miscellany

26 june 2018


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           2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,            2018        Ian McLauchlin

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UNIVERSITY part 2


It was the era of 21st birthdays. Yates WIne Lodge beckoned, especially the balcony, as there were seats and tables and not nearly so much sawdust on the floor. And The Talbot Trio. Three old dears who played piano, violin and bass, at a time when you didn't plug in the bass. They had to be helped to their chairs but, once there, could play all night. We submitted a request which they'd probably been playing for 70 years, give or take - '21 today'. There was a drinks measure, like a Schooner, called something like a 'Dock'. Someone recounted a local woman offering a friend called Richard a drink. "Do you want a Double Dock Dick Duck?"

On these occasions we'd move on to a Chinese Restaurant and round the night off nicely at the next pub down the road. At about 10pm a guy dressed in blue and white striped apron and straw hat would come round each pub with a basket of seafood. On the way to the bus stop afterwards, a drunk in a shop doorway accosted me. "You're only interested in what's inside yer trousers". He'd picked on the wrong person and revealed more about himself than anyone else. This haranguing went on for a bit until I realised that you didn't have to be courteous to such a person. You could escape simply by running away. Which I did.

As Secretary of the Department (Social-Yet-Educational) Society I had to devise the Programme for the year and hence arrange appropriate visits. One of these was to the Samuel Fox establishment in Sheffield. After the usual talk we were shown round the factory. Full of young girls assembling umbrella frames and testing condoms - not at the same time. They weren't at all embarrassed but we were. It was the early 1960s don't forget.

Naturally, the Secretary morphed into the President the following year, providing votes went your way. This was much easier and involved only making a humorous speech at the Annual Dinner, the more lecturers you mentioned and embarrassed the better. After putting all my 'speaking in public' phobias to bed long before that, this was easy. The less easy bit was the ritual debagging on the coach back home - another rite of passage (odd aren't they). I'd decided that resistance was futile, and consequent repairs costly, so unobtrusively helped to take my own trousers off. To lots of cheers. Then, like a dog that'd caught the cat that it was chasing, they didn't know what to do next except, maybe, cheer some more, perhaps. I had ideas but didn't suggest anything . . .

On another occasion, we'd idly sit and talk about planning the perfect crime! Please note that this was just an academic exercise. Only much later did I stumble across this quote: "If you think you can commit the perfect crime, there are 50 ways to fuck it up. And you're a genius if you can figure out 25 of 'em". So it would have been doomed.

Often a well-known band played at the Union on a Saturday night. That night it was Screaming Lord Sutch. As people entered the ballroom after a spell at the bar, I followed a small group in. "Do you fancy a dance?" I asked someone in front of me. She wasn't wearing her glasses and I was behind her. But she liked the sound of my voice! The rest is history.

I drove her home to her lodgings and met her landlady, who I later would describe as a minor confidence trickster. She was the sort of person with infinite belief in her own capabilities. There are a lot of them about. She couldn't cook but decided she'd teach a cookery class. Lesson one involved a strange beast she called "Quick Lorraine". She had no idea why the class looked uncomfortable and rolled their eyes. She had a young, overconfident and brash American nephew staying with her. He declared, among other things, that "Anything that's good enough for Walt Disney's good enough for me" while Tinkerbell scattered him with fairy dust. We had no money but fell for her line "You get a wedding present from me and I'll pay for it." Still waiting.

The University Department had occasional visiting delegates. Saleem, a smiling little roly poly guy from Pakistan, was a jolly friendly chap. A Russian, whose name I forget, was also friendly and along with others visited our flat on one occasion for a social get-together. He liked his vodka and brought a bottle or two along. He decided it was a good idea to teach us all to say "Good Health" in Russian.

" Хорошее здоровье “. We tried and failed. So he skipped the Cyrillic and went for the more familiar "khorosheye zdorov'ye". We tried and tried and it took ages to get it almost right. Good job we did eventually as the bottles were empty, pronounced "Khor-em- zdor-pt-v'y-yy".


When I was writing my Doctoral Thesis, there was a yellow helicopter on manoeuvres in a field across the river. It would take off, circle and land for no apparent reason. Then it'd do it again. And again. There's nothing like a helicopter with ADHD to drag you away from writing. When I had time to collect the wife from work, she knew I'd had a bad day but was grateful as her work was tiring. If I didn't turn up it'd been a good day and I was still writing but she'd have to walk home! It became known as the "Good news, Bad news" routine and in later years copied by many others. If I ever needed distracting on other occasions there was 'the erecting of the circus tent' spectacle across the river in the same field. They banged in the steel tent pegs with a heavy mallet. It was only a couple of hundred yards away, but a good demonstration of the relative speeds of sound and light. You'd see the mallet hit the peg, but only later would you hear the impact.

This explains why the person approaching, who looks intelligent, only seems that way till they open their mouth . . .










Where did it all happen? Nottingham. Re-visited after 50 years away. All University and Halls of Residence building doors locked. Town centre full of one way streets, tram tracks and No Entry signs. Mistakenly entered against one of the latter, on automatic pilot. Oops. Luckily it was Sunday and no obvious enforcement agents about.