‘Sitting on a wall in the hobbit wood, river water and cigarette smoke drifting by, my friends and I experienced the first of few visuals. Either the acid trip was hotting up or the Squares bar was too sweet for me to handle.’
by Joshua Perrett
If you are ever lost while looking for a university, follow the next Asian kid you see. I know, I know, Asians being super studious is a stereotype, but if you were looking for a burger would you follow a stringy, six foot woman or a swollen, waddling dumpling? If you fancied your face to be distorted like a Dali painting, would you ask a Mormon or an Ethiopian tribesman? And if you wanted to buy an industrial-sized gas oven, would you ask someone who looked as rancid as a ready meal or an elderly German man?
The reason I offer this advice is simple. When a friend and I were adrift in the hours of countryside surrounding Bath Spa University’s Newton Park Campus, having been chased by a horse and squelching through fields of tar-like mud, we spotted a young Asian man enjoying a late afternoon jog. He was our Star of Bethlehem. And although we were two unwise men for walking and not taking the bus to Bath Spa, our intuition was right when it told us to follow him. Because a few minutes later the uni was revealed, glistening in the sun like Jesus in his manger.
We walked up a long, sweeping road to the uni grounds, hills and forest in a horseshoe around it, the grey brick village of Newton St Loe in the opening behind us. Bath Spa’s surroundings were fantastic – mossy thatched roofs, farms, the city of Bath itself just a few miles away – and we were expecting more of the same traditional British architecture. But we were faced by quite the opposite – a cuboid of fake stone, entirely glass skyscraper walls and revolving doors. It looked like a modern hospital or research centre, contemporary and professional, but ill-fitting given the sensational Somerset setting.
Despite this disappointment, there were buildings built as far back as the 14th century. Needless to say, their appearance was drastically better – bits of old castle, a classic country manor, and a nature reserve with a swan-dotted lake, hobbit wood and an old stone temple. Picture a royal countryside residence, throw in some students clutching cute little textbooks, and you won’t be far off.
Regarding the student accommodation – I believe the halls we stayed in were a mid-range price – the corridors were long, thin and zigzagged through the building as if they, like their hungover inhabitants, were running away from the dregs of light that dripped in through the occasional door. There were no windows along the corridor either, and the lights and paint scheme were dull, near sepia tone. The rooms were so close together that you wouldn’t say they were on top of each other, but rather inside one another. And when you did go inside, they were like understairs cupboards – a single bed, a sink and about a foot of open floor you could stand on. I wouldn’t have been surprised to have opened a door and seen Harry Potter brushing up on his potions, or trying out his spells on the windows in an attempt to open them more than an inch. (The windows were restricted to opening just a tad, and bore a sign warning students not to climb out – which I found baffling in a place full of self-confessed adults…)
The student kitchens weren’t much better, but again, what was I expecting? Mary Berry’s World of Aga, Heston Blumenthal’s chemistry set? You’d be lucky to find a clean cup amongst all the biscuit packets, pizza boxes and empty vodka bottles. The fridge was packed with off-milk too, the pots and pans were burnt black, and it looked like someone had thrown up all over the hob, lumps of charcoaled tomato and swamps of cheese sauce bubbling away.
Of course, uni students don’t spend all of their time in bedrooms and kitchens. Sometimes they go outdoors. Even if only for a joint.
The weed was all right, smooth as breathing in air in fact, and it was more easily available than our local with shorter waiting times, but being a predominantly arts based uni that’s hardly a surprise. And what’s more, with a night on the town seeming more compulsory to students than attending lectures, smoking pot until dawn was the done thing – well, more done than any work at least, but they’re adults, remember, racking up several grand’s worth of debt for the privilege of a few late night doobies.
Then there was the acid. My two partners in crime – the friend I arrived with and our host who studies at Bath Spa – and I had never done it before, and we greatly anticipated its effects. Would our eyes become kaleidoscopes? Would our intestines shoot out of our belly buttons and strangle us to death? Would we become T-rex and decimate the uni with our twig hands and thick, tree trunk tails?
Hours passed. Anticipation turned into desperation. We felt nothing.
Then I had a little fizz, a tingle, as if my blood had become carbonated. Energy started to build up and my mind became frantic, thoughts whizzing in and out of consciousness every second, all of them clear and enjoyable. I felt drunk without the heavy head.
By this point I’d bought some cigarettes from the on-site shop, which was a task in itself. It took me 10 minutes to buy a Kellogg’s Squares bar and a packet of Marlboro – that classic combo the actors in old black and white films had, eh? They didn’t last long on acid, though. The Squares bar was a single bite and I was chugging down cigarettes as if they were a cure for cancer.
From here onwards things got interesting. Sitting on a wall in the hobbit wood, river water and cigarette smoke drifting by, my friends and I experienced the first of few visuals. Our depth perception distorted, and things in the distance seemed a lot closer. Our eyes were zoomed in like camera lenses. Either the acid trip was hotting up or the Squares bar was too sweet for me to handle.
We were now beginning to enjoy ourselves, riding the high. And then I got caught up in a wave. The fizzing became electric, hedonism usurped my rationality and I was a chain-smoking, sweet-guzzling, pleasure-craving wreck. I was loving it. This must have lasted for a good 30 minutes or so, spent by the lake, that cliché feeling of ‘connecting with nature’ becoming apparent (oh, those beautiful views). But as they say, what goes up must come down.
I started to feel cold. Really cold. Even after I’d persuaded the others to join me inside, I was still shivering, despite now having the warmth of central heating and multiple jumpers wrapped around me. I think I was actually turning blue. And I remember a remarkable thing, reacting to people’s speech in a way I’d never done before. A hint of aggression in someone’s voice and I’d feel genuine fear, an undertone of sadness and I’d be grabbed from the top of a wave and pulled down to the sea floor, struggling to swim back up to the sanctuary of happiness.
Then a Genesis song came on. But for once this was an appropriate time for prog rock.
Listening to music and playing FIFA 16 helped calm me, their familiarity countering the strange sensations caused by the acid. I didn’t find any aspect of the acid unpleasant, though, I very much enjoyed the experience, but after an hour or so of continual switching from up to down like an elevator, I did want it to end.
The following day after sharing a single bed for the second night running (what a generous host we had), we were back on the sober sea, no more waves, not even a ripple. My friend and I decided to make a quick getaway as we’d had enough of uni. Granted, we hadn’t been to any seminars or lectures, but our taste of the highly proclaimed uni ‘social life’ was a bitter one. We just couldn’t justify racking up thousands of pounds’ worth of debt to live in a shoebox for 3 years, smoke weed until sunrise, wake up after all your lectures have finished, then eat a burnt pizza and drink putrid milk. Either Bath Spa was letting the supposed adult, responsible, hard-working reputation of university students down, or we’d sampled the reality of uni life.
It’s safe to say that the students we encountered weren’t like the super studious Asians, and that I’ve very much been put off going to uni. But I do think I’ll do acid again.