Helen Martin: Out of the frying pan, into the ire

Student life, Young Ones style. Picture: BBC
Student life, Young Ones style. Picture: BBC
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I WAKE up at 7am with a deep sense of unease. I have had an undisturbed night. To most people that would be a bonus.

But I have become used to the back door being noisily opened at around 5 or 6am, the clatter and bang of a frying pan being slapped on the hob, the fridge opening and closing, followed by a considerate but belated shutting of the kitchen door to contain the noise of a US comedy channel.

All that meant the Young Master – who’s not so young any more – was home after a night out. I say a “night” out because clubs – if you are over 50 that’s the closest thing to “discos” as we knew them – don’t close until five in the morning nowadays. It’s therefore perfectly normal to begin the evening at midnight.

The early morning frying pan routine revolved around his making supper. He would be in bed before I got up, arising sometime around 2pm for breakfast.

Work or studying followed, only to be inconveniently interrupted a few hours later when I came home from the office with the ludicrous idea of tidying up and making the evening meal. To him this is some kind of senile madness, an obsession with organisation, timing and routine.

Apparently, final-year art students who have lived in their own flats for years scoff at tidying, never plan ahead and only eat at sunrise.

This was the first time in years that he had been “home” in Edinburgh for the entire holidays.

At the beginning of this three-month marathon, it was hard to adjust to his vampiric schedule, his despairing moans when I wanted to watch Eggheads rather than The Simpsons, and the fact that he consumed eggs and mayonnaise in industrial catering quantities.

I became used to the fact that when I wanted a mug or a glass, I looked not in the kitchen cupboard but in his bedroom where I could choose from a dozen, all of which needed washed.

Apparently, in his own student flat he is perfectly capable of using a washing machine. In Mumland, dirty clothes are just dropped at the feet of the Electrolux, waiting for the laundry fairy to deal with them.

A litre of milk that normally lasted for two days could disappear in a morning. My shopping wasn’t up to scratch because there was a 
permanent shortage of what he calls “sandwich materials”.

Tomatoes, cheese, ham, onion, mayo and Dijon mustard – it has to be Dijon – are essentials which have to be replenished daily.

Just as I’d got into the groove, the holidays ended and he went back to uni. His room has been cleaned and aired but my mind is taking a while to catch up with normality and revert to a standard shopping list.

Suddenly I seem to have too many toilet rolls, more sandwich materials than Pret A Manger, cupboards full of mayonnaise and more Dijon than, well, Dijon.

Step one is to become re-
accustomed to the fact that people shouldn’t be coming in the back door when we’re asleep. Right now, if a burglar invaded in the small hours, I’d probably stumble half-asleep into the kitchen, tell him there was a pizza in the freezer and ask him to keep the noise down.

Posh by name . . but she’s just rich

ACCORDING to the British Social Attitudes Survey, most of us would rather be “working class” even though more of us enjoy incomes and lifestyles that would equate to “middle class”, which to my mind only shows how completely irrelevant these

labels are now.

Builders can be richer than architects, so is “social class” about money (inherited or earned), accent, education, private schooling, career or the area we live in? The genuinely “upper classes” in Britain can be as poor as church mice in their debt-ridden, albatross-like, crumbling stately homes.

Are the Beckhams “upper” and “classy”, or just stinking rich? Why do we persist in trying to “grade” people and what does it matter anyway?

Honesty needed in polls process

IT’S only logical that politicians should be representative of the electorate and it would be poetic justice if there was an all-female shortlist to ensure convicted wife-beater Bill Walker, pictured, was replaced by a woman in his Dunfermline constituency.

But if we are all going to get behind quotas, political parties have to come clean about their processes. Are talented, ambitious, would-be women politicians being thwarted by a selection process which favours men? Then we need quotas. Are women just less interested in a political career than men? Then we don’t.

Either way we need honesty and evidence. And even if that doesn’t come in time for the Dunfermline by-election, it’s a worthwhile investigation for the future of Scottish democracy.

Cyclists take a turn for worse

POLICE gave cyclists a telling off for cycling the wrong way down a one-way street and made them dismount. Campaign group Spokes was outraged, not even slightly accepting the need for rebukes. The pious arrogance of city cyclists has now gone too far.