Tom’s uncle was always vague about what his university accommodation would be, as the camper van was steered to a corner of the campus car park.
With any job you have, however much you love it, you have your ups and downs. At times you fall off the horse and get dragged along with one foot caught in a stirrup bumping your head on various rocky outcrops and poorly positioned signposts.
You get back on the horse though - or sometimes walk beside it – though I am aware that with these sentiments we are fast approaching a Ken Dodd musical number. Not that I’m calling Jesus a horse.
You are well aware of the trials and tribulations of a semi-professional comedian so this week I thought I would branch out into the dangers of university accommodation and ‘housemates’.
My uncle studied for, I think, his second doctorate at the University of Surrey in the 70s. My dad drove him down from Manchester in a VW Camper Van that would be described by a car salesman as “being full of character” but could more accurately be described as “being full of the wrong parts”.
My uncle had been somewhat vague about his university accommodation, merely describing it as “on campus”. On pulling into the main car park my dad asked where his digs were and my uncle pointed to a secluded corner of the car park and said, “that should do”.
Always a practical thinker, my dad parked very close to a high wall and gently pushed the side of the van so it rested against the wall and was, though somewhat lopsided, a good deal more stable. Providing you always supported any food or drink placed on the table with a hand, elbow, forearm or barricade of heavy textbooks, you avoided spillages. That said, soup was always risky.
By November, my uncle was feeling the cold, as was the van which had a fine array of stalactites hanging from the roof. Indeed he was only a National Trust emblem away from charging £6 to enthusiastic holidaymakers and their disinterested children.
On a morning he would roll out of his sleeping bag, clothed, and shuffle into the science block where they had a single shower but no mirror for shaving. Certainly, it lacked glamour but his lifestyle hardly warranted the police interest and surveillance he was now receiving.
The weeks and months went by. My uncle remained propped in the corner of the car park by default as the VW was in no fit state to act as a getaway vehicle, it barely functioned as a lean-to, and was joined by a changing guard of ‘bird watchers’ in BMWs and a seemingly abandoned car in the opposite corner, obviously a less hardy student’s summer residence.
Eventually, my uncle was approached by one of the bird watchers.
“Am I under suspicion officer?” my uncle asked.
“What, you? No. I mean, not after we’d worked out who was who.”
“Who was who? What does that mean?”
“Well, the two of you parked up at about the same time. And we knew one of you was just an unshaven, cheapskate medical student.”
“And the other? The guy I’ve been sharing a car park with for six months?”
“Oh, that was Peter Sutcliffe.”
University. Best years of your life.
Sitting Room Comedy Club returns to the St George Hotel, Harrogate on Wednesday, May 14 with a triple headline special featuring TV regulars Zoe Lyons, Rob Rouse and Gary Delaney plus Katie Mulgrew as compère.
Tom Taylor tweets at @tomtails.