“…Am I ever gonna see your face again….
………No Way Get F----ed F--- Off!”
The first time I heard those lyrics I was barely seventeen years old and nervously standing in the Presidents’ Room of Lincoln College, wondering just how I was going to manage to drink the plastic cup of warmish cask wine I’d been given and feeling glad I already had a boyfriend and didn’t have to ‘snare’ someone on dance-floor later that evening.
Such was my entry into the unfettered student world of cheap champagne, charity shoes and chunder; far removed from my relatively innocent and sheltered country upbringing with a protective high school teacher for a father and a mother who still tended to refer to slightly easier-going girls as ‘common’.
Staying at a residential college for university students was not unlike a school camp except there were no supervising teachers, no lights-out rules, no separate boys or girls dorms or forced attendance at lectures the following day. Dad was worried: “You know you can tell me anything, kiddo – are there drugs there?”
Not that I was aware of. In 1986 it was all liquid based - pub crawls wearing thrift shop ties from the 1970s, dressing up in bed-sheets to attend the Adelaide University Toga Show and surfing through spilt beer on the lino. Drinks at the Dover until midnight closing time and then cramming into someone’s tiny room where their single bed was the couch as we scoffed down soggy hot chips and boiled the kettle for poor quality instant coffee with a dash of cheap brandy or blackberry nip slugged in.
Romance in those days was a five dollar bowl of Laksa at the Central Market food hall and a movie to follow if the Austudy payment had arrived. We’d car pool back home to Murray Bridge on the weekends and spend Saturday night watching rented videos or lurking at the back of the Cameo Cinema having snuck in our own blocks of chocolate from Mum’s pantry.
Sexual interludes were relatively infrequent affairs, despite the loud ‘You shoulda seen me last night’ braggings of some of Lincoln’s more ego-centric and immature players. Single beds with hard wooden bases in rooms that were draughty and last updated in the 1960s with mates likely to burst in at any moment made any form of horizontal folk-dancing a fairly quick and furtive activity. Most one-night stands ended with at least one partner having a technicolour yawn on the stairwell back to their own room and receiving a endless ribbing about it until their next beer-fuelled bonk.
As a quiet country girl who arrived with a built-in-boyfriend who also resided at the college, every now and then, on special occasions, such as anniversaries (‘Yep, we’ve been going together for two years now’) we’d go out for dinner. To a real restaurant, where I’d borrow one of Mum’s skirts and dress up a daggy long chambray shirt with a silky scarf wrapped around my neck and under the collar.
Selections were a great deal fancier than college food: Prawn cocktail with a gin-n-squash entree and a rump steak and chips for mains. Or chicken and corn soup followed by a brick of lasagna and a cone of gelati from the servo as we walked back home. A big night out like that didn’t come cheap - it would cost us at least $20 for the whole bill – my entire week’s beer, books and bloke budget plucked out of my holiday earnings, or if we were lucky, a freebie voucher won by Sean if he got best player on Saturday.
In 1988 I moved out of college to share a house with Jo (left) and Fiona (front). It was mostly to give me nights that didn’t involve hearing a herd of drunken elephants arrive back home at 2am and clumsily try to open or kick down their doors and also for the chance to teach myself how to cook stuff that was slightly more complex than cup-a-soups and peeling off yoghurt lids. I was single again and out on the prowl but in hindsight my choices were more likely influenced by the volume of bourbon and cokes than by any sense of propriety, maturity or finesse.
There was Mark, a beefy bloke who took me to see Rodney Rude at the Norwood Footy Club for our first (and last) date;
Ian, who pretended he’d lost his car keys so that he could try the old ‘Let me sleep in your bed with you, so I don’t have to walk home by myself in the dark’;
Brenton, on leave from the navy who did the same bar-and-waiting course I did and drove me home on the back of his motorbike with me unknowing that in slinging my leg over the seat my mini-skirt had split up the back all the way to my waist giving other drivers a fairly unrestricted view of my knickers;
Greg, a fellow arts student who twisted the 'come up and see my etchings gag' into 'I like the way you draw, would you do one for me' before putting the moves on and serenading me with roses, bad poetry and funded his trip to Sydney to see Bon Jovi by staring in a TV advertisement as a lumberjack.....
We held a few parties at our little Hackney townhouse that made the once-sensible Berber carpet look like a psychedelic Axminster even after a professional steam clean. Flatmate Jo’s birthday bash was a romantic standout. My night was made by being wedged up against the back of the sliding doors pashing Roger, a Geology PhD student. He drove an ancient Mazda that smelled as though it housed livestock and literally only owned two jumpers; both dodgy experiments knitted by his younger sister. It was enough.
After graduating, a sensible graduate-traineeship and a third-share of the rent to pay meant that 1989 began and ended in a never-ending round of twenty first birthday parties. These seemed to be designed to either show off your latest boyfriend or try to find a new one. I met one bloke I barely remembered during high-school at one held in the Mypolonga footy club rooms. The short scrawny kid in year twelve had gone overseas as an exchange student and returned as a six foot three man-mountain, with twinkling eyes and broad shoulders to boot. He seemed to like my spiral perm, hot pink court shoes and the shoulder-padded t-shirt that hung down to my knees. Sadly our relationship was doomed to fail several months later as he was still a poverty-stricken accounting student and I was a relatively well-paid young Yuppie earning a staggering $21,000 per year. He simply couldn’t keep me in the manner to which I was dying to become accustomed.
Not that attending a vodka jelly party was likely to find me a high achieving millionaire either. As one fella decided to surf down the stairs on an ironing board, another one asked for my number. Clutching the soggy brown velvet modular for support I gave it to him before the floor came up to meet me.
Meeting him a week later at a friend-of-a-friend’s birthday party I soon realised the folly of wearing vodka goggles – he was a hulking rugby player with no neck, white shoes that could have doubled as canoes and a slab under each arm. “How about we finish these off and then crash on the lawn, eh?”
I could only hope that my knight in shining armour would arrive some time in the 1990s……