Hello Botolf (almost Oxford) fans … don’t worry book III is on the way very soon, meanwhile to wet your appetite here is a teaser from Gadzooks Armageddon
TEASER Book III The Botolf Chronicles
Botolf-almost-Oxford is a college with many traditions. The Annual Cheese Eating Contest between the college’s various academic houses has been going on since records began. Keeping a ferret in your trousers during Pentecost may have dubious roots in the college’s history but it is observed by senior students and junior staff passionately. And the end-of-year whipping of the groundsman may violate several acts of the Human Rights Convention but stopping it would be unthinkable to anyone at Botolf (except the groundsman).
Among Botolf’s most beloved traditions are the bi-annual examinations (beloved that is by staff not by students. The staff tend to use the exams to show how clever they are, how witless their students are, and also to gauge how many students there actually are in their respective departments, which can be a mystery at times).
Botolf sets its collective watch by the bi-annual college exams. They take place in the first week of December and the last week of June, with no exceptions and no excuses for students not to attend. Non-attendance at exams is one of the few things, just ranking above the murder of another student and below the impersonation of a staff member, which can get someone expelled from Botolf-almost-Oxford.
No one has actually been ejected from the college since 1563 and even then he had to murder several students with a pickaxe during evening-song (one murder could have been put down as boyish hi-jinks but nine bludgeoned to death was deemed just to be over the line of acceptable social behaviour at Botolf).
Exams at Botolf have sometimes been held under the most stressful and sometimes dangerous conditions; over a hundred students died as a result of the plague during one particularly long classical history paper; the end of year papers were almost ruined when a flaming cannon ball shot by the Roundheads besieging the house during the Civil War landed on the Dean’s desk; and the Royal Flying Corp was denuded of its best officers for the 1917 December exam because the then Head of Inquisitions (Exams) forged their leave papers so they could be present.
The Dean watched from the balcony of the grand stairs as dozens of gowned and bleary eyed students were frog-marched by the staff into the Great Hall, which had gone through its own bi-annual tradition of being cleared of dining tables in favour of small writing desks and uncomfortable wooden chairs. He winced at his own memory of having to sit for hours, day after day, in those small wooden chairs. Whoever the ancient Botolf carpenter was who designed and built them could only be presumed to have been born without a bum.
First exams of the week were always Geography and Invisible Geographies; they were two of the mandatory subjects at Botolf. Geography was kept simple; capitals of the world which, the Dean reminded himself, desperately needed revising as it still had Zomba, Samarkand and Winchester as national centres of government. Other than that the subject and exam was pretty well informed and up to date. Invisible Geographies, Professor Turner’s sphere, was a different fish of kettles altogether.
He never pretended that he understood any of it. Even as a student, under Three Elbows Maguire, he’d been confused as to what Mapping the Mind really was and as for Landscapes of Mythology, he’d failed to see how you could mark students on their drawings of Atlantis. But the subject persisted. Turner seemed happy and, after all, who was he to interfere with the customs of the college. In fact, it was his job, as Dean, to maintain them … at all costs.
Walking through the interlinking halls of the Great House of Botolf, students who are coming to and from exams pass the college library, where many of them risked life and limb to study some of the more bizarre subjects that Botolf offers. A much safer choice for the budding academic at Botolf was to closely interact with their appointed tutor. In the weeks building up to exams many of Botolf’s corridors would fill up with bustling lines of undergrads waiting at the doors of the Masters’ rooms in order to ask questions, retrieve notes, borrow books and, in more than a few cases, look for an explanation as to what the Course was about in the first place.