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Reasons I Can’t be a Spy

Since the film Kingsman came out, I’ve been debating whether I could be a gentleman spy. Or indeed a spy in general. To be honest, this isn’t a new idea for me. James Bond is a huge influence on British pop culture and since I first watched The Avengers I’ve wanted to be Black Widow – though preferably without the brainwashing. But I have come to the conclusion that I cannot be a spy. And I’m going to share my reasons with you lovely people.

1. Shaken or stirred makes no difference.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that James Bond drinks his Martinis shaken and not stirred. It’s a fact. That’s just how he rolls. Now I’ve had Martinis and I can’t say that I’d want to have them as my signature drink. To be honest, there’s very few drinks I would want as my signature drink. Unless it’s Archers and lemonade, which just isn’t individual enough to become synonymous with my name. Which I think means I’m not cut out to be a spy.

2. No habol espanol or French or most languages.

Okay, so I’m basically fluent in German. But the other languages I’ve studied (Japanese, Russian and Arabic if you were wondering) I definitely couldn’t use to subtly interrogate someone. I’m not sure I can interrogate someone without them noticing in English. Or at least not well enough to do it as a career.

3. Exercise is effort.

As much as I want to be Black Widow, all the exercise she must do seems like a lot of effort. It pays off – have you seen her in any of her fight scenes? But man, I don’t think I have the time for that. With essays and life and what-have-you, my exercise mostly boils down to walking to uni, swing dance and the very very occasional actual workout.

So there you have it, all the reasons I can’t be a spy.

I do know that being a spy isn’t all fancy drinks and epic fight scenes, and there’s a whole myriad of reasons I can’t be a real life spy either; namely that I’d desperately want to blog about it, and I hear it’s frowned upon to spill state secrets and intelligence on the internet. So I guess I’m going to have to settle for watching spy films instead of living one. Which, now I think about it, seems like a much less dangerous way of living.

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Punctuation: Ridiculous and Magic.

My grandma got a new phone this week. Thankfully she’s fairly tech savvy, so don’t worry – I’m not about to regale you with tales of being IT support for older relatives. But she was texting me and every text ended with ?? Which meant I was reading everything as very questioning. Particularly when texts were just ‘ok??’.

It turns out my phone couldn’t cope with the emoticons she was trying to send me. But it got me thinking about punctuation and how ridiculous it is that. I can? Add some symbols! And you’ll read – the sentence completely…differently in your head.

With the rise of internet communication and social media, we are constantly using written (or typed) language, and punctuation is hugely important to that. Whereas when you speak you automatically do the pauses and intonation and whatnot, that’s not how it works in written communication. It’s how I can write:

I’m fine.

I’m fine!

I’m…fine.

And while all three have the same two words in them, you know (mostly) exactly how they’re being “said” and thus the meaning behind them. What makes this even more ridiculous is that some of you reading this blog have never heard me speak. Not even once. And yet, you can still infer meaning and tone from the words I use, in part due to the punctuation I use.

What’s the most ridiculous thing about punctuation is that sometimes we use it to make pictures to represent out emotions/attitude/facial features to make up for the lack of face to face contact inherent in written communication. Yes, I’m talking about emoticons.

Emoticons are nothing new. People have drawn pictures in letters since the first time someone put writing instrument to durable surface. But now that we use computers (and yes, I’m including phones in this) we have a key board and our options are more limited. So we make pictures out of punctuation – or at least we did before the makers of our methods-of-communication clocked this and gave us pictures to choose from. The first emoticons, as I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you, were 🙂 and 😦 and the variations thereupon. [EDIT: So WordPress automatically changed colon end bracket and colon open bracket to pictures. I told you they’re onto the emoticon use :P]

What is so fascinating about emoticons is that you can use them to mean a ridiculous amount of things. And these uses aren’t necessarily universal. Take the winky face for example  😉

I have a friend who uses it to denote sarcasm, my cousin uses it when she’s teasing me, I’ve met people who use it to indicate flirting… And then in Germany, it’s just the standard smiley face. Which was very weird when I first moved out there. I thought everyone was either being sarcastic or flirting which was just….so confusing.

What I’m trying to say in this blog post, is that punctuation and the way that it influences how we read written communication is ridiculous and amazing. Punctuation has always been used to indicate tone, and while that in itself is interesting, the way we can use it to reflect emotions and attitudes as well is just…It makes my head spin. Ain’t linguistics great?  😀

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BQC: A Flying Visit

George Weasley: Rough game, Quidditch.

Fred Weasley: Brutal, but no one’s died in years. Someone will vanish occasionally, but they’ll turn up in a month or two!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, (2001 film)

It’s true. Quidditch, even Muggle Quidditch, is a dangerous sport. But the threat of mysteriously vanishing didn’t deter over 400 players descending on Wollaton Park last weekend, all ready to battle to the death if necessary for the honour of being crowned the British Quidditch Champions.

Photo credit: University of Nottingham Wollaton Hall is as impressive as Quidditch skills

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Wollaton Hall is as impressive as Quidditch skills

As I mentioned in my last post, my local team is the Nottingham Nightmares. I’ll can give you three guesses who I support. Yeah, that’s right – Derby. No, I’m kidding. Of course I support Nightmares. Let’s be honest, I live with their team captain. It’d be a trifle awkward if I didn’t. Fair warning: this post will be Notts Nightmares centric. So I donned my nightmares shirt and face paint, and headed out to Wollaton Park in time for the first Nightmares game of the British Quidditch Cup.

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All the things needed to support your team: tutus, banners and nail polish. Oh and face paint, of course.

Unfortunately due to various reasons, the games on Day One were running late, which meant there was still waiting around to be done when I turned up. This did mean, however, that I had time to grab some BQC swag and be introduced to various quidditching people. And then finally, it was time for Nottingham to play Bangor Broken Broomsticks.

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The official programme is so kickass.

Before I go on, I should probably quickly explain a couple of things. Firstly, the snitch is worth 30 points and catching it ends the game. Each time a Quaffle goes through a hoop that’s 10 points. (And if you want slightly more explanation than that, Sky Sports were at BQC and filmed a (at times kind of cheesy) video explanation complete with actual quidditch players and adorable kids, which you can find here.) On Day One, teams were playing the other teams that were in their groups (See here for more details of fixtures and scores).

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Photo credit: University of Nottingham

A Quaffle, a bludger and many broomsticks

I’m not a sports commentator, so I’m sorry but you’re not going to get a blow by blow recount of the match. But I can tell you that both teams played well, but finally Nightmares triumphed, with the score 150*-70. (For the uninitiated, an asterisk means that team caught the snitch.) There was much celebration on the part of the Nightmares, because winning your first game is always a great way to kick off a tournament.

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Nightmares celebrating a well deserved win.
(The guy in the yellow headband caught the snitch.)
(He was mobbed by the entire team.)

The second game Nightmares played was against The Flying Chaucers. Flying Chaucers formed just two months ago and brought a fairly small squad to BQC. They played really well, particularly for such a new team, but the final score was 280*-10 to Nottingham. Winning both matches was a solid start.

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

The Chaucers putting up a valiant fight.

As the games were running late on Day One, Nightmares only played two games on the Saturday, rather than the three they should have done. However, it was a beautiful day, and I don’t think anyone minded too much. Of course, there were plenty of matches to watch in between Nightmare games and it was a really great start to the weekend.

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

“Quidditch face” can strike anyone anytime anywhere.

Saturday night there was a social, where I think everyone I talked to told me how tired they were and they couldn’t believe they’d dragged themselves out, but hadn’t the day gone well? The social was very lowkey due to the excessive tiredness of pretty much everyone, but it ended with a highland dance off, so fun was definitely had.

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Nightmares going for a goal against Durham.

Sunday dawned grey and drizzly, but I didn’t see it because I slept through my alarm. I don’t want to say that watching Quidditch is as tiring as playing because that’s simply not true, but man it takes it out of you. I missed the first Nightmares match which was against Durhamstrang. Nightmares lost, with the final score standing at 110*-60. A close match but still a loss.

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

A reminder that Quidditch is a full contact sport.

By the time I turned up, it had been established that despite the loss to Durham, Nightmares were through the group stage and into the round of sixteen. This meant playing Derby Union Quidditch for a place in the Quarterfinals. To start off with Nightmares were not at their best, but they pulled it back, with the final score being 80*-40 to Nottingham. Which meant they were through to the Quarterfinals.

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Notts giving it all they’d got against the Chimeras.

And in the quarterfinals they were facing Radcliffe Chimeras, who, at the time were both the British and European champions. But Nightmares were prepared for a fight, even when the heavens opened. It was the tensest match I have ever watched. By snitch release (18 minutes into the game) the score was 30-0 to the Chimeras, which meant if Nottingham caught the snitch without the Chimeras scoring anymore, the game would go to overtime which would mean if they caught the snitch again they’d win and be through to the semifinals.

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Photo credit: Donald Stazicker

Solid defensive seeking by the Nightmares’ Seeker.

Sadly, it was not to be with Chimeras both scoring more and catching the snitch, and the final score was 110*-10 to the Chimeras. But Nightmares played fantastically and all of their supporters were so proud of them. And they should be so proud of themselves.

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Southampton about to beat out a Chimeras Chaser.

In the end, the final was between Radcliffe Chimeras and Southampton Quidditch Club 1. Complete with a disallowed snitch catch, injuries, and a pitch move, it was both a long and tense match. But finally, finally, finally it was over. With Southampton Quidditch Club 1 as the new British Quidditch Champions.

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

You’re going to want to click on this photo to fully see how great it is.

If you want full results plus interesting statistics, you should look here, but the final top rankings were:

1st – Southampton Quidditch Club 1

2nd – Radcliffe Chimeras

3rd – Keele Squirrels

It was an amazing weekend, which was made even sweeter for Nightmares (who came 5th overall) who found out that their performance had secured them a place at the European Quidditch Cup, which is in Oxford, 17-18th April 2015. I hope all players at BQC enjoyed their time in Nottingham, because it was fantastic to have them here. And I’m so proud of Nightmares. I said it before, but I’m saying it again because it’s true. I have high hopes for them at EQC. Because #ibelieveinnightmares.

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Photo credit: University of Nottingham

Watch out EQC. Nightmares are coming for you.

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Do you even fly, bro?

So Quidditch is a thing. Like, a real life, honest to god, you can go play it thing. And with the British Quidditch Cup fast approaching, I figured I should probably do at least a semi-explaining blog before you get assaulted with tales of Nottingham Nightmares’ romp to victory. Yes, I have absolute faith in my local team. No, I don’t pay attention to statistics. #ibelieveinnightmares

Nightmares
(
Photo credit: Helen Freeman)

Nottingham Nightmares: Looking positively electrifying

Let me begin with please don’t ever ask a Quidditch player if they really fly. Responses will range from sarcasm to stabbing and to be honest, I’m not sure which is worse. You want to face down a Quidkid who’s had tons of practice of answering this for full comedic effect, be my guest. But you won’t come out of it well. I once convinced a guy we fly. He looked so crushed when he found out it wasn’t true.

Muggle Quidditch or IQA Quiddditch originated in the USA in 2005, but has spread across the globe with teams on almost every continent. The basics from the Harry Potter books remain true. Chasers, beaters, keeper, seeker. Quaffles, bludgers, snitch. Mixed gender. Three hoops. Full contact. Broomsticks. Ridiculous commentary from spectators. I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of the rules because a) I’m a little hazy on them myself and b) man, that would take a long time. The basics can be found in the infographic below:

Quidditch rules

(Photo credit: Sophie Chrétien/London Unspeakables)

So you may have noticed that I said it’s a mixed gender sport. Much like in books, muggle Quidditch welcomes all genders on their teams. Which means everyone gets to join in the fun and violence. Thanks to the “four maximum” rule, there can only be four people who identify as the same gender on the pitch for the same team at any one time. Not only does it mean the mixed gender nature of the sport is codified in the rules, but it creates a LGBTI friendly space with an environment where people are highly aware of the fact that gender is a spectrum not a binary. If you want to read more about how this plays out in Quidditch in the UK, I recommend this article.

As I believe I mentioned, the British Quidditch Cup is rapidly coming up and this year it’s going to be Nottingham. So Quidkids from around the country will be descending on Wollaton Hall from 7th March to 8th March. Competing teams have been divided into six groups, who will then play a round robin within their group. At the end of the first day, the teams will be ranked based on the results of the round robin, and only the top sixteen will make it through to the next day. Then a round of sixteen, Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and a Final will take place. Standard stuff, right? For more details of the tournament format, see here.

Basically, next week’s going to be an exciting weekend for Quidditch enthusiasts. Watch this space for a blog about it. If you’re in the UK and interested in finding your local Quidditch team, you can use this handy page on the Quidditch UK website. And now, having created a blog post that is a mess of everything Quidditch, I’m gonna leave you with a list of all teams competing in the British Quidditch Cup, because there’s some serious alliteration going on in some of them.

Bangor Broken Broomsticks, Bristol Brizzlepuffs, Cambridge University Quidditch Club, Chester Chasers, Derby Union Quidditch Club, Durhamstrang, Falmouth Falcons, Holyrood Hippogriffs, Keele Squirrels, Leeds Griffins, Leicester Thestrals, London Unspeakables, Loughborough Longshots, Norwich Nifflers, Nottingham Nightmares, Oxford Quidlings, Radcliffe Chimeras, Reading Rocs, Southampton Quidditch Club, Southampton Quidditch Club 2, St Andrews Snidgets, The Flying Chaucers, and Warwick Whomping Willows.

Nightmares 2
(
Photo credit: Helen Freeman)

How could you not support them? Look how great they look.