Substantial meals and empty Alex Square: The Fever Dream of 2020/2021 on campus

The Greggs queue did not exist, it was apocalyptic x

Living on campus during the Covid-19 pandemic was nothing short of a fever dream. Thinking of it now, none of it seems real, and I need to confirm other people remember these things, and it’s not something I’ve made up as an escape from the lockdown reality.

Police and porters everywhere 

Slightly like we were being circled, I remember police being on campus all the time, wandering in and out of accommodations to make sure we were all living there, and no one was mixing outside their houses. One night, just me and my house were sitting – very drunk I might add – singing to Adele’s Someone Like You with the windows and back door of our Townhouse open – I reiterate, it was a weird time – when police officers came in to check we were okay, and not mixing with anyone else. Again, we were singing to Adele, so we definitely weren’t, but it’s very odd of them to have to ask.

‘Substantial meals’

One night in first term, back in 2020, a few of my house went out to Spoons. There was still the rule of six, so we had to sit separately despite living together, and we weren’t allowed to talk to each other. We also had to be eating food to order a drink, and one of the girls we lived with didn’t come, so she ordered us all a shot each; we were told that that was our last drink, and we weren’t allowed to order anymore, as we had had two and finished our “substantial meals”. Imagine that now, two years on?

Campus was empty

Campus was empty, and I mean empty. Not a soul was seen before 10 am anywhere, and you were lucky if you passed a stranger on the spine going to Spar. And while I complain about how many people are on campus now, nothing will make me want to go back to the quietness of March 2021.


With shops, bars, Sugar, restaurants, the cinema, and about everything good in the world closed, we had to make our own entertainment. Describing it now feels daft, but at the time it was the best we had. A few of the things we resorted to included: a flat bar crawl, where each person in my townhouse made a specialty cocktail, and we did a bar crawl from the top floor to the bottom. Most of us didn’t make it to the bottom.

Also, themed nights where we dressed up, but only as a house because it was illegal to invite anyone else. British Icons, Halloween, black tie, you name it, we did it. Plus, lots of walks. So many walks. Around campus. To town. The other way around campus. I don’t think there’s a place on campus I didn’t walk, or a time of day I didn’t do it.

Beer Gardens 

Then, when campus bars reopened, we were only allowed in beer gardens. This involved fighting for a seat outside when literally everyone on campus was trying to go, and then sitting outside in the freezing cold, rain and darkness. Dark times for all involved.

Other Human Interaction Covid Tests 

On campus, twice weekly Covid testing was offered for those of us that didn’t stay at home for the January – April Lockdown of 2021. This was the only human interaction any of us got outside of a screen and our houses, and gave us somewhere to go for twenty minutes. So despite the swab being stuffed down our throats, it was nice to have someone else to speak to. Unless you tested positive, that is.

The joys of Microsoft Teams

All university interactions happened over teams. Lectures? On Teams. Seminars? On Teams. Labs? On Teams. Society meetings? Flipping Teams.

And finally, a special mention to whoever played the last post on the trumpet whenever a County Townhouse had to isolate – a true hero of a dark time.

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