Sunday, 26 October 2008

Election update

No, not those tiresome goings-on in the US. They will result in either 4 more years of exactly the same, or 4 more years of almost exactly the same. Foreign policy (slavish support of whatever Israel does, plus starting wars without having a clue of how to finish them) will be particularly the same. Economic and financial policy will continue to ignore my suggestions of arbitraging the helium market if you can't corner it and securitizing commercial sex.

I'm talking about the election, by examination, of prize fellows at All Souls, that Oxford centre of the exquisite. Oh, "provided that candidates of sufficient merit present themselves". Plonkers.

The procedure has three parts. The first is a series of 3-hour written exams, including an essay on a one-word topic ("Crevices" this year) and papers on your chosen special subject. This was classical sociology for me, so I had to confront things like "What does contemporary historiography tell us about STDs in 4th century Athens?" The short answer here happens to be the right one, but you have to choose your moments.

The second, for chosen candidates only (including your correspondent), is a viva, where they interrogate you on what you wrote. ("Tell us, Mr Inkspot, what tool would you use if your crevice is not flexible?") I have to say, since false modesty is repellent, that I aced the papers and wiped the floor with them in the viva. I gave them Saussure, I gave them Plato, I gave them Derrida ("Se naitre, ce n'est qu'entrer dans le neant.") Well, possibly it wasn't Derrida, since I had just made it up, but I could get away with it because, it was clear, none of those smug feuilletonistes had read Derrida either.

The third was last night. They invited the surviving candidates to dinner, gave us cherry pie to eat, and judged us on what we did with the pips. Now Beast had made this fabulous suggestion of turning them into anal beads for the Warden, and that was my plan.

Before dinner they gave us champagne, Joseph Perrier '96. This is a small house, but the champagne was just fine. Yeasty rather than grassy, I had lots. The other candidates included a couple of striking young men in Armani. To cope with them, I flashed a twenty at a passing waiter and told him to make sure that they got champagne cocktails rather than straight champagne, and lots of them. He promised that an extra twenty ("for the butler") would ensure it.

And so to dinner. You'll want to know what we had.

Potage des tourterelles. Yes, I know, eating turtles is frowned upon these days, or even illegal, but nobody's told All Souls. They raise them for the table in a private underground aquarium. [Filthy sherry of some kind. I left it alone and had more champagne.]

Tourbot, sauce merluche des branleurs. The fish you get in this country can't touch what you get in Bombay, and this was good without being special. [A boring Chablis. Waiter! More champagne! By now I'd noticed a honeyed taste to the champagne, but I put it down to the sauce, not having full confidence in the kitchens' interpretation of dried codfish. Anyway, I had another glass or two to make sure I still liked it.]

Tournedos Rossini des flaneurs. Properly hung fillet steak, with real foie gras, of course, and cooked to perfection. [Some sort of Crozes Hermitage. I forget what exactly, but, boy, was it good. I filled my boots.]

Tarte aux cerises des suceurs. The cherry pip anal beads were a howling success; they delighted the Warden, to judge by his "Ooh, wait till I show the Dean!" [Ch. Suduiraut '88. I cannot resist Sauternes, and this was delicous.]

Le dessert. Grapes and bananas from the college's own hothouse and cheese from one of its farms. [Ch. Leoville-Las Cases '82 and Graham's '55. Oh my fucking god. The '82 Las Cases has 100 Parker points. Yes, read'em and weep, one hundred, the perfect score, the full monty. And I had heard of, but never encountered, the legendary Graham's. Go and look them up, I can't describe them.]

Today brought a polite note containing the Warden's regrets, etc. So where did it go wrong? Well, another time I wouldn't have stood on the table and used one of the bananas to conduct the company in a rousing chorus of the college song ("His swapping tool of generation..."), but at the moment it seemed so right.

Bastard double-crossing butler. Still, there's always next year.


Gorilla Bananas said...

Prize fellow! Wasn't that Stan Laurel's title in Chumps at Oxford? Bananas and grapes are good, but grown in England? They're really serving rubbish at the High Table these days.

scarlet-blue said...

"I gave them Saussure, I gave them Plato, I gave them Derrida . . ."

Yeah, but you should've given 'em Dyson. Tut.

inkspot said...

But All Souls' hothouse is something else. All the waste heat from the kitchens, laundry etc. is piped in, and the results are really not bad. They cribbed the idea from Gravity's Rainbow. Which I suppose shows that some of them read something.

inkspot said...

Yes but no but, I'd already Dysoned the essay. That other stuff was in the viva, which is the time for the stuff you have to invent on the spur of the moment.

scarlet-blue said...

We're not talking Vauxhall Viva are we? Bugger.

Dr Maroon said...

Wonderful wonderful stuff, Inkspot.
You have brought the sun out for me again.
What a capital Fellow you are.

Anonymous said...
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inkspot said...

No Vauxhall, Scarls. The key word is "exquisite", always.

Dr M, thanks indeed. I invented almost none of it; the rest came from the All Souls website, one of the funniest places on the net.

Mrs Pouncer said...

Inky, poor you! You're still pissed. How else to explain your myopic and vindictive attack on US policy?
The US and Israel are natural allies, despite malicious opposition from much of American academia and segments of the media. They share the same respect for civic rights and democracy and over 70% of recently polled Americans favoured robust ties with the Jewish state.
Do try and sober up quicksmart.

BEAST said...

Ha Ha Ha Scarlet great minds think alike , I was going to post exactly the same comment.
Plato pffffffffffft
If we are talking crevices The Evil Doctor Dyson and his flexible crevice tool must be the last word.
Sorry you didnt swing it Inky :-(

scarlet-blue said...

Beasty, don't give Inky ideas! The next thing we know he'll be jumping on the dinning table and swinging his flexible crevice tool for entertainment . . . Britain's Got Talent!

scarlet-blue said...

Inky, you haven't visited me in an age :o(

inkspot said...

Mrs P, only 70%? Aipac is losing its grip. (Yes, I got at the port again last night. Not the Graham's this time, but it brought its own solace.)

Beast, Scarlet, I should have said: climbing on the table and conducting wasn't the problem, it was falling off while swinging my flexible tool. The Warden sort of hinted as much in his note. ("While we admire the Etruscan skills that you would have brought to the college, we are not sure that the furniture would be up to it.")

scarlet-blue said...

Just think you might have won the competition if they'd given you bangers and mash and a glass of water. never mind.
Are you Italian then? Or am I having another of my 'Vauxhall Viva' moments . . .

Mrs Pouncer said...

Funny, entcha? Only last week, Condoleeza thanked Aipac for its vital work in strengthening the cultural, political and religious ties between "our two great nations". Homeland security doesn't happen with people just arsing and around and hoping for the best, you know. Have another drink, Inkums. I think I prefer you pissed.

scarlet-blue said...

Changing the subject and going completely off-topic, but when are you going to decorate Inky? When are you going to put some pictures up? Come on the place needs jazzing up! It's anemic. A bit of Mondrian would cheer it up. What do you say?

BEAST said...

Scarlet is right , lets have some 'eye candy'