Hold your breath, pinch your nose and dive head first into the absurd world of Thomas Howarth’s Uni Confessions.
– – –
‘Due to a sarcastic remark made by yourself during the login process, we at Student Finance UK have opted to provide you with no monetary aid this year.’
So began my first day back on campus. Students milled around like flies over a yoghurt pot. Anchorman-quoting Bloc Party bastards. The fact that I’m one of them serves only to intensify my loathing. As I traversed hallowed ground, arms lunged at me like zombies’ through gates or the boxing gloves on Total Wipeout, thrusting leaflets and vouchers my way. I cradled them all, too polite to refuse, and pushed deeper into academic territory.
‘Toga run?’ a girl posited, wafting a form beneath my nose.
‘What? No,’ I squirmed.’The last justified toga run was Pompeii.’
The girl deflated, and I made my way into the library. Safe in the library. My Berghof. Wrapped in the exotic silence of Fresher’s Week, alone for once in this cavern of books, I collapsed at a desk and examined the hundreds of flyers that addled me so. There was one from the Intelligent Design Society, with its ironically disastrous use of unedited WordArt, and beneath that a blank sheet of paper detailing the aims of the Invisible Ink Society. Leaflets for the Israel Society and the Palestine Society announced that their playful rivalry, to be celebrated this summer with a series of football matches, remained strong, and the Mirror Writing Society had me reflecting on their manifesto for a while.
There were adverts for local establishments and activities, too. There’s The Crust Station, a restaurant dealing exclusively in crab and lobster pizzas; Stalag Lust, a themed strip club; Carnegie, a wild student event featuring some of the UK’s finest literature for children; Yalta, a pub crawl spanning three of the city’s major watering holes; Classic FM Night, a Union-organised visit to a nearby skip where there’s an old radio that only gets Classic FM; LOLita, a Facebook-based literary roleplay…
The list curdled on into oblivion, and so did I. I scooped these horrible rectangles into my bag and hauled them out of the library, a Father Christmas for the Jägerbomb generation. My phone rang. It was dad, sounding as stressed as the hull of Das Boot.
‘Hello, dad. Yes, everything’s fine. Accommodation’s fine, stop worrying.’
I couldn’t tell him the truth. The confession that the unmanned drones at Student Finance were denying me a wage – and that I had thus become rather suddenly homeless – would kill him. He’d keel over like that Saddam Hussein statue, stiff with rigor mortis before hitting the ground.
‘I’m just on my way to the house, actually,’ I lied. Passing through a throng, I held my bag open for more leaflets. They were duly flung, and the bag soon overflowed with sheets of paper. ‘So I’ll be going now. Goodbye, dad. Yes, I’ve got my Sudocrem.’
I filled in some necessary forms at an office, reluctantly re-registering with the University, and then scarpered from the campus, a freshly homeless man. A traveller, a vagrant. I perched on a bench dedicated to a dead dog and contemplated my situation. I could get free mints from the Fresher’s fair to keep myself alive, and lectures would be starting in a week, so I’d have something to do. But where to live?
And so I shiver, cold in my shack of leaflets on a traffic island, a collection of Domino’s vouchers for a bed. Perhaps I’ll freeze to death as winter spews its frosty guts over our fair land, but at least I’ll die safe in the knowledge that there’s a two-for-one on stuffed crusts.