On toilets, Oxford, bureaucracy and excrement generally.


When Francesc and Rosario, psychologists both, decided to take a year's sabbatical from Barcelona to do research at Oxford University, I immediately repeated after Amy Winehouse: 'No, no, no, no!', clarifying that at OU they would be surrounded by hordes of elite-obsessed, puffed up people of all ages who were unable to laugh without sniggering superciliously and unable to speak without circumlocuting like inebriated aristocrats from another century, in a setting of biscuit-coloured towers lined with stone pustules topping fridge-temperature buildings maintained by underpaid Maltese flunkeys. They went anyway.
Since then, Francesc – while not finding the place in itself that bad – has become increasingly frustrated at the way his Oxford colleagues snootily keep him at arm's length, making it difficult for him to work with them efficiently. He recently gave me an extreme example of what he's up against: noticing that the lab wing's toilet was practically engulfed in excrement both fresh and stale, he informed the department through the intranet: 'The gents facilities are flooding and smell funny!'. Their (first) reply: 'Either your message will be posted to the [intranet] list or you will receive notification of the moderator's decision'. Which decision finally came through two days later: 'Posting of your message has been rejected by the moderator. The moderator gave the following reason for rejecting your request: "Your message was deemed inappropriate by the moderator". Even as you read this a full week later, the toilet in question is still sitting complacently in its own stench; which strikes me as a perfect metaphor for Oxford University itself, my loathing of whose foul and pompous imperturbability dates from the very first day I arrived – in the guise of an aspiring student – in what the poet Matthew Arnold inexplicably dubbed 'that sweet city with her dreaming spires'.

- Textos i contingut: Matthew Tree - Disseny i programació: Nac -