‘Are you actually going to leave me here?’ I said to my mum. What did I expect her to do? Maybe, I still believed in the miraculous power mums have: you complain to them, and after a stern word with the person responsible you find yourself in a more desirable position. But this was not to be the case. This was to be my lasting memory of my first day of university, of Bateson Halls, and the beginning of maturity.
Bateson wasn’t a luxury penthouse, like most student accommodation. It is by far the cheapest by at least thirty quid. In fact a myth floats around that it was formerly a prison, and many people believe it to be true. This was probably largely down to that the accommodation lacked any charm; it screamed frugal. But thanks to this horrid building, it left me enough money for my twenty pound per week food budget, and a small amount for other costs – books for my course and entertainment. I could afford to stay out of work, focusing on my degree.
The building was determined to test my faith – like Satan with Jesus, in the desert. My room stank – this was to be a mystery that would take a month to solve when a pair of clean shorts with this same strange odour revealed a dark patch on the paneled flooring that had somehow went amiss – and to add to the misery I was one of a lucky four residents whose windows looked out onto the earthy brick walls. The Halls wanted me out.
The brick wall blocked made natural light a luxury for me. My room enjoyed it for only one hour everyday and maybe half an hour longer in the summer when it wasn’t overcast – a frequent occurrence in England. I relied heavily on the corridor lights to create the illusion of natural light as having my own on gave me a headache. No natural light, no friends, and missing the sight of Swindon just brought my mood down, and I often wonder, now, how anyone put up with me during these early days.
I had so many conflicts with my housemates, which luckily never escalated beyond passive aggressive notes. I’m sure most students can share their horror stories, especially when it comes to shared toilets. I could go into the details of the horrific sights in the toilets, but from what I’ve heard I should be grateful this was the extent it got to. I plunged the early days of my flat into tyranny, as I placed informative posters everywhere reminding people of practices that should be innate – how to properly clean the loo. I came across as closed off, too determined to replicate home. It took at least half the year for me to see Portsmouth, and especially Bateson, as a home, somewhere I didn’t mind spending every day in. I can’t point out the day I accepted a compromise with my housemates, but I wished I had learnt sooner that I needed to be more adaptable.
I heard people complain about their halls of residence, which really aggravated me a lot. These people had the cheek to sit in their penthouse overlooking the shoreline, rooms that made my bedroom look inhumane, with their own toilets and shower facilities and complain about their situation. My standpoint on this hasn’t changed. My anger is justified, but it doesn’t go to the same extent anymore. It is all relative, and if you don’t know how bad Bateson is, how are you to know that you live in luxury? This isn’t something that bothers me anymore because even outside of lectures and seminars, my living conditions were an important life lesson.
Bateson took me from my snobby attitude, my reliance on my parents, and away from the comfort of my true home, Swindon, and made me appreciate my standing in life. I’ve been able to mould myself into a person, a new Nathan, the Nathan I want and should be. By removing myself from the comfort of my mother’s home, I was boundless in what life I could lead. I reshaped myself in this less than desirable environment, learning a good lesson of humility. I can sympathise with those whose homes are even less liveable because your living space can have an adverse effect on your mentality and behaviour. I left my first year a stronger person, and while I would rather this memory remain a memory, if I had the chance of living elsewhere and avoiding the whole Bateson ordeal, I would stick with my choice.
This is where I grew up.