“Because it’s not real, look around Jeff haven’t you noticed the vending machines are full of meats and hard-boiled eggs”Abed Nadir speaking to Jeff Winger, Community S04E13 Advanced Introduction to Finality.
Much like Jeff Winger at that very moment, I was both worried and apprehensive of what was next. What comes after all this is over? Jeff was afraid of graduating. Leaving both college and his friends. Due to my placement year, I was afraid of my friends graduating and leaving me. I knew I would be starting my next and final year without any of the core group I had lived with and known since the very day I arrived.
It was not totally doom and gloom as I would have both my girlfriend, Lucy, and another close friend, Tom, who was also on placement. However, it still felt sad to be coming to the end of an era. It felt in many ways that this was ‘it’. Over the year this began to weigh heavily on me until the very last night most of us spent together before parting our separate ways.
But before I get onto that, let’s provide some context as to what happened throughout the year….
I started my placement on the 17th of June 2019 in a village slap bang in the centre of the country, Shirebrook. The village was selected for this exact reason, it provided Sports Direct with the perfect home base to ship delivers across the entire country. It’s just a shame that the connections to the village and the village itself were not……Ideal. Less Eagleton and more Pawnee , or, to keep the community theme running, similar to the dodgy neighbourhood where Annie used to live above Dildopolous.
The role itself was as a Software Developer where I worked on various online tools for automating internal systems. It was great and I learnt more in that time than I had done in my education previous. It also made me realise that web development was probably where I wanted my future career. However, I would never recommend anyone to do what I did – commute on Northern trains
Coming from the south you hear about the North/South divide in Britain, but I don’t think it became that clear to me until I went on my first Pacer train. These were trains built to last a couple of years that ended up being used for decades. Leaky, creaky, squeaky, freezing, boiling, damp and uncomfortable (also the alternate names for the seven dwarfs). Not to mention that they felt like they were about to derail any second. Maybe they would not have been so bad if it were a short commute, but I did not want to move away from Lincoln. I wanted to stay with my mates for as long as possible. This meant taking 2 trains on a 2 ½ hour commute each way…every…day.
This began to take its toll on my mental state. It put a strain on friendships and my relationship. I would go to work early and not get home till 8, barely seeing either my friends or Lucy. The little time I did have with them I was far too tired to do anything. To some, this probably sounds like a normal working life and that I simply must ‘get used to it’. But it should be noted that this was my first real experience with anything close to full-time work and coming off the back of two years at university, where you could sleep most of the day, it was a definite change of pace. Yes, it was great to finally be getting paid, but it was horrible for my health. I knew it would be challenging from the start and it really was. I vow never to do a commute of that scale again.
161 West Parade
When looking for a house, the 6 of us left it quite late and there was little of anything to choose from. We were shown 3 in total; The first one was so damp and claustrophobic, I’m surprised there weren’t mushrooms growing out of the walls (this is a thing that has happened). The second was quite nice but mid-way through the viewing the current tenants slipped the person showing us around a note that stated they still wanted to live there. The tenants had been watching us look around and giggling to themselves now and then when our guide said something like ‘and if you live here…’. That is the odd thing about Uni viewings, it does not matter if it’s a house or halls, you feel like you invading someone’s personal life when you rock up for a showing and all cram into their room while they are trying to write an assignment. Or when you question someone about the cooker when they are trying to make a pot noodle in peace.
The last and final house we were shown was 161 West Parade and we thought we had hit the jackpot. Big Kitchen, big rooms (except mine which was a cross between Harry Potters cupboard and a phone booth) and decent toilets. It was perfect…until we moved in. The real house tour we should have been given would probably have been similar to the one Sabine was given in fresh meat.
The kitchen was bigger than any other we had seen, but at least four cupboards were restricted due to hazardous waste with mould growing in them that probably violated some human rights treaties. To be honest I’m surprised the house wasn’t protected under environmental laws with the vast amounts of colourful mould we had growing in all corners. The Kitchen was blue and green, the upstairs toilet was a mixture of black and yellow and I even think I saw some purple lounging about.
It may have been a **** hole but it was our **** hole. It provided us with the freedom that we had lacked in halls, house meals were regular with fajitas and pasta bake being some of the specialities. Boardgame and video game nights were very common and finally winning captain sonar is still one of my greatest achievements to date.
One thing I am sure will not be missed from 161 was the dreaded flat shop. Cooking flat meals was great but it did mean we had to buy shopping together. We sorted out a ‘(online) flat shop’ where we would buy items that we would all use together and then, in turn, we could each add additional items. I oversaw organising the shop and by the end of the year (or probably after the first month to be honest) those two words meant only misery and pain. I became the harbinger of death, if the harbinger of death only cared about what thickness of bread and what type of pasta sauce to get that is. This was partly due to me demanding that the shop was done on a certain day of the week and that I would do it all on the train home so everyone had to pay attention to their phones and tell me what was needed. In terms of stress and complexity, it was up there with the D-day landings.
One week before lockdown, three people (including Lucy) left to get home before the expected shutdown began. At the time we did not know how long the lockdown would be for and we assumed we would see each other again in a month or maybe 6 weeks max. The goodbyes we said were sad but they did not seem like the final goodbyes of Uni. I mean they had to come back to pick up their stuff from the house before the end of the tenancy, right? Well, here I am in mid-June having not seen Lucy or Eddie for around 12 weeks. Emily briefly came back to collect her stuff but left shortly after. Not seeing Lucy for this long is hard, but we try to make the best of a bad situation. We facetime regularly and have film nights where we call each other to watch a movie. This usually ends up in me being subjected to watch a cheesy rom-com or musical because these are
my Lucy’s favourite type of film (I stand by Mamma Mia as being one of the greatest films ever made).
Anyway, back to the point – then there were four. Myself, Charlie, Emma, and Elliot soon christened ourselves the ‘Corona Crew’ (genius I know). I was quickly furloughed from my placement meaning I had a lot more free time to do things with them. Charlie and I took up running, which I am still doing however Charlie had to retire early from his career due to sustaining ‘runner’s knee’ during a downhill sprint finish of a 5K. We were also able to take up the most popular university pastime again, drinking. And we even became quite the chefs cooking up all sorts of not very student like meals such as roast lamb shoulder, toad in the hole, roast gammon, and a plethora of BBQs. Online flat shops ceased, partly due to no slots being available but partly due to a mutual consensus that the shop was slowly ruining our lives. Instead, we went every 3 weeks to the nearby Tesco Extra, which was in itself a whole new stressful ordeal but a welcome one as it provided a change of pace to being stuck indoors most of the time.
Towards the end of our time in full lockdown, we began to miss the nightlife more and more. Therefore, we came up with the genius idea of bringing the club nights to us – and so was born the themed rave nights. First up was 80’s theme….
Which was then followed a week later with movie theme….
The final one was meant to be bond night but 3 party nights in 3 weeks proved to be too much for our ageing selves so we instead chose to have a few drinks and play board games – oh how the mighty have fallen. I still to this day do not understand how we managed to survive freshers of the first and second year – at least 5 nights of heavy drinking in a row. The hangover from the first themed night alone took about 5 days to recover from.
That nicely takes us to the finale of this post. Over the months spent together in lockdown the four of us became very co-dependent. We would do, almost, everything together. If one person went downstairs to make a drink, everyone shortly followed. If two of us were talking on the landing, the other two would soon join us. This made the weeks leading up to our eventual departure from the house even worse. We knew when we would have to leave and go home. Emma got a job at the local hospital and therefore the rest of us felt we might be safer moving back. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t considered pulling an Abed and announcing a house-wide floor is lava game to get everyone to stay. We won’t ever live together again, no more flat meals, no more games nights, no more talking complete arse until 4 in the morning and no more flat shops (thank Christ). These were mates I had made on literally the first night and who I had been through a hell of a lot with in the past three years; Now it was all coming to an end. But to be very cliched, all good things must come to an end. Abed Nadir also realised this…
“I don’t think the lava is here because you are leaving. I think it’s here because I won’t let go”Abed Nadir speaking to Troy Barnes, Community S05E5 Geothermal Escapism
I said previously that the fear of leaving weighed on me right up until one of the last nights we spent together. The four of us were sat downstairs surrounded by piles and piles of our packed possessions ready to move out the next day. We had some apple sourz leftover from the previous rave nights and decided to have one final shot and cheers to the house. Charlie toasted saying ‘I love you guys’, I followed with ‘To 161!’ and then in one of the most bizarre and odd moments for a while, Elliot toasted by simply saying ‘Na night’. All of us, including Elliot, burst out laughing having no clue why she said that. Apparently, it was a reaction response to being spoken to at that time of night, almost like some good night tick. It was this type of stupid thing that made me realise that this wasn’t the end and it wasn’t ‘it’. These were the kind of memories that we would not forget very easily and that would always spark a conversation – “Oh do you remember when…”. Yes, our time living together in 161 was over but to quote the great academic works of Marvel, “Asgard is not a place, it’s a people”. We will still talk and see each other again and be able to laugh at the stupid stuff
Elliot we used to do.
So, here I am sat at home having moved out a week ago, not sad and upset about what was but instead looking forward to what there is to come. Finality? Not really.
Take it away Jeff…….