Tag Archives: memories

Freshers’ Week

Oh Freshers’ Week. I’ve seen… 15, I think, of you roll by now. One was mine and 14 have been other peoples’. Even though that first one is almost half a lifetime ago now, I still recall it vividly: I remember being left alone in that brown room with a duvet and some posters and a stereo for company. I remember standing around, hundreds of us, outside the Student Union in light drizzle on the first Sunday night, no one sure what was happening, someone suggesting people go into town to find a nightclub, and that seeming like the worst idea in the world. I remember Jon (still the worst human being I’ve ever met), who seemingly had no possessions other than the clothes he stood in, writing the words “YOU FUCKING CUNT” on a hundred pieces of paper and Blu-Tacking them up all over his room like some profane wallpaper. I remember him meeting a girl he’d been at school with, neither of them knowing each other well or knowing that they were coming to the same third-rate university, and them ending up in bed together inside a week, even though she swore she wouldn’t, because, presumably, in those strange, disorienting first few days and weeks, you will cling to anything familiar and reassuring, no matter what. Or did she know Dan from school, and he introduce her to Jon? I don’t think so; Dan was Welsh and they were from Eastbourne. I remember Adam, with his Versace jeans (I had never seen anyone wear Versace jeans before; didn’t know what the logo was), and his enormous cathode ray tube television set, which literally filled his entire desk, preventing him from sitting at it and opening a book. I remember Ginger Nick, with his separates hi-fi and his hip-hop CDs. I remember Dave, from Birmingham, downing a pint in the kitchen and then bringing it up, seemingly still 100% lager, straight back into the stolen pub glass. I remember the guy from Crawley who owned a vintage MG back at home and whose girlfriend wasn’t here and who didn’t seem to deal with things very well. None of us seemed to deal with things very well. Sometimes I think that 18 and 19 year olds today are far more clued up and sussed out than we were. But I doubt it. I remember the delicious, disconcerting freedom, the distance from home, the not wanting to leave campus in those first days because, as strange and unsafe and uncomfortable as it felt, at least I had a safe space within it, however small. I remember not taking part – in societies, the students’ union, the student paper, in studying itself, much of the time – and feeling like I didn’t want to. I remember the incident in the kitchen one night, when I’d been ‘home’ (in the halls of residence flat) reading stuff for a lecture early next morning, and somehow, due to some kind of racial altercation with some guys outside, someone from the flat next door put his hand through our kitchen window whilst drunkenly trying to punch someone on the other side. I remember stemming the blood flow and picking shards of glass from his palm and getting someone to phone an ambulance. I’m sure I’ve written this before in an attempt to exorcise it and make myself feel like I had a more worthwhile university experience. Every time I think about it I’m transported to a set of emotional memories that belong to a different person, a less happy person. I remember a trip home, a desperate, expensive train ticket and a five-hour journey, a night out with whatever friends were left, everything that ought to have been familiar feeling unreal, as if it had slightly tilted off its axis, uncanny and uncomfortable when it should have been reassuring. I remember Magnus the mature student, an impossibly old 28 or so, who had rented a house with his wife, who I could talk about music with. I remember Friday afternoons in The Charles Bradlaugh with Olly and James and Ben and whoever else, reading The Guardian and drinking Guinness. I remember a drama lecturer telling me that after 30 years he had a particular “academic sense of smell” and that I had potential, or likewise, which is what teachers had been telling me, and I’d been ignoring, since I was about 10. I remember it still being flattering. I remember Andy, who was a few years older than us and local. I remember Kazi, who asked me to manage his rap group because I knew who Public Enemy were. I remember Emily and James and the girl with curly hair whose name I can’t recall (Liz?). I remember Ben, and the other Ben, and the third Ben, doing Fine Art. I remember Cat. And her friends who Olly was always in love with. And the two Welsh guys who looked alike and drank together and did their washing, drunkenly, by stealing a shopping trolley and piling their clothes into it and putting it in one of their en suites. I remember the nightclub on three floors – sofas downstairs, dance in the middle, indie and cheese on top – that might have been called The Lounge? I remember buying a Nick Cave album in a tiny independent record shop. I remember John the Geordie, who gave me a Richard Dawkins book, and whose accent was so thick that people thought he was Irish. I remember bumping into James about 6 years after graduating, randomly, in Piccadilly Station while I traversed London after a conference I’d attended. I remember thinking “what are the odds?” I remember Ben asking me if I wanted to go to London with him to take some diamonds across town for his uncle, or something. I remember drinking leftover absinthe at two in the morning rather than write an essay. I remember playing one game of football, scoring a nice left-foot volley that took everyone but me by absolute surprise (because why is this geeky lost guy even playing football) and then not playing again for three years because I hated the football guys on my corridor so much. I remember supporting Roma because the only free-to-air football was Football Italia with James Richardson. I remember evenings buried in the computer room, hours wasted being angry at people on the internet in forums and chatrooms, minidisc player glued to me, convinced the £250 was worth it if I spent 10 evenings spending no money rather than spending £25 on 10 nights out. I remember walking across campus, across town, in the middle of the night, melting my eardrums to Ride or Idlewild or Orbital or whatever. I remember riding through the nature reserve at the back of campus. I remember discovering red wine and jazz and sex and cooking and not understanding or knowing what to do with any of them. I remember seeing a fox on a path in the middle of the park as I walked home at 5am, looking it in the eye. I remember the hoarders who lived next door and the crazy guy three doors down who emptied his house and sold all his possessions at boot sales. I remember buying a hi-fi for the first time; a mobile phone with a contract for the first time; salmon for the first time; chorizo for the first time; a DVD for the first time. I remember going in HMV and Virgin so often that the staff would say hi to me. I remember Spinadisc, and returning a couple of years after graduating and finding it had been turned into a Connexions centre for young people to find training and jobs. I remember not going to graduation. I remember begging to move flats because the football guys on my corridor hated me as much as I hated them (or did they?). I remember the first thing Olly said to me: “I bet you’ve got a wicked stereo”. I remember discovering that Graham was into archery and Charlie sometimes took his kids to McDonalds “because it’s easier”. (Idealistic me thought less of him for that; now I understand.) I remember Mike leaving to go and teach at a better university and feeling like we’d lost something. I remember Xavier and the postgrad with long hair. I remember people turning to each other and mouthing “what the fuck” during initial lectures on critical theory and Marx and semiotics and ideological state apparatus, and me thinking “yes”. I remember Charlie playing the video for “Come To Daddy” in a lecture. I remember getting half a dozen firsts in a row for Philosophy essays. I remember Charlie reading Deleuze out loud and proclaiming it genius even though he didn’t understand it, and thinking this was bullshit. I remember an exam on a Saturday morning in a sports hall that wasn’t even on campus. I remember feeling like it would never end. I remember modules in photography and postmodernism and aesthetics and moral philosophy and directing a play that scored a (really) high first for everyone. I remember being baffled that anyone would stay in that damn town after finishing. I remember rushing home every holiday. I remember drinking alone. And with John. And with Olly and James. And with Ben and Cat. And with Magnus. And with Tom. I remember meeting school friends in the summer and talking about what we were studying and each of thinking we were studying the most important thing ever. I remember kicking down Eli’s door with our landlord because he’d moved out without telling us and left it locked. I remember Liz not turning up for the third year because she’d transferred to another university. I remember Emily telling me that “even your anorak is cool”, which just goes to show that, even if you feel like the most uncool person ever, someone else probably thinks you’re not. I remember thinking my hair looked normal in that first term after I’d dyed it back to brown over the crazy bleachjob I’d had done that summer, only to go home halfway through term and see my reflection under non-striplights and realise I looked ridiculous. I remember wearing flares and a giant corduroy coat a lot. I remember the guy who used to walk a ferret near where we lived in second year. I remember sleeping through a raucous results party. I remember the guy who’d been in our flat the year before coming round on our first night there to sell us drugs. I remember Biggles and Caroline and Chico and Chippy and Miriam and playing Playstation in the kitchen and the guy with badly dyed indie hair (like I can talk) and the Spanish girl and the guy from Exeter who I swear I saw the other week and Tom and Pin and the other Adam who was almost a bit goth and Luke who lent me a Fugazi album and drinking in local pubs that didn’t like students and seeing Coldplay in a tiny venue in town way before their first album (double-header tour with Terris) and going to London and Wolverhampton and Leeds and Blackpool and loads of other places for gigs and album launch parties and waking up in Kingston and getting lost in Brixton and shaving my head and growing my hair and dancing and laughing and drinking and writing some essays and going to some lectures and Graham saying something about the 60s being made up by 100 people in London and his t-shirt of him at the statue of Karl Marx that he wore every week and which got progressively dirtier and dirtier and podiatry and leather technology and occupational health and the library being massively expanded one summer and realising all the buildings were named after nearby villages. I remember having a good time, some times. I didn’t think I’d remember much.