Sunday, 21 March 2010


I'm writing this a little after

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


  1. I went to a reunion type dinner (probably 15years actually) about 8 weeks after Luke was born. Was clearly deluded and sleep deprived. I had a total blast. What I really noticed was that all the boys had put on weight and all the girls, despite numerous babies, were pretty much the same size.

    The other thing that I found eye opening, was watching all those who had been couples in the 3 years of University, find being in the same place, with the same bunch of people who they were there with, struggle to remember that they were not any more a pair....

  2. That looks so much like my student rooms, too. I wish I could have gone to my ten year reunion. I'm hoping to make the next one.

  3. did you have to wear a badge? or did they recognise you? and you them? i'd have to wear a badge: so long after the fact and too many children (though I wouldn't change that), too many fags (though I've given those up), too much wine (and I won't give that up) and too much sun (which I wish I'd given up before i started) that i'd definatley have to wear a badge for fear they'd take me for old woman from a shoe. my sis had three under three: i admire all woman who manage that.

  4. Great post - I was with you all the way! I went to a reunion a few years ago and, like Brit in Bosnia, the men had gone fat and bald and the women fairly unchanged.
    Saw an old flame of mine there: thankfully nothing ignited!
    (came over for a visit after your spectacular rant on Brit's post re vaccinations. With you all the way!)

  5. PS _ no idea why I wrote "with you all the way" twice in one comment box. I don't even use that phrase much usually!
    *retreats to find thesaurus for other phrases*

  6. If anything, Brit, I'd say the girls were thinner (but with saggier boobs...esp me as I'd failed to take a bra other than the one I was wearing ont he way there which was dramatically on display in the dress, and therefore had to go without. Whoops.) but yes, lots of the boys had got fat. Sadly the only pair who were then a couple are still a couple, so the fact they went home together wasn't very remarkable. I will though admit that it was rather an odd sensation to be in the bar, in a posh frock, a little tiddly, and not to be looking out for someone to pull.... TMI?!

    Mwa - you should go! It was weird, but fun...

    RM - Hello there, thank you for your comment. No badges required (wouldn't have gone with the aforementioned frock). But you're right. There were a LOT of people who I had no idea who they were. To be fair, though they were probably saying the same thing about me, and were mostly the people I really hadn't talked to in 15 years - the last time being freshers week... Plus they gave us a list, so it was quite fun going "is that Jim? No, surely that's Jim. Really, do you think Jim would have got that fat? etc etc"

    Trish - I was a bit ranty wasn't I? Whoops! Sorry. Not so much baldness here incidentally, although the turn out was pretty poor so maybe the bald ones had stayed away.

  7. I hate reunions. I pretty much stay in touch with those I wanted to. As for the others-- I'm just curious!

  8. I think this post is beautiful. Maybe you should send it to the college magazine. Really. If you don't, perhaps I will (you'll have to tell me where to send it). Every sentence had me going "yes, yes" - the push/pull of the doors, the wrinkling of the noses...

    I went to my college's 10 year reunion, and really hated it. Got stuck on a table with a whole bunch of people who I thought were having ironic jokey conversations about who earned more, and who had their own business, and who had the most impressive wife/husband, and it took me quite a long time to realise that this wasn't ironic or jokey, but just the kind of conversation they wanted to have.

    Also, I was just expecting my first baby, so wasn't drinking, and according to the good friend I went with (and actually, the best bit of the whole event was the car journey there and back with her - chance for a really good gossip), I made it embarrassingly obvious, by apologising - more than once - for not drinking and claiming some spurious and unbelievable reason, instead of just not mentioning it, in which case no-one would have noticed.

  9. Modern Mother - that's it though, isn't it? You don't go to see the people you see anyway, you go so you can nose around in the lives of those you don't...

    Oh Iota - I've so been there. Not, fortunately, on Saturday night though(I was slightly freaked out beforehand by the prospect of admitting I was quitting my job, but in the end everyone was (as they should have been) delighted and supportive - to my face anyway).

    Hopefully, if you ever go back to another reunion, they'll be too busy running their businesses, or checking out their own navels, to turn up.

    What I actually wanted to say though was a big thank you for the compliment. Not going to tell you where to send it, but very touched and delighted you enjoyed the post.


I know. I'm sorry. I hate these word recognition, are you a robot, guff things too, but having just got rid of a large number of ungrammatical and poorly spelt adverts for all sorts of things I don't want, and especially don't want on my blog, I'm hoping that this will mean that only lovely people, of the actually a person variety, will comment.

So please do. Comments are great...