All posts by special_k

Bachelor of Procrastination & Tetris at University of Edinburgh. Modules studied include: Buckfast Consumption; Music Snobbery; What goes on Tour stays on Tour; Hangover Cures and Self Destruction.

Moving on Up…

Ah, the dreaded flat move. We’ve all been through it, collapsing into the mouldy sofa you’ve single-handedly lugged through the Meadows and up three flights of stairs. While there’s no way of avoiding bruised shins and back ache there are some tricks that can ease the pain of moving.

1. Organise

Plan the shit out of it. Know when your lease ends and when your new one begins. Far too many of my chums have failed to synchronise their dates and but for some accommodating friends they would be homeless hoarders drowning in suitcases bin bags and boxes. Flat hunting in Edinburgh is notoriously ruthless, as landlords and estate agents (the bastards) try to arrange your lease in such a way that it is not available in August. You can’t blame them really, the sheer economics of that month is heaven. The population rises to threefold that of the rest of the academic year, the city swarms with tourists all more than willing to part with their cash and pay top dollar for any old flat. If you can’t arrange your lease dates to overlap or at least merge then make sure you have a place to crash, otherwise you might just find yourself asking for spare change on Nicolson Street (and probably procuring a dog in the process).

2. Clean

Clean your flat. This is the only way of getting some of your deposit returned. Let’s face it, you probably won’t get your full deposit back. You can sure as hell make sure that you will next time though. Take photographs of every decrepit crevice in your new flat and upload them to an image hosting site or e-mail them to your new landlord as soon as you move in. As for your current place…

How to cheat at cleaning:

  • Polish anything shiny, estate agents are like magpies and will be distracted by sparkly things. This means Brasso & Window Cleaner are actual investments.
  • Leave the windows open for a few days before move day, students produce and odour that repulses adults, and bullshit you never smoked in that flat, you’re not kidding anyone.
  • Coca Cola will lift most burnt food from pots and pans
  • When removing your Che Guevara or Reservoir Dogs poster (don’t deny it, you unimaginative looser) heat up some straighteners or iron and put it against the spot where the blutac is underneath before you tear it off. This will take the blutac off the wall whilst leaving the paint.
  • Limescale in the kettle – the water in the ‘Brugh ain’t that hard but in certain places you might need to fill your kettle with white vinegar and boil, this should do the trick.
  • Paint over stains you can’t be bothered cleaning, but do so well in advance – the smell is conspicuous.
  • Put baking soda on your carpet before you go to bed and then hoover the next day, save on Vanish Carpet Shampoo (because apparently upholstery is worth it too)
  • Play music while you clean, I find Chaka Khan tremendously motivating
  • Promise friends beer if they help you.
  • Get your mum to help. A friend in Marchmont got her FULL deposit back thanks to the meticulous helping hands of her mother.

3. Throw Stuff Out

You don’t need all that stuff, all those club night posters and first year text books have to go. Sell what you can and dump the rest. Far too many people end up hoarding a small empire by fourth year, making every move more and more awkward. Guys, that collection of beer bottles is impressive and all but it smells super nasty. Ladies, I know you love shoes but pumps in a rainy city have a shelf life, when you find them crispy and having to keep them outside the window it’s time to let go…. you can do it. If you’re moving as a whole flat, find a friend with a car and go to a car boot sale, there’s one every Sunday in the car park of the Omni Centre by St. James’. Alternatively, put all bulky things up online a few weeks before. Have other fools take on your crap and  make some cash.

4. Logistics

The actual move is going to be painful regardless of how you do it. Give yourself a whole day and just get it over and done with. If you have a car/mate with a car them boom, you’re pretty much sorted. Getting everything up and down stairs is hell but there’s nothing you can do about it. If you’re only a short journey away you could get a cab, but when you call make sure you tell them that it’s a moving job, how many suitcases etc, they’ll send someone out who won’t be cranky about it. If you happen to have breasts don’t be afraid to use them to get some help, cabbies are a simple breed, putty in the hands of a damsel in distress. For larger jobs of furniture and the like there is the Man with the Van. There are plenty online and in the Yellow Pages (old school retro hipster points), don’t be afraid to negotiate, the given rate can always be lowered. Shop around, get a few quotes from the larger companies, then offer a reasonable price to some others.

5. Inventory

Scrutinise every last detail of the list. Any omissions, regardless of how petty they may seem will come back to haunt you. There’s no point in trying to argue with Grant management and the like saying “but it was like that when I got here”, you don’t have a chance.  They will make you pay for any breakages, stains, missing items, superfluous items, cracks and scratches. Make sure everything that they say is on the list is actually in the flat. Note any additional details and DO NOT SIGN until they have acknowledged your changes. Check that every appliance functions, not just by turning them on, but by using them. Check the temperature of the fridge, make sure the cooker works, boil the kettle etc. Make sure the windows are clean, if not let them know. You won’t be expected to clean/fix anything that was dirty/broken when you moved in, as long as you let them know in writing, prior to signing the inventory. There are certain arbitrary things that you only really notice around a month after you’ve settled. Be sure to look out for ridiculous things before you sign, things like drains, fill the sinks and see how long it takes for them to empty. Blocked drains are annoying and smell, you don’t want to get trench foot for the shower. Tell your estate agent to get it fixed.

6. Admin

You might not get that much post as a student, but plenty of people and organisations need to know where you live. You can get this service from the Post Office, but you will have to pay a fee. Alternatively, call/email everyone you need to and inform them of the changes. So who needs to know?
  • Uni
  • Student health centre
  • Virgin Media / Sky etc…
  • Your Bank
  • Memberships – movie rental, gym, chess club
  • Subscriptions
  • Your JustEat.co.uk account
  • Your mother

7. Furnishing

If your new flat needs some more junk (which it probably doesn’t you’re just excited about a new opportunity to hoard stuff) there are cheap ways to do this.
  • Ikea is not as cheap as you think it is. Have a look through the catalogue on online before you go, only get the stuff that you need.
  • Poundland is great for smaller goods that you didn’t’ realise you needed
  • The bargain stores on Nicholson Street are full of cheap products, most of which are reasonably good quality. They have a decent range of decorative items that you can pick up for peanuts, they might not be John Lewis but you’re a student anyway.
  • Every now and then there is a poster sale in Teviot/Potterow, you’ll find all the usual generic stereotypical posters here, they’re cheap, and cover any holes in the walls.
  • Freecycle is a great shout for random stuff, from sofas to coffee machines to freeview boxes. You’ll have to pick it up but it’s all free.
  • Gumtree has probably the largest selection of everything you need for your new flat. They have a freebies section but if you’re willing to part with your cash you can get some investment pieces. You’ll also find any jobs in your new area.
  • Morningside boasts at least seven thousand charity shops on one street, as does Forest Road, Nicolson street and some in Newington. They’re a good spot to find random stuff and will fill you with inspiration for your new place whilst warming your soul with goodness.

Best of luck with moving house, it’s tedious and time consuming but has to be done eventually. At the very least you have one thing to look forward to. After the skin on your hands start to peel off with cleaning products, and you’ve reminisced the past looking at old photographs from the box under your bed, you will settle in. All that is left to be done is have a house warming…

Thanks to the best house mates ever for an amazing year x

Written by Special_K, University of Edinburgh

J.K. Rowling Never Wrote Here…

Artisan Roast, 57 Broughton Street

I like to watch people in coffee shops, I find them enthralling. Normal people don’t seem to care too much about coffee, which generally speaking leads to an abundance of crazy folk getting their proverbial freak on about the place – highly entertaining. First comes Coffee-Shop-Girl. Everything is in place; old school iPod with Sennheiser headphones strewn across the table, paper pack of Lucky Strike complete with some South East Asian health warning tossed casually next her Burts Bees lip balm. When she isn’t chewing her pencil she is jotting notes in the margin of her weathered copy of Kafka (but of course), or twirling it in her tumbling curls. And the scarf, oh! the scarf. Silk hand woven, Bolivian masterpiece no doubt, encapsulating every shade of green. It billows around her delicate neck. She sips from her cup, quietly savouring what is undoubtedly the best coffee in town.

I think I have a crush on this girl, on everything she represents. Chilled, intellectual, beautiful, she is everything I want to be. She is not just some ordinary girl in a coffee shop, she is Coffee-Shop-Girl.

This is no ordinary coffee shop either, oh no. Artisan Roast, nestled in the centre of the Pink Triangle, is the supplier of premium fresh-roasted coffees to Scotland. Their bijou café on Broughton Street boasts a wide range of speciality teas, coffees and coco, all carefully prepared to make you all warm and fuzzy inside. The venue in itself is just perfect. There is no bar separating you from the barista, who is an old friend, and you; a guest in his kitchen. Watch the world go by on the high tops by window, read books about coffee from the shelf by the door, smoke outside on bar stools, or creep in the mooch lit by cafetiére lamps. You will find yourself spending hours here, time becomes arbitrary, coffee becomes heroin.

Artisan Roast is the best coffee shop in Edinburgh. Fact.

  • Kilimanjaro – too busy.
  • Wellington – too small.
  • Peters Yard – too Scandinavian, takes too long.
  • Forest – too cool for school, there’s only so many hipsters you can deal with in one day.
  • Loopy Lorna’s – too many Ladies who Lunch.
  • Urban Angel – too bad the staff are horrid.
  • Black Medicine – “WHO ORDERED THE FLAT WHITE??”
  • Police Box – How can they call that putrid mess coffee?
  • Elephant House – too much creeping on J.K, I mean, CCTV? really?

As for Starbucks……  -oh, don’t get me started………

Starbucks is spreading across the world like a virus, infecting cultures with their homogenised formulas of what a coffee shop ‘should be’.  Tainting JuJu with their predatory business practices and faux environmental/corporate responsibility not to mention viscously competitive attacks on small cafés; Starbucks still lure people in, day after day. Also, the coffee is repulsive.

A refreshing reminder in Artisan Roast

If anyone thinks they know of a superior coffee shop in Edinburgh feel free to buy me a Long Black- no sugar and I might reconsider.

 After getting over the departure of Coffee-Shop-girl (*whimper) in comes Eco-Warrior. I shit you not this guy was wearing bio-degradable flip-flops and it is pissing rain. He asks Niall about the most appropriate blend for his machine, but he might as well be asking which course of medical treatment would give his only son a better chance of survival. He is THAT passionate about coffee. Niall, the coffee aficionado, soothes his qualms with the perfect roast, and with his purchases safe from the downpour in his 100% Hemp man-bag, off he goes (probably to protest outside Starbucks).

Niall & Tod know their shit. When Little-Miss-Soccer-Mom approaches the counter to complain about the temperature of her soya milk latte, she is instantly given a concise breakdown of the nature of her dairy alternative and just how detrimental the result would be if they were to scald it as she desires. Ego bruised by the baristas charm and intellect she returns to her perch, no doubt thinking she should have stayed in Morningside where it is the waitress’ job to take crap from ladies who lunch.

After that wench of a woman leaves, Mr. Business enters, very dapper. Nice suit, briefcase, pointy shoes, drowning in Apple products. It was the Moleskin that caught my eye, this guy knows his stationary. It seems odd that he is here in this quirky place, he looks like he belongs somewhere more… accessible, more generic. It is not until I leave (my companion has grown irritated at my fascination with everything other than his conversation) that I notice he is not jotting down the minutes of his last meeting but in fact drawing what can only be described as a Quentin Tarantino style violent comic strip. Touché.

After blatantly labelling every customer into the most ignorant of stereotypes, I finally understand why the variety of clietéle is such. I’ve seen tramp stamps and dreadlocks and tripped over buggys, men suited and booted and hipsters and grannys.  They all queue patiently for their own little cup of juju. While wealth divides, occupations control and fashion defines; coffee seems to unite us, and damn good coffee it is.

Written by Special_k, University of Edinburgh

Don’t Look Back Into the Sun…

The student holiday, alongside graduation ball, losing one’s festival virginity and the infamous Gap Yah, are rites of passage upon which we embark, in the fruitless quest to gain some sort of wisdom. Little do we know; the sarcastic, greasy, spot-ridden bodies in which we reside are so pickled with a noxious concoction of Glens Vodka and Bavaria, that we are wholly impervious to even the mere concept of wisdom. Lets face it, our teeth are the only source of so-called wisdom we possess (and even at that we destroy them by trying to prise steel caps off glass bottles with them).

What we do gain throughout these endeavours is experience and character. Not to mention photographic evidence created with the sole purpose of clogging up one’s Facebook feed and, for an unfortunate few, Chlamydia.

There is something curiously satisfying about the stinging of sunburnt shoulders, salty skin, sweaty clothes and sandy hair. I have just returned from Croatia, a country so intoxicatingly beautiful; her bountiful beaches and picturesque towns shine like a beacon of light amongst a sea of trashy tourist destinations loaded with chundering adolescents…

I spent a glorious seven days in the company of four amazing friends. It was an adventure I’ll never forget. While listing off private jokes, comical stories and gory details would bring me immense satisfaction, it would mean nothing to you. This is why I implore you, students, to go. Go now, while you can still get away with living off four quid a day. Go now, as you pass through what will no doubt be the most carefree years of your life. Go now while you have the chance.

Where you venture is entirely up to you. Contrary to nigh on every landlord in Edinburgh, I don’t think that every student is the same. Granted, every student should, on at least one occasion, go on an outright bender and make a complete and utter twat of themselves involving traffic cones and/or shoe polish whilst abroad. There are those among us, however, who seek more than that which Shagaluf and Ios (barf) can offer. Some have the travel bug, while others have a drinking problem. That’s what we call diversity.

For those among you with the passion to see more than a half-naked chick desperately trying not to swallow her own vomit whilst doing a keg stand, I applaud thee. As for those of you who just read an interpretation of your wildest dreams, I envy you. For yours are the days upon which we reminisce; knowing they cannot be recreated after you start taking red wine too seriously.

Regardless of what path you take on holiday (booze cruise or off the beaten track) when amongst friends, with little more to trouble you than module selection and whether you’ll get tickets to THAT gig, you will never forget your student holiday. For there will never be that same combination of pals, all willing to spend their last dime to be around you, with no particular purpose but to have fun, however that my unfold, ever again. Never. Do whatever it takes to make it happen

Around about the time my friends began to book their flights, a sense of panic overcame me. I had just been fired, had no money and Virgin Media had officially announced my bounty. There was no feasible way that I could afford to jet off for a week whilst living on a diet of nicotine and sultanas.  When faced with a choice like this the lucky student can often turn to parental assistance, student loan or savings for such funding. Unfortunately I wasn’t in such a position. Mother dearest had taken this opportunity to teach me a life lesson on prioritising money, my grant had died a death 20 jagerbombs ago, and saving shmavings- what kind of student has savings anyway…?

It was my sister, the explorer, discoverer, adventurer extrordinaire  who came to the rescue. Upon hearing of my ‘super mature’ decision to forgo my excursion in order to find a job for the summer, she promptly told me I was a fool, and to get some nuts. She spotted me the cash to cover the trip. While the sum in itself  will seem irrelevant in years to come, it meant the world to me that day. For this and every other experience she has given me I thank her. Cheers VonVon.

Befriend the locals; convince yourself you’re a mixologist and make some putrid mess of a cocktail. Break into a boat; teach someone to swim and steal a T-shirt for no reason in particular. Buy chavy hats, and wear them. Follow the crazy guy to the illusive beach party. Wrangle some drinks off crazy sailors and run away. Have sex under water. Take cheesy group photos and live on bread and cheap salami.

Wear suncream, but don’t ever be afraid to get a little burnt.

Written by special_k, University of Edinburgh

 

 

Maybe it’s Inside the Bottle…

Gulp.

I feel an immense sense of shame for having sniggered so callously at those goons on The Apprentice. Granted the producers do have a knack for attracting only the most pompous of sycophants with an uncanny ability to portray themselves as utter pillocks in a 5 second VT. It is nonetheless crushing being fired. While my experience was slightly less humiliating than that of the poor contestants, I have been left wallowing in self-pity for the past eight days. That’s right, eight days of unemployment. Fortunately I wasn’t the only victim of my boss’s wrath, my friend and colleague was also dumped, dejected, discontinued…

My initial reaction was, quite understandably, to drink. And drink, we most certainly did (any excuse to be honest). Off to the blissful comforts of the Bon Vivant we shuffled, our tails tucked between our legs. Nestled in the depths of Thistle Street, this bar/restaurant is the perfect haunt to drown one’s sorrows. Blackboards and naked ladies adorn the walls, long wax candles drip down old bottles of vino; nigh on symbolic of the pace and atmosphere of the venue. So relaxed, so chilled out.

Delicious... delectable even

You could tell instantaneously that the staff were good chat. I caught a glimpse of the till interface which listed SuperMario Bros. characters instead of  forenames. We were being served by Yoshi, who was as friendly and helpful as her pixelated character. Despite it being a Saturday night we managed to find some cosy seats at the back; for drinking one’s troubles away requires both copious amounts of alcohol and a decent perch. The D.J turned out soulful hits after funky jams, at a civilised volume to have a nice chat (which consisted of bitter murmurings of how we were better off rid of the place). While my co-pilot and I were quite obviously the youngest of the clientèle, in our tender early twenties, the place has a great vibe about it, catering for the young professional and the student who can only really pretend to love Drum & Bass once a month.

We decided to go all out, on this the eve of our unemployment, and spend like we were rolling in the Benjy’s! I can’t recall who proposed this genius tactic, but it certainly shrouded our perception. We fell into a drunken daze, blissfully ignorant of our impoverished fate. The crumpled remains of credit card receipts survived as evidence of our bender.

A bottle of Pinot Noir, their mid to high range wine set us back £20.00; and after foolishly deciding to set up a tab, we then consumed four Long Island Iced Teas, three double Tanqueray & tonic and three 8 year Havana Rum & ginger. The tab came to £48.00, hefty enough for an unemployed student, but worth every penny.

I woke the next morning to a pounding guilt-flavoured hangover,  a dose of chewing-sawdust-dry-mouth, and that all-encompassing need for a fry up. It just goes to show, whether your poison be Buckfast or Bollinger, you still need bacon.

Written by special_k, University of Edinburgh