The Sidgwick Papers

Mr. Nicholas Nickel and Mr. David Copperwire record their observations on a bold journey of discovery into a corner unknown to the scientist: The Sidgwick Site.

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Five past nine on a Monday morning: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the epoch of joy, it was the epoch of despair, it was the time of a long lie in for some, it was the time of the first lecture for others…

Amongst the funereal concrete of the Sidgwick site, those in the former category precipitously outweighed those in the latter.  Nonetheless, the presence of at least six  bikes dumbfounded the two visitors from the distant land of Cavendish.

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Unprecedented turnout for lectures.

“Surely not!” expostulated Copperwire, squinting down at the most concise of the manifold biological textbooks he owned (at a mere 600 pages, it would have seemed foolish not to pack one).  “This is most astonishing! Some of them actually get up before midday. It says here that the Artus-Studentis Stereotypica is a purely nocturnal species.”

“Ah, but look!” ejaculated Nickel (not in the biological textbook sense), “It seems they can exist only though dependency on some nefarious narcotic…”

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Pretty much opium.

Sure enough they followed a trail of hollow eyed caffeine addicts until they reached a den of shocking squalor which seemed to be the root source: “The Old Buttery Shop”. The scene on entering this hovel horrified them. Pale paupers searched through grimy purses, desperately trying to scrape together enough pennies to buy one extortionate croissant.

Only the economists and lawyers could survive this demeaning ordeal with some optimism intact, smug in the knowledge that one day they, unlike the rest, would have a regular income.

The most arrestingly tragic figure a girl with staring, glazed eyes and somewhat odorous clothing. A quick inquiry of the proprietor (the kindly Mr. Bloodsucker Fatcat) cleared up the issue.

“Oh yes, that’s young Miss. Havisham. It was supposed to be her big day yesterday. Her essay deadline, I mean. But she missed it, had to stay up all night to finish and now here she is – still wearing the her same dress, mourning her loss…”

Retreating from the dingy shack, our curious champions discovered it was at last getting busier. Scruffy historians and classicists shuffled off to their bleak workhouses (called “libraries” – a word unfathomable to the scientists). They were followed by a garrulous band of MML students, haunted by the ghosts of tenses past, present and future.

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The Terror of the Workhouse.

Next a sudden incursion of pastel-coloured knitwear, satchels and elbow patches (fake, of course) announced the arrival of the English students. Copperwire and Nickel were able to discern the odd famous face amongst their uniform ranks, such as the Footlights comedian Uriah Peep-Show, acclaimed ADC star Olivier Twist and the TCS food editor, Martin Guzzleshit. The alien inflections of their near-incomprehensible North London dialects carried across to our inquisitive observers.

“Have you seen that awful Dickens parody in the Tab this week?”

“Imagine, we could have featured in it… so meta.”

For a moment the scientists were distracted by the aura of eloquent confidence. Out of the corner of his eye, Copperwire was vaguely aware of a jaunty urchin holding a oversized pair of secateurs sidling up to a bike, ironically located outside the Criminology library.  By the time he turned round, both urchin and bike had vanished. The only trace was a distant hint of a song carried on the wind: “You’ve got to pick a D-lock or two…”

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Arts-ful dodger.

The Divinity Faculty was particularly mystifying to the scientists, for obviously once you know the principles of the Big Bang theory, the futility of studying the Bible is immediately obvious. They took a brief look into the library, but, fearing the wrathful judgement of St. Richard Dawkins, only stayed long enough to hear one inquiry of the librarian:

“Please Sir, can I have some Thomas More?”

Copperwire and Nickel had seen enough of these strange, irrational people. They surreptitiously snuck out of the hotbed of humanities, back towards the safety of textbooks, practicals and right/wrong answers. Meanwhile the bemused Sidgwickians watched from afar, questioning their peculiar visitors’ sanity.