James Mitchell

Trouser bulges and ill-judged jokes. It’s JAMES MITCHELL in his new column.

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Judging by some of the feedback on my article last week, it seems that I may not have made it clear that I’m an older undergrad.

I have in fact spent nearly three years as an undergraduate, having completed a year reading Logic and Scientific method at the LSE, the best part of a year at Cambridge reading Farsi and Arabic, and am now looking to complete the first of a three year undergraduate degree course reading History.

That, I think makes me a bit of an expert on a number of things. Clearly I have mastered the art of failure. I have also developed a pretty good interview technique.

However, one of the disadvantages has been an increasing sense of detachment and isolation when it comes to Cambridge nightlife. I am sure that a few years ago, going clubbing was something I did without much thought. I went along, I drank, I made some effort to dance without feeling too self-conscious and I went home (invariably alone).

In a previous life – when I was attempting degree number one at the LSE – I was continually dragged around town and persuaded to paint the town red (fittingly, as most of my LSE chums were Marxists). It was relentless: every night was club night. I was not even spared on a Tuesday.

When I look round a packed nightclub now, I feel that everyone has read their script and is fully engaged. They don’t look awkward, and the fact that nobody can hear a word that anyone is saying doesn’t appear to matter.

They are obviously communicating, possibly through the medium of dance and movement, and thereby making arrangements for bad post-club shagging as the night wears on. I have tried, but I have the same difficulty mastering the language of dance and mime as I did last year learning Farsi. It’s a foreign language and quite impenetrable.

Worse: I feel that everyone can sense my discomfort. It’s as if a Monty Python arrow was pointing at me with the label ‘loser’.

My technique to deal with this in the past was simple. I started to smuggle a book into the club with me. Once inside I’d play the part of someone with lots of people to see then pop off to the loo for a leisurely read.

After an hour or so, I would return to the dance floor with what I hoped was a smug look, suggesting that I had been getting off with at least one and quite possibly a number of desirable women.

I like to think that I won a reputation for being quite the lady magnet, despite the fact that nobody ever saw any of my ‘conquests’. I carried it off because I had even convinced myself that it was true – until, that is, a bouncer outside Soul Tree (RIP) stopped me on the way in one evening and demanded to know what the bulge in my trousers was.

After a few ill-judged jokes, I was made to reveal my copy of Roald Dahl’s Short Stories. My subterfuge was ended and my reputation as a lothario lay in tatters.

So, if you happen to see me tonight in some crowded, noisy, sweaty, venue looking awkward (or possibly pretending earnestly to talk to someone on my mobile) and feel overcome with sympathy, how about sneaking out with me and finding a local tea dance? Or bingo hall?

Bring a book though, just in case.