Thursday, 19 September 2013

It's a bloody long way to Exeter and I've come a bloody long way in thirty years

Going to university is a very different experience now, as I discovered at the weekend.

Once upon a time it was rucksack on your back, ghetto blaster in your right hand catch the train.  I rather think, today's approach of car filled to bursting with every possible item imaginable and parents driving to destination is the better way of doing it.  We rolled up, unloaded, with fewer items than most falling on the ground, and took everything up to the room.  The one casualty was the fake Louis Vuitton suitcase The Boy had brought back from his rugby tour of the Far East.  The wheel collapsed, shortly before the handle pulled off.  Some part of an Exeter rubbish tip will forever be The Boy's.

I then abandoned The Cat with The Cat's Mother whilst I went off to see how the campus has changed since I was last there.  And it has changed.  It seems smaller.  If I'd grown half an inch since I was a student, I would have understood, but I haven't.  There has been an investment of many millions in many new academic, administrative, cultural and sporting facilities.  The place is more crowded, but actually just as attractive.  The hills, one known as Cardiac Hill, are less challenging...I remember being able to cycle up one that just about nobody else didn't seem so bad now.  The building I was taught in still looks the same, but the 'new' library has just been refurbished, extended and opens into a covered meeting space called The Forum...I think the Romans would like it.  There was a coach-load of Chinese students looking completely bewildered....even more so than the ones from the home counties (one continuity is that Exeter has an apartheid policy which excludes anyone who is not born and bred within the M25 boundary).

I'm sure The Cat will love it.  She will be studying a subject she loves, she will meet new people from a different bubble to her own, she will find some independence that she doesn't have now, and have a livelier social life.  It's all good, and she will return a grown up in three years ready to face the harsh world of working life.  Hopefully we may see her a few times before then!

I've been re-acquainting myself with my past recently, and this was no exception.  I spent a wonderful couple of hours wandering round with distant memories gradually coming back. Good times, bad times, ordinary times.  People I liked, people I disliked (avoid anyone you make friends with in Freshers week for the next three years) and people I just knew.  Drinks in the Ram, or the Ewe Students Union Bars, much socialising.
Dancing down at The Quay, curries every week.   Not enough work.  Not enough involvement.  But I still got my 2.1 which got me my first job.  Economics and Political Development since 1800.  Call it modern history.  Don't talk about the Soviet Union which disappeared a few years after I graduated, wasting two terms of (gentle) effort.

I liked being there again, albeit I am frustrated I couldn't quite fit all the pieces of the jigsaw together again. But what matters to me most is that by accident, I have in the last few weeks fitted together each of the stages of my life into something of a continuum, so right at the moment I have not a bad helicopter view of where I've come from to where I am now.