We students are frequently told we ought to be having the time of our lives. Well, frankly my dears, I don’t give a damn. Perhaps it’s true that, as a fresher, new adventures are to be found at the bottom of every pint glass, but I’m a miserable third year, and the only thrills I get flow directly from the films on my television screen. Recently, though, my housemate and I attempted to put an end to the cycle of tedium and despair. If adventure wouldn’t come to us, we reasoned, we would find adventure for ourselves. “The sky’s the limit!” I cried, suddenly breathless with excitement. “We could go camping! We could go on a trek! We could hike through the mountains, and sleep under the stars on the mossy forest floor!” My housemate eyed me with scorn. “We haven’t got a tent. There are no mountains. And you haven’t moved in about three months. I hardly think you’re up to hiking.”
After much deliberation, it was agreed that the safest scheme was to ramble across the short but moor-like stray that separates our house from campus. We set out promptly, my housemate striding purposefully forth, I mincing along gingerly behind her. I don’t mix well with wildlife. Cows loomed menacingly in the swirling mist. The foliage tangled darkly under my feet. At one point, a passing terrier snapped at my ankle. It was all terribly vexing. “We’ll never make it out alive!” I hissed. When we finally reached campus I was spent, but my housemate was determined to find the adventure we sought.
We swung open the Vanbrugh saloon doors with all the panache of Butch and Sundance. The Christian Union sloganeers shivering behind their stalls blinked at us hopefully, and proffered Bible passages on biros, mugs and keyrings. Clearly, no thrills were to be had in Vanbrugh. “Where now?” I asked. “You just keep thinking, Blake. That’s what you’re good at”, my housemate replied. The Roger Kirk Centre seemed the next obvious choice, so we staggered in and seated ourselves. “What do you want?” asked an officious catering assistant. “We want the finest wines available to humanity!” I exclaimed. “And we want them here, and we want them now!” She looked at me quizzically. “Sorry, chuck,” she said. “No wine. But I could do you a latte.”
Thus snubbed, we sprawled out onto the tarmac. What thrills now? We decided to catch ourselves a goose, forgetting what every campus-dwelling first year learns: that you never, under any circumstances, mess with the geese. They are the mafia of the wildfowl world. They are dangerous. They are organised. They mean business. We crept across Vanbrugh bowl in the gathering fog, hearts pounding, hands outstretched. The geese were waiting for us: their chests outthrust, their feathers ruffled, their beaks aloft. The leader of the gaggle – the Godfather of geese – waddled forward, eyeing me with intent. “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse,” I whispered, advancing slowly. In a flash, his neck shot forward – his beak flew open – he let out an almighty hiss. We scarpered with our lives in our hands.
Feeling our welfare had been threatened, we tripped round to the Students’ Union building. Sneaking up the stairs, we pressed our ears to the door and listened. “Have I got a big nose, Anne Marie?” we heard a male voice enquire. “Stop thinking about sex, Matt!” a female voice snapped. “I wasn’t!” he protested. She harrumphed. “You’re always on about it! Will the girls like this? Will the girls like that? Is it too big? Is it too small?” Suddenly, there were footsteps on the stairs behind us, and we were caught snooping by Sam Bayley. “Er, are you the Union for Students at York University?” I stammered, guiltily. “Fuck off! We’re the York University Students’ Union!” he snapped. “Our welfare has been jeopardised by wildfowl!” we wailed. “Not again!” he sighed. “Sorry, but we’re a bit short of welfare ourselves just now.”
As we left the building, it began to rain, so we rolled into McQ’s for a swift gin. Sadly, our visit was cut short by the appearance of erstwhile Vision rottweiler Adam Thorn. “Oh Christ”, I sighed. “Of all the gin joints in all the colleges at this University, he walks into mine.” As we left the bar, my housemate spotted a long-forgotten first-year flame. “Charles!” she squealed. “It’s wonderful to see you!” “Can’t stop, it’s raining” he replied, as he sped by. “Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed”, she swooned.
Thankfully, we found refuge in the Careers Service. “Two careers, please”, we perkily requested, dripping on the carpet. But they refused to see us without an appointment, so we cleared them out of PriceWaterhouseCoopers leaflets in a daring act of sabotage, and wended our way despondently home.
On the way, I turned to my housemate in anguish. “Is this what it’s come to?” I whispered, darkly. “I’m bored. I’m lazy. I’m uninspired. I’ve spent all day seeking adventure, and all I’ve got to show for it are soggy trousers and a burgeoning head cold. My whole life is absolutely worthless.” She threw me a sympathetic smile. “Well”, she said, “nobody’s perfect”.
Blake 14:1- the estranged daughter
As I come to the end of three years at university, I am becoming aware of the urgent need to return home. Not just because of the maddening languor of undergraduate life, but because it has become increasingly apparent to me in recent weeks that my family need me.
My father telephoned the other day to inform me that he had just bought a flashing beacon and a set of fluorescent warning strips to affix to his car, “in case of emergency”. Given that my father works from home, and last went out socially in 1983, I can hardly see how this is the slightest bit necessary.
My mother, on the other hand, has begun collecting antique Hindi film posters, lovingly framing them, and hanging them all over the house. The woman has never seen a Hindi film, let alone been to India.
But it is my boyfriend who causes me real consternation. The other day, he informed me on the telephone that he had decided to read all the works of English fiction, starting with Chaucer, in chronological order.
I returned to London at once, since he was clearly unwell. When I reached him, he had just finished recording a 32-track cover version of Uncle Albert—Admiral Halsey by Wings, featuring himself singing 12 separate vocal parts in bass, tenor, alto and soprano, and accompanied by five different types of ukulele.
In one sense, it is comforting that it is not only we students who are regularly driven by sheer boredom to commit acts of unfathomable lunacy. On the other hand, it is distinctly depressing. I had assumed that the moment I graduated I would enter life as a fully functioning, well adjusted and, crucially, reasonable adult. Evidently, I was wrong.