According to Will Self, 70% of the world's nutters are in University in some shape or form. In a way it makes sense. Universities are inhabited by people who spend lifetimes focusing on something so small and intricate, that they often lose any sense of reality. Communication with the environment becomes a burden rather than necessity. Wearing white socks with sandals all of a sudden sounds like a good idea. But that's not to say these people are bona fide nutters. They are simply eccentric. But the most eccentric of these most definitely strayed into nutter territory. This series of blog posts is dedicated to these weird and wonderful (when they are not your flatmates) people.
Being a student and then working at Universities since 1993, you understand that I have had way more than my fair share of nutters. Maybe I am one of them myself. Memory is a tricky thing, it makes you think of them in better colours than you really should. You need to really rake your brains to re-discover the fury you felt at the time, so that you depict them fairly and accurately.
#1: the Basque scientist
The one who by far takes the biscuit, the top prize, was a flatmate of ours called 'Juana'. The Mrs-Blackbeard-to-be and myself lived in this extremely cold and damp flat at the top floor of a lovely Victorian house. The house being lovely made up for the rotting windows and the extreme cold. Or so she says.
Juana was a Basque student in Engineering, doing research on something I never quite understood. She went on to get a research post, working in the lab. In any case, she was one of the most driven uni-nutters I have ever known. She had an Italian boyfriend who visited weekends and was a half-nutter himself, but we'll deal with him later.
Here are some of Juana's traits:
- She was so extremely stingy that she often ate food way past its sell-by date. On one occasion she got poisoning from expired prawns
- In order to save money, she took a bus day ticket, went into town, loaded herself with groceries from the open market, came home, dumped the bags, got on the bus again, went to the big supermarket and returned with another load of groceries
- the above visits happened on Fridays, because that's when said supermarket had loads of 'reduced' items-hence the expired stuff
- she bought food for 8 people from the market (5 pineapples for a pound, 3 melons for 50p, that kind of thing). As it was impossible for any human being to consume so much food in a week, most of it lay rotten in the fridge or in the fruit basket
- she refused to pay with a card at the supermarket, because "the black man at the checkout may memorise my card number". Her words, not mine.
- She was paid for a 9-5 job at the lab, but she woke up at 6, went for a swim, started work at 7 and came home at 7. 12 hours. She also went weekends. She slept at 8.
- So that she wouldn't spend money, she made a pot of coffee in the morning, put it in a plastic container, and re-heated it in the microwave at work
- She would have a tub of double cream on its own as dessert. (I suspect she thought it was some kind of yoghurt)
- When the boyfriend came for the weekend, after dinner she'd order him to their room for a 15-minute sex session after dinner. She then slept and he sat with us to watch TV. He liked Van Damme films. We didn't.
- On Sunday mornings she woke up, filled up a huge pot full of dry chick-peas and water, put it on the fire and then went back to bed. The chickpeas needed a good 2 hours of boiling. She did this so the boyfriend could take some boiled chick peas back with him. He also carried his dirty clothes with him on the train so she'd wash them for him.
- Although she lived with us for more than 2 years, she never got used to the idea of having a cat in the house. He constantly startled her, and she reacted like this.
- She ate so much pre-prepared food that she often blocked the toilet with her stools. She then spent hours locked up in the loo, hopelessly trying to unblock the toilet with bleach and huffing at it. She never used the toilet brush. When I told her that she could, she was offended.
- She often tried to burn us down by forgetting the stove on.
- A colleague of hers broke up with her boyfriend. Juana thought that she was a slut because she'd had an ex-boyfriend-in her mind, you're only supposed to have the one, marry him and have his babies.
I was very happy when she eventually moved out.