true gripes starving students

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Now that autumn is here it will not be long before starving students start appearing on the streets. They will be starving for two reasons. Firstly, most of them are in debt up to their ears, largely because the traditional student grant system has been replaced by an iniquitous scheme involving bank loans. The second reason is that many students prefer to spend what money they do have on drink rather than food.

Most of them have eaten at home all their lives, and the idea of forking out of their own pockets for food is completely alien to them. It is a waste of money which could be better spent in the pub. That is why pubs near universities are rarely empty. After all, one of the best ways a young student can impress his new friends is by showing them how many pints he can drink in a row.

Some students will go to any lengths to avoid buying food. It was the same when I was at college. I remember there was this one bloke who kept a giant box of porridge oats in his room. He announced that he would survive on this and nothing else, thus saving lots of money for beer. Unfortunately, he was taken away at the end of the first term with scurvy and we never saw him again.

The problem with starving students is that I always feel obliged to feed them. I seem to remember quite a lot of people being kind to me in my student days, and now I think it is time to pay back my debt to society. Although I sometimes wonder why I bother.

My friend Andy is a student. Once a week he comes to visit and I cook us both a meal. After that we have a game of Scrabble, then go round to the pub before my wife gets home from work. I usually knock up a dish I call "chicken surprise", which Andy chomps his way through, saying "very nice" when he has finished. One week, however, I decided on more simple fare and served up rice and beans. Andy ate it in silence and said nothing afterwards. I noticed that the Scrabble game lacked its usual sparkle, and round at the pub we hardly spoke. The following week it was back to "chicken surprise". After the meal Andy pushed his plate away. "Very nice," he said, "much better than last week's rubbish".