Five random facts about myself. As someone with statistical knowlegde, I'm always a bit dubious as to the randomness of things. Most people tend to avoid cluster when trying to be random. So I've used a random number generator to choose 5 years from my life and I'll try to remember something that happened in each. Because that's the kind of geek I am.
So the five years are 1978, 1981(twice), 1990, and 2004. I'm not sure of the exact dates of my facts but they're near enough.
1990 random fact: I escaped punishment for my dastardly deed.
I graduated in 1990. Ally Farrow sat at the desk in front of me during algebra lectures. She was American and lived in a 2nd floor flat in housing coop in Deptford. She had two cats whom she lowered to the ground floor in a basket and who would come when called. We also had a Saudi princess in our year called Farrah Ali. No one ever confused them.
Anyway, it was a very hot day and, during an algebra lecture, I had a cool can of coke from a machine sitting on my desk. Ally was sitting in front of me. She was left-handed and wrote with that awkward style from above the line. This meant that she had to lean over her book to write and as she did her shirt rode up and exposed the small of her back - this was before it was fashionable to wear tops that did not reach bottoms.
I just couldn't resist it, I leaned over and applied my can to the small of her back. Ally let out a great yelp. As the class turned to see what was going on, she just blushed with embarrassment but didn't say anything. When the moment had passed, she turned to me and whispered, with some levity as she had found the whole incident as amusing as I had, "I'm going to get you for that". She never did though.
1978 random fact: Nostra-Steve predicts.
I lived in South West France, in the Dordogne for most of my teenage years. Our local town, Ribérac pop. 6,000, had the biggest market for miles around and was a pretty exciting place to visit. You could buy all manner of cakes, livestock and fireworks. My brother Pete and I used to get bangers, stick them in semi-dry cowpats and lob them at our neighbour's stuck up daughter Harriet. When her mum Hester complained to our dad, he told us, "Don't do that - too often". He didn't like them much either.
So this particular Friday it was sunny and bright. Pete and I were cutting up from the main market square past L'Hotel de France, the town's only half-decent hotel, to get to the post office. It's rather a narrow road that, whilst two lane, doesn't really allow for more than one car at a time. On this occasion it was mostly blocked by a delivery lorry. The lorry was facing us so we couldn't see what they were unloading but they had one of those electric tail-gate lifts that we could hear whirring away.
Pete went to walk up the pavement between the lorry and the sidewall of a shop. For some reason I put my hand on his arm and stopped him. At that very instant some large domestic appliance, a washing machine perhaps, fell from the tailgate right where Pete would have been standing. We both just looked at each other and went the other way round the lorry.
1981 random fact #1: Steve can't speak French.
I was sixteen in 1981, and I'm not sure I can remember anything particularly specific to that year but here's a rambling tale of my adventures in the French education system in 81/82.
I would have started the year in Seconde, the first of the three years of the Baccaularéat and finished it in Première, the middle Bac year. The final Bac year is morbidly called Terminale, after which all life ceases apparently.
It's at the end of Première that I sat my French Oral exam (can you say that with a straight face?) for literature and written for language. In my last year in Collège (the four years of academia before you go to the Lycée to do the Bac - are you paying attention? There's a quiz at the end), my final report said that, "Steve ne saisira jamais les subtilités de la langue française" (Steve will never grasp the subtlties of the French Language). And this just after I managed to get 18/20 in dictation and the highest marks in grammar in the class. I showed it to my friends and we all thought it was a hoot. I put on an English accent for a bit too but it wasn't terribly convincing.
So I studied for my French exams, but not very much. I've always preferred reading in English and have found only very few French writers who use language in the same economical way as we do. Sartre I liked, and Molière quite fun, certainly more so than Racine where everybody always dies. I enjoyed Baudelaire too, but with his glorious self-agrandissment and moodiness don't all teenagers?
The literature oral involves answering questions around a prepared text of which we had to submit a list of 20 or so. I answered questions on Jules Laforgue's poem "Complainte d'une autre dimanche". It's about being pissed off and lying in bed looking out of the window, so perfect for students. He was a contemporary of Baudelaire so you can imagine the kind of hyped up language of glorious failure he uses. You can read it and a commentary here. Even though I quite liked the poem, and still do, I didn't do brilliantly and got 9/20.
The written test on the other hand was a disaster. I wrote some commentary on another poem, I can't remember what it was called but I got 5/20. They don't mess around those French examiners!
So here's the moral of this tale, from François Villon, hanged for burglary in Paris in 1474 (or head vampire of France depending on who you believe):
He! Dieu, si j'eusse etudié
Au temps de ma jeunesse folle,
Et à bonnes moeurs dedié,
J'eusse maison et couche molle,
I leave the translation as an exercise for the reader (or Google).
2004 random fact: Steve sneaks out.
This was only last year so I should be able to remember something! I think that was when we went on holiday to Devizes, but it may have been the year before.
In any case, Devizes is not an easy place to get to without a car. It's a good 25 miles from a railway station in any direction and even then trains seem to intermittent. And then you have to rely on an ever dwindling rural bus services. Even so, it's in glorious middle England with rolling hills spotted with (probably not) Anglo-Saxon chalk horses, is near to Averbury, Silbury Hill and other wonderful sites, has the longest succesion of locks in the UK and is big enough to have a decent market, museum and even a cinema. We ended up staying in two very good guest houses. The first of these was run by a Geordie Shirley Bassey fanatic who was kind enough not to play us any of the music. The second wasn't even a guest house anymore but took us for two nights as a favour to Christine in the tourist office.
And here's a lesson to the wise. The internet might be easy to use for booking accomodation but with guest houses in particular it's well worth checking with the local tourist office.
You see, before staying with the Geordies we had booked a guest house on the other side of town, opposite the Police Station. The website reported that the police used the B&B so we thought it would be in good order. We went along in good faith but were very disappointed. Not only did the landlord make Lurch seem welcoming but the whole place was damp and there was mold in the jam. We didn't have a car, nor anywhere else to go so we left our bags behind and tramped off to see Christine. She set us up with two great places to stay and we went back to the B&B to retrieve our things. The landlord wasn't anywhere to be seen so we grabbed our bags, posted the key through the letter box and made a run for it along the canal footpath.
Although we may have caused financial loss to the landlord, it was nothing less than he deserved given the parlous state of his house.