Doing the 50: 'Epic banter', slightly less epic karaoke and still no actual studying...

This week, intrepid Sheffield bantersaurus James Ashford engages in a spot of bants with the #LADS and attempts a night of 'epic karaoke', all in the name of an authentic university experience

A few months ago, I stumbled across a list of 50 things to do before you leave university. The list was pretty bland and vaguely patronising, but it gave me some direction. I decided to complete all fifty things, write about them, and in the process have some 'life-changing experiences'. Surprisingly, making a kite isn’t that life changing.

With 30 things completed on my list of 50, it was time to press on with the next 5.

2. Have an epic karaoke night at your house using just YouTube, booze, and your natural star quality

After three weeks of procrastination and a gruelling four hours spent frantically scribbling in sports halls, exam period was over. No longer restricted by the incessant guilt of avoiding revision, I decided to celebrate my newly found freedom by getting dolled up and lairy, a bit like Andy Dufresne at the end of Shawshank Redemption.

Attempting to convince my housemates to join in the festivities and help me host a night of killer karaoke was more challenging than I had expected. Most adult humans will either vomit or simply lose consciousness with confronted with the sheer embarrassment attached to the expressions ‘epic karaoke night’ and ‘natural star quality’.

Eventually, they caved. After stocking up on cheap alcohol from Germany over the Christmas break, I was well prepared for a night of raucous merry-making. We plugged a laptop into some nearly working speakers and began proceedings. Unfortunately, it turns out that having your own karaoke night is less cat’s pyjamas and more ugly, naked Sphynx.

Karaoke is in the same category as bingo, ITV, Kestrel Super and all-inclusive holiday resorts. In short, it’s pretty appalling. The performances are usually awful, the average singers often deliberately dropping their game, scared they will be judged for showing off if they attempt anything vaguely melodic. The result of this is that at any given karaoke event, spectators are forced to sit through ten ‘hilarious’ drunken executions of Waterloo and Bohemian Rhapsody before anyone tries to sing in tune.

We proved to be no exception and, lacking in 'natural star quality', decided to abandon our karaoke night. Never again.

39. Have an 80s montage house cleaning session, with appropriate outfits and music blaring

Christ knows which barrel they scraped to come up with this idea. It’s the kind of suggestion you’d expect to hear from a worn-out parent attempting to convince their adolescent child to tidy their room. Dressing up to clean your flat is the housework equivalent of making aircraft noises to try and convince a toddler to finish dinner. I’m not sure what it is about tricking infants into thinking the broccoli they are eating is actually a large, fixed-wing aircraft made mostly of metal that makes it quite so effective, but you can’t argue with results.

This is not to say the montage cannot be used effectively on occasion. Whether it’s working at a fast-approaching deadline, running through the Yorkshire rain, or grunting your way up a broken-down escalator, the montage technique is there to call on. Imagining yourself in the music video for a particularly powerful song often works well, providing you know where to draw the line. Soulfully shaking your head in slow motion is okay, enthusiastically singing on the bus isn’t.

Sadly on this occasion, no matter how many times I played ‘I Want to Break Free’ and attempted some dangerously vigorous vacuuming, I couldn’t convince myself that I was having a good time.

On a fun scale ranging from clown-based birthday parties to biological warfare, cleaning to 80s music sits somewhere in the middle, which is a lot more than can be said for 'epic karaoke nights'.

24. Visit all historical buildings and monuments in your town (including churches)

This was clearly the last idea the person writing the fifty things came up with, but their editor told them to put it halfway down the list so it wasn’t too obvious.

Luckily, Sheffield has some pretty nice old buildings to have a look around. I’d already visited the Town Hall while reporting on a council meeting which, incidentally, is one of the most extraordinarily boring things that humanity can possibly endure. What’s more, it was led by the Liberal Democrats. The combined result was about as exhilarating as watching paint dry with commentary from Tim Henman.

Sheffield Cathedral was beautiful, although like most cathedrals a bit heavy on the God theme. Other places worth looking around are St Mary’s in Ecclesfield, The Lyceum in town and Weston Park Museum neighbouring Sheffield University’s Firth Court. There are all sorts of monuments knocking around the parks and city centre, one of which hit the news in 2009 when a Hallam student got caught urinating on the affixed poppy wreath. When will they learn? At Hallam, it’s hard to say.

It turns out that even the Arts Tower is a listed building. It is also the site of the incredibly deadly paternoster, which I rode to the top despite collapsing with fear in the corner of the carriage. Though terrifying, I wholeheartedly recommend the experience for rollercoaster and/or lift enthusiasts.

12. Go to a university sports team's game.

There is an aspect to my personality that means that I get very excited and enthusiastic about any given idea extremely quickly. This was demonstrated when during my second year, after watching some rugby, I decided that the chances were I would probably be really good and should immediately join a team at uni.

What I lacked in skill and aggression, I made up for with blind optimism. Though my playing career spanned over just one year, I made plenty of memories. Driving to matches with teammates in the boot, witnessing hospitalisations of antagonistic opponents and trying to keep some of my clothes on at Pop Tarts when our fly half started ripping open everybody’s shirts are just a few of the things I expect to stay with me for years to come.

The lesson I learnt from taking part in and witnessing all of this is simple: put the nicest person in the world into a university sports team, and for a few hours each week, they will become a wanker.

6. Teach someone something

  • Teacher: Me
  • Student: Me
  • Subject: Philosophy
  • Reason: Exams
  • Success: None

James Ashford is rather more mouth than trouser. Follow him on Twitter: @iamjamesashford

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