The predominate blogging experience me and Ru have shared was watching the transformation of Parker from reluctant poster to Perez Hilton. The St Andrews blog seems to have ridden the wave of Chennai drama into some degree of debate prominence, so I feel privileged to be given the keys to Parker Hilton’s fledgling kingdom, and give the team perspective.
That drama has been well documented, and definitely doesn’t need me to add much (beyond the promise that the adj strike was a highlight for the vast majority of the debaters, we love some drama as a distraction from heat and delays). I think what I’ll be doing here is talking a little about the debating, and a little about my broader experience.
So we’ve had an especially brutal climb up the team tab, which meant we’ve been a part of some brilliant debates which served to remind you exactly what this strange hobby can be at its best. There are a number of excellent squads here this year, but the coveted ‘Emerging Nemesis’ team award should probably go to Cambridge A, who poked their eloquent heads into a third of our in-round debates. I won’t talk about our competitive record in those three clashes, but I guess you can conclude we probably wouldn’t hand out such a coveted label to teams we routed repeatedly…. :S
Cambridge weren’t our only obstacle, the top ten teams in the competition were present in two thirds of our debates, so me and Ru were left little option than to run at 100% for the first three days. It went well, and we did our best to whack-a-mole any weaknesses that emerged across the rounds, but the side effect (compounded by crazy delays) was walking into your hotel at 11:30pm and collapsing exhausted day after day. We’ve faced some incredibly smart people, on incredibly complex issues, and the upshot is we know we can generate the material needed to take a top room (well…. probably not the TPP debate, Cambridge had their way with us throughout that entire shitshow), we just need to nurture the Straya x-factor, where the earnest application of accent makes anything sound gospel.
The real locus of competitive spirit and white-knuckle action emerged as a thanks to Durham’s excellent taste in recreation. Top Trumps is a game where decks of cards are created with a particular focus (jets, dinosaurs, cars etc.), and have relevant attributes listed. You draw a card, cite the attribute and then whoever has the TOP statistic TRUMPS the opposition (it’s not an imaginative name). To be honest if you don’t know how this game works, your childhood was a desolate wasteland free of frenzied comparisons between dinosaur tail lengths and footballer goal totals. Of course, the version we the gold standard: Early 90s pop icons. The giants of peppy beats were clashed on everything from their Top 10 hits to the number of haircuts within their career. PHOAR! factor, pop factor and the cover appearances of cultural giants like Abs from Five (did you know that in his next life, Abs would like to be reincarnated as an Iguana… yes, they have fun facts too) served as the weapons with which we did battle.
This combat reached its peak when I faced my former comrade, Ed from Imperial, whose defection to our one remaining opponent at the last minute left him in possession of Rachel from S-club, the card which had become our Helen of Troy. This modern day Paris had turned on his loyal ally in a cowardly bid to ensure he kept her (sadly underestimated) PHOAR! of 92 from 100 for himself. Unfortunately, this contemporary Iliad played out a little differently. If I had an Achilles, it was Ronan Keaton, whose piercing eyes and dulcet tones had secured him 19 Top Tens, 11 cover appearances and 14 SMASH HITS reader awards. Ed’s Hector was Mel C, an unlikely champion who served to bring him back from the brink (One. Goddam. Card.) TWICE. A brink he didn’t reach a third time. The Greek pursuit of Rachel was once an unstoppable advance, reinforced by the titans of Robbie Williams, Stephen Gately and Shaznay from Allsaints, whose seven haircuts across her career had earned numerous cards from Ed’s treacherous, probably sweaty, Rachael-grabbing hands. But Mel C stood against them all, and after 36 minutes of furious combat, I was left without Rachel, and without victory. A sad end, to a once noble fight.
Despite Imperial’s betrayal, we’ve made it through, and our haphazard New Years ushered in more than 2014; it gave us the first day which wasn’t defined by INCESSANT wake-up calls, dry muffins and 7am bus rides. I’d like to say that we seized the opportunity to absorb the rich culture of Chennai… unfortunately the only thing St Andrews absorbed was food, sunshine and the very finest Studio Magic the discovery channel had to offer. To dissolve some of your inevitable judgement, a couple of points:
1) Navigating these roads requires an energy 3 days of debate doesn’t provide you with.
2) We were tired.
3) The top rated attraction in this ENTIRE greater urban area on trip advisor is a Cinema.
4) We were really tired.
5) That cinema is in the mall we ate our lunch at, so I guess you could say we’d already seen the ‘Peoples Choice’ of Chennai’s rich culture.
6) We were SO TIRED.
7) I don’t need to justify a comfy bed and air conditioning.
Me and Parker did however, take a moto-rickshaw to the New Years party (something that might have overdrawn the emotional reserves of Ru, Ben and Kitty, who were continuing the long established tradition of refusing to enjoy debating, and by implication existence). That is not to say that their concerns were unjustified, it’s a totally terrifying mode of travel, but me and Parker enjoyed our roller-coaster of vehicular fear. We didn’t enjoy being dropped 15 minutes from the hotel, despite being ensured it was ‘around the corner’, but the walk through the revelry, honking and glowsticks which covered the streets was a charismatic way to kick off our new year.
The real heart of the worlds experience will always be the out-rounds, where statistical strengths in teams and their winrates can be overturned by the whims of luck when it comes to motions, positions and judges (see the teams in last years Final). This sentence is being written on the morning of the 2nd, so I can’t tell if it will serve to undermine St Andrews A’s successes or justify our failures, but it will remain unquestionably true in either case. Whatever happens, we will either see or participate in some fantastic debates, and that is without too much sugar, a win for all involved.
But the real challenge wont be our Octo, it will be the battle with the ASSHOLE hotel who have initiated their New Years campaign to squeeze every room for as many fabricated expenses as possible. Whether we will get the same treatment as Dan Bearman and his $1400 internet bill (while trying to double it, they accidentally multiplied by 20….), or the more widely applied ‘claim imagined buffet bills and loudly refuse to produce an itemized receipt, we’ll be undoubtedly busy tonight. This evening is laden with adventure, but quite sincerely: fuck you Taj Clubhouse, fuck you.
WRITERS NOTE: So the best that could have happened, happened. Me and Ru, along with Guu A, Cambridge B and Oxford A have all made it into one worlds semifinal. Whatever happens, we all want it, but we all have a competitive record against each other which means that tomorrow could mean any combination of Britain’s finest would be duking it out for the championship. That is an outcome which I think is a worthy recognition of quite how good the IONA circuit has been these last months, and exactly what it’s capable of. Bring on the final day of this absurd, but endlessly compelling tournament.
P.S Missing you more than anything K-dawg <3 (P.S. From Parker, lame)