Back to school (Rousse)

It was a busy time on the University campus.

BD was over from Canada, actually attempting to leave, but forever being dragged into new projects. Even Belle took a punt at signing him up for some madcap scheme of hers.

All the Univerity’s offices and halls of residence rooms were being upgraded. My new room was number 4, next to that of PhD graduate FR. It would have been a good base with its large bed and sink, but I was both disappointed and angry that I was expected to share with three others, all of whom were male international PhD students.

I tried to contact TPR by phone to tell him that I would now continue to live at home to finish my own PhD. SL, however, was keen to move on campus now that she had switched the registration of her own doctoral study to the School of Applied Sciences.

Meanwhile there was a lot going on in my personal life. I was responsible for my sister S who had just started secondary school. It was my job to meet her at 3:45pm at the gates of Ian Ramsey School in Stockton-on-Tees, then accompany her home to the White House (Hartburn) at the end of the day.

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Defunct orange toilet stars in garden makeover disaster (Rousse)

I should never have allowed my sister S anywhere near my garden. It was now triangular in shape, with a steeply sloped lawn.

She had planted the beds with huge white flowers, and at the point furthest from the house, she had plonked a defunct orange lavatory as ‘decoration’.

This was not the garden makeover that I had in mind.

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Seeking student accommodation during a pandemic (Rousse)

Indian student Bhopal chose my flat for his lockdown accommodation. We barely noticed him as he hid in our study for two weeks. He might have even been ill in this period. If so, we never knew.

One day Bhopal emerged from ‘his’ room, suitcase in one hand and a scrap of paper in the other.

‘Here I have all the details that I need to find myself suitable student accommodation in Edinburgh’, he declared.

I glanced at the scribbled address on the crumpled paper: a letting agency in Middlesex. I doubted that this would be much help. Regardless, I suggested that Bhopal left his luggage with us while he paced the streets of Edinburgh looking for his new home.

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Everyday clone encounter (Rousse)

It was a pity that nobody noticed my new super-power: to clone myself.

I sat on the grass in the park with TPR, my sister J, her friend Sean, and my double.  My sister didn’t utter a word of surprise when I introduced her to the other ‘me’.

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Truck hire Edinburgh (Rousse)

I was impressed with TPR’s truck driving. He sailed with ease along the wide lanes of the M8 into Edinburgh. Similarly, he skillfully navigated the narrow streets of the city, managing to squeeze the articulated lorry down the narrowest of Old Town closes. At one point he even mounted the pavement, taking advantage of the lorry’s huge clearance space to ride over parked cars without damaging them.

When we arrived back at the car hire depot, TPR drove the lorry to the top of the medieval spiral staircase and set the vehicle into ‘collapse’ mode. While he went off to settle our bill, I watched as the lorry parts sorted themselves into neat order and spilled down the steep red stone staircase like a set of obedient dominoes. Afterwards I abseiled down to ground level.

Here I waited in the secure room until it was time for my release. The small cellar-like room was well equipped with magazines and a sleeping bench, should I have needed them. There were even some children’s toys for any younger lorry passengers.

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Unwelcome guests and a Christmas party assault (Rousse)

Two of the most popular guests were missing from our super-early Christmas party. Instead of joining us in person for sausages and Champagne, BP and her new husband SF communicated to us (and the world) from their bedroom as they awaited the arrival of their new baby.

While we were missing regular guests, we attracted some new (and not so welcome) ones to this year’s event. For example, TPR’s former colleague LC and his wife EC appeared for the first time, having turned down all invitations in the past. Meanwhile I smiled weakly when my old work pal RK turned up uninvited and asked if it was OK if he and his mates could join in the fun. I was hardly in a position to refuse.

Half way through the festivities I realised that another reason why this party was less festive than usual was that we had not hung up the Christmas decorations. I headed upstairs to hunt for fairy lights in the room that we used for storage.

There I found a bag of old exam scripts and a disgruntled student. I told him that I wasn’t going to argue about marks two years after the event and sent him packing.

My next encounter with was even more unpleasant. Somehow I managed to wriggle away from my assailant, then escape the room screaming.

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Cats torture (Rousse)

This was torture. I was forced to sit through the appalling musical Cats not once, but twice.

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Actor Bill Paterson is Mr Diamond selling tea at the Gorilla Arboretum (Rousse)

RR almost smashed into two cars in the car park of the Gorilla Arboretum. He simply did not see the brown Ford Escort Mk 4 as he reversed into what he thought was a free parking space. On his second attempt to park, he was within millimetres of scraping a long line of paintwork off a metallic blue saloon car.

I was so relieved to be able to open the car door. Similarly RR, JS and TPR were grateful for the end of my involuntary back seat driver screaming at every turn of the steering wheel.

For an autumn day, it was rather warm, and I was completely overdressed. So at the entrance to the park I stripped down as far as I could – to my long-sleeved white thermal vest, white jeans, and cowboy boots. I carried the rest of my clothes over my back in a black bin liner. Had I not dressed in such a hurry that morning, I would have taken more care to select weather-appropriate clothing for a walk in a gorilla arboretum.

We started our visit in the arboretum shop. It was stocked with the most beautiful household goods. I was particularly taken by some blue place mats. Amongst the displays a man was seated next to a pile of tea chests. He announced to customers that he was ‘Mr Diamond’ and would be delighted to offer each passer-by a sample of his wares.

‘That’s not Mr Diamond’, I said to JS in a very loud stage whisper. ‘That’s Bill Paterson, the famous Scottish actor’.

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House clearance ‘burglary’ (Rousse)

I stood outside our building and watched several members of an Indian family empty the ground floor flat. When yet another a young man came out of the front door – this one carrying a neat pile of brown bed linen – it dawned on me that this could be a very sophisticated burglary, executed in plain sight.

I called for TPR. He ran up the steps from the basement flat, made a charge for the first ‘burglar’ that he saw, and wrestled him to the ground. Both men scuffled on the pavement for a few minutes, TPR shouting accusations, and the other pleading his innocence.

It was later confirmed that N and S really had commissioned this Indian family to complete a house clearance on their behalf.

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Marriage and goat’s milk mayhem (Rousse)

I was shocked when I learnt that JC had moved back in with her parents after her marriage to GC came to a sudden end. This was nothing, however, to my dismay and desperation when TPR calmly announced that his move south ‘for work’ was not temporary, and that he wanted a divorce.

While I had been looking forward to a long and happy retirement with the love of my life, TPR had been reading a (supposedly) scientific text book about women and marriage. From this he had come to the conclusion he’d been ‘sold a dud’. He wanted to free himself of me to enjoy everything that had been missing from his life over the past four decades.

I took refuge in an academic library that was offering shelter to students during the coronavirus crisis. I found a free desk in a far corner of the reading room, hoping for some peace and quiet. Instead I found – under a bed sheet – two very young presenters of the Today programme giving a demonstration of an outside broadcast to students on campus. I caused a minor disruption when I tipped a carton of goat’s milk all over the floor next to the recording equipment.

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