The One List to Rule Them All

On the third Saturday in September Jessica will arrive at university. Sometime between 11’00 and 12’00 apparently: that’s her ‘designated parking time.’

Oh dear.

She’s going to a fine university, no doubt full of very intelligent people. They just don’t seem to have teenage daughters…

It’s easy to see what’s happened.

‘Lots of freshers arriving. Chaos in the car park. Need a plan. Get a nerd to write a programme.’

And said nerd has stopped playing World of Warcraft and done exactly that. He’s looked at his own ‘what to bring to Uni’ list – jeans, t-shirts, Xbox, six PCs – and assumed all students are the same.

Then he’s factored in the number of students arriving, five minutes to unpack, 0.3 seconds for tearful farewell to elderly parents. He’s written one of those equations with a big, squiggly F at the front and out has popped Jessica’s all-too-brief time in the car park.

Time allowed to unpack the car – five minutes. Make that five hours and you might be somewhere near.

Never let it be said that our daughter doesn’t do things properly. She has taken the university’s ‘things you might want to bring’ and spun it into War and Peace. Camel trains moved across the desert less heavily laden than Jane’s car will be as it approaches the car park.

So, here it is. In its entirety. Jessica’s list: I defy anyone to come close. And if you think ‘new school shoes – gym kit – geometry set’ is excessive you’d be well advised to leave the country.

Quilt – duvets and sheets – pillows – pillow cases – blankets – bath towels x 2 – hand towels x 2 – flannel – toaster – small frying pan – small saucepan – baking tray – spatula – wooden spoon – plates – bowls – cutlery – tea towels – glasses (phew, no mention of the tequila shot glasses that her brother sees as an integral part of his degree) – mugs – egg cup – bottle opener – baking bowl – chopping knives – cheese grater – shampoo – conditioner – toothpaste – razor/shaving gel – bathmat – washbag – shower gel – toilet roll – first aid kit – sewing kit – coat hangers – bedside lamp – extension lead – passport photos – cutlery – chopping knife – washing powder.

You have to feel for the residents of this benighted town. Clearly the shops don’t have these essentials of human life. But never mind. That’s her bedroom sorted. On to the sports field.

Astros – undershorts and overshorts. (Overshorts are just ‘shorts’ in old money, right? Undershorts are what you wear to stop getting hamstring pulls. Unless you’re me, in which case hamstring pulls are what you get from lacing your trainers.) Where was I? 2 x tops. “Why don’t you wait and get your tops at university? Then they’ll be in the team colours.”

“I don’t want everything to be in one colour, Dad.” Meaning, ‘I’ll get some more tops when I’m there, obviously.’

Skin – sports socks – Canterbury trackie bottoms. Wouldn’t you know it, the trackie bottoms have to be Canterbury. I dimly remembered what my trackie bottoms had cost – it would buy half a leg for Jessica.

Phew, you think. Thank goodness, that’s over. Sorry, mate. She hit us with a second list.

Pens & paper – folders – stapler & note pad – Blu-Tack – paracetamol – lava lamp – rug (Rug?? It was at this point I felt my daughter had lost control). But of course there was one final item. Writ very large. CLOTHES.

Winter coat – winter PJs – Bras/undies – thick cardi – jeans (black). Heels – Converse – Pumps – Ankle boots.

Four pairs of shoes? In addition to the ones she already has? I managed to survive university with a pair of desert boots and some trainers. But I’ve only been her father for 18 years. Clearly I have learnt nothing…

Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it, you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 77p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here


  1. Ha ha ha! If Im honest, I thought she is being relatively realistic with her list but then again Im and ex-university student and a woman….say no more! Is that just one you’re left with now?

    • Yes, just the one at home now – he goes in four years. Hopefully he’ll go to a town where they have shampoo & conditioner. Given the amount I’ve been ordered to buy the only conclusion I can come to is that she’s going to town where they never wash their hair…

  2. I can advise you here, Mark. Give her £30 and point her in the direction of the nearest charity shop. Everybody knows that students buy clothes from charity shops cus it’s retro and they all like the ‘vintage’ look. You can get a decent Parka (always a favourite with the students) for a fiver.. bargain!
    You’ll have to cough up for the undies though and I doubt that you’ll get the Converse either but Le Boutique George (aka Asda) do a decent Converse wannabe at a quarter of the price.
    You save some money… the charity makes some money. It’s a win win situation.

    You can thank me now. ;)

    • Clearly we’ve gone wrong somewhere along the line. She doesn’t do charity shops. (Beginning to think I will though if her list gets any longer…)

  3. I have to admit, I was reading the list and finding logic in everything! That must be because I’m a woman and we have to prepare for every eventuality.

  4. You’re making me feel all inadequate as we haven’t bought anywhere near that much stuff for our son. My hubby has focused on cooking utensils and some basic snacks such as tins of baked bins. Quote, ‘students can’t go wrong with beans, they’re cheap and nutritious. I lived on beans when I was a student.’
    I think it’s down to me to sort the towels and bedding etc. The books and clothing he can get himself (with us footing the bill of course). Although we’ve only just started with ‘the list’ we are already wondering how we are going to transport it all from Manchester to Birmingham – our car boots just aren’t big enough. Oh, what fun the sandwich generation have! Ha ha

    • Can empathise with that, Diane. When we took our son last year the list was nowhere near as big. Actually, from his POV it was non-existent as his Mum had to do it! Hope it goes well for you – your food bill will certainly go down when he goes away!!

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