Doing the 50: Flattery will get you everywhere

This week, Sheffield third-year James Ashford accepts a coffee from his editor and calls it a date, the creep.

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'. It’s dragging on.

With 40 things completed on my list of 50, it was time to get on with the penultimate five.

3. Go on a date with someone you would normally say no to - give them a chance

40. Go on a blind date

I’d been putting these two tasks off since starting the mammoth task of doing 50 relatively boring things over a moderate period of time. Being incredibly handsome and charming, it wasn’t finding a date that put me off, it was the thought of explaining to my aggressive German girlfriend that I would be wining and dining someone who was not her.

As luck would have it, a solution to my problems came in the form of Tom, my editor here at The Independent. The many fans of this column may have seen his attempts at affection written in italics in previous articles:

  • James Ashford is a great galoot. I think galoot just means really cool guy.
  • James Ashford is rather more mouth than trouser Presumably some spectacularly misguided comment about my volume of genitals.
  • James Ashford is quite pushy if you don't publish his articles to his own exacting schedule. Probably justified.
  • James Ashford is a useful idiot. The nicest thing he has ever said to me.

As luck would have it, I was in London for a day with my friends from university drinking in a pub just around the corner from the extravagant offices of The Independent et al.

One of my articles was being published that day, so I was having the usual back and forth with Tom during which he calls me names and I reassure him that next week’s piece will be better. It came up in conversation that I was in South Kensington and we decided to meet up at his office for a chat.

Not having had the pleasure of meeting Tom face to face before, and him not being my ‘type’ (hairy male), I jumped on the opportunity to tick two more things off the list. In Sheffield, the normal idea of a ‘blind date’ involves getting too drunk to see, and I thought that this would provide a refreshing alternative.

Unfortunately, I had already been in the pub for a few hours at this point, and my navigation skills were a little off kilter. To make things easier, I decided to take the tube from South Kensington to High Street Kensington, minimising the potentiality for mistakes whilst walking. For some reason unbeknownst to me, the wait for a train to come took about 10 minutes despite the fact the two tube stations are approximately four feet away from each other. 

I eventually met Tom outside of his building, which had all sorts of flags hanging off of it. One of them said Daily Mail in big letters, and I was struck with a sudden fear that I had been duped into entering Stalag Tagespost to face charges of being a hippy liberal for wearing a brightly coloured jumper and listening to jazz. [The Mail and The Independent are published in the same building]

I was reassured that they were just sharing the building and wouldn’t cause any problems unless I messed with their Koi Carp pond. Nevertheless, I was keen not too upset anyone which caused problems when I was offered a coffee. I had seen four separate Daily Mail articles claiming that coffee increased risk of cancer, decreased risk of cancer, definitely gave you cancer if you had a pet tortoise and cured it all together if you drank it at witching hour. In the end, I had water.

We talked and talked and talked, and then we stopped talking and I went. It was an enjoyable meeting, and gave purpose to a day that had gone downhill when someone said ‘Shall we just go to the pub and not bother with the Natural History Museum?’

16. Apply for internships and jobs

I had already done this one on the ‘real life’ side of my existence, the small part of me that does things because I want to and not because someone wrote them on a list.

I applied for a job with a company in London by sending off my CV and filling in their application form. Unfortunately, 600 other people had the same idea. Nevertheless, I’m a helluva guy, and I got through to the telephone interview stage. I got the call whilst in a lecture, and called them back from a corridor of the neighboring physics department, the nearest and quietest place I could find. Despite the intimidating presence of some clichéd physicists, the interview went well and I got through to the assessment day.

I had to go down to London for the day which is quite far away from Sheffield and meant getting up at 5am, several years before the assessment day was due to start, in order to make it on time. The day turned out to be good fun, partly because of the work, partly because of the people and partly because of the free pineapple. Yesterday I got the call telling me that I was through to the final interview stage, that I was relieved to hear was in the afternoon. I didn’t mind getting up in the middle of the night too much, but I was pleased that I wouldn’t have to snort coffee granules on the train again in order to stay awake.

36. Play an elaborate prank on a housemate

43. Sleep out under the stars

Our house group and a few hardy friends foolishly decided it would be a good idea to go camping in the peaks when it was set to snow. We spent the night drinking cheap lager and eating pathetically barbecued vegetarian sausages whilst trying not to freeze to death.

One of my housemates got particularly drunk and was sectioned in his own tent in case he vomited/urinated/made sexual advances on any of the rest of us. He soon fell asleep and we set about moving our tents about half a mile away. One friend stayed behind to act as the stooge, convincing him that we all must have gone home and left them.

It was all very hilarious for a bit, and then we actually did go home because frankly, it was bloody freezing.

James Ashford was a cheap date, at least. Follow him on Twitter: @iamjamesashford

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