Posted in Oxford Odditites

That Time When No One Talks About The Unnamed Guardian…

For those of you who haven’t been to Oxford before, this is Oxford’s train station…

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It’s not the most glamorous place in the world is it? I remember hearing when I first moved down here that the town wasn’t at all keen on this whole ‘train’ idea, and many people were sure it wouldn’t catch on at all. So rather than build a nice swanky train station like London has in spades or York, they just sort of… shoved it out onto what was at that time the outskirts (ha! Oh, urban sprawl, you aggressive weed…)

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And for a long time I sort of believed this story too…

However!

No more shall we calmly accept this mundane tale! No indeed! We shall instead acknowledge the battle of a brave soul who has for so long gone unrecognised!

For if you go to Oxford’s train station, and you walk into the main hall and look up, you will see a small figure, sitting above the main doors…

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She’s only small, and you can easily miss her, but there she is… the Guardian.

There she sits, watching over us all. No matter the season, the time, or the weather, she remains at her post through it all, unstinting in her duty of care.

If you ask a member of the station team, you may be given a name for her. But if you ask more than one for her name, you will find that you get a different name every time. This is only sensible, I suppose, for Names are Important, as we have discussed here before.

Now you may say to me, ‘Cameron. You’re being ridiculous. She’s a plastic owl to ward off a few pigeons; this isn’t a big deal.’

But that’s where you’re wrong!

For one thing, if she were there to simply ward off a few pigeons, she’d be hilariously bad at it! I didn’t actually manage to get a photo of the feathered terrors perching on top of our girl, contrary creatures that they are, but I assure you that there were plenty of them doing so! And the good people of Oxford train station wouldn’t keep her around if she didn’t function! What do you think she is? One of our ticket barriers?

So she must be there to ward off another threat, a bigger threat than mere pigeons…

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Now you might wonder to yourself, what possible dangers are there hanging around at train stations, but I urge you to remember your folklore for a moment…

What are the places you must be most careful of, the places where a moment of unwary complacency can cost you all that you hold dear?

Graveyards, yes, ruins and standing stones, sure, but also? Crossroads.

Nothing good comes of being too relaxed by a crossroads, does it?

And what are train stations but big, modern crossroads? Oh, sure we don’t tend to bury our unquiet dead there, but train stations are where large groups of strangers are pressed closely together, no one looks too hard at another’s eyes, nor do we count their fingers. Everyone’s in a hurry, no time to ask enough questions, lots of quick decisions being made. And then we’re off! Never looking back, never sure who the person we just spoke to was or whence they came…

Train stations might fool you with their florescent lighting and their pop-up coffee shops, but think about it even a little and suddenly they look much more Otherworldly, no?

But fear not!

For at Oxford, there is one who stands guard against the Lord and Ladies of the Otherworld! The silent sentinel figure of the owl…

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Photo by Agto Nugroho on Unsplash

She is an apt choice in many ways. In the North of England, my own place of origin, it is said to be good luck to see an owl, and if you’re are at either the beginning or the end of a long train journey then I can assure you that you’ll take any piece of good luck you can find!

On a less … owl-friendly note, owls have long been associated with evil and wickedness owing to their nocturnal habits and liking for the quiet of graveyards and ruins. In Kent it was said that the owl kept to the nighttime hours because she had once won first prize in the animal kingdom’s beauty competition and the jealous losers punished her by only allowing her to come out at night. Poor love.

More to our purposes here, since the early Roman times and continuing right up and into the 19th Century, it was considered that nailing a dead owl to the door of a house or barn would ward off evil and ill-fortune (I think out of the idea that an owl caused the ill-fortune so an owl could jolly well take it away again.) And while that’s clearly awful and you should never do such a thing to the noble and majestic owl, a plastic owl is a perfect modern replacement, don’t you think? Can’t get more dead than being made of plastic now, can you?

All around the world, owls are often credited with powers of prophecy, wisdom and being the messengers between this world and … others. I can certainly think of no better guard against the inherent evil of public transport terminals than our dear Oxford Owl! She’ll see through any mischievous being who tries their luck on the unwary, that’s for sure! And any who have seen the talons and beaks of an owl will know that her vengeance will be both swift and vicious indeed!

So when you next pass through Oxford’s train station, look up on your way out and tip your hat to our noble guardian. She’s doing a hard and thankless job up there, but we are all safer for her presence.

Does your local train station have a guardian? What is it? As I travel around the country in the coming year I’ll keep an eye out myself…

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Ideas for Extras; Real-Life Shakespeare!

I’m very fortunate in my work, as I don’t just scribble away randomly on my own, I have a lot of friends who write in various genres and mediums too. And one of the things that we all agree is a lot harder to do than you expect is the writing of interesting and entertaining ‘extras.’

Ch.14 Making Men of Myths - Part 1You know, the tiny bit characters that may or may not even have a speaking line in your story, but need to be there so that your story doesn’t give the impression of taking place in massive empty halls? They might not ever do anything especially vital to the plot, but they help flesh out the world you’ve created and give a bit of colour and life to your story’s surroundings.

Of course, they can certainly do more than that. Shakespeare’s plays always have a little recurring cast of extras in the background, and while they serve the practical purpose of giving the principal actors a bit of breathing space to chance costumes or allow the stage hands to move scenery around a bit, they can also serve more thematic purposes. They can bring comic relief, yes, or deliver small but important messages, sure, but they can also reflect or satirise the actions of the principal cast and bring out extra nuances too.

They may even give a sense of stakes to whatever your crisis is too; when everything goes to hell in Harry Potter and Diagon Alley is affected, the best way J.K. Rowling could illustrate that was to say that Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour has closed because Fortescue has disappeared under suspicious circumstances. As readers, we knew exactly who Florean Forescue was, how he let Harry sit in his shop for hours and do his homework, how he would help him out with the answers. He wasn’t a major character, and he never affected the plot in any large or small way, but we knew him and were fond of him and his loss is real and tangible because of this.

The downside of these characters: they can be surprisingly hard to create!Ch.14 Making Men of Myths - Part 3

I mean, it could just be me, but whenever I sit down to make some up I either put too much thought into them or too little. Too much effort and they end up trying to become main characters in places which have absolutely no need for them; ending up like the awkward creepers at a party constantly trying to slide into conversations no one wants them in and blissfully unaware that they have nothing interesting to say, and refusing to just go away. Too little effort and they never look the same twice and they just hover around not really doing anything; ending up like very badly written NPCs in a video game, standing stock-still in the back of the shot and very occasionally blurting out an odd out-of-context sentence or two.

Well, sometimes – gloriously – real life comes to the rescue with a bit of inspiration and just as I will doubtless benefit from this in future when having something for my background characters to do, so too did I want to share this with everyone.

So, on top of all the usual chaos that summer brings my workplace every year, we’ve been having building work done to the building I work in. It’s been … delightful. I’ve loved every crash and bang and clatter, and the days where I don’t have any windows in my office and there’s up to three men all standing on my window sill.

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It’s the plants’ scaffolding now, sorry. No take-backs allowed here!

And to give you an idea of how long we’ve had building work going on, this is their scaffolding right now (left).

Side Note: I’m kind of looking forward to the moment when they’re all done with replacing all the window frames, and they want their scaffolding back. Is it just me, and my slightly pagan concerns, or does anyone else think that they’re going to need to make some kind of bargain with the nature god that has gone and claimed the scaffolding frames as their rightful territory?

Anyway, for all the dust and the noise and the fact that my plants have all taken sick in protest to being showered with debris constantly, one thing has at least 70% made up for it all: The workmen!

These fine gentlemen could absolute be their very own BBC sitcom, and I mean that entirely seriously. Obviously, I can give you no details about them; no names, photos, not the name of their firm. But let’s be honest, the complete lack of context here is only going to add to the charm!

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The ideal stage for our brave performers, no?

Here are some of the highlights that have come through my window from the past few months:

[During the initial building process] “Look, whatever ‘appens, those balls have gotta come off, remember.” Also, same day: “There’s no hat-wearing on d*cks!”(At the time, I was halfway through a Very Serious phonecall, and I think I actually bruised a rib while trying not to laugh down the phone, sure that I could never explain any of this…)

I was working and couldn’t transcribe, but at one stage one of the senior builders literally stood on one of the upper-levels of the scaffolding, while all the others stood on the ground looking up at him while he delivered a whole TED Talk the socialising involved in building up a pliant workforce, combining themes of supply-and-demand, wage-fixing and the allotment of free-time/holiday hours. I was in no doubt that he knew exactly what he was talking about, but for a spur-of-the-moment topic of conversation, he was extremely eloquent and prepared to share his wisdom. I definitely felt as if I was in one of those supporting/illustrating scenes from the film, in which the side-characters provide on the nose commentary on the actions of the villains/anti-heroes. Like, this was meant to show how the plot affects the world-building or something…

Ch.22 - So You Want To Draw A Map - Part 2[Accompanied by the sounds of frantic rummaging around inside a van] “I’m not 100% sure what I’m looking for, but when I see it I’ll know.” Honestly? Same, mate. Same. Not sure it’s what I wanted to hear while they built scaffolding, mind…

One entire morning of music-less karaoke. The greatest hits of Britney Spears, Beyoncé and the Spice Girls particularly stand out in my memory. Eventually I gave into the inevitable and played whatever was being sung out through my computer speakers to join in. If you can’t shut out the noise, own the noise, right? (In the on-going play that is my working life, I guess we were singing to drown out the noise of the scenery being changed? I assume so anyway…)

One day there was a concert going on in a neighbouring music hall and the sound is wafting straight across to us, though primarily only the more bass-like notes. It sounds like it’s something big and classically epic. What promptly ensued was amazing to behold: Picture, if you will, five grown men in hi-vis vests, shorts and hard hats – and basically nothing else because it was so hot! – engaged in a massive and extremely heated argument about what film’s soundtrack they recognise the music from. As is to be expected, the lack of clarity in hearing the music only adds to the confusion and also the vigour of the … debate. Insults to parentage, cultural education and film-viewing are thrown around in the midst of all the arm-waving and foot-stomping. A particularly choice quote that I will never forget remains: “It were from f*cking Amadeus, you tw*t!” The last time I saw people get this involved in a film-debate, they certainly weren’t scaling scaffolding like Les Mis actors at the time! Once again, I have to take the minutes of a meeting and pretend I can’t hear this happening right outside the window, and there’s a terrifying moment when I think that the academics I’m minuting will actually abandon their Very Serious meeting to join in through the windows. What even is real life anymore?Ch.21 Hide and Seek MacGuffins

On another, much calmer day, there was a Very Serious Indeed conference centring around Our Dave’s garden design choices. Apparently there was to be a pond and everyone’s thoughts needed to be contributed regarding it ideal placement and surroundings for full aesthetic appeal. The debate between ‘Natural Feature’ verses ‘More Modern, Like’ raged long into the day (with interruptions from work) and swayed frequently over into “What are you thinking of for the patio?! ‘Ave you not seen that rubbish they tried makin’ Mike’s out of?! Nah, mate, you need {unintelligible as I was printing at the time and therefore only vaguely listening.}” Dave’s brother was swayed in the end, I think. Certainly natural features was eventually judged to be the superior choice, as it will require less upkeep; a plus in the busy life of a working professional. I’m mildly convinced that the gardens at Kew had less planning and consultation involved in their making… Special highlight award going to the line “I ‘ate bloody topiary, if he sticks any of that in there, I’m setting it on fire!”

And finally, the day I all but screamed the place down as I carried my (full, naturally) mug of tea back to my desk while filing and listening to a favourite podcast, and then a body suddenly popped through my window to ask me what I was listening to and could he make a note of the link. I mean, I was happy to supply him with it, once I’d calmed down, but normally in order to appear through my window (unless you have feathers) you’d need a good ten feet of ladder, so this was not a Thing I’d prepared for at all!

Anyway, that’s enough random nonsense for today! Let me know if you’ve had a band of players in your life that would make excellent side-characters in the adventure novel of your life? I don’t know what story these fine gentlemen will be staring in yet, but they can only benefit whatever tale they do appear in, no?

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Posted in Oxford Odditites

Judging a Book By its Cover…

Friends, today’s post is short, but I need to share something with you all. Partly because I need sympathy, and partly because I have so many questions!

OK, so this is the Oxfam Bookshop in the middle of Oxford.

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It sits just across the road from my workplace. It is also one of two in Oxford, and the other one was five minutes walk from my old workplace. I have never been more than ten minutes walk from one or the other of these in my whole time in Oxford, and I’ll be honest, there’s the vaguest possibility that this may be ever so slightly connected to my massive hoard of books and my lack of money. Maybe.

It’s OK to despair of me, my family is right there with you…

Anyway!

So I was walking past the window on the way to work one morning and this piece of majestic-ness is sat in the front window!

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I mean… Just look at it!

I have so many questions! How do these creatures go together in places that aren’t this blog?

Only in Oxford, am I right?

Long-time readers of this blog will know that we of course have a tiny dragon in the office, getting into my stationary and judging me when I’m not writing and generally causing trouble. 

And if you live in Oxford then you also know that ducks get everywhere. They keep nesting in college quads and then causing chaos once the ducklings have hatched, because no mama duck ever has apparently thought to herself prior to building a nest, ‘Hmm… I managed to reach this nice quiet nesting site in this fox-free space by flying. But my ducklings, they will not be able to fly straight out of the egg. Is this site, therefore, a good idea?’Ch.9 - Duck and Cover

So Trinity (Summer) Term is one long saga of students with cardboard boxes chasing down ducks and ducklings to help them all reach a nice body of water. It’s probably character-building? At the very least, it’s a distraction from looming exams, I suppose.

Also, if you have twitter, and you don’t already follow Twitter of then please go and check them out, they are an absolute delight and treasure and I can think of nothing which so wonderfully summarises so much of what is good in Oxford. It’s ducks, it’s literary puns, it’s madcap adventures sometimes; frankly I don’t know what else you could possibly ask for, but even that is probably to be found right there on that feed.

The annual duck-related shenanigans naturally has made it into the Ghosts and Gowns series, if you fancy checking it out?

Anyway, so obviously I had to read this book and find out a few answers. Was it separated out into poems about dragons and poems about ducks? Were there poets about dragons and ducks together? Did these two groups of agents of chaos finally join forces and inspire great sagas commemorating their epic deeds? Were they eternal enemies locked forever in combat from whence there is no end or escape? What?Ch.14 Making Men of Myths - Part 2

And now, I know, I know that we shouldn’t judge a book by it’s – frankly amazing – cover, but I regret to say that we can only speculate about the hidden potential behind it. For now, alas, we come to the saddest part of this post…

You see, the bookshop does not open until 10am, which is notably after the time I need to be in work. So I waited, eagerly, patiently I waited until my lunch break. Who needed to go to eat lunch? Who needs sandwiches when there is a book to hunt down? That book must be mine!

And then… disaster!

By the time I reached the bookshop, the book had been sold already! I missed it!

In hindsight, I suppose it was inevitable; with a book so inherently amazing, someone probably pounced as soon as they could get in…

Never will I read the epic adventures of ducks and dragons… *Sniff…*

On the other hand, I now can’t stop thinking of other amazing book titles! I have several ideas already:

Knights and Kittens – in which either the knights are often rescuing kittens from high perches in castles, or possibly doing battle with terrifying and fearsome kittens? (If this sounds unlikely, please check out the British Library’s post about knights battling snails! If it sounded totally legit on first thought, check out the pictures of knights battling snails anyway – I promise you that down that path lies only magnificent and wonderful things!)

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Knight v Snail III: Extreme Jousting (from Brunetto Latini’s Li Livres dou Tresor, France (Picardy), c. 1315-1325, Yates Thompson MS 19, f. 65r)

Mice and Magicians – In which a band of brave mice help and advise an apprentice magician as they journey through a series of challenges to reach the great magic tournament. Think the Knights of the Round Table (Round Cheese? Keep work-shopping that…) assisting Merlin, with side quests including the Green Squirrel, the Lapwing of the Lake, narrated throughout (naturally) by Gerbil of Monmouth…

Seagulls and Sphinxes – Neither side of this title will make much sense, but only one will eat you while you’re alive? But no seriously, this is really the perfect pair-up, since I don’t think that sphinxes can fly, but obviously seagulls have that down, and if you’ve ever been mobbed for your food by seagulls then you will know that seagulls would absolutely ask you impossible riddles if it got them more food somehow! I don’t know what their adventure would actually look like yet, but I’m working on it…

Anyone else have any suggestions? It has to be a team-up between a fantasy character/creature and a non-obvious tiny mundane animal… And if possible, do chip in with what the adventure story would look like!

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Posted in Oxford Odditites

Those Times When The Decor Clearly Did Not Meet With A Wizard’s Approval…

Ch.22 - So You Want To Draw A Map - Part 2So, this will surprise exactly no one, I’m sure, but I have news for you all: There’s a wizard in Oxford.

I know, right?

But this one clearly likes cheap coffee and cares very deeply about their aesthetic vision. Like, they are committed to this aesthetic!

OK, so technically this story comes from just outside of Oxford, but it’s still got an ‘OX’ postcode and thus I am still counting it! So, I’m meeting a friend in one of those generic coffee chain shops (you know the ones, insert your preferred name her), and while we’re chatting away, we look over and something catches our eye. Something looks distinctly out of place…

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Ah, the joys of trying to take a photo in a coffee shop without getting innocent people in frame. Sorry to whoever I failed to notice in the background there…

I know it doesn’t really show in this photograph, but all the rest of the furniture in this place is coffee-chain standard. Brown pleather tub chairs, chunky dark brown wooden chairs, tables that are all just slightly the wrong height and have four legs of totally different lengths for maximum spillage of hot drinks? You know, the usual.

And then there it it.

A rustic farmhouse kitchen table and suitable chairs.

There are no other chairs like this in the whole place. There is nothing even remotely similar in terms of tables. Nothing – absolutely nothing – about this table and chairs combinations says ‘I belong here and I fit in.’

As someone who can often feel awkward and embarrassingly out of place in public, it is an unending comfort to me to know that wooden tables can clearly sympathise. Look at it; you can practically hear it apologising for taking up so much room.

Now, as soon as we spotted this poor out-of-place table, my friend and I started asking the obvious questions: How did it get here? Why is it still here? Who thought that this table belonged here in the first place?

Ch.24 Loch Ness MonsterThe obvious solution was clear: A wizard did it!

I mean, it’s obvious, right? Some wizard had to go and get themselves some quick coffee, paid for it, went to grad a seat and had a fit about the generic decor. Wizards; so high maintenance.

Of course, being a wizard, they naturally had the power to amend matters to their own satisfaction and behold! One farmhouse table and accompanying chairs are suddenly sitting, presumably very confused, in the coffee shop. Naturally, this is Oxford, and no one questions it. I mean, where do you think this is? Somewhere that actually questions magical happenings? Cambridge, presumably.

Ch.21 Hide and Seek MacGuffins“There are six chairs though,” my friend noted, “so maybe the wizard had guests?”

Was it a wizard convention that all descended on this coffee shop together, looked around and then backed each other up about the generic decor of terribleness? This has a certain weight to it; one lone wizard might grumble away to themselves over their cheap coffee, but six could probably hype each other up until the only solution to this interior fashion disaster is to throw magic around until you have an inexplicable table.

I hope they didn’t think that the magic table counted as a tip for the wait-staff. Because it does not, wannabe Gandalf! Pay them with actual money like a normal person!

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Lloyds of London, the Scottish Natural Heritage and the Loch Ness Monster…

Or: The Magic That Walks Among Us – Part 2

Ch.20 - The Magic that Walks Among Us

Author’s Note: This post was started months and months ago, and then ended up getting left on the wayside as I got tied up in other things. Now it has become more topical in the daftest, worst possible way, I thought I’d come back and finish it…

OK, so!

Ages ago I did a post on real-life experiences with magic, otherwise known as That One Time the city of Carlisle accidentally cursed itself and everyone just had to deal with it.

At the time of writing, I wasn’t really planning on turning it into a series at all, but then I stumbled upon a couple of comments on an internet thread, and did a bit more digging and low and behold I have another case study for us all to enjoy!

As writers, especially fantasy or science-fiction writers, we like to imagine that the discovery of a real-life example of magic would throw our whole world into turmoil. It would be a sensation! It would revolutionise everything!

For example, imagine some nice ordinary angler was fishing away, minding their own business, on the banks of the Loch Ness, in Scotland? And after a long day of not much happening – which I understand can happen a lot in fishing? – at last! There is a nibble on their line! And then there is an enormous tug! And another one! And finally with a great heave, up comes …

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The Loch Ness Monster!

Now, after what I assume must have been a … somewhat fraught few minutes, in which the angler in question apparently develops the kind of Herculean muscles necessary to haul up something of the estimated size and weight of ol’ Nessie, well… What happens next?

I mean, after he rings his wife up and panics to her, and she asks him if he’s been drinking again, and he finally assures her, presumably through a lot of camera phone photos that he really does have Nessie on the shore with him and she panics and all that.

What next?

Actually, it turns out, what comes next is that some lovely people from the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) Department will be wanting to have a Conversation with our unlucky angler immediately. It would also mean that this heroic, lone office that actually has it’s paperwork in order would swoop in to finally make use of those forms they’ve been sitting on for a while.

Because of course the first thing on the agenda is ‘Do we have the forms correctly filled out yet?’

Real life, it seems, has no time for our sense of dramatic tension. Go figure.

However, it does mean that we must now take a moment to sit down and truly appreciate the fact that back in 2001, during a period of very heightened interest in Nessie and the catching thereof, the heroes over at SNH sat down in a serious office, in their serious grown-up suits and seriously asked the question: “Wait. What if someone actually catches the old girl?”

Yes. That happened.

In fact, this has actually happened a few times over the course of recent history, and friends, I cannot tell you how much every single one of these conversations delights me!

NessieWay back in 1971, Cutty Sark (the whiskey manufacturer, not the boat) offered an award of one million pounds (because of course that’s the figure you’d pluck from the air as a reward) to anyone who could capture the Loch Ness Monster. But, and I can’t imagine why or how this happened, they began to get cold feet. Because I guess in the 1970’s it was starting to look like this might actually happen?

In fairness, back in the 1970’s there had been a lot, and I do mean a lot of interest, and there were a huge number of sightings coming in every year, and a (excuse the pun) boat-load of scientific expeditions trying to find any trace of Nessie they could find. Monster-hunter, the late Robert Rines, took an underwater photo (right) deemed so convincing that scientists at Harvard and the Smithsonian Institution expressed genuine and serious interest. (It was later connected to a strobe light, I think, and thus disqualified.)

So I suppose that at the time, it might have looked like there was a very good chance that the whiskey-men would have to actually stump up some serious cash any day now.

And that clearly hadn’t been the plan.

So the nice people at Cutty Sark asked Lloyds of London, the insurance people, to underwrite the contest. The insurance company actually agreed to this, but only on the condition that it would get to keep Nessie.

Yes, Lloyds of London wanted to keep Nessie.

I have… a few questions, number one being: What on Earth was Lloyds of London going to do with their very own folkloric sea-monster?!

Where would they even put it? Did they want her alive? Was an intern going to have to feed her and take her for walks, no swims? Were they going to feed under-performing managers to her?

Lloyds Nessie NewsprintNow, in fairness, initially Lloyds had apparently turned the Cutty Sark people down. Not, I  feel I should stress here, because someone in the board room said ‘Hey, Mike? This seems a little silly, and all. Maybe we have better things to do around here?’

Please!

Nope, apparently they also considered that the risk that they would have to pay out on this thing to be “too great.”

Yes.

People who were around in the 1970’s? Your world sounds like it was amazing, and I would almost like to move there…

Anyway, in true British fashion, Lloyds got called chickens for not wanting to stump up the cash on the off-chance of finding Nessie, and Lloyds said ‘What the heck? Let’s go for this crazy scheme.’ Again, the 1970’s sound like they were a whole fantasy novel on their own, and I’m mad I didn’t get to write it…

If you’re curious, the contract apparently went as follows:

“As far as this insurance is concerned, the Loch Ness Monster shall be deemed to be:

  1. In excess of 20 feet in length.
  2. Acceptable as the Loch Ness Monster to the curators of the Natural History Museum, London.

In the event of loss hereunder, the monster shall become the property of the underwriters hereon.”

Which also means that another development in this – frankly amazing – story would have been that some unsuspecting researcher in the Natural History Museum could have one day, out of the blue, received the single greatest phone call of their life. Again, just picture the scene!Ch.24 Loch Ness Monster

“Hello?”
“Ah, good morning, are you the person to speak to about sea-reptiles?”
“Yes, how can I help?”
“Oh good! We need you to come and identify Nessie for us.”
“…What?”
“It’s Lloyds of London calling.”
“This explains absolutely nothing, but thank you.”

Nowadays, thankfully, the question of what on earth do you do with the Loch Ness Monster once you’ve gone and caught her has been nicely cleared up by those lovely people over at SNH. There is, as is the way with government, a code of practice all drawn up to offer protection to any new species found in the loch, including a monster. It stipulates that a DNA sample should be taken from any new creature, and then it should be promptly and carefully released back into the loch.

Put that thing back where it came from or so help me, indeed.

So … Sorry, Lloyds of London, no pet sea-monster for you…

In the event that you feared that the insurance companies of the world have settled down about Nessie though, I am happy to report that a touch of magic still remains for us all.

Back in 2005, when Scotland’s biggest triathlon was happening in and around Loch Ness, the swimmers were all insured, for again no less than £1 million, per swimmer, against being bitten by the Loch Ness Monster. You know… Just in case?

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