An alternative use for a garden

I AM on my travels this week, Iceland yesterday and Morocco today, all without leaving my ledge. This is thanks to a welcome spot of freelance work with a travel company.

Perhaps because of that, or thanks to the precariousness of life at present, this story struck a chord. A postgraduate student studying in Manchester could not afford to pay rent on top of tuition costs of £20,000. Evan Eames, 24, came up with an alternative solution. He visited various online forums asking for somewhere to pitch a tent while he studied at Manchester University for a master’s degree in astrophysics. Charley Mantack of Stockport saw his plea on Gumtree and offered him a pitch in her back garden. He erected his small tent and lived there for ten months, even staying put in the snow, according to the Manchester Evening News.

Eames paid for this impromptu camping pitch with maths tuition to help Mantack through her GCSE course at Stockport College. She told the newspaper: “I was looking for a flatmate. I saw he wanted to stay in a back garden and I thought, why not, it was weird enough. I loved telling people about it, I like weird, out of the ordinary things like that.”

Eames accepted his place on the course with no idea how he could afford to fund his stay in Manchester, but he’d already done something similar in Melbourne, Australia. Astrophysics is not geography, clearly, and perhaps Eames had never visited Manchester, where high winds, rain and even snow greeted his ten-month camping stint.

And, yes, the basics were accounted for. Eames promised to use the bathroom facilities at the university as much as possible, declaring himself to be on good terms with his bladder. So no nocturnal bathroom ramblings for him. Camping in the garden is clearly a young man’s game.

Anyway Eames has just returned to Canada after successfully completing his masters. His worst memory of his stay was the time he came home in a snowstorm to find his tent had blown over, and he had to put it up again before he crawled in, shivering. His best recollection was a warm spring day when gentle rain pitter-pattered on his canvas roof.

Good on that man, known to his landlady as her physics gnome, thanks presumably to his chin-straggle beard. Not at easy thing to do, camping for that long in someone’s back garden.

This is a fine example of the alternative economy, of people trading in what they have to offer. And with our Airbnb experiences in mind, I recall that we do have a very big back garden. I wonder if my wife the gardener would notice a tent or two erected amid the blooms and bushes of her blessed plot. Man On Ledge will only introduce that idea from a safe distance.

My own student days were spent down a long tunnel: not a location, just that it was an age ago. Studying at Goldsmiths College in New Cross, south east London, I lived for three years in a hall just down the road from Blackheath. Three or four large terraced houses had been knocked through and turned into student halls more superior to what is offered nowadays. Something with which I have often bored our three children, so I won’t bore you with the details.

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