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The Rovers Return
You probably noticed. I definitely did. About five minutes after gingerly steering my mum’s car in the direction of the Designer Outlet (not to shop, but to repeatedly practise reverse parking), I was faced with an onslaught of traffic from every direction at the A19 roundabout.
After weighing up how legal it might be to execute one of my special 12-point turns on a main road, I simply gritted my teeth and prepared for a morning of extensive clutch-control. A quick scan of the road told me all I needed to know. Cars stuffed to the brim with books, clothes, bikes, Sainsbury’s Basics and stolen traffic cones – yes, the day the students flock back to York brings automobile chaos second only to the horror of the Races.
Yet, initial traffic jams aside, the termly return is always a bit of an ordeal, as my fellow students will know. I know that for me, chugging down the A1 truly feels like voyaging to a distant country. The food is definitely different. At university, canned tuna and pesto on crumpets is haute cuisine. When three essays, a stack of reading and a college pub crawl are all jostling for the same deadline, food becomes necessary fuel; a drain on time that could be better spent in the library. Meat is expensive and slightly too scary to cook, which means my friends and I are forced to follow an almost exclusively vegetarian diet to avoid food poisoning and stay in the black. Of course, then, arriving feels like Christmas on repeat. I love living in a world where people can be bothered to fry sausages and mash potatoes, rather than slap some mouldy marge on a blackened bit of toast to prevent tell-tale stomach rumbling in lectures. Welcome home, indeed.
And then there’s the culture shock. It never fails to hit every time I descend the A1. Surrounded as I am by wealthy Londonites and wealthier Etonians, the standard response that greets the statement ‘I’m from York’ is ‘Oh. Up, then.’ Which might seem strange, but I’m finding I’m guilty of the same prejudices. Just the other day, after trawling BBC Weather’s South East pages for Cambridge updates my – admittedly shaky – grasp of British geography was rocked to its core when I found that the BBC believe my university is, in fact, in the Midlands. Surely not? But at least I always know that, Midlands or Southlands, every eight weeks I can recharge my batteries in a place where people speak my language; where I’m cack-handed, gormless and mardy and fish and chips is ‘One of each’.
Then there’s the jet lag. At home, I can’t help but adapt to the family body clock – a graceful exit to the land of Nod just after the 10 o’clock news followed by an early morning is just what the doctor ordered. But, when home away from home, the guilt that comes with spiralling progressively further into student debt means that attempting to fall asleep earlier than 2am is often interrupted by the impending doom emanating from a teetering pile of medieval literature that needs translating/a non-existent dissertation that needs writing/the intimidatingly large copy of Paradise Lost that needs reading (delete as appropriate).
Actually, debt guilt is only partially to blame for the insomnia. Another monster under the bed is the terrible premonition that, thanks to The Dave and Nick Show, I'm probably one of the last of my generation who will be able to undertake an arts degree without stonkingly rich parents. Even past the witching hour, sleep seems a relatively small sacrifice compared to that. I’ll just self-medicate with a Red Bull.
And then there’s the culture shock. It never fails to hit every time I descend the A1. Surrounded as I am by wealthy Londonites and wealthier Etonians, the standard response that greets the statement ‘I’m from York’ is ‘Oh. Up, then.’