There’s an awful lot I miss about my student days, but communal living isn’t one them. I was recently reminded of this fact when a friend very kindly provided me with a sofa and sleeping bag following a night of Guinness, Sambuca (and a random whisky-based cocktail).

My friend isn’t a student himself. But after only a few minutes inside his house (which he shares with three or four other people) it was damn near impossible to escape the conclusion that he must at least live with students. My addled brain had just enough Columbo left rattling around inside to enable me to spot the following key signifiers:

1) There was a Jules and Vincent Pulp Fiction poster on the wall above the fireplace (with a poster of A Clockwork Orange on the wall opposite). I dare say there was also a Betty Blue poster somewhere in the house, and maybe one of those Beer ones. You can’t actually study for an undergraduate degree in the UK without owning at least one of these posters.

2) The kitchen was reminiscent of something post-Hurricane Katrina. If I’m completely honest, I felt a little rude turning up without a search and rescue dog.

3) It looked like one of my friend’s housemates had been abducted while preparing a pasta meal, as there was a full pan of abandoned penne on the hob. We carbon dated it to only a few hours earlier, but it had already become weaponised. The pasta could easily have been tipped out of the pan in a solid frisbee shape, with a jagged edge of lethally sharp penne tubes. If necessary, it could then have been thrown like Oddjob’s bowler hat to scythe through the flesh of a hapless burglar. Half eaten (or abandoned) meals and snacks are the mainstay of any student kitchen.

4) Perhaps the most bizarre thing I discovered was one of those origami fortune teller games. (Giggling girls often used to thrust these in my face at primary school, ask me to pick a number or a colour, then lift the flap and announce with glee: “You Stink!”) I’m absolutely certain that the fortune teller game in this instance was the accompaniment to a bizarre student drinking game; conceived, no doubt, at the height of intoxication.

Like no primary school fortune teller game I’d ever seen, the outer options on the folded paper object were: Tits, Bottom, Tounge (sic) and Feets (sic). Each of those options then revealed a number, which mercifully took me back to familiar territory. However, when I then unfolded the object further, beyond the numbers, it revealed a bizarre mixture of insults, accusations, instructions, portentous statements and generally bizarre word combinations, such as:

Shit Yourselffortune teller
There are some instructions you should obey unquestioningly, but some you should perhaps raise objection to.

You are a Terrorist
I understand that key members of the Bush administration were all issued with paper fortune tellers shortly after 9/11.

You will die soon
At least you know it’s going to be soon.

Mother Bummer
The kind of headline you’d expect to grace the front page of Chat magazine, alongside other tales of depravity, murder and an excitable cover model with a beaming smile.

Wonderful Garland
I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that this is some kind of gay reference.

Siamese Twins
This sounds like some kind of conjoined twin challenge, which I’m not sure the world is ready for.

Total Fail
This would undoubtedly be one of the funniest ways to learn that, after three years of higher education, you didn’t even scrape a Douglas. (“So, I bum my mum and I’ve failed my degree? Oh god.”)

Sonic Boom
This sounds like either a drinking challenge or a sexual position….like, say, the Pile Driver. (You can find your own links for the latter!)

This game had “students” written all over it (metaphorically speaking). It certainly didn’t seem like the kind of game that a couple would unveil to their dinner party guests along with a cheese-board and some fine wine. No, this just had to be students.

I was surprised to learn, therefore, that no students lived in the house with my mate all. Not a single one! I was so shocked I nearly fell over (though, admittedly, that could’ve been the sambuca). But even without the students, it was a completely authentic student living environment. And it really took me back to the nightmare of living with other people.

I never quite took to communal living during my student days. When I was in halls at university I had the misfortune of having the room next to the toilets and across from the kitchen (where everyone used to gather in a pissed frenzy after a night out).

I distinctly remember, after a couple of weeks of constant late night disturbance and banging doors, that I decided to use my sleepless night to write an appeal to my tormentors, which I stuck on the kitchen door. When that was subsequently ignored, I then proceeded to write a series of ‘humorous’ threats which I again put up on display. (I recall one in particular which stated that, if everyone didn’t shut the fuck up, I would hang their coagulated arteries like fairy lights along the hall).

I do cringe when I think back to that first term at uni, because I sounded just a teensy bit like a psychopath who’d slipped under the UCAS radar.

Much to my surprise, some of my hall mates actually told me that they looked forward to my notices on the kitchen door and asked if I’d be writing more of them. It felt a little bit like someone asking me to punch them in the face repeatedly because they admired my balletic style of boxing and dizzying uppercuts. I carried on writing quite happily until someone scrawled “Fuck off! You sad bastard!” all over one of my kitchen notices. I then retired them with immediate effect.

Even though the chances of my ever returning to a house-share situation are slim to nothing, the very thought brings me out in a cold sweat. I currently reside in a flat with my girlfriend, but I even find living in the same building as other people difficult. Why? Well, my neighbours’ cars all look like they’ve been valet parked by Stevie Wonder on our small driveway; I’m one step away from announcing a door-closing master class for the idiots who constantly leave the security door ajar; and the new guy downstairs can’t go in and out of his flat without slamming the fucking door every time.

Thank god I have my flat to retreat to.

But if I ever had to live so closely with other people again – with their inconsiderateness and 24/7 homage to A Life of Grime – I just know I’d end up instigating a drunken round of the fortune teller game, where every player would unfold the paper object to discover the message: “You Will Die Soon”. I’d then go mental with a penne frisbee.

I couldn’t thank my mate enough for giving me somewhere to crash after our night out drinking (he’s a top bloke), but the experience took me back to a way of living that I’m glad I’ve left behind. Really glad.



Filed under Miscellaneous

6 responses to “Flashback

  1. Emx

    Good job you didn’t poke around in the kitchen too much or you would have found the new species we’ve been cultivating in the bread bin…!

    • andytoots

      A very British version of ’24’ would see Jack Bauer pursuing a terrorist who’s in possession of your bread bin, which contains the world’s deadliest pathogen.

      The terrorist intends to open the bread bin in the middle of Argos during the Christmas rush, but is subsequently apprehended by gun-wielding FBI agents and a full HazMat team, who isolate the bread bin.

      Blimey, my pulse is racing after that! (I hope that doesn’t mean I’m contaminated…)

  2. Simon

    Brember told me all about this blog and what a find it is!!! Ah the things we miss about Stoke eh!? I seem to remember a couple of incidents during our own university days – £5 dress codes (you cheated), ET’s finger, beer tasting night and spinning around on a broom, public urination that could have led to arrest, falling asleep in portaloos, Stoke stripper, self-pleasure stories that really shouldn’t have been told…EVER!!! Communal living wasn’t always that bad. You missed out on the comedy that was the ‘Neighbours’ game, having so many plates that you never needed to wash up, wondering how Chris survived on a diet of pizza and Dr Pepper, Alex’s slug room mate, Andy playing a full 90 minute game on Fifa ’98 (fuck we’re old) and my ability to turn on the lights by throwing a beer can over my shoulder. Brilliant.

    • andytoots

      Hello Si!

      Blimey. Using only keywords, you’ve managed to cover the full university experience there. And every one of those words sparks a memory (although, I’m still trying to forget the Stoke stripper).

      I do remember Chris’s extraordinary consumption of Dr Pepper. And, yes, referring to Fifa ’98 does make us sound incredibly old!

      When Phil and I lived together in Birmingham, I used to be able to throw empty beer cans over my shoulder and into the bin pretty much every time (without getting up from my chair). With your beer can-light switch trick, it seems clear that University taught you and I some valuable skills.

      Oh, and I didn’t cheat! (Well, not much.)

  3. Alex Mather

    Hi Andy,

    Another top blog mate brought back a good few memories of our Uni days and Si’s reply just made me think of skinny strippers with fake cream spayed on nipples that looked like fooball studs!

    There are some days I long for my Uni life of lying in bed and then getting up only to fall asleep watching the movie Seven for the 700th time, I dont we realised at the time how lucky we were despite being in Stoke at the time!!

    Anyway top blog mate keep up the good work hopefully catch up soon.


    • andytoots

      Hi Alex,

      I think that stripper will stay with us for a long, long time. And talking of falling asleep watching movies, I remember sitting through The Battleship Potemkin while that mature student that looked like Kenny Rogers snored loudly behind me. The snoring was embarrassing; the farting was gut-wrenching.

      To this day, I miss hanging out with you lot at uni (even though we were in Stoke, like you say). We should all definitely catch up soon.

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