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The Winner Takes It All / SOS : 2.5 minute read by Farriz Mashudi 01/01/2021

Photo by Daria Shevtsova.

She was so looking forward to Friday. ‘Greek Night’ would be great, especially with Elena, the only other remaining first year and Konstantin on the floor below, both being from Athens. They’d have Mamma Mia for music. (Well, it was set on a Greek island, wasn’t it?) And the food, mostly Mediterranean veg combos on skewers and yoghurt dips, and olives of course, was sorted. They’d put the college-issue white bed sheets to good use. — Togas galore!

Although only a few days away, all the third years still left would probably be gone. Already two had elected to defer, fed up with their final year being ruined; and another had left for vac early to self-quarantine in the Far East. Something about it being important to be with family at Xmas. But it was more likely to do with his girlfriend, wasn’t it? Whatever it was, YAY! — No more of his 7 A.M. calls to the girl first thing each day that everyone could hear, and the audacity of telling them to be quiet when they dared to make a peep at night after ten. The floor would be all theirs!

And on the staircase that made up the rest of their household bubble, they could for once have first years in the majority. Actually, the thirds weren’t all so bad. Some, not to mention any names, were great. ‘Mexican Night’ thrown by the floor below had been so fun with everyone helping out. Then after the after-party tidy, their kitchen would stay clean at last, even without the Scouts who weren’t allowed to come in anymore to do their daily. With just Elena and her, there’d be no more used wok hogging up the sink; no more disappearing knives and cutlery; and just more space, really. From the size of the small fridge, pint-sized microwave, the hob-only cooker without an oven — theirs wasn’t a kitchen meant to be cooked in three times a day by all the ten students on the floor. And yet they did. Hall food was so difficult to order ahead now, and take-away only with fixed time slots to collect meant zero flexibility. Unless you enjoy plexiglass dining?—Don’t forget, social distancing is paramount. Not everywhere was doing deliveries, either. And there was the budget to consider. So, shop and cook yourself, or go hungry.  

Photo by Cristiana Raluca.

Next term Elena and her might move out. Like the only other first year initially on the floor, Arya, who left for the staircase next door before lockdown. Whatever happened, Elena and her would either stick it out here or leave together. It would all depend. The factors were beyond their control, but this she could predict. Their decision would turn on:

One, who would still be left on their floor;             

Two, who new might move in; and

Three, if they liked the people in One and Two.

There was meant to be the Ski Trip too, next term. Everyone would be vaccinated by then. People could travel for holidays again. Her salopettes and other ski-gear would get so much wear out of them she’d have to get everything new for the next trip in ’22. The economy would need kick-starting, so the spending would actually be good. There would be LIVE in-the-flesh lectures and tutorials again, concerts, more parties. Hassan’s Kebabs (the queue was half the fun). Union debates, sports (e-Games don’t count btw), and OMG — being able to try clothes on in shops! Getting her hair cut proper, barbers for the males. Café’s and restaurants. The cinema. Internships and volunteering over the summer. The Olympics in Japan? . . . She could see it all now and could hardly wait.

What was that old saying again? . . . The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades?

Except that not a month on the outlook had changed. And for the worse.

CAN YOU HEAR THE SONGS, FERNANDO? . . .

THOUGH THEY TRY, HOW CAN THEY, BE SO WRONG?

Even with the vaccinations that had begun, everything’s so blinkered still. HAPPY 2021? Or is this the darkest hour ever? No matter what — clever, mature, civic-minded, and responsible people everywhere, and no matter what year you’re in — PLEASE, JUST FOLLOW THE RULES. Only together will we ever beat this thing.

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