I have now been living at university for 9 weeks and as probability would have it, that is long enough to have seen a lot of my nine flatmates cry. One day was enough to see eachother crying with laughter, but since then some of us have had various reasons to be crying with things other than laughter. When you’re co-habitating it’s not always an easy activity to execute in private, nor is it always something which is improved by solitude.
Despite being a fairly rare tear shedder myself, I think the world would be a better place if we treated crying in the same way as we do laughter – accept and accommodate it. Don’t see it as something which needs to be stopped or changed. Let people cry for as long as they need to. Though unlike laughter, don’t enter social situations with the explicit intention of making as many people cry as possible. It’s 2018 but there still have to be some rules.
I think the reason most of us still prefer to cry when no one else can see us is because we know we’ll be able to sob until we get it all out of our system without feeling any pressure to draw it prematurely to a close, pretending the person we’re with has managed to cheer us up when actually we don’t need to be made merry or shown the positives at this moment in time. We just need a bloody good cry.
In Junior School if somebody fell over in the playground their friends or a teacher would call me over to do a silly dance so that they’d stop crying and start laughing. Considering everything I have just said, if I could go back in time to those playground moments… I’d still do the exact same because children need to be taught how to stop being pussies and get on with their day. But between adults, I hope the age for shameless crying is dawning.
I am yet to have felt homesick since being here (unless missing the tea from home counts as the water here is weird) and that’s probably partly due to the fact that I’m fortunate enough to be enjoying everything here and partly because I know that home will still be there for me to return to when needs be. The only aspect of university that does feel at times hard is that it has no ties to certain elements of my past. I feel more distant from my Grandma here. Obviously not physically, as I’ve no closer access to the dead be I in Farnborough or Birmingham, but mentally, as I’m aware that I am now in a phase of my life which she never even knew anything about.
Suspended between wanting life to keep propelling me forwards at the rate at which it is, as there is so much I want to do and learn and see, whilst being acutely conscious of how the more my life progresses, the more distance there is between me and those things which can no longer come with me. I’m not trying to make any groundbreaking revelations about the nature of time here, and if the fact that time moves forwards is groundbreaking for you then I’d definitely consider investing in a watch. Or stop only walking backwards. (It looks bloody weird, if nothing else). What I am saying is that it is over two years since she died and I am realising that there are still elements of adjusting to the loss that I hadn’t even realised I needed to anticipate.
“Hi, hi, hello, hi, yeah I’m Sarah, I’m in room five I think. Well, I hope, this is flat five isn’t it? Haha yes, hi, I’m Sarah, hello.”
“Bye Mum, bye Dad, speak to you soon. Hope it doesn’t take you too long to get home. And I hope Ben’s beef stew doesn’t taste as nice as it sounds as I’m a bit disappointed I’m missing out on that.”
“So you’re Cooking Jack? As opposed to Physics Jack? You made a risotto from scratch last night? Nice one. Is it true you play the piano?”
– A few drinks later –
“Jack! Jack! Where’s your keyboard? Bring your keyboard out!” (Insert communal noises of encouragement)
“Play us something we’ll all know. Wait, is that Skyfall? SKYFALL?? I can play Skyfall on the saxophone!” (Insert communal chants along the lines of “Get your saxophone out!”, including some that aren’t entirely in my head)
It won’t take much imagination to picture the joyful, if slightly raucous, cacophony that ensued – followed by a more tunefully pleasing silent disco.
It’s less than a week until I move to uni, so a lot of people have been asking me what I’m going to miss from living at home. A question I can quite succinctly answer: Cats.
Cats, Cats everywhere,
My cats, friends’ cats, local cats
If only I were a cat, you were a cat.
Everyone’s a cat
In my dreams
But as I lift my head from my pillow
I’m forced to address my distinctly
I wish I could nimbly
Dart about, jump five times my height
Never have to doubt
My physical prowess
No more wasted time
getting dressed and undressed
Fur always at the ready
And if you were all cats
Well, you’d finally be at liberty
To take a dump on my settee.
Right then, black jeans… just normal, standard, black jeans. Plus I have a gift card so that simplifies matters. OK, so all I have to do is just look at the jeans, then pick the pair I like the look of most. Oh wait, is that a girl from school? “Hey!” Wait, who the heck is she? “Oh, no, I wasn’t waving at you, haha, sorry, haha”. Bloody hell, now I’m all the way over by the dresses. But I can’t go back to the jeans until that random woman I just waved at leaves. When did grown women start looking like my school friends… or is it the other way round? Black jeans, black jeans. Oh, these look promising… Revolting! Why are places still selling jeggings? And why are they so deceptively jean-looking? Can’t believe I just fell for that.
OK, so do I want super high-wasted, skinny leg or ultra high-wasted, super skinny leg? Or super high-wasted, ultra skinny leg? Additionally, do I know the difference between ‘ultra’ and ‘super’? Is there actually a difference or is each brand just struggling to create a unique description? Maybe I should look it up when I get home in case I ever have to use those words in writing. I wonder who first used the word ultra in writing. I wonder why I’m stood here becoming genuinely concerned about the word ultra.
So I think I’ll just try all of these on and then take it from there. Does it make me a conformist and over-devout rule follower to pick up one of these numbered signs for the changing rooms even though there aren’t any staff guarding them right now? I’ll take one just in case. I love that jumpsuit that woman’s trying on, should I tell her? No, I’ll just keep my head down and get this job done, get these jeans bought. Blimey, these are way too big, I’ll try the size below. I can’t even get these ones past my knees. Why do there have to be so many variations of plain black jeans? Am I bloated? Am I ultra bloated or just super bloated? These ones look better… does my bum look alright? What if, by the time I’ve bought these, public opinion has reverted back to preferring small bums? Finally! These have got to be the ones. Praise the Lord.
I have known lots of people who, after not making many friends in their first term of college or university, have worried that it’s too late to make any for the rest of their time there – friendship groups have formed and the window of opportunity has closed. Despite knowing this is ridiculous, it can be a surprisingly difficult thing to talk someone out of feeling. However, after spending the past year working in a care home for the elderly, I feel better equipped to try.
If somebody who has spent over a hundred years on this planet is still prepared to open their heart to a nervous then-18 year old starting their first job, we should have more faith in our peers’ capacity not to have exhausted all their love and kindness after just one term. Having the opportunity to enter a centenarian’s life and become not just an admirer, but a friend, is compelling enough evidence that it really is never too late to commence new relationships.
And, although college friends will fall short when measured against centenarians (or anyone in that ball-park, I’m not an elitist) with regards to wisdom, experience and general character, they are still a worthy investment as statistically they have the possibility of providing a longer-lasting friendship.
In summary, if you’re going back to or starting school or university, don’t let your fears blind you to people’s continual desire to have new friends. And to anyone else, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, for goodness’ sake befriend the elderly.
Dedicated to my friend Sally, 1916-2018
As I sit on by bedroom floor with my back against my bed, picking ingrown hairs out of my knee, I wonder why I don’t just sit on my bed as it would be much more comfortable and my bum wouldn’t be as numb. But instead of doing that I decide to go downstairs to make a cup of tea. Except before I reach the kettle I spot one of my cats so sit on the pouffe next to him as he sparks out on the settee, and think about how much I hate the word pouffe. I then wonder if anyone has ever called their cat pouffe, and how if they have, I’m probably better off not knowing them. I then remember that I’m meant to be making a cup of tea, so get up, but not before leaning in to remind my cat how much I love him, consequently getting cat hair in my mouth and eye. So I go back upstairs to wash my face, then check my phone while I’m up there to remind myself of the people I need to reply to. I go back downstairs, making a bee-line for the kettle, pretending I’m wearing blinkers so I don’t have to stop to stroke my cat again. Then I think about how funny horses look when they wear blinkers, so gallop a lap of the house and wonder if this is what it would be like to be a method actor. But I’m not a method actor, and even if I was I wouldn’t be stupid enough to take on the role of a horse, so I go back to walking normally. I look at the clock and realise that Mum will be home from work in about an hour so I may as well wait until she gets home and we can have a cup of tea together, knowing I’ll enjoy it more if I don’t also have one now. So I sit on the floor in the kitchen next to my other cat and try and decide if I feel refreshed, which is how I wanted to feel when I decided not to do anything today. My cat looks me dead in the eye and I realise I might have just wasted half a day to no avail. But then she purrs louder so maybe I did need to spend a day at home…
This year my brother had a (sell-out) show with his singing group Aquapella at the Edinburgh fringe festival so my parents and I readily accepted this as an excuse to go there ourselves for a week. Going has been a life-long dream for all of us, I’m just fortunate that I have currently had a much shorter life than my parents, so haven’t had to wait as long.
In essence, I would say that the festival is an amalgamation of all the good things to come out of us having evolved this far. Considering how I believe that even tat is good when en masse (hence my continuing love of arcades), being surrounded by genuine talent en masse was an experience of which I don’t think I’ll ever feel worthy.
The sheer amount of comedians, musicians, and performance artists vying for our attention every hour of the day made me feel both desired and mightily inspired. There is an extremely competitive undertone to the festival, as every act wants to be the one with a sell-out show and rave reviews. However, the extreme variety of shows that are successful or well-received when performed on the street serves as a reminder that there really is plenty of space on this Earth for everyone. And as an audience member, it reiterated how you’ll always gain the most from a situation if you approach it with an open heart and mind.
However, by the end of the week I had seen so many different acts and people that I had begun to lose all ability to form judgement. This culminated in me standing on my own for twenty minutes watching two women in black leotards, swimming caps and bushy fake moustaches slapping each other repeatedly with a plastic fish. And, I’m reluctant to add, thoroughly enjoying it.
Going to junior school in Ireland meant that I first formally learnt about the English through, well, Irish history. Retrospectively, that may have been what left me incapable of ever feeling particularly patriotic – “Yes, this is a lovely roast dinner and a beautiful cup of tea but it would taste better had we not helped cause and then proceed to facilitate mass starvation during the potato famine”. “Fine, I’ll make you something else next year for your eighth birthday.”.
Prior to this, living in Spain for a few years from the age of two probably didn’t have as much of an impact on me, other than turning me into the most pale person to ever name their cuddly toys Sergio and Fernando. And a life-long tendency to talk more loudly than the situation will ever require. However, I have just returned from a month in Spain and almost the second I touched back down in England I broke out in a load of spots (after a month of almost completely clear skin). So this could either be a sign from some Higher Power that I do belong in Madrid after all , or a sign that I shouldn’t buy weird face soap from Spanish markets.
Despite all of this, I have come to accept that although I don’t always feel that English, I will always feel more English than anything else. Having to play an Oliver Twist medley in the middle of a field in the pouring rain a couple of years ago (as part of a wind orchestra – I wasn’t just possessed) evoked feelings in me that will never be emulated by an Irish Jig or a Spanish Ballad. Whether that’s a good thing or not is yet to be decided.
I leave my apartment at 11:30pm to meet my friend at the end of the street. We walk for about half an hour to a cocktail bar. A relaxed, ambling walk – we both feel safe, there are street lights and people all around. We’re dressed to go out and the supportive warmth allows us to be unencumbered by coats or jackets. We’re joined at the bar by our other friend.
It’s now around 3am so we head to a small nightclub, the music is easy to dance to and the ambience is carefree and relaxed. As I dance around one of the pillars a man hands me his hat to put on, and another his sunglasses. They’re turning the lights on and I’m asking my friends if it’s closing already. This early? “I don’t know! It doesn’t normally close so soon!”. “Oh actually, hang on, it is actually 6 now”.
We’re stood outside the club, it’s just as warm as it was when we came in so no one’s in a rush. Chatting to the guys we’d been dancing with and becoming mildly offended that they don’t believe we’re also from Madrid. “But we sound just like you! What do you mean where did we learn Spanish? No she’s not Chinese, we’re all Spanish”
Churros y Chocolate – Spanish cheesy chips.
One friend is on her way home now, a journey home as equally well-lit and populated as the one involved in getting here.
So the original friend and I walk with the two guys left to a café. It’s now around 7am and it’s filled with a mixture of people finishing their night and starting their day. A surprisingly sociable combination.
After arguing over whether or not London exists in the real world – “It HAS to exist or else my cats won’t have a home” – it’s time to part ways. One goes his own way and the other walks with us to the Metro. We all hug goodbye. Original friend and I part ways on the Metro. It’s now me and everyone doing their morning commute. I stroll from the Metro to my house, soaking in the morning sun and pausing to watch the stray kittens playing.
I’m walking into my apartment, my Japanese flatmate is having breakfast. “No thanks, I’ll just have some water for now. Goodnight.”