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Just another one of those...

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» Nights Out Gone Wrong

Once upon a time,
back in the era when I could be classified as "but a nipper," I attended a boarding school for a few years.

This was before the days of readily-available alcohol, as we were a bit too young to be able to pass off a proof-of-age test. Nevertheless, some of us decided that it would be a good idea to go into the nearest town and "frolic." I use this term as I feel that it applies equally to the SU booze-filled antics of uni. In the sense that we decided to temporarily liberate some street furniture and associated roadworks paraphernalia. And temporary it would turn out to be.

First stop was the supermarket on the other side of town, where we borrowed a couple of shopping trollies and proceeded to the nearest steep-ish hill. On the way we acquired some of the aforementioned traffic cone helmets and barrier lances and chariot-jousted our way to a good time. And all without serious injury.

Eventually tiring of this pastime we repaired to our school, now some miles away, pausing only to discard our trollies full of orange lights and temporary speed limit signs just before we reached the school gates. In a roadblock. Across the whole road. Just as the police drove past.

Unimpressed with our attempt at passing ourselves off as teenage, mid-night road-workers, they threatened us with arrest and we sobbed out our story. They then offered us an alternative to a formal dealing-with: that we were to return all the items we'd taken to their respective places. Fair do's. They took one of us in the car and drove all round the surrounding area, as we retraced our steps along the epic and circuitous route (no booze-clouded memory for another few years). We even, helpfully, picked up other stuff along the way as directed by the law.

As the sky started to get light we reached the supermarket and neatly parked the trollies. "Ok," says one officer, "I'd like to watch the sunrise from here with you boys, it's a beautiful day and I'm clocking off in a few minutes."
The other added "it's only a couple of miles back to your school, and if you run back after, then you might just make it before they find out you are gone. Eh?"
It was a strained half an hour of watching the sunrise, with our finest no doubt cracking up in the car, but they eventually let us go, and we returned without notice to the school authorities.

I realise that it could have been worse, but at the time it seemed like the worst night out we could have inflicted on ourselves - a ten mile forced march at night, fully laden, and a full day of school on either side to keep sleep at bay for more than is recommended.

Length? I was a bit too young for you to be worrying about that.
(Tue 29th Mar 2011, 19:58, More)

» Awesome teachers

I had an awesome maths teacher
but the awesome things about him were seldom to do with his mathematical teachings or even his teaching skills.

He was quite a character, ebullient while under the effects of alcohol but a dour and joyless man come the inevitable hangover. So, classes could be eventful, and predictable, given the morning is dedicated to alcoholics' mourning, and the afternoon heralds the evening that it precedes.

At either time, though, he did not like distractions, which was strange, given that he himself was quite a distraction. One moment you could be just getting to grips with a complicated long-division calculation, and the next you would be on the floor, having fallen off your chair laughing at the teacher with a bin on his head (checking for chewing gum stuck to the lip of the bin), gushing blood from a cut on his forehead (walked into an open door, you had to be there to be able to laugh at the blood and obvious pain, but I assure you it was funny), eating a 4ft striplight bulb (I shit you not!), or howling loudly and protractedly at someone in the class for their having made a small error.

He got us through maths and for that I thank him, but I have never met a more eccentric teacher, and he brings a smile to my face whenever I remember him.

Perhaps a good example of his level on the awesomeness scale was the time he took us on a school ski trip. Organisation was his forte, but organising kids was not, and he stressed and strained to get 70 excited children from England to France together and in one piece. When we got there, though, he visibly relaxed (if that is really a good description). A few drinks in and he was roaring in the dinner hall, and the last I saw, as some of the hotel staff led us away to our rooms, was him dancing on a table in a kilt, kicking leftover food, crockery and cutlery across the room. Apparently he passed out on a table not much later, could not be roused, and thus spent the night in the dining room, dribbling onto the tablecloth.

The next morning he defied our expectations and led us, albeit slightly wobbly, to the mountain, still wearing the kilt. When we got to the top of the cable car, he climbed onto the railing, and swan dived into a large pile of snow, all 15 foot from apex of trajectory to first impact with the white stuff. Amazingly, he leapt out of the snow (apparently uninjured) howling "SNOWWWWW!!!" strapped on his skis and skied off into the distance, leaving 70 kids on a mountain with no one in charge. Awesome.

He didn't reappear until the next night - it looked as if he might have spent the night out as he was muddy, wet and shivering - respect to a man with such a clear and unambiguous reaction to responsibility. He even bought me (among others) a bottle of lager to drink at the disco that evening - despite teaching maths he had forgotten what age we were, although I suppose "when in France..."

All of this did no good to his reputation as a teacher. The children passed their exams, as long as they didn't die first (relaaaxxxx, no one died...), but his viability as a "loco parentis" figure crashed and burned. Last time I heard he was still teaching maths, and still plucking spiders from the spiderwebs in his classroom and eating them in front of giggling schoolchildren, but I don't think they ever put him in charge of anything more than manning the score box on the cricket pitch. A job he did admirably, with a jug of pimms and a loudhailer! A legend in his own right.
(Mon 21st Mar 2011, 22:06, More)

» Narrow Escapes

The time I was almost kidnapped in Thailand...
"Go gentle, its my first time..."

A while back, on my gap year, I went travelling. Did a standard route with a few variations, ended up meeting a friend in Thailand, 4/6ths of the way round. We rented motorbikes and explored the hills above Chang Mai. One day, riding (read racing) back from a waterfall, I had an explosive blowout, thankfully (-ish, I think) on the rear wheel. Cut to me fighting the now fish-tailing bike to a slower speed, before going into the ditch. Ankle deep in mud, and possibly some of the erstwhile contents of my bowels, I looked up to see the now-distant speck of my friend flying over the horizon like the proverbial bat-out-of-hell.

“Shit.” I think. “He wont stop until he gets back to the guesthouse (10 miles away), and even then he will wait for a while, assuming himself to be the victor, before even considering what had happened to me.”
Long story short, I pushed the bike. It was mostly downhill and the bike wasn't too cumbersome. I passed through several villages and no one batted an eyelid, except the kids. And of course they chased me and occasionally threw things at me. I realise now that I should have stopped and asked someone in a house in one of the villages – a loud white boy in distress would be (and was) a good way to be rescued.

Anyway, about half way back, and I'm clear of the the latest mobbing and ritual humiliation meted out by the 6 year olds. I'm pushing the bike still, and a pickup truck drives by, and stops. At this point I am tired, hot (did I tell you about the heat, and the humidity...) and ready for any angel to rescue me. There were three of them and they didn't speak much English, but I shouted the name of the village I needed to go to and indicated in its general direction. Much smiling and nodding. Bike is put in back of truck, which contains chains, knives, ropes and cages – no joke of a lie – although maybe just coincidentally.
I am put in front, with two of them, the other rides with the bike. Another mile or so and we get to the crossroads; it is right to the village and they go left. Naïve, I turn to the driver and say “no, that way.”
The guy between me and the driver (perhaps placement is their first mistake?) says “no, give me your bag.” He's smiling, but he is talking in a cold, clear voice. This is the moment I begin to want to re-texture my trousers. He tries to grab the rucksack out of my hand, the driver slows the car as he fumbles for his knife, and I panic and go for the doorhandle. It's an old Hilux-type vehicle, and there's no central locking. I fall out of the door, dragging the tnuc who is still holding the bag halfway out, me dragging on the track as they pull to a halt. Right outside someone's house. BONUS.

Cue, screaming, people emerging, tnuc letting go of the bag, man on the back swiftly pushing the bike off the pickup, leaving the tailgate down to obscure the numberplate as they high-tailed it out of there (-scuse the pun). In all fairness, I owe the safety of my bag and its contents (and possibly my life) to these people, but they just walked back into their houses as if nothing had happened. Perhaps it is a regular occurrence around there?

Anyway, I continued to push the bike, back to the crossroads and onto the (only) road leading to the village where the bike shop and guesthouse was. I get to the bottom of the hill, push the bike along a flat bit, and then the road starts to rise. It starts to rain, big, fat droplets of monsoonal deluge. I say this because I happily could not tell if I was crying or not (pussy). I climbed onto the bike, and slipping and sliding on the dead tyre and now increasingly damaged rim, I rode up the hill, taking a cars width of the road as the rear of the bike slid. About a mile away from the village I meet my friend riding the other way (through the storm, coming to find me, bless him). That was the moment when I felt that I was safe again, although, to be honest, I think I had my narrow escape a lot earlier.

Apologies for length, in appeasement and consolation, it was much longer if you were actually there. ;-]
(Mon 23rd Aug 2010, 23:17, More)

» The Police II

The story of the great riparian getaway
Once upon a time, when we were younger and more impressionable, there was a tale told by the elder children of a group of schoolkids who liked to jump off bridges.

They would wake before dawn and cut a secret and silent path to the banks of the Thames, where they would find the nearest bridge and jump off it into the dark and turbulent waters.

Many of these tales I heard myself, although the jumpers themselves were lost in legend. Until now. For you are in the presence of a jumper now. I took it upon myself to leap from a bridge and be forever carved into the headboard of my history in B3ta, another notch of accomplishment added to what is now a long list of achievements and accolades.

Following in the footsteps of our unknown heroes, three brave souls and myself met at 6am on the football fields. Our mission: to jump from a bridge into the Thames. It was a long, cold walk to the site and scarcely a word was spoken. We all were tense, secretly anxious of the dangers but outwardly stoical.

Once we had scaled the bridge we peered out over the railing at the swirling waters, gauging the height by the occasional boat passing underneath. Fifteen minutes later we brought ourselves to draw lots, to see who would climb over the railing first. I lost, and so over I went, feeling oh-so precarious balanced on the 6 inches of concrete 20 m above the water. A car slowed, flashing its lights and honking its horn before driving on. Another of us climbed over the edge.

It must have been almost an hour before we were all on the other side of the railing, stalling and prevaricating and cajoling one another. And then the cops arrived. Lights flashing and sirens wailing, a police car screeched to a halt at the end of the bridge. A lone officer leapt from the car shouting "Police! Stop!"

We all looked at each other, and jumped. All but one of us. And as we surfaced we caught a glimpse of our companion being dragged back over the railing. Moments later the officer was sliding down the steep embankment, as we drifted with the current, and running along the riverbank shouting and pleading with us as we paddled further out into the river. He stopped and we swam around the next bend where there was an easy place to get out.

We had got away, but we knew the game was up - the boy who was too afraid to jump would most likely be the boy to crack under the pressure of police, school and parents and give our names out to mitigate his inevitable punishment. So we walked dejectedly back to the officer, who was still standing on the riverbank.

Needless to say there were many reprimands and much of the force of the law was threatened. However, after dealing out an earful, the officer became more amiable. "So why did you come back?" he asked, and we explained. He laughed, saying, "very clever! But not what I'd have done at your age. You know I used to jump off this very bridge when I was a kid! Now run along and we'll not say any more about it."
(Thu 5th May 2011, 19:34, More)

» Redundant technology

I like to make beer...
O.G. 1065 S.G. 1006 A.B.V. 8.0%
(A Friday Night)

The taste of hops and fermented malt. The specific gravity of a kiss.
Not so dissimilar after all.
My favourite flavour – the crisp balance of grains, augmented by the humulus lupus.
The alpha acids isomerised, the beta acids unoxidised.
Dry hopped and served up in a 16oz glass.
On the tip of the tongue; the melding of saliva and beer never quite so exquisite as now.
I could be drunk on the idea.
(Sat 6th Nov 2010, 2:05, More)
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