Another year has begun, with the usual 150 metre morning queues at Wilmslow Road bus stops, the jostling to get to the supermarket self-scan machines between swarms of eager undergrads encumbered with inexpensive crates of lager, and the obstacle of overly-enthusiastic leaflet wielders, thrusting their environmentally-unfriendly wares into your face every ten paces you take around the campus.
Thanks to my many years’ experience as a miserable and cynical old mature postgraduate student I feel that it is only fair of me to pass on some important tips to current and potential postgrads in Manchester on how to avoid ‘Freshers’ Rage’, and allow yourself a breathing space from the theme park of the first couple of weeks of term.
Problem 1 – RIDICULOUS BUS QUEUES
Solution – Walk to uni. Or get a bike. Or don’t live on the Wilmslow/Oxford Road corridor. I can highly recommend all three of these solutions. It takes about 20 or 30 minutes to walk to the Main Campus from Fallowfield, 35 or 40 from Withington. If you include your queuing time at the bus stop, the amount of time the bus sits in rush hour traffic and the amount of time the bus spends at each stop, your bus journey is not that much faster than walking to uni. If you have time you can even take the scenic route on the east side of Wilmslow Road, beside Birchfields Park and through the quiet leafy streets around Xaverian College or Dalton-Ellis Hall. It’s also half an hour’s free exercise every morning and evening. N.B. You might want to invest in a cagoule/umbrella at some point.
A bike is almost certainly faster than the bus in almost every circumstance, and again, the scenic route is preferable, especially if you aren’t totally confident about navigating the Curry Mile chaos every day and maintaining a full quota of functioning limbs.
Problem 2 – SUPERMARKET SWARMS
Solution – go to the shops before 10am or after 8pm. If you hit a well-known large chain supermarket in Fallowfield at approximately 7.30-8pm, you are in prime position, not only to avoid the broods of bright-eyed and cacophonous teenagers, but also for first dibs on the reduced-to-clear items in the bakery, fresh, green grocery, and meat and fish aisles.
Problem 3 – FLYER-FLINGERS
Solution – If you genuinely have no option but to run the gauntlet of promoters which stretches from approximately Greggs or Domino’s to Kro and the Students’ Union, you must quickly perfect a steely, forward-facing gaze, keep your hands in your pockets at all times, and recite the phrase “Paper Cut” convincingly, deliberately, and constantly in your head as you stride powerfully along, in the hope that somehow, in some way, psychokinesis is a real thing.
Thankfully we have the sanctuary of the Graduate School in the Ellen Wilkinson Building, with its postgrad-only PC clusters and kitchen and dining area where one can mix with fellow miserable and cynical old mature postgraduate students and discuss intellectually stimulating and challenging subjects. At least I think that’s what everyone else is probably talking about. My most engaging conversation of the week has been concerning the best way to peel an orange. After a number of days of research, I believe that the combined brains of the Graduate School of Arts have now solved this conundrum. You roll it on a table first, apparently.