A Cause for Celebration by Clare Johnson


A Cause for Celebration by Clare Johnson


(Senior Career Zone Information Officer)


I wrote ‘A Cause for Celebration’ because there has been a large rise in the number of students in Exeter over recent years, which has had an impact on the city in many different ways.  As a local resident, who is also an ex student and a current member of staff, I thought I was well placed to have a balanced view on the situation. 

I wanted the focus of the story to be on a couple who have rather different views on the impact more students is having on a particular Exeter street.  I also wanted to write a story with some hope in it for the future, in that there may be some unexpected shared interests which can bridge the generation gap.




A Cause for Celebration


     “What’s the point of celebrating getting a degree? Everyone’s got one now.  They’re even

dishing them for out for running up and down a football pitch these days.  It’s a joke!”

Pete made a beeline for the front room window, just in time to catch a young boy with thick

blonde hair, flip flops and shorts, heaving a crate of beers out of the back of his shiny


     “They’re at it again!” he shouted through to the kitchen. 

     Sandy didn’t reply, but not for the first time, lamented how her husband had turned from

a charismatic, long-haired rock god, into a curtain twitching monitor of student activities at

number 22.

     Pete came storming into the kitchen, “did you hear what I said Sandy? They’re at it


     Sandy flinched, “Oh really, what are they doing?”

     “They’re taking in enough booze to sink the Titanic!”

     “They’re probably celebrating passing their exams,” she observed, whilst adding the

finishing touches to a parsnip gratin.

     “What the hell is there to celebrate about getting some ten a penny, Mickey Mouse


     She turned and studied Pete’s angry scarlet face.  It was such a contrast to the one she’d

seen a few years ago when he’d slumped off the stage after one of his ‘Who’ tribute band

performances, and she’d found him as drained as a Dracula victim and fighting for breath. 

He’d been forced to slow down after that, give up the band and ease off on the drinking.

     “It won’t be long before the thump, thump, thump will start,” he carried on, “they

wouldn’t know what decent music was if it punched them in the face, and quite frankly

that’s what I feel like doing to them right now!”

     “Well, I don’t think you’ve got time for that because the tea’s nearly ready.”

     Pete glowered at Sandy and stormed out of the kitchen to glare out of the window again.

     He was soon back in the kitchen, jumping about, “there’s loads of them piling in

now.  Half the University’s been invited, They’ve all got more booze and I just know they’ll

soon be falling about all over the pavement.  I’m going to phone Estate Patrol.”

     Sandy’s jaw fell open, “you can’t do that! Nothing’s happened yet.  They’re going to have

you down as a right time waster.”

     “I don’t care what they think!” Pete shouted, “I pay my rates and I’ve lived here for years;

the students are ruining the neighbourhood.  I can’t even go out in the garden in peace

without hearing their foghorn voices shrieking to each other about deadlines and

dissertations. The bins are always full to overflowing out the front, with banana skins and

spring onions and empty tomato cans rolling around for everyone to trip over.

     Sandy had been disgusted by the rubbish herself, and had almost, but not quite got

involved with clearing it all up out of the way.  It wasn’t really any worse than how she

and Pete had been when they were living in digs though.  They once went a whole week

without doing any washing up, and were lucky the pest control people hadn’t been called in

by the neighbours.

     These days, an image kept rolling around in her head, of her lovely Pete, when he was in

his early twenties, dancing down the street late at night, banging dustbin lids and singing

at the top of his voice, “I hope I die before I get old.” He’d sung it on stage many a time, and

the fans had always loved joining in.

     Sandy sighed. Those were the days.  She couldn’t blame Pete really, for getting angry

about the students.  They were young and having fun, and well ... he wasn’t; a lump

came into her throat, as it occurred to her … and maybe he never would again. 

The meal was ready, but Sandy didn’t feel like eating.  Pete hadn’t noticed the parsnip gratin

yet but she knew he’d hate it.  What he’d love was a nice big fry up, just like he’d always had

before the doctors started reading him the riot act. 

     Pete thumped himself down at the table, and his expression upon seeing the parsnip

gratin, was the same as the one Sandy had observed when he’d trodden in something nasty

up at the park.

     They ate their meal in stony silence, until Pete leapt to his feet and shouted,

     “You know we’re not going to get any sleep tonight don’t you?”

     He was just going to whip himself up into a further frenzy when he caught sight of

something on the calendar, right after the row of dates scored through with large red


     “I don’t believe it, today of all days.  How did we both manage to forget?”

     “How do you mean, today of all days? It’s just an ordinary day, well actually it’s a pretty

horrible day.”

     “No love, it’s a special day.”

     Sandy stopped in her tracks.

“what’s so special about it?”

     “Don’t you know? We’ve never forgotten before, it’s our anniversary!”

     “No! it can’t be, we wouldn’t have forgotten that.”

     Sandy checked, “I don’t believe it, so it is, June 8th

     They stared at each other for a moment, before hugging,

     “We haven’t got anything in the house to celebrate with,” Sandy exclaimed.

It flitted through Pete’s mind that maybe they could go to number 22 and ask to ‘borrow’

some of their booze; but then a thought struck him,

     “Yes we have, I’ve just remembered, I won it ages ago when the band got voted

best tribute act in the area.”

     As he delved back into the far reaches of the drinks cupboard, the distant strains of

‘People try to put us d-down,’ rang out from number 22.

     Pete emerged, brandishing a champagne bottle and cryng out, “It’s The Who, Sandy

they’re blimmin’ ‘Who’ fans, God bless ‘em.  Who would have thought it?”

     Sandy beamed, “Shall we raise a glass? I feel like celebrating!”


Copyright ©Clare Johnson