• Henry Michael

Writer's Block 2 - Beginnings

Updated: Aug 30, 2018

It’s the first week of Freshers, and a whole new group of people are starting their journey through university life. It can be a daunting experience leaving home and starting again in a new city, unless you‘re from Reading, in which case your overall emotion is probably just relief, but it’s a rite of passage that everyone goes through and invariably involves less sobbing in a corner than you’d previously feared.

Part of the fun of starting university comes with deciding which societies you’re going to join. It only takes a walk through the Fresher’s Fayre to realise just how many different options there are, from serious clubs like rugby and hockey to the silly and more light-hearted clubs like custard wrestling or The Liberal Democrats. And if there’s still nothing you like then you can even apply to start up your own; I tried to set up a historical re-enactment society for enthusiasts, but made the mistake of only re-enacting events that occurred in the last ten years, and organised some frankly disappointing days out ploughing landrovers into the front of Glasgow Airport. Other poor events included Let’s Be Racist About Shilpa Shetty Evening and Robert Mugabe Pub Golf, though we did have some good laughs dressing up as Paula Radcliffe then shitting ourselves.

Another rite of passage in Fresher’s Week is getting to know all the people in your flat, and deciding whether or not they’re mentally sound. When I first started halls, I heard that in every flat there’s always one wierdo who’s completely unaware of his own social awkwardness, but in my flat, none of the other five people I met were like that at all. I remember I had loads of fun nicknames in Freshers, “Henry”, “Henry Burton”... you know, loads, and we used to have lots of hilarious in-jokes, like that time everyone refused to engage me in conversation for two years. In many ways the friends you make in halls really are friends for life, so treasure them, though do make sure they give you the right numbers as it seemed to be a common mistake to type in ten ‘0’s instead.

For those returning for second year, the biggest change from Freshers will be living in houses. One word of warning when you move in: make sure you photograph every surface of the house, as letting companies will take every opportunity to charge you for damage you couldn’t possibly have caused, like underground pipe erosion, or chimney weathering. I once had a friend who came home to discover he had been billed for the building of a large metropolitan area around his property, after Keylet tried to claim it was a detached country house when he moved in. This is if your house is in working order when you started living in it; we left things a bit late this year and ended up with a house that looks a bit like it was designed as part of someone’s GCSE tech coursework, with rooms so obscurely proportioned that for some reason I’ve got a bedroom the size of Anne Frank’s, but a bathroom so vast that every time I sit down for a poo I feel lonely.

I’ve also learnt that trying to get landlords to agree to anything is a bit like trying to get the SS to put on a panto, and any problem short of a fire will be handled with all the enthusiasm of a cavity search. Last year we were under the care of a landlord so wealthy he genuinely appeared on an episode of Secret Millionaire, where he lived for a week in conditions not particularly far off our own and had the cheek to say things like, “there’s no hot water here it’s awful”, despite taking several months to fix our boiler. The biggest injustice is that my mum watched the programme and said “he came across quite well”, which annoyed me, because the only way you could not come across ‘quite well’ on a programme based around you giving money to unsuspecting members of the public is if you threw it on the floor in front of them and laughed as they scrabbled to pick it up.

Whatever happens, be sure to make the most of this year. Times ahead may be tough, with tuition fees set to rise despite a steady shortage of graduate jobs, but no matter how hard it gets, always ask yourself the same question - what would the Pakistani Cricket team do? Buckle in the face of the odds, or make sure things went their way? At least their fees have stayed affordable.

Letters to the Editor – This Week: Getting involved

Dear Henry,

I was thinking of joining some kind of charity organisation this year. What options are there?

Cardiff is a great place to start volunteer work, with organisations that deliver food and water to desolate third-world countries, like the Welsh National Assembley, to education programmes like Spark that aim to teach villages around Bangor to understand fire. Alternatively, if you’re looking to really make a difference then why not join the British Neurological Patronage, a poorly-acronymed support service for stroke patients which gets its offices burnt down on a regular basis. Help The Aged are also a good bet, especially in the Winter when the workload gets a lot lighter.

I’ve fallen in love with a girl from my flat, but I don’t know if she likes me back. Is it a mistake to pursue something?

It’s not strictly a no-no, but it does put a lot of pressure on your friendship, as we all know sex can be awkward enough at the best of times. I still rarely talk to my uncle. If you really do want to discuss your feelings, then you have to make sure that you approach the conversation in a way that doesn’t make her feel emotionally responsible and guilty if she says no. Either that or tell her you’re dying - but make sure you chose something that has a plausible quick recovery, I’ve been dragging around a dialysis machine for 2 years.

Helo, rwy'n siarad Cymraeg ac yn dechrau yng Nghaerdydd 'leni. Oes unrhyw gyfleuoedd i gymdeithasu gyda siaradwyr Cymraeg eraill a chynnal fy mamiaeth?

Please spell-check your questions before sending them in, it is rude.


And lastly, the winner of this week’s “hilarious misunderstanding” competition goes to Sandra, 53 from Dorset, who tickled us all with the humorous story of how she only just found out her husband was gay. She jokes in her three-page letter: “I can never trust again, I’m going to die alone,” very funny there so well done Sandra. Though could you please let us know where to post your book vouchers, the paper was a bit soggy in places and we can’t make out the name of the motel.

Thanks to everybody who sent in their stories. Next week’s competition theme is “botulism”.