Mary Poppins was Perfect, Students Aren’t

Ellie Pithers explains why infallibility is the stuff of legends, and only that.


New Year, New You! It’s that back-to-school feeling, where you rock up to Cambridge equipped with a 10-pack of biros with which you will write out lecture notes in a sensible navy ink; a rainbow of highlighters which will colour only the most salient points in your hand-outs; and, most importantly, a brand new pencil case: clean, mature and free from doodles of really crap genitalia. October – the time for a radical rethink, a shuffle in the cabinet, a whole new invention of yourself.

So here’s the checklist for the 2009 top-of-the-range model of You:

  • You will only go out on two nights a week, and on these nights you will not succumb to any devastating urges to down 4 drinks in quick succession.
  • You will go running every morning at 7am, and afterwards have a bowl of porridge for breakfast (low fat, low gi!), perhaps even brightened up with raisins and cinnamon, or, if you want to show off: blueberries.
  • You will not send any remotely drunk texts, nor will you call any member of your family whilst in a state of inebriation.
  • You will not allow 2 for £2 deals in Sainsbury’s to trick you into buying more chocolate buttons than you should ever eat in one sitting.
  • You will drink less coffee, stick to deadlines, attend all your lectures give tissues to people with fresher’s flu, take vitamin supplements, brush your hair, and throw away that damp, smelly and somewhat sordid pair of tracksuits that once belonged to your older brother…

But here we are, shunted into November, four weeks into Michelmas term, and I for one have failed miserably in my half-baked attempts to induce personal efficiency. It seems I’m not the only one, though. The packed lecture halls of Day One have emptied of half their avid listeners, and the supermarket baskets of students are filled to the brim with own brand energy drinks. Everyone is producing inordinate amounts of snot, Facebook statuses proclaim the woes of essay crises, and tagged photos share the disastrous results of last night’s drowning-of-sorrows in the college bar.

Behind this 21st-century obsession with rebranding ourselves lies the reality: we are students. We are supposed to screw up every now and again. We are allowed to go for a casual drink in the Maypole on a drizzly Monday evening only to end up buying a drink for everyone who supports Arsenal. We are permitted to lie in bed and ignore our alarm clocks in the hopes that our immune systems will regenerate in half an hour. Now is the time for caffeine to rule our emotions, for hangovers to spoil our days, for ketchup (yeah right) stains to mark our clothes. A student is, by definition, a mess. So let’s just all hold up our hands and admit that infallibility is the stuff of legend.