I feel that it is time that I -as a second year student straight out of DRA- bit the bullet and gave a heads up to the newer inhabitants of the infamous David Russell apartments. You may think at this point in the semester, as I did, that by now you have mastered the art of the daily town migration and the garbage disposal alongside the other more comfortable aspects of DRA life. That there is nothing more to learn. But I have arrived on the scene to drop the uncomfortable truth bomb that you have yet to even scratch the surface.
Evidence to this point is found in the mentioning of the word ‘grout’ to any former occupier of Lyndsey, Scott, Haig etc. As a response you will most likely observe a detectable shiver down the spine of your subject. Another reaction to expect is one of sheer outrage, the face of a man/woman hard done by, one who’s seen the face of injustice just one too many times. I still haven’t really mentioned the issue. The subject has truly struck a nerve.
Let us begin with a definition. Google claims that ‘grout’ is ‘a mortar or paste for filling crevices, especially the gaps between wall or floor tiles’ but oh is it so much more. The word alone brings me back to the ritual of cleaning for monthly inspections in DRA, a process which sounds fairly painless and for the most part it is. More accurately it brings me back to the days leading up to this dreaded inspection where I would regularly walk in on various members of my flat on their hands and knees in their bathrooms, sweat dripping from their foreheads as they made their way through their fifth scrub sponge. A more naive me might at this point have been confused or amused, but a me that had seen the wrath of the DRA inspectors could only gravely salute the efforts of my fellow comrades. I myself had felt the struggle, had soaped the floors with every cleaning detergent under the sun only to see that ‘X’ in the box next to bathroom to mark my shortcomings. The grout can never be cleaned.
This was originally a problem I assumed to be isolated to my flat and immediate circle until I began to express my concern to a wider circle and to my amazement continuously received very similar accounts. Advice was shared over mealtimes and anecdotes of unfriendly interactions with inspectors circulated, some climaxing in a rather hostile exchanges of heated words the same ones rising almost to the status of myth and legend.
I gather from this that there is nothing that can quite wind a student up than to threaten to make them pay for something to be cleaned when the previous day/ week/ year has been dedicated to cleaning it. In fact, the response when I recently informed a third year that I was writing an article on grout was nothing more than a knowing nod and knitted brows. No further words were exchanged. None were needed; the wounds still run deep.
To conclude, whilst first year is like an academic vacation on the way to your St Andrews degree, one thing you do eventually learn is how to clean grout.
I wish you all the best and as a side note; Flash won’t hack it.
“I spent the last day of DRA scrubbing the grout. That’s why I almost missed my flatmate leaving.” - Antonia Ashworth-Davies