I have a tendency of keeping hold of things that remind me of places, people, and things I love.
I have a box overflowing with cards, gig tickets, festival bands, pictures, signed school shirts and all sorts of other bits of random little keepsakes that are guaranteed to make me smile and take me back to a certain period of my life.
I adore it, it’s filled with happy memories and love. It is what I’d save in a fire.
Anyway, I found something to add to it the other day.
A brass key, a key that I definitely should have handed back to the landlord when I left.
It provoked a thousand memories all at once, took me back to living with a bunch of girls and four and a half brilliant years in Leeds. All at once I was stood outside that brown door on Stanhope Drive.
As houses go, it was a dump. It was cold regardless of whether or not the heating was on, it was damp, there was mould on the walls (which grimly spread to my pillow at one point). The living room was tiny with a vile red velvet settee, that we’d desperately tried to cover up with throws, the kitchen was huge and the back garden was overgrown with weeds that strangely looked like lily-pads – you couldn’t really sit out and relax in it, I’m sure someone claimed to have seen a rat out there at some point.
To be fair we were paying the bargain price of £45 per week, I’m realistic, nothing is going to be the ritz for that price and it was pretty much all we could afford, we were students after all.
It was our first encounter of trying to be adults; pay bills, rent, buy food, clean, generally survive and I loved that house – or more accurately – the people I shared it with over the years….Rachel, Cat, Sarah, Nikki, Hazel, Pricey and an honourable mention to Jodie (didn’t live there but a frequent visitor).
Yes, there were two Sarah’s in our house – I was christened ‘Little Sarah’ on account of the other one being about an inch taller than me. I suppose it makes change from going straight to surnames to differentiate between us.
I remember Monday nights sat in front of all TV soaps – Neighbours, Home and Away, Hollyoaks, Emmerdale, Corrie & Eastenders. Sarah’s obsession with ’10 things I hate about you’.
The nights out and getting ready, music turned up and walking in and out of each other’s rooms, glass of wine in hand. Wondering what to wear – each of us usually opting for jeans/denim skirt and a nice top, it was the noughties. We’d eventually pile into taxis to more often than not end up at Creation or Oceania, where we’d promptly lose each other in the multitude of different rooms. I’d usually be found dancing – if you can call bouncing about on the balls of your feet dancing – in the indie room. I remember the endless rounds of toast when we got home, Cat usually taking charge of this task.
The Saturday nights at the Kings Arms and Sunday’s at The Horsforth, cheating (and still losing) at the music quiz but being able to get a meal for £3:00.
There was the God-awful early morning flight to Belfast for Rachel’s 21st– and my God it was bloody early. I was still a bit (a lot) scared of flying at that point, especially taking off, luckily I had four of my mates on hand to take the piss.
I think of Rachels’ lasagne – she was the best cook in that house and can be credited with our survival. I remember Sarah squirting half a bottle of ketchup on every meal, the Christmas dinners before we left for the holidays and the house secret Santa, the hot water bottle I got one year was very much welcomed.
We faced break ups, fallings out, mountains of washing up, crap part time jobs, exams and unsavoury other halves.
There were tears, tantrums, arguments and a lot of laughter and love.
I think we dealt with pretty much everything we could throw at us in that house – sometimes literally. We had the windows egged quite a few times; I think ours and the two houses either side of us had been pegged as student digs by gangs of kids, plus they were set back from the main road making it easy for the culprits to leg it over the fields.
There were some really strange scenarios, I mean the Peeping Tom was a particular highlight…..
I’d got back from a weekend away and was sorting through my room when I noticed the security light come on, I peered out the window to see a middle-aged walking off the drive, he looked up and preceded to half hide behind a tree. To be honest I’m not sure he was trying to hide what with me being able to see him. Anyway, as it turns out, Hazel had also caught him looking through the windows before.
Every night for an entire week he’d turn up to try and peer through the windows – no one will EVER convince me to have a downstairs bedroom as a result. We’d ring 101, log every incident, give a description and be told someone would be in touch to speak to us – I’m still waiting for that call and could still give a very detailed description.
We ended up arranging a stake out with next door to try and catch the weirdo, I have no idea what the grand plan was, citizens arrest maybe? The plan didn’t need a conclusion he must have known because he disappeared for an age. He’d make reappearances now and again, a lad who’d moved in next door caught him at it once and came around to warn us – “keep your curtains closed, the perv is back”.
At 21, it didn’t register that a peeping tom turning up at your house randomly could potentially be dangerous. I think because we were all in it together, we tackled it with humour and bravado, I think back to it now and realise how creepy it was and our complaints should have been taken seriously.
There were comings and goings at Stanhope Drive, people get jobs and go home. Some of us clung on and stayed for longer.
We all eventually moved on to the next stage.
It’s brought jobs, houses, hen dos, weddings, baby showers and children.
We drift in and out of each other’s lives, nights out turned into curry and wine, that turned into lunch or afternoon tea; regardless that bond is still there – at least I’d like to think it is.
You see, there’s something to be said for the friendships you make when you’re 18, left in a new city without your parents for the first time. It was a fluke and pure luck I’d ended up in the same halls of residence with the girls I’d end up living with, Jodie was the first friend I made there – back in the days when introducing myself to new people was up there with my worst nightmares.
It’s a time when you’re experiencing independence for the time, you’re not entirely sure what to do with that and a bit clueless when it comes to doing your own washing. It’s a time you’re trying adulting (kind of) for the first time and starting to work out who you are and what you want to do – having good friends while you do that is a necessity, even if there are rows over whose turn it is to clean the kitchen/cook tea/put the bin out.
Living in a house share means your friends seeing you at your worst or lowest ebb, they know how much of slob you really are and crucially how you like your tea. It is different personalities finding a way to live together peacefully (most of the time). It’s a lesson in respecting each other and caring for each other and it is a bloody good laugh.
Hopefully I’ll get to see some of these wonderful ladies soon – in the meantime, I’ll add the key to my box of memories.
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm