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Thursday, 27 December 2012

#66: Two Degrees of Separation — Part Three

Just as becoming a member of the D.E.N. Club had not proved a dream-wrecker when it came to bagging a 'university' place, failing French in the First Year turned out to be ce n'est pas grave.

I studied hard for the resit, in-between checking out Eddie the Eagle's launching pad in Calgary, hanging out with my family in Edmonton and fostering an addiction to Pebble Beach Mini-(/Crazy) golf in West Ed Mall.

Man, that game was fun. I think my buddy Ant agreed after the first round. Perhaps not so much after the 19th.

On the flight home I (of course) did the lion's share of studying/revising for the French resit (98.7% or so) and felt ready-to-go when I travelled up to Stoke a couple of weeks before the start of the new term (the arts department had moved 30 minutes up the M6 to the Staffs city of Stoke-on-Trent).

Stoke, considered the home of the UK's pottery industry, is now perhaps more famous for being the home town of British pop star Robbie Williams – the on-off-on-off member of Take That.

I thought I did OK in the French resit which, as anyone who's ever taken an academic exam knows, meant I could just as easily have aced it, scraped a pass or emphatically flunked it.

As it turned out, I at the very least scraped a pass – woohoo! All that hard last-minute cramming—I mean, work flying over The Rockies had been worth it.

Within days we all met up for a Year Two orientation/briefing. Where I was promptly told we'd have been allowed 'back in' to take Year Two even if we'd set a new World Record for failing the French resit in the most spectacular fashion.

UNBELIEVABLE. I sacrificed watching Cruise & Nicholson go at each other hell-for-leather in A Few Good Men (four times in a row on the in-flight movie loop) for the sake of that French resit. What the hell!
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Anyway, I was in for Year Two of my Modern Studies degree – at the newly named/‘upgraded’ Staffordshire University.

Moving to Stoke had meant leaving most of my Year One buddies behind in Stafford. I’d been placed in halls there with fellow computer science or tech degree geeks – and their department was staying put in Stafford.

Which meant I had to find new digs in the 'big' city.

The city of Stoke-on-Trent is essentially a cluster of six smaller towns: Stoke-upon-Trent (or just Stoke), Burslem, Tunstall, Longton, Fenton and the main commercial/city centre Hanley.

Staffs Uni (as it now was) had its Stoke-ON-Trent campus based in Stoke-UPON-Trent (Confused yet? I sure am) – the city’s namesake town and home to the city council. Needless to say, UPON wasn’t entertainment central.

However, rents were cheap – and it seemed the obvious place to set up camp for Year Two.

While finishing off Year One, I answered an ad for a house-share in Stoke (the town), sharing with a pair of female students.

I caught the train from Stafford one Saturday and was met by one of the girls (the one who’d drawn the short straw of finding a third house-mate for the upcoming school year).

She seemed pleasant enough (my Bunny Boiler Detection System wasn’t bleeping like a metal detector at any point) and the house was located near the Victoria Ground – Stoke City Football (/Soccer) Club’s former home (1878-1997) – which was enticing for a football lover.

The house was small – a terrace/two-up-two-down – but pretty standard fare for a terraced house in a UK city. The ‘two-down’ portion also featured a box room at the front of house. So-called, because you could fit a box in it. Just. Providing it was a shoe-box.

Anyhow, I was offered one of the two upstairs (decent-sized) rooms. And, after mulling it over for a day or two, decided to take the plunge. How big a risk/gamble could it possibly be?

Fast-forward to the week before Year Two commences. My parents drove me up from Gloucestershire and we arrived at the house. I’d had a key sent to me, so entered and briskly marched up the stairs to say hi to my new room. Only to find I had company.

I’m not sure if the Showgirl had promised both of us (her friend and I) the same room, or had got cold feet if ‘supposedly’ agreeing to take the box room herself. But she (Showgirl, I soon had confirmed) was now occupying the room I’d been promised – and her friend was in the one opposite.

Leaving me with the… box room, downstairs. Right.

Aside from the fact I’d been royally screwed in terms of room allocation, all my worldly possessions (or those I was carting along with me for Year Two of university) took up slightly more space than a shoebox.

As such, I needed a shoehorn to fit my bed, desk, chest of drawers and other student 'essentials' (or all that other crap, as they're also known) into the box room.

Holy Mamma. This predicament was definitely not in the script.

Perhaps Showgirl was a psychology major and her strategy involved believing I’d eventually come round to the idea of the box room? Providing I could actually get back out of it again once inside, presumably.

In two words: Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaah. No.

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