What to bring blog number two. Time to move into your study bedroom! Again this is a list of basics to get you through the first few weeks. As before, once you work out what everyone else has and what you really need you can add to this.

So here we go…

Duvet:  (or whatever bedding you prefer.) A synthetic one is probably a better idea than a feather or down quilt as it is easier to wash if you need to (“accidents” do happen!)

Pillows:  Again synthetic ones are probably the best idea.

Duvet Cover/ Pillowcase/ Sheet: Three sets is a good idea. One on the bed. One in the wash and one as a spare just in case.  (Check with accommodation in September and they will confirm what size bed you have in your room). Don’t worry about what’s on your covers- I have Doctor Who, Star Trek and Basil Brush. I am not ashamed of this. (Although maybe I should be.)

Blanket:  I have a fleece blanket which is great for extra warmth, but also good for when it gets too hot for the duvet. It is also quite nice for middle of the night fire alarms and when you are poorly.

Sleeping Bag:  Always a good idea for visitors. Also as emergency bedding (see above for “accidents”) And the occasional trip away.

Towels:  A couple of big bath sheets and  two hand towels is probably enough. Get coloured ones rather than white and then they can be washed with your regular laundry. (Don’t use fabric conditioner on towels though.) It is also handy to have a Gym/ Beach/ Swimming towel and if you have long hair, a turban towel!

Laundry Bag: Something strong, durable and waterproof. (If all else fails the Blue Ikea Bags work well.) This is for transporting dirty clothes to the laundry but also to keep dirty clothes from making your room smell of unwashed sock.  And leading on…. Sock Bags: These mesh bags are your friends. They can be obtained from pound shops and places like Wilkinsons. The idea is you place your socks and underwear in them, zip them up and wash the whole thing. This prevents your socks from being eaten by the washing machines and your dirty pants falling onto the floor in front of the person you really fancy. (This will happen if you do not use sock bags. I have suffered so you don’t have to.) They are also good if you have anything delicate you want to protect in the wash (for example if you have things with sequins or lace on them.)

Washing Powder/ Fabric Softener: This is down to personal preference but it is cheaper to buy a large box of whatever powder is on offer and use a Tupperware tub to transport what you need to the laundrette. Fabric softener is again down to personal preference but the same applies- get a big bottle and decant what you need into a smaller bottle (a panda-pop bottle works well).

Extension Lead: Buy a new one and keep the receipt (and bring the receipt with you.) I have four plug sockets in my room but this number varies from hall to hall. And plug sockets are rarely where you actually want them to be! Consider getting a lead with Surge Protect if you are going to plug in your computer.

White Tack: For putting up posters etc. The University does not approve of Blu-Tac as it leaves blue marks on the walls!  Also Drawing Pins for pinning things to your notice board. (DO NOT use drawing pins on your walls or ceiling.)

Headphones: For listening to late night music so you don’t disturb your flatmates. During exam times the University asks you to keep noise to a minimum so a pair of comfy on-the ear headphones rather than the in-the-ear type are a good idea.

MUSIC: This is again entirely down to personal preference. You can simply bring speakers for your computer and load all your music onto that or bring an MP3/ I-Pod Doc.  I personally have a small stereo which has a CD player and DAB radio but also has an MP3 doc and USB port built in. This was mostly because I have a lot of obscure music on CD and couldn’t be bothered to download it all. On the subject of downloading, it is well worth investing in an external hard drive for your computer to store music and films on. Should anything happen to your computer  at least the stuff on the hard drive is safe.  If you bring DVDs/ CDs with you it is worth considering buying a large CD wallet to keep them all in so you can leave the cases at home and take up less space in your room.

Posters/ Postcards/ Photos: Really whatever you like to put up and make your room yours. There is usually a poster sale at the start of term so you can pick up some good things there as well. The University Arts Centre sells posters, postcards and prints as do several shops in town.

Games: Twister, Kerplunk, Jenga and Poker/ Cards are particular favourites as these can be played by lots of people in various stages of sobriety. However remember that it is University not a 1950s Youth Hostel. (TOP TIP: Most of the charity shops in Aber sell second hand games very cheaply and you can just re-donate them once you get bored with them.)

TV:  If you really don’t want to watch films on your computer. However:

TV Licence:  If you only intend to watch DVDs and Films/ Programmes via Netflix (or similar)or use your TV set just for playing games you DO NOT need a TV Licence.

If you intend to watch BBC Television programmes / Channels as they are being broadcast (and not on Catch-up) you require a licence. (This includes watching them on a computer)

Check on the TV Licence website for full details of how the licence works. There are a lot of rumours and misinformation regarding TV licences and most of these are detailed on the website.

Repair Kit:  I cannot emphasise the need for duct tape enough. Get a roll. It is your friend. There is almost nothing it can’t make better.  Also bring a small tube of Superglue. A couple of screwdrivers. Safety pins and a sewing kit.

Okay folks- this is the first in a series of blogs for all those lovely people starting Aber  this September.  One of the big things that a lot of people seem to be worried about is what to bring, so here is my recommended list. We’ll start off with stuff for the kitchen:

This is a list of basics with which you can cook most meals.  Consider getting stuff from charity shops rather than buying new. There are some great charity shops in Aber as well. Don’t bring anything you aren’t prepared to sacrifice to the Kitchen Goblins.

Once you have established what everyone else in your flat has and what you want to cook for the rest of the year you can add to this list. This is simply to get you started.

Crockery: This means plates, cereal bowls etc.  I would recommend 2 each of Large Plates, Small  Plates, and Cereal Bowls. DON’T bring anything expensive or part of your parents’ heirloom dinner service.  You could also add a couple of pasta bowls (the shallow dishes) as they are quite useful.

Cutlery: Again 2 each of Knives, Forks, Large Spoons and then loads of teaspoons. Teaspoons disappear into some parallel universe never to be seen again.

Mugs and Glasses:  Mugs are more useful. Whilst it is nice to have the correct glassware for wine, scotch, sherry etc. bear in mind that you can drink everything out of a mug. Four mugs is a good number. If you feel the need, an insulated mug for taking hot drinks to lectures is also good to have. (You will probably get a few mugs foisted upon you over Freshers’ week as well.) If you just want something to drink squash or fruit juice from, consider getting plastic beakers as they have a greater life expectancy.

Cooking Utensils:

A large Saucepan and a smaller saucepan both with lids. (Stainless steel is better than non-stick mainly because when someone “forgets” to wash up or manages to weld soup to your pan you can use steel wool to clean it.)

Frying Pan. (If you get a non-stick one you will need to use plastic or wooden utensils with it.)

Baking Tray/ Pizza Tray. (Pizza tray is great for doing oven chips and garlic bread as well as pizza. A baking tray with deeper sides is more useful than a baking sheet.)

Ovenproof Dish with lid (great for casseroles, crumbles, roasting things. A ceramic one can also be micro-waved.)

Colander. (Small holes work better for draining rice!)

Measuring Jug. (Glass or plastic.)

Microwaveable bowl (glass is better as it won’t stain orange if you cook beans in it)  / Mixing bowl.

Cheese Grater.

Sharp Knives. ( A small one for veg, a large one for meat, cake etc. A serrated bread knife is also useful.)

Chopping Board. (Get a couple and learn how to avoid food poisoning.)

Wooden Spoon/ Wooden Spatula / Fish Slice/ Balloon Whisk/ Veg Peeler.

Tin Opener/ Corkscrew/ Bottle Opener (Guard all of these like your first born child)

Three or four Tupperware type boxes with lids in different sizes. (Seriously useful for storing leftovers in and for taking food out and about).

Roll of tinfoil. Roll of Sandwich Bags.

Tea Towels (Get a couple. They will die horribly and in terrible pain. There is no way around this.)

Washing Up Liquid / Sponge Scourers/ Stainless steel pan scrubber.

Well, it has been a bit of a roller coaster this week. There was University Challenge in which Aberystwyth Alumni played Keele Alumni and I sat firmly on the fence, whilst rising above the abuse I was getting from both sides. (Keele won, but only, as someone pointed out, because Aber were worse.)

 There was Christmas, which was not quite as awful as I was expecting. Christmas dinner went off without a hitch, and

Festive Leopard!
Festive Leopard!

no one was subsequently poisoned. Housemate’s mother brought a vat of trifle to dinner, it was Anglican Parish Council Trifle, which means the main ingredient is Sherry.

 I received some nice and random gifts. Mostly alcohol and edibles from those who understand I am at University. An epic haul of Doctor Who stuff from various people who know the difference between older and grown-up (I am now the proud owner of a TARDIS biscuit jar- it holds far more biscuits than you would think). There was the usual attempt at infanticide from my mother, who after 38 years STILL does not understand/ remember what I am allergic to! And a disappointing sock haul of only six pairs (although three pairs have Daleks on them so they probably count double.)

I would like to say that on Christmas Night there was peace on earth and goodwill to all men. And mostly there was. This did not apparently extend to the producers of Doctor Who. I was a little disappointed at the minimal amount of Capaldi on my screen (I kind of had a thing for him since The Crow Road.) And like the Doctor, I was not alone. Still Dalek Nuns! That has potential. (Hello?… Your Holiness? … Yes it’s Sion…How was your Christmas?…Ah, not enough Capaldi, I thought that too…Anyway, I’ve got an idea…)  Ahem. Still the M R James thing made up for it. That and Mark Gatiss on a bike!

The other topic of conversation this week is revision! There is everything from total apathy to blind panic regarding January’s exams. I’m really glad I’m doing a course where we don’t have exams. Everyone is wondering when they should start revising and what they should revise. (In the interest of full disclosure I should point out that there are exams I took in 1996 that I have yet to start revising for.) My top tip for this is not to panic. It is an exam. That is all. Life is far too short to worry about  what you don’t know or can’t remember.

I am currently taking time out from packing to write this. I have lots of lovely clean clothes and a very large food parcel. There may also be alcohol but I couldn’t possibly comment. I’m going back for New Year in Aber, and will probably be found talking nonsense in The Nag’s at some point during the course of the evening. Lucius the Leopard is protesting about having to go in a bag. Or at least he was until he realised there was chocolate.

And so beloved reader, I wish you a very Happy New Year, which I hope is filled with everything bright and shiny and lovely for you and yours.  “And may the Lord hold you in the palm of his hand until we meet again.” (Same time next week?)

This time next week I will hopefully be in my new room at Aberystwyth.

I will hopefully be somewhere close to being unpacked, the obligatory, but tasteful posters adorning the walls, a pink gin poured and slowly steeping and the leopard settled and not eating anyone. I will be in Trefloyne Halls. I will have my own sink. I am hoping for a larger cupboard than previously. And possibly a more robust desk.

I imagine by this time I will be installing the shrine to Mark Gatiss in an appropriate place. (Please understand that the term “appropriate” is entirely subjective and that thing you are thinking is not it.)

My whole life is currently in boxes awaiting this spectacular move and I have, due to a temporary holiday from sanity, signed up to play sports with people half my age.

Yes! I am doing Sports Week.

There was no such thing as Sports Week twenty years ago. Or if there was they kept it very quiet. I can’t say that I have no concerns about it. I still feel young but every so often the creak of protest from my bones tells me that the years are marching on. Bones break and take longer to heal. Knocks that were shaken off in youth now render you crippled for days. Time. Gets you every time!

That is why I am doing Sports Week.

I shall never be this young again. Neither will you. So my darlings, enjoy yourselves. It is going to be Faberystwyth.

Mattress Protector: This is to protect you from the mattress. They do not buy new mattresses every year in halls. You will be sleeping on top of the blood, sweat, tears and other substances of at least three other people. And my top tip: Under no circumstances turn your mattress over. Unless you have a cast iron stomach. Or are stuck for a biology research idea. If there’s a bad stain on the top of your mattress, imagine what the bottom of it looks like.

DUCT TAPE: There is almost nothing that you cannot fix with Duct Tape. You can also use it to make cunning items of fancy dress.(Black for Darth Vader/ Batman, Silver for Robots/ Spacemen, White for Mummies/ Stormtroopers. (Warning: do not use it on bare skin or paintwork.)

TORCH: Get a wind up LED Torch. Never needs batteries. Never needs bulbs. Keep it with you. Always know where your torch is. Very handy for walking home late at night and all the usually torchy applications. In halls if the unthinkable happens and there is a fire or a building collapse it might just save your life. (When the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton, Margaret Thatcher, who always carried a torch in her handbag, saved the lives of several people by getting them out of the building in the pitch black by torchlight.)

DressingGown: For fire alarms, late night bathroom visits, and extra warmth. Preserve what little dignity you will have and invest in a bathrobe!

Flip-Flops/ Shower Sandals: Mostly for people sharing communal bathrooms. People pee in the shower. People wank in the shower. People have fungal foot infections in the shower. If you don’t want to be standing in all of that, get flip flops. Never walk around halls barefoot. The hygiene thing is obvious, but, especially in kitchens, there could be broken glass, nails and other nasties on the floor.

Co-Codamol/ Berocca: Double check you are not allergic to the ingredients. This is the best hangover cure. If you remember and are in a state to do so, take it before you pass out. If not. First thing when you wake up.
Beechams All in One: You will get Freshers’ flu. This is because every germ in the world has come for a holiday in your lecture theatre. It becomes like an evil United Nations for germs for the first couple of weeks. The germs all get together. Then they decide to go invade somewhere. That’s where you come in. Beechams All in One deals with headache, cough, sore throat and blocked nose. Also consider getting Olbas Oil, some Lockets, a jar of honey and a lemon. Don’t try to tough it out. Don’t be a hero. And don’t think that just because you’ve had it once you won’t get it again. You will.

IKEA Bags: The big blue things from Ikea. Seriously useful. Much better than cardboard boxes as they are waterproof, don’t have tape that can break whilst you are carrying stuff to and from the car, and when not in use you can scrunch them up out of the way. You can also use them as a laundry basket/bag, a sledge in winter and for toting shopping around. Possibly the best 50p you will spend.

A Coat: Not having a coat is not cool and edgy. It is stupid. You need a coat. Get one. ‘Cause you are not borrowing mine.

A spare mobile phone: You will drop your phone. Probably in a toilet. You will break your phone. You might even lose it or have it stolen. To make sure this event is not a disaster, bring an old phone and charger with you. Load all your important numbers on to it. Get a PAYG Sim for it. Then when tragedy strikes you will only be incommunicado for as long as it takes you to charge up your spare phone. You can also use your spare phone as a “Night out” phone so you don’t have take your expensive I-phone or Smartphone to the pub.

There are people starting University this September who were born the year I started University. This fills me with a bottom clenching dread for which there aren’t really any words. Mainly because it doesn’t seem like five minutes since my parents dropped me off at Keele University, it was 1994.

Apparently that was someone’s whole lifetime ago.

Back then the Internet was new and shiny and a Blog was the noise a backed up toilet made. Email was still done on Telnet and no one had mobile phones. If you wanted to talk to someone you had to, well, talk to them. Or write a letter. With a pen. And paper. And a stamp. I tried explaining this to my sixteen year old nephew; he nodded sadly with an expression that clearly showed he thought I was ready for Shady Pines.

In my second year at Keele, my mate Nigel got a PC with a hard drive of such capacity (Something like 4Gb) that we all went round to his room to look at it. No one believed such a thing existed.

I had a typewriter. My parents thought a computer was an unnecessary extravagance. Said it would never catch on. The same parents that have just bought me a brand new Laptop to come to Aberystwyth.

It seems the times, they are a changing.

So what Brave New World am I standing at the gates of? I’ve no idea. But I guarantee in 18 years time a new generation will be laughing at it.

I have a recurring dream/ nightmare. I get to Aberystwyth and am in the process of registering and then my course tutor tells me that I have to retake my GCSE Maths in order to be admitted to the University. I protest that I have already taken and passed GCSE Maths, but it falls on stony ground. I then retake the exam and in spite of answering all the questions correctly, they fail me. (The GCSE that has to be retaken does vary but you get the idea).

No idea what that’s all about. Something to do with a fear of not being up to the challenge one supposes.

Another Aber related dream is the one involving Stephen Fry. This is slightly different. Mainly because my grandmother’s spare bedroom has apparently been re- located to a non- specified hall of residence, complete with 1960s floral Counterpane (look it up if you don’t know). It is the day before graduation and my printer is broken. Naturally there is some vital thing that I must print in order to be able to graduate (possibly my graduation gown?) And then Stephen Fry turns up and fixes it. So what’s that all about?

A friend of mine says that celebrities in your dreams represent your subconscious telling you about yourself. So either I need to fix my own printer (which as far as I know is working fine, other than an occasional bout of paper jam indigestion) or I’m a national treasure or a little bit gay. Or all three.

And then there are the dreams involving Doctor Who. I’m never quite sure if in these dreams I’m taking part in the filming of an episode of Doctor Who, or whether Doctor Who is real and we really are stopping the Daleks. Naked (me and The Doctor that is, not the Daleks). Either way I think I have seen far too much of dream David Tennant for my own good. And his.
I’m hoping that last one is telling me that one day I will be writing for Doctor Who, which is after all, one of the reasons for doing a course in Scriptwriting in the first place.

Dreams. Strange old things.

“Dream like you’ll live forever. Live like you’ll die today.”

It’s all about the numbers isn’t it?
From the moment you emerge from the womb and are thrust blinking and screaming into the light, everything gets a number. You get a date of birth. You get a number on your birth certificate. You get a national health number. And so it begins. And it carries on throughout your entire life and sadly even when you are dead you are reduced to a numeric. A grave plot number. A date of death. Hymn number 67. Psalm number 23. Lovely.

Mathematicians talk about significance. I shared a flat with a Maths major as an undergraduate back in 1997. Believe me, given the opportunity, they will talk about significant numbers. And loathe as I am to admit it. They are right. It is the significant ones that matter, not the multiplications of the equations of existence that govern our everyday lives and order the chaos of world.

It doesn’t really matter that I was born on 02/03/1975 at 20.31. Or that I am 170.18 cm tall. My significant number of the moment is the one that landed on my doormat this morning. My Aberystwyth Student Number has arrived. A number that is the sum of all my hopes and apprehensions for the next year and will govern the numbers of the future.

“I am not a number”

Actually, I am. And I’m rather pleased about it!