Resident social critic Alexander lays down his tomes and half-devoured pint of real ale to illuminate the shrouded crevices of the St Andrean bubble and beyond.
Coffee Ad Absurdum
I won’t be rattling anybody’s mug in acknowledging that St Andrews appears to be a town that loves its coffee, demonstrated by the dense arrangement of its cafés and by the omnipresence of insulated cups that often spend longer in the library than their owners. Shamefully, this apparent fact obfuscates the sad, underlying reality: St Andrews students hate coffee.
Take a trip to Pret (or rather, Regret) a Manger on any day of the week. Bear witness to the sheer number of ‘coffees’ that come out coloured green, orange, and hot pink, before the crowd of signet ring-laden hands snatches them from the counter. If someone takes the plunge of trying to order an actual brew, rather than a cup of blended sugar (I’m informed this is called a ‘smoothie’), just listen to their order. 17 words later, I’m amazed that the tables aren’t levitating, and that Voldemort hasn’t yet manifested.
There does exist a robust litmus test for the validity of any given coffee order (which, in the interest of diversity, is equally applicable to tea): can you formulate it in two words or fewer? If not, then it’s time to face the music. You don’t like what you’re ordering, and you have an ulterior motive. Perhaps it’s the sugar rush, perhaps the aesthetic, perhaps to impress your date who’s just told you she’s pro-capital punishment for those who don’t drink soy.
I think I’ll stick with my Americano.
Modern men, we beasts whose charm is matched only by our immaculate self-awareness and accurately-calibrated self-confidence. If such a description conflicts somewhat with your perception of the male specimen, I don’t blame you. Totalling approximately 50% of the world’s population, it would be wrong to stereotype all of us, of course. However, one fundamental truth does shine through: a lot of men are awful.
The factors behind this are numerous and nebulous. Education, culture, parenting, the internet (read: ‘porn’), and viral memes are amongst the principal degrading forces. Nevertheless, another such force, perennially overlooked, is one I would like to bring to the surface: fashion. Traumatising quantities of modern men dress abysmally. Their sneakers resemble astronauts’ boots, towered over by jeans so baggy that fellow students are looking to rent a room therein, accompanied unfailingly by a ‘vintage’ jumper upon which is imprinted a head-turning banality, like ‘Donut’ or ‘Turd’.
Now, I’m no fashion guru and I’ve worn some howlers in my time. Nevertheless, most adolescent males can no longer discern whether tweed is a sartorial delicacy or something new to sniff on lively Friday nights. It’s unironically time for blokes to pull themselves up by the bootstraps (if only!) and regain their former elegance. It isn’t too much to ask; a classy pair of shoes or a suave overcoat are often the same price, if not cheaper, than the equivalent windbreaker or trainers. And they aren’t coloured as if the Teletubbies had just thrown up on them. Charity shops are packed to the rafters with hidden gems, and if there’s anything better than cleaning yourself up a little, it’s cleaning yourself up whilst donating to good works.
Thon Greasy Pole of Politics
Another month, another Chancellor, another Prime Minister: this is the political slogan of tinpot Britain. Whilst enthusiastic youngsters have momentarily replaced smoking roll-ups and giving each other smiley tattoos by desecrating the art of Van Gogh and pouring cow’s milk out en masse at a supermarket near you, political leadership has all but vanished.
What has precipitated after the so-called Kamikwasi mini-budget is nothing short of mind-boggling: the pound dropped to a record low against the dollar; Truss, in an act of comical self-destruction, gave the boot to her ideological soulmate before jumping ship herself; days prior, she replaced Kwasi Kwarteng with Jeremy Hunt, a man extraordinarily alien to Truss in so far as he’s maintained a single political opinion for longer than 5 minutes. Such shenanigans are merely the desperate machinations of a party and government which have reached breaking point.
If a doctor, fireman, or police officer were as incompetent as the parliamentary Conservative party, they’d be charged for negligence. I would question why the nation hasn’t risen up once during the current sequence of horrifying regimes — representative of the national spirit only to the extent they are repeatedly dying by a thousand cuts — but the answer is quite clear. The majority of Brits are either permanently trapped in traffic or circulating around ghostly highstreets by bus in order to stay warm. Our suffering is overwatched by leaders who have made careers from being the butt of Groucho Marx’s classic quip: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others”.
Illustration: Sarah Knight