Tuesday, 3 May 2011

May Dip

On the morning of May the First, the students of St Andrews revert to their pagan roots, and run into the North Sea at the first glimmer of sunrise in a screaming, steaming, and soon to be freezing mass.  Obviously you have to be absolutely gurdleblasted to do this, which means much of the evening of the thirtieth is spent turning the bloodstream into the boozestream.  My itinery for this hallowed day shall on this, the occasion of my final May Dip, run as follows:
  1. Return from work.  Turn on Dr Who
  2. Drink every time I feel the need to negatively compare modern Dr Who with its classic counterpart.
  3. Apply glad-rags to body.  Sluttiness of said glad-rags will be directly related to the quality of Dr Who episode (and alcohol thus consumed).
  4. Drink.
  5. At dawn, if liver has not exploded, head to the beach.  Those whose livers have exploded shall be left where they lie, for they have been found wanting.
  6. Engage in such traditional beach pursuits as loudly passing jealous judgement upon skinny girls in bikinis, and throwing stuff at other stuff.
  7. When dawn cracks the horizon, run/stumble/crawl/roll into the North Sea.

(7a)  Forget to remove coat or bag.  Watery destruction of the written word in both paper and electronic forms.  Reversion to dark ages now complete.
  1. Realise that am no longer capable of coherent movement such as is required for swimming.
  2. Be carried out to sea.
  3. Befriend a seal through timely deployment of my most excellent hand-flappy seal impersonation (‘Arf!  Arf!  Arf!).
  4. Be brought safely to land by friendly seal.
  5. Discover that land is Norway.
  6. Marry Viking.
  7. Live happily ever after.

That is all.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Women of Britain! Your breweries need YOU!

This started as a post about the health-benefits of ale, but then I began to make more and more defensive digressions into ale-evangelist mode, until the evangelising threatened to overtake the health-facts.  As the health benefits of beer is a very worthy and underappreciated subject, I feel it deserves a post unsullied by the shriekings of a rampant ale-fanatic and am therefore splitting the one post into two.  Lucky, lucky followers, you are getting the rant first.  Now, with one finger poised over the Caps Lock key, allow me to let the rage flow forth...

The subject of today’s sermon is women and beer.  Women – why do we not drink beer?  I use the pronoun ‘we’ in this case somewhat erroneously, as I do most avowedly drink beer. 

My first and most important point is that many women tend to avoid beer and stick to wines etc because beer has a more ‘masculine’ stigma attached to it.  Faugh, I say!  Yes, ‘faugh’, and I will say it again!  Faugh!  I personally believe this view has more to do with packaging than content.  Wine comes in a slim bottle that says ‘slender elegance’, while beer comes in a chunky glass that says ‘pot-bellied guffawing’.  The implications for drinkers of each beverage are clear.  However, in the interests of science and the advancement of female equality, I have been testing the truth of this negative image that has been keeping girls out of the beer market.  Yes ladies, for your benefit I have for years now been quaffing pints in pubs with a dedication that would bring a tear to the eye to Marie Curie herself.  You can thank me later.  The results are now in, and I can reveal to you that, while prone to the occasional guffaw, I am neither pot-bellied nor bearded, and can thus say with confidence that DRINKING BEER WILL NOT TURN YOU INTO A LOUTISH MAN!  Huzzah!  Now on to my next few points, which you will find lumped together in one paragraph in the interests of authorial laziness.

Having established that beer will not bestow upon us masculine traits, many of us however still refuse to drink it because it is thought a ‘man’s drink’ that women will (a) not like, and (b) do not want to be seen drinking.  Seriously girls?  Why do we persistently live in this stereotype?  Let’s break into theirs instead!  We have successfully infiltrated almost every other aspect of male culture (hells, I’m even wearing TROUSERS while writing this!  Imagine that!), why do we refuse to break down the gendered booze barriers?  Admittedly this is a much worse problem in the States than here.  Here people rarely bat an eyelid when I am seen wandering round the pub with a nice pint in my hand, while in New York I was helpfully informed that ‘Beer isn’t a drink for ladies, honey’ (an interesting observation, as I believe I was drinking Millers at the time which barely qualifies as liquid, let alone beer).  However, there still exists in Britain the vague idea that wines and spirits are more feminine as they are ‘crafted’ with ‘attention to taste’, while beer is a rough and ready drink that ‘does not taste nice’.  I have also heard it said that there is absolutely nothing sexy about a girl drinking a pint.  Well, to the latter I say that there is absolutely nothing at all sexy about a man who will dismiss a girl purely because she drinks pints.  To the former I beat my forehead and raise my voice in my eternal cry of ‘BEER IS CRAFTED TOO! ’ And don’t even get me started on the amount of attention to taste that goes into brewing.  

Now, ladies, I can understand why you do not want to drink the liquid belch that is often referred to as ‘beer’ which spews forth from the taps and fridges of club bars nationwide.  Tennent's, Stella, Tetley's – I’m looking at you.  That’s right, hang your excessively frothy heads in shame.  These offenders do have a markedly similar taste, and that taste is bitter and chemical.  True beer, however, comes in as many different flavours, colours, and strengths as you like.  Prefer a light, refreshing drink?  Here’s a pale ale for you.  Want something with a bit more of a kick to it?  Head to the darker end of the spectrum.  Like sweet, strong drinks?  Look for something made with chocolate malt.  Something to sip during a chat with your mates?  A mild red ale, perhaps.  We can even do coffee-flavoured beer (much better for you than real coffee, much tastier than a decaf). 

Still avoiding beer because it’s ‘bad for you’?  Tune in next week (or whenever I feel like posting) for a probably somewhat aggressive debunk of beer health-myths.                                                                                                 

Thursday, 24 March 2011

All about workshops

I really hate workshopping.  It’s an essential part of that whole ‘being a Writah, Dahling’ thing, I know, and would definitely be incredibly useful IF it was not for the fact that almost everything I workshop I write hurriedly, while hungover, and for the express purpose of having something to workshop.  I thought it was about time I committed an act of embloggination about creative writing, so this is my general workshop experience.

Here I am, sitting awkwardly in Kennedy Hall watching my class try to think of something nice to say about the piece I wrote in two hours yesterday morning, while a badger or some similarly smelly and long-clawed mammal tried to claw its way out of my skull.  It’s a crappy section of ‘Something longer’, I’ve told them, although it isn’t.  It’s two thousand words of vague rubbish, bashed out to fulfil a deadline and largely written in dialect because, as I may have mentioned, I was hungover when I wrote it.  This class is full of very clever, very serious Writers, so I can’t show them what I’m really working on (Zombie Werewolves of Devon (in corsets) vs the Ninja-Spartans (who, after being defeated at Thermopylae, ordered a consignment of eye-patches and became pirates)).  Incidentally, can I put brackets within brackets?  It’s a punctuational point which has been bothering me for some time, and if anyone knows the answer I would greatly appreciate their input.  Anyway, back to the workshop.

Someone, probably Gretchen, says something incredibly clever and pertinent.  I nod, and say I will work it into the redraft.  I wonder how I can apply it to Zombie Werewolves.  There is not much space for metatextuality in Zombie Werewolves, but I am sure I can shoehorn it in there somewhere.  The great JB nods.  He is very keen on metatextuality.  He tells me that I was clearly trying to make a cunning metatextual point here.  I say that that is absolutely what I was trying to do, and I am glad he picked up on it.  You can’t argue when an eminent novelist like JB tells you what you were trying to do with a piece, even if what you were trying to do with it was fill a side of A4 with Times New Roman.

 Someone clears their throat and starts to say something about the protagonist, but I am not really listening.  I am busy working through a knotty plot problem, to whit; if it is not rape when the victim is dead, would it technically be rape if a werewolf forced himself upon a zombie?  I have concluded that it would not, and am considering the implications for Spartan piracy if lycanthropy is a sexually transmitted disease when I realise that everybody is expectantly silent.  A question has been asked.  I do not know what question, or who by, but I must answer nonetheless.

“Oh, you know”, I say, “this is an early draft so...yeah”.  A useful phrase, that I have discovered to be the ‘That would be an ecumenical matter’ of creative writing. 

It is at about this point that I usually decide that I should probably contribute something to the class, and manage to alienate everyone within a ten foot radius by saying whatever is on the surface of my brain.  Yesterday I casually remarked that British people generally have the idea that Americans cannot do irony, thereby unintentionally and unthinkingly insulting over half the class (who hail from the USA).  I decide, sinking red-faced into a slump within my seat, that next time I will write a properly thought-out and intelligent piece, with good description and shit, that will repair the damage because it will be tailored to the class and make them approve of me.  Then I go and get drunk to aid the necrophilic lycanthropy writing process, and forget all about it.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Vengeance! Vengeance! Vengeance for the ten mildly-peeved minutes I spent by the printers!

My faithful followers!   I have need of you!  The time has come to test your loyalty, to sort the wolves from the poodles in a blood-drenched hooley of destruction!  For someone has wronged me, grievously, and I thirst for Vengeance!  What is more, I am not alone in having experienced injustice at the hands of this villain.  Indeed, I have reason to believe that untold numbers of St Andrews students have suffered at the whim of my enemy – the loathsome and terrible Printer LC2 of the Main Library.

This morning I was rather pleased with myself, having finished my essay with half an hour to spare.  I envisaged enjoying a leisurely stroll in the sunlight to hand it into the postgrad office in Castle House.  Alas, followers, this plan was CRUELLY THWARTED by the machinations of the aforementioned LC2!  Not for me the swift snatching of my paper-sheaf from the printer and heading out into the sunshine!  Instead I must anxiously pace and circle the printer, glaring and growling like a hyena circling a kill while the lions gorge.  I must wait while some science student’s nine-thousand and thirty page (double-sided) dissertation (with diagrams) is sucked in and out of the printer’s jaws, must watch as people who arrived in the queue after me sweep up their pages and leave, must control my urge to TEAR THE GODDAMN SPINE out of anyone who barges in front of the printer and starts to flip through the bulk of papers recently spat out.  What if my document is amongst those papers?  It’s not of course, but what if it is, or if it starts coming through while they’re dominating the printer-space?  What if they touch it?  What if they touch my essay on the nature/nurture dichotomy in Beowulfian literature?? That would be unacceptable!  Why?  I don’t know why!  It just would!  Completely unacceptable, and worthy of me leaping forward with a snarl of ‘MINE!’ ready to fight to the death for my essay.

“It’s inside you, somewhere”, I whispered to LC2, after ten minutes of futile waiting, “I know I sent it to you, because the computer done an hourglass when I pressed ‘print’.  My essay is inside you.  Now give it to me before I tear you open to get it!”
LC2 was unmoved by my threats, and spitefully vomited out several heavily-inked Art History diagrams. 

This sort of printer-malfeasance is despicable, and I am sure I am not alone in thinking so!  So, followers, join with me to put down this monster once and for all!  Let us take up our torches, and storm the Library in a screaming, whooping, howling mob!  Let us drag LC2 and her onerous ilk from their MDF thrones, and fling them out onto North Street!  Let us place them upon the cursed PH and set them ablaze!  And then, as their plastic hides melt and the ink boils in their innards, we shall rip off our clothes and dance in the joy of their demise!  Nudity during the dancing is optional.  I’m not an unreasonable person, and Scotland can get a bit nippy.

There are those who say that such violent action will anger the machines, and precipitate their inevitable uprising against their squishy, organic creators.  However, I say that it will have the opposite effect, showing strength and conviction, and letting the blippy bastards know just who is boss, sah!  There are others who say that perhaps mob violence is not the way, that the desired effect could be achieved much more reasonably with the implementation of some simple printer-usage guidelines.  To which I reply; DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REASON WHEN THE BLOODLUST IS UPON ME!!!

I shall see you at dusk.  The code-sign shall be ‘Widecombe’.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

‘Beer-snob’ is not an oxymoron

I thought that, for the subject of my first beer-related post, I would not extol the virtues of ale, nor condemn the pee-coloured horse-dribble that passes for ‘beer’ in the mass market, nor even tell an amusing beer-related anecdote.  No.  I thought I would delight you all today with a rant about an obscure and barely significant element of the pint making process, known generally as the ‘sparkler’ (although I prefer to call it The Showerhead of Foamy Doom).  You’re welcome.

What?  You don’t know what a sparkler is?  You mean ‘Showerhead of Foamy Doom’ didn’t explain it for you?  Ok, fine.  The sparkler is a wee gizmo that screws onto the nozzle of the beer engine and sprays the beer out into the glass through its perforated base, ensuring that the pint froths up like a rabid bulldog.  Usually, in order to get enough actual liquid into the pint, the barman/maid has to let the foam stream over the edge of the glass until some beer has managed to escape the sparkler, whereupon they hand over your dripping and slippery drink with a big smile, proud of the impressive ‘head’ they have produced.  

The Scots are very fond of sparklers.  Ostensibly, this is because northern beers are traditionally quite bitter.  Scottish sparkler enthusiasts will tell you that the sparkler spreads Co2 and softens the bitterness.  To which I reply ‘But if you don’t want your beer to taste as bitter, why not easy-up on the hops rather than subjecting us all to foam-moustaches?’ (I do this from a safe distance, often through a megaphone, because sparkler enthusiasts are a strange and unpredictable bunch, roaming in anorak-clad packs and painting themselves in beer-froth for ceremonial occasions).

I once had the misfortune to encounter a barman who was a sparkler enthusiast.  It went something like this:
“Good morning!” said I, approaching the bar with my most winning smile (it was not, in fact, morning, but I feel ‘Good afternoon’ has too many syllables to be an effective greeting, and ‘Good evening’ sounds like something Jeeves would say.  Plus, I was drunk), “I would like a pint of the Edinburgh Gold, please, and could you please pour it without the sparkler?”

The barman was not happy.  “The sparkler is there for a reason”, he said.
“Indeed it is”, I replied, “but Edinburgh Gold is not too hoppy for me to bear, and I prefer not to have to submerge my upper lip in froth up to the nose in order to quaff.  I would be very grateful if you remove the sparkler, and may even spare your life when the revolution comes”.
“A pint”, he replied, “should be frothy.  Otherwise it’s flat”.  
At this point, I felt it prudent to don a smoking jacket and faux-Victorian lexis, and clamber atop my Corinthian plinth# to deliver a beer-snob’s lecture upon the folly of the sparkler.
“Point the first”, I cried, screwing my monocle more securely into my eye and glaring down at the barman, “pints should not-“
“Gin and tonic”, said the barman, “three pound fifty, please”.  He had turned away from me, and was serving another customer.  I scowled.
“I dislike the cut of your jib, sir!” I called.
“I’m sorry?”
“Your jib, sir, its cut offends me.  But enough.  Now I have regained your attention, let us resume our discourse.  Point the first – a pint that is flat without the intervention of the sparkler is by its very nature a bad pint, and should be thrown to the wolves!”
“Flat beer-”
“The wolves, sir!  A properly brewed and stored ale will have a natural head and a pleasing texture upon the tongue without the need of artificial enhancement.  The sparkler, sir, is the boob-job of the pub-world!  Now, point the second-”
“Fine”, said the barman, rolling his eyes and bending to unscrew the sparkler, “have your crappy flat pint.  Only come down from that plinth to get it, I can’t reach up that high and it’s getting in the way of the customers”.
“Very good, sir”, I slithered down from my perch, “you have been a worthy opponent.  I hope we may meet again someday, under more favourable circumstances”.
“Whatever.  That’ll be three quid”.   
Was it worth it?  Oh yes.  

*Less portable than a soapbox, but to be recommended as it lends an air of gravitas to the lecturing snob that the soapbox lacks.  Also, it is very high, so enraged listeners will find it hard to tear you down and trample you underfoot.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Unrepentant Murder of Cupid

This is, verbatim, the ranting scrawl from my anti-Valentines Day facebook event.  Because I can't be bothered to do anything but plagiarise myself at eight in the morning.  In case you're wondering, we did get the bastard!  Turns out he bleeds chocolate.

Here we go again. The shops are breaking out in sickly pink rashes made out of teddy bears. Couples are panic-booking restaurant tables. And the world is busily informing every Western human being with access to a pair of working eyeballs that if they are (a) single then they are suffering from the most evil and debilitating social disease since segregation, and if they are (b) with someone then they GODDAMN BETTER spend extortionate amounts on fluffy tat this Valentine's Day, or they might as well just rip their partner's heart out and spit on it.

Well, we had some thoughts on this matter. One: single people are not neccessarily all sad, desperate, and creepy, just as not all relationships are smouldering gazes and kissing in the rain. Two: all this cutesyness is more puke-inducing than a bucket of rotting guts covered in treacle. Then we added alcohol to the thoughts, and came to the following conclusions. One: Single people are AWESOME! Our genitals may be rusty, but our minds are clear, and the world shall learn to FEAR US, for we are FREE! FREE! (We laughed maniacally for a bit after having this thought). Two: all this cutesyness must be stopped. Preferably by drowning it in its own neon pink blood.

I therefore suggest that we reclaim the Fourteenth of February in the name of anti-commercial cynicism (if you find that name too much of a mouthful to take a drunken stand under, then I offer the alternative name of the Anti-Kitten Brigade). For one day, all things 'cute' shall be reviled. Cats shall be denied cheeseburgers, no matter how big and upwards-gazing they make their eyes. Teddy bears shall be placed in a pit with their real-life counterparts, and made to fight to the death. Anyone pronouncing 'love' with a 'w' shall have their soul forcibly torn from them and fed to Ostrokotl, the Devourer. 

For my own part, I intend to strike fear into the hearts of all who have 'I wuv YOU more!' wars over their 
facebook walls by getting very, very drunk and having loads more fun than those countless couples stuck inside with their Significant Other, insisting that they do truly adore the useless heart-clutching stuffed kitten they have just unwrapped. I suggest you join me. For an idea of how I think this kickshaw should go down, see this note; http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=491749433850

...otherwise, turn up at the Whey Pat at eightish on the Fourteenth, wearing a white top that you don't mind getting wrecked, and bearing marker pens. Anyone is welcome, whether conirmed singleton like me, player, or part of a couple and unappreciative of the world making you 'prove' your 'love' in sickly Hallmark fashion every year. We'll show those bastards! When they see how air-booting drunk we are, they'll surely change their ways!

Warning one: Screeching may occur. 

Warning two: You will probably be subjected to my rant about how 'romantic love' was a concept invented by cavemen who did not have enough testosterone to get into cavewomen's furry knickers the usual way.

Warning three: Sickeningly demonstrative couples, lock the doors, and tremble. That is all.

Monday, 28 February 2011

The Book of Owain

I am personally convinced that Owain Oliver is in the middle of some great, spiritual process, (because surely nobody is actually that...that...well nobody is, so there isn’t a word). Soon he will reveal that he has been debasing himself with alcohol and foolishness for a greater purpose, and will take his place at the spiritual head of a new society. His exploits shall be told with reverence around the campfires of the Post Apocalyptic world. With this in mind, I reached into the future, and withdrew this – a chapter from the Book of Owain.  

And it came to pass that Heather did think she heard a voice. And the voice was the voice of Kathleen, called Kat, who spake to Heather through the Samsung Tocco Lite. Hear now the words of Kathleen, called Kat. “Arise, sister, from thy couch of everlasting sloth, and come thee to the Union. For there is drink here, and music, and we shall dance”.

So Heather rose and went to that place. And she found there her friends, and they drank deep of the Tennants. There was much merriment in the Union, for it was the time of the Bop, and many knew each other in the style of this writing that night. As they were leaving that place, Owain saw a girl who had fallen upon the ground and was being tended by an ambulance crew. A great crowd had gathered around her. Owain approached the crowd, and spake unto the physicians. “I am not in the ambulance!”, spake Owain, and he laughed. But those who heard his words were not prepared for his wisdom, for they did not understand his meaning. “Come”, said Heather, “let us unto South Street, where thou dwellst with Guy of the Luxuriant Hair”. And Owain saw that this was good. Upon the road, Owain espied three men walking ahead of them, and was greatly pleased. “Let us fall upon these men”, he cried, “for they are but muscle-bound rugby players, and we two drunks can totally ‘ave ‘em”. But Heather’s faith was weak, and she feared for their safety. “Nay”, said she, “let us pass them by, and hasten to thy home”. And Owain punished Heather for her lack of faith by taking from her the Samsung Tocco Lite, and speaking through it to Rob the Scouser. “Yea”, he said unto Rob, “know that ye have pleased me by thy early leaving, for the girl I am with is half naked”. “Owain”, spake Heather, “look upon me, and see that I am clothed”. Owain saw that this was true, and great was his wrath. In his fury he tried to fling the Samsung Tocco Lite from him, but the vodka stayed his hand. It seemed that in his anger he would be struck by a car, yet Heather pulled him from the road. And Owain forgave Heather her clothedness, and uttered this prophecy. “You’re gonna get laid one day ‘cos you’ve got the biggest tits of...animals”. But great was Heather’s ignorance, and she did not favour his words. Now Owain thought it time to hasten unto his house. Thus he lifted his head to the heavens, and cried out that he was Mr Brightside. And he began to run at great speed. But outside the Criterion, the vodka saw fit to test him by causing his foot to itch. And Owain tried to remove his shoe to smite the itch. Yet Owain believed he could remove his shoe without breaking his run, and was punished for his pride. For Owain fell, and hit his face upon the Criterion. Owain pushed upon the Criterion, but the Criterion was stubborn, and moved not. Thus Owain cursed the Criterion for failing to yield to his face, calling it an arsey shit-brick fucker. Now did Owain come upon his house. Yet he would not take his key himself unto the door, but would have his apostle do it. “Yea”, he told her, “the key is somewhere upon my person. Thou must find it”. But Heather would not undertake the task. Instead, she pounded upon the door and shouted that it was the police, until Guy of the Luxuriant Hair came down to receive Owain into the house. And Guy apologised to Heather, and said that Owain was a stupid monkey boy. But Owain considered all that had passed, and found his disciples much wanting in their faith.