Freshers Week Facetiousness


A few weeks ago, during Durham’s `Freshers Week,’ I wrote a cheeky letter to the editor of the Durham Palatinate. The editors of the student newspaper didn’t seem to share my sense of amusement and opted to print more serious commentaries instead. So, for the sake of sharing, here it is.

Dear Sir/Madam (or other sort of creatively-gendered editor),

As a new postgraduate I admire Durham’s strident standards for fire safety, this includes placing `fire door’ labels on large, combustible wooden doors. Further, as a foreigner, I can only surmise that such standards stem from a deep cultural reaction to the Great Fire of London in 1666. England, I’ve learned, is full of traditions.

However, I must question the wisdom of my college in having unannoucned fire drills at way-too-early-o’clock in the morning. For posterity’s sake, I’ll not mention the college’s name, and only refer to it by pseudonym as `Bosephine Jutler.’

BJ college had an unnanounced fire alarm on the morning of its college photo. I can only assume this wasn’t a coincidence, and was part of some nefarious plot to ensure that its students would be awake for the photograph. Well, it didn’t work — I promptly fell back asleep and your photographic records shall show no evidence of my existence. Foiled again, college historian!

Postgraduates are boring people. We don’t like surprises. If we’re startled out of bed by the screeching of the fire alarm, then one of the undergraduate flats had better actually be on fire. And there’d better be free food, to boot.

I later saw the principal of BJ college wondering out loud why none of his postgraduates showed up to attend postgraduate matriculation. You get one chance to wake us up, Mr. Principal, and you squandered that four hours ago by not having a breakfast buffet when you startled us
out of our slumber.

To his credit, though, none of the undergraduate flats were actually on fire, contrary to the secret wishes of every postgrad who had to stumble out of bed that morning.

I guess I’d call that a tie. Well played, Mr. Principal, well played.

Flip Tomato (pseudonym)

Given current events in Southern California (where I grew up) and recent events this summer in Greece, fire safety isn’t really a joking matter. To those who have asked, many thanks and my family is safe in an area of LA that is largely untouched by the fires. (My mother informs me, however, that one could smell some of the ashes in the air from our neighborhood.)

From a cultural point of view, though, I do find the abundance of fire doors in the UK fascinating.

Also, every time I write a letter to a student newspaper I feel like I’m making my own little homage to Navin Sivanandam — a most pleasantly pessimistic string theorist/columnist for the Stanford Daily. His second most recent column announces that he’s no longer writing, though a new column seems to contradict that statement. Nav — if you are done writing, then thanks for the memories. If not, then keep on keeping on, sir.


3 Responses to “Freshers Week Facetiousness”

  1. i’d have printed it …

    maybe a sociology journal on he curious querkiness of england would accept it?! (i am assuming they exist …)



  2. 2 robert

    For a moment I was confused, and inwardly congratulated Durham on naming a college after the magnificent Josephine Baker. Maybe sometime in the future, when a grateful alumnus, saved from a horrid death by a fire door or alarm, bequeaths a modest fortune to the place, they could actually do this.

  3. The same thing happened with Collingwood a few years ago: a 3:30am fire alarm, then a 7:30am alarm (which was the drill)!

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