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Alexander's Slander

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.

Veni, Vidi, Ambulavi

Hannibal traversed the Alps, Caesar the Rubicon, Washington the Delaware. At last, Alexander passed through the doors of DONT WALK, a renowned St Andrean fashion show coincidentally named by Forrest Gump’s fitness coach. Many of life’s greatest gifts come unexpectedly, and after previous writings of mine I certainly did not foresee my invitation to an event often regarded as the stomping ground of the big, the bold, and the BNOC (Big Name on Campus, for the uninitiated). Like phosphorus in water, or a staunch evangelist in a brothel, my katabasis into the trendy catwalk-laden realms threatened vivid reaction.

To be fair, I thoroughly enjoyed, right from the get-go, the hubbub of the shared spectacle; it was simultaneously dynamic, engaging, and exciting. This makes for a pleasant change from a typical night out in St Andrews: joining the queue in a pub at a standstill and complaining furiously that too many people are out tonight. My enjoyment only augmented when I spotted that a gentleman standing opposite me — winged by the obligatory prosecco-downing bohemian — was dedicating an inordinate amount of eyetime to models’ feet. To each their own etcetera, etcetera, but come on, chum — I, personally, found the telescope a step too far.

The question of which biological features were or weren’t on show became more and more prominent as the evening went on, and I was pleased to recognise in DONT WALK’s responses a strict adherence to the academic canon. The employment of transparent lingerie was obviously harkening back to the fundamental dichotomy posed in Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. I can only assume the fellow spectator behind me realised the same, for upon first perceiving a smidgen of bare breast, he remarked, “this is a really good show!” — bravo, Jean-Paul! This profound Sartrean epithet was subsequently smashed by its post-modern counterpart: the model’s own hands replaced the material superstructure (in the Marxist sense) commonly known as ‘the bra’. Albeit an impressive display of sleight-of-hand, this phenomenon did leave me asking one question: how come, if I were to parade in public with a single hand hiding my todger, I would be arrested? Curious.

As a Protestant Ulsterman, I would say myself au fait with correct marching etiquette and form, whence my stupefaction at one specific ambulatory decision. I understand that it is improper to slouch, and would be boring were one to walk at the (frighteningly slow) speed of most pedestrians in St Andrews. Alas, I am perplexed as to why the solution arrived at was essentially a reproduction of me on my 4am charge to the loo. Shoulders swinging, arms pumping, legs locking: it’s an effective full-bladder strut, but a little intense for the public domain.

The public in question, mind you, was an eclectic bunch. At £95 a pop for a regular-priced ticket, DONT WALK forcibly raises questions concerning exclusivity, elitism, and inaccessibility. Albeit a just frustration, in a world where £4 has become a “cheap pint”, it’s par for the course: excitement comes at a cost. One of these costs, so it seems, is having to endure some of the complexities of inhabiting the commoners’ standing room (as opposed to the elevated uplands of VIP and Corporate guests). It’s worth noting that, in the days of Shakespeare, if an audience was displeased by a particular performance, they could gather and hurl mud at an onstage performer. Whilst, thankfully, this historical contingency has faded out of fashion, remnants thereof remain: at times it was a challenge to breathe given the ferocious frequency of farting. “Better out than in” has its limits; one stray cigarette butt and, I feared, DONT WALK could have gone supernova.

My affection for the audience wavered thus throughout the evening. One lucky individual won themselves a £200 bar tab for £350 in the intermission auction, proving thereby that there was in fact another attendee drunker than I was. I sobered up promptly, however, upon my visit to the chip van, at which I heard the timeless classic of “they don’t know who my dad is”. This puzzled me as, unless your father is Colonel Sanders or Ronald McDonald, one’s genealogy seems a little irrelevant to the simple process of ordering a humble batch of ‘loaded fries’.

Ultimately, though, DONT WALK obliges me to do something I don’t believe I’ve ever done in this column, indeed, in this newspaper: expressing satisfaction with life. Whilst — and I believe this is relatively uncontroversial — I can be cynical, overly critical, pessimistic, and downright glum, DONT WALK has managed to work its way onto the growing list of things that exceed my expectations, and thereby suggest that my judgement — now the cornerstone of my personality — might, from time to time, be hopelessly flawed, entirely in vain, and a cause for despair. One for the therapist, me thinks.

Illustration: Sarah Wright

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