To start at any new institution, be it through work or education, is always fraught. You are new-born, fresh and doe-eyed… You have yet to be allotted your role or status. It’s a moment of flux, and how you react will have significance further down the line. Mistakes are bound to be made… hastily accepted allegiances can cause detrimental effects for years down the line. Luckily, most of these patently wrong relationships have a way of being dropped like a bitter pill… wrapped in velvet.
Yet the desire to coagulate with another is strong. Being alone and unknowing is a terrifying prospect and it was thus that I began to clot with a young fresh faced chap, who I shall call Philip or Pip, as is my want.
I met young Pip on the first bus into the campus, we were both obviously nervous and began to talk… At this stage of my pupation period I looked fairly normal and maybe a bit posh with my incongruous attaché case which I carried rather than the ubiquitous back pack. I had yet to develop the fripperies and flummeries of my later look, so to this young chap it was safe to assume I was mostly harmless.
The earnest lad sat next to me and politely shook my hand, inwardly smiling, I asked him what he was going to study.
“PPE” I had no idea what that was (politics, philosophy and Economics). To the cognoscenti this would have been a red flag… Only Tory boys read PPE!
As I was nowhere near being cognoscenti at the time, I was a working-class Oik and a mature student to boot, I took this on face value and thought it might be vaguely interesting.
The was a slight rip in our burgeoning friendship when I told him that I planned to study English and American Studies… He was obviously more in the know than I was, because he recognised Liberal leanings at best, probably a socialist. He recoiled as I told him this like I’d spat a Serpent’s venom in his face. His initial assumption that I was like him had been misplaced… The attaché case had been a blind!
When we arrived at the stop by the Student’s Union, we entered together, continuing to cling to one another like ship-wrecked sailors to flotsam, not out of fealty but for the fear we might drown if we let loose of each other.
Each had become the others badge of belonging. I was suffering heavily from imposter syndrome, expecting a tap on the shoulder at any moment, declining me the entrance into this elite world. For young Pip, I fear that this spot was not what he had anticipated… He was bolted on to go to Oxbridge but for the below average marks in his A’ levels. Redbrick was a land where he too was a fish out of water.
We found our pigeon holes in the Union, and at last we had some instructions. I don’t know if things have changed since the thirty odd years when I attended, but in those days you were rather left to sink or swim as a fresher. Nobody knew where they were supposed to be or what they were supposed to do. It was quit disorientating . So when you actually found an itinerary, you clung on to it like it was the dead sea scrolls.
We were both offered a free meal at one of the halls of residence and after a meal, we split up to go and register at our prospective faculties. That was the last time I saw young Pip, I hope he passed. I hope he got the safe Tory seat that his education was leading to…
Tell I lie, I would see him walking across the concourse and nod at him he would nod at me… then after a couple of days even the nods would drop… Such is life!
(to be continued)