Staring impressively across Radcliffe Square, contemplating the day’s assigned task, I was suddenly struck by the eroticism of Oxford’s library quarter. From the phallic pinnacles gracing the Old Bodleian to the heaving bosom that is the Radcliffe Camera, it all essentially boils down to one thing: sex. The city of creaming spires this most certainly is.
Such visual bombardment served to whet my appetite for the day’s exertions. Armed only with my Hannah Montana™ lunchbox, a laptop and a hugely inflated opinion of my own sexual prowess, I had been sent out to investigate what should prove to be this term’s most popular library-related social activity: bookending. As none of you will know, bookending is a new name for an age old Oxford pastime – looking for a little love in the library.
Rumoured to be as old as the university itself, bookending was most definitely around in my parents’ time; once, in an unguarded and frighteningly drunken moment (and, incidentally, one that I wish never to relive), my mother let slip that my brother had been conceived beneath the ornate plaster ceiling of the Upper Cam. So it was that – in pursuit of a mate – I found myself on a sunny Tuesday morning passing through the Rad Cam’s imposing double doors, presenting my delicate Hannah Montana™ lunchbox for inspection by the rough hands of the library porter, and taking the first steps on a quest destined, no doubt, to end in defeat and sexual frustration.
You will need: A laptop with access to the internet.
Nothing screams ‘saggy bell-end’ like a ring-bound wide-rule A4 pad from WH Smith. If you’re searching for love in the Lower Cam you’ll need a Mac Book. Here – the favoured library of the Oxford dickhead – a Dell laptop is generally taken as evidence that its owner suffers from Chlamydia. A Toshiba will see you shunned like a leper at a health spa. So, equipped with Steve Jobs’ latest and your natural charm, you’re now ready to fetch a filly.
Step one: Find a seat.
This may prove harder than you’d think. The Bad Cam gets busy and you’ll want to find a prime place to ‘witness the fitness’. Avoid the theology section of the Lower Cam; the standard of the ‘talent’ is generally poor, with chances of bookending success further weakened by the monkish chastity of the section’s inhabitants. More promising are those tables populated by English students, whose sole purpose in visiting the library is to stare at one another.
Step two: Select a victim hottie
Happily seated in the centre of what to outsiders possibly resembles a meat market and sweltering in the heat of hipster-admiration, you’re now ready to select your ‘bookend’. Don’t fret if at first you can’t seem to find a face to match your own rugged good looks. Consider a short amble to the computers from which vantage point you should be able to spot more favourable partners. If even this drastic measure fails to provide the faintest whiff of success feel no embarrassment in giving up your search and fleeing for greener pastures (known locally as the Missing Bean). If, however, your initial scouting of the talent proves promising then bully for you; you can happily skip to –
Step three: Wooing
Nonchalantly flicking open your laptop, casually log on to Floxx (www.floxx.com/oxford), the sadly inferior successor to last year’s smash-hit Fit Finder. After a little deliberation tap in a suitably literary yet ‘fun and flirty’ message that’ll see you type your way into your crush trousers. Take inspiration from whatever – incorporate their features, clothes, or – if you’re really stuck – their reading matter. So, if your curly haired Adonis happens to be reading Marlowe’s Edward II, your post might read: ‘Male, Blonde Hair, Super fine. Reading Edward II – you can put your red hot poker in me anytime!’
Having posted your hotchpotch of sexually charged filth and pseudo-intellectual literary reference, sit back, studiously scan this week’s Take a Break, poorly concealed in your never-opened copy of Ulysses, and hope that the new-found apple of your eye finds your flirtatious Floxx post.
If after five minutes of anguished searching no golden glimmer of hope has flittered across their revision-torn visage, you should probably consider upping your game. Attempt eye contact. Flutter your eyelids suggestively, making sure that it doesn’t just look like you’ve acquired a particularly irritating ingrown eyelash. If this fails try inaugurating a game of footsie. In doing this don’t look too desperate to establish foot contact; there’s no greater turn off than the artistically pathetic grimace.
Waiting until your buxom beauty has left to find yet another book, steal over to their seat. Leave a note – prominently placed – couched in suitably romantic or sordid language as suits your fancy, detailing both your ends and a little about yourself. Make sure this self description, whilst flattering and flirty, isn’t completely unrecognisable. Remember – you want them to know that it’s you who’s writing the note and not the handsome devil sitting beside you, against whom you stand little chance. If you’re super-adventurous you might even consider embarking upon what’s known in Cambridge as a ‘paperchase’. Sign off the note with a ‘come find me’ adding only several kisses and the reference number to another book. In this next book post another message. Continue the process until you’ve either grown bored or feel you’ve built up enough suspense to risk a meeting.
Step four: The meeting
When at last you do meet with your literary lurvely make sure it’s both suitably romantic and in a dark, private corner of the library. Nothing spoils a CV as much as the words ‘sent down for sexual indecency in the library’. But within these twin confines of mood and decency, go CRAZY! Hide in amongst the bookshelves; burst out from behind a pile of books/stack on sexual criticism; let your hands – awash with the sweat of adolescent anticipation – touch momentarily over a tattered library copy of Finnegan’s Wake. But however you reveal yourself make sure it’s romantic, ensuring you keep yourself free from prosecution and/or the prospect of having to raise a child in your final year.
But what of my own success, I hear you ask. Sadly, comes the doleful reply, I came away from my day of fevered expectation empty handed – so to speak. Picking the day of my visit poorly I found only mature students, visiting fellows and townies gracing the tables of a Lower Cam much depleted of talent. Remembering the ancient dictum ‘the wrinkly like it kinky’, I felt at first uneasy, then physically nauseous at the prospect of what a paper chase with one of these Methuselahs of Oxford might become. Collecting together the laptop and Hannah Montana™ lunchbox I hurried out of the library, leaving behind me the hopes and expectation of hundreds (ok, tens) of future bookenders.
But don’t let my poor experience put you off. Head for the library and with only your natural verve and Herculean self confidence, go grab that ass, plunge some clunge and, in so doing, plumb depths of depravity as yet unseen in Oxford’s premier research library.