to catch up with Jean, Jonathan and Sid to a certain degree.

New Year’s (with Nick and Vish):

We’d sent off in advance for free tickets for the Radio One Hogmanay in George Square for New Year’s Eve, featuring David Morales, so that’s where we headed that night. At the outset I’ll say that it was a night of highs and lows, but was ultimately one I won’t forget. We’d stupidly forgotten to book a cab to get us to George Square, and no public transport was running. It took us one and a half hours of struggling along icy streets in the rain to flag one, during which time Nick narrowly escaped road death when he sprinted across the road in pursuit of a cab and a fast oncoming car caught the back of his heel.

When we finally got there, I was underwhelmed. Lots of drunk Scots generally standing around and not dancing while David Morales was spinning. It was hard to get into the mood for celebration when the atmosphere seemed particularly apathetic. Closer to midnight, though, things livened up considerably, and by the time I found myself up on Vish’s shoulders, doing whatever dancing I could over a crowd going wild to the admittedly overplayed but still enjoyable Sandstorm (Darude), I realized I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

The hour after midnight was crazy. Despite nearly collapsing from the inevitable alcohol-fumed kisses every time some strange man came along and yelled “Appy Noo Yeer love!” (Glaswegian loses a little in translation, I think…), it was all rather exhilarating anyway. Somewhere during all that, I lost my scarf, which I’m still sad about. After a while we moved a little out of the crowd to an area where there was more space to dance, and went a bit mad. Great fun. :)

After the event ended, we found ourselves roaming the streets in the freezing cold searching for somewhere to go. Everywhere seemed either shut, unspeakably cheesy or for over-21s. We finally found a little gem in 24-7, which had comfy booths, castle style stone walls, and black and white Marlon Brando films playing on plasma screen TVs, and spent the next couple of hours there very happily.

We’d acknowledged our general exhaustion and booked a cab for 4.30 am, but waited shivering on the pavement for half an hour. It finally transpired that someone else had apparently pretended to be Nick Connolly and stolen our cab. Go figure. It was another hour of frustrating effort to get another, where Vish deserves mention for doing most of the work while Nick and I huddled together in abject misery. I fell into bed after shedding my soaking, muddy clothes, too tired even to shower.

So to sum up how I spent New Year’s Eve, I’ve never been colder, I’ve hardly ever been more rained on, and I’ve never been so worried about slipping and breaking a bone. But I had a great time.


I should start with the snow. This was the first time I’d ever seen real snow in any significant quantity, and my general wide-eyedness and glee inspired much amusement in snow expert Nick. Unfortunately, my snow honeymoon came to an abrupt end when beautiful white snow increasingly turned to disgusting brown slush, all of which we had to trudge through every day. But I’ll still always remember Glasgow as the place of my first snow. :)

The trouble with going places on debating tournaments is that you never get enough time to actually see the place, but I have to say that what I saw of Glasgow left me with little inclination to really explore it further. It’s prettier than the industrial town I’d been expecting, but still seemed just like any other city with little to positively distinguish itself.

We did, however, manage to find some good restaurants and cafes where we sought refuge from cold and the exhaustion of the day. Little of what we ate was particularly Scottish in origin, though, since we were put off by the “when in doubt, deep fry” approach that the Scots seem to take to food.

Gibson Street, right next to the Glasgow University Union, yielded a number of gems. We spent most of the free day before the debating started in Offshore, a wonderful place filled with couches and cushions, with classic rock and jazz performances playing on the TVs. We ended up spending 7 (!) hours there, and probably more money than we should have. The next day we had dinner at Sal-e-Pepe, a great Italian on the same street, where the house wine was actually really nice, and the menu made me want to order everything on it. The day after we went to Stravaigin, an elegantish pub/bar, also good. New Year’s Eve dinner was at Shalimar, which had an excellent all-you-can-eat Indian buffet. All these places were on Gibson Street, one minute’s walk from the Union, which made them extra convenient.

Lunch on New Year’s Day was slightly problematic, firstly because it was New Year’s Day, and secondly because we were trying to look for lunch at 4 pm, having only just got out of bed just before that. We finally found Lemon Tree, a Chinese place, and went in thankfully. It was rather curious, serving Chinese tea in English teacups, with an extremely Anglicized menu and what Nick described as chip shop gravy in his special chow mein. The owner had problems with English, which made me wonder why on earth he chose Glasgow of all places to set up shop. When my questions about what was in the special chow mein yielded the answer “Oh…er…it’s very special…”, I decided we weren’t getting anywhere and started speaking to him in Mandarin, to his visible relief.

So I suppose I’d say the city was no big deal, but we ate and drank well. Drinking well was especially satisfying given the fact that most of the alcohol at tournament social events was either free or heavily subsidised.

So that ends this account of our Glaswegian odyssey. Was it all worth it? As a rational cost-benefit analyser, I’d probably have to say no, but as the quirky passionate human being that I tend to be, I’d have to say yes, simply because I had to go to Worlds once, and I’ll freeze even worse in Toronto next year if I go again.

Now that’s all over: Debating, make haste to the backburner. Law, present thyself. Please.