Your blogs

  • I’ve ventured out of my social comfort zone. Big mistake

    Paul Lester
    Oct 23, 2008

    It's great when your life starts shaping up like a bad episode of the most clichéd soap opera. This is what happened to me last week when I received a message on my mobile from a girl I'd previously met at a launch party for an expensive new designer brand of fizzy water (Eau Dear, I think it was); a girl who appears to base her texts on the collected works of the Hollyoaks scriptwriters.

    "It would be lovely to go for a drink some time," came her reply to an earlier invitation from yours truly. "But I don't think I could handle anything serious at the moment or my head will explode. So let's just be friends."

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not in the business of skull detonation. But I do wonder why she felt the need to deter me quite so cornily. Did she think I was going to turn up on our date with an engagement ring and a copy of Bride & Groom? Apart from anything else, I don't need any more friends - I haven't enough time to see the ones I've already got.

  • Funny

    Paul Lester
    Oct 19, 2008

    I'm looking forward to tonight because I'm going to review Sarah Silverman in concert at the Hammersmith Apollo for the JC. This is exciting for two reasons. One, I get to see whether Silverman really is, as per her reputation, one of the funniest comedians on the planet. And two, there's a chance I might meet a woman. I mean, I'm bound to meet women - after all, they comprise half the world's population - even if it's just the briefest of exchanges with the girl in charge of the guest-list or the lady who shows you to your seat with a torch. Do they still have those? I sincerely hope so. But will I, you know, Meet A Woman, one I can invite to my parents' flat on high holidays? Gigs can be good places to strike up conversations with complete strangers, especially when you're brandishing a notepad and pen in a deliberate attempt to get females to ask, "Why are you brandishing a notepad and pen?" Actually, they're probably more likely to say "hold" than "brandish", but it's good to have high expectations.
    Then again, what's the likelihood of meeting a nice Jewish girl at a Sarah Silverman show? Slim, like Silverman herself. Because from my experience - only vaguely empirical, I'll admit - Jewish women don't usually find Jewish comedians very funny. I knew one who refused to watch Woody Allen films on the grounds that he was a self-absorbed neurotic, narcissistic nihilist, to which I'd airily reply: "And your problem with that is...?" Another refused to be in the same room whenever Curb Your Enthusiasm came on TV. "Too Jewish" was the gist of her criticism. Maybe the audience will be full of Jewish men, then. Still, some of them are bound to have sisters. Better get my notepad and pen ready...

  • Imperial College student 'trapped' within Gaza

    Simon Friend
    Oct 17, 2008

    Emblazoned on the front cover of this week's issue of Felix, the Imperial College London student newspaper, is the story of Zohair Abu Shaban, an electrical-engineering graduate from Gaza University who is, apparently, unable to accept his place at Imperial College for a masters degree owing to being "trapped" within Gaza by an Israeli border patrol.

    The piece chronicles Zohair's failed attempt at crossing both the Erez and Rafah borders of Gaza.
    Additionally it claims that "there are an estimated 600 students in Gaza who have been accepted into foreign universities, not taking into account promising students who have been deterred from even applying".

    The article quotes a spokesman from the Israeli Foreign Ministry as saying: "Gaza has become a hostile entity ruled by Hamas, a group that have essentially declared war."

  • Shocking Orthodox late night internet searching

    Simon Friend
    Oct 17, 2008

    This week, a religious student at Bar Ilan University, after being struck with a bout of insomnia, ventured to the halls of residence's computer cluster in the early hours of the morning to discover strictly Orthodox men browsing the internet's more questionable material.

    "I was in shock," she recalled. "I passed them and they just continued surfing pornographic sites as if they were watching the news. These are not people that I know; they are too old to be students, and anyone can enter the university, so they simply took advantage of the situation," she said.

    The university is aware that many Charedim from the nearby predominantly strictly Orthodox town of Bnei Brak take advantage of the room in order to surf the net, as internet access at home is not usually permitted by rabbis. A Bar Ilan spokesperson told Israeli news website ynet: "In coordination with the union, we reached a decision to decrease the amount of hours the offices are open and we were indeed successful in significantly reducing the phenomenon.

  • I’m left waiting for the tubes after my big technical fault

    Gideon Schneider
    Oct 16, 2008

    Trapped on the Northern Line between Tottenham Court Road and Goodge Street, the passengers pricked up their ears as the driver's weary voice broke through the void. "Please mind the gap between the high cost of your ticket and the appallingly low standard of service you are getting." Or rather, that's what I heard him say in my half-awake, wholly indignant state.

    What I think he actually said was that signal failure up ahead would have my co-passengers and me sharing the tunnel with London's rats, the smell of the unwashed masses and a verbally abusive drunk for the next 10 minutes of our lives.

    Technical faults in my own body meant that mutated cells had begun to gather together in my neck some months back. This was not a planned closure, and as such I felt claustrophobically trapped by the impending restrictions on my day-to-day life. But the PET/CT scan I undertook provided some comfort, when finally it was determined that the cancer had not spread past my neck. The diagnosis of stage 2a of Hodgkin's disease felt like a single station closure to me. I'd certainly be inconvenienced, but I would reach my destination of full health sooner than I feared.

  • Women

    Paul Lester
    Oct 10, 2008

    This is probably as good a time as any to reassure everybody how I feel about women. I love them. Every single one of them. My mum, my grandmothers, my sister? All great. My ex-girlfriends? Got photos of them all pasted chronologically on my wall, a veritable shrine to ladies past (although I can't help detecting a decline in the quality of pulchritude sometime around the turn of the '90s, which can possibly be put down to the loud American grunge music I was listening to back then).
    But seriously, folks, women are fab. Golda Meir? One of the great Israeli leaders of all time, male or female, although with regard to her appearance, enough with the bun already. Marie Curie? Nobody did pioneering work in the field of radioactivity like La Curie. Florence Nightingale? Few men could hold a lamp with such elan. Mother Theresa? Sure, she was as ugly as sin, but she ministered to the sick and needy with a selflessness that was positively holy, even if her views on abortion were a bit suspect and her face bore more lines than Amy Winehouse's toilet.
    No, women are the best, even - especially - the neurotically intense ones who become aggressive and reach for the nearest saucepan of boiled water at the merest hint of rejection. Those ones are my favourite. I love those.

  • Benefits...

    Gideon Schneider
    Oct 10, 2008

    Starbucks Caramel Frappaccino in hand, I parked myself on one of the well-worn couches in the Hampstead branch to escape the midday sun. Around me, tables were being used for impromptu business meetings, while old friends chatted over steaming espressos. I was smugly slurping the cream from the top of the cup when it dawned on me that the £3.20 cost of this thick, frozen, altogether harmless-looking beverage had single-handedly eaten up 10% of my weekly income.

    That is, my incapacity benefit from the government. The shudder that passed down my spine had nothing to do with the chunk of ice I almost choked on as a consequence of my rude realisation - and everything to do with the shock of my newfound poverty.

    £32.50. They certainly make you work for your money; in order to secure this benefit I was sent on a red-tape obstacle course. I spent an hour on the phone answering the initial battery of questions needed to kick-start my application. A few days later a door-stop of an envelope was crammed through my letter box, almost denting the floor on impact. In it was a printed transcript of the questionnaire I had verbally filled in.

  • Three Jewish nominees for the Guardian Student Media Awards

    Simon Friend
    Oct 10, 2008

    The nominees for the annual Guardian Student Media Awards were announced this week. Three of them are Jewish: Daniel Calder of Manchester University, Naomi Stauber of the University of the Arts, London, and Juliette Gerstein of Leeds University.

    Juliette, who has just begun an MPhil in international relations at Oxford University, having completed her BA in politics last year, has been nominated for the award of best Student Diversity writer.

    She said she was "overwhelmed" by the nomination, which she received in the few hours between her return from Israel and Rosh Hashanah.

  • Gloucester University's Rugby Nazi-themed initiation ceremony caught on camera.

    Simon Friend
    Oct 10, 2008

    Gloucester University Rugby 1st XV's Nazi-themed initiation ceremony was caught on camera this week by a fellow student at the university. The footage, which was sold to the BBC, showed players dressed in SS uniforms parading the newer members through the streets with plastic bags over their heads, followed by vomiting due to their excessive drinking.

    A university spokesman said an inquiry was being launched into alleged "bullying and intimidation" during initiation ceremonies. The National Union of Students has called for a ban on initiations. UJS campaigns officer Yair Zivan said: "The use of a Nazi uniform in this initiation was in terrible taste and hugely insensitive. The horrors of the Nazi regime should not be trivialised in this manner."

    Mark Gardner, a spokesman for the CST, called this a "pathetic" act, seeing it as "exactly the kind of thing that makes Jewish students - or anybody from an ethnic minority - feel isolated and uncomfortable".

  • UCL's first general meeting of the year held on Kol Nidre

    Simon Friend
    Oct 10, 2008

    The first University College London general meeting of this academic year, following the heated assembly in March when the union was twinned with two Palestinian universities, was held on Kol Nidre night.

    UCL undergraduate Aryeh Lehrer said: "The decision to hold the AGM on the most observed High Holy-day demonstrates a clear lack of consideration for UCL's 800 Jewish students and disenfranchises a large number of otherwise active individuals."

    Welfare officer Kate Rowley said: "This error was brought to our attention at short notice. In future, no general meeting will be scheduled against a religious festival."