Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Having never lived on a university campus until last month, I had no idea what happens when work stops and day turns into night. And the main thing that happens is.... a lot of screaming. Two thirty in the morning is a key time for the screaming. The town centre clubs have closed and buses full of binged-up students teem back on campus. The past two nights I have been awoken to what sounded like a gang of women being raped. But when I looked out of my window, I realised that they were just screaming because they were drunk and felt like it. Sometimes the screaming stops being a random set of noises and the girls manage to co-ordinate together to sing a few tuneless lines of some chart-topper "I am Beautiful in Every Single Way" is an (ironic) favourite. If it is lads then there may be chanting instead, but the effect is the same. Often, after the singing, then there will be laughing. But not ordinary laughing - but an eerie keening cackling noise which sounds like gak-gak-gak-gak-gaaaaaaak!

My room overlooks a playing field, which yesterday had flooded due to heavy rains. At 2 in the morning, a group of students decided it would be hilarious to chase each other around the field, falling over in the muddy water a lot, while wearing either their underwear or just the clothes they had been out clubbing in (it was too dark to tell). The screaming was incessant. No wonder so many students have a cold this time of year.

Every year, one of my duties is to process student application forms. I read hundreds of references, detailing predicted A level grades, along with the student's personal statements, where they talk about how they help out at the local Brownie pack and love reading Bill Bryson. I make offers, knowing that in reality I'm just letting in dozens of people who's main aim in life will be to spend the next three years binge drinking. I sometimes wonder what their real personal statements would say "I would love to come to this university - I can scream louder than all of the girls in my A Level class and I know at least half the words to the Pussycat Dolls' last hit."

I keep trying to think back to when I was in my late teens. I did get drunk a lot, to be fair. But I can't remember ever running around outside, late at night, screaming my head off. It's not just on campus - every town centre is the same at weekends. As much as I still feel like a "young person", I'm increasingly aware that I am a different generation. Somewhere along the way, the rules changed over the last ten years.

Oh well. At least I can take some solace in the fact that most of those screaming binge drinkers have been born into a generation where they will never be able to afford to buy their own house and will spend their entire lives renting from people of my age group and older.

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