For the love of coffee stirrers

Over the weekend, I posted an album of photos on Facebook of our week in Merville. This turned out to be something of an error, as it resulted in several comments at church yesterday along the lines of:
“I saw your photos on Facebook – looks like you had a lot of fun!”
“I thought you’d gone away for a week’s intensive teaching? Looked like a great holiday”

Oops. Vicar School en France is intense to say the least. The day begins in chapel at 8am, there’s sessions all day till 6pm, stopping only for coffee, lunch, tea and a short post-lunch break. After dinner, we’re free – save for worship team planning sessions, or last minute sermon prep, or tutorials, or intense theological discussions… It was not a holiday.

But it was a lot of fun – especially in the evenings. As was the case last year, mature ordinands regressed to teenage-like behaviour. I’ve returned from France with knowledge of two more youth group games, and the discovery that a trumpet mouthpiece can turn a hosepipe & funnel into an instrument upon which Mozart’s trumpet concerto can be played. Plus, I now know that trainee vicars are very adept at lying, when the need arises. Around the ‘bar’ [meeting room atmospherically lit by tea lights], on any one evening, you could find ordinands playing Cheat, Mafia, or Poker – all of which require stealth and resolute poker faces. Oh, and most importantly, my fellowship group won the annual college pub quiz.

Most fun of all, our final night saw a return of the Merville Spoons Championship. This stupidly childish game was a highlight of last year, and Merville wasn’t quite Merville until the coffee stirrers came out; the circular table occupied; glasses of wine were moved to safety; and spectacles removed from faces. Spoons is violent, loud and totally pointless. We love it.

Some of us take it a little too seriously. Take my friend Alex, for example. Always an excitable person, he exists in a frenzied state of anticipation throughout Spoons. Here he is explaining the rules:

And this is what ensued in his efforts to ensure he had a ‘spoon’:

Extreme, no? It got worse. This round was so hotly disputed that the two men fighting over the last spoon (it wasn’t the last round, everyone else had already secured a spoon) ended up having a one on one spoons fight – usually how the overall winner is decided. Partly so I could stay safely out of the way, and partly so I could record it for posterity, I have both this and the final on video:

Check out my particularly deep voiced/croaky commentary on the final. There’s a BBC sports job out there for me somewhere…

The sad thing about all this fun was the realisation that most of the people around the Spoons table won’t be there next year. Lots of people in my year are on the two year stream, meaning that they’ll be getting ordained this summer – all the girls & one of the guys will be around and that’s it. It may only be just over a year since my vicar school career began, but already some of us are on the final strait.

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