"This is the book of life I should have read before leaving university in London.
It's got it all.
Sex, sex tourism, drugs, alcohol, alcoholism, prostitution & suicide.
In my search for sex and sobriety I travel from London to Amsterdam; to San Francisco, California; to Bangkok & Pattaya in Thailand and to Manila, Angeles City & Subic Bay in the Philippines.
Don't end up a loser like me.
Read this book."
- Paul Pisces
Chapter 4: University Dropout
I arrive the day before the first day of term and make my way to the Westfield College's accommodation office because I have heard a rumour that some rooms might be available for 2nd year students. No luck.
I enter the student bar and find the other guys sitting drinking. Unlike me they are well organised. They tell me that they arrived in London early and have already rented a small, cheap (dilapidated) 3-bedroom house and they are basically sorted. Two other second-year friends Kim (male) and Peter yesterday took the last college room going. Oh shit! I didnít realise it was going to be this difficult to get accommodation. The guys suggest I sleep on a couch at their house but as itís miles away I decide to bed down in a common room for the time being. Something will turn up wonít it?
After a month of this I get depressed. The courses are dull, the novelty of university has worn off and Iím fed up with sleeping in a common room. Lou is at teacher training college in Chichester and my misery is so complete that neither talking to her on the phone nor her frequent letters can cheer me up. I decide Iíve had enough of studying. I tell my tutor and my friends Iím leaving. I leave.
Back home with my parents I do cheer up. My older brother James is at university in London (not Westfield) reading Classical Studies (bet that will come in useful) so I get his room. My younger brother Robert is at school or out doing his Hospital Radio presenting or some such. Heís no bother. The worldís my oyster and I begin looking for a job.
Time passes and it begins to dawn on me. Nobody wants a university dropout. Nobody wants a failure when there is a surplus of successes. Nobody wants me. I begin to despair. I buy bottles of vodka and drink alone in my room until I get happy. (I am a happy drunk.) As I drink my mind races, looking for the way forward. After about 6 weeks, I come to the realisation that I must phone my tutor and beg to be allowed to return to university. What a humiliation.
I have a large vodka. And another. I pick up the phone and dial.
"Hello" says a voice.
"Hello. Is that Dr. Greene? Itís Paul here. I left a while ago. Do you remember?"
"Hello Paul. Yes of course I remember. How are you?"
"Not too good actually Dr.Greene. I want to come back. Come back and study. Is that possible?"
Dr. Greene becomes serious.
"Well Paul, you havenít actually officially left. Thereís nothing in writing. You can come back anytime but youíve missed a lot of work."
He sounds very neutral. Not at all encouraging. He wasnít happy I left. He was my principal lecturer and he led the second year biochemistry course.
"OK. Iíll be back on Monday" I exclaim gleefully.
Yes, yes, yes! I havenít actually officially left. Thatís official. Whether he likes it or not Iím back in. The light at the end of the tunnel is switched back on. I have another vodka.
I drive back to London on Sunday and go and visit the guys in their dilapidated house. They have fantastic news for me because they have heard that Peter has just moved out of the room he shares with Kim to go and live with his girlfriend. This means there is a spare bed in the college.
Itís 9am Monday and I report to the college accommodation officer. I tell him my story and find he is not amused.
"Why didnít you tell us earlier that you were having trouble finding accommodation!" he retorts.
Because I didnít bloody well know youíd do anything about it, I think to myself while looking remorseful. He explains that the room Kim is in is supposed to be a guest room for visitors to the college and not student accommodation. I look very remorseful indeed.
"All right, since Kim is already in the room you might as well have the spare bed."
Yes, yes, yes! I am saved. The Red Sea has parted and the Israelites can move forward. A resounding success.
I find Kim in our room listening to a tape of the Police. "Canít stand losing you" is echoing off the walls and down the corridor. The room is a bit bigger and better appointed than the normal student rooms and there is a bathroom and toilet directly opposite the door. Kim turns the volume down on his cassette player and I throw the bags I am carrying onto the unoccupied bed.
"Hi Kim, hope you donít mind getting a new roommate."
"No, thatís fine" says Kim "I was a bit worried that with Peter gone the college might pressure me to move out. You do know this is really a guest room."
"Yeah they told me."
Kimís a good bloke, a bit like Paul but even quieter. By lucky chance heís another biochemist (theyíre everywhere at Westfield) and we get on fine. Over the next few weeks he helps me to try and catch up on all the work Iíve missed. I start to relax and begin to pine for Louisa.
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