midnight, lying on my back in a single bed wearing my trackie bottoms and an elderly t-shirt in the hope that, on my way to the shower in the morning, they 'll be taken for pyjamas...
You guessed it. I'm back in an institution. In this case the one in which I spent three years broadening my mind and developing the useful skills of necking a glass of cheap wine with a penny in it and existing on a diet based solely on the major food groups of Bean Feast, tinned tuna and instant coffee.
It's 15 years. 15 years since we arrived. I'd like to say we were fresh-faced, wide-eyed and innocent, and we probably were. But we thought we were so grown up. Wise men and women of the world, ready to spend three years finding a cure for cancer and creating world peace.
And now it's tomorrow morning, 15 years later, and I'm sitting on a train to the wrong destination (engineering works) and what strikes me is that (although we are now all so different, and although we have all moved on) how little has actually changed and how little we have forgotten.
Oh yes, all the boys have to shave now and many of the girls bear similar scars and stretch marks, both emotional and physical, to me. But we're actually all remarkably the same as we were then. And some of that comes out in the fact that, perhaps inevitably, I spent the evening talking to the people I am still friends with and who I love, and not to those who I didn't click with then, and who, despite polite chit chat about children and jobs and house prices, I find I still don't click with now.
But I think some of it also comes out in the fact that that place: those walls, and courtyards, those gardens, that bleak bedroom, are in our bones. Those three years did change us, but they changed us all and we never noticed. You can see this in the way that we all know, without trying or thinking, which doors push and which doors pull. Or the way we all wrinkle our noses in recognition of smells we never noticed at the time but which now instantaneously slice a decade and a half off our lives.
Because the place hasn't changed. There it stands, immutable as ever. (And despite all their trumpeting of development works the kitchens and bathrooms were depressingly the same as they always had been.) and you realise that although it changed us, and shaped us, and made us (at least in part) the people we are today, for it we are just the blinking of an eye, over before it has even noticed it's happening.
And us? Well we move on, and away, and we grow and make new choices and decisions. But those three years, and the changes we then experienced, stay with us. And I suspect that if and when I go back at 20 years, or 30, or 50, I will realise anew how far I have travelled and how little I have moved.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone