In a recent interview, UCD student John Hughes shared his harrowing experience of how he almost starved to death in his Digs. The brave 19-year-old, who is enjoying his first year of engineering, is currently renting a room in a family house in the Dundrum area.

“I got home from college at around 7 o’clock”, John explained. “I had class all day and then I went to the library for a bit to get a head start on my assignment. I did about an hour, but I was starving so I had to go home”.

John, who is living away from home for the first time this year, was initially excited by the prospect “being a real adult”. However, this enthusiasm was soon extinguished when the budding engineer tried cooking that night.

“So, I got back to the house and threw my stuff into my room. I went in the kitchen and got my pasta out of the cupboard. I was cooking away no bother, even threw a bitta salt and pepper into the pan and everything. I felt like your man Jamie Olivers, haha!”.

At this point in the interview, John’s face turned a whiter shade of pale, to quote the I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker singer.

“The landlord came in. Donal is his name. ‘How’s it going’ he said to me. ‘Not too bad, you know yourself’ I said. So far so good, I thought yano?”. “It was all going so well” John whispered as he stared vacantly into space.

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John came from a small family, unusual for a young Irish man from the country. Indeed, studies have shown the 89% of young Irish people originating from rural Ireland (a rapidly shrinking part of the country characterised by empty buildings, tractors, cows, and bad internet connection) have, on average, 26 cousins and 32 Aunties and Uncles. Apart from his parents (both 56), John had very little experience of talking to anyone over the age of about 24 years. Therefore, social interactions with his new landlord and landlady, Donal and Mary, were always going to present a challenge.

“Donal asked ‘What are you cooking there, pasta is it?’, John continued. “Yeah, ‘tis surely” I said. “A few minutes passed, and Donal was just standing there watching me. I’d been stirring my pasta for I’d say 15 minutes at this stage. I didn’t want to turn around ‘cos I knew if I did there’d be more small talk. Saying a lot without saying anything at all like, yano? ‘What is it you’re studying again, maths is it?’ he asked after I eventually turned around.”

According to John, the conversation continued like this for some time. Other topics of conversation included the weather, the match (although it still isn’t clear which match Donal was referring to, or if indeed there even was a match at all), and his wife’s friend’s sister, before concluding with Donal asking for a second time what John was studying.

“I didn’t get back to my room until late that evenin’ and by then the pasta was cold enough like”, John told us. “It was just so awkward like, and you just don’t feel comfortable cooking in someone else’s kitchen.”

From that night on, John was reluctant to say the least about the prospect of going back in the kitchen.

“I was down one weekend ‘cos I had to finish an assignment”, explained John. I had no food in my room. I did in the kitchen, yeah, but I just couldn’t face going in there talking about my course (Donal had come to the conclusion that his tenant is definitely studying maths) and if we’ll have any sun this week. I had a bit of trail mix left which I managed to make last a few hours. But when it came to about 10pm I was starving!”

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, John chose to stay in his room. “It was a no-brainer to be honest. There was some paint peeling of the walls and I ate a bit of that. There was a lot of condensation on the window as well, so I was able to lick that off to keep me hydrated. It was kind of like the house wanted me to fight back. The high point was when I found an old Pot Noodle under my bed. I drank that, I’m not ashamed to admit it. Wasn’t actually that bad”.

Luckily, John hasn’t experienced any lasting trauma from the whole thing. “I’m okay”, the plucky youngster assured us. “I’ve developed a bit of a taste for the condensation off the windows, but apart from that I can’t complain too much”.

John is currently seeking adults between the ages of 40 to 60 to practice conversing with, in an effort to improve his situation. “I look up the weekly weather forecast every week, so I have enough ammo for our talks”, explained a resolute John. “I’m also considering changing courses and doing maths. It’d be too awkward to correct Donal again, I just don’t see any way around it at this stage”.

James Simcox – Turbine Writer