Friday, 17 October 2008

Do you remember...?

Do you remember chalk hearts melting on a playground wall?
Do you remember dawn escapes from moon washed college halls?
Do you remember the cherry blossom in the market square?
Do you remember I thought it was confetti in our hair?
Kayleigh by Marillion (Misplaced Childhood, 1985)

I don't normally quote lyrics; I find them a little too much like poetry which can be - like the bible or Shakespeare - a little like someone scraping their nails down a blackboard. But these lyrics (and their accompanying tune) have been floating around in my head today.

Because today found me in Aberystwyth meeting new friends and having a terrific day all round. For me Aber is mired in nostalgia. I spent three years there as a student from 1987 to 1990 (BSc Agricultural Economics) and it hit me today, 20 years later, just how happy I was there.

It's odd to go back there now. I kept expecting one of my bunch of friends to pop up. Outisde the bank, for example, which was then Midland and is now HSBC, or on the sea front.

I found it extraordinarily poignant standing at the north end of the sea front opposite where the Sea View hotel used to stand - I say used to because it burned down a few years ago. There was a big Great Dane dog there and it was where we'd go for last orders. I remember a mad evening there with Sue and Ant and a hippopotamus puppet while Sam Brown sang "Stop" in the background. And someone lived there who I was particularly fond of for a while.

It was odd, too, walking past the sea front halls - Carpenter, Ceredigion, Plynlimon - looking up at the rooms where Fran, Sue, Tracy and Sarah lived and to see that the former Padarn Hall on the corner of Great Darkgate Street where Neill lived is now home to Corals the bookies.

Rummers Wine Bar is still there, tucked into its cosy nook by the bridge over the river. I wonder if it still serves foaming jugs of Stella to thirsty students. It had the best bar staff in Aber too, I've only seen better in kilts in Scotland.

Odd to walk past front doors that used to mean home and whose keys used to rattle in my pocket; the house at the bottom of Constitution Hill where I lived for a term in my third year and Frondeg in Portland Street where I lived for two years.

The town is chock full of the ghosts of Christmas past. Memories of running down the sea front in a ball gown and stilettos; the daily slog up Penglais hill to the campus; walking down to town from the students union at night on the white line in the middle of the road to avoid the rapists in the bushes; sitting in my room in Portland Street in the summer with my legs hanging out of the window as I bashed out another essay; the telephone box at the bottom of Constitution Hill where students would queue to phone home and beg for money.

The sea is a big memory too: Crashing onto the pebbly beach, spray clearing the sea front buildings and coming into our kitchen window two streets in; the night we had a really high tide and the sea came in through the front door; the snorkeler who scared me across the road once (I thought he was a dead body, floating in the sea); walking Richie home to Alex Hall after watching a horror film at the cinema (Alex Hall was a bit too Gothic in the dark, even for a big rugby player!)

I remember the days we couldn't walk on the sea front because the weather was too windy or the sea was too rough; and the storm in October 1987 when I ran home to Frondeg through the streets as slates rained down on the road from the roofs high above me.

Gosh, so many memories. Listening to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon at night in a car parked on the sea front with someone whose name escapes me now; buying bars of Galaxy and bottles of Coke from Arkwright's after a night in the pub; walking up Constitution Hill on Sunday with a hangover; fending off insults as I walked through the fair in my army kit on TA night; dancing with (another) Richie at the football club on a Saturday night; making popcorn in Frondeg's kitchen in a frying pan without a lid (we'd had wine).

Those three years passed in a blink of an eye. I remember Andy saying one night, probably in Rummers, before we graduated, that we would never have it all again; that we would go our separate ways and lose touch with each other, that life would move on and grown-up things like careers and mortgages, families and children, would take over.

He was right, of course, but I think, at the time, we probably just said: "Nah!" and ordered another jug of Stella.


  1. Such a poignant blog Mags. Strange revisiting places isn't it? Hope you amanaged to sleep after posting this and the ghosts went back to bed xx

  2. I really enjoyed this post. You have lovely memories and they are very vivid. Isn't it funny the way we view our future when we're too young to understand.

    CJ xx

  3. Loved that song! And lovely to take a trip back down memory lane with you...reminded me of all my years at Uni, and then Ag College. Perpetual student, me - and why not? Those years were, after all, the best fun I've had (and probably will ever have!). Oh dear - that's a rather depressing thought, but hey-ho at least I have the memories, like you. Mootia x

  4. A lovely post - I can see why with so many memories aroused you found it difficult to sleep.

    I often think I would like my children - as babies - back for just the afternoon to saviour those moments which are now long gone. And to have a day at Art School again would be fun too.

  5. We could tell you were walking in old footsteps as it where, its funny how they suddenly hit you memories like you could nearly glimps them...I love The song Kayleigh in fact sorrel had a very close escape.
    It was lovely to meet you both but didnt the time fly by..

  6. How beautifully you have captured all those memories! Thank you for letting us see so many wonderful people, places, experiences in such a vivid way.


  7. nostalgia always makes me feel a bit physically sick somehow and this was really creepy (not meant to sound horrid!) but the sense of time gone really haunts me! Great blog, PM.

  8. Gulp, Mags! I must admit that those lyrics were rather poignant for me too - so I had a lump in my throat before I'd even read the rest of your post. We should have ordered you a stiff drink yesterday rather than another coffee! Hmm, heady days of university - and even further away for me than you - grrr!

  9. Read this early this morning when I got to work - I thought I was going to sob! Its just raw emotion sliced straight through - absolutely brilliant.
    Lovely day - when I think we were all naughty students for a few hours - hope you get an early night tonight.
    I still keep falling about when I think of Elvis

  10. I cant imagine how I would feel walking on the beach of my college days..which, though not my happiest, were in many ways some of my most formative.
    But whenever I've had a rough patch these days and I think back to then, I shake myself and think how lucky I would have thought myself to be here now!

  11. Oh you have sent a shiver down my spine. I am so sorry I wasn't there with you all. I don't know if I could quite cope with my university days hitting me between the eyes again - friendships which I thought were forever somehow lost; the person I was both here and far away and unreachable. But I wouldn't swap those days for these (despite today's wrinkles and absence of children at home). Hope you feel the same in your own way.

  12. What a lovely, ghostly walk with the student-you.

  13. Ah wish I could have joined you.
    My son lived in Aber for a while, with his then girlfriend.
    Your post was emotional, going back always stirs up old feelings doesn't it?

  14. That was such a lovely blog Mags.
    Very touching. I didn't do Uni but understand completely about the looking back and emotions.

    I met SBS today and was so sorry not to meet you last week. She told me about your lovely blog...and how gorgeous (stunning was the words she used!)

    I PROMISE I'll be there on next trip-think there is talk about another in the spring!

    Lovely writing.

  15. What a great piece of writing. Strange isn't it, how it's all the little things we remember and which evoke nostalgia. 'Having it all', that's exactly what being a student should be like. I hope it's the same for our children.

    A few years ago I went back to my university to give a talk to some students - it was the most disconcerting experience; I felt as if I shouldn't be there talking, but listening.

    Afterwards, when I walked round the campus and down the streets where I had lived I started to cry.

    Some things can never come again.


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