So I’ve taken the plunge and after 24 years am returning to the classroom to expand the mind and get a degree.
The first big decision was what to wear. Style is very important at seats of learning. It says sooooo much about you. What it usually says about me is ‘must try harder’. I was acutely aware I was going to look a middle aged old fart whatever I selected from my depressingly limited wardrobe. Jeans and T shirt were dismissed in favour of respectable chinos and a neatly pressed shirt. Coupled with a man bag I looked like a rather earnest social worker with a paunch.
I don’t know why I bothered. My fellow students in the classroom- nearly all under 25 and looking so cool without really trying- dismissed me as the class old codger with the dreaded ‘ah…bless’ look. The shame.
I cheered up as lunchtime approached. My inner body clock was telling me that Stella Artois was in the vicinity. Off we all went. My default setting in any pub is “a pint of lager please” without thinking where I am or who I’m with and I assumed many of my fellow students would be knocking back snakebite and absinthe chasers. But in a shock development which I may never recover from all 18 ordered soft drinks. So I did the same. It just didn’t feel right to be the class problem drinker. Well not yet anyway.
Fashion shame I can just about handle but a temperance degree? It’s going to be a long hard year.
The 'space to think' pod
Started life today as a part time ‘academic tutor’ in the media department of that pleasant and ambitious seat of learning the University of Sunderland. All talk among the students was of the former canteen, now a very modern and sleek study area. Taking pride of place is a pod where individuals or small cabals of students, tutors, whoever…can gather for conversation, reflection and contemplation. Those passing can see them but not hear them. The students I talked to don’t seem to ‘get it’. Perhaps with time it’ll grow on them.
First lecture went well….if you like peace and quiet. Dut to an… erm…. ‘timetable glitch’ I was left on my own.
Was It Something I Said?
The second session had a full attendance and they look a promising bunch. And that was just for turning up.
Had an egg roll for lunch. The new cafe gets off to good start.
Last week I ventured south of the great dividing line between the north and proper north – Scotch Corner Services- to earn a crust working in London.
Trundling through the countryside on the East Coast main line our carriages are packed. More than packed. Heaving. I was one of the lucky ones to get a seat. How can this line not make money I thought as a large woman dragged a suitcase up our carriage hitting the elbow of everyone on the way.
I always approach a train journey with a feeling of despair and impending doom. While secretly pinning hopes on a forward facing window seat surrounded by flirty students all taking an Honours Degree in seducing older men on trains I end up with the sort of people who shouldn’t be in the community without matron mopping up behind then.
And yet again I wasn’t disappointed. Facing me across the table was an young lunatic with a sniffly nose and an attitude. He spent most of the journey drinking cans of turbo lager and texting. I notice he had ‘love’ and ‘hate’ tattooed on the knuckles of his hands. I spent most of the journey between York and Peterborough silently chortling to myself as I imagined him being involved in a tragic industrial accident, losing a finger, and having to spend the rest of his life with ‘love’ and ‘hat’ on his paws. With dedication like that surely a job in millinery couldn’t be ruled out.
And so the journey passed with various travellers arriving and passing through my world- in this case Coach F. The roll call will be familiar to you- the elderly couple with something unspeakable wrapped in foil; loud groups of women with make up vigorously applied (in the dark it seemed to me) off to see Billy Elliott; berks on mobiles; foreigners appalled at the pathetic speed of the train and the price of coffee (£1.70) but most of all, people like you and me putting up with it all and doing anything to pass the time.
There are a number of fascinating games I like to play to pass the time so I don’t lose my mind. Counting rabbits; counting crops; counting Christmas trees; looking for naked people in upstairs windows (admit it you’ve done that) and in an increasingly disturbing middle age development checking out greenhouses on the progress of tomatoes.
And for those of a technical bent try this. Switch on ‘Bluetooth’ on your mobile, search for other devices and within 30 seconds an intriguing list of names from your carriage will pop up on your phone. You then spend the rest of the journey trying to guess who’s who. So my apologies to Krazy Kath, Dave’s Phone, Nokia N96, Mental Tam and Boro Forever if I got you all mixed up. And in case you’re wondering who Clear Off Nosey is then the secret is out.