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Back Buzz - June 18, 2011

pumping heartThe Common Room, 177-179 Devonshire Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Recently my walking companion and I have started a new routine to warm up for our weekend walks. Neither of us had played table tennis for years, but we were both quite adept in our youth, so Trevor was very excited when he discovered there is a table tennis table at the Common Room. Located upstairs from the Forum Bar overlooking Devonshire Green, the Common Room is most noted for having loads of regularly maintained full-sized American pool tables in a side room, and the walls are covered with sports art and large TV screens. The main room with the long bar features comfortable booths for sitting and drinking and eating, and at one raised end is the table tennis table as well as a table football game.

I'll be the first to admit this is an odd choice for my coffee column. But as I'd had a late night, with only enough time in the morning for one coffee, I felt an espresso was more in order at 11:00am than a pint. As I never hold much hope for drinkable coffee in bars I'd intended to buy a take-away espresso at whatever cafe I could find in Division Street and take it into the Common Room with me. But the only nearby option was Starbucks, and after walking through the door and seeing that appalling 21st-century Starbucks menu featuring a choice of Huge or Gigantic sized over-milky drinks, all well over £2.00, I quickly backed out and decided to take my chances at the Common Room.

And I have to say I was impressed. The barman, while pouring a pint for Trevor, then transmogrified into a barista and delivered a nicely presented and properly made double macchiato topped with a gorgeous cap of foam. The cup he served it in was black, but with the requisite white interior, and it was accompanied by a demitasse spoon. And it was only £1.10, a real bargain in today's world.

As we moved the tables and chairs out of the way and Trevor unpacked his newly purchased "bats" and balls, I thankfully sipped my macchiato and was further impressed by the fact that it wasn't half bad, not bad at all. In fact I quite enjoyed it. As I alternated my sips between the rich and robust macchiato and a bottle of sparkling mineral water I could feel my lack-of-sleep haze and resultant mild hangover slip away, exiting my head and floating up to the clouds. It was a heavenly feeling, and I was ready to approach the table with my gorgeous Cornilleau table tennis bat, its acoustics producing a lovely bell of a tone each time it struck the ball as I executed my trademark spin.

The Common Room's food menu appeals to my conservative-sized vegetarian appetite, with a variety of pizzas, quesadillas, and haloumi skewers as well as burgers and other contemporary bar snacks. I'll have to remember that if we ever decide to have a marathon table tennis session.

Speaking of odd places reminds me of a recent e-mail conversation with a workmate about dystopian workplaces:

It was a Saturday afternoon, the day Jesus was reported to return to earth. While her Facebook friends all around the world were happily engaging in Post Rapture Looting, JC was condemned to the lower reaches of the university library to do some extra hours so that she could afford her daily crust of mouldy bread. Her task for the day was to linger alone in the Stack down on Level -999, with the only companionship being the sound of buses tramelling through the adjacent bus Interchange. The constant random electronic beeping of the various sections of stack walls tormented her ears as she filed journal after journal after journal after journal. And the sound of the buses reminded her of an occasion when she was attacked and run over by a bus.

She carried several copies of Housewife Magazine into the centre of Aisle GOL-To-IMP. As she sat on the floor attempting to fit the antique bound journals into the squashed shelves, she suddenly detected a whiff of diesel fuel and could hear hydraulic brakes. And then the shelf started to move, and before she could get out of the shelf she was caught, as the slowly driven shelf crushed in on her, as she heard someone say, "One pound thirty..."

The weekend progressed as usual. As looters filed through the streets of the city, stereo components and televisions and laptop computers in their arms, a couple of JC's friends played pool at their local pub through the evening, wondering when JC would join them from work. She never showed up.

On Monday morning the slave supervisor descended into the Stack to see if JC had finished her tasks. He shook his head slowly when he spotted the half-filled trolley of journals. And then he noticed a large spot of congealed red liquid oozing from the closed GOL-to-IMP aisle. He tried to open the aisle but the controls wouldn't work. "Oh well," he sighed, pulling out his mobile. "Guess I better phone the company. And I'll have to get the cleaners to come down here. When JC gets here later I'll have her make some new signs..." How's life as Jam rather than JC? What flavour jam are you? I bet you're traffic jam, filled to bursting with rickety busses. The ones I've been on of late have had the heaters working, usually on the hottest days. One struggles for good air and ultimately suffocates.

You should have yourself entered at a village fete.
DATE: 14 JUNE 2011

. . / .- -- / - .-. .- .--. .--. . -.. / .. -. / -.... ..... ..--- .-.-.- ---.. .-.-.- / ... . -. -.. / .... . .-.. .--. .-.-.- Battleships on their way -- will reply in detail. Did you make it out of 652.8 [the Dewey Decimal number for secret codes]? Here it is 2911 and I realise how the time has flown. I'm currently sitting in the Buksorterbot Quarters where "Mldrdwrd", our current buksorterbot, is busy sorting returned buks and returning them to various levels while I'm working on my penultimate 90-page form of the day justifying my reasons for continued existence and why the University should pay me a meager wage so that I can keep purchasing the predigested soy tablets. I think it's unfair we have to fill out 50 of these forms each day, as it's all quite boring and redundant. But I guess we all have to make a living somehow, considering that all of the previous "jobs", i.e. "Gee-aye" and "Causal Shelfer", have been assigned to specialised bots. I heard several centuries ago that Chrlzz (was that his name?) moved down to Londinium. I suppose organising a beverage meeting at this late point is hopeless, especially as all the poobs (was that what we used to call them?) have been replaced by waste reprocessing watering holes. But perhaps I shall try, especially as Pll recently expressed interest. In the year June 24 I plan to retire to working only 160 hours per newday, so I'll have a lot more time to think about this. Meanwhile I continue to spend my weekendminutes walking with my friend Trvr and playing an ancient game called "tablet ennis" at the Common Wastereprocessingwateringhole upstairs from the Forum Wastereprocessingwateringhole. And one of these millennia I will get my own business up and off the ground. Well, that's all for now. JC* (*since they started rationing vowels, I feel lucky in one respect.) NB: THS MSSG HS BN CNSRD B TH LBRY SCRT SRVC. It has been eight-hundred and ninety-six years now since the Great Divide rendered our two nations at war and brought about the mighty Schism of Sheffland. Reparations have taken their toll on Badland: the last of our book debt was repaid to Cenlibraria last year and, despite efforts by our Queen to encourage a massive writing project that might restock our shelves, the only book we currently hold is "My Struggle", by Brigadier T.M. (thirteen copies). This Spring the government launched the book to an eager public and there was a temporary rush for copies, but now, alas, the last trolley appears to have been reshelved. Every subject in the land has read all twelve pages of the compelling autobiography. The legendary Carlos Sal, one of our great heroes, who your people recall as Chrlzz, did indeed head to Londinium in the hope of fostering revolution in that now desolate city-state. We receive only the occasional missive in the form of comic strips. It is not known how fares his noble mission. In an attempt to place our finances on a more stable footing, our Queen has taken to keeping bees in the trees in the carpark, having heard tell that there is money in honey. To celebrate the first harvest of the hives, this Friday shall see us all congregate in an especially built island (confusingly located on the Porter by a rather befuddled Sapper Wheatley) to consume healthy quantities of mead. It is a time of great anticipation in these parts. And to commemorate the 800th anniversary of a state of detente between our two nations, I am aware of a series of shared diplomatic missions into the Sheffland Citadel for to cement a common wellbeing amongst our peoples. I shall be attending the Great Library Graves, where the lost books of Sheffland are said to have been buried. I will also be escorted upon a tour of the Theatres where it is said the doctors of Hallam worked tirelessly in their failed efforts to save the late lamented Emperor O in those final hours before the Great Divide rent apart our society as we knew it and placed ourselves on opposing sides in a state of Total War. It pains me to recall those days now; I am only thankful that for most of it I remained lost in the 652.8s. What nightmares were to await me, I had little notion at the time.