Friday, 7 September 2012

Newsflash: the 'lympics are still on (for another two days at least).

Dear Roflympics,

A thing called the Paralympics exists. They're awesome; you'd like them. And just because the US isn't winning doesn't mean that you can ignore disabled people's successes.

I could understand concerns of offending disabled people, but seriously? We can be funny too. Surely disabled people should be given an opportunity to be in on the joke, and can non-disabled people really not manage to laugh with us?

Yes, there are complete idiots out there that might want to laugh at people different to them in any way, but surely that's a risk with any site where randomers can upload content? And considering the majority of the content on the site seems to have been uploaded by Cheezburger staff, it shouldn't be difficult for them to check and approve content fairly regularly.

An apparently 'disabled' person


On that note, during my PhD funding applications this year, I came across a rather confusing form. I was asked if I am disabled, and given the options 'yes' or 'no'. After ticking no, I was then asked to tick which options applied to me, with no indication as to whether or not I should skip this section if I had chosen no. So as 'long-term illness' applied to me. Twice over. I ticked this so that it would be on record should I have problems later on that affect my PhD (I regularly missed chunks of lectures during my undergrad, but have been lucky to just lose about 3 weeks worth of lectures this year.)

I then got a phone call from the person processing my form asking if I was disabled with a long-term illness, or not disabled without any long-term illnesses. I'm not the only person who doesn't feel that I can be summed up with tick-box options on an equal ops form. A student for whom I have been a notetaker this year is partially-sighted and has some difficulty with one of his arms and legs. However as he is capable of living his life as he wishes, he doesn't feel that he should be classified as disabled.

I'm not sure how I feel about people referring to Paralympians as 'inspirational'. I agree that they are, I would never be able to achieve the feats that they have, however I find them inspirational in the same way that I find the Olympians inspirational. Both groups show that hard work and determination can overcome a lot and allow you to achieve things that many people will never achieve.

Disabled people are disabled by society. Should Paralympic sports be more available to the average person, both for disabled people to partake in and for disabled and non-disabled people to support, should they be funded to the same levels as Olympic sports, and should they be better advertised, then what would be the difference between the two? The only additional obstacles the majority of Paralympians need to overcome are ones dictacted by society.


And finally, I have PhD funding! I'll be starting at the end of the month. There'll be a couple of months' overlap with the end of my Masters research, but sleep is for wimps!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

I'm normally funnier than this when talking about suicide. Honest.

This is a little bit depressing. It also has to come with a trigger warning for child abuse and mistreatment of women, with a little nod towards racism and homophobia. Also a spoiler alert if you haven't read/seen the last Harry Potter. Come back tomorrow if you like your humour to be suicidal-thought-free when there may or may not be a post on the joys of working part-time service jobs, depending on where my thought train goes over the next 24 hours and whether or not I can get myself to get on with my essays...

By the way my internet's gone down, so the timings in this post probably won't fit in with the time that the submit button actually works. Just pretend it's early hours in Britain when you read this.

The other night I was talking to my paternal grandmother about some memories from my childhood, when we got onto the topic of when things had gone wrong. She suddenly forgot about all of the other things that we'd discussed before this and asked me if I had any good memories of her from my childhood, as she feels that if my father were to be listened to she was the worst mother in the world and the only parent he had was my grandfather. This got me thinking about how odd I feel talking about happy memories of my father. Although I don't go around introducing myself with "Last time I willingly exchanged words with my father I told him that if he hit me again I'd be calling the police." when asked by friends I do sometimes use those words as a quick summary that covers the fact that I don't speak to my father, want nothing to do with him, and why I have come to make the decision to get away from him, therefore eliminating the need for further questions beyond the "Where are you spending Christmas" that I get if the subject is raised in the November-December period. So when telling stories about my childhood that include playing games with my father, I sometimes feel that my friends will think that I'm exaggerating or lying about the fact that he is a far less than plesant man on a whole. When in my tweens I would refer to him in my head as 'Daddy' and 'the Bastard', and would look for signs as to which one was in the room/car when I came into contact with him to see how to behave. I actually have some memories of some very fun times with my father, and I'm sure that all of his exes have some very good memories of their time with them, otherwise he wouldn't have managed to get them into, and keep them in a relationship that was sapping them of all of their feelings of self worth and esteem.

Unfortunately the majority of people don't realise how utterly charming abusers have to be to get away with things, not only in keeping the person involved quiet and willing to put up with the bad, (as the abuser convinces the person that they couldn't get the good without staying dependant to them and that they need the good) but also in not being suspected by the person's friends and family (but in my case doctors, social services, schools and numerous councillors) of being responsible for changes in the person's behaviour/demeanour or increased physical problems. When working as a Sabbatical Officer in the Students' Union last year, my father started phoning reception on a daily basis asking for me (he must have heard about my job from my sister, aunt and cousins). This coincided with the Census, so I assume that as I always took care of his official paperwork he was wanting to get me to deal with the form for him, despite not having wanted any contact with him for almost 3 years. I said to the receptionists that I didn't want to speak to him, and gave the line that covers most bases (which, as it was February/March, covered all) and they expressed shock as he 'sounded so charming on the phone'. People don't realise that men who can convince educated and successful women to become dependant on self-important, sexist, uneducated, unemployed, fat bastards and convince everyone that they come in contact with that they don't need to be locked up for eternity is by being the most extremely charming person most people will ever meet. Which makes it harder for people to ask for help amongst their friends and family who know their abuser. When I made the decision to try and get help when my stepmother was abusing me I went to my grandmother, who immediately went to my stepmother to speak about the issue. She was as charming as only a psychotic bitch who abuses small children and tweens can be, as far as I was aware my grandmother then did nothing. My stepmother then went to all of my family members telling them that I was spreading lies about her so that I had no one left to turn to. And I was, of course, punished for telling these lies.

I now know that when my grandmother was asked to take me to a hospital appointment for a condition I was suffering from as a result of my stepmother's abuse, she shared her thoughts on the issue with the doctor. The doctor had already suspected that my stepmother had something to do with my health problems from my demeanour around her and a specific previous appointment. I had asked my stepmother if I could go in alone before the appointment after I'd made the decision to ask for help, although I'm not sure if this was before or after I spoke to my maternal grandmother. She had refused to let me go alone and come in with me, then at the end of the appointment asked the doctor to speak with him in private, rubbing my nose in my helplessness because of my age. According to my grandmother, she had started to speak to the doctor about my stepmother during the appointment, however he had stopped her. Later on he'd sent me out to get a nurse to re-weigh and measure me to speak to my grandmother to get confirmation of his suspicions. He told my grandmother to make sure that my father took me to my next appointment, and my father left my stepmother shortly after speaking to the doctor. Unfortunately my father was charming enough to convince even the head of the local social services that he was an upstanding citizen, so I was stuck with him until I was pushed to take my chances on my own. I then realised that I'd have been much better off if I'd done this sooner.

The point of all of this is, I had intended to write about those happy memories with my father that I have been thinking about since my conversation with my grandmother. However today I found out that my father has been showing photographic evidence of how he treated some of the models and career women that he slept with/dated. He is apparently very into bondage, which makes sense for a guy who believes that men are superior to women but is surrounded by women who are more academically gifted, driven and successful than he is. This I have no problem with. Consenting adults can do whatever the hell they want. My problem is that he told his friends that these women had no idea that he'd gotten the camera out after blindfolding them. And then he shared these pictures with his friends. There's also the fact that in my teens I was constantly having to remove viruses off his computers (his room was like a computer graveyard, he was constantly getting new ones and having the hard drives of the old ones removed) and seeing unsavoury images. He always said that it was because he was going to websites full of jokes and pop-ups kept coming up and that he must be getting the viruses from these. I asked him if jokes were really worth it and why he couldn't just get some books or make wittier friends, however I knew he was visiting adult websites as, as I have mentioned before, I had walked in on him wanking after he'd gotten his laptop, and before this his bedroom door would only be locked when I could hear his computer on. Now I wonder if he was also contributing to these sites.

Today my maternal grandmother told me that she's been told about these photographs that he's been showing people, and then asked me if he'd ever touched me. I've never been able to properly talk about this subject with any of my friends, only skate around it with a couple of them when it was causing me problems and I wanted to try to talk to someone about it. So I just went for the easier "No." option since that can of worms is staying well and truly shut in face-to-face conversations. Perhaps one day I can use this as free counselling since the NHS and student councelling services are far too over-subscribed and when I have tried to speak to a councellor about these things before, I took so long trying to get to the main points that they decided I didn't have any problems I couldn't deal with and took me off their list.

So, instead of writing about my happy memories of my father at a time where I want to hurt him, badly, I was planning on writing my customer stories from the part-time jobs I've done on weekends and holidays. however it's taken me at least an hour and three quarters to write this (or 2 Big Bang Theories, an How I Met Your Mother, and a Scrubs) so I'll go back to trying to tell my life story in an amusing way tomorrow.

Just so you know, I do rely on self-depreciation in my humour, and some people take this as me moaning about my lot in life. I actually hated using the words 'abuse' and 'abuser' in this, but my housemate, who is one of the people I've tried to speak to about the subject my grandmother asked about, insists that I should use these words. However I hate them. I won't use 'abused' or, even worse, 'victim'. Shit fucking happens. People put up with a lot of crap in their lives. Some people, unfortunately, sink, or find it harder to swim than others do. Some of us get on with it and are made strong because of these things. Even those who struggle are made stronger despite having to keep up the fight not to sink over and over again. But although these experiences have made me push myself, led me to achieve what I have, and, hopefully, someday will mean that the drive they have given me will lead to me landing the Dream Job and making a difference with my life - they don't define me. I wouldn't be who I am without them, but they can fuck off if they think I'm going to let them stick a label on me.

Some people find labels comforting, help them understand things better. I know my stepmother had munchausen's by proxy syndrome and another doctor told my father that he believed that she has hystrionic personality disorder - which doesn't seem to exist and was described by him as something completely different to hysteronic personality disorder. I know that my father has a type of 'small man syndrome' where he is inferior to most people in that he is of below-average intelligence with very few qualifications, he has no drive, people he's not trying to charm dislike him, he has no regard for other people or the law beyond what they can do for him, and he's overweight and spends his days sleeping in an armchair. However he does everything he can to over-compensate for this and prove his superiority to himself beyond doing any actual work to improve himself. Whenever he has a job he spends his time finding ways to avoid work, and in doing so congratulates himself on his ingenuity in pulling the wool over people's eyes, regularly boasting about his antics to myself and all of his friends. As I've gotten older and come to speak to some of his former workmates I've found out that they were in no way fooled and made jokes about his laziness, hence why he's never kept a job. And in trying to find ways that he can be superior to others, the easiest way is to buy into the sexism, homophobia and racism that my paternal grandfather, for lack of a better term, 'suffered' from. And in trying to instill his superiority in his own mind, he must treat these people like shit. And as it's difficult for him to get homosexuals and people of a different ethnicity into a position where he can treat them in a way that proves his superiority without getting into a relationship with an 'ethnic' woman, which would bring him down in his own eyes as that would show others that he can't pull a white woman, he's left with mistreating women. And understanding all of this makes no bloody difference, because I still had the childhood that I had, both the good and the bad, my father and ex-stepmother are still making people suffer, and I still refuse to be the scared, hopeless little girl that I once was, whose only reason for not committing suicide was the fact that the coroner and someone in the funeral home would see her 'disgusting' body naked. (When I disclosed this to my housemate we both ended up laughing. Unfortunately I can't work out how to get the humour into that part of my past in written form given the context of this post.)

I fought hard to get out of there. I battled a lack of funds, academic support from both my family and my school (although a handful of teachers did what they could to help me along, which unfortunately was very little within the school's system) and illness to get to University whilst caring for a special-needs sister. I choose to be defined by the work that I've done, and hope yet to do, not things beyond my control. As Dumbledore said to Harry, it's his choices that made him different from Voldemort, and not even by putting a part of his own soul inside him could Voldemort force Harry to be someone that he didn't choose to be. I think I may have just compared myself to Harry Potter. I did have a bedroom beyond a cupboard under the stairs. I even had the largest bedroom in the house throughout most of my teenage years. So since I had my own bedroom growing up (except for sharing with my sister for most of my childhood), and I've never had anyone accidentally stick a part of their own soul in my body (as far as I'm aware - I'll keep you posted on that one) then I choose to be a volunteer, a Masters student, a part-time notetaker for students with disabilities, a graduate, and a future campaigner who will help others have their voices heard and make a difference to their own lives (and hopefully, perhaps, one day a girlfriend, fiancee, and, if he's worth taking the label on, wife.) I am not a victim, I am not the abused. My father, stalkers, attempted rapists, attackers, and everyone else in the world, can fuck right off if they think I'm carrying a label around that I haven't chosen or done anything to earn of my own accord.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Living on a farm involves a lot of mishaps with fire, apparently.

Having grown up on a farm, I had loads of experiences that my peers didn't. Of course, I'd go through the whole summer not seeing anyone that I didn't share genes with or who wasn't employed by my grandfather, and any time someone got lost and ended up driving up to the house, my cousins, sister and I would go running to see the 'strangers, from the outside' (sometimes even with an 'oooooooh'.) One time, when giving a car full of such strangers directions, my grandmother told them that when they reached a fork, they should "...fork off to the left...", which earned her a rather interesting set of looks. The extended hours of family time also meant that I got the pleasure of explaining to my grandmother what a lesbian is. It's only now that I realise that she probably heard the word because that would have been around the time that the rumour that I am one began circulating amongst my nearest and dearest. I came out as straight to one of my cousins, but we both decided to go along with it for the entertainment value. I have mentioned that I didn't get out much when at home, yes? My father had also stopped threatening that when I brought my first boyfriend home he would line up spent shotgun cartridges (with a different male name on each) atop the mantelpiece and either; be holding a new cartridge and marker pen when being introduced, or, be sat in his chair stroking his shotgun and dribbling out of the left side of his mouth (as dribbling out of the right side of his mouth would have made him appear too common). My cousin and I kept the in joke going for years while my family tried several different ways to get me to come out to them whilst I played dumb, then one day I slipped in front of my aunt when speaking with my cousin about my crush on Hot Guy With A Band. My aunt immediately jumped on this and advised me to get my knickers off and my legs in the air. Needless to say I didn't take this advice, although my reasoning for this at the time was my exam on the following day when the opportunity arose, and the next time I saw him outside of our seminars he had his tongue down another girl's throat so it didn't seem appropriate to remove my underwear and drag him into the disabled toilet of the nightclub at the time.

Coming out as straight is becoming something more and more common for University students it seems. Not only do I have many friends who have been assumed to be gay as they've been to embarrassed by their families to introduce them to their love interests, but I also have friends who have been assumed to be gay/lesbian because they're too 'different' from their less educated family members. I have one friend who, after she had her Facebook relationship status changed to show her to be in a relationship with her housemate by a mutual friend of the two of them, invited the same housemate to visit her over one holiday. During this visit she discovered that following her relationship status change, her family had all called one another to discuss how they would ensure that she felt that her sexuality was accepted by everyone, and how relieved they were that she'd finally come out. The truth came out over dinner when the family thought they were being introduced to the girlfriend. Some parents actually have the Eddie-from-Ab-Fab-esque want of a gay child so that they can be kept away from beige and blue rinses in their old age (some of these have a wish-list of children including a plumber,  lawyer, and accountant, and a Hollywood kid to pay for it all. They generally don't mind which one's gay but assume it will be Hollywood kid). Unfortunately I also have many friends who are too afraid to come out as gay to families that I know would be accepting, and other friends who have been driven out of their homes by their families and neighbours after coming out.

Anyway, being constantly in close quarters with my extended family meant that I missed out on some of the experiences my friends were having at 15 such as having sex with men in alleyways by the bin whilst having conversations with my other drunken friends who were fine with this as 'they'd seen it all before', then having to go to the school nurse the next day for the morning after pill. These experiences, such as the pub where the landlord knew our ages and encouraged us to go there and dance and would stick lollipops down our bras if we danced well, made us feel cool at the time. Now, they creep the bejeesus out of me. However there were plenty of good things about growing up in the middle of nowhere.

Apart from: -
  1. driving a tractor when I was tall enough to reach the peddles, and steer before that; 
  2. driving a quad bike at high speeds over banks and humps to see how far I could fly well before I'd hit double figures; 
  3. rowing a boat across the pond (which was more lake-like than pond-like and doesn't mean I've rowed a boat across the Atlantic) whenever I was bored with all other forms of entertainment; 
  4. playing with various kinds of animals, including one time where I went missing as a dummy-sucking toddler only to be found walking a bull by its nose ring up to the house by adults who were apparently terrified of approaching me as the bull could turn on me any second, however had enough time to get photographic evidence; 
  5. learning to shoot a shot gun and rifle in my early teens (and almost getting one of the cats by accident); 
  6. having my helium balloon rescued from a tree by an employee my grandfather had get into the front bucket of a JCB that was quickly filling with rain water because I was sick and needed cheering up; 
  7. and the various climbing and exploring opportunities that come from growing up in a 400 year old house with multiple changes and additions made over the years (making it slightly Burrow-esque if the Burrow had to obey the laws of physics), which was built on the site of an ancient Celtic site complete with chieftain's burial ground behind the house, and in an area integral to the war effort meaning the farm hosted loads of relics of the preparations for the possibility that the Nazis might make it to Britain such as tunnels and hiding places. We also heard stories about the balloons the farm hosted to prevent Nazi aircraft from getting through. Whilst in the back fields there were concrete blocks in the ground with huge metal rings to which the balloons had been tied, as the front fields were used for crop a van had been placed in one with a balloon tied to the top. One day the man in the van fell asleep and the van was lifted by the balloon and carried across several fields. The guy received a medal for getting the van back down, although he admitted to my family that it wouldn't have happened in the first place if he'd been awake.
I also had many other experiences that could only come from the combination of unlimited land and my family. A few of these came from our method of waste disposal. Because of our location, getting waste collected was an issue, so as much as possible was burnt. I would put the bin bags in two separate piles, one for burning and one for the dump. My father rarely listened to this but luckily my grandfather or grandmother usually dealt with the waste. Shortly after my school had taken the girls out of lessons to give us the period talk, (When we were 15/16, which was too late for every single person in the room.) I put the free tampon samples in with the bathroom waste as I had been unsuccessful in my attempt to use them. The bathroom waste also contained an empty can of deodorant, so was put in the landfill pile. Unfortunately my father decided to take charge of the burning that week. As he was walking away from the bonfire he'd created there was an explosion, and tampons began raining down over the field.

Another fire story involves my father's hoarding. Whenever I tried throwing things away, I'd get in huge amounts of trouble. But at the beginning of each new relationship he'd be on his best behaviour and would pretend to be a decent human being, so every new girlfriend would decide to help the poor, single guy by cleaning the house for him. I would obviously have to have a preclean leaving the house at just the right level to be 'poor, useless bachelor' without being disgusting. One girlfriend came across something she couldn't identify when cleaning, so decided to just throw it in the burn bag. When my father put it on the bonfire, he and my aunt were talking, when suddenly they heard a shot and something flew past them. My aunt, father, and cousin were all sent running for cover from an armed bonfire.

These weren't the first examples of my father's incompetence with fire. Gorse would be burnt on the farm to stop it taking over, however the bushes would get to impressive sizes before being dealt with. During one burning session, my father decided to cover a bush with an entire gallon of petrol before putting a match to it. Family lore dictates that the bush went up so quickly that he lost his eyebrows and had to back away quickly.

Although my grandmother wasn't much better. One day she decided to be spontaneous and burn rubbish somewhere other than the burning spot that had been used for generations. She chose a spot behind the house. Next to some blackberry bushes. Which were about 10 feet from the house. And 20 feet tall. The fire was noticed when my father went outside to see why a fire engine had arrived and to give them directions to the next farm, where he was certain the real fire must have been...until he realised that his back was unusually warm.

My grandmother betrayed me in another way involving a blackberry bush. Every year we went to pick blackberries from the bushes dotted around the farm so that she could make jam for the world and her dog. One year I was trying to reach a berry from near the top of a bush, and kept inching forward into the bush to try and get it. Suddenly my foot slipped, and I ended up up to my chest in a rabbit hole, unable to get out. My grandmother was laughing too much to rescue me, luckily we were near the house and my grandfather heard the dogs doing their Lassie impersonations.

The dogs rescued my sister, cousins and I a few times. Once, my special needs sister went missing, and every single one of us was searching the house and fields looking for her. Suddenly, those of us in the area nearest the house saw her being marched back over the hill with a German Sheppard on either side.

As we are talking about a farm, there are far too many animal stories to go into right now. So I'll save some of those for another post.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The future leaders of Great Britain.

When I applied for a position as a warden in my University's halls of residence, my intention was to try and make the system fairer and less 'guilty until proven innocent'. The day I moved into halls of residence in my first year, I met my next-door neighbour and she immediately expressed a want to move out of the room she had been given as it was on the ground floor and right next to the road, so she didn't feel she would be safe there. However on the second day, she told me that as there was nothing actually wrong with her room, she wasn't a priority and therefore was at the bottom of the list to be moved. I also shared a corridor with a girl who became my best friend for that year, and with her experimented with my interest in all things 'other', including doing an Ouija board in the hall a couple of times. We spoke with our corridor mates about this, and they had all seemed fine with it. One day a couple of wardens came round to speak to us about noise, which we found very odd considering we generally went to our friends' houses and halls to socialise and didn't arrive back until 4am almost every morning, by which time we'd just want to go straight to our beds. My friend was essentially tea-total and I only drank occasionally in my first year, so we very rarely stumbled in.

Then one day, my neighbour moved out. This was shortly followed by letters summoning us to a disciplinary hearing. We assumed that this would be about noise again, and so prepared to defend ourselves in much the same way as we had with the student wardens who had come to speak to us. However, when we arrived we faced charges of: -
  1. Walking through walls;
  2. Flying two brooms and a mop;
  3. Owning a knife;
  4. and Being generally disturbing.
Throughout the hearing, my friend sat there and didn't speak, and the senior wardens (staff members of the University who deal with major incidents and disciplinary issues) were getting impatient and seemed to think that we were being awkward. So I spoke on our behalf. By the time we got to the question "Why did you fly two brooms and a mop?" I was so exacerbated with the fact that we were having to defend ourselves for defying the laws of physics, which wasn't at all mentioned in the rules for halls of residence, that I responded "Because the carpet wouldn't work." My friend only spoke when she was asked why she had some tissue sticking out from under her cap, which she was only wearing because when we'd left our respective rooms and I discovered that she'd dressed ready for the goth night we'd been invited to after the hearing, complete with fake blood all over her forehead, I'd begged her to put a hat over it and she'd added the tissue to stop the fake blood from smudging. She responded by saying she'd hit her head on a door, and was asked if she'd been trying to walk through it at the time. Then, at the end of the hearing, I was accused of leading my goth friend astray, as I was obviously the ringleader of the group. Despite the fact that the kitchen knife they were referring to belonged to her. We were of course found guilty on all counts and told not to do any of it again.

A few weeks later, my friend and two of our friends from other halls, went on a ghost hunt somewhere. I'd decided not to join them for some reason. Then at some point I received a call from my friend saying "(my name) help us! Call someone! Call someone!" then the call cut off. I didn't have a clue what to do, so wandered into the corridor to see if anyone was still awake. I found one person awake, and he said that if I was worried I should call security, which I did. I explained what had happened to security and said that I didn't know what to do. They said that they'd deal with the situation and told me to wait in my room. As they were taking the issue seriously, I really began to worry.

Then, I saw my friend, and the mutual friend I had known had gone with her, walking up to the hall. I wanted to express my displeasure with their behaviour, so immediately started mimicking the more senior members of my family whenever I misbehaved as a child, and started my tirade with "You are in so much trouble..." (but left off the young lady) then went to call security to say that they were alive and well. However security were already on their way to the hall, so when the security guy got there, he started talking about charges of wasting police time as helicopters and sniffer dogs had been sent out to find them. We later found out that this was a lie designed to teach my friends a lesson. When questioned, my friends disclosed that another of our mutual friends had been with them. She was then given the same treatment by security.

The two mutual friends freaked out, and went to their tutors for help. During my A-level exams, I had had an awful time with my chest and spent the entire time drugged well beyond my eyeballs with painkillers. As a result, at the start of one of my Italian exams, I couldn't remember my own name, and after spending 10 minutes trying to think of it was about to put up my hand to ask what it was when I remembered that we had little cards on our desks with our names and exam numbers, so copied my name off the card. My friends shared this story as proof that I am mentally unstable and unreliable as a witness. Despite the fact that one of them had nicknamed me 'the novelty dictophone' as the photographic memory that I still had at the time (when not drugged up) meant that I could relay conversations back word for word, but with every word in my regional accent. Their tutors contacted the senior wardens, who came down hard on security for scaring my friends, and as a result security's report reflected my friends' version of events. I was therefore found guilty of lying to security about the phone call in my disciplinary hearing because security's report disagreed with me on the phone call from my friend. The fact that security couldn't give a first-hand report on something that they didn't witness didn't come into it.

So, when I was offered the warden role, I intended to try and make the system fairer and be a more easy-going warden. However, I was placed in the hall notorious for its end-of-year riots (the one before had seen damage worth more than £20k in one night), and its smaller riots throughout the year. My friends found it funny that I would talk about the damage done after specific 'incidents' with phrases such as "Surprisingly, it was only a normal Tuesday night level of damage" or "They managed to do a Thursday night level of damage!" The building is closest to the nightclub most frequented by local youths, so those that live out of town regularly use the building as somewhere to go until the buses are running again, and the layout of the building means that once you're in the building you can get absolutely anywhere. There's also something about the building that gives every student a certain fondness for damage, destruction, and feces.

So, on my first night on call, it was the third night of Freshers' week. As the keys for the building are similar enough to each other that each key opens more than one bedroom if you wiggle it right, on the first two nights my colleagues received complaints that the second year boys had been letting themselves in to the first year girls' rooms wearing Halloween masks, waking them up and scaring the lives out of them. So on my night on call I went for a walk around the building talking to the students. I went to one room where a bunch of girls were listening to music, and one girl told me that the boys that had been going around their rooms were in a room down the corridor, from where I could here a bunch of male voices. Just as I asked her what made her think it was these boys, the noise level in the room she was talking about went up, so I walked over to the doorway to see what was going on. As I got there, I saw a boy hanging on to the door of the cupboard above his wardrobe and walking up the wardrobe. The cupboard door then came off in his hands and he landed on his back in the middle of the room. As I'd seen him starting to sit up before his friends surrounded him, I wasn't pushing too hard to get to him. Then I heard one of the boys shout "Oh my god, you're bleeding!" so I shouted "Right!" and shoved them out of the way. I called security to tell them I had a head injury that was gushing, and they asked me if I could move him to the foyer. I told them I'd rather not as his wound was bleeding quite a lot and I should treat it straight away, and they told me that I had to move him to the foyer first. When we got to the foyer, there were about 50 students having a food fight. I ignored them, grabbed a chair, sat him next to the door, and started cleaning his wound. One of the food fighters came up to me and asked if he could help. I told him he couldn't as he had food on his hands and he'd get it in the wound, to which he responded "Pleeeeeeeeeease!" By this point I'd finished cleaning the 'casualty' up and was just applying pressure with a dressing pad, so I told him that he could help me put pressure on by applying pressure to my own head, which he promptly did. He then shouted across the room "Guys! Guys! Come and help!" At which point all 50 of them dropped their food and ran to make a chain of people spiralling around the room with a hand on the head of the person in front, starting with me and my 'casualty'. Food fight stopped without me even having to lift a finger. When security arrived they spent a minute or so staring before coming over to me to see what the problem was.

When he was packed off to hospital, the crowd dispersed, leaving their food all over the floor. The senior warden and I cleaned a bit of it up so that the floor wasn't an accident waiting to happen, and I started heading up the stairs to my room. As I was on the last few steps to my floor, a bucket of water landed on the steps in front of me, narrowly missing me. I, again, shouted "Right!" and started running up the stairs. From the top floor I heard "Shit! It's the warden!" and running. I got on the corridor, and there was water and bubble bath foam everywhere, so I called the senior warden and sent him up the other staircase with security to see if they could find the culprits. Walking down the corridor I found a guy and a girl fully clothed in the bath, with very little water left in it but foam all over them, the bath, the walls, the floor, and even some on the ceiling. I asked them what they were doing and they responded that they'd been dirty. The senior warden and I started mopping the floor so that no one slipped, when he saw someone stick their head out of a bedroom door behind me. He told me to go and take the names and room numbers of the people in the room as the girl had been wet. When I knocked on the door, a completely dry girl answered. She stepped back when I asked who was in the room to reveal one person sat cross-legged on the floor with their hands over their eyes, one sat upright on the bed with a duvet over their head, one stood next to the window holding a table lamp in front of their face, and one stood the other side of an open wardrobe door with their breasts, stomach and nose sticking out. It took me about 10 minutes to convince them that I could, indeed, see all of them, before I could start trying to convince them to give me their names.

There are so many stories from my year as a warden that it will probably take forever for me to cover all of them. But some that can be bullet-pointed include: -
  1. People filling a paddling-pool in their kitchen with water from their kettle;
  2. Henry the hoover being violated;
  3. A wall on the 6th floor being knocked down and carried bit by bit to the 2nd floor;
  4. A break-in to the hall next door where someone had a poo in the corridor and smeared some of it over a girl's bedroom door;
  5. The cleaners subsequently sharing all of their poo stories like the one found on the pool table and the one they found in the lift that looked like an aubergine;
  6. One of the suspects describing his diarrhoea in detail to prove that he couldn't have been the one who left the solid log in the next hall;
  7. The damage report after one cocaine-filled rampage including 6 broken fire doors, a broken fire extinguisher which was used to break the fire doors,27 broken ceiling tiles found in the quad, a broken wall, and 3 smashed tomatoes;
  8. The piles of vomit in different neon colours spotted around the place showing which alcopops had been consumed that evening;
  9. The strange dragging noise I heard outside my room which made me worried that there was finally a body, that turned out to be a girl dragging a traffic cone the same size as her right past my living room door, and the following "Ooopsie. I'll just leave this here..." without me having a chance to process the sight.
  10. Leaving my room to find a police car on the car park and going to retrieve the student who'd been given a lift home instead of arrested because it was his birthday - it was something like his 4th birthday so far that year.
 I've just remembered that the head wound/food fight/water fight night was actually the fourth night of the week and my second night on call, which would make sense as that was a Wednesday night level of activity and damage. My first night on call, and the very first night of the year, I found a guy unconscious at the bottom of a flight of stairs with a bin on its side next to him (which had obviously not come from anywhere nearby, making me wonder how far he'd fallen). I ran up to him, and after a few seconds managed to wake him. It turned out he hadn't fallen down the stairs, he'd just gotten tired and decided to go to sleep, and someone else had decided that he needed someone to sleep with him and, not being able to find a girl willing to do the job, had fetched a bin. Panic over.