1. “The House Always Wins”
It’s an aphorism for a reason. Casino’s are far from what Hollywood led me to expect from them. There are no suave George Clooney’s and Daniel Craig’s or quivering, red-eyed Alan’s from “The Hangover” pushing around vast mountains of chips. The reality of the Casino is a hotel lobby-ish room filled with dead-eyed, mainly Asian pensioners whiling away what must be hideously empty lives.
What the hell does this have to do with Fresher’s Week you might ask? After many hours of clubbing, inebriation exacted a heavy toll as I and a few others tumbled into the welcoming arms of Bristols charming Gala casino. Drunkenly claiming my free (the only free thing a casino will ever give you) registration/electronic membership card, which now needs to be destroyed as quickly as possible, we entered a wretched hive of scum, villainy and other similarly confused drunkards. Despite accruing a small fortune (or not), gambling deserves its reputation as a mugs game. I refuse to add more to this section simply because the very thought of the Casino now makes me angry.
2. “Hey Sexy Lady”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has labelled it a “force for world peace”. Tom Cruise, Britney Spears and 100 other celebs from the acceptable to the mediocre have shared it with their followers. Maroon 5 had the chutzpah to cover it. People across the world are making an embarrassment of themselves aping the dance in nightclubs. I naively thought I wouldn’t hear it more than 15 times last week. It was played at least 50. Thats right – Gangnam fucking Style – the unlikely soundtrack to Fresher’s Week. As a bedroom dwelling, Morrissey loving ascetic “Gangnam Style” ought to be the kind of vulgar, trashy and (God-forbid) popular smash hit that I love to whine and moan about. But it really really isn’t.
As an almost offensively viral uber hit “Gangnam Style” has all the usual infectious ingredients of a smash pop song. However what makes it so difficult to deride is that it contains an air of irony to often missing from massive songs of recent times. Listen to “We Found Love”. Rihanna is just a barrel of LOL’s isn’t she? Thought not. The over-blown video of ‘Gangnam Style” is an antidote to this kind of po-faced trash and brilliantly satirises the alienating “more is more” culture of whole swathes of popular music. PSY’s tongue is so firmly in his cheek that is practically burrowing out of his face. According to the artiste himself:
“this song is actually poking fun at those kinds of people who are trying so hard to be something they’re not”
Such a sentiment isn’t particularly alien during Fresher’s Week.
On the first day at Badock room 4136, unit 4a (next door to me) was notable for the complete paucity of life within its boxy, pockmarked confines. This empty room has been the closest university has come so far to the sparkling wordplay, excruciating sexual situations and frankly unrealistic drug use seen in Channel 4’s superlative “Fresh Meat”. The (non) resident of 4316 was our very own Paul Lamb the invisible man.
Except this person wasn’t a Paul Lamb, for a start they actually appeared and secondly they were about as cool as an Indian foreign exchange student can possibly be. Reuben is a sort of 17 year old, Indian Bill Clinton (guitar instead of saxophone though) who fulfils most classic Casanova stereotypes. Within 12 hours of arriving Reuben had found a girl to “hold hands” with him. This seemed quite incredible given the utter foulness of the mango chutney Reuben forced upon us, but hey he does have a bit of an “aura”. Anyway, Reuben is so cool that he even has his own sidekick, the diminutive “MS”, very much the Robin to Reuben’s Batman she is believed to spend most of her time doing his laundry and waiting for him to take her to the circus. There is much more that could be written about Reuben’s exploits based on the last week alone but I’ve decided to save it for a rainy day.
4. Fat Bastards
ZaZa Bazaar is the United Kingdoms largest restaurant/trough, potentially seating 1000 customers/greedy ****’s each evening. The latter will gobble 60 chickens and a lorry load of vegetables every day for the foreseeable future. During Fresher’s ZaZa gave away free meals in exchange for the mobile phone numbers of a great deal of Bristol’s student populace. It represents a sort of “industrial moment” in the business of eating. Just as mind-melting mega blockbusters like the inane, misogynistic and frankly dull Transformers 3 pollute the soul, ZaZa represents a calculated assault on one’s stomach. That isn’t to say that its not somewhat enjoyable to eat 10 plates of moderately tasty food from 5 continents or whatever the advertising people try to spin it as. No, its arguably fine at that bovine, unthinking level.
Yet amidst all the gut busting, hunger pummelling, belt undoing feasting, yes actual feasting – Henry VII style, it is above all a vacuum of personality that one experiences at ZaZa. As an experience during Fresher’s it just didn’t work. In lieu of the incipient saps of friendship or blooms of conversation inside ZaZa was instead the sound of clattering of plates, the scraping of the sweet and sour sauce bucket for the last inch of cornflower-coated-pork-flavoured gristle. ZaZa left me confused then, at one level eating like a pig from neon lit troughs was quite fun, on another level it represents a horrific development in our entire approach to “going out” for food. With the expectation of very little in the way of conversation/human contact/joy I will go back to re-evaluate* my feelings.
*Gorge myself at the Chinese counter.
5. Epilogue – “coughers”
Coughers. In my lectures the week after Fresher’s. What are you trying to prove? That you drank excessive amounts of alcohol and fumbled around unsatisfactorily with a member of the opposite sex? Yes? Good for you, good for fucking you but please, please stop coughing in my lectures. You are not even ill are you? Your coughs are so theatrical, so affected that they cannot possibly be real. I’m starting to wonder if there is some kind of cash prize for the biggest cu-, sorry cougher in the lecture hall on any given day. It’s actually driving me on the wall. It’s driving me Liam Neeson. And it only seems to be getting worse.