Wednesday, June 29, 2011

1984: I'll say you'll let me be your friend

With A levels just around the corner and UCCA forms filled out, I was invited to an open day at Cardiff University.

It wasn't something you could really do in day - though I'm sure I could have done it if I'd tried - so I went to stay with some friends of mum and dads in Bristol.

I'd known them all my life and they were terribly kind. A childless couple with a huge house they let out rooms in, though in a kind of Thriller, eye-looking-the-ceiling way, and seemed to go on forever. They made me very welcome, and I'd been to stay with them at winter half-term in 1982, packed off by my aunt. That's a whole other entry. So I was happy to stay with them.

Only now do I know they led totally separate lives, but put on this united front for visitors. Not that it ever seemed like they weren't a couple at all. My mum had met her when she was the Hoover demonstrator in a department store in Bath in 1962 and they'd remained friends ever since.

Anyhoo, my journey began in Guildford, where on my way to the station I was stopped and asked if I'd take part in some market research about beer. I duly complied, and found myself with eight free cans by way of a thank you. What was I to do them, I wondered? It didn't occur to me that I should drink them or take them as a gift, so I put them in the bin and carried on.

In Bristol we went straight for a curry and then I should prepare for the next day. This being merely an informal open day meant I should naturally be trussed up in a suit.

All I could think of that day was, why did I wear a fucking suit? Why didn't I just go casual. There were no interviews involved, it was merely a brisk introduction to the law faculty and no one would bat an eye. But that was me: told I should wear a suit I did just that and dreamed of being in my basketball boots. Did everyone think I was a major geek?

I don't remember much about the day, except I palled up with three other people, two blokes and a girl, and we spent the day in each other's company. We also all got the train back to Bristol and wondered if we'd see each other in September. Someone pointed out that we didn't even know each other's names. I can't recall them now, but who knows, it might have been you?

We didn't see each other in September, as things worked out differently for me. Not for the couple in Bristol. They're still together, ancient but still together. How and why is a different matter. Don't tell me.


  1. An eighteen-year old boy is GIVEN cans of beer, and bins them? That is extraordinary behaviour. Were you waiting to be given permission to drink them? You poor lad.

    Like you I did a University open day - mine, to the Law faculty at UEA near Norwich. I got chatting to a bloke and we spent the whole day together, then got the train back to Liverpool Street where we also parted company without ever having asked each other's name. I decided against a legal career and against UEA, so never knew what happened to him, though I sometimes wondered. Hadn't thought of him for years until your story reminded me.

  2. I know! I was such a donkey. I think my main worry was that they were really heavy. Tsk!

  3. I went to an open day at Cardiff University in March 1991 (if I was doing this blog, the song would be Joyride by Roxette). And ended up going there six months later.

    Was the hideous brick students union in existence in 1984?

  4. I do recall a lot of plain brick and dull concrete. It was like Crawley town centre.

  5. I did three open days, in 1990 and 1991. One was Southbank Polytechnic in London (my dad drove me down, we set off early enough to hear all of Gary King's Radio 1 early show) and the others were to Leeds University and Huddersfield University. I had applied to the London institution and so visited off my own bat, but the whole sixth form went to the latter two pre-arranged. I remember almost nothing about any of them and ended up in Darlington.

    Don't Tell Me is a superb pop song.