Thursday, January 27, 2011

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November...

Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot…

This past fifth of November marked my third celebration of Bonfire Night.  For those of you who may not be familiar with it, this is the day when Britain celebrates the foiling of a plot by Guy Fawkes and other conspirators to destroy the Houses of Parliament in 1605.  Guy Fawkes was later drawn and quartered.  Every year large fires are lighted and Guy dolls burned to symbolize the remembrance of treason.  The university’s international office was kind enough to circulate an email emphasizing that these effigies were dummies, not real people.  Thanks, I was worried.  Apart from the massive fire, Bonfire Night reminds me very much of Independence Day.  In fact, I have been known to refer to it as 'the Fourth of July in the cold.'  There are carnivals, cotton candy (called candy floss here), sparklers, and the evening concludes with firework displays.  Instead of snow cones, however, you find hot tea.  Tank tops and sandals are replaced with coats and scarves.

The crowd gathered around the fire.
 The fire is large, but I've been to bigger bonfires than this.
It puts me in the mood for s'mores.

 This year I attended the festivities at a local park with Amanda, Anna and Lindsey (who was visiting Amanda from the States).  After trudging our way through the mud, we finally made our way to the bonfire.  So sorry, new boots! It’s interesting to note how traveling has the ability to recreate excitement over habitual occurrences.  We have all seen too many firework shows to count, but witnessing one for Bonfire Night in England made it thrilling.  We oohed and ahhed and discussed which fireworks were our favourites.  We drew the attention of a nearby spectator who struck up a conversation with us.  I think he was particularly charmed by Amanda’s accent. 

 Anna, Lindsey, Amanda & Me

Ben seemed harmless enough; a bit strange maybe, but a nice sort of fellow.  His willingness to take the featured group shots was very convenient.   But before we knew it, he was inviting himself for drinks following the fireworks.  Awkward.  It was a feeling that grew as he uttered one inappropriate comment after another, and we all grew increasingly uncomfortable.  I doubt Ben realized this.  I think he thought he was pretty smooth as he showed us his moves. Literally all of us; his focus rapidly transferred from one girl to the next. A friend from our group thought he recognized Ben from his accommodation hall in first year and sent a text to a friend wondering if they remembered Ben as well.  The response: ‘Yeah, he’s a weirdo.’  And I was the poor soul sitting next to said weirdo at Strawbs.  I inched closer and closer to Amanda in a desperate attempt to evade him.  At long last, he excused himself; but not before inviting me to the chaplaincy for international student meetings.  He didn’t even accept my passive-aggressive refusal.  Luckily, the mood lifted at his departure, and I had a fantastic night pubbing in great company.

Sam immediately bonded with Lindsey over chats about One Tree Hill.
Lindsey's brother is the producer. Sam maintained this level of enthusiasm throuoghout the evening.

All in all, it was the best Bonfire Night yet.  Still, there are those of us for whom the words ‘Creepy Ben’ will forever conjure a myriad of uncomfortable and hilarious connotations.  By the following morning he was the theme of all our jokes – to his day he creeps his way into our conversations.  At the very least, he’s provided us with an interesting anecdote.  But there are also some great lessons to be derived from this experience.  ‘Creepy Ben’ (so called in order to distinguish him from the lovely Ben on our course) did everything wrong despite his efforts to be the suave ladies’ man.  Therefore, for the benefit of men on the prowl everywhere, I shall conclude this post with a short compilation of what guys should avoid when attempting to pick us up as inspired by ‘Creepy Ben.’

1.      Don’t be fickle: We know you like to keep your options open, but don’t hit on more than one girl at once.  It makes us feel like pieces of meat, and here you are, metaphorically comparing prices and squishing the packages trying to decipher which has the lowest fat content.  Bottom line: it’s not flattering.

2.      Don’t tell us our friend is really hot: Even if it’s true, we don’t want to hear it.  To expound on this principle, making sexual innuendos about our friends is even more inappropriate.

3.      Arrogance kills ardour faster than anything: Wondering aloud why your friend is with her significant other makes you sound like a total ass, particularly when you’re no looker yourself.  Never a turn on.

4.      Nix on the ex business: Case in point: ‘I got my ex a giant card for Valentine’s Day.  The sex afterwards was amazing.’

5.      Refrain from stalker-ish comments: You might not mean anything by it, but stating you’ll look up where we live on Google Maps is seriously scary.

6.      Don’t be a sexist swine: No modern girl wants to be that down-home woman who will bear and raise your children.  Ugh.

7.      Stick to your dating pool: Why is a man in his thirties (who, I might add, is no longer a student) trying to find women at university clubs?  I will not be meeting you at the chaplaincy for these meetings.  Tempting, but no.            


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