What does a ‘bunker’ mean to you? Does it conjure images of thick concrete or some building with a dystopian, subterranean air? 

Personally, I think of my first-year accommodation, semi-affectionately named ‘the bunker’.  

In all fairness, it had a few benefits. It was extremely cheap and served as a wonderful pre-drinks room. It could comfortably fit a double air bed on the floor. College provided me with a fridge and a microwave, which was a blessing until a friend was given a contraption allowing you to cook eggs in a microwave for Christmas. The resulting aroma was intensified by notes of mould and a general dampness, common in partially underground rooms.

Despite being considerably more modern than the rest of college, it had the loudest plumbing in the entire university. The sound of the radiator was comparable to skeletons fornicating on a tin roof, alongside a novice experimenting with a French horn. At least I had cold water on tap (albeit a brown colour, and also from my hot tap.)

My particular bunker was situated with six other identical bunkers, all with similar issues. The formation of these rooms allowed for a small square of grass in the middle, which I proudly considered my garden, my own miniature quad. Although it was lovely to look out onto my little courtyard, the window permitting this view obscured my luck. Like the other bunkers, my bunker had one wall which was just a window, so my room received some natural light but was also very open . Normally, College tries to occupy the bunker suites with only one gender, but because I filled out my form very late, my fellow bunkerers were all men. There is no doubt in my mind that after a night of rich, cultural experience at Bridge, many of my unlucky neighbours watched me retch into my sink, strip, and defeatedly crawl into my bed. Much the same as when I had unintentionally seen them doing their Chloe Ting ten-minute Xtreme fat-burning ab attack workout the previous week, and other unspeakable things. 

Before I continue, I would like to say that my unlikely bunkmates were, on the whole, very considerate. The seat of our one shared toilet was almost always left down, and in second week they all banded together to remove a particularly massive spider from my wall. However, our shower (again, one shared) often housed a slightly melted dental retainer on the radiator, and even the toilet could not escape from a blanket of short black hairs. If you need to manscape, you need to manscape, I suppose.

To add to this, I was in Bunker 7, which necessitated a charming walk past the kitchens, the bins and the spot where my tutor liked to keep his bike, simply to wash. I would often combat the cold in my turtle-patterned Oodie, and nothing but my turtle-patterned Oodie: a Tuesday morning delight for my poor tutor.

Finally, the crowning jewel of my nuclear bunker was its hardy inhabitants. Plural. Composed of me and my roommate: Zeke. No one is quite sure how Zeke (the mouse) found his way in. Maybe he discovered  a hole in the floorboards like the spiders, or maybe he used the slug entrance – a tiny window in the roof. Most likely, his arrival can be attributed to my oversight: leaving a half-eaten crumpet by the big window, too heavy for me to shut on my own before falling asleep.

Zeke acquired his name after I rang my mum to ask her what to do about my furry little friend and she reminded me just how much I used to love my grandad’s stories about a similar mouse, also named Zeke. Canonical Zeke and his best friend Willy Water-Rat spent their days smuggling cheese through coves, preventing Willy’s home from being flooded by the high tide and conversing with Wise Owl. Non-canonical Zeke’s days were less romantic and involved languishing under my radiator, making me jump as I attempted to read Derrida in bed, and evading the porter’s traps with an air of ease that was almost arrogant. 

Despite our best efforts to relocate him, Zeke remained for most of Hillary and all of Trinity. He became almost omnipresent – even when I couldn’t see him, I would hear him rustling around in the dust and fresher’s fair leaflets next to my bin, or I’d notice fewer crumbs on my desk in the morning. 

As much as I would like to romanticise Zeke into a comforting presence, reminding me of my grandad and preventing me from feeling lonely, I don’t like mice. In fact, I just wanted a wildlife-free room with a toilet that didn’t require me to brave the elements and wasn’t known to all as ‘the bunker’.

This year, I made the choice to splash out on a room that wasn’t from the lowest tier and would be a bit more comfortable. The irony of this is that I am still not free from wildlife. As I awoke after 3rd week Bridge Thursday, head pounding, make-up still on, I heard a familiar, yet somehow different, rustling. Any alternatives for the name ‘Fucking Squirrel’ would be appreciated.