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Adventures in Academia
Part Four
On a lovely day, Todd and I go in search of a pie.


After a very nice April (some might say it was a bit too hot!) with a distinct lack of April showers, May has pulled up its socks and delivered plenty a deluge. In fact, the May Day bank holiday was one of the coldest and wettest on record! (I read that on the BBC). This meant that my birthday had been spent indoors doing pretty much nothing, which was alright with me. However, the weather has not improved since then, and has in fact got worse! Many times have I glanced out of the window of my office (read: my living room) at the sound of rain thundering on the roof above my head to see an absolute blitzkrieg of raindrops hurtling down outside.

It was on one of these rainy days that this adventure begins. As with many adventures, it was a Tuesday: the time was about eleven when Todd suggested that we convene on campus for a pie. As part of the ‘Spring into Summer’ campaign the university are running to placate any students complaining about tuition fees, numerous food stalls have sprung up all over the Green Heart (actually the bit below it, which has existed long before the Green Heart but I don’t know what it’s called because it’s not Chancellor’s Court because that’s the bit by Old Joe). This week’s offerings included the ‘Brummie Pie Shop’, a concept that confused me. What made a pie a Brummie pie? Was this a cultural delicacy I had somehow avoided for five years, or were they just called that because they were made in Birmingham? These were all questions I did not know the answer to, which didn’t make sense because I quite like pies.

Having received this invitation, I immediately looked out of the window and observed that the rain was ‘tipping it down’, which seemed like an immediate end to any outdoor activity. However, Todd seemed unperturbed by this force of nature: his proud Wayfarer nature meant he was determined to go out regardless of the weather. I was less convinced, as I am not a true Wayfarer but a mere imitation who can only go about ten miles before my legs get sore. Fortunately, in addition to not being a true Wayfarer, I am also an incredibly easily influenced individual so I gave in anyway and acquiesced. A casualty of this was my Tuesday soup would go unconsumed: a Tuesday without soup is truly a dark day indeed, which might have explained why it was so murky outside.

At around 12:15 I departed and headed for campus. Surprisingly it had actually stopped raining! I wayfared towards the centre of campus, having to take a somewhat wiggly route as they’re doing some construction work at the bit where there used to be some steps. I don’t know what they’re doing there: I had a look once and it wasn’t very revealing, but that was because it was just some foundations at the time. There isn’t even any propaganda on the hoardings, which seems like a missed trick in my book.

Nonetheless, I ascended the slope underneath one of the many physics bridges and then passed by Aston Webb towards Chancellor’s Court. As always, I had drastically overestimated how long it would take to get to campus and now I had arrived ten minutes early. To make matters worse, Todd then messaged and informed me that he would be ten minutes late. Cursing the fact that I had trusted Todd, a man infamous for being late, to be on time, I decided to go for a wander. It was at this moment that the heavens opened and much rain descended onto campus. Luckily I had not been moronic enough to go out without wearing a raincoat despite the lack of rain, and I could pull up my hood to continue my business. My jeans did get a bit wet though.

Although I could have played some solo ‘Spring into Summer’ minigolf in the rain, I decided that this was not a good use of my time, or indeed anyone’s. No doubt the rain would increase my ‘handicap’ and I would have received a score much over ‘par’, which is the number of shots you’re supposed to take to do the hole in. I assume that because it’s mini golf, the ‘par’ is lower, but the ‘par’ for most holes is already quite low, so maybe you have to do it in negative shots. Instead, I ascended the hill towards CS, marvelling as I had often done before at the new engineering building and the nice pavement area outside it. Although it’s currently a bit barren, I’m sure that some of the trees will eventually sprout leaves and look very nice. I decided to wait underneath the canopy outside CS to shelter from the rain, and I was staggered to discover that the famous constant drip from the top of the building had stopped. Had they managed to fix it?

After waiting for a non-trivial amount of time, the familiar figure of Todd Waugh Ambridge appeared over the way. We exchanged pleasantries and were about to move off when Todd experienced some sort of mental breakdown. He stopped, half-removed his waterproof trousers from his bag, then stopped and put them back in. Throughout all of this I watched agape as the rain thundered around us. The whole procedure probably took about 30 seconds, but it felt like hours - we had to obtain pies, and fast!

Todd and I rapidly approach the pies

Todd and I on pie patrol

As we descended, I complained about the rain, and was immediately (and unfairly) savaged for not finding the wetness dripping down my face one of the most euphoric experiences of my life. To continue the controversy, Todd also dared to consider not getting a pie after all of the pie hype, but since I was paying and I didn’t feel like queuing up twice, I shot this idea down without a second thought. Todd did manage to get in a trademark request to delete peas from his meal, as he is a child. I initially considered refusing this too, but more heckling meant that in the end I accepted the task, and performed it with aplomb (the pie did indeed not come with peas). Incidentally, the fact that the peas are mushy peas blew my mind, as pies are generally not served with mushy peas, but with garden peas. Mushy peas are very nice so I’m not complaining, but it’s still absolutely mental.

After decrying my lack of desire to be doused in a constant stream of water, Todd headed immediately for the shelter of the bit underneath the Law building. We discussed whether this counted as outside, but it fulfilled the Gazebo Condition: it lacked the north and south walls required to seal in the air and upgrade it to indoor status. We perched ourselves on the steps into the Law building, completely blocking off the approach of anyone who wanted to enter. Fortunately, nobody did want to enter over the course of our luncheon, so no damage was done. Or perhaps they were just scared off by two rugged computer scientists.

The pie itself was acceptable, although I felt that the mash was a bit strange and didn’t taste like `real’ mash. Todd furiously rebutted and implied that this was the greatest mash he had ever tasted. This was coming from a man who only makes mashed potatoes when his girlfriend is around, whereas I am a mashed potato champion, having received at least one (1) positive review regarding my smashed spuds. (Smashed is actually a fundamentally different cooking concept to mashed, but alliteration trumps coherence). I therefore made a mental note that I had won this duel: just one of many victories to add to the pile (or should that be pie-le?).

With the pie, mash, and in my case peas, all consumed, we set out on a post-lunch walk around Chancellor’s Court for approximately five minutes. Our route then took us past an ice cream van, which seemed a bit out of place considering the general state of the weather. But the man was there, and we decided to purchase some of his wares. After marvelling that we could use contactless for an ice cream van, proof that we truly do live in the future, my card was promptly declined and I had to do chip and pin. This still meant we lived in the future though, as I didn’t have to use cash, the devil’s metal. The price of my Oreo knickerbocker glory was an eye-watering £3.50, and I probably paid extra for the flake too, but this is apparently how expensive things are these days. At least it tasted nice.