Hello hello hello dear reader!
Have I got a tale for you! All of it, by the way, 100% true.
I live in Founders Hall at Royal Holloway, a building set up to house the originally all-female students of Thomas Holloway’s boarding school, which was constructed in 1886 in memory of his beloved wife.
The building is teeming with ghosts; in one room on the 5th floor a girl murdered herself and the blood spilled so violently that it leaked into the rooms below, the stain has been painted over many times over the years, but the blood continues to seep through. During an exam held in the art gallery here at the school a boy attempted to take his own life by stabbing himself in the eye with a pencil. The whole time he was screaming, “The eyes! The eyes!”.
This was apparently due to possession by a painting with very fierce looking polar bears on it. To this very day whenever exams are held in the room the university mandates that the painting be covered by a Union Jack.
Not all the ghosts are so malevolent though; the ghost of Tom Holloway himself is said to wander Founder’s at night, watching over his students and looking for his wife. And the ghost of his wife, a miss Jane Holloway, can be seen in the form of a black cat which will implore you to follow but never allow you close enough to touch.
The university as a whole has grown quite a bit; adding pubs and residences and class rooms and labs and a few obvious changes have been made such as the addition of Wifi, a Starbucks and running water. But, all that aside, the building remains a Victorian vision of Hogwartsian beauty.
And it comes with all the Victorian problems.
The building is insulated with Hay and Paraffin. This makes it the second most flammable building in all of England and the 7th in all of the UK. The whole thing would go up in 6 minutes and is built in such a way that it will collapse in on itself. (Don’t panic mum I am right by the emergency exit.)
Due to this insulation issue the building often runs out of hot water for weeks at a time. Now, not bathing every week might have been acceptable in the good old days but a few nights ago I couldn’t stand myself any longer. I had to brave the frigid water before the grease in my hair started frying under the harsh fluorescents of the in-lecture lamps.
I got my friend Yasmin, who in a display of true bravery has agreed to let me use her real name in the tale of extreme hilarity that is to follow. She is indeed a friend that I know will last lifetimes.
So, after hopping corridors (each corridor has a bathroom, so a few toilets and one shower per every 10 -11 girls) because we were told that some corridors still had hot water (a lie) Yasmin and I each get into a shower stall.
The water is freezing.
And when I say freezing I don’t mean lukewarm. I mean it is holy-f**k-polar-bears-couldn’t-even-handle-this-sh*t-if-they-were-wearing-a-self-insulating-snuggie-it-is-so-cold-that-it-feels-like-it-burns! freezing.
I managed to get my hair wet. After standing there for a good 5 minutes psyching myself up about my Canadianess I stood under that water cursing a blue streak. I managed to get shampoo rubbed in, a whole 3 minutes under that freaking water, but I was not able to wash the shampoo out.
So I am half clean.
In the stall next to me Yasmin is unable to stand under the water, not because she isn’t tough, but because she has a joint disorder that gets incredibly painful when she is cold. Think arteritis but with ice and a jack-hammer.
At this point I can no longer stand the cold. So I jump out of the shower and start running the tap. This produces lukewarm water. I stand at the sink attempting to wash the shampoo out of my hair by bending over and trying to soak my whole head. My head is of course too large for this sink and this presents several interesting feats of flexibility on my part.
Suddenly I hear Yasmin’s water stop running. Her own series of shrieks had stopped as well. My hearing is muffled from the tap water running over my head but I am still able to make out Yasmin very distinctly pounding on my door.
“Let me in!”
I respond, laughing:
“What? Why? I’m naked.”
She continues. In a manner more desperate than before:
“I don’t care! I’m so cold!”
I take a moment to consider. I look down at my naked body; I feel the shampoo still trickling down my back, the weak, lukewarm tap water only partially able to remove it. Then I decide that at this point; screw it, might as well let her in.
The poor girl sits wrapped in a towel, shivering violently. I feel terrible but I am determined to get clean. Standing at the sink I rise, lather, shave, scrub and rinse again. Until, finally. I achieve an acceptable level of cleanliness.
Yasmin has not been so lucky. She reached the same level as me in the showering process but was unable to wash off in the sink. We made our way back to our hall, and I was in absolute stiches, what a predicament!
Here is a girl who I have known for maybe 2 weeks who has now seen me stark raving naked. And I was (am) perfectly ok with that. This girl was also sopping wet, freezing cold, and still not clean.
Said girl, is also brilliant.
As determined as she was to have her own shower, Yasmin came up with a brilliant plan. She filled a large and clean coke-o-cola bottle with half boiling water from the kettle in our pantry (kitchen) and half cool tap water.
The perfect temperature.
My job then became filling the bottle to the appropriate temperature and returning to the shower stall where she would let me in, lather, have my pour the water over top of her so she could clean off. I was in my pajamas by this point and trying desperately not to soak myself.
Yasmin and I had now both seen each other in all our naked glory, impressive specimens that we are, and I know for certain that we have forged a bond that cannot by any means be broken.
This is really what university is about; getting into and out of bizarre circumstances, making friends who share stories that make you laugh and cry and leaning more about yourself and others than you ever wanted to know.
I sincerely hope these are the kinds of experiences everyone will get to have in life because they call for ingenuity and humor and collaboration. 3 of humanities best traits if I do say so myself.
Ta ta for now!