WINTER…

…has arrived. So prepare for a couple of months of hilarious ineptitude and watch as steadfast British resolve crumbles like a stale brownie at the first sight of a snowflake. Granted, there have been quite a few snowflakes around these isles in the last couple of days, but it’s not as though it’s this cold:

Or this cold:

Or even this cold.

What will almost definitely happen will be a few inches of slushy, half-arsed snow and a national bout of hysteria which won’t thaw off until mid-February or until people realise that they don’t have to imitate Dancing on Ice on their morning drive to work. The novelty of watching cars slide gracefully around major and largely ice-free roads wears off once you notice that you’re five hours late for work, and you start to wonder why, as a fairly advanced and traditionally resourceful nation, we haven’t even begun to learn how to deal with the cold yet.

It’s not exactly a new phenomenon. We’ve had cold patches in every winter I can remember and yet it’s the same story every year. All of the salt in the country will have mysteriously disappeared within the next week, even though the government will claim to have been stockpiling it all year. It will eventually transpire that they were just pocketing the free sachets of salt from the parliamentary canteen for a couple of months in a naive costcutting drive, but the bottom line will be that while there’s plenty of salt for the table there’s never enough for the roads.

The government are only culpable to a small degree, of course. The main issue stems from you, me and the rest of the Great British public, in that we all go absolutely bat shit crazy the second the white stuff starts dropping. We all do two things when the snow starts: 1) Let everybody we know that the snow has started, in case they’ve had the stupidity not to notice the white lumps falling out of the sky. Snow is the only weather event that is granted this honour, if you saw anyone with a Facebook status saying ‘eeeeee, it’s raining!!!!!!!’ you’d assume they were having a breakdown. 2) Start screaming ‘IT’S SETTLING!’ the moment a solitary flake survives on the floor for more than three seconds.

It only goes downhill after this. Walking and driving become totally alien activities to us, the overriding theory on the latter seems to be to rev furiously until the ice recedes in fear, the result being a lot of insurance claims. All schools immediately close on the unfounded pretences that children are allergic to snow, and that trying to make them learn at any temperature below an even 25 is tantamount to abuse. Offices and workplaces are increasingly following suit under the honest pretence that nobody can be arsed to even attempt to get to work, because all lines of transport will inevitably resemble this

Nobody can be quite sure why us Brits have a clinical mental condition relating to mild snowfall. Possibly because instead of working out what the problem is, we’re all too busy creating hideous, lewd figures out of the stuff in the garden all winter.

Oh and also watch this.

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Don’t worry, we’ve never had it so good!

Just remember that when you’re chewing on Grandma’s right knee this Christmas because turkey is well out of your price range.

According to somebody who was born with a silver spoon up his arse, the recession really isn’t that bad at all and those who say it is can jolly well bugger off. The swathes of unemployed can stop moaning as far as he is concerned, because a few thousand people have slightly less to pay on their crippling mortgages. Hurrah!

Embrace this spirit of unbridled joy and optimism when you’re considering which kidney to sell to pay for your tuition fees in a couple of years. When you’re wondering where all the public services have gone, rest assured that they had to be cut back massively in order to save £7bn. Which we then gave to Ireland. And of course, at no point bear in mind that the treasury just let a certain mobile telecommunications operator (let’s call them Fodavone for privacy’s sake) off a £6bn tax bill which could have pretty much swallowed up the cuts in one. AT NO POINT.

Of course, Ireland had to be bailed out, as apparently UK banks are ‘exposed’ to Ireland to the tune of £150bn. Whilst making Ireland sound just a tad rapey, this also begs the question of what the hell is there £150bn to invest in, in Ireland?! As far as I can see, the main Irish exports are potatoes, bafflingly popular stout and silver-tongued comedians. Now that we part-own the Republic with Sweden and Germany I’ve made sure to stake my claim for the aforementioned stout company and hope to be taking delivery of the brewery in four to six weeks. This pan-European three way is set to make life for Irish comics unfeasibly difficult, however. Could you imagine writing material to satisfy British, German and Swedish comedy palates simultaneously? The best I’ve managed to come up with so far is: “Man walks into a bar. Checks that all the relevant safety guidelines have been strictly adhered to and gains great pleasure from this. Orders a refreshing flagon of sensibly priced pilsner which the bartender pours with great efficiency. A happy outcome is achieved.” This isn’t even a joke, and it’s the best material I could come up with. God help you Dara, your whimsical Irish lilt won’t save you now.

For us students, it’s becoming increasingly clear just how fantastic life is. Dave and George have decided that unless you wear a lab coat for a living your university is going to get approximately no pounds a year of funding for you. This equates to no euros, zero yen and absolutely no dollars. Unfortunately, and sorry about this Falmouth, if you go to an arts university your funding is about to get completely withdrawn. They’re going to take away needless and costly things like lecturers, facilities, materials and teaching time, presumably to allow your creative minds to imagine a fair system, and spend most of it on really important and cheap stuff like nuclear missiles and helicopters. And in return for this act of generosity, the government are asking for a mere six thousand pounds more from you every year.

I’m inclined to knight these fine fellows straight away. I’ll even provide my own fucking sword.

FLEX October 2010: Ed Miliband

My half of a debate on Ed Miliband. Bit outdated…

 

The Red Corner…

 

The Red Corner is about to shoot itself in the foot.

 

The Red Corner admits that it really has no specific problems with David Cameron or the coalition. Aside from the cuts that will undoubtedly bankrupt this country’s financial and intellectual future, the coalition appears to be running the country rather smoothly: the working class are yet to be utterly savaged, we haven’t gone to war over a rocky outcrop in the south Atlantic, and nobody even appears to have nailed Edwina Curry.

 

Cameron and Clegg seem to be pioneering a new approach to government; level-headed, theoretically open to negotiation, paving the way for an era of bipartisan consensus.

 

Unfortunately, when you realise that George Osborne is still the Chancellor, Andy Coulson is still at large and the same old ideologically driven Tories are back, it becomes clear that this happy coalition is not sustainable.

 

Enter Ed Miliband.

 

The new Labour leader embodies everything that is good about the current administration’s approach to governing without the rabid dogma and impending doom that comes with it.

 

For a politician of modest experience, Miliband has shown maturity, intellect and no small amount of political savvy to propel himself to the head of the party. From relative obscurity, he has won over voters with a clear message and strong conviction coupled with a willingness to engage in debate and talk things through in an adult manner.

 

Cameron et al. share this trait to only a small extent. They claim to be open to discussion, but in the end they rarely budge from their initial proposals. The Tory attack dogs that have been set on Miliband in the last couple of weeks have proved this, decrying Ed as ‘flip-flopping’ on issues, i.e. changing his mind.

 

Now the Red Corner may not think like everybody else, but say you were driving to London and took what transpired to be a wrong turn. Would you stay with it for the sheer sake of your principles, screaming ‘GODAMMIT MARJORIE I STICK BY MY DECISIONS!!”, as you hurtled inexorably towards Scotland? The Red Corner thinks not. If Miliband takes a stance on an issue and then finds out, in view of better evidence, that it is the wrong stance, does it make him wrong to change his views?

 

It’s that kind of principle sticking, so beloved by the Tories, that got us into Iraq.

 

The Tories are also entrenched in the past. This should come as no surprise, given that it’s all they ever talk about, but they seem to have come up with some really poor material this time. Ed, they say solemnly, is “A Union Man.”

 

This assertion has led to a barrage of questions, questions like “A what man?”, “Are you serious?” and “What year do you think this is?”

 

On this evidence the Conservatives are pretty much showing themselves to be Sam Tyler from Life on Mars: ostensibly from the present but actually living about thirty years behind the rest of us.

 

True, Miliband may have got the backing of some trade unions, but this doesn’t make him their puppet. Far from it, if his disapproval of the BBC strike is anything to go by. More importantly, though, unions just aren’t a key player in politics anymore (thank you Mrs. Thatcher), and Miliband’s record shows that he is far more centrist than the traditional brand of union politician the Tories are comparing him to. If this is the best the right wing can throw at Ed Miliband, then Labour are laughing.

 

Ed Miliband is a rare breed of politician, able to listen as well as speak, to take in information rather than just spout tired rhetoric. A former aide to Gordon Brown during the most fractious period of the Blair-Brown tussle, Miliband was known by the Blair camp as “The Emissary from the Planet Fuck”. Aside from being utterly hilarious, the nickname was bestowed in honour of Ed being the only person from the Brown camp they could have any dealings with.

 

This ability to facilitate and discuss in a civil manner is one of Miliband’s strengths. His genuine passion for environmental issues and anti-war credentials are encouraging. This is the sort of politician this country needs.

 

His approach offers us a genuine, not just temporary, chance to move beyond the destructively partisan, vitriolic, barely-concealed hatred and blind left-right dogma fuelled politics we have so come to despise and which the Tories are already wheeling out to greet the new Labour leader.

 

This chance must not be missed.

 

 

FLEX Nov 8th 2010:FXU Surf carve up competition in Newquay

Joe Koa has been a busy boy.

Juggling work, study and play is a struggle for most of us, but Joe has taken things to a new level. Whilst studying for an English and Media degree and holding down what can only be described as a silly number of jobs, he’s also helped to completely rebuild the FXU Surf club from the ground up. The results have been spectacular.

In mid-October, the FXU Surf club romped to victory in the BUCS University Surf Championships, a huge achievement which appears to have passed under the radar of the majority of us. The men’s team took first place overall in a massively competitive event attended by some 350 surfers, making it among the largest short-time surf competitions in the world.

“It was an amazing weekend”, enthuses Joe over a well-earned coffee, “The surf was a bit frustrating, the waves weren’t really there and a lot of good surfers went out in the first round as a result.”

“But we had a coach-load of spectators up from Tremough to cheer us on, and in the end it really paid off; it was great to get them up there and see our crew on the beach.”

Despite the tough conditions, there were some outstanding individual performances. A stunning left-hander from Billy Norways in the final guaranteed 2nd place overall in the men’s individual standings, second only to pro surfer Gordon Fontaine. Ruth Amelung, who two weeks before the competition had never been near a surfboard, did fantastically well to get into the second round.

It’s this kind of all-abilities approach that the club are very keen to promote: “We’re really trying to quash the image of the club being full of hardcore surfy blokes; in fact over 70% of our members this year are girls.  We want to encourage everybody to get involved, especially if you can’t surf or won’t surf, as the society runs way beyond what goes on in the water.”

A big part of the overall success must be down to the sense of fun that the society tries to embody.  Whilst other teams were sticking to early nights and healthy diets with the kind of scary determination usually associated with Olympic athletes, the soon-to-be champions were altogether more relaxed. Joe recalls: “We told everyone that we’d been having early nights in and practising yoga. Of course, everybody knew we’d just been partying hard.”

Regular socials and events fuelled by a long-running partnership with Skinner’s Brewery are a big feature; the club make efforts in mixing their love of waves with a generous helping of all round fun.  A trip to Portugal is in the pipeline, and in December the club will be heading up to the brand new Flowrider static wave in Newquay.  Also, and without giving too much away, Joe reckons that inflatable sharks and rubber rings are on the agenda in the not too distant future.

The club is certainly a different proposition to offerings from previous years.  Traditionally, FXU Surf has suffered from a common problem; it generates a flood of interest at Freshers’ Fair but struggles to attract a lot of paid up members from the hundreds who sign up initially.  All our societies seem to fall victim to this particular issue, but Joe and fellow president Bryn Christian are making strides to gain a wider membership.  Like most societies here, a small initial outlay can reap you a lot of rewards.  Discounts on everything from boards to lessons are on offer for a meagre ten pounds, and FXU Surf offer an opportunity that most of us will struggle to come across again in later life.

We’re all fortunate to live here, and we’ve got some great clubs and societies to take advantage of our surroundings.  What other universities could offer you surfing, sea swimming, sailing, hiking or rock climbing on your doorstep?  FXU Surf and others are making great leaps in making these activities accessible and fun for everyone here.  Most of the societies are only a Facebook search or tweet away.  So you’ve really got no excuse not to get up, get out and try something new. You might even enjoy it!