81 - Observed at school

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Robin had been wondering whether the attractions of Hogwarts carried over into Muggle life and had persuaded his parents, with what on (his)reflection was a surprising ease,  that trying out a boarding school might be a good idea. He didn’t (wouldn’t, couldn’t) recognise that the prospect of boarding school might be extremely attractive to parent who have an active, rebellious teenager in the house. So he spent a day with us at College. One of the experiences worth retelling applies at breakfast.

Being a mixed school, it would be too much to hope that boys and girls lived in the same accommodation, but access between the two houses proved easier than Robin expected. Opposite sex people were welcome in the other house on the ground floor, which was entirely used as communal space. So rooms used for work, watching tv, games and working at a computer were all on this floor.  Struck by the range of good-looking girls and their readiness to talk to him, Robin was at breakfast observing one especially fine female as she came into the dining hall. Probably a sixth former, Robin thought, to his Year Ten eyes. She arrived at the same time as Alex, one of the boys in year 11, collected her cereal at a different speed from him and ended up going to sit on the same table, with a year ten boy sitting on his own. The year ten boy, let’s call him Jack, was sat in the middle of the table—the sort of table that takes three on each side—and Alex sat on one side of Jack. Robin watched as the girl sat, not at the other side of the table, nor on the other side of Jack, but between the two boys, causing them both to shuffle sideway to make space.

So he’s thinking, lucky boys: a fine looking female in close proximity. Is the year 11 boy picking up the signals that this girl apparently fancies him? She has tracked Alex across the room; she has made a point of sitting next to him and made it obvious by making him move. Has he noticed? Apparently not, for Jack and Alex commence talking about the forthcoming soccer competition – across her and her food.

Robin finds this confusing. Neither of the boys strikes him as particularly handsome. He doesn’t think he fancies boys and he doesn’t know what attracts girls, but these boys aren’t obviously good-looking and yet she chose to sit with them. There are spare seats available round the room at tables consisting entirely of girls, or boys, tables of ethnic groups and some completely mixed. He can see one boy sat at a table of girls and visibly being included in their conversation. And just over there is a gorgeous girl, being ignored and still apparently happy to be sat next her chosen man of the moment.

Is this good, or what?


Way back in 2006, I was visited by a phone engineer who came to fix me an external line so I might have internet at my own expense (not that of my employer). He was uncertain where to try to run a line from in the city location and was torn between two distant telegraph poles, one at the front and one at the rear of the building. That same building was at the gate of school and he happened to call around 16:00, when there is significant foot traffic through the school gate, right beside the building. He spent a long time at the front, so I went to see if he was having difficulty and, being keen to have my new internet connection, asked exactly what I thought. Surprise then at his honesty: “Yes, I’m having a hard time here; are all your girls so gorgeous?” I work here, I don’t notice: they’re people, not bodies. But, having heard his comment,  looked (so to speak) through his eyes and saw what he meant: if he worked with the typical British public, this was heaven indeed. I felt pleased for him and embarrassed that I hadn’t noticed what physically nice specimens I lived with.

The cable connection was made at the back of the building.

China has a different view of fashion from Britain. Those boots that go past the knee are considered clothes for hookers there (UK), but here they simply look good. What’s funny, if you’re a bloke, is that about half the sales have flat heels and so are eminently practical (warm) and a lot less exciting much of the time. Chinese women wear very short skirts, often with trousers and with leggings and with both – it depends just how cold it is. Being very slim by European standards, many of them can wear a ridiculous amount of clothing before they begin to look plump. Since their own culture celebrates ‘straight’ legs, there is a substantial number of women with (by British lights) staggeringly good figures, decent to great legs and a substantial amount of leg on display. So, for example, the bitterly cold winter still has a decent handspan of good leg on show. Lucky me, then, to be paired with a small, slim woman with muscle and hence substantial shapeliness.... heaven is how you find it. Life is what you make of it.

I find myself often turning to, of all things, various sayings from sci-fi movies. One stands out, from Deep Space Nine, in which an endearing Ferengi is forever quoting the Rules of Acquisition (so much more interesting than A-level Business Studies) and one of those most quoted is that inside every disaster lies opportunity. Yet it is right: when the proverbial ordure finds the rotating air mover (about once a week, where I work) the saving response is, consistently, to see what is good about this latest disaster. There is indeed opportunity in each disaster.

Which apparently gets away from the gorgeous girls, but doesn’t, because one of my staff (love it) is wonderfully sexist and was having a go in a very bloke-ish manner about dress – upon which I pointed out that every woman in our office is as good looking as his current girl (with whom he is almost besotted) and that he was not ignoring this but being disparaging in a way that was very funny only if one was not the person being criticised. He provided a very situation-comedy moment at the time worthy of better record than this but did come and agree quietly that we have a remarkable collection of good looking women in the office. And a policy that says you don’t date fellow staff. ¹The wonder is, the girls dress the way they do because they want to; not because they’re man-chasing but because they like the clothes – it’s not an effect of fashion (nor of the very sad social requirement to get a man and a baby), it is more selfish than that – they simply want to feel good about themselves. Meanwhile, we men get to work with these delicious film-set women.

Some of us even get to home to more of the same....

Welcome to China.

DJS 20120412;  on the other side of a whole bottle.

Ferengi may indeed say that inside every disaster lies opportunity, but it is not one of the Rules of Acquisition. See essay 86.


Oh, I missed a bit: Chinese women don’t much care for Chinese men. Many of them fancy a bit of foreign (I can’t imagine why), so even the Bruce Lee clones are passed over for a Clint or a Harrison, a Matt or a Kirk. And if you’re a European woman, then men here feel quite the same - you’re exotic and exciting and different and big in all the right places.  
Bring it on.
I used a picture of Shiplake College as the thumbnail. Thanks to Patrick Gubbins, I have a painting of very much the same view on the wall above my desk.

¹ Many workplaces in China have a policy that couples may not work together. This is sometimes interpreted as one of you loses employment but usually means that you must work in different sites,  buildings or departments.

© David Scoins 2017