Sofa, so good

A recent visit to to my son’s student house at University could be best described as interesting, although realistically it showed that accommodation had not changed that much since my day. In fact, I think I spotted our old armchair in the corner.

Their sofa was represented by pile of cushions, but they did have the luxury of a deep freezer and washing machine. As a student I’d have cheerfully traded any of my furniture for either of those (bed included). With a bit of rearranging Alex’s housemates could use the washing machine and freezer as the sides of the sofa, a kitchen counter for the base and perhaps a bookcase for the back. Being university students it would not be an inconvenience never to get access to any of their books.

We could not have used our student bookcase to stabilise anything as it was a bricks and planks structure, no cement/fixings (too expensive). It relied on gravity to keep itself upright, a trick several of our friends regularly kept failing to master after about 6pm. I believe this bookcase design is now a classic (likewise the gravity-compliant design of my mates).

We didn’t have a sofa, so had to construct one out of a couple of crates, two double mattresses which we had found in a skip and a large piece of material which we bought from a bucket shop sale. That bright orange wasn’t attractive even in the colour-clash tolerant 70’s. It lives in my nightmares to this day.

My car at the time was an ancient Ford Cortina, Charlie, costing £50. I bought it with our intended electric meter money so the vendor got paid with an enormous pile of loose change. No lights at home, but we had wheels.

A couple of friends and I decided to travel in Charlie to a party 90 miles away from our home slum in London. This gave real meaning to shake, rattle and roll. Predictably, we broke down, but didn’t mind too much as we had a bottle of wine with us. Dead battery meant no radio or lights, hence we stuck a lit candle to the gear stick so one of us could read aloud from the recently published Book of Heroic Failures. Being students, we had a corkscrew, but no glasses. so drank from the lid of a can of oil.

We had a brilliant time, downing large oilcapfuls of wine, shrieking with laughter at the BoHF, which is hilarious even when not stuck on a heath at 10pm in full evening kit with two friends.

The breakdown truck came and pronounced the car dead on arrival. We were given the choice of sensibly returning home or carrying on, possibly arriving at a lake in the middle of nowhere at midnight. Easy decision. Charlie was loaded onto the pickup and we all piled into the cab. Deprived of the candle to read by, we turned to music. In full and robust voice we sang our way through the New Forest, obligingly performing request numbers for the driver’s central control who, lucky for them, could hear us in full throttle on their radio. First time we’d arrived in a 10 ton truck to a party, hoarse but happy.

So, with the wisdom of hindsight, what would I advise my son? Never set off in a car that might dump you?  If you do get stuck , don’t down a substantial proportion of a bottle of wine because then you might make a dodgy decision if you have to call the emergency services?

I’d say none of these. Stick to being safe, but have fun.

Now I need to go and build a desk for my other son. No longer being a student I can afford a bit of luxury. Yup, I’m going to use nails.


About alisongardiner1

Writer of YA series of books. Broadcaster/podcaster Litopia After Dark.
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