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Tag Archives: facilities
Contributed by Paul Arthur
Perhaps it is my age. Or my impoverished 70’s upbringing. Or, just maybe, it is that pies taste good and salad… well, let’s face it, it’s no competition.
For a number of years I have enjoyed lunchtime forays into the pastry-encased joy* of the Bowland Pie. In fairness I had not made the pilgrimage for some time when I discovered, to my utter horror, that Bowland is now a Salad Bar.
‘What?!!!’ My outrage was evident to colleagues (it is hard not to be evident in the closely-packed virus-fermenter that is the workspace favoured by University House). The discovery had been triggered by a suggestion that we should embark on a pie lunch as we had not done so in some time. Over the next few minutes the office buzzed with comments ranging from muted dismay to shouted demands for industrial action.
To understand my sense of loss you must first appreciate the extent to which pies are at the very core of my existence. Whilst travelling in New Zealand some years ago I wrote a blog in which I sampled pies as I travelled (New Zealanders make very good pies). My well-thumbed pie bible ‘Life of Pies’ by the venerable Martin Tarbuck is oft reached-for if I am to travel in the UK. I have shares in Greggs, although that is actually making the best of a bad lot where campus pie-provision is concerned.
Why? Why would you replace pie with salad? Salad has its place, of course. Somewhere in the footer of a menu that features a long list of excellent pies, perhaps.
So, my plea to our revered University Catering colleagues is this. Bring back the Bowland Pie, lest I fade away living a life of quiet despair as I rock in a corner of University House.
* Disclaimer: I am aware that the Bowland Pie was not, in fact, encased in pastry. As a pie topped in pastry it did not, in my somewhat puritanical approach to the world of pie, achieve full compliance with the definition. ‘Joy’ is also stretching things a bit, but I am using a little artistic licence here in order to make my point.
As a diligent and (short of annual leave) member of University staff I dutifully made the first-day-after-Christmas pilgrimage to our office in University House on 2nd January. Following the many complaints over previous years I arrived confident that the building would be toasty-warm. How wrong I was. Entering University House was akin to walking into a four-storey freezer.
Arriving at my desk I elected to keep my coat and scarf on. The radiator was stone cold and, as individual fan heaters were banned some time ago, I resigned myself to making the best of it. Jogging on the spot was the thing. Jogging, however, makes it very difficult to work, so after two minutes I sat down.
A short while later a polar bear, which had taken up residence during the break, appeared at the door and demanded that I surrender my coat to him. For a moment I contemplated resisting his request, but he gave me an unfriendly smile and off he went with my coat.
After fifteen minutes waiting for my PC to process essential updates my fingers were numb. I wrapped my scarf around them, but soon discovered this made typing difficult and resulted in my first email being somewhat ruder than I had intended. I was still debating what to do (send emails full of verbal garbage or risk frostbite in my fingers), when I was interrupted by voices. Poking my head around the office door I noted three penguins deep in conversation with the polar bear. There was some gesticulation with flippers and glances in my direction. I retreated to my desk and had barely begun wondering what was going on when the penguins appeared beside me.
‘We want the scarf.’
‘Your scarf, we want it. Don’t be difficult or this could get ugly.’
‘Right. Grab him lads.’
Ever been slapped by a penguin flipper? It hurts. As the penguins waddled off with the scarf a figure wrapped in furs stumped past. Followed by a sled and a miserable-looking camera crew.
‘Mmmph mmph mm bfff.’
The camera crew looked at each other, nonplussed. The fur-clad figure pulled the covering away from the lower half of his face, and Sir Ranulph Fiennes indicated the corner of the office:
‘Set the fire over there. By that Yucca. Be quick about it or we’ll freeze.’
Stolidly refusing to be distracted further I returned to my PC. By this point my legs were numb and thinking was becoming difficult. Why was Sir Ranulph Fiennes in our office? Andrea was not going to be very pleased if they started a fire next to her Yucca. Maybe I’d be warmer if I had a little lie down.
I woke in the ambulance at around midday. The crew told me it had been a close thing, hypothermia being generally bad for you. Ah. I must have been hallucinating.
‘We found your coat and scarf. Why on earth weren’t you wearing them?’ The ambulance crewman looked concerned.
‘I have no idea, but I had a very odd dream about them…’
‘Think your boss also wants to speak to you urgently about some odd scorch marks in your office.’
The moral of the story? A plea to Facilities. Next year could you turn on the heating just a little earlier? I cannot otherwise be held responsible for my actions.
Lancaster University does not seem to be showing a lot of solidarity with its Hong Kong students at the moment. Private Eye and SCAN reported recently on the college accommodation manager who ordered a student to remove a display of sticky notes in a kitchen window which spelled out ‘Stand with Hong Kong’ – SCAN’s story is online at:
This was not the only recent incident of censorship. On 13 November, a reader wrote to let us know that, at 8:50am that morning, three members of Security were taking down pro-Hong Kong posters. Our reader made enquiries and was told that the University was removing all such posters because they were ‘against the Students’ Union’s rules.’ Lancaster Poster Code 1, Freedom of Speech 0.
On a related note, a group of Hong Kong students came down to the Sports Centre picket line on the first day of the UCU strike to share their stories and to show their solidarity:
Readers with other tales of anti-HK censorship on campus are encouraged to contact subtext at the usual address.
A lighter note now. Your subtext correspondent was astonished to find a toilet seat in their building split in two, and even more so to find that a colleague in ISS had seen the same thing. Over decades of toilet use, neither had ever seen such a thing before. They wondered just what the scale of the problem might be, so did the only natural thing: issued an FoI request to the University asking how many toilet seats they had got through over the last few years.
In 2016, the University purchased 337 seats. In 2017, 271. In 2018, 163. University residents and visitors do appear to be getting less destructive in their sitting, but 163 is still almost one every two days.
Just who are the granite-bottomed monsters responsible for this overlooked slaughter?
The bomb shelter simulator or marathon man experience continues apace. subtext ponders that it might be the case that senior management have sensed a ‘good day to bury (or should that be dig up, retile, dig up again, and make lots of noise with a jackhammer) bad news’ moment. The opportunities presented by the strike (i.e. empty lecture theatres and seminar rooms) have provided senior management a fortuitous moment to instruct construction workers to bang on with doing what they have been doing with added gusto. Rumours have reached the subtext warehouse that students have witnessed a noticeable increase in the banging and crashing in a variety of places on campus. Whether management have seized the moment, or it is just a coincidence, it is still the case that a building site is not the place to undertake any form of educational encounter.
The bomb shelter experience has morphed into the ‘Marathon Man’ experience in some areas of campus. Instead of the room shaking and dust gently falling on participants’ heads, students are treated to an intermittent high pitched drilling noise that is both deafening and painful. All reminiscent of the famous scene from the 1976 movie ‘Marathon Man’, directed by John Schlesinger, in which the baddie, played by Laurence Olivier, tortures the goodie, played by Dustin Hoffman, by drilling into his tooth while repeatedly asking: ‘Is it safe?’
That scene is often described as one of the most frightening sequences in film. The experience in the teaching room, whilst not frightening, was unpleasant and certainly did not feel safe.
Our senate report in subtext 151 noted that Lancaster aimed to increase student numbers to 14,640 by the academic year 19/20. In spite of the concerns about space that were raised at the time, and the admission from the Deputy Vice Chancellor that there would be ‘a lag’ between student numbers and the resources that become available to them, it would appear that the top table doesn’t consider that to be nearly enough.
They have indicated to HoDs and others that the University is to aim for an extra 2,000 new undergraduates by 2020-21. Discussions have been held (not consultations you will note) about how to accommodate such a large growth in students. Most obviously you would have thought that this would necessitate an expansion of teaching spaces, but there would appear to be no planned increase in accommodation and resources beyond what was promised in late 2016. Instead, it is proposed that departments will double-teach (teach two different groups of students the same thing) or in some cases triple-teach. In addition, the University intends to extend the teaching day, possibly to include weekends. The VC’s take on all this is that our current staff-student ratio is far superior to our competitors and the increase in student numbers should not impact on that. Furthermore, statistically we appear to teach much less than comparable institutions. So that’s OK then.
The bomb shelter experience continues to be a popular ride for students and staff alike, leading in some cases to sessions being abandoned or students and lecturers wandering around in search of another teaching venue, traipsing off like a raggle-taggle bunch of travellers vainly looking for a home. subtext understands that the delays surrounding the spine renovation have meant that this particular project has ‘run into’ other building work that was already scheduled – the domino effect causing further inconvenience. Apparently the blame for all this disruption and chaos lies at the door of one particular contractor who did not grasp the complexity and scale of the spine project. A series of ‘cock-ups’ and sheer incompetence by this one firm has meant we have been living and working in a building site with no foreseeable end. Such incompetence should result in the contractor being asked to leave the site with their contract terminated forthwith. Apparently not – they are still here and the terms of their contract mean we have to live with this team of bodgers. It would be interesting to know who signed off on this – if he’s still here!
How long does it take to repair a leaking shower door in the changing room of the new Faraday building? Although brand spanking new, the door was damaged in the repair then discovered to be a discontinued part, so an entire shower unit, less than a year old, was ripped out. After several revisions of Planon status a new unit was eventually bought and lay next to a messy hole in the floor awaiting assembly until last week when the job (requested 24th August) was finally completed. A random survey of the half dozen daily users who had to traipse towel-clad to the nearest facility discovered a range of opinions as to how long one would tolerate such a situation at home before devising an alternative fix (e.g. an IKEA shower curtain at £1.50). Answers ranged between 24 and 48 hours. During the survey it was discovered that one reason for the queue of users was that the showers in the even newer Physics building were installed with NO door or curtain. Their first use led to a flood, and they have been deadlocked ever since!
The ‘bomb shelter experience’ currently being enjoyed by the unlucky souls studying in Fylde lecture theatres reminded us of the recent experience involving a high-altitude glass walkway high in the East Taihang Mountains near Handan City in China. Glass-bottom bridges are the latest tourist craze in China. This particular bridge hangs over 3,800 feet in the air, affixed to the mountainside, and has as its newest feature sensor technology which creates the illusion that the bridge is going to shatter under the weight of those walking on it. To enhance this effect, bits of actual broken glass were placed under the sturdy glass floor, and video screens displayed fake cracks in the glass as people pass over it. This is all done without any warning. Not surprisingly this has created a social media storm, with thousands posting negative comments accusing the organisers of being cruel and even dangerous, with the possibility that it might give someone a heart attack. Whilst not on the same level, bangs and crashes loud enough to make students ‘jump’ and squeal will undoubtedly generate negative comment in the NSS and PTES later this year.
The University continues to resemble a building site, as rumours continue to circulate about a completion date – the latest word to reach the subtext warehouse is sometime in September 2018. Over the summer it felt like scaffolding was covering most surfaces, which not only messed with Lancaster’s ‘Italian village on a hill’ vibe (yeah right!) but also made it exceedingly difficult for wheelchair users to get around. And of course nobody tells you what the purpose of the scaffolding is and you have no idea what is going to happen until the scaffolders have gone and the work people arrive with their various (very noisy) pieces of kit. The east side of Bowland North just before term started was completely covered by scaffolding, which was then enclosed by vast sheets of white polythene then heat treated with some form of blow-lamp. This of course cut all light from the offices so folk had to turn their lights on during the day to get any work done, with no word as to why. A few days later all was revealed – the work people were sand-blasting the building. Cue various corridors filling up with fine dust particles and folk spluttering and wondering what the hell was going on. The cause turned out to be a colleague leaving a window open (no reason why s/he shouldn’t), and the disabled toilet on that floor having a window that could not close. The result: a disabled toilet covered in a fine layer of stone dust unable to be used until the cleaners arrived the following day.
Following complaints from staff, an email arrived from the Managing Building Surveyor pledging to wet down the external wall prior to commencing further grinding out works, as well as to check that all windows were closed. And finally, a request that people who have offices could refrain from opening their windows for the day. NOW you tell us…
As the summer drizzles to a close and we all look forward to getting our teeth into the new term (or at least limping through until Christmas), I am drawn to speculate on the impact of our Spine redevelopment. The last vestiges of the 60’s dream are to be found standing forlornly in dripping peninsulas of wood and tar around Alexandra square. Being able to walk the length of the campus without the elements taking their toll on clothing and spirits is no more.
So, what replaces it? The new spine covering is more modern. It lets in more light (because there is less of it), and it is certainly airier. The brutal winter winds of Lancaster will have no problems reaching places that previously they were unable to penetrate. As the campus fills up, with the new term getting into full swing, it is the author’s belief that an amusing new spectacle will be enjoyed by all who are safely observing from inside a building. We might even write papers on it – ‘Darwinian theory in practice: survival of the fittest at Lancaster University’.
I could be wrong, but I suspect that there is a nice equation that could be written which describes the relationship between the reduced surface area of the new covering on the Spine, the increase in height and the reduced area of dry ground to be found beneath. It could be further developed to introduce wind-speed and direction in combination with precipitation so that we can be better informed on how far up an individual’s legs the rain will reach on windy days compared to calm ones. The distance that the individual is forced to walk from the wall will certainly correlate with the relative dampness experienced. I am not qualified to write such an equation, but even to my layman’s brain it is clear that on a blustery, wet day in Lancaster most people are going to get wet legs.
At this point my whimsical mind wanders off into imagining the scene; older staff being pushed out into the rain by younger, fitter campus residents intent on protecting their £50 hair-dos and expensive footwear, the oldsters’ pitiful cries of ‘Don’t you know who I am’ quickly lost in the swirling vortex of a November day. University executives will quickly learn that meetings must be arranged close to home so that they can prevent the crease dropping out of their trousers below the knee. Alternatively, a rash of new posts as ‘Red Flag Assistant’ might be seen – staff employed to walk ahead of said executives, clearing the path closest to the wall and preserving their sartorial elegance. In short, survival of the fittest. Things do not look well for yours truly.
So, having accepted that I am not particularly fit, or having sufficient standing to merit my own Red Flag Assistant, I am driven to rely on my cunning and guile. In considering the problem I have had to determine my own position in the Darwinian pecking order. Whilst not fit, I am capable of brutality in the face of wet clothing. Though not important, I can shout in a manner that might confuse more easily cowed individuals into assuming that I am important and that it is my RFA’s day off. On that basis I think my position under the covering is probably mid-stream. Probably dry above the waist, but squarely in wet-leg territory.
With that in mind, prototype designs for half-length waterproof over-trousers are already completed. These may be slipped on over the footwear and are held in place above the knee by strap or elastic, depending upon the wearer’s preference. Donned before a walk down the campus, these will protect the mid-stream wearer from the crease disaster, and can be easily and discreetly removed upon reaching your destination. Sales will be limited and availability will be restricted to those neither fit nor important. It’s only fair.
Can anyone who saw this kind of behaviour from doors [see article on weird door behaviour in subtext 165] let me know which ones? Most of the access controlled doors are supposed to fail open, especially those on fire routes.
I’d like to investigate ones not doing the right thing if they’re ours,
or pass them over to Facilities if they’re somebody else’s.
I have been grateful for your coverage of the spine remodelling project, as well the various questionable and expensive projects that the University has taken on in past year. Given this, I thought you might be interested to see this pamphlet (http://tinyurl.com/yc7txqw5) that me, Joey French and few other disabled comrades produced, written to spread information about and critique the remodelling project currently underway on campus. (It cites your newsletter as well.) They have already been distributed at Fresher’s Fair Part 1 and to school tours; people seem interested to know the full extent, expense and effects of the project, and we intend to continue distributing throughout this term.
Keep up the good work,