Coffee and Vinegar

The scent of vinegar lingers in the air. The spotlights simmer at random angles, off the sea of tables. The chairs sway on the iridescent purple and arid grey chunks of carpet. The white painted walls glisten like a pilchard fresh from the sea.

It is feed time, in the canteen at Leeds Metropolitan University a group of teenage boys laugh away like Hyenas in the Serengeti, their jokes barely audible in the waves of conversation around the vast swathe of tables and chairs.

Two girls sat at a table, discuss mature matters “Everyone in my family’s married, like all my sisters and everything, I’m like the only one left innit so…” says one of them. Despite the screeching of the other voices, the banging of chairs and the clattering of cutlery, they carry on merrily, with their serious talk about relationships.

Two tables away from them is a smartly dressed female tutor dressed in a red shirt, looking like a shrivelling strawberry in the winter months. The tutor sits in a guarded manner trying not to seek the attraction of the others around her like a zebra trying to escape the attention of a croc. She clams up as she tucks into her food.

The automatic door at the side of the canteen continues to open at irregular intervals, akin to the buses in the region of Leeds, with every opening there is a cool arctic blast pining at the inhabitants of this biodiversity.

The joker in the pack continues to channel his inner primate as he gesticulates in an ever more extravagant manner. Despite this the others are so immersed in their own little bubble and no one besides members of his pack notice. The sporty kid sits there with his bowl of fruit and carton of juice, and quietly finishes off before exiting the jungle.

Slowly the sea of sound starts to die down as the herd of animals begin to make their ascent into the heart of glass that is the Rose Bowl, out come the cleaners. They move around the canteen, wiping down tables, like a baby elephants mother would wash its’ young. They hose down the tables with their disinfectant and sweep off the debris left behind by the hyenas.

The tutor in red cleans up her plate, before elegantly wiping her mouth and moving out into the wilderness of the Rose Bowl. The two girls continue their girl talk, at a much more considerate tone.

The last few stragglers wade through the sea of piranhas, pushing, shoving, and lifting the wooden chairs as they look to exit. Only a few remain, the scent of vinegar has been replaced by that of Coffee.  The feeding frenzy is over.

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