Thank God It's Friday

29th September 1995 at 01:00
Monday: 11:30am. I force my eyelids open to face some very physical facts - a pounding head and a throat feeling like the bottom of a parrot's cage. Big John (best buddy, beer beast) has left for Manchester University this morning.

A tear comes to my eye. Not because of Big John's departure, rather a physical recall of last night's extra hot Balti devoured in rememberance. At midday Mum phones. "Are we still going to Argos today?" My own future is looming. In five days I'm leaving for university too - there's mountains to be done. Toaster: Pounds 10.99, kettle: Pounds 9.98, mandatory equipment for first-year students.

The shopping trip takes a lot out of me and by 3pm I'm ready for a siesta. Then I'm reminded of the punctures to be repaired on the bike I'm supposed to be taking to college.

Tuesday: I prepare a new batch of home-brew. Like any student would, I add twice as much sugar as I should. It'll make a stronger beer, I tell myself, knowing that at best it will end up a horribly sweet, yeasty brew. At worst the fermentation barrel will explode, plastering me and my bedsit.

Next I empty my entire chest of drawers into the middle of my room and begin the selection generally known as packing. Piles labelled "throw away" and "charity shop" grow to precarious heights. The pile labelled "take to uni" consists of a loud shirt and a pair of velvet flares. I decide I can't afford a new wardrobe so I merge the "charity shop" and "take to uni" piles together, basket them up and stash downstairs for an immediate wash.

Wednesday: The washing is done and nearly dry so I stuff as much as I can into a large battered suitcase. That horrible shirt and the velvet trousers won't fit so I add both to the "throw away" pile.

"Aren't you going to iron all that stuff?" asks my Mum, who should know better. I tell her I'm a real student now.

I go to visit Granny for the last time before going away and I'm furnished with crocks for college: a 1970s mustard-coloured tea pot set, with a sunflower pattern and a matching sugar bowl. Dead handy.

Later, when the house is asleep, I change my mind about being a real student and sneak downstairs for a late night ironing session.

Thursday: Another day of shopping when my Mum remembers I need a suit and drags me around Top Man, Next and Burtons to find one. "Mum," I whimper, "you still don't get it. I don't have to look smart to be a student."

She agrees and leads me into cut-price menswear. Back at home I find seven overdue library books - the product of a lengthy reading list that first grabbed my enthusiasm, then resulted in nothing read and Pounds 3 in fines.

Friday: I begin to realise that everything I need to take tomorrow just won't fit into a single case so I get a large cardboard box from the corner shop.

Mum's wrapped in a towel when I get back, plundering my pile of clothes. "I said you couldn't take my bathroom scales," she hollers, dragging the offending item from between two sweaters.

Finally I'm ready and I sit on my bed staring at the poster-less walls - no music to listen to because the stereo's packed, nothing to read because my bookshelves are empty.

An early night is favourite, then the phone rings and everything changes. "It's our last night," Big Paul says, "do you fancy going out for a Balti to celebrate?"

Gideon Burrows took A-levels at King Edward VI Sixth Form College, Stourbridge. This term he takes up a place at Mansfield College, Oxford, to study philosophy and theology.

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