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Freshers’ Flu – Why My Mum Invented COVID

In anticipating Freshers, Brittany Perera reflects on parents, growing up, and sneaking off to Halloween parties (Smirnoff big up)

I got the talk today. You know the one. The birds and the bees. Or, in this case, the singular bird who did not interact with any bees in any other than a friendly manner until the said bird and a very well educated, hard-working, thoroughly cultured, preferably Sri Lankan, highly ambitious, respectful-to-their-elders bee were united in eternal matrimony. I admit, the metaphor got away from me a little. 

Coconut oil being massaged into my hair, coriander boiling on the hob, the announcement caught me a bit off guard. Imagine a slight Sri Lankan accent and a stern motherly voice. “Better not to be doing the adult things.” But maybe this would be better with a little context. 

Two cultures, both alike in dignity

In times of (un)fair Corona, where we lay our scene

From ancient tradition one plans to be set free

where alcohol makes the liver unclean

From forth the fatal minds of these two foes

Parents worry they’ll lose the apple of their eye;

with misadventures and revealing clothes

Do with Fresher’s Week, her dignity will die.

All caught up? Okay, so in terms of clarity and good exposition, it wasn’t the best way to go, but come on, 10 points for style right? Thank you Mr Shakespeare. 

Anyway, in brief:

Parents live in Sri Lanka.

Move to England in 2002, armed, already with 2 kids.

Parents have a third child – me. The only one to be born in Britain so they aptly call me Brittany, thrusting that western birth on me like a tattoo. 

They’re living the dream: 3 girls, all hard-working, kind and all that jazz (I’ll stop tooting my horn now don’t worry). They send all 3 to an all-girls Grammar School.

Oldest daughter makes it through school, no major drama and woohoo the family has a pharmacist!

Middle daughter races through, acing it, no major drama again and whoop whoop Oxford Medic, hello!

Final daughter.

Aces GCSEs, and somewhere between the summer of year 11 and 12, hello hormones, teen angst and the sudden desire to live a little. I don’t want to bore you so I’ll whiz you through the details, crash-course-style. And don’t think I’m proud of any of this – it was all 100% sneaky, 100% immature and 10000% stupid. So brace yourself.

Goes on a residential, meet some boys (gasp!), makes friends, realises she likes one of them as a little more than a friend and ‘Trick or Treat!’ it’s Halloween. Halloween party with the boys? Yes Please! Parents would never allow it, so of course, I lie, say I’m at a friend’s sleepover miles away to where I actually am, get myself some alcohol (Smirnoff big up), but not before discussing the transaction loudly in a cafe, and go to the middle of nowhere for the night of a lifetime. 

After being overheard by my parents’ friend – a policeman, no less – discussing Vodka – my parents are on the prowl, finding me at a boy’s house, drunk, and dressed like a spooky Halloween skeleton. Fast-forward past the secret boyfriend and a ‘suggested’ break-up by the parents, 2 years of being as good as gold, honest and true and here we are. 


Artwork by Rachel Jung.

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