Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Happily 'Married'?

In my usual perusing of the BBC News page, I came across this.

'Barbara Simpson, a deputy district judge in the family division and leading family law expert, said new rights would recognise there is little difference between living with a partner for years and looking after children - and doing the same as husband and wife.

"This will address a terrible unfairness, and it's long overdue," she said.'

Why is it 'terribly unfair'? No-one is denying such couples the option of marrying in the first place if they want to. And you have got to ask why 'if there is little difference...' people are so gutless and unable to make the step of comitting themselves to a marriage.

Even if one isn't keen on a big wedding and making a thing of it, why not just pop along one afternoon to the registry office? After all, there seems to be little difference between some of the 'Living Together' clauses and the implications of being married. In many ways now it just boils down to the name, so being afraid of marriage but signing all sorts of other agreements is just petty.

Call me a traditionalist, but if you can't bring yourself to make a commitment, are you really in a position to buy a house or have kids together? Kid's aren't a commoditiy, and they're the ones who will get messed up when they have to deal with separated parents, daddy's new girlfriends and "step siblings" they don't get along with.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Oh Look - A Flying Pig

I read with amusement an article on the BBC News Page entitled 'Prescott is 'excellent' deputy PM'.

Hilary Benn, who appears to have made the hilarious statement is obviously very out of touch. Either that or he is a very clever man knowing that there are enough muppets in this country who will take it at face value and once again vote the tyrants in.

I want to know what John Prescott has done that is any way beneficial. And let's face it, if he is an excellent deputy PM we're all doomed if we get one who is merely 'good'.

'"The European Trade Commissioner told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "All I would say about John is that he is a party man to his fingertips and, whatever he does, he'll do what's in the party's interest I'm sure - not his own."'

With this in mind can someone please offer me a easonable explanation as to how - amongst other things - being exposed for dodging council tax and having an affair with his secretary is "in the party's interest"?

Maybe the latter example is a case of 'vote for us and there'll be hope for fat ugly people everywhere'.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

More traumatic than the Take That saga

It was with great sadness that I learnt yesterday that Steve have split up. They were truly a class act live, and nothing has so far topped them on JP's list of 'best names for a band'.

They say however that every cloud has a sliver lining, and one bit of good news is that - as was so brilliantly pointed out to me - if they were to get back together they would be Reformed Steve.

Some of you will hopefully share the laughter, but I do apologise for using an 'in joke' when so many of you will wonder what is funny about it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Nude Sunbathing

I read this article on the BBC News page earlier. I'm not going to pass judgement on nude sunbathing - it's not something I would partake in myself but (especially if you're attractive) I'm not going to judge you for doing so in your own back garden. I'm not a fan of the 'nanny state' that's for sure.

However, after reading how the neighbour of the nude sunbather reacted I can't help wondering who is the more perverted.

"She walked back and fore completely naked - I went to get my video camera to record the incident."

I'm going back to work, but if you're reading this do take the opportunity to comment and say hi; enjoy the fact that this corner of the Blogosphere is now a year old. Go on, it only takes a second and I know I have more than two readers...

Best. Day. Ever.

"Lift up your heart lift up your voice, rejoice again I say rejoice!"

Today is Ascension Day, the day the church celebrates Jesus' Ascension in to Heaven, and the words above come from a popular hymn which is tradiationally sung today. Even for Christians it is not usually celebrated in a big way, but here in Oxford it has become one of my favourite days in the church's year, and is one of the highlights of Trinity Term.

Today begun for me with singing and prayers at the top of Merton tower (in the sunshine, complete with some beautiful views across Oxford) followed by one of the best breakfasts ever in the aptly named 'Breakfast Room'. Bucks Fizz, melon, bagels, cheeses, ham, smoked salmon, pain au chocolat, strawberries, cherries, grapes...suffice to say that it was good.

I then rushed back to Brasenose to join the folks from St Mary the Virgin University Church as they beat their bounds. We sang hymns, chalked the wall in various places and hit it with bamboo canes shouting Mark! Mark! We had coffee and cherry cake in All Souls' Hall, watched some sweets thrown out of a window for kids in University College and we helped a kid draw the boundary mark about 10ft up in Magpie Lane.

There was then time to seek out the boundary mark for another church on the floor of Marks and Spencer's (just because we wanted to really) and we attempted to find Reformed Steve in the Ashmolean. And failed.

The day now continues with the door to Lincoln from within Brasensoe being opened so that we can traipse through and enjoy some free Ale (tainted with Ivy) provided by Lincoln as penance for not saving a Brasenose student from bandits. We will then gather on Lincoln's quad to watch hot pennies being thrown down for kids (wearing gloves) to collect. Amazing.

And by happy, glorious co-incidence, my corner of the blogosphere is one year old today. Leave me a message. Please. Perhaps you would like to sum up this blog from your point of view in a word or a sentence.

So on to the free beer.

Happy Ascension Day!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Aggressive Chicken

I should be getting back to work, but I just had to post this quote from the BBC News Page:

>
"We had someone complain about a chicken," said executive director of the 311 Citizen Service Center, Dean Schloyer.

"It was an aggressive chicken that was in their apartment building, and they couldn't get around it to reach their apartment"
>

Only In Oxford TT06 Part 2

One of Oxford's many wonderful eccentricities is that students must sit their exams in Sub-Fusc. This basically means for guys it's a suit, white shirt, white bow tie and gown and very smart black and white for girls. The regulations must be strictly adhered to (there is no room for flexibility) right down to the need to carry in a mortar board (which one is not allowed to actually wear, I hasten to add).

A tradition which goes hand in hand with this is that of wearing carnations in the lapel - white indicates it's your first exam, red indicates it's your last and pink is worn for the ones in the middle. It is the norm for someone else to buy the carnations for you and it fell to me to buy them for a friend who started this week.

This had amusing consequences when I met someone from the real world the other afternoon; the conversation went as follows:

"Where are you off to?"
"I'm off to the library, but first I need to buy some carnations"
"Oooh - who's the lucky lady?"
"No it's not like that! They're just for one of my male friends!"

Some explanation rapidly followed as I realised that beyond Oxford it is not normal to just 'buy carnations for male friends'.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Name Game

I was invited to sign up for a free University of Oxford forwarding address to use once my current email address expires at the end of my studies. This struck me as a good idea, so I pointed and clicked to register.

I was greatly amused when it came to choosing my address; I was presented with a list of variations on my forenames to sit before my surname at the beginning of the address. I never knew that my name could be mutated (butchered?) in so many different ways, and have copied the list below as it is most definitely blogworthy.

With so much choice, which variation did I choose? Well, I fought hard to resist the attractions of 'jameson.sasha' and settled on one I found by chance some way down the list. 'james'.

>>

jimmie.alec

jem.andi

j.sasha

jimmey.andey

jim.andie

jamie.sandey

sandey

jimmi.a

jamy.sasha

jamy.andie

jamy.andey

jem.andie

jamey.andy

j.alexander

jimmy.alex

j.sandy

jimmey.alex

jim

jem.alexander

jameson.a

j.sandey

jimmie.al

j.alec

jimmy.a

jimmi.sasha

james.andey

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jim.sandy

jim.andi

james.andie

jimmey.sandie

jem.sandi

jamey.sasha

james.andi

jimmy.eleck

jamy.sandi

jem.sasha

jem.sandey

jimmey.alexander

jamey.alex

jameson.sandi

jameson.alex

jami.andi

jem.a

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jim.sandie

jamy

jimmy.andey

jimmey.eleck

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jameson.sandie

jimmey.sandey

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jameson.andy

jimmie.andi

jimmi.andie

jimmie.sasha

jimmey.a

jamy.eleck

sandy

jami.sasha

jimmy.ec

jem.alec

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james.al

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jamie.sandi

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jim.sasha

jami.a

jami.alexander

jamy.andy

jameson.alexander

jamy.sandey

j.andie

jamey.al

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jimmy.al

jimmie.alex

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jimmy.andy

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james.eleck

jamie.andy

jameson.ec

jamey.ec

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jimmey.andie

jimmey.alec

jameson.sasha

sandie

j.alex

jami

james.sandie

james.sandy

jameson.sandy

jem.sandy

jimmey.andi

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jameson.al

jimmy

jimmi.sandi

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jimmy.sandey

jami.alec

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al

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jimmie.alexander

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jimmey

jim.alexander

j.eleck

jami.alex

jamie.alex

jamey.eleck

j.sandie

jim.sandi

james.a

jamey.sandey

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jamey.sandie

alexander

jamey.andey

jimmie.andie

jimmey.sasha

jamie.andi

james.sasha

jem.eleck

jamie.andie

jimmi.andy

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jameson.eleck

jimmy.sandie

james.andy

jamie.al

james.sandi

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jem.alex

jimmy.andi

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jimmie.a

jamie.ec

>>

Monday, May 22, 2006

Gay Marriage Controversy

Here in Oxford we have a good welfare initiative, based around the idea of College Families. The idea is that first years get 'married' and are then assigned two or three Freshers ("children") to look after when they arrive in October.

The system is designed to work so that each parent is studying a different subject and the children will be doing the same as one of their parents. Ideally one parent will be male and the other female so that the families can be mixed-sex whilst each child has a parent of the same-sex; which for some welfare issues is important.

Two of the male first years in Brasenose however have gone to the student papers because they are not allowed to marry and Brasenose is therefore 'anti-gay'. Honestly. The whole thing makes my blood boil. As our JCR President said when the paper interviewed her "we have a very friendly and approachable LGB rep, and are in no way an anti-gay college". At the end of the day the parenting system is as it is for clear and logical welfare reasons, and is in no way related to the attitude of the college towards gay people.

One of the OUSU wasters, Aidan Randle-Conde (oh that name can be said with such venom) thinks otherwise, but this is a classic example of our liberal Student Union sticking its nose in pointless issues and yet again managing to avoid doing anything useful. Personally I feel that the first years are self-centred and attention seeking. I could use many words to describe them here but this is a family blog (for family people, but there is something for you here) and I'm sure you can come up with something suitably descriptive. To be honest, it is people like this who make it harder - not easier - for society as a whole to accept homosexual people.

The ultimate - and slightly humourous irony is that if College Marriages are seen as representive of the real world then our first year friends still have an issue because they are (in college terms) brothers. Now there's something for OUSU to waste more time on; "Brasenose is anti-incest".

Thursday, May 18, 2006

"That Mi6 Place"

As I walked back from lectures the other day and turned to go through the small door in to the All Souls library the girl I was with referred to it as "that Mi6 place".

There may or may not be any truth to that whatsoever, but there is no doubt that All Souls is shrouded in mystery. It has no students - only research fellows - and it is not usually possible to see much of the college at all. The library is accessed through a special 'reader's entrance' - the gate to the quad is locked and the adjoining staircase is clearly marked 'private'. And does anyone actually know any of the 'research fellows' who inhabit this strange Oxford establishment?

I very much enjoyed dinner in Teddy Hall again on Sunday night (including dessert in the SCR :)) and had an interesting conversation with my supervisor about apparently secretive organisations such as Opus Dei. His theory was that a lot of these organisations actually have nothing to hide, but because they never talk about what they do people consequentially know very little and are naturally inclined to be suspicious.

There may well be a lot to be said for that, and on that basis there might be nothing suspicious about All Souls at all. Conceivably it could just be full of intelligent people investigating obscure literary figures and minding their own business. But because there is so much which is unknown, it is tempting to view things as being a little more mysterious. It is certainly a more exciting option.

And on that note, I am very intruiged by the guy who works on the same desk as me. His end of the desk is covered in maps and he has been gathering an ever increasing pile of books, at least one of which has a non-latin script on the spine (I think it's Russian, but it's upside down and my eyesight means that I would have to stare in a rather conspicuous manner to be sure). Usually he spends his time tapping away on a laptop, but when he left on one of his rather frequent breaks the other day I noted that the folder he'd been leafing through appeared to contain music manuscript (though again, I don't trust my eyesight 100%). I shall name the guy 'Da Vinci Code Man' after one of my friends suggested he sounded like a character from Dan Brown's book, and he is I would guess in his late 20s. He's definitely an All Souls fellow because he uses the 'forbidden' doors in and out of the library and doesn't get chucked out when the librarian announces that it's closing time. He also has a companion who sometimes appears and it's so hard not to strain my ears when they have whispered conversations. I doubt that Da Vinci Code Man is investigating something of huge international importance, but I do feel as though I'm sat by some conspiracy plot and I'd love to know what - or who - he is investigating. Aside from the Russian script, all I have to go on is a snippet from a whispered conversation which told me that "there is a copy of the book in the British Library, published in 1950 and it would have been the only source available to him at the time".

And now I have to go back to my physics.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mixed Metaphors

Josh, in a moment of wisdom, recently pointed out to me that "it's a good idea to avoid dropping a bombshell on the boat you miss". He's right, though in my case I didn't miss the boat - it just didn't go where I wanted it to go.

Fortunately I am blessed with a wonderful group of people here in Oxford and I am very grateful for the chocolate and the massage.

Arts Week

Last week was the annual Brasenose Arts Week, and it was one of the best I've been to in my time here.

I enjoyed lots of drama, including Antigone which was performed in the chapel, A Midsummer Night's Dream performed really well in New Quad and the Brasenose Panto, which was funny in places and beautifully politically incorrect.

There was also a Comedy Night, which was very funny, a Caberet Evening and various other musical interludes. I went to a recital where the Chaplain sang ten songs about being a Shropshire lad, and also an organ recital by the one and only Nicholas Stefano Prozzillo. And I played in the Brasenose Orchestra, which went surprisingly well.

Unfortunately I now need to knuckle down to some revision...

You know what they say about men from Brasenose...

The student papers ran a story this week which in some ways gives an explanation for the two horned Unicorn standing proud above our Hall.

Friday, May 12, 2006

We Dance Because We Cannot Fly

The title of today's post comes from a book advertised in church last Sunday. I've not read the book, but I thought the title was cool. It's by a bloke called Guy ("Gee") Chevreaux.

Talking of dancing, I am very grateful to all those of you who expanded my music collection for my birthday. I now have a David Bowie collection, the new Darkness album, the new Snow Patrol album and a set of worship CDs. Eclectic, and very cool.

When I was talking about MP3 downloads someone made the valid point that it is best to hear the whole album. It's so true; I've heard some fantastic songs that you just never hear on the radio.

I did however succumb to buying 'Crazy' by Gnarls Barklay and 'Little Derek' by Sway in MP3 format. I think that's because it was the catchy songs in question and not the style or artists themselves which made me like them. Anyway, if you're interested MSN Music UK is my shop of choice. I don't like Microsoft, and it has an annoying payment system, but it's not Russian, the choice of music is huge and you can sample before you buy.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Misceallaneous Ramblings

Yesterday I dumped somebody I wasn't dating by text message. The same girl then texted me today to tell me that my horse (which I don't have) is gay.

There is apparently a bust of Reformed Steve in the Ashmolean.

I have work to do.

Later I'll be watching Notting Hill.

Bells & Smells?

Anthropax made a comment recently about picking up incense cheap for my thurifer.

I think it was meant in a tone which suggested that I might not know what a thurifer is, let alone own one myself.

Well, obviously I don't own one, but I do know what one is. This may come as a surprise to those of you who have stereotyped me as a conservative evangelical but I do quite like my incense on occasions.

Apologies to Anthropax if he hasn't stereotyped me at all, but I do think sometimes that a lot of Christians such as me get unfairly boxed in to one category. For example I see the Bible as God's Word and therefore take it very seriously. I believe that "the only way to the Father" is through Jesus and that spreading the Gospel is important. But I also hear the call to care for those around us ("Jesus said 'What you did for the least of these you did for me'"), I care for the environment, and - to pick up on a contraversial issue - I would never turn a gay person away from church.

Press Cuttings

In Oxford we are fortunate in having two student papers - the OxStu and the Cherwell.

Over my time in Oxford the standards have varied slightly, but on the whole they usually make for good reading. The last couple of weeks has seen a few blogworthy stories which I would like to comment upon here.

Firstly there is the news that some student tried to put the University regulations to the test by attempting to obtain permission to cross-dress for his final exams. Evidently the proctors would in principle have no problems if he turned up in female sub-fusc (as long as it adhered to the rules, of course) but were concerned about any embarrassment it might course, and - more amusingly - a lack of suitable lavatory facilities. To this end I understand that he would be advised to arrange to sit his exams in college rather than at the Schools themselves.

Another story which amused me this week is the news that some students turned up to a 'Bad Taste' themed bop in outfits which were deemed to be in 'bad taste'. This has evidently caused outrage amongst some. Well, what do you expect?!

Lastly it appears that a lot of colleges have been serving Halal meat in Hall without telling people. I don't have an issue with this really, but some people do. It's all to do with animal cruelty apparently, but I can't help wondering how many of the liberal hippies who are outraged about this a) don't eat meat anyway and b) would be the first to complain if the colleges were making no provision for Muslim students.

Onwith.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Shop Signs and Incense

I saw two signs which amused (or at least puzzled me) when I was out shopping earlier.

Firstly, as I walked in to Debenhams I was confronted with a wall mounted phone accompanied by the sign "if you want a job with Debenhams, pick up this phone". Innovative, but despite the novelty I couldn't bring myself to do it. Maybe that's because I don't want to work in Debenhams.

Secondly I was in Next and was confronted at the cash desk by a big notice about the fact that it was illegal to sell intoxicating liquour to anyone under 18 or to anyone buying on behalf of someone under 18. Nothing wrong with that per se, but I now challenge someone who IS over 18 to purchase a bottle of 'intoxicating liquor' from Next.

Then I wandered down Cornmarket and was accosted by a very spaced out dude trying to sell me some packets of something. "Pick a packet. Any Packet. It's all pure incense".

Tempted I was not.

May Day

May Day is one of Oxford's many weird and wonderful traditions. The basic
essence of it is that at 6am a choir sings from the top of Magdalen Tower to
welcome in the summer, and thousands of people turn out for it. In previous
years some drunk and/or stupid people have then taken to jumping off
Magdalen Bridge but following last year's injuries and newspaper headlines
the bridge was closed yesterday morning.

The mix of people is always good fun and somewhat eclectic; it includes
those who have been up all night - often at a ball and therefore often drunk
- as well as those who have got up bright and early just for the event
itself, who range from fresh and full of energy to bleary eyed and in a
dressing gown. People seem to travel some way for it as well.

Yesterday I got up despite the drizzle and was let in to the grounds of
Magdalen College itself by some friends (thanks guys). It was a great place
to be, and the choir sounded really good. True to form there were some
people nearby shouting "Neville" in a loud and drunken way, presumably
because there was someone called Neville in the choir whom they knew.

Following the singing and prayers from the top of the tower (which last for
a surprisingly short amount of time) we went back out on to the High Street
to join the river of people dispersing back up via Radcliffe Square. To be
part of such a huge crowd at just after 6am is a very surreal experience,
and for that reason alone it was worth getting up. The usual array of folk
dancers and musicians were in and around Radcliffe Square itself and the
biggest highlight for me has to be the man dressed up as a tree bobbing
around with the Morris Dancers. As if the whole thing wasn't bizarre enough
already. It was quite an impressive costume and it must have taken him
hours to put on. Talking of costumes, the most disturbing thing was the man
wearing tight pink leggings. Revealing is an understatement, and at that
time in the morning it was not good.

One of the few things which annoys me about Oxford University is it's
refusal to recognise bank holidays, and I had a 9am lecture to head to after
a leisurely and rather enjoyable breakfast. [NB - a teaspoon is not an
implement which can be used to eat cereal efficiently]. What made the whole
May Day experience yet more surreal is that as I strolled to the lecture
theatre the streets were once again quiet and no different from any other
Monday; somehow the crowds had all dispersed.

After something of a working afternoon my day was wrapped up beautifully by
a leisurely punting trip complete with a picnic and Cava and Pimms to
celebrate my birthday. The sun was shining, the banter was brilliant and as
we meandered back to The Turf afterwards for a drink I was feeling very
happy and contented. Thank you to all who contributed to making it such a
good day :)