So at precisely this moment I should be revising. I should be in the library learning the 200+ drugs (what possessed someone to come up with those names), innumerable lectures and what feels like every other piece of information ever conceived in this world, the next, and every other world that ever has or ever will be in existence.
As the more astute amongst you can probably tell, I am not in the library. I am in fact sitting semi-clothed and freezing in front of my computer. Don’t read too much into that.
The reason for this wholly depressing image is because I’ve just had a set-to, in a major way, with my boiler. I love my boiler; it really does have such an amazing sense of humour. There’s nothing funnier at 8am in the morning when you get up, blindly meander to the shower, switch it on, and wait for it to warm up, with the hilarity truly beginning when it then hurtles through the temperature scale, ending roundly in something I can only describe as “******* freezing.” And so what is the end point of this game? Me, standing
dripping wet, covering my modesty with a towel, attempting to pass through as an impromptu heating engineer. I like to think that I am relatively technically minded; I can make toast, set the clock on video recorders and get my laptop to work again after I’ve spilt juice on it. Boilers, however, apparently need some kind of savant-like acumen to be used correctly (and judging by the social skills of the engineers we’ve had round, most probably are). Sometimes you can trick the boiler into working by switching on the central heating and overwhelming it such that it forgets about trying to kill you; not this time sadly, as it’s got wise to that as well. Off and on at the mains, the mainstay of technical advice? Nothing. And so it came to something I was reserving for the most dire of situations- the small red button on the front of the boiler, with no label except a rather ominous diagram of fire. It turns out that it might as well have been a Smartie glued to the front of the boiler, as that did nothing either.
In desperation I took the decision to just have a cold shower. Bravely standing there, waiting for the metaphorical axe of ice cold water to fall, may well have been the single most poetic situation I’ve found myself in for a long time. All I needed was “Rule Britannia” or some other rallying composition playing in the background. Of course, at this stage the boiler got bored with toying with my pathetic excuse for an existence, shuddering in the shower, and produced hot water. Really hot water.
So yes, these are the joys of student living… It comes as quite the shock after leaving halls; for all of their faults (living with people who think the word “hygiene” means throwing eggs in the sink rather than on the floor; 3am fire alarms and builders working at 7am on a Saturday) it is a relatively problem-free life. You pay your money at the start of term and everything is taken care of: if there is no hot water, you just pop down to the little office at the front of the building and sure enough a man in a hard hat and fluorescent jacket knocks at your door. He then makes the problem worse, but does eventually fix it. I lived in Southside and what with it being a new construction the frequency of this was a little…unnerving, I suppose. In contrast, technical support in my flat, as you’ve heard, involves a slightly damp student in a towel with a spatula giving some “percussive therapy” to the appliances. So yes, that part of halls is missed.
But it is a lot of fun; you really do have free reign to do what you want. If you’re lucky enough not to have neighbours then parties until 4am with the music on full are fine. If you don’t do the washing up, you don’t have to trawl through the bins to find your frying pan, nor will someone else have used it to descale the fridge- it will be there waiting for your return, as will some unhappy flatmates. Your room is yours, and there is no threat of walking in on roommates getting things together…and the toilet equally so. I have heard tales of things that have not made it into the toilet that made my blood run cold…
What else can I tell you about where I live? Well, in a show of what can only be described as shameless ego-satisfaction, I allowed the College to come round and film my flat to show to the freshers in their Private Accommodation Talk this year…
Oh yes, look at my eyebrows go…
What the video obviously can’t show you is the temperature of the flat, maintained at a cool -4°C at all times. Why? Well, it’s probably got something to do with wooden floors, no adjoining houses providing insulation and old, rotten windows the size of Spain. We’ve been trying in vain to use the central heating (ha!) to heat it up, but this has just resulted in frustration and a gas bill which would probably pay off the national debts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
You’ll also not notice the following joys in the film: the toilet door has trapped everyone in the toilet for several
minutes at least once, because it randomly gets stuck; the toilet blocks so frequently we’ve left a bent wire coathanger behind it as an emergency fish hook type structure (and as I’m the only man in the house feminism conveniently goes out the window and it’s my job to unblock it); each kitchen appliance is either from Woolworths or the year 1973- a whole slice of bread won’t fit in the toaster, the washing machine spent the months leading up to Christmas filling with putrescent water from the sink with it being anyone’s guess as to why this happened, the fridge frequently decides to switch itself off and the microwave has a timer calibrated by a man with an apparent penchant for riddles. Oh, and there is no light in the hallway and the steps to the kitchen are all different heights, which together leads to comedy moments spent on the floor, legs bleeding, hunting for the kitchen light switch.
But is it really all that bad? In a word, yes. But I probably wouldn’t go back to halls, not now I can watch the Apprentice, eat fajitas and snore without fear of reprisals.
And so now I have sufficiently dried, it’s back to metronidazole and third nerve palsy for me…