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Monday, 29 September 2008

First day at school

I pull the trusty Crosstowner into the bike rack outside the Ferens Building, remove the front wheel, the back wheel, the seats, all the lights and my water bottle. Bottle, seat and lights go into my pack, while wheels and frame get locked together. It has been a frantic rush to get to this lecture as I have, as I expect will become typical throughout my years of studentship, left absolutely everything until the last minute.

The throng outside the lecture hall looks uncertain collectively, a group of mostly kids, none of whom know how to stand, who to look at and why they are there. Most crowds have a direction, an intention - there's the happy expectation of a group of Liverpool fans outside Anfield, the pointless bustle of Hull's Main Street on a busy shopping Saturday, the false air of pretending-to-be relaxed strolling that tourists exude and the outright hostility of a commuting crowd , but his group of new students is a new atmosphere for me.

I get into the mood straight away by walking through the crowd gathered near the lecture theatre doors and checking my timetable and the sign over the door to make sure I am in the right place. Then I try to find somewhere to stand, not too near to anyone else, but also not too far away, just in case anyone speaks to me. I am, like everyone else, anxious to make my first friend. We all check the clock frequently. Five minutes late, the lecture hall doors open, and the group surge through the doors, all anxious to claim the prized seats at the back of the hall.

I get my seat at the end of a row, seperated from my neighbours, by two clear seats. It is a good spot. I'm near enough to the stage to see the lecturer, but having chosen a spot at the end of a row near to the front, the line of sight between me and the stage means that if he even looks like he's considering the possibility of asking any questions, I can bend down quickly, pretending to tie my shoelaces and the people sitting in front will hide me completely.

The lecture is about Ethics, so while the lecturer speaks, I take a quick glance round the room. My own course is in a Department that delivers pre-school teachers so the majority of the room is eighteen year old girls, mostly (this being England), blonde. There's a smattering of older women, absolutely no teenage boys, and for a moment I panic, but when I look nehind me, there is an amalgamation of older men, sitting on their own at the end of the rows immediately behind me. They all look as if they are, at the drop of a hat, ready to tie their shoelaces.

Suddenly, the lecturer invites us to turn to the person next to us and discuss the point he has just made. The girls sitting to my right glance very quickly at me and start talking very intently, so I glance nonchalantly behind me and make my first friend. J.J is mid-forties, an ex-journalist and from Northern Ireland. We discuss football, rapidly establishing that he is a Man Utd fan and that he lives about one street away from both Large Villas and Nickson Mansions. Given the situation we are in, there is a tacit agreement to put this gulf of understanding behind us, and we chat briefly about what we are supposed to be talking about, but I am not completely open. As you may be aware, my attitude to studying is that it is a competitive sport, and this is my first opportunity to assess at least one of the competition, so I let JJ express what he thinks, and just agree mutely.

The lecture ends suddenly and JJ wants to go to the pub, but I've got a kettle of fish to deal with back at our house, so I re-assemble the Crosstowner and head off back to the house. There are more Welcome sessions organised for the next day, so that evening is a night off from working on the house. I want to be up the next day, shaved, showered and breakfasted, so I round up the cats early, get a good book and set my alarm, which I promptly sleep through.

1 comment:

JoeyMac said...

Sounds like an excitingly typical first class. Congratulations! You've taught me a few things as well. I had no idea that the English gene pool had such a tendency for Blondes. I had no idea why all of the mature male students in my classes sat at the end of the row _ I thought it was to try and trip me. I had no idea what to get you for your next birthday - but now you can expect a pair of velcro sneakers. :)