Home: where the
heart is. Or more importantly the CD collection. And if you are lucky,
a criminally deranged but genuinely friendly housemate
Sharing your home with likeminded individuals is currently extremely
fashionable and is certainly economically practical. In particular,
increasing numbers of professional people in their late twenties to
early thirties are reliving their student days by cohabiting with friends
It was in the news recently that Marlon Brando and Jack Nicolson have
moved in together. Speculators would no doubt assume the worst - drugs,
womanising, repeated viewing of obscene movies (everything Brando has
appeared in since Apocalypse Now with particular reference to
The Island of Dr Moreau) and a general air of depravation. However,
I prefer to envisage them emerging at lunchtime just in time to watch
some really moronic TV, leading to a discussion of the obvious decline
in the intelligence of the population, and then proceeding to mooch
around the house cleverly avoiding anything that they were meant to
be doing. At about five in the evening they rendezvous again in the
sitting room to bemoan a complete inability to do anything useful and
jointly agree that its too late now and they will achieve momentous
things tomorrow. They sit watching Countdown, drinking tea, eating
Frosties, whilst desperately attempting to ignore the sinister
rustling of multitudes of unread movie scripts that encircle them like
greedy vultures waiting to tear them limb from limb
This cohabiting craze could definitely be dangerous. If there is one
lesson I learnt from my university years then it is how to waste time.
And it's an infectious disease; all your little excuses, your little
ruses to fool yourself into thinking that you can't work - they float
around the household mingling with your friend's versions and multiply
Soon you find yourselves rationally and passionately debating with each
other why you should definately not go to a certain lecture or
work on your dissertation, you find reasonable arguments suggesting
that it could actually be health endangering. Surely any situation that
allows a regression to such a time of collaborated self delusion should
be prevented. Is this really a desirable way to live?
Home is of course crucial to the student. University less so, as most
students are rarely there unless in the bar - if you are majoring in
English and have fewer than ten hours of lectures a week how else could
it be? Shared households all have common attributes that should be considered
if it ever occurs to you to move in with a bunch of people you barely
The Furniture and Décor.
The house will be decorated and furnished by the landlord or lady with
the alternatively-tasted in mind. Aesthetes with retro inclinations
or mature students may appreciate the use of seventies' originals; the
boldness of the orange and pink floral patterned curtains. Everyone
else will at least conclude that the orange and brown swirly carpet
hides a multitude of sins, which is useful as you will never get the
damn hover to work. Preferably the sofa and armchair suite should be
brick red, leather and a fire hazard. But don't panic - as your landlord
will kindly explain, it is so old (pre WW2?) that he is not in any way
liable if you set fire to it and it explodes. Be careful but dont
forget to demand he replace it whenever you see him (whenever you are
overdue with the rent). He will ignore you but it's good practice in
dealing with officious tyrants - it will be vital when you leave armed
with your degree ready to apply for Jobseeker's Allowance.
The kitchen will be beautifully fitted out with a range of dangerous
appliances all covered in large notices reading 'your landlord does
not accept liability for first degree burns or loss of limbs'. The cooking
utensils will amount to several hundred plastic cutlery handles, three
forks, one knife and no teaspoons.
You and your housemates will make plans to turn decaying Victorian terrace
to property of palatial splendour. All that anyone can suggest amounts
to the addition of candles, cushions and throws. No one can work out
with colours won't clash with the current décor - agree that
the complete covering of everything in living room is necessary. No
one has any money or if they have it is necessary to spend it on alcohol
and drugs. Anything spare goes on food. So instead enliven living space
with posters nicked from student bar (esp. anything that might indicate
radical leanings) and bricks (popular Father Ted homage).
One student friend of mine lived entirely on Frosties and Milkyways.
Another survived on pasta and crisps. A visiting student friend sent
me off shopping with a list that included goat's cheese and fresh crusty
bread rolls - she lasted one year at university and then had to find
a job. Basically you must learn to economise on variety for two reasons.
You will not have the facilities for gourmet meals and two you will
not have time. As a student you will be too busy with the process of
being just about to start an important piece of coursework, or you will
be at the pub.
Not in your garden of course (you won't have one) but roaming freely
around the house. We shared our home with woodlice, some of which were
much more intellectually challenging than anyone on the Cultural and
Media Studies course so it wasn't a problem. A friend, however, had
a sofa crawling with rats.
Common Varieties of Housemates
Miss Psychotic, Should be Institutionalised: A scary one this
and a clear example of the 'you never know someone to you live with
them' theory. In my second year I shared with someone who certainly
wasn't called Liz who was
well a little unusual. I won't go into
the details but credit card fraud, breaking and entering, stalking and
listening to soft rock music were all involved. But apart from that
she was lovely.
Mr Irritating, Sexist, Mummy's boy. Yes Robin I'm talking about
Miss Melodramatic, the World Revolves around her Emotional Dilemmas.
Always balancing over a precipice of disaster. Possible manic-depressive.
Sleeping with the wrong people but nevertheless having more sex than
you. If you have a problem then she has a crisis. Leaves everything
to last minute, rarely gets out of bed and just expects to copy all
of your notes. Has frightening tendency to invite complete strangers
(who are completely strange) home after a night out; then sober up and
beg you to help her remove them. Interrupts your viewing of Neighbours
with nonsensical ramblings about Aztec patterns, jiggly feet and
colourful rippling carpets. Plays music loudly all night and complains
relentlessly about insomnia.
And worst of all
Miss Incredibly Organised, Wrote her Dissertation Months before the
Deadline. Throw her out. She is a morale hazard. Ask Liz if she
has any friends leaving prison who are searching for somewhere to stay.
Your household and the people within it is huge part of the so-called
best years of your life. But the major problem, as far as I can see,
is that these really are your halcyon days, it doesn't get any
better. I miss the freedom of dancing round the living room, the camaraderie
of students undergoing an essay all-nighter - accepted procedure being
write 200 words, go make cup of tea, write 200 words, go and see how
housemates are doing, all go to kitchen - start on coffee, write 200
Those bizarre late night conversations, the inane trivia.
University life was a rave, a riot, it was just so
is too hectic and it's stretching out ahead of me with all the grey
tedium of the M4, nothing but an occasional service station to relieve
the monotony for decades to come. And as I remain stuck in reverse watching
everyone else zoom past me I am reminded that THIS IS THE SORT of stupid
metaphor for life that is indicative of my student days. The word indicativeis
also highly indicative of those blissful times - add 'elucidate', 'it
can be argued that' and 'X is a complex character' and youve got
the gist of my essays for the last five years. But I was so 'succinct'
and 'coherent' that no one noticed I was writing the same rubbish for
every subject. Ha!
an ability to structure essays and type whilst asleep or inebriated
doesn't get you very far in the real world. University doesn't prepare
you for life it prepares you for avoiding it. Its an alternative
reality for those intent on living in the realm of fantasy with the
funds to achieve it. Should be perfect for Nicolson and Brando then.