I can’t quite believe that my Freshers’ Week was FOUR YEARS AGO. The memories are still as potent to me as the smell of sick that lingered around certain parts of our house that very week. Without further ado, here are some prime excerpts from that last week of September 2008 in Bristol.
Having lived away from my parents’ house prior to going to university, I didn’t want to live in halls with a load of people who didn’t know how to boil pasta (a friend at a different London university had to inform a male halls-mate that water is required to make pasta) or who would go bongo at their first taste of freedom. So I moved into a 16-person university house, which proved to be fortuitously close to the street where most of the departments were. Student services kindly dispatched a few of the previous year’s residents to school us in the way of being freshers, which naturally entailed them goading us into drinking copiously.
I stopped sort-of sob-smelling my pyjamas, extricated myself from my bedroom, and went and lined up in the kitchen with a few other non-committals. We leaned against the cooker rather than sit at the enormous table where most of the house’s boys - who we presciently assumed to be idiots - were lining up the alcohol that their parents had given them to last a term. Foolish parents. Within about ten minutes, a boy called Lewis (who insisted on being called Howard and dressing up as Indiana Jones, and also had that special 50-paces level of B.O.) had attempted to knock back two-thirds of a bottle of vodka, and threw up immediately: on the table, on the cooker, on the feet of those of us lined up by the cooker.
Lewis got carried to bed, and the rest of us went out to a “Hawaiian freshers’ party”. I have never been to Hawaii, but would bet that it doesn’t bear all that much resemblance to sitting in a broiling, grey room in the asbestos-ridden student union while ham and pineapple pizzas sweated under strip lights and second-year boys tried to flap their wangers out of the front of their grass skirts. We left and went to a pub instead.
On returning home, I thought we should check that Lewis hadn’t drowned in a pool of his own sick. He was the first boy to move into a shared bedroom - his roommate would arrive the next day. Poor guy. We walked into the room, and there was no sign of him. Edging closer to his bed, we saw a tremendous pool of vomit atop his sheets. Stepping closer, we found Lewis sprawled on the floor, more sick surrounding him. A few fingers under his nostrils determined that he was breathing, and that he would probably live. More’s the pity: he would go on to invite his 16-year old girlfriend around for “sex parties” (photos on Facebook showed them both in their underwear, brutal scratch marks on each of their backs), and host a New Year’s Eve party when everyone else was away, which resulted in Marmite being spread on the downstairs kitchen ceiling.
I skipped the rest of the official Freshers’ Week activities. Other highlights that week entailed a particularly amorous male house member trying to pash off with every female resident, and failing dramatically, and a ferocious game of inter-house Scrabble that ended with everyone getting very drunk on wine and bogling around the kitchen. Freshers’ Fair was also pretty good: I went with my housemate/new friend Leah, and we both took great pleasure in seeing that the gaming society’s (Games Workshop types) table was next to that of cheerleading soc. Genuinely curious, I asked the resident gamer how their games worked. “Do you, y’know, capture each other’s pieces?” He looked at me like I was the kind of idiot who licks sockets for fun. “Err, no, we spend weeks painting these things.”
If you are about to go on Freshers’ Week and were hoping for a moral to this story, it is that you don’t have to neck all the booze and go to all the shitty parties to have a hope in hell of making any friends in your first year. I was lucky enough to live in a house with someone who liked Arrested Development and Bill Callahan, but made other friends through working on the student paper and attending indie soc meetings like a well behaved cardigan-wearer. As the gamers sat next to the cheerleaders at freshers’ fair demonstrated, there is no niche unprovided for at university, and you don’t have to down a “dirty pint” in the hope of finding yours. [/moral]