It’s Freshers Week and Oxford Road is absolutely heaving with students morning, noon and night. After a peaceful summer of walking to and from work relatively alone, I’ve spent this week zig zagging around excitable teenagers who are either drunk, recovering from being drunk, or planning to become drunk shortly. I must sound like I’m jealous, and I suppose part of me is. Having been told this week that making my car fit to drive will cost me £400, it is slightly frustrating seeing swarms of giddy youngsters with quiffs and crop tops pile into the pubs, interest free overdrafts lining their pockets. I went to uni with a girl who once used her overdraft to spend £400 on a skirt. In retrospect, unless she left her graduation ceremony and walked straight into a lucrative career with PricewaterhouseCoopers, I expect this is a spending strategy she’s lived to regret.
The students have certainly given me plenty of food for thought as I creep between traffic lights on my way home, food being the operative word. The whole road has been full of people flyering and shouting, trying to drag unwitting students into food outlets, and yesterday even onto a promotional bus. I’d have probably been on the bus myself if I’d have actually heard what they were saying, but unfortunately I thought they were saying ‘Do you want free mangos?’. As I can take or leave a mango I carried on walking, only to find out later that they were actually offering free Nandos. All you had to do was get on the bus and declare your love for Nandos at the top of your voice. Having certainly done worse things for a free meal I was a little disappointed I’d missed the opportunity.
Today was brilliant, I actually got mistaken for a student. 6 weeks without cigarettes has obviously returned my skin to it’s youthful glory. Either that or I was simply caught up in the thick of it and was the only person who wasn’t already holding a Subway wrapper. So at some point before the end of September, which looking back if I remember rightly by this point in the year 2000 I’d already spent most of my student loan in HMV, I am entitled to a free Subway cookie. That will certainly keep the students going through October?
It’s just got me thinking what a difference 14 years makes. They’re wandering about with pizzas, at lunchtime. How reckless! They clearly don’t realise that once you hit 3o and start worrying about getting your 5 a day, body fat percentage, and dying young, that you don’t eat pizzas unless it’s the weekend! And if you’re going to eat something so decadent as a takeaway, then for crying out loud don’t do it at lunchtime! These treats must be kept for an evening or the equilibrium of the world will be thrown off kilter. When I was at uni I don’t remember drinking water. In fact I don’t remember drinking water until about 5 years ago, and that was because Ailsa questioned how I still functioned when all I drank was Coke. Now my work output is hampered by my constant need for the loo because of my obsession with staying hydrated. Are the students worrying about this as they wander about yelling Nandos at the tops of their voices? I doubt it. They don’t need to quit smoking yet as they’ve not discovered that it gets harder and harder to breathe running upstairs, because at 18 you can smoke 2o a day and still comfortably go circuit training.
We existed on microwaved pasta and Dolmio stir in sauces when we lived in halls. When we got our own house in second year we upped the ante and progressed to Chicken Tonight on a regular basis, honey and mustard was a favourite. For very special occasions there were mini chicken kievs, which as anyone who lived at Manor House Road will tell you, if you ate them without my permission, there were tears. Eating wasn’t cheating, it was just a necessity. When I was at uni we didn’t photograph everything we ate and upload it straight to twitter (#foodporn). I’d like to point out though that I have been photographing my food for years, but mainly because I’m greedy rather than I’m trying to be cool. I like the before shot, usually a plate filled with large cuts of meat, and then after, clutching my belly, sweating but triumphant. I digress…
Now, food is IN. Being a foodie is bang on trend. The people that I sat on kitchen floors with eating pasta out of a microwave dish are the same people that now own Agas and go to Michelin starred restaurants…one of them even worked in one according to Facebook. I know people who would spend as much on going out for an evening meal as they once would on a week in Kavos. I’m not knocking it, I bloody love it. Most of my money goes on eating and I love the fact that I can talk about burgers for half an hour without the automatic assumption being that I’m getting ready for a gastric band. On one of mine and Chris’s first dates we spent a long time talking about our favourite foods…and I mean a long time. It was #hot.
Tuesday night in my student days was ska night, and we used to go to a night called ‘Get your skates on’ at Northumbria Union and try our best to skank. It usually involved illegal vodka from Mr V’s offy before hand and a highly questionable burger from Munchies on the way home. Last Tuesday night? I came home and cooked pork loins stuffed with sage, mozzerella and wrapped in parma ham, served with crushed potatoes and broccoli with chilli. I went to three shops to try and find fresh sage, and it didn’t bother me in the slightest. I even shared the recipe for the broccoli on facebook. It was an ‘I’ve changed’ moment.
In all seriousness though, I wouldn’t go back. For a start the thought of drinking shots of vodka at 40p makes me feel nauseous, though I would love to be able to go out with a fiver and come home with change. The idea of being on a revolving dancefloor is also making me nauseous, despite some of my fondest uni memories stemming from there. We’re spoilt with some of the best pub/restaurants I’ve ever been to in Pendle and the Ribble Valley, and Remas is bloody good too. I’ve then got every single cuisine going on my doorstep as soon as I step foot out of work…that’s if I don’t get trampled by students on their way to Nandos as I go. The best thing is I can pay for it out of my wage and not out of an overdraft that no-one really bends over backwards to tell you that you have to pay back. I don’t have to drink vodka redbull just because it’s the cheapest thing behind the bar, and my illegal vodka days are (I think) long behind me.
But tonight, in memory of my student days, I went to McDonalds after work and had myself a meal deal. I had intended to make a chorizo couscous dish and then watch the Bake Off, but for the sake of nostalgia I headed straight for the golden arches. We used to have competitions at the one on the high street in Newcastle, winner was who could eat the most 79p hamburgers in one sitting. To be honest though I’ve felt slightly unpleasant ever since, and watching the 17 year old Martha on the Bake Off (who has written a dissertation this week as well as keep her place in the competition) has just made me feel like the most unaccomplished individual on earth. I bet she doesn’t eat McDonalds.
So maybe I am slightly jealous of the students, but tomorrow as I walk to work past piles of sick, green faces and empty Dominos boxes, I will be ever so slightly smug instead.