Pay attention, boys
In common with a host of other soon-to-be-impoverished parents, we proudly dropped Number One Son at university (or yoony, as it is now called) this weekend. It's changed a bit since my day, I can tell you. When my Dad dropped me off at yoony the world was a different place; Tony Benn was still called Anthony Wedgewood-Benn, and a Thatcherite was someone who enjoyed rural roofing. Britain still made the odd ship, and the best band around was The Clash, or Abba, depending on your upbringing. Computers weighed eight tons and needed to be wound up each morning. Good days, good days.
Anyway. Number One Son's accommodation was in fact comfortingly familiar; paint peeling off the walls, a dripping tap labelled 'communal shower', ancient graffiti scratched into the chewing gum, third-world kitchen facilities, contrarian plumbing (hot in summer, cold in winter), the works. We didn't get to sample the food, we were bundled off too quickly for that; he obviously wanted to get straight down to some serious studying. But if we had, I can take a good guess at the fare. It may be called poulet en sauce riche avec vegetables mixte, followed by glace vanille en gateau1, but it'll always be chicken a la king and arctic roll to me.
This carefree bohemian life is much as we expected back in the seventies; after all it was 'free'. Of course it wasn't, it was funded by an exuberant tax regime, but it felt free. The difference now is that he's being asked to stump up over four thousand good English pounds a year, and that's at the bargain end. Cheapskates that we are, Number One Son is denied even the basic luxury of a washbasin to pee in at the end of a hard night's studying, but comparing notes with other parents, we may have sold him a bit short. Some students appear to have an en-suite bathroom, massage area and sauna. I expect they're paying a bit more.
If your local council offered accommodation of this standard to those who need it, at this sort of cost, then they would be accused of being latter-day slum landlords. Don't get me wrong though; I approve of Number One Son living in the same sort of conditions we used to. It did us good and it'll do him good too. It's important for him to know, for example, that after a month without a shower we smell a bit, or that milk left on a windowsill during the vacation probably won't be much good when you get back. Unless you're feeling really hard up.
1 - You can probably tell my degree subject wasn't French