Sunday, 26 August 2007

Warning! Subversive content!

Well who knew?! It seems my blog is blocked by the Chinese authorities. Me and the BBC both, so I'm in good company. I wonder what I said that was so controversial. Maybe my plot to reinstate the Dalai Lama. Or my anti-Maoist propaganda campaign. Or possibly because, underneath my demure and conservative-with-a-small-c exterior I am a closet raving Trotskyite...

Last year I shared a uni flat with a Chinese girl. Actually several Chinese girls, since she sub-let for most of the year, with casual disregard to the HMO [Houses of Multiple Occupancy] by-laws. It's not until you move out of the UK that you realise what a huge joke these must be to the rest of the world. Back in April, I read ads seeking 'third girl to share middle bed under kitchen table, 'Stare Miasto' - read 'within the ring road', - 200zł pcm'. So much for regulation common space per occupant.
Living in postgrad halls was a lot less fun than undergrad. All the bedrooms had fire doors and people largely avoided eye contact in the corridors (possibly because they were hiding from the housing inspectors). Also, due to abovementioned lack of communication, the little things would build up, day after day, into Major Diplomatic Incidents. Such as, for example, pans of oily seaweedy goo rotting on the stove top for four days consecutively; brackish water allowed to drip off draining board into cutlery drawer; Some Else Finishing Your Milk; and, worst of all, lack of proficiency with toilet brush.

Typically, the rage boils and bubbles within you for days, spreading its dark tentacles throughout your being, so that you can be sitting calmly in the library or language lab and suddenly find yourself furious because you imagine your kitchenmate has almost certainly used Your Mug again and left it to fester down the side of their bed, leaving you with inadequate tea-drinking equipment when you have a huge translation to do and three shifts at the pub this weekend.
At a certain point, you realise Something Must Be Done.
You decide to write An Angry Little Note.
Yeah- that'll Really show them.
You spend the rest of the afternoon in the library crafting your missive. Generally it will begin: 'Would the person who ... kindly make sure that...' and so on.
Upon your return, you bluetack this note to the kitchen door, or leave it slap bang in the centre of the table. Then you go back to work in your room, but you can't stop thinking about The Note. Was it too strong? Will the drippingly sarcastic mock polite tone simply bounce off a non-native English speaker? Are you Absolutely Sure that you didn't just leave the mug down the side of your own bed?
After half an hour of anxiety and unproductiveness at your desk, you leap up, dash to the kitchen, tear up the note and throw it in the bin. Then you extract your mug from underneath the bathroom sink, where you left it half-full of Barcardi Gold and lime two nights ago when cleaning your teeth after spending the evening in the company of America's Finest (CSI Miami), wash it up and replace it in the communal cupboard, to demonstrate trust and good faith.
Two hours later, your fellow tenants return from the library beaming, blissfully unaware of your crockery-related agonies. Racked with guilt, you are charm personified to them for the rest of the evening.

Next morning, the cupboard is bereft of tea-vessels.
You eventually manage to improvise some sort of brown infusion in a stolen pint glass, with considerable burn damage to fingertips, before staggering uphill to the library, suffering severe caffeine deprivation.
Halfway through the morning, you remember that you were definitely the last person to buy loo roll, and the whole cycle begins again...

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