The University Years: Brut And Dodgy TVs #universitylife #bristol #1975

In 1975 I started a law degree at Bristol University . I was in Churchill Hall where I’d already made what turned out to be a lifelong friend but I realised I needed to widen my circle. Early attempts proved fraught…

Living in an all male hall was something of a challenge, mostly around the underlying competitive atmosphere that pervaded so much. Loud conversations in the canteen and bar, equally loud challenges in the junior common room and TV room. And you either joined in or faded into the background like so much human wallpaper.

Having made a solid friend, I had some protection. I could see others who floundered, unable to join in or liable to try and do so with people who’s whole rationale was to test your mettle through verbal dissections.

I knew I needed to attach myself to others, to make sure I didn’t overwhelm my new friend – who had spent seven years at an all male boarding school and was better prepared than most for this zoo.

I did the most rationale thing; I tried to get to know those whose rooms were closest to mine. It wasn’t entirely successful.

I occupied a room on the first floor, one of three next to the bathroom facilities for my half of the first floor – there was another at the far end. David occupied the room opposite which left the room next to me. And it appeared the occupant never left it. Occasionally David and I sat outside around meal time to see who came out but no one did.

After three weeks, we found out the name of the occupant: Trevor. A second year. Other than that he was a mystery. Then, one evening, about ten o’clock, I heard whispered conversations. I knew Dave was out; he was auditioning for some comic opera. And it didn’t sound like someone passing on the way to the loo; it would be a bit odd anyway for people to go together.

I peeked outside and was immediately intrigued to see light coming out of my reclusive neighbour’s door, though in truth that was the second thing that struck me.

The first was the smell. It was… appalling. Back in the 1970s there was a masculine deodorant called Brut. Does it survive? I hope not. It was quite successful through shrewd advertising using the recruiting powers of sports stars Kevin Keegan and ‘enry Cooper and its slogans ‘splash it on’ and ‘the great smell of Brut’ became pretty ubiquitous.

However if we’d thought about it the fact it smelt like a distilled version of August armpits might have overcome our enthusiasm for it. That alone wouldn’t have been enough to repel me like a negative ion in a room of pessimistic electrons. But as I later discovered Trevor had a strong antipathy to water and neither washed himself or any of his clothes which he bundled up and took home at the end of term.

This, remember was week four of ten. The tsunami of stench had yet to build to its full strength.

That night however I managed to overcome my desire to scour my nostrils with my toothbrush; I stepped outside to say hi.

The man who I faced was everything a human weasel would comprise if such existed. This included the panic and frantic head twists as he realised I was going to speak to him.

‘Hello. I’m Geoff.’

This relatively standard greeting seemed to cause him some form of internal conniptions. He gripped his hands in a parody of Uriah Heap’s most unctuous fawning, bobbed his head like he was auditioning for a roll as one of those dogs that, back then, you often saw in the rear window of cars and squeezed his knees together in a way that suggested his pelvic floor muscles had decided to give up the ghost. I had never terrified someone so patently with my name and I had no idea what to do.

Fortunately he had enough presence of mind to hammer on the door to what I had assumed was his room. It creaked open and from the enlarged gap a short plump face appeared, one hand pushing at a mass of blond curls. The expression was indicative of anger but then this man saw me. His eyes stretched unfeasibly wide and then he smiled. ‘Ello? Can I ‘elp?’

Mr Weasel turned and ran – well, scuttled – leaving me with this chap.

‘Are you Trevor? I’m your neighbour.’

‘I am.’ He hesitated, glanced back into his room and quickly joined me in the corridor, shutting the door behind him. In that moment I was struck by the fact I couldn’t see his bed, or his desk for a sea of cardboard boxes. Trevor offered me his hand. ‘Hi.’

He kept smiling but said no more. I was a bit stumped. I essayed an ‘I’m doing law.’

He nodded. Nothing.

‘First year,’ I added.

Nope.

‘Dave – he’s in that room,’ I pointed at the other door. ‘He’d doing law.’

That got me a short nod.

I was about to ask what he did when Mr Weasel reappeared hefting another cardboard box up the stairs. Trevor saw him as I did and his expression changed from the benignly gormless to the viscerally annoyed.

‘You Pillock. Can’t you wait while I finish with this gentleman?’

From somewhere behind the box, an oddly deep voice said, ‘the boss said drop these off and get back pronto.’

Trevor looked torn. He managed a smile at me, looked like he was going to say something, decided better of it and yanked his door open, pushed man and box inside and slammed it shut after him. Seconds later the lock was engaged.

It took a while and some detective work by Dave but it turned out the boxes comprised TVs. Trevor offered Dave one just before Christmas. Someone said they were his father’s who was in wholesaling electrical goods and he sometimes had to clear out his warehouse urgently, using Trevor as a repository. Were they stolen? No idea. Trevor didn’t appear until halfway through the second term and the fact the smell stayed away was, for us a bonus.

It didn’t take me long to conclude that, if I was going to make more friends it wasn’t going to be Trevor.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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27 Responses to The University Years: Brut And Dodgy TVs #universitylife #bristol #1975

  1. Ritu says:

    Brut…. 🤮🤮

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary Smith says:

    How completely weird. Hope you had better luck with the next person you tried to befriend.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Social skills might sometimes be a priveledge…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good lord – no wonder your writings are peppered with such unlikely and odd characters – they exist!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Laugh out loud funny Geoff. I lost it at “his pelvic floor muscles had decided to give up the ghost.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. George says:

    Intriguing. Part of me is wondering if there’s a sequel where you spend at least part of your career practising criminal law, and you and Trevor are reunited across a crowded courtroom.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rowena says:

    We Australians have a phrase which has been getting a lot more use lately. That’s “only in America”. However, it seems England possibly has more than it’s fair share of eccentrics and and possibly it’s no coincidence that the likes of The Goodies, the Young Ones and John Cleese are English. Meanwhile, we have the likes of Scott & Charlene.
    We Australians are of course feeling like we’ve climbed up a few pegs thanks to our handling of the coronacrisis. Indeed, we along with NZ are the champions (not that I’m bragging or anything…)
    I don’t have memories of Brut, but I think Aramis comes to mind.
    My friend teaches in an all boys school and he describes the stench as unbearable. That he’s having to tell the seniors who are “grown men” to wash and put on deodorant.
    So, perhaps it’s just young men.
    Hope you’ve had a good week. Geoff has collected floorboards from an old movie set for us to replace the floorboards. He’s been busting a gut clearing out the garage and we all helped unload yesterday although he did this morning’s load all by himself. I feel for him at times. He clearly does a lot more than his share around here.
    Meanwhile, we’ve had a flicker of sunlight in between the rain. I can see myself snuggled up at home inside the doona for the next few months regardless of what the virus is doing. Hibernation time for this lazy bear.
    Best wishes,
    Ro

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Yes a good week. We’ve had a pretty shit virus in truth though why isn’t yet clear. No doubt that will unfold.
      The week was good. I made a cold frame for the garden out of an old pallet. I’m inordinately proud!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rowena says:

        From what I can see, the UK has taken a lot longer to take measures Australia and New Zealand took a month or six weeks ago. Boris is only shutting down your borders now and that would have been so easy for the UK being an island.
        To me, it seems a good time for people to be watching the news from a few different places and to hear more than what your national leaders are telling you. I also like to hear what the Chief and Deputy Medical Officers have to say, as they’re not so vested in what the economy is doing. They’re still exercising considerable caution even in Australia. What I’ve also not heard much about is that you limit your social contacts. Catch up with the same small circle of friends. I did hear the Chief Medical Officer say this is not the time to catch up with your old mate from school.
        Although Australia doesn’t have the experience of the SARS outbreaks to draw on, AIDS hit Sydney hard and many of us are heeding those lessons.
        I had to Google what a cold frame was. Well done for putting that together. We have a few of those things in our garden which seemed like a good idea at he time, but joined the general garden neglect.
        However, now that we have a back lawn growing and we have the slowest growing lemons in history, I am feeling encouraged to get back out there in the garden. There’s now a glimmer of hope!

        Like

      • TanGental says:

        Actually the border issue is a red herring. Once Covid was established it was too late and the wisdom from our scientists was it made little difference and would only matter once we were through peak one. Which is close to now. And we went into full lockdown pretty much when you did, though saying that we watched Italy suffer for two weeks before committing to it. It’s not that that made the difference. It could be age of population, significant crowded cities – we have some of the densest in Europe – and the lack of attention to care homes has been a disgrace – high proportion of obese and diabetic people in the population. No, it’s not simple, anymore than solving this is. You may have been lucky it hit at the end of your hot summer months – vitamin D apparently knocks it – rather than a difference in policy. But one day we will know better. Stay safe, you and yours.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Rowena says:

        Geoff, I honestly don’t know why our stats are so low. I do know that infection rates were following Italy’s trajectory when we went into lock down. That was mostly die to overseas travellers returning back and mostly attributable to one cruise ship, the Ruby Princess. I have heard concerns that it will increase during winter. August is when the fly peaks here.
        Australia’s population is obviously a lot lower than other countries, which would help enormously. It’s all quite a mystery. It will be interested to see how the virus responds to the European Summer and what scientists will continue to unravel.
        Hope you and yours are staying safe.
        Best wishes,
        Ro

        wonde

        Like

      • TanGental says:

        It’s horrid, not knowing how this will go. Living a day at a time is all one can do, really

        Like

      • Rowena says:

        I’ve been giving this a lot of thought , Geoff. While Australia has fared exceptionally well in the coronacrisis we lost millions of animals and so much bush and this came about a month before the virus. I am wondering whether we were already geographically and physically isolated because of ththe smoke? We were also in a mood to fight and defend. and our fire fighters were like the hospital staff you now see on the corona front. They were physically and psychologically spent after months of fighting fires and they were volunteers. After what they’d been through, it didn’t seem like much for us to stay home.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Widdershins says:

    Methinks nefarious deeds were afoot in young Master Trevor’s room … probably best that he was scratched from the field. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. But, really, guys are so weird! And, at times, very stinky. Since I live with three males, I have employed more than once the perfume under the nostrils trick–works like a dream!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Once again you are bringing up memories from that large 100 girl dorm of my first year at college. They really were a strange bunch. I tried to befriend an older girl by asking her about her coat. Sneering, she said “It’s sable.” Oh well.

    Liked by 1 person

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