I’ll paste my ST column below but it’s largely been more of the same. Writing (I hit 78,000 words today woooohoooo*) and walking. No stewed rabbit this week but I have been making soup with carrots from a nearby farm. And I’ve got into the habit of going to the local pub with my laptop just before 6 for a glass of wine while I read back what I’ve written and eavesdrop on everyone else. One chap told me a few days ago that I was the first person he’d ever seen in a Yorkshire pub with a computer. So I think it’s safe to say I’m still not totally blending in.
*My next book should be around 90,000 words, which means I’m close. But I still have a lot of the story left to write. So I’ll probably get up to about 100-110,000 words and then hack back. I’m excited about my new romantic hero though. Jasper (from TPO) is handsome and funny and seductive but only a *bit* complicated. Max is next level handsome and complicated. Swoon.
Below is column…
Outrage in Kent this week. The university there has told students they cannot dress up like Tories for Halloween. No Boris Johnson masks, no Michael Gove lips, no double-breasted pin-striped suits. They would all fall foul under new rules issued by the union, which stipulates that ‘fancy dress themes should not be centred around political group stereotypes or the stereotypes of different levels of perceived class in the means to diminish their worth or validity.’ It’s a bit wordy, isn’t it? But that’s students for you. Too much Rousseau, perhaps.
Apparently the union’s issue with political stereotypes is that they could create ‘an unsafe and exclusive campus.’ The list of banned costumes also included Mexican sombreros, cowboys and Native Americans, priests and nuns and Harvey Weinstein.
Generously, the union has suggested alternative fancy dress options for those who were counting on being able to dress up like Jacob Rees-Mogg. Acceptable costumes include aliens, cavemen, Ancient Greeks, Romans, doctors and nurses. On balance I think the mother-murdering pervert Emperor Nero was probably a less upstanding chap than Philip Hammond, but each to their own.
A petition has since been launched (course it has) by students who are angry about these new rules which, at the time of writing, had clocked up 315 signatures. I especially like one of the comments underneath the petition which reads: ‘Why can’t I be Pocahontas if I want to? She was my fave.’
It’s absurd, this new rule, for several reasons. Unquestionably, dressing up as a Nazi (ahem, Prince Harry) or blacking-up is moronic. If you are dim enough to do that then it’s astonishing you’ve survived as far as university. I am reminded of the extraordinary, Bertie Worcester-esque headline from 2015: ‘Blacked-up aristocrat crashes into lamppost while three times drink-drive limit.’ Well, quite. Poor old lamppost.
But, certain exceptions aside, university is a time to do quite silly things. At my university, the rugby club used to kick off their annual Christmas party by each swallowing a pint of beer which had been blended in a juicer with a full, friend English breakfast. Idiots. At Bristol, I know someone who had to undergo a deeply unpleasant initiation rite into a sports club by playing a game called ‘Find the banana.’ The captain of the team did his business into a bucket of water, a peeled banana was added and new recruits were blindfolded and told to find the banana. Grim. Even Kate Middleton once dressed up like adult baby (complete with bib) while at St Andrews and took part in a giant shaving foam fight. You can google it. There are pictures. For those who want to indulge in such peculiar habits and experiment, university is surely the best place for them.
And, really, who is going to take offence at anyone who pulls on a pair of leopard-print kitten heels and sashays into the union as the Prime Minister? I cannot honestly see how that would cause tremendous problems and if it does, well, find something else to be angry about. There are plenty of topics to go round at the moment. I don’t think we need to waste extra emotional energy getting cross about someone appearing on Halloween wearing a blonde wig, spouting Latin declensions and dressed in tatty running kit.
On the theme of clothing, what should one wear to go to church? I’m sorry to say I only really visit these days if it’s Christmas or a wedding, but while in Yorkshire I decided to attend vespers one evening at Ampleforth to see the monks, or as they are more properly referred to ‘the community’. I don’t have much of a wardrobe with me up here so I pulled on jeans and a jersey but felt hugely underdressed when a handful of other visitors appeared in tweed blazers and the monks strode in wearing their hooded robes (trouble is I left my Elizabethan ruff at home, ho ho ho). Although just before the service started, a woman and her son slid into my pew, both in white tracksuits, which took the pressure off a bit. While sitting there, listening to the chanting, I wondered whether it really matters anymore if one turns up to church in jeans, black tie or even jogging kit a la Boris Johnson, or whether the church should merely be grateful for bums on seats?
Richard Branson has it tough. Firstly, that hair, and now it transpires he never has to pay for restaurant bills. In an interview this week, Dicky B (fortune: nearly £5bn) said that one of the most ‘bizarre’ things about being rich was that restaurants often let him off. Should he ask for the bill, apparently the waiter will often tell him ‘Don’t worry Richard, we don’t expect you to pay.’ I have two main thoughts about this. Firstly, wouldn’t that be annoying, if you were Richard and had deliberately not ordered the steak because it had a £3 supplement and you worried it was too expensive, only to then discover you could have had a starter, the steak and a pudding because it was on them. And secondly, I hope he leaves a whopping tip. If you’re a waiter who has served Richard Branson in the past, do let us know.