Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Rag Week 1984

This memory occurred to me recently, and even after 24 years it still made me smile.

When I was at university, a first year Engineering student, I was completely out of my depth academically but with a pretty good bunch of friends. The university 'Rag Week' used to take place once a year, when students planned all sorts of activities to raise money for charities. [Don't ask me why it's called Rag Week, you can try Googling and let me know.] This particular year, alongside a bed race through the town, the sale of coffee mugs, the 'Rag Mag' full of poor jokes and other such fundraising efforts, the Rag Committee had set up a 'flanning' service.

'Flanning', for those unsure of the term in this context, consists of constructing 'flans' from shaving foam squirted from a can onto a number of paper plates, in the manner of slapstick 'custard pies'. The flans are then placed, more or less accurately, on and around the face and head of the victim, covering him or her with foam.

The fundraising angle on this activity was this: anyone could purchase a flanning from the Rag Committee during Rag Week, specifying the victim and when and where he or she could be found. Obviously the more people who witnessed the flanning the better the joke, so the college dining room at the evening mealtime was a very popular choice.

Even then I preferred my own cooking to the bulk catering that most people were fed in the dining room, which was very appropriately known as 'Trough'. I hardly ever ate there. I was with a group of friends one evening, however, and they were relating the latest tale of flanning hilarity.

"I've never seen anyone flanned," I said. "Is it really that funny?"

I was assured that not only was it funny, but unmissable, and I should come along to Trough and see it done, because it was pretty much guaranteed to happen every night. As it was actually supper time right then, and everyone was getting ready to go to the dining room, I thought I'd join them, just this once, to see what this flanning thing was about.

Sure enough, the flanners duly arrived, masked by balaclavas and full length coats, so it was impossible to identify them. There were two or three of them, if my memory serves, and the hubbub in the room died down as they were spotted with their foam payload.

I felt the tension rising as they took their time, walking up and down between the long tables, while everyone wondered who it would be this time. People visibly flinched if a flanner passed behind them, and I enjoyed the spectacle in the sure knowledge that of everyone present, I was utterly safe. After all, I never ate in the dining room, and had only decided to do so on the spur of the moment about fifteen minutes previously.

I'm sure you can see it coming in a way that I totally didn't. Turns out, fifteen minutes is plenty of time for one of my friends to make a swift detour to the Rag Committee flan booking service, and I was covered in foam before I'd even realised what was happening.

I can still remember vividly the feeling of surprise, closely followed by shock and bewilderment, followed by the realisation that it was THEM! they all KNEW! and I had NO IDEA! I felt a very brief flutter of embarrassed annoyance, and I'm not sure if it was the effect of the flanning, or that I had been naive enough to be caught out so completely.

That feeling passed quickly; I had to acknowledge the genius of the plot, and I joined in the laughter.

I'm grinning again now, as I write this post.


aims said...

LOL! What a great bunch of friends! I'm sure they were hugging themselves with their knowledge!! Sounds like so much fun!

holly said...

did you then ask you friends if it was really really great to win the lottery? seeing as they are so accommodating?

babooshka said...

I am a veggie ( vegmince) lasagne making person. My partner is more the deperate Dan steak pie variety, and even he prefers the vegmince one.

Vegetarians aren't very tasty to eat themselves though and give you terrible wind.

Ariza said...

Well said.