THE wee nip in the fresh autumn air, the soft glow of darkening afternoons, colours dipping to gold and the aroma of nature letting go of summer … At this time of year, I can’t fail but be transported back to my student days and the return to term after a long summer doing daft jobs to earn scant money.

It was an exciting transition, but the news unfolding last week of desperate students struggling to find accommodation reminded me that the start of term could be fraught with problems and worries.

My first year at university could have started better. As my pals packed for Edinburgh’s Pollock Halls, I found myself contemplating a bedsit in the middle of nowhere and miles from the campus, the only offer I’d been made by the sinisterly named SAS (Student Accommodation Service).

I turned it down and sat tight. Something better was sure to come up.

And so I found myself at the imposing Florence Nightingale Nurses’ Home for the first term of university life.

Google describes it thus … “Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Scotland: The Florence Nightingale Nurses’ Home was opened in 1939 by the Duchess of Gloucester. It provided 282 separate rooms for nurses as well as modern study and relaxation spaces.”

It was an imposing and austere building and the “modern” spaces still had that 1939 vibe. But, yes, I was lucky to have a roof over my head.

However, for a building so full of people, it was strangely lonely. Let’s just say I didn’t seem to have much in common with my fellow residents, despite all my strenuous and most friendly of efforts to strike up conversation in the communal kitchen.

Oh, well … I only had to stick it for 10 weeks.

I moved out with the expectation that my next search for suitable accommodation would end much more happily.

WHICH it did. Kind of. The commandants of the SAS, possibly because they were getting tired of me camping out at their offices with all my worldly belongings, despatched me to a student flat with two rooms, one of which was empty. Maybe.

My new almost flatmate advised me not to bother unpacking, just in case. The possibly erstwhile tenant had packed up and headed home for the Christmas break … but might be returning.

A few tense weeks ensued, but she never did return and I finally started to make myself at home.

I’d like to report that this was a long-term situation.

Alas, at the start of next session I was back to square one.

Then my brother came up with a solution. He’d just bought a flat but couldn’t move in until he’d finished a work contract elsewhere.

It was all mine for a couple of months … and “rent free” … as long as I painted the interior.

This seemed a reasonable deal, and better than days hunkered down in the SAS waiting room.

The only other downside – there was neither furniture nor cooking facilities.

So I procured a kettle and a mattress and settled down to my decorating task fuelled by bananas and Pot Noodle.

Once my stint was over and my brother returned, I resumed my battle with the SAS.

This war of attrition paid off and the officers surrendered and gave me a self-catering room at Pollock Halls.

Victory over the SAS commandants was mine. At last.

I should mention that the smell of white emulsion also transports me back in time to my university days.

I only wish the present situation for students painted a better picture.