100 and 83.

I am rarely speechless. Yesterday was a rare occasion.

Two months ago I attended a meeting about the Oxford University Internship Scheme to find out about an Indian village writing NGO. However, I left this meeting with a very different goal in mind: to become an intern for Murphy Media. It is the most competitive internship available, with over 200 applications from matriculated Oxford students every year. I started researching.

The two selected interns spend six weeks in the American South, writing, filming, researching and collaberating on an exciting food TV show and book series with a team of very charming Southern men. It is adventure in its meatiest, greasiest, most delicious form with the opportunity to learn as much as possible about how shows are made, and the difference between chicken and chicken fried steak.

And I got it! Absolutely speechless, still.

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100 and 82.

It is Eighth Week. Eight fast, cold weeks taking us two terms and two thirds into a three term degree. Days start at ten in bed with cornflakes and end at one, or two, in an empty library. Work begins after dinner and so, the days are mine for fiction and peach bellinis and coffee dates that last until nightfall. Our shower is still broken six months on, twenty of us sharing one cubicle, but no one complains and we are all happy. I had my final class this week, and then Spring arrived. Beautiful weather.

 

100 and 81.

First pie review column of the term.

Pie: fruity, juicy, crusty, meaty; the sacred plate of Chaucer’s cook and Langland’s passus. It is the Demon Barber’s fleshy Fleet Street secret, baking his victims in pastry to sell next door, and Roald Dahl’s Twits’ Wednesday night treat. Seven centuries of gluttony, lustfully brings us to the most contemporary of deadly sins: greed, justified here in our first pie review of the season.

Pieminister Oxford is the Covered Market’s best value midweek lunch, and only sit-down pie restaurant. We arrived on Mothership Tuesday, when a pie, mash, gravy, cheese, toasted shallots and a pile of mushy peas, all come together for six quid. It’s a lot of food.

This is Middle England at its most appetising. There is the urban provincialism of Real English pub food on Real English enamel plates, where all drinks are artisanal and ‘Live and Eat Pie!’ glitters overhead on a neon wall hanging. Customers sit around communal tables divided down the middle by great metallic troughs cluttered with condiments and water, on the off chance that they come up for air as they hog down their crusts. It is grey and black and dark without the filth and squalor of a Real English Pig Sty, in fact it’s spotless. Top marks for cleaning.

I went for the Fungi Chicken – free-range chicken with field and chestnut mushrooms. A classic. My partner in crime chose the Matador: beef steak and chorizo with olives and broad beans. The pastry was flaky, soft, and inoffensive but for its startling tepidity. The contents were far more favourable. All the animal products in Pieminister pies are organic and free range, and the company has won Good Chicken and Good Egg awards for its food ethics.

The chicken was tender and flavoursome, as were the mushrooms, which had stewed in pie juices without yet reaching fetid wilting point. Mash is an Irish sex symbol, the seventeenth century poster child for anti-famine, and watered in gravy it lived up to its reputation; keeping me full, turning me on and evoking childhood memories of my best mate The Leprechaun. Delicious. With the cheese and shallots, and mustard from the trough, the plate became the ugliest, tastiest lunch I’ve had in a while. Looks aren’t everything. And neither is music, because to enjoy a lunch this much whilst sat beneath two speakers playing hackneyed love songs is a difficult task.

If you like pie with all the extras and are nearing the end of your last loan instalment, there are few places that can beat here for pricing; there’s even a ten percent student discount. The Lighter Pie menu offers three options under 440 calories, and as ball season approaches this might be the happy medium between starvation and binge eating pasties when you can’t find a dress. It’s not glamorous and it won’t change your life, but it will do everything a pie should without sending you bankrupt.

VALUE: 8

TASTE: 7

ATMOSPHERE: 6

SERVICE: 8

OVERALL: 7/10

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100 and 80.

Forgot to say, had the most read article on Education Guardian a couple of weeks ago -

 

http://www.theguardian.com/education/mortarboard/2014/jan/31/oxbridge-elitism-postgraduate-student

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100 and 79.

Twenty minutes ago the howling, desperate cries of a Chinese superfan filled the Sheldonian Theatre, the official ceremonial hall of Oxford University. I had been to see Jerri Johnson in conversation with J K Rowling. The most entertaining part? The Q & A.

Behind the stage, a dwarfish woman in red robes caressed her stack of Rowlings and Galbraiths, shaking with disturbing ecstasy every time Rowling took to the mic. Of course it would be fated that, when the floor was opened to questions, this four-foot testament to the danger of fan-fiction would be first.

She stood up, still shaking. “J K!!!” she screamed like an incomplete meme, “J K!! J K!! I love you!! J K!”

The Theatre was silent.

“J K!! You give me happy! I so happy! I love you!”

She collapsed on the bar in front, weeping. But this was not the end.

“You give happy to m-m-millions! Happy to me! To mummy! To China!”

Her unsettling confession punctuated only by obscene Mandarin exclamations and the sound of her tears hitting the floor.

In an effort to quell her passions, the microphone was removed. But hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. She would not sit down.

Finally, Johnson pointed to another in the crowd: the only member of the 1000 strong audience in a floor length hemp dress, a leathery headband and Birkenstocks. Surely, this woman would have a more appropriate question?

“I am a single mother,” she began, shouting over the still ongoing screams of the weeping midget.

What followed was a speech covering the “dirty evil” of the Conservative Party, the struggles of being alone and the absence of a single parent community in North Oxford. J K Rowling left Oxford to a thundering chorus of weeping, screaming and the aggressive march of a newly abandoned mother.

Never again.

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100 and 78.

There were no midgets at the Emerald Ball. For one night Wolfson College was transformed into early twentieth century Kansas, with scarecrows and tin men and a handpainted yellow brick road taped from wall to floor of the Upper Common Room. I woke up mid-afternoon Sunday bruised and black-eyed, having lost half my chin somewhere between 5am shots with the kitchen staff and fleeing through the fire escape with a bucket of looted sundried tomatoes.

There was a laserquest set up, briefly, on the lawn and a ceilidh band. Twenty drummers in black outside the library, and inside, the evangelical Nigerian scientist still reading through the screams and vomit hurled recklessly at its windows by the crowd. Upstairs, uneaten baskets of enormous pastries clotted together with greyed cream: appetising. I lost my key and befriended the blind porter. Photo evidence suggests that I launched an aggressive tribal dance attack to reach the front of the 4am survivors picture.

24 hrs later: a trail of lost shoes in the Porters’ Lodge, an unclaimed engagement ring left at lost and found and my return to the library.

It was a lot of fun. 

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100 and 77.

Run over cycling to class: bike twisted into inelegant crush of cut chains and broken lights. Paintwork damaged. Basket now pentagonal. Both of us now very bruised. Picked up by a van driver. Walked it to class. Made it there only twenty minutes late. Could have been worse.

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