The Lonely Smoker

All this New Year reinvention is troubling for the nerves…

Rose Troup-Buchanan

There is absolutely nothing more testing of a smoker’s love for their nicotine than the cold. Standing outside my house in what BBC Weather calmly informs me is a temperature more suited to thermal ski wear than Converses and bare skin, I have started questioning my life choices.

Not with smoking – obviously – but with why exactly I chose to live in this country and more specifically in York, where every year since starting here it has spouted white crap from the sky, reducing the entirety of this city to a comically picturesque death trap. I might worship at the shrine of Tilda Swinton, but unlike her, I don’t have a dwarf to ferry me around in a fur-laden sledge. Neither do I have a wand. Both factors contribute to my foul temper around this time of year.

Personally, I blame January. There are exams; everyone’s come back with some kind of idiotic statement about ‘changing themselves’, and campus appears to be covered in this white stuff. Although, if you read the rest of this paper you’d be forgiven for thinking it was rather more exciting powder, which does go some way to explaining why everyone looks so miserable at the moment. Even the ducks look pretty despondent, and they must get some laughs watching some truly depressing walks of shame shamble past early in the morning. Poor bastards. (The ducks – not the walks of shame.)

My comically miserable state is not helped by people who have either a) decided they like snow, b) decided that they are going to radically alter some part of themselves. I made friends with you because you didn’t go to gym (and yes, you probably should go), you did smoke and drink too much, (yes, it is bad for you, and no, you didn’t have that beer belly when you started uni) and you were committed to failing your life right alongside me (another grad scheme. Another grad scheme?!). You bastards. I thought we were friends.

My next door neighbour has also gotten involved with this. Previously this man, who bears a strong resemblance to Gollum and had a temperament to match, bore feelings towards my house that compares to members of the NRA’s very publicly expressed sentiments regarding Piers Morgan. With the difference that his attempted eviction occurred in our sitting room rather than via the internet.

Admittedly Bob had a couple of valid points. We’ve had some friends round, which apparently doesn’t endear us to the immediate neighbourhood (shout out to the girl who left a pair of lacy knickers on the doorstep of next door. Classy bird.) The game ‘Hungry Hippos’ didn’t go down particularly well either. Apparently hearing a ball kicked repeatedly against a wall, accompanied by barely articulated drunken slander, isn’t the way he wants to spend his Tuesday evening (Who knew?). Another – and this one was just weird – gripe was that he could hear us running up and down the stairs. Not quite sure what he expected us to do about this; there was no way – however fun they look – that we were going to get a stair-master installed.

Anyway, in a bizarre turn of events, which ably displays our landlord’s insane Machiavellian mind, our man Bob has become our go-to handyman. With his own keys. Personally, I felt it was only a matter of time before one of us woke up to find him standing over us – hammer in hand – snarling in a strong Yorkshire accent: “I know it was you. I know it was you. Where is the precious?” as he feverishly scanned the room for an offending item.

But new year, new Bob. Our man Bob now calls my female housemate “love” and has repainted our bathroom an indecently bright green; because he “thought it’d cheer you all up.” (The fact that it gives us a sheen that makes us look like a cross between a zombie and a terminally ill victim of Chernobyl is beside the point – he painted it to be nice.)

It is shit like this which destroys my faith in humanity. Bob is clearly a bonkers old man, mad and brilliant at the same time, and I would like him to remain despising us to the core of his frazzled person. Now he’s changed I don’t really know what to do: does this mean that there’s redemption even for students? My faith is shaken. January is definitely to blame. Roll on February. Oh wait, then we’ve got Valentines’. Now that’s going to test my faith.

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