Monday, 18 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 18




 Feathers


A and I flew the coop,

moved our minimal possessions

to a cavernous ground floor

with views of a road.


There was so much space,

we didn’t fill it or fuss it,

not the homemaking types,

we just let the dust reign.


The kitchen at the back

was a place little troubled,

not a trace of a cookbook,

nothing matching, one pan.


I don’t even remember 

what passed for a bathroom,

but there must have been one,

we were clean, I am sure.


And in my giant room,

I did sleep, here and there,

not always alone,

sometimes in a pile,


say, 5 of us heaped

on the great island bed,

feet worn to the bone, 

fairy tale style.


RF 2021


At the end of February 1990, after six months in the first Leeds place, one of the other tenants and I moved from Hyde Park to a flat in the nearby area of Headingley. The two landlords of the first place were older guys (in their 30s maybe – they just seemed old to me, I turned 23 in that house) and they were friendly but also more than a little creepy. One talked about his genitals a lot and the other was a really heavy drinker with a bit of a twisted sense of humour so I think that’s why the only other female tenant and I moved to a place of our own. A and I didn’t have much in common – other than that we both liked going out (to anything really) and neither of us liked anything remotely homey (no cooking, very little cleaning, not a scatter cushion in the place). So we moved into a pretty sparse ground floor flat that had good access to pizza and we were sorted. I feel like maybe someone else lived there too but it was a lively, much stimulated time so that might have been a dream of some kind (or just her boyfriend). Or did we bring the young Sicilian from the last place with us? I really can’t remember.

It was nice to be in a home where we could make our own decisions and have a bit more space (I had that corner room on the ground floor with the huge windows – I certainly didn't have blinds, it was very minimally and cheaply furnished, I’m not even sure there were curtains). I was pretty heavily involved in raving/clubbing at this point so that took a lot of my time and attention (in Leeds and in London, quite a few friends were living there so me and my crappy little Fiat 127 or borrowed cars from work knew the M1 pretty well). I did still have a full-time job but luckily it was one where quite a lot of the time you could pretend to work whilst really sleeping with your eyes open or talking to your friends on the phone. Often I would finish a task in a day then stretch it out so it looked like it needed to take a fortnight. As I mentioned in the last post I’d only gone for the advertising job because several famous writers of the time had been in advertising first and it seemed a possible route. Of course I wasn’t actually writing anything at the time so there was a massive flaw in that plan. I was, however, having the time of several lives. Novelists often seem so miserable, I’m not sure I made the wrong choice.

I moved out of this flat after 6 months. But why? And where next? See you tomorrow...


This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 17

 



Gateway


My first stop in a new city

is a big, bright house.

It’s filthy, full of characters,

front door always slamming,

the kitchen bin constantly 

bursting its banks.


Two landlords on the premises,

unpredictable, over-sexual.

One drinks Thunderbird for show,

tries to scare me with bare pubs

on the other side of town.

He’s quite the arsehole.


A’s a long-term attic dweller,

glam rook in thick plaster,

rattling in the rafters,

like a lone goth memory. 

She exists on instant coffee, 

adoration, Marlboro Lights.


Her neighbours - two grads,

suits to work, healthy types.

This is not the place for them

so their stays are short-term.

They pack up their futures,

jog off while they can.


A young Sicilian turns up,

dropped here by his family.

The landlords mash his head, 

leave him looped and alone

with the only video in the house:

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.


In the middle of all this

I am in a wrong job

and a small plain room.

I buy a green venetian blind,

make pirate radio my friend.

And I descend.


RF 2021


My first full-time job post-uni was a trainee post at an advertising agency in Leeds and once I got the job in summer of 1989 I had to find somewhere to live pretty quickly (I was 22). I looked at two rooms in shared houses in the city and one had lots of Garfield/cuddly toy stickers on the fridge so, reader, I picked the other one. The other one was a big end-terraced house (2 landlords living in and about 5 tenants) in an area called Hyde Park (lots of students, lots of hippies, lots of noise). I had a small room, a shared bathroom with the people on my floor, some use of the small downstairs kitchen (though I don’t think I ever cooked there…). It could be a sociable house but it wasn’t exactly a healthy environment, in many ways. Garfield and friends might have been the safer choice for my lifelong mental health but at this point I’ll never know. 

I lived in this shared house for about 6 months and during this time I learned to really devote myself to nightclubbing. I’d always been a fan, since I was about 14, but for the first time (a) I had a fairly decent disposable income, (b) I was living in a place where there was loads of different places to go and (c) Leeds was great for raving and all that went with it (the much repeated ‘joke’ about LSD and 2 Es, in fact it was just accurate, though it missed out the speed – as a former goth capital amphetamines were a local delicacy very much still on a lot of menus). Leeds and the rest of Yorkshire was producing some great music too (Nightmares on Wax, Ital Rockers, LFO) so the clubs had a feel of their own (I went out in London a lot too around this time and did enjoy it but the local West Yorkshire scene was quite unique ... 3)**. Very early on I bumped into someone from uni who was in a similar boat to me (living in a new place, not knowing a soul, having a little money to spend) and the two of us took advantage of cheap weekday meal offers, cheap weekday drinks offers, cheap drugs, cheap clubs (this was long before designer clubbing..). I had a pair of bounce-til-you-drop Nike Airs and an assortment of cheap and cheerful raving clothing (flowery knee-length dungarees, cheap t shirts, jeans). I had not been a fan of the general horsiness of university balls in Cambridge (I only went to one as staff, drank more than I served, deserted my post and took the first pumpkin home) but here the music was brilliant and no one was trying to get you to eat ‘hog roast’ or wear a frou-frou gown. Finally, I had a ball.

The job was what we would now call meh. Graduate trainees were expected to go into the business side of advertising (think Peter Campbell in Mad Men and about as charming) when I had been hoping for the creative (and an eventual transition into successful novel writing – after all that had worked for Salman Rushdie and Fay Weldon*, hadn’t it?). However, the creative department was the preserve of art college graduates, certainly at our place, so I didn’t get much of a look in (I could have tried harder, I suppose, I soon learned that I deeply disliked quite a lot about the world of advertising so trying at work was low on my list of activities). I was very ill-suited (in every sense) for business dealings (and still am) but the agency, quite a pretentious place run by more than a couple of A Team tossers, didn’t want to lose their ‘Oxbridge’ graduate, so I ended up in Research and Planning. I got a company car, spent some Saturdays organising market research days in city centres, spent a fair amount of time on data input and reports. But I didn’t care because house music was my life, I had the key to the wiggly worm, and at this point work was just a means to the weekend (and the rest).

After a few months I got sick of some of the men in this house and as two of them literally owned the place it was a power balance I didn’t like. I guess the only other female inhabitant (A in the poem) felt much the same because we decided to get our own place. And that will be tomorrow’s venue so see you there…

*All the rage in the 1980s, I assure you.

**Sorry, there was also a West Yorshire band called Unique 3.


This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 16


 

Once a barn


My mum has a maypole.

It’s not her own property

but she looks out on it fondly.

The village has a green.


There are pubs either side,

a lion, an ox,

the smallest post office,

a hidden ‘prep’ school.


She puts down firm roots,

clematis, wisteria,

and works an allotment,

hands deep in the dirt.


She invites all the neighbours

for sherry and chit chat,

has quakers at New Year,

boils up a huge soup.


The house was a barn,

note its ‘farmhouse’ doors.

It’s rustic and rattly,

awkward and cold.


RF 2021


When I finished university in 1989 (I was 22) I went to live with my Mum for a short time while I signed on and applied for jobs. She had moved to a more permanent home in another Nottinghamshire village. The house was a converted barn and she was the first resident of this stage in the building’s life. She stayed there right up till 2004 when she (spoiler alert) came to live with us in Scotland. It was a big place for a single person (3 bedrooms, a great big sunless sitting room so hard to heat that she didn't use it much in winter unless she had company) but she hoped it would be full of visitors and family (close and extended) and that did happen on and off. We’re not a family that comes together in giant gatherings very often as we’re pretty spread out geographically (several offshoots in New Zealand) and then there's the fact that some of us can’t stand each other (that would need another writing project...) but we did celebrate her 70th birthday in 1994 in this house and there were quite a few of us there for that.

This summer of ’89 was the longest time that I stayed in this particular ‘home’ (it was really more her home than mine). My brothers were both still in the south of England but Mum had a family connection a few miles away (one of my sisters) and she did what she had always done – put in a lot of effort to make new friends and find new things to do (she was 65 in 1989). She was a very capable person and turned her hand to all kinds of tasks (physical and mental). I remember when she was living with us, and was in her 80s, she did some tiling round the sink in her room that had my practically perfect partner applauding her in admiration (ok, he said ‘she's done a brilliant job’). I was always aware that she had to work harder at most things than people who still had partners (she’d been widowed the second time in 1973 remember) but also that she could pick exactly what she wanted to do and didn’t have to compromise or put up with someone else’s tastes. Every now and then an old (widowed) boyfriend of hers would emerge and suggest she couple up with them. Her response (to me) was ‘I am not going to wash someone else’s socks at this time of life’. She stayed single (but always had a dog).

She was involved with a local theatre (making trifles for buffets, as far as I could tell), an adult education literature class, and did a lot of gardening, as well as helping out with both the children and the aged of local family. She had as many visitors as she could and I stayed there over the years with various friends and boyfriends. I even spent Millennium Eve there in 1999 (pregnant) but I am getting ahead of myself. Next stop – Leeds and a kind of very low rent Mad Men.


This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.

Friday, 15 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 15

 



Ascending


Octagon rooms,

no furniture fits.

This was someone’s idea.

What’s so great about eight?


At the top of the pile,

we can’t help but look down.

We are high, it is true,

getting higher all the time.


One phone for the block,

how on earth did we manage?

Scribbled notes on boards,

night visits, knock knock.


With Neighbours to watch,

Chiltern FM for soul,

I thoroughly practised

avoidance techniques.


What are you going to do after?

What are you going to do after?

I’m going to dream of eight walls,

spin out all kinds of lines.


RF 2021


For my last year of a three-year degree the same three student friends and I moved back into college accommodation in 1988 – this time a modern flat in a block in the green and pretty part of town just over the river from our college. The private rental the previous year had not been a great success in many ways and for our last, in theory, most studious year I think we thought it would be better to have fewer distractions and be nearer to libraries etc. (who was I kidding – I watched a lot of Neighbours, listened to a lot of soul all-dayers on commercial radio). The block we moved to had been built for conferences and/or graduates originally so the flats were well kitted out (two bathrooms per flat!) but the whole place was based on the octagon (every bedroom was octagon shaped) so it was… unique. We were back to the evil carpet tiles but other than that it was a great flat in many ways. Most of the students in the block were second years so, as the senior group, we got to pick our flat first and went for the top of the tree, as it were.

We still had quite a bit of fun in this flat, maybe not quite as much as the previous year but enough. I always thought on some level that I wanted to write so I put together some snarky column pieces about the uni that went into the uni newspaper (I called them Trouble in Toytown ,they weren't delightful). Working in journalism was one direction I was thinking about at the time but it took me till the last year to have the confidence to even do that (we were involved in a new ‘radical’ magazine, in the second year I think, but there wasn’t much appetite for that locally and that Spark just fizzled out). Extracurricular stuff at Cambridge could be very high-powered and some students were really focused on their goals in areas like the arts and journalism. Some joined a society, say a particular theatre group, on day one of year one, gave it more attention than their studies and headed straight off into that world after graduation (obviously they didn’t all have huge success but plenty did). None of us four were like that and I suppose that’s one thing we had in common as well. 

I think if I’d been braver (or more decisive or focused) I might even have left before this last year. I knew by now that a languages degree had probably not been the right decision and I was envious of my friend studying English (though I tried a lecture or two and, in the times of Kristeva, Barthes etc. I couldn't really follow what they had to do with anything, what even was semiotics?). But by now it was too late to switch, I still had enough Spanish to get by and there was so much talk of ‘once you have a Cambridge degree you can do anything’ that I felt I should at least stick it out till the end. My heart, however, couldn’t have been less in it and I practically ran away once it was all over (on a National Express coach to Chesterfield if I remember correctly). Also in the spring of 1989, at the grand age of 22, I had finally been introduced to ecstasy and what was to become ‘rave culture’ in a London nightclub by a friend of a friend. This was much more my kind of specialist subject and if they had ever given out degrees for it I like to think I would have got a first in All Night Long from the University of Acid House (by the way I got a 2:2 from uni, more than I deserved really). 

More on the raving in a couple of days/poems but tomorrow it’s back to a different Midlands village, a maypole and a very different kind of dancing.

This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 14

 



Keep it brief 

The worst d├ęcor of my life;

a temporary encounter

with the ruffliest curtains, 

tat of endless misery.


Squashed in a Mini Metro

with a maxi instructor,

I tackle sleepy roundabouts,

dreary carriageways.


On weekday lunchtimes

I serve fortified wines

to already drunk punters

in the Nottingham Yates’s Wine Lodge.


It is an odorous establishment,

even early in the day,

but you can buy our fresh company

with tips and Chinese meals.


In this long, uncool summer

I am pickled in pink,

stifled in scatter cushions,

just killing time.


RF 2021


For the summer after my first year at uni my Mum (and therefore what I called ‘home’) was still in London (the flat from Day 8 of this project) but at some point in about 1988 she decided she’d had enough of city life and started making her way north again (this time to the Newark/Notts area). So, for some of the summer of that year I joined her in a temporary rented cottage just outside a small town in Nottinghamshire (temporary because she was waiting for her new home to be ready). From what I remember the cottage was very pink and flowery inside (not my Mum’s usual style up to this point, though she did go a bit more floral as she got older). You can’t see much of it from the google pic at the top of the post (it was part of a group of farm buildings).




I had a job in Nottingham that summer and I learned to drive in Newark. The job was daytime shifts in the pub mentioned in the poem (pic above from google though it’s now changed to a Slug and What’s it). Early doors was all serious alcoholics and most of them over 50. The staff were mainly young, like me at the time, and though we all drank we were pretty horrified by these older career drinkers, the state of their hygiene, the amount they could drink. One was a North American academic of some kind, who said he'd known the poet Robert Lowell. He lived alone in the YMCA and he used to take some of the staff out for drinks and meals after shifts (we always went in groups, never alone, though he was interested in the young men, not me). He always paid. It was interesting but uncomfortable as we knew we were all just there to get what we could from him (free meals).

Not connected with those outings, I started another huge relationship that summer (well it meant a lot to me) and, from what I remember, did absolutely no studying whatsoever (you won’t be surprised to hear how great my finals results were come summer 1989). I know in some ways that was a waste and someone else could have had that place and possibly got more out of it. A relative had once said to me when I was about 17 ‘get into Oxford or Cambridge and you’ll never need to work again’. I think he was partly joking but in retrospect I probably took this too literally, at least for a while, and kind of floated aimlessly once I was there. I watched too much TV. I stared at walls. It was quite relaxing but not helpful for career progression. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do after uni and it was starting to worry me a little. Would I end up in Yates’s as a career customer in my 50s? It wasn’t completely out of the question...

Tomorrow, back into uni accommodation for the final year...

This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 13

 



Sluggish


We are playing house

and so are the slugs.

They wend their slimy way

up the stinking bathroom walls.

Is that a metaphor?


We cook our stodgy meals,

drink too much (well, of course),

then slowly we dissect

our divisions, our mistakes, 

our too shiny boyfriends.


There’s a couch, an old TV, 

it is colder than we’d like.

We invite people round

to sing late into the night.

That keeps us warm.


RF 2021


In my second year at university (1987-8) three friends and I rented a little terraced house just out of the town centre. It was a pretty standard student house of the time – small basic rooms (though we did have a sitting room - not always the case in student homes), one shared bathroom, nothing of a garden. If it did have heating I don’t remember it (and we fell out with the landlady big time but I’m not going into that here…). I had the smallest room because I really only wanted a bed – I had the least sense of style of the four of us and very few interesting or personal possessions (though I did have some huge dictionaries…). Despite the latter I rarely did any studying so I barely needed a desk. I don’t say this to sound cool, it wasn’t cool, I just had no direction academically and probably shouldn’t have gone to uni at this time of life at all. 

Anyway, with Margaret Thatcher having just won her third UK general election (and second landslide) earlier that year it was an odd time to be a bunch of rebels in a very conservative world (geographically and academically). We were all still involved in politics of some kind (student or otherwise) and I probably spent a good bit of the year in the crumby (and crumbly) student union office in the centre of town (I was the Women’s Officer – that sounds a bit ’80s now… but I was voted in so it was grander than you might think). This annoyed the toffs/tories no end (just the idea of a Women’s Officer) and that was always high on my list of priorities. I hadn’t been specifically interested in women’s issues up till then (brought up by an older single mother with a fairly fierce attitude I don’t think I completely realised there was an alternative to the equality of the sexes until I got to Cambridge – it was pretty apparent there), but the left umbrella group needed someone to stand and, after a bit of umming and ahhing, I deciding to do it if I could stand as an independent. I don’t really know why I wanted to be an independent but I have, to this day, still never joined a political party or a religion or anything much with rules (I make an exception for libraries, and every now and then I have the urge to put ‘hedonist’ in the religion box on forms but can't even commit to that). The local FE college had a Women’s Officer too (from t’north like me except she was SO strong, like a lesbian queen of the fens) and we got on really well and coordinated various projects together. Maybe I would have been happier if I’d gone there instead (I did work in an FE college in the early noughties and really enjoyed it). A group of us went to an NUS Women’s conference (in Newcastle I seem to remember) and that was a bit confusing (so many motions…) but very lively. I seem to remember about 10 of us slept in a friend of a friend’s room when we were there. It’s all a bit blurred.

Despite the boyfriends mentioned in this poem this applied more to my housemates than me in this house as I had a particularly quiet year in that regard (in fact my whole three years at uni was not exactly stimulating relationship-wise). It meant I ended up spending far more weekend evenings than I would have liked sitting watching TV (Friday Night Live…) and drinking the previously mentioned Southern Comfort from a bottle (sad…). I did have a big 21st birthday party in this house though, which was great (at least that’s how I remember it – mad dancing to Whitney and George Michael’s ‘Faith’ downstairs, pot smoking and political discussions upstairs), and there were plenty of other fun social occasions too (Pasta! Alcohol! David Bowie singalongs!). All four of us in the house loved a party. We were all from different parts of the country and pretty different backgrounds (though I was, unusually for Cambridge Uni perhaps, the only one who had gone to fee paying schools) but I guess the love of the good times, no matter how or where they happened, was one thing we had in common. That and hating the landlady…

Tomorrow, a long summer in the Midlands.

This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 12

 


Ugliness

 

This is it? No way.

This miserable place

with the roughest carpet tiles,

the stifled dialogue,

so much pushing?

 

Long laboured traditions,

bowler hats, forbidden lawns,

bad bars, worse clubs,

and, gowns or no gowns,

some criminal catering.

 

At night drunken teams

fall low to their knees,

pissing contests for real

that they never wipe clean.

That’s their pattern.


RF 2021


The university I was heading to was Cambridge and this was one reason I did come back from Spain in 1986. They make such a fuss about how hard it is to get in there that a part of me did want to see what it was like for real (plus my Mum was so excited, like really, really excited). For the first year I chose a room in college (the university is split into 31 colleges, like little boarding schools in a way, if very rich and well equipped ones, each with a refectory, library, chapel, common rooms, residences etc.). The college I was in was something in between the modern (twentieth century) ones at one end of the spectrum and the famous, photogenic, palatial ones at the other. Ours, when I arrived in 1986, seemed to be a bland but angry place (or maybe the angry was partly me – I wasn’t exactly pleased to be back in England after my first taste of, well, anywhere else). And this strange little city-village in East Anglia certainly was a change from the warm, relaxed, diverse atmosphere I had enjoyed in Madrid. I had a room in the modern block you can see in the photo above (couldn't get Google for this one, had to take a virtual tour). It was in a corridor of single rooms (not in a flat) which I had chosen (unseen) because the rooms had en-suite bathrooms and I loved the idea of my own place to wash. This was in the very early days of en-suites in the UK (now they are expected even in most cheap hotels) but back then it was pretty unusual for student rooms to have them, even in fancy Cambridge. The university used a lot of their rooms for conferences in the summer so the newer accommodation was being better equipped with this in mind. 

I’m sorry if it sounds ungrateful but from the start of my time at the university very little about it appealed to me. It was very sporty (so much rugby and rowing talk), it was very posh (stripey shirts and brogues, Pimms garden parties in summer, every fecker going skiing in the winter) and it felt very stunted, like such a tiny part of the population was so  overrepresented. You might say ‘what did I expect?’ but I really had expected something else – I had believed the hype that it would be full of just really smart people. Of course there were some very intelligent students (and plenty far smarter than me I’m sure) but there were others who seemed to be just really, really good at being posh (and they seemed so old, almost preserved, so it was a bit like being in some kind of museum-cum-care home). And some of them were so vicious about the rest of society (again this might not be surprising, especially considering the state of the current Westminster government) but I hadn’t really come into contact with this particular kind of privileged English people before (certainly not such giant packs of them). 

Also some of the sports teams behaved very badly, not only, but especially, when they were drunk. The pissing in the poem really did happen – there was a geeky guy on my floor (long before geekiness/nerdiness was any kind of cool) and a rugby team night out decided they would all piss under his door (onto the delightful carpet tiles mentioned in the poem – who would think this was funny?). At Cambridge the campus rooms have cleaners (and of course there’s a specifically Cambridge name for them – ‘bedders’ in this case, and they still use it because I found an article in the student paper  about them from 2019) and ours was a lovely, not young, woman who had to face this horror the next day. I remember her crying, as you would expect. This was not the brightest and best young people but the meanest and least caring. It was horrible.

I was studying Spanish and Russian and the languages faculty felt particularly uninspiring and ski-infested at times so I mainly made friends with people who were studying politics or English and got involved in student politics too (there was plenty to fight against and there were some pretty amazing people involved too). The organised social life was pretty limited (“drinks after chapel?” “hell no to both”) but I found some friends pretty quickly and we stayed in our tiny tribe a lot of the time. We listened to a lot of music, ranted more than a little, drank too much, ranted a little more. We went on lots of protests, sold Nicaraguan coffee, watched incomprehensible Russian films, wound the toffs up as much as we could, maybe acted a little too much like Rick from The Young Ones now and then. You know, maybe it wasn’t so bad after all…

In the second year I shared a house with three friends, so tomorrow come and join me for a plate of overcooked pasta and half a pint of Southern Comfort*. And who could turn down an offer like that?


*I don’t know why I suddenly got a taste for this sickly spirit aged 20 but I did. I think it was partly laziness – it comes ready mixed.

This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos/photos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were mostly taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.