I look out of my ivory tower and I see the students milling like tiny ants far below in the concourse of The University of Sheffield and I know that time has come again: as a new academic year dawns, the fabled fresh autumn air blows in with its breath of hope, germs, and anticipation.
A word on procrastination. I had planned to write a post marking 10 years since I was a fresher myself - the days of heady optimism in a blustery autumn in Nottingham. Well, I started writing that about a year ago, but all sorts of work and devilry got in the way in the intervening time. So here we are again, 10, nay, 11 years since I was first a fresher. Here are a few thoughts on what it meant to me - though I wish I could remember better.
I packed select contents of my bedroom into the boot of my Dad's car, without much forethought or any sort of 'box' system, a sort of loose pile of objects, and we made the approximately 1 hour trip up the M1 motorway to Nottingham. There's a big gap in my memory (I had a comprehensive education, there are all these comprehensive gaps...), and although I'm sure we did something nice in the intervening time, before too long anyway my Dad was making the right turn onto the Derby Road with a yawning chasm of space and a silence around him in the car - how he must have felt at that moment, I do not know, or maybe he just put on some music. But anyway, there it was, the finality of it: I was now in Nottingham, alone in a renting house. I was at Uni.
Why was I not in halls? Nottingham was my second choice University and by the time I had confirmed the place, it was too late for a place in halls.
I can clearly remember that the landlord had not finished decorating the place, having perhaps expected me a day or so later, but I distinctly recall a lady being in to clean the property as I unpacked. I had just made my bed for the first time with my orange-and-brown hand-me-down duvet cover. Now, I loved that duvet cover, but I get a pang of sadness when I remember this lady chatting to me. She saw the bed made up and said, 'that's nice, duck'. Could she have really liked it, or could she have just seen this poor lost boy and felt sorry for him? It's too long ago to be sure now.
What I was sure of in the year 2002 though was, I was no lost boy, but a roaring lion of a man! I was 18 years old, yes, a big manly 18-year-old. I had good A-levels in clever subjects. I was a musician, in a band, I was a tough Coventrian, I had a stripy beard. What more proof required? Yes, I had shaved stripes into my beard, and wore wooden beads around my neck that came from H&M Hennes. I don't have a picture to illustrate this specimen of a man, but some from a few months later, sans stripes, show the great hulking example of masculinity that I was.
|Above: It's not piss. Below: two feet, one sock. (Thanks to Tea Hole).|
This is part one of a two part post. Part two is here