Sideline: Seagulls and Boomerangs

In Sideline, people give an alternative view of conference attendance. John Kirriemuir is the Information Officer for UKOLN and the editor of the Web version of Ariadne.

Early summer. Sun high in the sky, white fluffy clouds skittering overhead, birds tweeting, and it's off to this year's Elvira at Milton Keynes. One paper to present, several interesting ones to listen to, and the flat, lush fields of Milton Keynes seductively beckon for that noblest of hobbies, boomerang throwing.

The first programme session over; a quick swim in the pool, step outside and the God of rain decides to remind us of his/her presence with an all-evening deluge. A somewhat unpleasant group of insurance salesmen from a parallel conference commandeer the pool for the evening; the sight of several dozen loud and chubby yuppies, bobbing up and down in the water while speaking on mobile phones, puts several of us off our evening banquet.

Day two of three. The sun rises high. A long lunch break beckons. I step outside, armed with genuine boomerang and smile at a cloudless blue sky. The smile quickly fades as a large seagull (so far inland?), dumps the (extensive) contents of its bowels on my head. No hat. I step back inside; one of my fellow delegates, who has spent the lunch seemingly imbibing for England, asks why I am wearing the contents of a tub of yogurt on my head. Mentally note to think of awkward questions for his presentation.

Day three of three. The sun rises high. Another long lunch break. No seagull (surely refueling somewhere?). I step outside, with female delegate who hopefully might just be impressed by manly testosterone-filled hunter skills. An adjacent large field, the breeze dies down and FLING! The boomerang arcs round impressively. And crashes into an impenetrable thicket of trees. An hour is wasted searching for said wooden item, to no avail. Spend the final session of the conference in deep stick-deprived distress, and promise to restrict my activities to scrabble at future events.

Date published: 
Thursday, 19 September 1996
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