Friday, April 11, 2008

The S Files (Part Two)

Part One

Just before Easter 1999, we were informed by Cardiff University's Cultural Criticism department that we were to take a compulsory field trip to Llancaiach Fawr Manor near Caerphilly. It's a living museum where they re-enact the Civil War period. It wasn't until we had paid our non-refundable fee of £5 that S realised the trip coincided with the wedding of his brother in his home town of Torquay.

Rather than cancel his trip to Llancaiach Fawr, S decided that he would be able to make it back to Devon as long as the field trip ran perfectly to schedule. It also relied on the condition that the coach driver would drop him off at Cardiff Central on the way home, allow him to make his train with ample time to spare.

On the day of the trip, I arrived early at the Humanities building to find S lugging a huge suitcase through the gates of the car park where our coach was waiting.

"I thought if I got here early, I could claim a seat for my suitcase," he explained. "I've got my brother's wedding present inside and it's quite delicate. I don't want it to get damaged."

As he was struggling somewhat, I helped him with his case to the bus. When we got to the door, the driver took one look at S and one look at the case.

"You can't bring that on here son," he said. "It'll have to go in the luggage compartment"

"But there's some delicate content in there!" cried S.

"It's OK son," said the driver. "It'll be a smooth journey."

Reluctantly, S handed over the case and we climbed aboard the bus. There was a loud thud as the driver threw the case into the bottom of the coach.

Once the remaining students were on the bus, we headed off in the direction of Llancaiach Fawr. It was quite a stressful journey, mainly because everybody had to put up with S shouting "my suitcase!" every time the bus went around the slightest of corners. A bit like Piggy from Lord Of The Flies .

As we got closer to our destination, the driver had to navigate a particularly tight turn - rather like the hairpin half way around the Monaco Grand Prix circuit. The panic on S' face was clear for all to see.

"My good man!" yelled S from the back of the bus, sounding like Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances. "Can I just remind you that there is a very delicate object in my suitcase?!"

By this time I was beginning to wonder if I had warped into a scene from the movie Speed. I had visions of S crawling into the luggage compartment in order to diffuse some kind of explosive device that would detonate if the coach tilted beyond a certain angle.

The driver had no such concerns. He simply looked into the rear-view mirror, rolled his eyes and turned on the radio.

When we arrived at the manor, it was suggested to S that he should leave his suitcase on the bus as the same vehicle would be taking us home.

"No, I can't risk it," said S. "If we fall behind schedule, I intend to make my own way back to Cardiff."

The driver looked quite pleased about this. He didn't even try to make S change his mind. He simply climbed into the luggage compartment and the next thing we knew, a suitcase was flying out in S' direction.

We soon found ourselves walking through the grounds of a manor, with actors recreating scenes from 1645 and S dragging along a suitcase with an I Love Torquay sticker on the side.

With each new room that we entered, S looked more and more flustered. He would look anxiously at his watch every thirty seconds or so and did not want to join in with any of the activities, instead choosing to sigh deeply, getting louder each time.

It was unfortunate therefore, when he was chosen by one of the Civil War characters, Mistress Sweet, to demonstrate how comfortable a seventeenth-century bed could be.

"Oh no, no, no...I really can't leave my case," he protested.

"Nonsense! Come on!" instructed Mistress Sweet.

I felt an urge to heckle.

"Come on S! This is the best offer you've had from a woman all year!"

But I managed to restrain myself.

Eventually, S surrendered and climbed upon the bed. He then dragged the suitcase up with both hands and laid it beside him.

When Mistress Sweet climbed onto the bed and started bouncing up and down, I honestly thought that S was going to have a heart attack.

"Please! I'd like to get off now" he whimpered.

Of course, after all that, we had now fallen behind schedule. It was predicted that we would now be arriving in Cardiff an hour later than originally planned. That was the final straw.

"Right, I'm off!" snapped S, as another character from 1645 started showing us around the garden. He walked off and nobody attempted to stop him.

On the way home, we kept our eyes open for any sign of S but he was nowhere to be seen. We tried sending him text messages but he didn't reply. When we called his phone it went straight to voice mail. Back in Cardiff, there was still no sign of S anywhere and it was not until the following Monday that we finally saw that he was alive and well.

When I asked him what had happened, he explained that he had found the nearest bus stop and waited for the first one to come along. Unfortunately, he was unfamiliar with many of the Welsh names listed on the timetable and had to guess which one to catch. As time went by, he realised that he was not going to get back to Cardiff in time.

As it turned out, if he had stayed at Llancaiach Fawr with us, the coach would have dropped him off at the train station with minutes to spare. However, luckily for him he managed to eventually get a bus to Newport and was able to board his train from there.

He got home to Devon in perfect time for his brother's wedding, but we never did get an update on the status of the delicate item or whether his brother appreciated the effort that S had put in to protect it.

Weeks later, S had more than made a name for himself in the Cultural Criticism department. We had been told to bring an item which could be regarded as being post-modern to our final seminar of the year. Nice and vague, then. The majority of us had opted for something small and simple. Indeed, I had taken a brightly coloured vinyl record which went down better than expected with my tutor.

As I approached the main entrance of the Humanities building, I spotted S pacing up and down in the reception area.

"Oh good, I'm glad it's you," he said, as he spotted me trying to skulk around to the side entrance. "Could you help me carry my post-modern item upstairs?"

"Of course," I replied. "Where is it?"

"I had to bring it in a taxi. I unloaded it into the secretary's office."

As we walked into the room, I was greeted by four huge boxes.

"It's my A-Level Art project," he explained. "I recreated a Roy Lichtenstein piece on a grand scale."

We then did our best impression of the Chuckle Brothers as we heaved each individual box up three flights of stairs, chanting "to you, to me" as we went.

When we finally got the last of the boxes into the seminar room, our tutor looked at them with her mouth agape.

"S! You didn't need to go to all this trouble," she cried.

"Well, that's just me!" he replied.

Yes S, that was exactly you. Always going one step further than everyone else. In fact, you were a pretty good example of a post-modern object yourself, with even more surprises to come.

Part Three

Prawn Cufflinks on eBay

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