What it was like living with the Rector of St Andrews
Pretty damn weird, tbh
It sounds like the premise of a fairly bad sitcom, or a far-fetched porno. A swashbuckling, globetrotting Serbian activist moves in with a neurotic, bookish English student at one of the most isolated, conservative Universities in the UK. But, for four or five days last week, that was my reality.
For those if you who don't know, during the week of the Rectorial elections, Serbian activist (and now, thanks to you guys, Rector-Elect of St Andrews) Srdja Popovic lived in student accomodation in order to better understand the housing crisis he's now going to help solve. For most of that time, he stayed with me, and the experience was…eye opening.
Obviously, as Srdja's campaign manager, I had researched Srdja's life in what I thought was great detail before he arrived in St Andrews. But while that gave me plenty of information about his life story and his qualifications to be Rector, there's plenty of things that no amount of guardian articles could have prepared me for.
From Srdja's love of Tennants (I think more of it was drunk in my house the few days he was here than the rest of the semester), to his inability to walk past the Kinnesburn without looking for fish (to be fair, I didn't even know there were fish in the Kinnesburn until he pointed them out), to his near-encyclopeadic knowledge of rock music (he claims I look like Ian Curtis, and I'm still not sure how to feel about that) and fantasy literature, it turns out Srdja Popovic the man is almost as interesting as Srdja Popovic the revolutionary hero.
This is not to say that every moment of our time together was an unbridled pleasure. Just before the first hustings of the election, my shower broke, something that caused us both more stress than the entire campaigning efforts of Willie Rennie's team.
There is no more surreal and awkward experience than asking a half-naked Nobel Prize nominee if he would mind washing his hair in the sink. The day before, I managed to forget my backpack (with my laptop and half of our campaign materials inside) at East Sands. I'm not saying that that lead to drama, but I am now much more fluent in Serbian swearing than I used to be.
But that- and occasionally having to pinch myself over how bizarre the whole situation was- aside, I can honestly say that the last week was one of the best of my life. I keep having to stop myself from having to include the experience in my tinder bio.
The attribute of Srdja's that most sticks in my mind right now is his unshakeable, unflappable self-assurance. In his first night in St Andrews, midway through Srdja charming the pants off of more or less the entire clientele of the Whey Pat, I asked him how he got so many people to like him while we were both washing our hands in the bathroom. He turned to him, smirked, shrugged, and then drawled: "Because I'm likeable."
In more or less anyone else, that would have been the kind of arrogance that would have made me want to punch them. But in Srdja, it was justified. If you met him over the course of last week, you'll know how charming he is.
As I'm sure anyone who watched Hillary Clinton's and Bernie Sander's Presidential campaign's will know, young people tend not to react well to politicians attempting to be their friends. Yet somehow Srdja, 44 years old, managed it- not just with political societies (we managed to get both the Presiden's of St Andrews Students for Independence and Scotland in the Union, and representatives of every political club apart from the Lib Dems backing us), but with acapella singers, bodybuilders and sci-fi fans as well. And managed it in style as well.
Actually, you know what? Maybe I will add it to my tinder bio.