lytton's

He was an autumn rose. With all his gracious amenity, his humour, his happy-go-lucky ways, a deep disquietude possessed him. A sentimental cynic, a sceptical believer, he was restless and melancholy at heart. Above all, he could never harden himself; those sensitive petals shivered in every wind. Whatever else he might be, one thing was certain: Lord Melbourne was always human, supremely human–too human, perhaps.
—  Lytton Strachey’s “Queen Victoria” (1921)
6

We were very excited yesterday while researching Keynes to discover that the blue plaque on his house was replaced with a rainbow one for Pride 2017! Six other rainbow plaques which graced London from the 26th of June until the 8th of July. Sadly, this was only a temporary change, but it gave the people of London a chance to acknowledge, celebrate, and learn about their queer history.

Left to right, top to bottom:

Charles Laughton (1899-1962), 15 Percy St, Fitzrovia - bisexual actor and film director (picture: Wikimeida Commons)

Frederick Ashton (1904-1988), 8 Marlborough Street, Chelsea - bisexual ballet dancer, choreographer and director (picture: Time Out)

Alan Turing (1912-1954), 2 Warrington Crescent - gay computer scientist, mathematician and code-breaker (picture: The London Walks Blog)

Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943), 37 Holland Street, Kensington - lesbian novellist (picture: Ethical Marketing News)

Lytton Strachey (1880-1932), 51 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury - bisexual biographer and critic (picture: UCL)

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967), 23 Campden Hill Square, Holland Park - bisexual war poet and soldier (picture: Irish News)

An Excerpt from Elsewhere University's Student Accommodation Guide, Accurate to Term Beginning September 20XX

(Handwritten RA’s notes in parentheses)

The Towers

Mid-20th century brick apartment towers, divided into Pelham, McGonagall, Byron, and Bulwer-Lytton. Despite rising to 14 storeys, they have no iron rebar frames supporting them internally, leading many students to say they can feel the Towers sway in high winds. While this is not true, they definitely have the finest views on campus, being situated on the top of The Hill. The Towers have ample kitchen space, but prospective students should be reminded of their thin walls and thin floors. They are regarded as the “party” flats, and many second and third year students will say if a bad decision is going to be made on a night out, the odds are good it will happen in the Towers.

(No one remembers inviting the slim boy with slicked-back blonde hair, but he brought rum and an electric personality and makes himself welcome. He suggests a drinking game none of you have heard of, and only you remember never to play a game whose rules you do not understand. Your friends are not so fortunate)

The Ziggurat

Built in an unusual art-deco architectural style, the ziggurat is officially known as the Carnarvon Memorial Building, and dates back to the mid-1920s. The outward-facing rooms have large windows and are generally well-lit, but rooms further into the interior have no windows at all. Despite pre-dating air conditioning, students report that the rooms at the heart of the Ziggurat remain cool even in the height of summer. Thick walls and shag carpets also make the Ziggurat among the quietest of on-campus accommodation, which many more studious undergraduates consider a bonus.

(She finds sand in her shoes all year round, but at least her food never spoils. An undergrad swears she sees a falcon roost outside her room every day at sunrise. A label on a box of leftovers reads “Whoever opens me without consent, there will be judgement, an end shall be made for him. I shall seize his neck like a bird… I shall cast the fear of myself into him”. Every assumes it is a joke, until the seal is broken.)

The Chinese House

A quaint piece of 19th century Orientalism, and the last survivor of an eccentric effort to build an international students village using architectural styles from all over the world. Most were demolished between the expansion of the football field, the construction of the Michelson-Morley building, and a terrible fire in the mid-20th century that destroyed the Dutch farmhouse. Despite an ongoing and heated debate among the student population over whether or not the building’s styling and history make it an unfortunate racist relic or an architectural piece worthy of preservation, the Chinese House’s residents report that it is pleasant and homely. Regardless of nationality or religion, residents are advised to participate in the Mid-Autumn Festival arranged by the Chinese House Residents’ Assistants, as a matter of etiquette.

(Every year, room 5B is taken by an Asian student with dark hair who keeps a rabbit. No one tells security, even though pets are not allowed in campus accommodation. Impolite questions about where she is from are met with a patient smile, and a gentle reminder that an American flag flies over her home)

Dadd House

A modest Victorian building with en-suite rooms and upholstery faithful to the original. The Accommodation Office must deny absolutely any and all claims that it is a re-purposed insane asylum, including rumours that rooms 2A-2F still have padded walls, or that the 3rd floor rooms have locks on the outside of the doors, as these are baseless and harmful claims which do no justice to the building’s proud traditions. We must remind would-be applicants that the continued existence of Dadd House is due to a very generous grant provided by an anonymous donor, with the proviso that the House is reserved for those majoring in Fine Art, Art History, Music, Music Theory, Ceramics, and Animation. Exceptions cannot be made for those studying Liberal Arts.

(Her music only improves during her residency, filling the dark, sad halls of the house with beautiful sound. He paints great swirls of colour over his canvas, over the walls, over the floor. Her mind is alive with poetry, and she finds herself speaking in hexameter. What had been normal motions startle her as she catches smear frames in the corner of her eye. A group of non-students stroll through the tiled corridors, golden eyes flicking from one delight to the next, furred ears twitching. They discuss who they shall give their ultimate patronage to, as gardeners would discuss which plants to nurture, and which to prune)

Elsewhere Square

An early 21st century addition to the campus, this is one of the more divisive accommodation buildings in recent years, and has been voted “Ugliest Campus Accommodation” in a National Students’ Union poll every year since its construction. Certainly its garish colours and incongruous position next to the venerable Morganwg Building make it stand out, but it is worth remembering that the Morganwg itself was once denigrated as “Gothic” in its day. The layout of the corridors may seem counter-intuitive at first, but students are sure to adapt to it quickly with help of Residents’ Assistants (known colloquially as “Pathfinders” in the Square). Due to a certain proportion of permanent residents, space at Elsewhere Square is limited, but rooms are en suite, and its position is convenient for all campus locations.

(At every junction and intersections, we carve symbols into the wall, and the freshers quickly learn their meanings. You have gone too far, they say, turn back and do not continue. Your rooms are behind you, and you are in unfriendly territory. The unwise head deeper into the building, finding corridors which narrow abruptly into squeeze-bys and stairs which descend below the ground floor. The corridors beyond warp as cheap plasterboard gives way to bare limestone rock, forcing those who descend to twist and contort themselves to pass. No one has ever failed to return from the depths of Elsewhere Square, but no one who ventures there returns unchanged)

Taliesin House

A rare survivor from Elsewhere University’s earliest days, this Romantic-styled house lies on the edge of campus between the Lake and the playing fields, offering pleasant verdant surroundings and easy access to the Sports Centrer for students in sports science courses. The Residents’ Assistants run a lively calendar of events, including socials at the spring and autumn equinox, as well as the summer and winter solstice fairs, as well as a poetry competition in the first week of August. The nearby forests are private property of the Dean’s House, and the Accommodation Office must stress in the strongest language the need for students to stay out of the forest, on pain of expulsion and a permanent mark against their academic record.

(The sports societies love Samhain. They spend all night cheering, drinking to excess, dancing around the ceremonial bonfire that campus security tacitly agrees to ignore. One of the RA’s wears a pair of stag’s antlers, and in the darkness you have a fanciful moment where you imagine they are sprouting directly from his head. Then two drunken members of the girl’s rugby team stumble into the forest together, and a carynx horn bellows through the night. Everyone is inside by the time they hear the thundering of hooves and the baying of the black dogs)

Your RA Suggests:

Residents are requested to keep communal spaces (such as kitchens and bathrooms) clean and tidy, although everyone makes an exception for salt spills.

We suggest you bring only cast iron kitchenware to Elsewhere University. If you can’t get any prior to arrival, remember that the Accommodation Office holds a Lost and Found sale during Fresher’s Week.

While Elsewhere University Campus Security prides itself on its effectiveness, the Accommodation Office must formally issue a warning to all students to avoid unfamiliar individuals, particularly at night and during periods of lunar occlusion. Watch your friends closely.

Campus traditions may seem quaint to you, but it is worth remembering that what appears to be random superstition to you represents hard-won knowledge for others. If you don’t want to participate in seriousness, then at least participate with a sense of fun.

Most importantly, remember that your accommodation is your home, and you should never feel out of place or uncomfortable in your own home.

(Fairies are real, words have power, your home is only as safe as you make it)

(AN: The Ziggurat, the Towers, and Elsewhere Square are direct references to existing accommodation at University of East Anglia and University of Essex)

[J]