The Mysterious Case of the Missing Graduate
Of all the classmates I've forgotten over the years, Chantel Sankey is not one. An intriguing brunette is how I remember her, a woman with as many neuroses as curves, and as addicted to time as she was tobacco, had I not known better I could have quite fancied her.

Instead I made her the subject of one of my bitchiest comments of all time. Having got into an argument with her boyfriend, I compared her to a car with twenty-something previous careful owners. In a popular public online forum. Not one of my proudest moments.

Even if she never forgave me, Chantel certainly seemed willing to forget, as she later became my number two in organising a national conference. So she was one of the few people I was looking forward to seeing at the university reunion.

Pregnancies, prior engagements and surely a little reluctance to revisit the past had taken their toll on our numbers, so we were only expecting roughly a quarter of the class to paint the Toon red:

Lynsey, still a close friend and the woman who could drive me to write a hundred posts.
David, just as born again as he ever was, who excelled himself by throwing my own glass of red wine over me and then putting some very unwelcome moves on Lyns.
Samantha, who organised the whole thing, and led the revelry with just as much vigour as she had a decade ago.
Stephen, possibly the first openly gay bloke I knew, but not until I'd spent a year thinking he had something going with a girl with whom I was infatuated.
Emma, who had never really been my type, but turned out to have a certain breathtaking and enigmatic allure, which left me wondering about all that which went unsaid.
Beth, who confounded us all by revealing herself to be getting married.
Claire, Joanne, Jayne, Kerry, all something of an unknown quantity compared to the rest.

And Chantel.

As she wasn't everyone's pint of snakebite and black, Samantha, Lynsey, David (and myself by association rather than choice) had spent the afternoon trying to avoid her, even though we knew she was staying in the room opposite the girls.

But as the appointed times and venues came and went it became apparent that Ms Sankey was an absentee.

Had she overheard the whispering and giggling of people trying to avoid her? Had she suddenly regretted making a 500-mile trip to see a bunch of library school students of whom she wasn't particularly fond? Or had she simply got lucky (unlikely, as rumour had it she wanted to steal the limelight with news of impending nuptials and giant shiny ring)?

Lynsey and I were both quite worried, and even Samantha showed a modicum of concern. But not enough for her to join us in knocking on the hotel room door as part of a daring 1am inquiry into why we'd been snubbed. After about four knocks, a man stumbled to the door. Whether or not he'd been warned about the likelihood of two inebriated information scientists waking him in the middle of the night, he denied any knowledge of Chantel Sankey's whereabouts.

So why did she fail to turn up? I'd hate to think we'd upset her in some way. Should we just hope she'll join us in 10 years' time? Or should I try to elicit some response?

Stay tuned for more developments as the investigation continues...


For the past few days I've had the benefit of my father and his aptitude for all things DIY. Me, I'm not much good with molecules, and tend to end up breaking things either accidentally, or deliberately, because they refuse to do my bidding.

So with Dad in town, we've been able to advance the cause of the biscuit, and make it even more like a home than it was before: the first pictures on walls, particularly tricky flat-pack garden furniture built, bedroom remodeled to allow for a computer area, things like that.

Hence the relative silence (apart from the sound of frenetic hammering, sawing and screwing... so to speak).

But with the space created to allow me to set up my PC, the full Nota Benny home experience should be just a few days away. The old machine just needs a bit of housekeeping and remodeling itself before I can let it loose on the web.

Which will allow me to comment on things like the identity of my new boss at my leisure. (More on that next week, but as an initial reaction, this is probably a good thing).

For the meantime, though, I'm off up to Newcastle tomorrow for my degree course's 10-year reunion.

And that in itself will surely lead to a story or two.


I ask you: What kind of a name is Apple? Some people just show no mercy.


Every so often life provides one with the opportunity to feel like a completely heartless arse. I've never been one to reject such an offer, and made good on one just yesterday.

A colleague of mine was attacked recently, and the unknown assailant left his right eye looking very nasty indeed. He's a nice, dry, northern bloke, seemingly no more prone to rushes of testosterone than your average man, and not the kind of guy one expects (or hopes) to see sporting a shiner.

But he's a Mancunian of the Red persuasion, so attempting to lighten the mood, I say, "I know he's a United fan but not even they deserve that." As luck would have it, this is timed perfectly for him to hear as he walks into the room. Aforementioned arse feeling ensues. The embarrassed silence from other colleagues does nothing to help.

It's a force of habit. Maybe I'm a little more ready than most with the sassy remark, but just like those in the medical profession, journos make light of serious situations as a coping mechanism to desensitise themselves to all the death and destruction. Or maybe it's just people with sick senses of humour who are drawn to the job.

Either way, it's good to be reminded from time to time that in every act of violence the victim is a real person, and they probably don't find it that funny.


So farewell then, Leeds United.

Once champions of England, a season of lower division football awaits. Just a handful of years after rubbing shoulders with Europe's elite in Milan and Munich, all you have to look forward to now is day trips to Reading and Rotherham.

Can't say I'm sorry. Not for nothing were you known as Dirty Leeds.

And if we're very lucky the bargain basement sale which is set to ensue, will see Alan Smith join the Leeds alumni regularly receiving treatment on the Newcastle physio's table. His annual tally of half a dozen or so goals would make all the difference to the St James' Park cause.

I'm almost moist with anticipation.