Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Studying in the Absence of Temptation

Being a "distance student", you get to use something called UK Libraries Plus. To cut a long story short, this means I went today to join the library at Northumbria University, where I was an undergraduate in the early 80s. In those days, it was called Newcastle Polytechnic, of course.

It was the spookiest thing, this 20 year time lapse.

There are some trees, near the entrance to the Art Gallery, and facing the library's administration area. Lovely silver birches, forty foot high. But I remembered when one of them, the biggest, was about fifteen foot... Some wanker, God knows why, had cut a ring around its bark - that should've have killed it. Someone else wrapped thick sellotape around the wound, and wrapped into that bandage a note which said, so far as I recall:
"If I find out who is trying to kill this tree I will break their fucking legs".
Perhaps the sellotapist was also a botanist and knew what they were doing. The tree has flourished.

As I approached the library, I glanced at that area between it and the Students' Union, so familiar, that I took it all in at a glance... And then realised I was looking on it for the first time in twenty years, and looked again... Only the shrubbery had gotten older.

That's the thing with a University or college: it's inhabitants are always young.

Eventually, I got a table and got down to studying. The act of absorbing and synthesising knowledge hadn't changed.

What had changed was, none of my mates would come in, smelling of alcohol, to 'tice me away from my books.