Wednesday, 29 July 2009

On Bunfighting and Netiquette

In On Being A Bit Too Busy, I explained that I would be short of time for blogging this week. However, I'm lucky enough to have a fabulous husband, The Wonderspouse (also known as @agnieszkasshoes), who has written a blog post for me and is therefore the first guest blogger I've had on my site. I've read his post several times, and, being a girl of relatively simple mind, am still not 100% sure what it's all about. Maybe my unwillingness to throw buns renders me a little confused about the whole business? However, I am extremely grateful to him for writing it, and I hope you will enjoy it!


I would very much like to express my sincerest thanks to ViolaMaths for allowing me a little guest blogging. But as I’ve been given a strict 750 word limit, I’m afraid I don’t have the space. Nor will I abuse netiquette by plugging either my new book, my writers’ collective, the article I’ve had published in a music journal today, or my Indie download festival.

I’m regularly to be heard in the less salubrious salons of the interweb shouting “bunfight” over the general melee. Those who look up from their beer, downloads, or porn either come along to watch or ask “What on earth’s a bunfight?” Well, this seems like a perfect place to explain. So, without further ado, an insight into a rather odd English custom, and a couple of associated musings on netiquette and trolls.

I was at one of the less progressive Higher Education Institutions in the UK, where I met ViolaMaths. The very same LPHEI, in fact, where a certain bespectacled wizard gets his five a day. Whilst dinners weren’t accompanied by a nearly headless ghost, they were accompanied by bread rolls. Along with an injunction not to begin eating said bread rolls before Latin grace (which always seemed to be late). On pain of death by lamprey or something.

There were three strategies for dealing with the bread roll conundrum. The first was the surreptitious nibble. Then there was the butter-sculpting, warming the little foil packs of butter until it squirted out from the folds at either end and landed on your seat. Far and away the most fun, though, was the Bunfight (I guess “rollfight” just doesn’t sound right). A Bunfight isn’t the Bugsy Malone of a full-on foodfight. It’s more subtle, more gentle, less damaging to the dry-cleaning bill. It involves surreptitious lobbing from a hand position below the edge of the table at trajectories designed to bamboozle any attempt to hunt down the offender, and scarcely results in injuries more severe than a case of crumbs on the collar that could be mistaken for a bad case of dandruff.

All of which sounds rather Jennings and Darbishire, but actually makes sense of my Interwebby clarion call.

I love a good online debate. No, I’m like Pete Doherty in a poppyfield at the thought of a bit of contentious banter. So when I read a tweet about a blog post on the future of publishing, or the state of the modern novel, or the morality of chaptelising Sauternes pudding wine, I’m over at the speed of a click (which isn’t actually very quick on our connection, but you get the point).

As I said, I love a good debate. A bunfight that’s full of skill and bamboozlement, with a whiff of the anti-establishment and a clearly defined sense of rules. Something you come away from, laughing with your opposition and sporting only a few crumbs on your clothes.

Unfortunately there are those out there who mistake a bunfight for the full pie and mash up. Who are out to prove their point and belittle their opposition, to besmear them with gravy and ketchup and send them packing to their parents to explain. It’s a fine line to draw between a bunfight and a foodfight, and the Internet is a very hard place to draw it. Forum and blog discussions have a rhythm, a (to mix musical metaphors) sense of crescendo. They get us worked up. We’re not satisfied with throwing a bun; we want to throw the butter; and fling a bit of soup, and before we know it the house port is winging its way across the dining room like a beer glass in a moshpit.

This never happened with real-life bunfights. Before anything escalated someone would eventually get up and say grace, the tension would lift, the flour would settle to the floor, and we’d get on with the important business of eating. Which I think is such a perfect metaphor I don’t need to spell it out.

I come across a lot of people during bunfights. We exchange opinions that vary from forthright to downright gobby. But all of the people I’ve crossed swords with have gone on to become at the least nodding acquaintances in the land of the literary blog, and in some cases good friends who allow me to guest blog.

There endeth the parable for today. A bunfight is a wonderful thing, and an arena for the making of excellent friends, but it should never be allowed to become a foodfight, which is a very bad thing; and a terrible waste of food.


  1. Of course, there was a fourth strategy, probably adopted only by me, which was to slice the roll neatly in half, warm the butter gently, and spread it neatly, therefore avoiding any mess!

    Thank you for your words Wonderspouse!

  2. Bun fight.

    I may adopt that phrase!

  3. Hi, Buck. The only thing to remember is to be careful if you use the phrase in the States. I believe buns mean something else there :-)

    Lovely to meet you, btw. I shall go and follow your blog forthwith.