Friday, 29 February 2008

Winchester weekend part 2

Done the rest of Vitamin E, Vitamin K done too - that's a complicated one, but the end is in sight, so here's part 2 of the weekend's excitement.

A Winchester street
Part 1 of the narrative ended with the concert in the cathedral, from where we hastened to a pizza restaurant. It was one we'd seen on the city tour, because the building it occupies has a magnificent hammerbeam roof. We talked about this and that, while D ate a pizza that had so much chilli in it that after one bite my mouth was tingling. She finished the lot without so much as a bead of sweat or a trace of a runny nose. I have just invented the "HOT!! OW! OW!!!" award, and she is the first recipient.

With it being Lola II's birthday, I had somehow managed to get her some presents. This is unusual, I don't always manage it, and even when I do find something suitable, I usually hand it over as it comes, in the plastic bag from the shop. This time there were no less than two presents, wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper, in a little decorative bag inside a sports bag I was giving her as well. Trouble was, I'd bought them so long ago that I'd completely forgotten what the presents were, except that they were ipod-related. It was as much of a surprise for me as for her when she unwrapped them - a device that allows you to play the ipod through the car cassette player, and an in-car charger.

On Sunday there was still much to do, starting with Winchester's Farmers' Market. Leamington has a Farmers' Market once a month, but the range of produce is pretty limited. Winchester's is absolutely huge, and Lola II bought Jerusalem artichokes because she's never cooked them before, and local cider for a friend, and D splashed out on herbs for the garden, and more cider. I bought some Hampshire biltong for Mr A (he likes that sort of thing). It reminded me of Giles Wemmbly Hogg (two m's, two g's) who complained that the biltong was a bit tough, only to be told by his South African tour guide that he was chewing the guide's belt. Mr A scoffed the lot yesterday.

Winchester College buildings
We went for a nice walk down the water meadows to St Cross Hospital, which was closed, but it was a nice walk anyway, and then had lunch at another good pub, The Old Vine. [Note to D: the beer was Timothy Taylor's Landlord.] After lunch, our final activity was a tour of Winchester College, which was founded in 1382 and has been operating on the same site ever since. In the dining room we were told that the benches weren't original, they're 'only' from the 1600s. It was an impressive place, and must be quite a privilege to study there (plus you have to have quite a lot of money).

That was pretty much it, and one of the best birthday weekend trips we've done, in my opinion. Now I must get on with writing up my biochemistry practical.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Winchester weekend part 1

I've run through vitamins A and C and I'm part of the way through vitamin E, so here's the first part of the weekend.

It's the tenth annual weekend the Lolas have done together, or the eighth if you don't count the preliminary two when D didn't come: Stratford, Birmingham, Brighton, Lincoln, Isle of Wight, Ealing, St Albans, Bath, Bristol, Winchester. That's a long time, and we missed one last year because of my broken leg. By common consensus, St Albans was the worst, not only because of the lack of attractions but because it rained all the time as well, and there weren't any good restaurants. Winchester was really good.

Cathedral close through an archwayI met Lola II at the B&B after a nightmare journey round Winchester, utterly trapped in the one-way system. I drove to the railway station more than once, just so I could set out again and be prevented one more time from turning down the road I wanted. The B&B was very nice when I eventually got there, and it turned out that the owner's daughter was singing in a concert that we had thought of attending at Winchester Cathedral, so she got tickets for us.

On Friday night the main highlight was Kevin and his dim sum trolley, which he offered to let us see, but we turned him down and ordered from the menu. D arrived on Saturday, and we embarked upon a city tour. Winchester's history includes King Alfred the Great, William the Conqueror and a mighty cathedral that was started before Norman times but took rather a long time to complete. It's built on water meadows and started to sink, but was underpinned with concrete thanks to a friendly-looking diver whose statue is outside the cathedral toilets. Another highlight of the city is a huge hall, with a round table in the style of King Arthur on the wall at one end, and some nice gates at the other end that commemorate the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

Lunch was another highlight, at the Wykeham Arms pub. [Note to D: the beer was Fullers Discovery.] We went back to the cathedral for a tour, but it was delayed so we went and had a look at the crypt where there is an Anthony Gormley sculpture of a naked man sending a text message. Then Lola II and D had a rest while I wandered about. When the tour started, an organist had started practising, and the tour guide turned out to have a voice about as loud as a small mouse. The tour went something like this:

Buttresses of Winchester Cathedral"There's a very amusing story about this feature" [organ rises in volume] "founder of the cathedral" [another organ crescendo] "Bishop of Winchester" [organist getting into his stride now, very loud bit on the organ, rising to a splendid cadence and lingering finale] "so that was a very amusing story, wasn't it? Can you all hear me? No? I'll try to speak louder."

Her louder voice was about as loud as a medium sized vole, so after another five minutes we packed it in and went back to the B&B for a rest before coming back to the cathedral for the concert, which was choral music for Passiontide. The choir was very good indeed, but the music was the same all the way through, and I'd had way more than enough by the end.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Dietetic social

This event arose out of an end-of-term review with our Dietetics tutor, who asked if there were any improvements to the course that we could suggest, based on our experience so far. I mentioned that it would be nice to know everyone's names.

A social event was therefore proposed, which took place last week, in Jee Ja Jee's, Kegworth. My second visit, and the food is delicious (if you like curry, that is.) I was going to link to their website, but it's really nasty with horrible animation and sounds and is probably inaccessible and I do have standards, even though they are low. Jee Ja Jee's food 1, website 0.

About 20 of us students turned up, plus Lizzie's son who's only 1 and a bit. I can safely say that I now know some more people on the Dietetics course, but I'm not sure I want to get to know them any better. I put some of it down to me being more than twice their age, but it wasn't only me, some of it was them. Just not very friendly, or more charitably: too shy.

It has been an interesting experience getting to know the group of older students that I mix with most. I'm not quick to make friends, and I'm happy on the fringes of a group, while others dive right in and seem to be bosom pals before you can blink. If I were an anthropologist I'd have plenty of material to work on. There has been a dinner party to which some were invited and some were not, there have been at least two instances of falling out - I am attempting to keep well out of it, although there are definitely those that I try to avoid working with in practical groups.

One incident did make me laugh - a student who has moved from the North West of England was complaining that the water in her Nottinghamshire house doesn't taste very good, and there's funny white stuff in her kettle which she was worried was harmful. She actually hadn't come across hard water or limescale before. I forget how much stuff I know about simply by virtue of having lived for more than forty years.

I wrote most of this post before going away for the weekend, and now I'm back but with no time to write about the fun we had. I need to learn all about vitamins A, C, E and K from an interactive website called Vitamin Village, and I've got to do it by Friday, because I forgot to put it in my homework notebook when the task was originally set. In three hours I've been through most of Vitamin A, so it looks like it's going to be a major job.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Converted to porridge

I've been telling people about my experimentation with porridge, and I'm amazed how many opinions I've received in return. Aims commented on my previous porridge post about adding fruit, Jo at badminton suggested a sprinkle of nutmeg, Dipti told me to add dried blueberries and/or cranberries, and sternly bade me to use soya milk for a more creamy texture, and make it So Good rather than Alpro because it tastes nicer. [When I was doing my fishy presentation, hers was about the benefits of soya, and she's been thoroughly converted.]

So far I've tried adding sultanas, and it's wonderful, and no need for sugar at all. When I started this porridge thing it was for worthy and weight loss reasons, the same reason I bought a packet of Weetabix that is still lingering half-eaten in the cupboard because it is the work of the devil. I had no idea that porridge would turn out to be so absolutely delicious!

I thought I would illustrate this post with a delightful image of my morning porridge. It turns out to be extremely difficult to photograph porridge in an attractive and appetising way, given that it is the colour of oats and looks like lumpy milk. So you'll have to use your imagination.

Right, I'm off on my travels again in an hour or two, it's our annual weekend away to celebrate Lola II's birthday. This year: Winchester. You may or may not get a report of our antics on my return.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

What I'm reading at the moment

Image of the book cover
Samuel Pepys
by Claire Tomalin

narrated by Jill Balcon
"Samuel Pepys kept a diary in which he wrote with astonishing candour about the life he saw around him in London in the 1660s, and about his private desires and ambitions. The diary was kept for fewer than 10 years of his long life: Claire Tomalin tells the whole story of the Fleet Street tailor's son who made himself rich and powerful, an MP and adviser to royalty."
I've run out of Audible books and my next credit isn't until 27 February, so in the meantime I'm re-reading a book that Mr A's parents gave me on CD, but it's abridged, unfortunately. His whole story is quite extraordinary, though - the chances of the diary being preserved were slim, and then there's the quality and honesty of his writing, and the period of time he happened to record being so interesting, covering the Great Plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666. And, not least, that he was an ordinary chap who happened to have relatives close to the aristocracy, and found himself on board the ship that fetched Charles II from France (or was it Holland?) at the Restoration, despite being a full-on supporter of Oliver Cromwell and the republic.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Steal Me Blind

This is one of those blog memes that I spotted here a while ago. I'm not particularly interested in most of these things, but I fancied having a go at this one because I love my music and most of it has associations with times of life, bringing back all sorts of places, faces, feelings and situations.


1. Put your MP3 player on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must write the name of the song no matter what. No cheating!

I've added a fourth rule - I'm writing down my thoughts about the song while it plays.

"When the Tigers Break Free"

Great thing to say when someone asks "Is this okay?", I shall try and remember to use it. A bit of a filler track on the album "The Final Cut," which was released while I was at university the first time round. Late Pink Floyd, nowhere near as good as their mid-life post-Sid Barratt genius, but full of associations with that late teen/early 20's time of my life.

"We'll Be There"

I like the idea of my personality being right there, so that's good. This is from Oysterband album "The Shouting End of Life." I have loved Oysterband since I saw them at the Cambridge Folk Festival long ago and danced my socks off. Sas took me to see them at Milton Keynes, looking forward immensely to a great energetic dance about; they announced that they were going to do all their ballads and slow songs that evening... Then there was another memorable Oysterband gig at CFF when I was there with Helen. I wonder if she remembers it?

"Just Like So Many Times Before"
This must be referring to my tendency to promiscuity? A good opportunity anyway to highlight a local band - Medusa Touch, from their album "...someone to take you there." My ex-badminton friend Roger plays guitar, and we go and see them occasionally when they play in pubs round here. I should devote a full blog post to the characters who used to turn up regularly when they played at Kelly's in Leamington. The band don't play there any more. Next time we go to one of their gigs I'll try and write about it.

"Stop Messin' Around"

I definitely felt like saying this earlier, when we were working as a group on establishing food portion sizes: everyone else had long finished, and we were still trying to reach consensus on how much cheese makes a medium serving on a jacket potato. Another album that coincides with those long ago university days: "Still Got The Blues" by Gary Moore. I think I was introduced to this album by DC, and loved it, but never got round to listening to anything else from Mr Moore.

"I've Forgotten What It Was In You (That Put The Need In Me)"

Not a great answer to the question, but a reasonably listenable track by Maria McKee from a compilation album bizarrely called "Son of Redneck." I'm pretty sure I was introduced to this album by one of the very few people I genuinely hate, while I was living in Manchester in the 90's. Of course, I didn't hate him at the time. The album's pretty good.

"Friend of the Devil"

Well, this might have been appropriate at other times of my life, but not now, I hope. It's a live cover version of the Grateful Dead song by Chris Smither from his album "Another Way to Find You." No doubt about it, I was definitely introduced to Chris Smither by the same hateful individual in Manchester. Not sure why I'm being forced to remember him by two tracks in a row.

"Cantaloupe Island"
My friends think I'm completely Cantaloupe - nice! This is Herbie Hancock on another compilation called "The Best Jazz... Ever!" complete with ellipsis and exclamation mark. Reminds me of my first saxophone lesson, when I was invited to improvise along with "Watermelon Man" and ended up completely at a loss. I'm not a natural improviser.

"Hivtacht Shetavo'ee"

I haven't cheated, honest, a track from my Israeli music collection really did come up as the answer to this one. It's a fairly silly track from an album called "First Years" by Arik Einstein and Yehoram Gaon and the title means "You Promised You'd Come." I've paid tribute to my parents before, but it doesn't hurt to thank them again.

"Dropping Bombs on the White House"

I can't say I've ever specifically thought about dropping bombs on the White House, but it does reflect my general approval rating for the current incumbent. Another one from that "The Best Jazz... Ever!" album, by The Style Council this time. A disproportionate number of tracks from an album I don't listen to much, but that's probability and random selection for you.

WHAT IS 2+2?
"Cross Road Blues"
More like 4x4, hahahaha. This is olde tyme blues from Robert Johnson, and yet another compilation album called "Juke Joint Blues." I really have a lot of music that I like much better than this and that isn't in compilations, but it is being ignored in favour of stuff I've acquired because it was offered in a big bin for £2 and had one or two tracks on it that looked good.

"You're Not From Brighton"
It's true, my best friend is not from Brighton. A very lucky guess. I didn't think I was the sort of person who'd like music by Fatboy Slim (from the album "You've Come A Long Way Baby") but the clever editors of The Guardian newspaper gave away a CD free one Saturday, and I discovered that I was. Lucky old Fatboy unloaded another two of his albums on me before I decided that enough was enough and moved on.

"Lookin' For the Right One"

I suppose 'the person you like' means my 'significant other', but does it mean he's looking for the right one, or that I am, or that we are the right ones for each other? Art Garfunkel, anyway, from the album "Breakaway" which my older sister bought when we were still living at home, probably in the '70s. I liked it back then, but bought my own version on CD only recently, just before Fopp folded. I loved the "suck it and see" £5 deals at Fopp, I bought loads of CDs to replace vinyl, but I still haven't got rid of the vinyl.

"I'm Outta Love"

Interesting, my life story being that I'm outta love? Maybe so in the past, but not at the moment. Anastasia (album "Not That Kind") reminds me intensely of working in north Coventry with Sally and Steve, and how Sally pointed out her poor diction when singing and I've never been able to enjoy the CD quite as much ever since. She's right, though.


This is cruel and unfair, giving me an African (Senegalese?) word. It could mean anything - clown, civil servant, probably not dietitian. I've never really had any specific ambition, though. This is Baaba Maal, from album "Nomad Soul". Reminds me of Sas, who I think gave me this album as an unexpected birthday present. If he didn't, he should have.

"Run Like Hell"

Obviously I don't think this when I see Mr A, but it did make me smile. With 155 different artists and 295 albums listed in my ipod, you wouldn't think the same artists or albums would come up twice in a list like this. I don't mind about Pink Floyd really, because they're one of my favourite bands, and "The Wall" is pretty damn good (although not their best - that's "Wish You Were Here," with "Dark Side of the Moon" a close second.)

"In Your Eyes"

Aaah, bless. Peter Gabriel, from "So," also released while I was at university. Always linked in my mind with Kate Bush, and this album also has a contribution from Laurie Anderson, another fine artist. Lots of late '80s memories associated with this one, when I was in my early 20's.

"The Streets of San Francisco"

A telling question, implying a) that one's wedding is still to come, and b) that one will dance at one's wedding. Both premises are false in my case, but this is not the time or the place to elaborate on my views about weddings. This is a track from an album called "This is Cult Fiction," one of the very few albums I have stolen - I borrowed it from the library and ripped it.

"Take the Time"

"Take the Time?" What's that about, then? A select few people in my life have been popping up in more than one of these questions, and ex-badminton guitar-playing friend Roger is back. This is from his favourite album, "Images and Words" by Dream Theater, which I bought when I saw it in the above mentioned £5 rack at Fopp. It's very reminiscent of Rush, with bits in unusual time signatures, guitar and piano, then electronic organ riffs. Good solid prog rock. RIP Planet Rock on Digital radio, I shall miss you.

"Another Train"

This seems to imply that I'm a trainspotter, a serious slight to my non-obsessive well-balanced personality. Sung almost a capella by Sally Barker on her album "This Rhythm is Mine," it comes from my folkie days - I almost certainly bought it at a festival somewhere. She's not the most well-known artist, not even in the world of folk music.

"Love Catalogue"
Ha - my Love Catalogue is revealed to the world! You can't keep a secret nowadays, what with computers and the InterWebNet and these memes doing the rounds. Bass-O-Matic, on their album "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Bass" which I bought because I couldn't find any way of getting my hands on the track that I actually wanted: "Science and Melody." I still can't find it. Definitely from that Manchester time, when I was going out with Alex and we used to go clubbing, in Burnley of all places.

"In the Still of the Night"

I think that Bruce first played me this album: "Red Hot and Blue," a fundraiser for AIDS research and relief in 1990. It contains covers of Cole Porter songs, this one sung by The Neville Brothers. I'm not sure if that's what I think of my friends, though.

"Steal Me Blind"
This sits squarely in 1986 for me - Alison Moyet from "Alf." What a voice she has. I was dallying at the time with a chap I met in a Cambridge pub. Those were the days, ah, yes.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

What I'm reading at the moment

Image of the book cover
Bad Medicine
by David Wootton

"The history of medicine begins with Hippocrates in the fifth century BC. Yet until the invention of antibiotics in the 1940s doctors, in general, did their patients more harm than good."
Dad lent me this book, and it's looking good so far. It's more academic than I was expecting, so I was much too tired to read it much last night when I threw in the towel on the Codebreakers book. There were a couple of interesting human stories, but most of it was incredibly technical, either about German troop movements or the minutae of cryptanalysis or the different kinds of transmission methods.

Thursday, 14 February 2008


I had porridge for breakfast this morning. I've never had porridge for breakfast before, ever, let alone made it myself. It's not hard, I followed the instructions on the packet of oats, adding milk to oats in a cereal bowl and microwaving (intending to save washing up) but it grew somewhat bigger than the cereal bowl, so I didn't save washing up at all. I'll make less next time. I added a twist of salt, and ate about half of it before it turned to glue. It was quite nice, really.

Mr A came in then, and I asked him whether he wanted to finish my porridge, which was still hot. He looked dubious, so I said I'd added a twist of salt, and that seemed to make it worse. I asked how he'd make porridge, and it's different - he kind of floats it on milk, and eats it with sugar. So I'll try that, because I'd really like to eat healthy oaty wonderfood porridge for breakfast instead of sugary-salty not-that-good-for-you cereal, even though I love Shreddies. Shreddies contains tons of salt and suger (which is what makes it taste so nice), as does every other breakfast cereal except Weetabix and Shredded Wheat. I hate Weetabix and Shredded Wheat.

This is all supposed to be part of my attempt to remain a suitable size for my current wardrobe, since buying clothes is a horror akin to repeated visits to the dentist. I've been going to the campus gym since I started studying here in September, and this term a brand spanking new sports centre has been opened with lovely new facilities. They've enlisted a proper professional trainer to show people round, and four of us oldies booked him for an advice session. He looks a bit like Robbie Williams and has very well-defined muscles. Very well-defined. He's also got lovely eyes, which is more my kind of thing. I digress.

So this morning I put his advice into practice. I find that I have muscles in my arms and legs, but none in the middle at all. It's a wonder I don't flop all over the place instead of sitting upright. I then drank water and yawned all the way through lectures (Physiology and Nutrition), but I've been given a "Get Out Of Valentine's Day" pass by Mr A, so at the end of this super-healthy day, I'm going out for a slap-up dinner with three of the girls from my course. I deserve it, I even had porridge this morning.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


Food Safety lectures on Wednesdays continue to cover the many and varied ways that we can get really ill from eating and drinking. Over the past few weeks we have been introduced to bacteria; today it was viruses. There was more talk of vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps. There are very few symptoms to remember when it comes to food- and water-borne infection.

The coursework for this module requires us to design a public information leaflet about one of the following: the perils of barbeques, binge drinking, food in pregnancy, tap water, 'use by' and 'sell by' dates, food safety in the home, or Norovirus. The lecturer was American, and proudly introduced the town of Norwalk, Ohio as the source of what is now known as norovirus, the winter vomiting disease. I feel a closeness to this condition, a feeling of affinity, nay, affection. Yes, I think that norovirus and I will get along nicely. I'm planning to use a background design that makes it look like the leaflet is speckled with vomit.

Looking ahead, I see that over the remaining weeks of the semester we will encounter mycotoxins, phycotoxins, BSE and prion diseases, parasites, allergens, pesticides and antibiotics in the food chain. I can't wait to find out how many more ways there are for our food and water to make us ill.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

In-law family weekend.

Andy and NickyMr A's sister Nicky asked for a digital camera for Christmas, so her brothers obliged, buying her a fairly sophisticated one. Nicky is used to the old fashioned film type of camera, and we knew she would need some help getting started, so we went to visit just after Christmas and got it all working. It sounded as though she was still working on the film camera paradigm, and she wasn't planning to use it again until her holiday, so we paid her a visit to help her to take a few more pictures and to practise deleting them. We had a pub lunch together and walked/wheeled about a bit before taking her back home. We only managed to persuade her to take two photos. She's pretty stubborn.

We carried on down into Devon, with a brief stop at Mr A's parents, since we were driving right past their house. When we arrived I was plunged into a whole lot of Mr A's relatives. This was pretty daunting, especially as I was only expecting to meet Jane, Charles and their son Richard, but there were five extra family members as well. I can't complain; I have introduced Mr A to many more members of my family than this, in a shorter time too, and he can't even pronounce the names of half of them.

Cows' bumsCharles showed us round the organic farm he runs - 'play-farming' he calls it, since he's cut right down from the time when he was producing a million pints of milk a week. Now he rears a handful of organic calves for beef. Jane told us about her work in dentistry, trying to establish why people leave the profession, and, presumably, thinking about how to retain them. Richard showed us his scar - in the shape of a large question mark around an area of his skull above the left ear. He's had two lots of surgery to remove the brain tumour, he's lost a significant amount of vision, had radiotherapy and is now in the midst of continuing courses of chemotherapy. He follows a vegan diet with plenty of vegetables, as do the rest of the family, avoiding salt, gluten and a whole lot else, and he looks healthier than we do. Long may it last.

It was a terrific weekend, and provided a whole lot of warm family feeling, inspiration, and topics for conversation on the long drive back. Who knows how long our health will last?

Friday, 8 February 2008

Bear with me...

I'm in the process of transferring my blog to blogspot, because this allows me to do much more with the blog template. Given my very basic knowledge of HTML, this is very welcome, and can't be achieved by linking to my personal domain for various technical reasons.

So I've chosen a new domain name at blogspot (newlolablog), and I think I've moved everything over, except it's still at the old domain and seemed to go too quickly, so I wonder where images will be served from? In fact, I have no idea where this post I'm writing will go. We'll find out together in just a minute.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Death by cheese

There's not much to say about the course itself at the moment: lectures continue, no further earth-shattering revelations about the workings of the human body or glimpses of fruit flies. The first half of the week is much worse than the second - Data Analysis on Mondays is not in any way sexy, Biochemistry on Tuesdays has had far too much dry calculation of enthalpy and free energy so far, plus a vicious practical on enzymes today that lasted until six o'clock. On Thursday, Nutrition entered the realms of vitamins and minerals, and Physiology has covered things we mostly already knew about the heart and the vascular system. Food and Catering on Friday made us consider how easy it is for people in hospital to be under-nourished.

To cheer us all up, for two weeks Food Safety has been a catalogue of how many people die from various bacteria, viruses and parasites. Listeria was one of the more interesting microorganisms we heard about. It likes cheese, especially soft unpasteurised cheese. It can grow at less than 5 degrees C, so it will grow in cheese even if it's in your fridge. While it infects only a few people a year, it doesn't just give you a bit of a dicky tummy, it kills you. So try not to get Listeria. And don't worry, I have exaggerated slightly. But not much.

We were shown another part of an investigative journalism programme from 2001, where intrepid reporter Edwina Currie was finding out about the incidence of Campylobacter in chickens. I do think that the main reason we were watching it was because of the section where our very own lecturer was showing the winsome Edwina the results of tests done at Nottingham Uni. 69% of the chickens they tested were infected with Campylobacter. But we all know we shouldn't eat raw chicken, right?

Sunday, 3 February 2008

What I'm reading at the moment

Image of the book cover
Death in a White Tie
by Ngaio Marsh

narrated by James Saxon
"The season had begun. Debutantes and chaperones were planning their luncheons, teas, dinners, balls. And the blackmailer was planning his strategies, stalking his next victim. But Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn knew that something was up."
A very 1930's old fashioned detective story. Having just finished listening to the Wodehouse book, the contrast is interesting - same period (perhaps Psmith is a little later) but very different approach to upper class toffs. Marsh is very serious about the issue of debutantes and their 'coming out' parties; Wodehouse portrays most of the aristocracy as dim buffoons and lovable idiots.

Friday, 1 February 2008

I am Top

Things went well today. Very well. Let me explain. As regular readers may have gathered, what with my 'top five' mark at A level last year, the weekly pub quiz and my excessive revision over Christmas and the New Year, I might be described as a competitive person. I haven't even talked about badminton in this blog, but "Never give up, never surrender" is my motto, whispered fiercely through gritted teeth to my doubles partner with the score at 14-1 against us. "This would be a good one to win."

Today was the day that we were directed to collect our exam results from our personal tutors. My tutor (The Prof) is one of the best; I've thought highly of him ever since our first conversation when I phoned to see if becoming a dietitian at my advanced age was a completely mad idea.

"I did my A levels quite some time ago," I said. "I've got a degree already, but it was back in 1983 to 1986."

"That was when I did my degree," The Prof replied. "I don't see why you shouldn't apply."

I thought that was a very nice thing to say, and was consequently very glad his name came up when we were allocated to tutors. My experience with my personal tutor on that first degree in the '80s was terrible; he seemed to come from another planet, and I couldn't imagine what he would have done if I'd actually had a personal problem that needed his help. Looked it up in a reference book, perhaps.

So when The Prof asked how I thought I'd done in the exams, I confessed to hoping that I'd done well, because I'd really be rather disappointed if I hadn't.

"What would you say if I told you that you'd come top?" he asked.

There was a pause while I considered this. "You're joking!" I finally came out with. You see that I avoided any expletives; there are limits, even with a personal tutor that one feels comfortable with.

Not just top of my course, but top mark in the whole of the University of Nottingham School of Biosciences. That's not bad. I'm rather pleased. The only downsides are that a) now I'll be disappointed if I 'only' come second in the summer exams, and b) my head won't fit through doorways.