Tag Archives: student

“Can You Drink the Water in Scotland?”

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Hello, dear reader!  Happy Friday!

Despite the lovely weather and the cheerful atmosphere, mid July has become the time of year that lots of people associate with stress.  In years gone by it was the worst point during the long wait for exam results, and not so very long ago it meant the end of another university year, and the inevitable drinking/farewells/moving house that followed.  These days, a lot of my friends find this time of year stressful, exciting and nerve-racking because we are about to pack our bags and trundle 400 miles up the road to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

There are some very specific things that southerners (Londoners in particular) feel and experience when they make the performance pilgrimage to the capital of Scotland.  Here are a few of my favourites:

Coffee Conundrum: the moment when you realise that it will be easier to meet a friend for coffee when you’re both at the Fringe than it would to try and organise something in London, even thought you live a twenty-minute tube ride apart.

Tourist Tantrum: resenting the tourists all over the Royal Mile, even though you’re just as much of a visitor as they are.  (Except a friend of mine who, before coming up to visit us while we were performing in 2012, genuinely asked us whether you could drink the water in Scotland.)

Regression Renegades: no matter how sensible you are or how long it’s been since your student days, the second you get to the Fringe you take advantage of the fact that every drinking establishment is open til 5am.

Fan Phenomenon: people go and see dozens of shows during the festival, but every so often you come across a show that turns you into an instant fan of the performers.  It’s amazing to find that you can get just as involved with and passionate about the work of non-famous (but fabulous) people as you do about the main players on London stages.

The Edinburgh Bar Principle: something I mentioned in this article I wrote for Everything Theatre – you never know who you’re going to meet at the festival, including very drunk, very interesting or very famous people.  You may even find yourself photo-bombing Rhod Gilbert and having him call you a maverick.

Whatever you’re up to this summer, I hope you have as much fun as physically possible.  Give me a shout if you’re planning on being at the Fringe.

Have an unbelievably brilliant weekend.

Get Thee to a Wetherspoons

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Hello, lovely reader.  How are you?  Have you completed your challenge to take a chance yet?  I’m about to do mine and I’m terrified, so don’t worry about it too much.

My birthday is coming up soon, and the plan for the day is to get a load of friends round, eat a lot of cake and then go to the pub.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  It won’t be.  I haven’t chosen a pub yet.  I was seriously considering the Montague Pyke in Piccadilly, because it’s large, central and pretty cheap, but I’ve been shouted down by some friends of mine who have better taste (and more experience of the Montague Pyke) than I do.  The hunt continues for a large, central, cheap pub in London.  And for my missing pet unicorn, Ephraim.

I know that I’m a “grown up” now, and I should have acquired a taste for the finer (or at least less rubbish) things in life, but deep down I’m still a student and my heart belongs to Wetherspoons pubs.  Here are five reasons why:

1) Consistency
Any Wetherspoons in any part of the country serves the same drinks, food and surly sarcasm.  You know where you stand with a Wetherspoons menu.  Even in the farthest flung corner of the British Isles (Inverness), I can tell you for a fact that the only difference between that menu and the ones in my local is the addition of neeps and tatties as a side.

2) Price
So it’s not the most glamorous place in the world.   You won’t come across any sultry jazz music or atmospheric lighting in a Wetherspoons pub, but you will be able to buy a pint without remortgaging your internal organs.  I don’t really care if there’s a group of asshats making too much noise in the booth next door, or the toilets are a ten minute walk away; the beer is cheap.

3) The toilets are a ten minute walk away
Which is good for you.  Exercise and all that.

4) Something for everyone
I feel very, very sorry for my friends, because going out for dinner with me is a nightmare.  My dietary requirements include a lethal (and I mean lethal) allergy, an intolerance of casein (because lactose is too mainstream, apparently), and a lifestyle choice to give up carbs.  It’s a wonder that my friends can even look at me sometimes, let alone sit in a restaurant with me.  But in a Wetherspoons, all of that goes away: the extensive menu has something for everyone, no matter what kind of allergy/faddy diet/craving you’re restricted by.  Problem solved.

5) Remember the good times
Remember that story about a friend of mine who re-enacted the Stations of the Cross with a burger, chips and excessive ketchup?  (It’s here if you’re floundering – don’t feel bad, I tell a lot of stories and most of them involve a slightly strange friend.)  That is just one of literally hundreds of happy memories I have that took place in a Wetherspoons pub.  From the New Crown in my beloved Southgate to the Westgate Inn in Canterbury (hour for hour I think spent more time in there than I did on my university campus), and back to where it all began in the Wetherspoons pubs of Watford and Rickmansworth: I owe Wetherspoons some of the best nights (and mornings after) of my life.  Christmas Eve with my best mate doing uni essays, inventing very complicated drinking games that involved stealing books, meeting some of my now closest friends, falling in love, getting into arguments, re-enacting stuff with food (it became a recurring issue), laughing until we cried: all of the best and most ridiculous things in my life have happened to me in a Wetherspoons pub.  It’s not glamorous, but it’s fun.

So.  Where shall we go for lunch?