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Become a wood pigeon using just your hands and breath! June 23, 2007

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Impressive! Imitate the calls of the wood pigeon and collared dove using your bare hands. Confuse them in their natural habitat. Show your friends. Hours of fun!

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At last. April 30, 2007

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I got the DVD recorder today, so I am now in the 21st century.

It is the LG DR175. £79.99.

However, I had to sit on a bus for an hour and a half on the way there, and an hour and a half on the way back, and I even had to pay £4.40 for the privilege. The bus was far from direct! It went via Westgate-on-Sea, Margate and Broadstairs before even considering going to Westwood Cross. Public transport in Kent is not yet worthy of the 21st century.

Thankfully, thanks to the miracle of modern technology (i.e. the iPod), I was able to catch up on two episodes of the fantastic and hilarious National Theatre of Brent‘s latest masterpiece, The Arts And How They Was Done, on the way.

FURIOUS ANGER!!! April 29, 2007

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Shopping is NOT fun.

Not any more, at least. I’m not the sort of person who goes down the High Street and just buys something. I have to look EVERYWHERE to find the best possible price. I have to scour the Internet for HOURS. Then, and only then, will I buy something from an actual shop, but only if it’s cheaper or if they will match the cheaper price (which most shops will. MOST shops.).

I have just spent 3 weeks trying to find a paperback book for the best possible price. I eventually bought it at full price (£7) yesterday, having not found it in any of the discount bookshops. The book is Join Me by Danny Wallace, and I have bought it because I have recently enjoyed reading his “other” book, Yes Man, and I know that Join Me will be good.

The 3 weeks that I spent finding the damn book have not been enjoyable: they have been 3 weeks of utter torment, in which my mind has wrestled with itself over whether or not to just buy the damn book and stop being such a tight bastard.

Now I am in the middle of another purchasing battle (fought only by myself), this time over something far more expensive: a DVD recorder.

I saw this thing a few weeks ago in Comet in Canterbury, and decided against buying it because it costs so much (£79.99). Yesterday Chelle  and I decided to stop messing about and just buy it. Of course, I knew that, given the time that had passed since I last saw it in Comet, it would no longer be there, especially as this was the best price I had seen it for anywhere, including the Internet. This is a rare occurrence for a shop, it seems.

Anyway, today, I got up and went out to Comet to buy it. They didn’t have it! An assistant told me it had been discontinued but there were 4 left in Margate, and looking at the screen I could tell there were a few more in various other Comets (3 in Maidstone, and a couple in Halley’s as well).

“Sod that!”, I thought, “I’m not going to Margate just to buy this thing, especially when I know they’ve got them for £100 in Curry’s in town, and I KNOW that they will match the price for me!”.

I went to Curry’s, in the rain. Sure enough, they had a few of these DVD recorders left. I asked the assistant, who said that they’d be able to match the price as long as it was the normal price (which it is!), and proceeded to try and fail to use Google to search for Comet in Margate. The assistant (whose gender I shall not reveal) also had trouble spelling “comet”, for the love of God. It’s no surprise, then, that they concluded that the Comet call centre to whom they had got through could not find the DVD recorder on their database, and therefore they couldn’t match the price.

Maybe if they’d got through to Margate in the first place, which I’m SURE it is possible to do, they’d have been able to match the price. They even said that it wasn’t on Comet’s website. Well, no shit! It’s not on Comet’s website, and nor is half the stuff they sell because their website is SHIT,  and in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s not on your sodding website either! So what difference does that make?!

I’m not one to put £20 worth of gullibility into the trouser pocket of a major electronics retailer, so I walked out of the shop, seething.

Tomorrow I will go and spend my £79.99 in a shop where they are decent enough not to ask for an additional £20 for the same product. My latest long-term struggle with the retailers will be over.

And the DVD recorder will be mine.

Rubber band gun parts required! April 18, 2007

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I’m looking for 24 sets of plastic rubber band gun escapement mechanisms (the trigger and plastic cog wheel). Please leave a comment if you know where I can get hold of these parts!

The Ideal Pub Quiz?! March 14, 2007

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There are many variations of the pub quiz, and some are better than others. None, however, compare to the quiz at The Moon Under Water.

There is no prize money at this quiz, the organisers having long since abandoned it in favour of a charitable donation out of the pub’s own takings during the night (this being, of course, the most profitable night of the week at The Moon). You may regard this as a bad move, as there’s no point in attending a quiz if you can’t win anything; on the contrary, I am of the opinion that the lack of prize money encourages a much more light-hearted attitude within teams and allows everyone to enjoy themselves much more.

Once your team arrives at the pub, they will be shown to their table (which would have been booked during the previous week because the quiz is so popular, and rightfully so!).

There are nine rounds: eight rounds of ten questions each, split into two halves of 4 rounds, and a picture round (of ten pictures) to ponder during the interval. This gives a maximum of ninety points, brought up to 100 by the joker round.

The rounds are all named semi-cryptically, and teams are able to view the list of rounds at their table, choose which round to play their joker on, and decide on their team name before the quiz.

Before the quiz itself begins, teams give in their joker round choice to the quiz master, who then reads off the roll-call of team names (which are, of course, often topical and often hilarious).

Since the quiz is weekly, the rounds are varied and are different every week, with the exception of the first round (current affairs) and the final round (general knowledge).

Questions are asked clearly over the pub’s PA system, twice so that everyone gets to hear them properly, and are answered on the answer sheets (one sheet per round, all given out in one go at the beginning of the quiz). At the end of each round, the quiz master tours the pub to ask each team if they would like any questions repeated.

Teams then swap answer sheets to be marked, with half-points given for half-correct answers, and double points given for the team’s Joker round. Fear not, though, of draconian or inept marking, as all the answer sheets are then collected to be checked by the quiz master’s assistant during the next round. That being said, there’s no prize money anyway, and it’s all for charity, so everyone has lots of fun finding out if their answers were right.

In the middle of the pub there is a screen on which a computerised scoreboard grid is projected, with team names down the side and round numbers along the top. Teams can then check their results on the scoreboard and see how well they are (not) doing. The scorer rearranges the list of teams on the scoreboard after each round’s scores have been submitted, to show a true leader board. Teams who have not played their joker yet are highlighted.

After four rounds, the picture round is given out and the break begins. The picture round is not just “famous faces” every week! Sometimes it’s a set of close-ups of objects and sometimes the pictures are of landmarks or places. There are a variety of topics that can be covered by the picture round. Teams have enough time during the break to buy a round of drinks and contemplate the whole of the picture round. Finally, before the start of the second half, the quiz master gives a rundown of the scoreboard for those who cannot see it.

The picture round is gathered in after the final set of rounds and is added to the scoreboard, whereupon the quiz master gives a final rundown of the scores and announces the winner. Everybody goes home happy, having enjoyed themselves very much at the finest pub quiz in England.

So, I can almost hear you ask, where is The Moon Under Water? Well, as you may already have guessed, it does not exist except in my fevered imagination. I have yet to experience this utopian quiz.

The one at the Dolphin in Canterbury comes close, though …

James Bond Daniel Craig in Celebrity Amalgamation SHOCKER! January 5, 2007

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Underground Masker reviewed! December 19, 2006

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View the Teletext review here!

House of Steel bolognese: three days on and still king of foods December 19, 2006

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  • The great House of Steel spaghetti bolognese that I made a good few days ago now has provided me for three full pasta-bolognese dinners and two Bolognese Tower Sandwiches, and there’s even a bit left over for another such sandwich tomorrow!I think that spag bol should be one of the central dishes of every student repertoire (and repertoire of those masquerading as students, such as myself!).The other dish is the legendary Five Fish Finger Sandwich with Spinach and Salad-cream (FFFSSS).A box of fish fingers, then, and the ingredients for the bolognese, should almost sort one student out for food for about a week.
  • Also, I learnt a new Latin phrase today. It is useful to say it in a conversation to make yourself SEEM intellectually superior. The phrase is nihil radicibus sparget.


On Jeans December 18, 2006

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Today, while Christmas shopping, I thought I ought to find myself some jeans.

“Easy!”, you cry. No! Not for me. I need bootcut jeans, preferably dark, of 30″ waist and long (32-33″) leg.

32 is just too large a waist for me, and 30 too short a leg.

The alternative, which is what I am sometimes forced to do, is to buy the 32 waist “Long” leg and wear a belt, but the jeans just don’t look as good! They look ill-fitting in the upper region, where I like my jeans to be fairly snugly fitting, in order that my bottom doesn’t look swamped by them, and they then don’t make me look short.

The reason that I need bootcut ones is that with normal fit jeans, trainers look really stupid.

Another problem is that, in a few shops, the jeans have a hipster-style waist!! I’m not the sort of fellow who has his boxers sticking out above his jeans (or, at least, not obviously!), and I also find this style quite uncomfortable to wear! For the love of God, the hipster style is designed to hang nicely from the shapely hips of women, not the straight-sided male physique! It almost doesn’t work, save for the presence of the arse, which just about holds it up.

Fashion just DOESN’T GET IT, does it?

Why can I find hundreds of pairs of dark bootcuts, but none of them fit?!

Is the problem that most men are tall and skinny, and buy all the 30L jeans
before I have a chance to?
Or do jeans manufacturers overestimate the largeness of the members of the young-adult market that they are supposed to cater for?

Back me up. What’s YOUR jeans size?

An update of sorts! December 3, 2006

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The postulations of where I disappeared to have flooded in, but I must surface from my gone-to-groundedness to verify that they are, indeed, false!

I have not joined the Amish!

No! This year, I have gone to Canterbury this year, where I am enjoying a rather less metropolitan existence.
However, I am forced to listen to the godawful Invicta FM during the day sometimes, which is so bad because there are a number of songs in their “today’s BEST mix!” (a lie) that are played at least three times in five hours. These songs are:
The Feeling – Never Be Lonely
(I don’t know who it is) – Trouble In America (if that’s what it’s called)
… and a whole host of other rubbish and/or annoying songs! Bloody hell! Trading Standards should be on their case: this is NOT today’s BEST mix or whatever they dare call it. What nonsense!

In other news, I am playing the splendid Morrowind (because my computer is not powerful enough for Oblivion!). It is the most absorbing experience evar.

And finally, DO NOT sign up to Tiscali’s broadband service. They managed to delay  my connection for about six weeks, only getting their rses in gear once I’d written a two-page letter of complaint.

That is all!

Custom poi made to order June 25, 2006

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In London a month or two ago, I encountered a gentleman named Luke, who had organised a hide-and-seek game in the Maughan library. He had been spinning poi for some time, and would spin them with a group of friends in the library garden on nice days, as a break from revision. I had a go at this sometimes-relaxing, sometimes-energetic pursuit and was, of course, hooked.

The poi he used were made of ripstop nylon and had been bought from the juggling shop, Oddballs, in Camden. I’m vaguely familiar with the shop, so I went there with visions of spinning poi on a sunny riverbank and the intention of buying a set of poi for myself and for Chelle, who I thought would also enjoy spinning them.

When I got there, though, I was disgusted to find that they cost £22 a set. Maximum disappointment.

I’m not the sort of person who parts with £44 just like that, so I went home empty-handed and pretty damn disappointed as well, and had to tell Chelle about the surprise present that I’d ended up not buying her.

I told Luke I’d make my poi instead.
He asked me to make some for him too. I said I would and they’d be cheaper than the equivalents from the Camden shop.
POISON Poi in Sunshine Yellow /  Hot Pink
Now, having made absolutely loads of them and become proficient, may I say so myself, Chelle and I have set up POISON Poi. We’ll make you a set of custom-made poi for just £14.95 a set – a saving of more than £7 per set, compared to Oddballs. We’ll also add additional swivels and customise the stitching on the tails if you like.
Poison Poi label
Head on over to www.poisonpoi.co.uk to read more about our marvellous poi.

Chipped my tooth! June 25, 2006

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For the first time in my life, I chipped a tooth last night. It was my right maxillary central incisor. The chip itself was only about 0.5mm by 3mm, horizontal, and it came from the very end of the tooth. It doesn’t hurt so I’m not overly worried about it. It does mean a trip to the dentist to have it smoothed, though, which is never a good thing.

Untitled – no title will fit the total madness of the day June 13, 2006

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Bear with me. This is long and may not make sense in parts.

Last night, I had a lift into Chesham to stay with Ollie on the eve of a Tube Challenge, in which Adham and I would attempt to visit all the Tube stations and break the World Record, with Ollie being our support team, all for Cancer Research UK. As we drove to Chesham, I felt like an astronaut walking out to the Shuttle – the atmosphere was one of bizarre trepidation, nerves and fear.

We reached Chesham and I entered Ollie’s flat, which is a lovely place. Adham turned up later on, we had an Underground Masker acoustic singalong, and made final preparations of the route. We eventually tried to get to sleep and ended up with 2-3 hours each before the alarm at 0415 signalled time to wake up, and so we did.

Taxi into Amersham cost £7 between us, and we arrived there in good time for Adham and me to buy a day travelcard, zones A-D. The first train pulled up, the driver signed the witness form for us and we were away.

A series of good connections in the beginning, including a good one at Harrow, saw me feeling exhausted and quite ill, but I soon recovered from that, as we continued into central london to make some more reasonable connections.

Legendary bus connections at the eds of the Northern line and the Piccadilly and Jubilee lines saw us make up time, and at one point we were 20 minutes ahead of plans. However, that soon changed, with a long wait at one end-of-line station due to a defective train, and an assortment of other delays. Things were looking very grim when the ENTIRE District line was completely suspended, so we decided to do all the other lines first before the District. We were dropping further and further behind schedule and it became clear that a world record was going to be impossible today. Ollie lost his week’s Zones 1-D travelcard on the Piccadilly line and Chris Presswell brought us lunch. It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. The SEVERELY THE WORST of the times, in fact.

A swift change at Piccadilly Circus saw us heading for Baker Street, where the fun began.

Ollie retired because he felt drained and low following the loss of his travelcard and the general crapness of the day so far, and the remaining three of us walked to Great Portland Street and went up to Epping and back.

Steven left us; Adham and I then did the East London Line.

On arrival at Canning Town on the Jubilee, the heavens opened. When we exited the tunnel at Surrey Quays (ELL), the rain was so torrential (a thunderstorm, see) that the windows of the train had become like glass waterfall features. I took a short video of this.

Then, eventually, after pondering the New Cross run, we did it.

The rainwater at New Cross was flowing down the platforms in wide rivers from overflowing drains. At the top of the road, near the bridge, there was a huge deluge across the width of the road and pavement, effectivel blocking access to New Cross Gate. I took a couple of photographs, which I’ll upload soon.

We decided to go back to New Cross and continue from there. The train departed just before we got to it. Next one, 11 minutes. New Cross Gate it was, then.

It was raining inside the ticket hall at New Cross Gate – I thought it wouldn’t be long before the station was closed due to health and safety as the ceiling, and electric lights, were literally dripping with all the water that had collected on the roof. We went to the Tube platform, whereupon service was withdrawn from New Cross Gate.

“Let’s BR it to London bridge, then!” I said, in faux-enthusiasm. We got to the BR platform, whereupon services were also suspended.

New Cross again, then, via the flood, where pedestrians had formed an impromptu problem-solving task force and laid out blocks of newspapers and a plastic barrier as stepping stones, so that some brave folk could get across at least as far as the shallow water and make it to New Cross. Photos soon.

By this time, I’d absolutely had enough. I was chafing painfully in two uncomfortable places, my trainers were soaking wet, the police had harassed me unnecessarily, the route was ruined and we were probably an hour and a half behind if not more, loads of the Tube was suspended and we had barely done half the network for charity. The situation was absolutely soul-destroying.

I decided to go home to Dunstable there and then (I ended up back at the House of Steel, since Luton is apparently not in any travelcard Zone, although I could have sworn you could get to it on a zone D travelcard). Adham went to meet Ric since Ollie had gone to Brighton in total dejection (same feeling as I had, although I could argue with him over whose situation was the worse) and Adham couldn’t stay there.

Adham, I’m sorry for leaving you like that, and I do feel awful for it. I am officially a Bad Person.

I’m going home tonight, then, to gie Chelle a hug and have a bath and relax after wha could be one of the worst Tube Challenges ever attempted.

PS. Thanks to the lovely folks on the day who helped us by being witnesses or taking an interest and cheering us up, thanks to the man on the Jubilee train who spontaneously donated about a pound’s worth of spare change there and then to Cancer Research, thanks to Chris Presswell, Steven karahan and Ollie Lewisohn who did sterling work helping us out on the way, including a few AWESOME bus connections, and thanks to the driver of the Picc train at Cockfosters who knew just what we were doing and gave us the train number and even some line closure advice. You are the people who make the Tube Challenge world go around.

Finally, thanks to LUL and Metronet for running an A1, tip-top, first class service today. It doesn’t get any better than that. Here, have all my money for that ticket price hike. Put your feet up, have another tea break and go on strike again – you deserve it!

Tube World Record bid for Cancer Research June 6, 2006

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On Tuesday June 13th, Adham and I will try to break the Guinness World Record for travelling around all Tube stations in the fastest time.

We’re doing it for an excellent charity: Cancer Research UK, in memory of Chelle‘s Auntie Helen, who passed away last year.

Sponsor us via online payment (it’s secure) at http://justgiving.com/donationstations . Even the smallest donation will be gladly accepted. We’re more determined than ever to smash the World Record this time. Not even the severest of delays will stop us!

It is done! May 28, 2006

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All my exams are done (this was why I was quiet for a couple of weeks) and I can finally recommence timewasting.

Things I will be mentioning before long include:
– The sets of practice poi that I’m making with Chelle
– The Tring Canal Festival 2006
– Two sponsored charity Tube Challenge world record attempts within 4 days of each other

…and all sorts of other frivolities!

Whoever said London Underground use metric time? May 16, 2006

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There’s an old joke that time on the Tube is metric – ie. there are 100 seconds in a minute. I decided to test this.

Arriving at Manor House tube station, southbound, no train was displayed on the indicator board. They only appear when they’re 4 minutes away. Eventually, of course, one flashed onto the screen, 4 minutes away. This was at 12:37:30.

I waited and waited, and the minutes (irregularly) ticked away, and eventually the train burst into the station and drew to a halt at 12:41:40. That’s 4 minutes and ten seconds.

Were these 4 estimated minutes metric, the train would have arrived in 400 seconds = 6 minutes 40 seconds. Going by this, it was two-and-a-half minutes early!

But seriously, folks. At this station, the trains come when they say they will (in general)!

I suppose I ought not blog this… May 14, 2006

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…because I ought to be doing quantum, which I will do as soon as I’ve printed the past papers, but anyway, I had to say this.

A series of thefts have taken place in the library on Chancery Lane. I think they take place every day. About a week ago, my housemate had his iPod Mini stolen, and just the other day I was sitting at a desk opposite my friend Viv, when the person who was sat next to her had her phone stolen from her desk – and neither of us noticed! The phone in this case could have been in the girl’s bag all along, but Viv didn’t steal it and I certainly didn’t.

Still, I suppose it serves all these people right. It is a foolish and naiive person indeed who leaves their valuables on a desk in a library while they go about their business. Perhaps they are strange dreamers, living in a beautiful world of flowers and kittens where everyone is nice and nobody’s a criminal and no-one ever gets hurt.

These are the sort of people who cross the road without looking and get hit by cars, or think they can waltz across at their own self-centred pace and everyone will slow down for them. They bloody well deserve it when they end up in hospital.

I always look when I’m crossing the road, and, touch wood, I’ve survived so far without breaking a single bone. Furthermore, I always take my MP3 player, my phone, wallet, Oyster card, student card, watch, fountain pen and even pencil case (!) with me when I leave my desk for more than 5 seconds (for example, I would only leave the stuff on the desk if I was putting something in a bin 3 desks away). The only stuff I leave there are books belonging to the library and my notes. I don’t think there are many physicists here desperate enough to steal someone else’s notes.

It’s not difficult to stuff your things into your bag and take that with you when you go for a leak. The length of time you leave your things lying around for is utterly irrelevant, as someone can walk into a room, snatch your phone and MP3 player and walk out in under ten seconds.

I have also become concerned about the apathy and sheer arrogance exhibited by my housemates regarding locking – and even CLOSING – windows and outside doors when they leave the house.

I can’t wait to live in a house with sensible people who care about their possessions, their surroundings and their fellow men and women.

Dream number 2 May 14, 2006

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Last night’s dream was also rather strange. Here’s what I can remember of it.

I went to a play performed by… I can’t remember exactly, but one of them was my plasma/particle physics lecturer, Prof. Michette. The play involved a handgun on at least one occasion. Chelle was, of course, in the dream as well.

Then, later on, I was down in a Tube station (probably Holborn) with Chelle, and I tried to buy something from a chocolate machine. It was a bag of small, colourful sweets, if I remember correctly All the options were 60p, a rip-off consistent with real life, however the 10p coin in my dream looked more like a 50p, which is not much like real life. Sadly, there were no more such sweets left in the machine, so it spat out my change, which was in the form of relatively large, rectangular, matte purple “coins” with various things embossed on them.

One such depiction was that of Monica Richards from Faith and the Muse, who then (it being a dream) turned up at the chocolate machine, and I asked her to sign the coin with a gold pen in my bag. That’s just about all I can remember this time!

Manna from Heaven! May 13, 2006

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Walking back to the library having had a burger for tea, I was surprised by a bizarre event. I was happily walking along and minding my own business, when something fell to the ground just in front of my face, skimming my forehead on the way.

As it landed I stopped abruptly for a moment, then briefly continued walking, wondering what the hell was going on. It only registered what this thing was when I was a few paces on: a porn magazine! Not your average lads’ mag, either. A young woman, leaning against the building from whence it fell, remarked, “I thought you’d dropped that for a second!”

A fair assumption. After all, I’m always reading magazines while I’m walking, usually pornographic ones, and randomly dropping them such that they fall from the sky and narrowly miss the top of my head. OF COURSE I DIDN’T BLOODY WELL DROP IT! Christ! Some people!

I looked up at the building, expecting to see someone’s ugly mug grinning idiotically down at me, but there was no such face. Instead, I shouted up to the building, “You missed!”, and continued my daily business. As I walked away in disbelief, I heard someone behind me saying, “Hmm! Porn!” …

This reminds me of an incident that happened when I was living back up at the first House of Steel.

I was walking behind two women when there was a crash – someone had thrown a table out of a window, aiming for it to land in a skip on the road, but instead it had fallen short onto the pavement, less than a metre in front of these women’s faces. If that had been me I would have gone absolutely ballistic. Instead I had to put up with simply being disgusted at these workmen’s absolute idiocy.

Hide and Seek: Excellent! May 13, 2006

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Today was the inaugural Maughan Library Hide and Seek night.

The KCL library at Chancery Lane is a truly excellent building. It used to be the Public Records Office, but once that was moved (to God knows where), it was refurbished thanks to some enormous grant from some bloke called Maughan, and now it’s absolutely lovely.

The hide and seek game, starting at 10pm in the cafe and organised via the wonderful Facebook by a smashing chap called Luke, was split into 3 rounds involving different sections of the lower levels of the library. About 15 of us turned up and we all went off to hide.

My hiding place was excellent – in the Humanities store, there are a series of moving bookcases, behind which are a couple of alcoves. I curled up in one of the alcoves having slid the bookcases back across to block the entrance – and although no less than FOUR people came to look for me and were within a metre of finding me, they just didn’t consider moving the bookcases and I wasn’t found for the duration of the 15-minute round. Some extremely good hiding places were found tonight.

The camaraderie of the evening’s proceedings was excellent, and all the people there were magnificent and great fun. Sadly, I’ll be leaving this university soon and there will be no more hide and seek for me.