• Henry Michael

Writer's Block 1 - Holidays

Updated: Aug 30, 2018

As Fresher’s Week approaches, it’s that time of year where everybody comes together and compares their respective summer holidays. This is quite a difficult exercise as it inevitably turns out that most people have done more interesting things than you have, and you often find yourself forced to smile and nod and say “right” as someone with a tan like Thor tells you about dolphins.

It’s not uncommon these days for people to get off travelling to exotic places, but for those joining Cardiff straight from school, you’ll no doubt have already met somebody who talks about their Gap Year as if it puts them on par with Mandela. These people are quite easy to spot because they usually return with a profile picture of them hugging a confused-looking African child, smiling hopefully into the camera as if they’ve just enriched its life. I tried to do the same, but was disappointed to discover that the children in Reading didn’t weep with joy at their own reflection like the ones in Tribe. Slightly worse are the sort of travellers you come across who say things like “Kashmir’s lovely”, eat nothing but chickpeas, grow beards and then wander barefoot across Gaza. These people tend to be the ones you see in black and white photographs at the end of the news, having been kidnapped in Kabul and provoking large international incidents. Generally when I go on holiday I like to try and avoid places with violent and bloody holy war, which is why I like Centre Parcs. Then again it is harder to strike up an interesting conversation about cycling and ferns.

For those who couldn’t get away, this summer would have been about trying to find work. Like most of the middle class, I quickly discovered that the credit crunch has made it infinitely harder to get a job, and not just at Woolworths. It also doesn’t help that my CV is basically just a picture of me with the word “please” underneath. Having tried in vain for several weeks, I was somewhat offended when I applied for a job at Krispy Kreme Donuts, was turned down, then three weeks later saw that the exact same position was still being advertised. I’m not quite sure how badly they thought I would do the job if they eventually decided to hire no-one. The form was only 6 questions long as well, so there must have been something about my handwriting that told them I liked smashing up bakery equipment and insulting people who eat donuts.

Slightly reevaluating my sense of self-worth, I thought that studying medicine might help me get a job at a care home, but I discovered that you have to have a separate Criminal Records check at every job you apply to, which takes about 4-6 weeks at a time. This struck me as a bit unnecessary. Doesn’t a criminal record apply everywhere? If you’re a criminal in one type of building, won’t you be a criminal in all types of building? It’s not very likely that a person will change suddenly between jobs, “I’ve worked successfully at a primary school for years, but at summer sports camps I regularly find myself beating children”. I don’t think this is common. Or maybe it works for people the other way round, “when I was at Maindy pool I used to dance about the reception hall screaming at foreigners, but this leisure centre’s a bit smaller, so that should calm me down”. Either way it made getting a proper job impossible, and in the end I had no choice but to stay unemployed. The money’s not great, but at least the hours are flexible - and it’s also the only job where you can wank whenever you want and not get fired (as opposed to, say, working in finance).

However you spent the summer, there’s plenty to look forward to in the year ahead. A special nod goes out to all those starting university for the first time; good luck, enjoy yourself, and try to get stuck in with as many things as possible. It was daunting at first, but I quickly came to realise that university is a place I could meet like-minded individuals, and I don’t just mean racists; there’s opportunities to get involved in anything from media to art, politics, drama and sport, and if turns out you have no talent in any field, then feel free to take over this column. You might be able to come up with a better name than ‘Writer’s Block’.

Letters to the Editor – This Week: Settling in

Dear Henry,

I’m thinking of taking up a new hobby at university. Any ideas?

Cardiff is home to Bute Park, one of the largest and greenest open spaces in the whole of Europe, so now’s a great time to take up a new outdoor team sport, such as dogging. It’s very social but quite physically exerting, so bring a towel.

I have self-confidence issues and am worried that I won’t fit in at university because I’m not cool enough. Is this rational?

Absolutely not. Having seen the photo you attached, I’d say you’re much more likely to not fit in because of your weight. I’d be very surprised if people judge you beyond your obvious girth. Hope this helps with your confidence issues.

I’ve been put in Gordan Hall. Did I do something wrong?

By no means. It’s just a myth that the small, outlying halls in Cardiff are not fun places to stay. Things are getting better every year: Roy Jenkins now has electricity, and living away from Talybont means there’s none of the annoying distractions such as internet access or people. Indeed, a recent accommodation survey in The Independent suggested that Gordon Hall is now only 10% less popular than Josef Fritzel’s basement, and certainly a good deal brighter. Then again the residents there didn’t have to pay for their own lunches and laundry, so... swings and roundabouts.

I saw Newport on Crimewatch last night. How far away is it from where I now live?

Sufficiently far, but I’d still come off the A48 as early as possible.


And lastly, the winner of this week’s “bad childhood” competition goes to Johnny from Dorset, who writes: “my parents used to keep me under the stairs until I was fifteen years old, it resulted in serious pyschological issues and i’m now unable to form proper adult relationships”.

Congratulations Johnny, you gave us all a good laugh and have won a copy of Die Hard on DVD. Next week’s competition theme is: “funny things you’ve done to an elderly relative”.