And Alex Said: Filth

12 October 2002

Column 1: Filth, 12th October 2002

Fresh! Aaah! Wake up in the morning in those crisp, clean sheets, open the window and breathe in a lungful of fresh country air. Brush your teeth with that minty toothpaste, full of freshness. Freshen up with a nice shower. Refresh yourself with a glass of orange juice and some toast. Fresh! Yes! Fresh is clean and sweet-smelling and full of energy and lovely.

Something of a mystery, then, why new university students are called “Freshers”. If there were a group of people less clean and sweet-smelling than students, I really wouldn’t want them near me while I was trying to eat.

By now most freshers should have realised why they don’t show you round halls of residence on university open days. Going to university is great, but for all that new-found independence, you’ve got to sacrifice a few things. Things like basic hygiene, for instance. Decent cooking, for another. Furniture manufactured since 1978.

At home, you can leave crockery near the sink and, in a few hours, it’s gone. If you want a cup of coffee, get a mug out of the cupboard. Grab a spoon from the drawer. Make it. Simple. Nice.

At university, if you want a cup of coffee, run your mug under the tap and scrape the congealed stuff from the spoon. Put the dirty, wet spoon in the coffee jar and then the sugar jar, and then wonder why all your coffee granules have turned into one huge, jar-sized mass, and why your sugar has brown lumps in it.

You can just about put up with that for your year in halls. But in your second year it gets worse. In your own flat, at least now you know whose hair that is in the shower, but if you leave it there for 24 hours, it doesn’t magically go away – somebody has got to clean it up. Probably you.

Students often go into their second year and forget that cleaning is something that needs to be done more than once every six weeks. When it gets to this stage, you can forget about cleaning the bathroom with a cloth – you’ll need a chisel.

It’s a lot simpler to just clean up more regularly. But try telling that to your fellow students. You could draw up a rota, but you know even before you write it that they will read it as avidly as the latest update to your Barclaycard Terms and Conditions, and with about as much enthusiasm as, well, cleaning the toilet. And if you’re lucky, it will be kept to just as accurately as a typical bus timetable, i.e. with absolutely no correlation whatsoever between who’s supposed to be doing the cleaning, and who’s there with a scrubbing brush.

No, the only sensible solution is just to live with it. Brace yourself, lower your standards and get on with it. Sit down in your rickety wooden chair, open wide and swallow a mouthful of whatever is parasite of the day. It’s good for the immune system.