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.’)


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?



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.


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.


Standard. At least the bin’s not overflowing.

We were ‘the lucky ones’.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.




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…)


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.


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’.


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).


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


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.






Feeling flushed…

Are you shitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin..

I’d say it takes me a couple of visits to my hotel room toilet until I feel completely at home. I call it:

lavigation: the ability to navigate a toilet which is not ones own, in the dark.

Like one of my own children, I know my loo’s height, width and feel with my eyes closed. It’s a bit like when you unlock your front door – your key is poised at exactly the right height without even looking. Or when you’re in the car and you don’t even need to take your eyes off the road to demist the front and rear window. You just ‘know’, you know?


Obviously I’m coming at this whole toilet-thing from a female-perspective. Male loos are a mystery to me and I’m really happy to keep it that way. Don’t even get me started on a ‘shared’ public loo. (Costa Coffee Mill Hill, I’m talking about you).


Shared loos? I’d rather wet myself


Here are my top 10 rules of engagement:

10. Toilet Paper Orientation

Not going to dwell on this. Over. Not under.


9. Toilet Paper ‘Stock’

Mentally scared from the crunchy, transparent ‘toilet paper’ of my primary schooldays, I favour simple soft, white loo roll.


8. Three sheets to the wind

My youngest thinks she’s the Andrex puppy, wrapping the entire roll around her hand. My eldest loves to scrunch the paper to tear it. Husband has a tendency to swipe the roll, so that it trails on the floor. Me? I’m Mary ‘Poopins’ (deliberate typo) – practically perfect in every way. The perforations are there for a reason, duh.


7. Toilet Roll Holders – at home

I grew up with those spring-loaded bastards and swore ‘never again’. But then I saw a loo roll holder so sparkly and pretty, I couldn’t resist for the kids’ new bathroom. Both kids are now completely ‘unable’ to change the loo roll.

In the home, I’m a big fan of single-arm loo roll holders. Simple loading mechanism, no fuss, no muss. Everyone can get involved in replenishing. Except they don’t.


Easy on. Easy off.


6. Toilet roll holders – in public

As Forrest Gump once said (albeit about chocolates, not toilet roll holders), ‘you never know what you’re gonna get’. Definitely the case with public loos.

Could be a transparent double:


I like these. You can see what’s available and make a quick judgement call.

Then there’s the pathetic ‘napkin dispenser’:

hd230One by one and then all eighty decide to fall to the floor at once, thus emptying the vessel entirely. This leaves you in an embarrassing situation if someone is waiting outside…

“The loo roll’s just run out!!!”

This must be announced VERY LOUDLY. No one wants to admit having to ‘drip dry’.

5. Laying the foundations

I trust my own cleanliness and that of friends, but in public, I practically decopatch the seat.


Please note: this is a stock shot. My method is far more anal (no pun intended)

For this reason, I love the USA and their handy disposable toilet seat covers.


5. Public cubicles

I don’t like seeing other peoples’ shadows or feet next to me –  I like a solid cubicle wall either side of me. I can cope with a gap under the door as it reminds me of my youth when the locks were often broken and your mate would put their foot under the door to show they were ‘still there’, guarding your privacy.

For this reason, I hate the USA and its freakishly large gaps around the toilet door.


4. Locks & flushes


You’re playing flushian roulette with all three

A locked door is not always a locked door. You could all be acting very British queuing for a loo that is actually vacant but showing as engaged. However, use caution when busting through a toilet door. Some people aren’t ‘lockers’ and this can be embarrassing for both parties, especially if you end up on a mat next to them in Pilates. If the lock is broken and there is no other option, then get practising on your ‘crouch-reach’ agility. It IS possible, but takes some practise. If you can hang your handbag around your neck as well, then this is considered ‘advanced level’. (No photo available.)

I’m a huge fan of the auto-sensor flush and wish more places had them.


Hygiene heaven

At home, we now have dual flush panels. I just wish at times there was a’total eclipse’ option.



3. First is the worst…

Actually I’ve found that it isn’t. This is my go-to loo when faced with a bank of loos. Almost always overlooked as people dash in heading for the middle loos, whereas this first cubicle is often the cleanest one, because less people use it.


2. Number Two

I like my loo smelling fresh at all times. I’m a big fan of those Toilet Duck fresh discs that stick on the side of the bowl. Add in a reed diffuser and you’re good to go. Unless you need back up, in which case an industrial strength air freshener can be hidden for emergencies.

In public it’s a different matter. I have friends who refuse to go for a number two anywhere but their home throne. (Interestingly, most of these are men.)


Before she could read, my youngest thought this meant ‘Desperate for the toilet’

And don’t get me started on the judgemental automatic air freshener. I HAVEN’T EVEN UNDONE MY JEANS!!


Judgemental bastard

1. Seat up/Seat down

I always try to consider the etiquette when going into other peoples’ homes and follow their lead. If the lid is down, I place it down afterward. And if I have time, I like to create a little ‘hotel fold’:



 The classic one, on the left. I’m working on ‘Number 2’ and ‘Number 3’…