University Challenge

Watching friends’ (and complete strangers’) social media feeds with all the goodbyes to their University-bound offspring, is giving me ‘all kinds of feels’.

I have two girls and whilst I am a fair way off that ‘Insta-moment’, I hope that one day they will head off to University to study their respective passions. (Currently no known degrees available in ‘Slime Management.’)

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I just can’t imagine them fleeing the nest. What will they eat? Will they clean their rooms? Will they wash their bedlinen properly and use a fabric sheet in the tumble drier?

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I have pretty clear recollections of that journey up to Manchester where I was off to study ‘Design & Art Direction’ for three whole years.

I remember the liberating feeling of gathering ‘bits’ for my new Northern life. I saw one friend recently doing the University shop for her triplets – TRIPLETS!!! No wonder the duvet cover selection in Primark was empty. Clean sweep.

My ‘digs’ were called ‘Student Village‘, right in the centre of town.

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Village of Students

We were the first group of students living there, so everything was brand-spanking new. Chairs not sat in, toilets not shat in. A pretty good start I’d say, compared to the horror stories of student accommodation that some friends were opting for.

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Standard. At least the bin’s not overflowing.

We were ‘the lucky ones’.

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Looking more like the Young Ones

Four of us from London were sharing a ‘mini flat’ – you had a front door with a shared bathroom and kitchen, then your own bedroom.

As I nervously navigated my way through the airless corridors, I found my room and was greeted by my friend in room C330, who was just unpacking the last of her stuff in her room – spacious, big, bright.

My room? C331. Dingy, Narrow. Dark. The other two rooms in our flat were pretty decent by comparison, so I had truly got the shit deal.

Can I go home now please?

I honestly couldn’t think of a worse living space to be in and was contemplating leaving for London, with my friend’s dad who was about to head back.

Seeing the disparity in our rooms, and the devastation in my eyes, friend’s dad got to work. It was all very Mission Impossible, but with less dangling from ceilings.

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This mission was possible

With a handy background in security, he changed the lock cylinder between my poxy box room and room C329, one of the other two vacant rooms. (sigh, let me explain…)

So, basically, my original key still fitted in the lock, yeah? With me so far?

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We simply shifted the lock barrel out of my original room (C331) and swapped it over with that of the more preferably room (C329).

Capiche? (Come see me at the end of the blog if still unclear.Unknown-6)

Oh, and we also prized off the door numbers and swapped them over too. If you’re going to do a job, do it properly.

Thinking back, it was proper criminal stuff. I could have got thrown out day one. get me! The student rebel.

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That’s my hand. Bottom left. Okay maybe not…

I’m not saying I ended up with a south-facing garden and en suite bathroom, but I really loved my new room.

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My room. Not actual, but very similar

It was glorious, with its basic furnishings and scratchy pube-style, stain resistant carpet. I decorated the shit out of it with every rave poster I could find on the streets of Manchester.

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Pretty much my bedroom

A whole happy year was spent in those halls, which even included a prison style riot. Over what, I can’t actually remember. One day everything just went a bit mad and people were chucking all kinds of shit out of their windows. Chairs, crockery….I think I threw a ream of paper. See? Rebel, I told you earlier.

 

 

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Buenos Aires brings in the new year by chucking old notes and memos from windows.      Credit: Flickr user dandeluca

The scholastic year came and went and the time was right to move out into the suburbs, where all the second years headed to for added ‘independence’. (Read as: smoking weed without a central smoke alarm going off in the building. More about that later…)

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Fallowfield. The mecca of second year students

I’ve mentioned it before – so I’ll touch on it again – but I lived in a house with a group of 6 girls, our strong bond formed through living out our year spent at student village.

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9 Mabfield Road. My road

Oh, what a schmutz-hole. But it was our schmutz-hole.

The walls were held up with more blue tack than the entire chain of WHSmiths.

I don’t even remember cleaning the fridge for the entire 2 years I lived there. Let alone mopping the floor.

The basement was more of a damp coal cellar where one housemate would sit at her sewing machine ’til the wee hours, to work on her Textile degree. (And it actually smelled of wee in the basement.)

We were all the same though – one friend had a futon in her room whereby you literally couldn’t see the difference between the edge of her bed and the piles of stuff all over the floor. It was just all ‘one level’.

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Do people even buy futons anymore?

Another friend would have these mad blitzes every now and then, where she would literally empty her entire room out into the hallway (brilliant for fire safety) and go for a mad clean up.

It wasn’t all disgusting though. There was some level of pride in our student schmutz. One flatmate had a glorious collection of trolls (the original ones, 90s style).

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The rest of the room could have been a pigsty, but the trolls were neat and tidy at all times. Until one nasty boy visited and chopped all of the trolls’ hair off. Literally scalped each and every one of them. Conniving sod that he was, he carefully placed each ‘troll toupee’ back on top of their heads, so my friend was none the wiser until the weekly cleaning ceremony, when she went to pick them up by theirbeautiful tufty hair. She was livid.

All this dirt and lack of hygiene is possibly why I am now so anal about my family home and keeping everything neat and tidy. That said, I didn’t turn out too badly having survived on a diet of Pot Noodle. And maybe a bit of actual pot…

Good luck to all those starting University. And try to wash your sheets once a week

x

P.s. No-one ever found about ‘room swap’. Until the day some of us were in my room and it got a bit smokey…ahem… and the building fire team came up to investigate why my smoke alarm went off.  Except they went to my original room, because that smoke alarm was still assigned to room C331.

 

 

 

 

 

You’re Either a Swift or a Swallow…

Ahh, June. Weather gets (marginally) better, pasty white legs come out, fake tan gets badly applied in lieu of a proper spray tan and we can hear cheers of ‘COME ON!!! GO! GO! GO!!!’ at school Sports Day up and down the country.

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Or is that all just applicable to me? (The fake tan at least.)

My kids’ school has ‘Houses’ – the school splits into two and you are a ‘Swift or a ‘Swallow’ (denoted by the tie colour you wear to school.) Watching my two at Sports Day fills me with joy and fear in equal measure.

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Joy…

1. They’re ‘taking part’ and learning about team spirit.

2. They believe the medals are made of real gold. Youngest at least.

3. They know that a pre-midday finish means a going somewhere usually reserved for school holidays that will (hopefully) not be too rammed. Mega Jump here we come!

Fear…

1. If they hurt themselves. (Bag fully stocked with antiseptic spray, water, plasters, foil blanket like the Marathon finishers get given. Okay maybe not in my bag but I have one in my boot. No, I really do.)

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2. I’ll miss capturing the moment on my iPhone because husband keeps texting through to ask, “Well? Well? How are they doing?”

3. That the school will surprise us with a ‘Parents Race’. (I have nightmares about this.)

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If Carlsberg did Sports Day

So after all their ‘relentless’ training (running back and forth in the garden and jumping over ‘three tiles’ in the hallway) , it reminded me of my own Sports Day fifteen.. no, twenty.. shit, thirty-odd years ago.

Like the Swifts and Swallows, you were one of four houses: ‘Pine’ (green, me!), ‘Willow’ (yellow), ‘Rowan’ (red) and ‘Birch’ (blue). We had to wear those bands of coloured material across our chest to denote our competing House colours. We would then all pretend to have broken arms, using the sash as a sling. Crazy kids….

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Simpler times

Even today, given the choice of those four colours, I would till choose green. I stick with what I know. Pine through and through. A bit like my Spurs-mad husband, he would never ‘turn Arsenal’.

But every now and then I like to mess with the balance of my Libran scales and do things out of my comfort zone. Big or small, they (usually) make me feel happy or ‘spark joy’ as Marie Kondo the Folding Queen says…

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Such as:

Food – some people have ‘sticky chop’ night. ‘Fish night’. ‘Pot-luck’ dinner night. For my family, as previously mentioned, Monday night is up-the-bum chicken night. My family look forward to it come rain or ridiculously-sweltering-shine of recent days in London. In light of sweaty weather, last Monday I thought I would serve the chicken with a cold salad. No-one spoke to me for the rest of the evening.

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How she deserves to be served. With rice

Going out-out – Last year, a friend’s husband asked if I wanted in on Guns n’ Roses concert tickets and I immediately said yes. As the date came around I did question my 40+-year-old decision to trek to Hackney Wick on a Friday night, but it was the most amazing concert, which I wouldn’t have missed for the world. On the way back to the station, whilst trying to avoid eye contact with men pee’ing all along the barriers, my fellow giggers asked me if I enjoyed it. Yes, I said, as much fun as last year’s Secret Cinema ‘Dirty Dancing’ event. (I’m no longer invited to the Metallica gig.)

Online shop – It always comes on a Wednesday. Every Tuesday at swimming, I bore my swimming mum friend with what interesting things I can add to my final order. One week, friend didn’t show up and I got paranoid she was avoiding my food interrogation – so I went all gung-ho and swapped my delivery day to Tuesday.  Liberating I tell you. (I just run out of things by Thursday.)

New restaurants – I love food. Literally. Obsessed. So when we go to a new restaurant, I go with a vague idea of what’s on the menu. For those who are diet-restricted, I appreciate that checking beforehand is a necessity, but I love the surprise of a menu and checking out what dishes are going to other tables. when I go out with my Uni girls, one of them always seems to order wrong – it’s fine we’re used to it. There are five of us to basically feed her bits of our meal. She’s like a toddler that won’t eat something, but put it on your plate and she wants it. (Except she’s 41.)

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Diary – if you’re still a paper-diary fan like me, then you fall into one of two camps. Mid-year buyers (freaks) or January buyers (me, completely normal). I can’t be swayed on this.

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Petrol – I had a friend (still my friend 35 years on) whose mum would never let her petrol tank go below half-full. (Or half-empty depending on the type of person that you are.) A shrewd way to operate, sure, but often I quite enjoy that reckless feeling of ‘will I/won’t I make it’. That said, the initial thrill soon disappears when the petrol station you had in mind is closed. Panic sets in and you begin to sweat. “Does the car always judder like this?”

Some handy advice in case you didn’t know…

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… the arrow next to the fuel pump denotes which side your petrol cap is on, particularly handy on a hire car. nB. Not all cars have this, but lots do.

Go on – you know you want to check yours. Or maybe you’re one of those reckless types that parks up regardless and drag the hose the whole way across the back of the car if necessary.

(Sorry, but that’s not for me.)