Sitting in my garden at the end of last term, I was slightly surprised to be joined by a crazy bearded man who emerged from the back of my house… to ask me for some “scrap metal”. Politely, I told him we didn’t have any as I watched him scurry back into the Lenton wilderness, but it got me thinking. If this apparent wild bushranger jumped in my garden back home I would have screamed like a banshee, called the police, and maybe have scanned around me for potential weapons in case I was forced into combat. Likewise, in Lenton we stroll around to buy milk in our pyjamas and slippers, we wake up to find random people asleep in our houses and we generally do ridiculous things that are just not socially accepted in normal society. So why is Lenton the haven whereby anything can happen… and nobody really cares?
It is this kind of ethos that will contribute to our most dignified moments at University, and our most irresponsible. Those poor Nottingham locals – what haven’t they witnessed? The future Doctors and lawyers of our country parading about in luminous mankinis, heavily intoxicated, maybe even squatting on the M6 after a charitable day of rag raiding. Or how about the crowds of innocent freshers forced to turn into potential vandals, abusing rickety old buses as they chant at the top of their smoke-filled lungs that one particular hall of residence, ever so charmingly, takes it up the arse. It’s quite juvenile if you think about it. Especially as I’m sure we all know at least one other student who at some point has whacked out their special parts for the whole of Nottingham to admire, purely “for the banter”. How is it that up until now there aren’t more of us that have graduated with the letters ‘ASBO’ after their names, instead of BA or BS or LLB?
And yet all this continues to occur in our student bubble, estranged from normal society because we forget we’re actually living in a city full of respectable Nottingham residents. We’re so used to experiencing and seeing such irresponsible behaviour that I don’t even react when a man rocks up in my garden asking for scrap metal. I probably wouldn’t have reacted any differently if he was wearing a mankini. Or nothing for that matter. Maybe he was innocently wandering through my garden, but if he were a potential criminal most likely checking to see if we had left our back door open, why didn’t I react? Had I forgotten that crime occurs in our student bubble, not only when we lose our phones or student cards in Oceana? Had I forgotten reality?
There must be something about our University lifestyle that makes us so immune to the real world. The sudden independence, the ability to completely reinvent yourself, to start anew, to do things you’ve never done before, whilst sharing all this with every single other student you’re here with. We all have it drummed into us to be safe, to lock our doors, to not walk anywhere on our own, but in this buzz and excitement of our newly discovered independent lifestyle, why doesn’t it quite feel real? Why do we feel invincible in thinking that surely nothing that bad will ever happen to us? In the same way, why do some of us feel the need to do such outrageous things (albeit mainly, I mean occasionally, under the influence of alcohol) that for most of us we just wouldn’t do at home?
The special thing about University is that in many ways, we can do anything. But I, like most of us, find it too easy to forget that Lenton is not situated in a parallel universe; this is real life, a real place where real things happen with real consequences. Yet if we are given the chance to postpone our dignity for just a few years of our lives, then of course there’s no forgetting… there’s no other real place like it.