It began with me borrowing my dad's electric drill for some alterations to the walls. This was followed by smashing up my desk (
vandalism == fun) in an effort to allow the power cables required by my box to reach the one socket. Unfortunately, once I'd finally hammered away the entire backboard, I realised that this one piece of wood was solely responsible for providing lateral stability and that, once removed, the desk was no longer free-standing. I solved this problem by delicately balancing the desk in position then nailing it into the walls. In the course of doing this, I narrowly avoided piercing the water pipes for the main bathroom but it all seemed to turn out fine (as long as no one ever intends on repositioning the furniture). Yoko had some spraypaint, so I graffed the vital piece of wood that I'd removed and propped it up outside my window where it happily remained until half term. I also pinched a monitor from one of the computer rooms to experiment with a side-by-side multimonitor display. The final result, while a little blurry, turned out to be very satisfactory. Thankfully, nobody noticed my theft the entire time because I hid the stolen monitor behind a curtain whenever I was out of the room. Later I stole a King's Week sign that now sits at home.
Throughout the term I pushed the limits of modern engineering by constructing a positively ingenious mezzanine floor to instantly double the amount of real estate in my room. Complicated construction works took place for several weeks but, after begging, borrowing and stealing furniture, decorations and bedding, it was ready in time for study leave. The triumphant final result was truly a marvel, especially given the budget (a quid or two) and the lack of tools (hammer and drawing pins). The most difficult problem encountered was that of safety. The mezzanine was three metres off the floor and, as the majority of it was designed to be my new bed, it was important that the chance of me rolling off the edge in my sleep was minimised. We ended up recycling someone else's shelving before nailing it into place and then concealing the whole structure by using old sheets as lovely drapes. All the work was worth it in the end because I successfully skipped innumerate assemblies, meetings and other time-wasting events by hiding up there fast asleep.
Recently, I've been mostly spending my days walking down the high street contemplating the moranity of life and trying to catch glances from cute young French girls in tourist parties. I bear lessons on autopilot, browse Slashdot during Games and, after supper, I play Frisbee without fail. It ought to be noted that this does have the ulterior motive of giving me the chance of checking out hotties who don't know my name. A girl named Fiona is pretty and smiles at me cutely, but we're both terrified of each other.
A few months ago a bunch of OKS had visited and spread rumours of underground tunnels. Apparently, not long after Canterbury Cathedral was built, some dude built a massive waterworks system that spans half the fucking city. After a few evenings spent exploring, we found a couple of entrances to the tunnel system. Sadly, one was made of fuck-off rusted cast iron and sealed with tamper-proof rubber. However, the other one was down a concealed stairway, had been visited in the last decade and had WWII-era lighting installed that had long since ceased functioning. After an initial reconnaissance, we made plans to investigate the waterworks after half term. Theodore and I assembled a crack-squad of elite miners/minors for the mission ahead: we acquired the services of Mr. Blessley and Marnham Jr. as well as stealing various pieces of equipment from lower yeargroups.
We gathered together all the kit we could find, sketched maps, drew up contingency plans and began to plan a couple of subterranean expeditions. Everyone in the group was sworn to the utmost secrecy and we had to sneak out at night whilst avoiding the infra-red CCTV cameras to go adventuring. We were impatient and itching for adventure so the first quest began.
The tunnels really were horrific. Years' worth of spider webs lined the ceiling which was so low we had to crouch in a manner that is sure to produce arthritic knees. It was pitch black and so dusty that we couldn't see more than half a yard through the grime. The bricks smelled incredibly musty and the air was stale as vinegar.
About twenty or thirty yards down the main tunnel, there was a right turn followed swiftly by a small hole leading into a tiny room probably 1 m by 1.5 m and barely 2 m tall. Immediately above my head was a heavy manhole cover and to the left was a tiny cast-iron circular door, not unlike that used to access a safe or maybe even exit a small submarine. I was able to lift the manhole cover a couple of inches and refreshing cool night air crept in along with a slither of moonlight. The door was a little more challenging. At first I was worried it would be rusted shut, but I was able to open it and revealed a tiny little porthole into unknown darkness.
I could barely fit through it; no-one was brave enough to follow and heaped up in piles on the floor was a strange fine, very dry black powder that stung like a bitch. While I shouted to the others to be reassured that they hadn't deserted me (they hadn't although they did sound mighty distant), I looked around my immediate surroundings. To the left was another lengthy tunnel very similar to the one we'd initially come down (apart from the dusty powder lining the floor). Ahead and to the right: solid redbrick walls. In the back-right corner however, a ring metal protruded some five inches. A foot above it was an identical ring. And then another. I reached up to touch one a couple of metres off the ground and my eyes followed them up, scaling up the wall ten feet, fifteen, then twenty. After about twenty five feet even the most powerful torch beam couldn't penetrate the sheer darkness over my head. I realised that the metal rings were in fact rungs on a ladder leading upward - I waited for the black dust that had coated the rungs to settle but the shaft above me still seemed to stretch up indefinitely.
This made no sense at all. When I'd been standing but half a metre behind my current position I could reach up with both my hands, push up a cover and climb into the outdoor air. Here I could stretch my arms as high as they'd go and touch nothing. It was as though I'd stepped into another dimension within these ancient tunnels. This underground system might well be centuries old, but it didn't explain why a region of space that by all rights ought to be open air, was in fact an infinitely tall dusty chute.
I was very perturbed (for days I was convinced that the tunnels allowed for trans-dimensional travel), but vowed to continue exploring regardless. I tried climbing the logic-defying ladder, but was forced to turn back only a few metres up. Some of the rungs didn't feel particularly sturdy under my weight and every single one had a fine covering of the ubiquitous painful black powder – every time I reached up for the next one I knocked a fistful onto my face. It was in my eyes, my throat, my nostrils and all over my hair. I must have swallowed a couple of handfuls of the stuff.
I was completely blinded and began to choke desperately. I couldn't breathe at all. The tunnels were so stuffy and filled with such stagnant air that even before I was coughing up grimy phlegm my respiration was seriously impaired. It was unbearable – my throat was raw and coated with the caustic dust that burnt into my flesh. I dived back through the circular doorway and felt my way gingerly back down the tunnel to the exit. In my haste to escape, I pushed Marnham in front of me and where my dirty hands transferred some of the dust onto his bare skin he yelped with pain.
I sprinted up the stairs, and took delicious lungfuls of the night air in between empting my throat of thick black mucous. My whole body was beginning to sting now where the dust had crept through my clothing and, forsaking any attempt at subtly creeping back into my room, I sprinted across the Green Court and ran straight into the shower room, stripping off as I went.
A full hour under a boiling hot power shower and two bars of soap later, my body was still smeared with the grime from the tunnels. My hair had been washed three times with shampoo, but my hands were filthy and my shoes and feet remained black. My jeans never really recovered. Worst of all was the tiled floor of the shower room. The whole thing was completely black and, no matter how many buckets of water we poured over it, it remained that way. The stinging had died down, but breathing was still troubled and my throat absolutely caned. We amalgamated our discoveries, left our clothes out to dry and crept to bed.
The second adventure took a lot more planning. I made a visit to home and stocked up on equipment. I bought some climbing ropes and gloves from a car boot sale. Digging around in the loft unearthed some moon boots, a bunch of old clothes as well as a boiler suit and some ski goggles. We consulted the maps we'd drawn up, found the manhole on the surface and wandered around ruins near the cathedral in search of more entrances to the tunnels or just more information about them. We performed numerous internet searches in the process of digging up relevant histories and researching everything even vaguely related to the waterworks. However, no amount of looking offered any answers for the mystery of the infinite shaft. We were still unable to explain how moving a yard along the plane of the earth's surface resulted in the ground moving from immediately above a person's head to far beyond thirty feet up.
The second expedition was slightly more successful. Blessley lives in Qatar and was able to construct Arab-style face masks for us. Nevertheless, they were largely ineffective in preventing us from choking. We continued according to plan up to the manhole cover but everyone was too scared to follow me through the circular iron door. In the end, I persuaded (read: intimidated) Mister Marnham to come through and hold a torch for me to climb the ladder.
Despite purchasing bungees, karabiners and other mountaineering apparatus, I had no suitable climbing harness and our rig was entirely inefficient. There was nothing for it: I'd have to climb the spatially-confusing, physics-defying ladder shaft without any safety gear. I adjusted my woefully inefficient face mask, asked Marnham to adjust his torch beam and set up the ladder. My pace was slow and careful, but before long I was about thirty to forty feet up. I'd left Marnham behind long ago, it was pitch black and I couldn't even hear my companions shouting below me. Looking up I saw the same sight that I'd been following the whole climb – a ladder stretching upward further into infinity. Terrified that I'd fall from the slippery rungs and concerned that I'd lost communication with Marnham below me, I began the steady descent, defeated.
Despite our extra precautions against skin-contact with the caustic dust, my eyes were watering profusely and I was practically choking with every gasping breath. I reached the bottom of the ladder safely and set off to explore the remaining tunnel systems while the others rapidly retreated out into the night air. After fully mapping the rest of the underground passageways (my lungs thanked me that I reached dead ends after only a few dozen metres) I scrambled out and sprinted to the showers again.
The next day we'd finally scrubbed the shower room vaguely clean and determined that nobody had been left to asphyxiate down the dust tunnels. All that remained to remind us of our adventure was our dirty clothing, a few black shower curtains, sketched maps, memories, a film canister containing a sample of the powder for chemical analysis and a suffocating cough for all expedition members. Theo was in bed for a day and I felt like I'd smoked a million millon badly rolled fags with the benefit of nil Swan filters. I pride myself on my superb immune system but it took me weeks to lose the cough and I went through a couple of packs of throat-relief lozenges plus countless lemsips each day. Only later would we find out that the tunnels we explored used to part of the sewer system and the dust that lined our throats was in fact the dried out remains of the combined bowels of fourteenth century Canterbury. Despite all the ick, I still feel that it was well worth it. We passed all our experience and knowledge onto Mini Marnham so that future generations of pupils may carry on our legacy of tearing down frontiers.
I remember several days being spent endlessly rewinding Laura's Shakespeare's Sister cassette on a borrowed Walkman in order to hear that track again and again through big headphones. Also The Error did something amusing.
The final weeks of term turned out to be a massive laugh. I made a blowup of goatse 4 m by 4 m and hung it outside Theodore's window. I drank far far far too much gin with Rosie and others. I covertly videoed the Removes completely taping up Theodore's door and then waking him up at some ridiculous hour in the morning. I've never seen someone so angry in my life and likewise, I've never seen such bad bruises before. Theo didn't speak to me for three whole days and I didn't even have any part to play in the whole affair. And then on the final night I got the Removes drunk and introduced them to Withnail & I. When that finished I broke into my housemaster's flat and was caught stealing his booze. That was kinda a bummer and pretty damn shameful too.