Bringing my Mum to uni wasn’t what I expected. Previous visits to my elder sister’s university in Brighton seemed a much more civilised encounter, with a visit to the Pavilion and eating delicious vegetarian food being the highlights of the trip.
Manchester is a stark contrast to this, an industrial concrete jungle. The Hallmark Inn, where Mum stayed because she couldn’t stand the thought of staying in my chaotic 13 person student house, is the hotel down the road in Fallowfield, which is the ‘grungy’ home to university students. The complete opposite to what Julia, my Mum, is used to, living in the peaceful South- West countryside.
Mum’s first response to my suggestion that we go to the local student bar, ‘Squirell’s’ was ”Of course, but I’m going to HAVE to buy my own wine, it will be dreadful in there”. Fair enough. It is difficult to handle the head-achingly terrible £2 Echo Falls white wine.
Already, by 7pm, Mum has snuck her Sainsbury’s bottle of Chablis into the bar, insisting that I order a pint glass full of ice, because ”it lessens the blow of the hangover”. Little does she know, whilst my friends arrive dying to meet her, I am discreetly and successfully topping up her glass. Next comes dinner down the Curry Mile. More wine is consumed and towards the end of the meal my friend Emily poses the idea that ‘Jules’ should come to ‘Antwerp’. Now, ‘Antwerp’ isn’t somewhere you want to take your mum when she visits university. Consisting of a dilapidated red brick ‘mansion’, this is the home to Freshers students who don’t care that the roof sometimes collapses on you, there are no doors on the loos or that one is bombarded with the smell of stale sweat upon entering the place where nights come to an end.
I politely tell her that she won’t enjoy herself, but she is tempted by my friends, with me looking on in bemused horror. The next thing I know, I’ve bought her a ticket to ‘Lord of the Tings’ (grime/dancehall isn’t at all up her street) and all of us are piling onto the bus back to Owens Park, the residence of first year students. Mum quickly asks me if she can borrow some clothes because she doesn’t want to ruin her jumper.
A change of outfit, face powdered and a touch of lip-stick later, both of us are in Richmond Park. It’s hilarious, Mum has her Chablis now in a giant coffee mug. I wonder if she misses home, but she seems to enjoy getting ‘down with the kids’.
We enter Antwerp Mansion about 2 hours later and I take her to the ‘cloakroom’ to put down her bag. Not so much a ‘cloakroom’ but more of a rail behind an old red curtain. As we walk up the stairs, we pass students who double take us, not quite believing that they are seeing mother and daughter in the one place you would never dream of taking a parent. As the night goes on, I bump into a couple more people who laugh when they see us, offering to buy us both a beer. By about 1.30am, after two and a half hours of being there, dancing in a claustrophobic mob of sweating, shoulder locked students, Mum roars in my ear over the booming music that she is going home and that I should stay out with my friends. I walk her out of the gates, and put her in a taxi, but not before she’s managed to swindle a packet of cheese and onion flavoured crisps from the bouncer, who, quite frankly, found the whole situation hilarious. As the taxi shoots off I shout that she should text me when she gets to the hotel.
All in all, it was a successful night. My mum has managed to come on a night out with me in Manchester and exceed all expectations. For months after, I was stopped by strangers as ”the girl who took her Mum to Antwerp”. A year and a karaoke bar later and we are still laughing about it, but I get the feeling that it will never happen again… or will it?