It’s happened to us all, whether bright-eyed first years or grizzled post-grads: you’re talking to a charming, humble Fresher you’ve just met, be it at lunch, a society or squashed into the smoking garden. S/he seems perfectly happy to listen to your wise words about life, the universe and Durham, and to act upon them accordingly, when out of nowhere s/he slips in the odd reference to their gap year travels.
You desperately try to bring the conversation back to its rightful course, but you can feel it trickling from your grasp; it’s like trying to cup the precious beer from your spilled pint, as it dribbles through the cracks of your fingers onto the filthy carpet below, and the bounder next to you opens his foul gob to roar: ‘spillage is…’
So, as the conversation invariably shifts to the exploits of this ostentatious youth, how can one drag the conversation back to its rightful focus – you? Well, here at Flipside, we have prepared this failsafe ten-point list of techniques to dissuade this explorer of the world from sharing their exploits with you.
1. One-upmanship: they’ve been to Italy, you’ve been to Saudi Arabia; they’ve been to the North Pole, you’ve been to the South Pole; they’ve climbed K2, you’ve climbed Everest; they’ve climbed Everest, you’ve climbed Olympus Mons; they’ve been to the Moon, you’ve escaped from a black hole riding only an elk.
2. Denigration: accuse them not only of wasting both time and money on a pointless venture which benefits only the organising companies and produces a stereotype of the colonialist west, but also blame them for the banking crisis, Murdoch, the war in Afghanistan, the recession, the demise of British industry and Downton Abbey.
3. Distraction: pretend you’ve gone simultaneously blind and deaf and begin shouting for someone to turn the lights back on.
4. Intoxication: locate your nearest Gaelic Irish patron and acquire a glass of genuine home-brewed poitín. Offer some to your friend and time how long it takes for them to go blind.
5. Temptation: hand them your old Nokia 1100 and tell them they can keep it if they can unlock it. Watch as they struggle to recall how one unlocks a phone on a traditional keypad.
6. Domination: begin singing the entire libretto of Pirates of Penzance, co-opting your opponent to sing all the staccato top As of Mabel’s part.
7. Circumnavigation: challenge them to travel around the world in 80 days, using only transportation available in 1873, and make sure they have to travel in a westerly direction (no International Date Line can save you now).
8. Intimidation: proceed to stare manically at them and begin chanting threatening phrases at them – e.g. ‘blood, blood, blood’ – in a melodramatic whisper.
9. Desperation: spike their drink with that beaker of sulphuric acid you casually carry around in your coat pocket.
10. Departure: twist your right foot and place it behind you; perform a full 180° turn of your body; bring your left foot in front of your right and walk away.