By Tegan Francis
Having recently spent some time reminiscing with old pals from my first year university flat, I realized how weird the experience we had all shared was. It seems like no matter which university you decide to go to in UK, your experiences will bond you for life. Having tested this material on a few friends, I thought it might entertain a few other people out there. I’m hoping this doesn’t put anyone off higher education, so please accept my health warning: “Read with care”.
A Little Bit of Context
I need to set the scene before I dive straight in with this story. I moved in at the end of September 2016, bright eyed and bushy tailed, excited at the prospect of meeting new people like I’d met the year before. Long story short, I started at one University and ended up at another, but that’s a story for another day. Needless to say, I’ve not had the smoothest of journeys when it comes to post A-Level studies. However, having had good experiences with shared living spaces before, at home and abroad, I figured, “how bad could it be?”. The answer was : “very bad !”.
There’s a Snake in My Bed!
In Cardiff, I shared a flat with two guys and three girls, six people in total. Two of whom have become very close friends on mine, probably on account of our group resilience in the first nine months at University. The boys were, without a doubt, some of the messiest people I have ever come into contact with in my short life. With rooms that resembled those of people from that hording show on Channel 4, male housemate no.1, let’s call him, Henry, announced in our second term that, he would be bringing his pet snake back with him after the holidays. “Don’t worry, its not venomous” he added. I couldn’t have been happier at hearing this news. If you spotted the sarcasm in that last sentence, you get a bonus point.
The snake, we’ll call her Katie, seemed like an innocent addition to our already ridiculous lives, until it escaped one night. After a few hours of searching under beds and through boxes, the reptile was retrieved and we could finally sleep soundly in bed at night, or until her next break for freedom.
There’s a Mouse in My Freezer
A direct result of welcoming the cold-blooded roommate into our house-share meant that she, like the rest of us, needed something to eat. And Katie’s preferred meal was mice. Dead, frozen, mice to be precise. Having just unloaded my weekly shopping from the local Tesco into the fridge, I leaned down to pop my lasagna in our communal freezer only to find a bag of dead mice ‘chilling’ out next to the frozen peas. Despite my horror and a good deal of internal screaming, I decided to reason with myself. “What harm can dead mice actually do?” The answer was “a lot”.
There’s E. coli in the Kitchen
Yes, there was black mold on the plates. Yes, the boys had used 4 pints of my milk to make blueberry smoothies one hot summer’s day, only to take one sip and leave the contents to sit for another day, so we could all collectively observe it separating into several distinct congealed layers. Yes, there were dead rodents in my freezer by my fish fingers, but I told myself I would do something about it when it became a health hazard. Unfortunately this is the part where female housemate no.1, let’s call her Sophie, got sick. I was away for most of the period of her ordeal. However, on my return she explained that after suffering for a few days of pain and sickness she was admitted to hospital. Having had a few tests when she was taken in, it was revealed that she had developed a kidney infection from an aggressive strain of E. coli that she had ‘somehow’ come into contact with.
We later discovered that the frozen mice actually needed defrosting before they were fed to the infamous Katie the snake. Henry had made a fateful error and decided that putting them in a mug of hot water and giving them a short burst in the microwave was THE MOST HYGENIC way to prepare Katie’s dinner! Sophie had then, most likely, used the mug or utensils, which hadn’t been properly cleaned from the defrosting debacle and things had accelerated downhill from there.
I could bore you with many more stories about my first year flat and I have no doubt that many of you reading this would also be able to share a few similar to these so I’ll wrap it up here.
I’ll never forget my first year at university for so many reasons, but it’s stories like these, that make sure it’ll be a year forever engraved in my memory. Although it felt like a yearlong war on mold and dirty dishes, looking back on that time makes me smile. I guess it’s by dealing with these kinds of day to day dramas, you learn to appreciate life … especially when your kitchen doesn’t smell like cheesy sour milk or dead rodents!
The author, Tegan Francis, now lives with seven other humans. Her freezer has been mouse-free for two years now and she hopes it will continue this way for the foreseeable future.