Doing battle with daily dragons

Friday, April 01, 2005

5 Things I Didn't Know Last Friday

1) Yes, Virginia, You Really CAN Cram 4 People Onto a Canal Boat For 3 Days

I had some doubts about the comfort of ourselves and our guests over their brief stay with us. 6’x 57’ is just about enough room for the two of us on most days and with the addition of two more bodies, I was afraid that our guests might begin to wish they’d stayed at the slightly less hygienic youth hostel down the road. But luckily, our Yankee friends were of the minimalist packing variety. I have to say, I was highly envious of their skills. Whenever the Rock Star and I go anywhere, half of our belongings come with us. Our luggage is guaranteed to cause hernias among airline baggage staff. But not our lovely guests; two little carry-ons were all they needed for two weeks away from home. This consequently kept clutter on our little house-craft to a minimum and made for a fairly comfortable experience all around.

2) If You Stay in Academia Too Long, You Run the Risk of Going a Bit Peculiar

As part of the weekend’s activities for our guests, we caught the bus over to Oxford for the day and hopped on one of the sightseeing busses for a bit of The Knowledge. We had a VERY animated and enthusiastic tour guide who was simply brimming over with bizarre information. My favorite piece of info regarded "Hunting The Mallard" at All Soul's College. Once every 100 years, the Dean of the collage and all of the professors dress up in their full academic regalia and go on a procession that leads them all around the college, over the rooftops and down to the cellars. The unusual thing about this procession is that the Dean, who leads it, carries a dead duck on a stick and periodically shouts out, “WHERE IS THE DUCK?” while the professors follow him with burnt out torches and pretend to look for it. At the end of the procession, the duck is “found” and everyone goes to an enormous feast. I remarked to the guide that it sounded like something that would happen at Terry Prattchet’s Unseen University. He said I wasn’t half wrong.

3) Antique Toys Give Me The Abber-Jabbers

There’s a shop in Covent Garden that deals in antique style toys. Ornate paper dolls, ghoulishly painted puppets, china dolls with big blonde curls and glassy eyes and other bits of children’s Victoriana. I followed my friends into this shop and was immediately stuck with a sense of intense foreboding. To some, this collection of memorabilia radiates a feeling of calm and innocence. To me, it felt like being trapped in the Village of the Damned. Those dolls are the reason I check under my bed at night. Give me bright, colorful inane playthings ANYDAY over the gruesome collection of giggling circus freak toys that inhabit the halls of yesteryear. I excused myself from the shop and went to listen to the ever present string quartet; gladly paying the basket beggar a pound to try not to let my imagination believe a load of little china hands were reaching out of the shop door behind me.

4) Punk is NOT Dead

Camden Lock proved this to me beyond a shadow of a doubt. You occasionally see miniature mohawks on confused Goth children in the centre of Aylesbury, but for the real deal, egg whites and all, Camden is the place to be. There was some EXCEPTIONAL hair on display there. I saw some hair there that could impale passing pigeons. In a different vein, I also received a flyer from a tattoo parlor that featured a picture of Satan tattooing an angel on Christ’s chest with the tagline: Give in to temptation. Classy.

5) “Beware of Kaboola, God of Cheese”

This is not my warning, mind you, but I have it on the good authority of whoever graphed it on the top of Carfax Tower in Oxford that this might be something to be concerned about. We all know he exists. Who else do you think is giving you indigestion at 3 in the morning after eating that entire bag of grated mature cheddar? I’d watch out if I were you.