The thing about December in the University Library is the fact its empty… Totally devoid of under graduates. It is a place of peace and contemplation, a place where serious study is at last possible. Unlike the normal atmosphere of the University in semester, where one rushes from a lecture to the union then on to a tutorial… Yeah, that’s a lie, the rush is from one excess to another, the lectures and tutorials are the incendentals, the thin layer of intellectual rigour spread evenly across the drinking, the smoking and the fornicating. These are the central tenets of the first years of being an under-graduate. As a 27 year old, who has spent ten years in the real world, working in industry, long hard hours of toil and turpitude, I grasped these tenets like a newly converted zealot. I drank to excess, smoked too much weed, and enjoyed as much female company as I could muster. In effect, I got to be a teenager again.
However, with all of those distractions away for the Christmas holidays, spending time actually doing my essays and projects in the peace and quiet of the library, was a total joy. I would travel unto Campus on the bus, the same time as I did in term time. As the Library didn’t open until ten, this gave me an hour in the union cafe, a time to read the Guardian, do the crossword and drink a mug of disgusting coffee… but all in peace. None of the remaining students, the ones who lived on Campus and hadn’t gone home for the hols, would not be up and about until midday at the earliest. Peaceful times.
At ten, I would get up, put the newspaper in my brief case, and toddle off up to the library. In those last years, before everything was on the computers and everyone had mobile phones, the only way to find the information you required, was to read. You had to wade through hundreds of essays, novels and pamphlets… Magazines like New Society, New Scientist etc, you had copies of every newspaper from the year dot on microfiche, which as a sociologist was a goldmine… It was a pleasure to use all these tools, and with the aid of helpful Librarians, you could find information which none of the other students would begin to research. In effect, the time spent alone in the library was probably the most productive time I had in my four years of University education.
At twelve, I piled all my books up and placed them on the end of the desk, with a note that I was coming back and please do not remove them. I put all my papers and notes in my briefcase, and made my way down the circular steps of the library back towards the Union building, looking forward to a hard earned cheese baguette and a cheap pint of lager. At the bottom of the steps I stopped and lit a much needed cigarette, the library was one of the few places on campus where you were not allowed to smoke… Heady days before the anti-smoking fascists took over, these days you can only smoke in a dustbin on the first Thursday in September, but in those halcyon days you could smoke anywhere, even in the maternity ward of the local hospital!
As I walked across the car park I was passed by a rather beautiful Asian girl, who stared and smiled at me as if she knew me. I smiled back, desperately trying to place the girl, was she in one of my tutorials? She passed by, and I continued towards the pigeon holes where our internal mail was placed, it was important to check your pigeon hole at least twice a day, because the individual faculties tended to treat communication as espionage. You were never told anything, but instead got messages written in invisible ink, which you had to decipher with lemon juice and then burn on pain of death.
Well, I might be exaggerating a little, but I had missed re-arranged tutorials and new essay assignments, simply because I hadn’t checked my pigeon hole a second time on a given day. So, it became second nature to check the pigeonhole every time you entered the union building.
As I found nothing for me there, I turned and bumped into the girl of the biggest smile again!
“Sorry… Oh it’s you… Hello… How are You doing?” This was before Friends so I’m claiming the phrase back from Joey.
“Do I know you?” I asked, as her smile and demeanour suggested some previous knowledge of each other.
” I don’t think you remember me, but we have met.”
“Have we? I’m sure I would remember… You.”
” You remember the reading we did of Macbeth in Drama?”
This was not proper drama, I hasten to add, drama was not a faculty or subject allowed in my University, the drama mentioned, was part of the Teacher training faculty, which at the time I was studying concurrently with my proper studies. I gave it up after the first year, because I didn’t want to teach. I was pencilled in to teach English, History and Drama… So I had to attend these Drama classes as part of my teacher training. It was very dull, we were treated like pupils, and led by the nose on how to stand up a play from the page. As I had studied Acting at Drama and Dance School from the age of nine, it was quite run of the mill. When I turned up to the classes, which was not always, I was most often drunk… or at least under the influence of several libations.
When we had stood up Macbeth, I’d played the drunken night watchman, from the beginning of the play, and had hammed it up a little, as it was improvised. The other classmates had fallen about in hysterics, and a terse Tutor had called time on my performance.
I’d neglected to return after the event, as it wasn’t an integral class to the subject, but an extra add on. I’d just dropped out of it. So, the members of that class had not become a permanent fixture in my firmament.
“Were you there? I don’t remember, I’m afraid I was rather drunk.”
“I was supposed to be Lady Macbeth, but you rather stole the scene.”
“I’m terribly sorry, I don’t remember much…”
“Yes, I know, you were rather drunk… I just wanted to thank you!”
” You did, why?”
“I was terrified of playing Lady Macbeth and then your performance brought the place down, and it was never stood up again, so you saved me from that fate.”
“Well you’re very welcome.”
“You were very funny, you should be on the stage.”
“I was drunk, I’m always funny when I’m drunk.”
“Seriously, you look like a film star.”
“Who Alan Ladd?” OK, this needs explaining. Alan Ladd was a famously short film star, 5 ft 5 inches, from the 40’s and 50’s, exactly the same size as me. You, dear readers will probably not be aware of this fact, given you’re of a later vintage, and the girl similarly, looked perplexed.
” You know, the American actor who is famously short.”
“Oh, I see, no I never thought of you as short… You act a lot taller!”
to be continued.