Monday 23 September 2013

Let's rewind to September 1977...

It's September 1977 and I'm en route to Sheffield Polytechnic to begin an HND in Business Studies. I couldn't get into halls of residence and so - after looking around at some truly awful accommodation including one flat which was basically just a room with 3 or 4 bunk beds! - me and a girl from my school found a flat owned by a rather unpleasant (and, worse still, racist) lady called Mrs M. (Who, being racist, made sure we were white females before allowing us to sign the tenancy agreement.) Unfortunately there were literally no other options, so we had no choice but to move into the dreadful Mrs M's poky little flat.

The flat comprised the ground floor of a Victorian terraced house on a main road the other side of the city centre from Studentland and it was awful. It was freezing cold, draughty and damp with mice and silverfish, and we weren't allowed to put any posters on the wall or personalise it in any way. And we had to share a bedroom.

Very soon the girl and I fell out, leaving me feeling even more lonely, marooned in this horrible damp flat miles from anywhere on an HND course which, it turned out, was totally wrong for me. I hated every minute.

Thankfully a couple of rooms came up in a hall of residence - for me and my room-mate. But getting out of the tenancy agreement wasn't easy because we had to find replacement tenants which had to be white (shocking but true!!) and, if male and female, had to be married.

Actually, one of the Human League band took on the lease with his girlfriend (I never did find out if the dreadful Mrs M discovered they weren't married...).

The hall of residence was pretty awful, too. Because I'd moved in late, everyone knew each other. The design was cluster blocks rather than 'corridors' and I shared a landing with one other room occupied by a truly awful girl who went out to the local pub every night, came back paralytic invariably with several of the 'locals' from the pub in toe, usually old enough to be her father... And the noise they all made in her room...

So I was on a course I hated, living in a hall I hated. I was the one closeted in my room, desperately unhappy and on the point of leaving.

Every weekend I got the train back to Leeds and camped out at an ex-boyfriend's house. He soon got fed up of the arrangement, and of me, especially one day when we somehow ended up in bed together. I was in floods of tears about how horrible my life was in Sheffield. And you know what he did? He kicked me out of bed, told me to sort myself out - and practically threw me out of the house - because he knew I needed to stop moaning and do something positive about it.

Mortified (but, looking back, I know he did it for the best) I went to see the counselling service who found me a room in another hall of residence and suggested I switch to a degree course that interested me.

By late October I was living in Broomgrove Hall, Sheffield, and studying a BA History of Art at the Poly-owned art college up on the hill at Psalter Lane.

A group of girls on my new course immediately took me under their wing and some of them were living in my hall - so I immediately felt at home. And things kind of improved immeasurably from that point on.

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