Sunday, August 07, 2005

Reality is smaller than memories

Originally uploaded by Dazza Waters.
I spent three years in the 1990s studying at Sussex University. It was, I suppose, a typical university experience - spent in two states, drunk and hungover.

Despite the damage to my brain cells, I still have great memories of my time there. Living on a campus is being part of a huge community, a social network which is 24/7. There is always someone knocking at your door or a door to knock on.

I am by nature a nostalgic person - and my memories are very tied to places and objects. So I was greatly looking forward to returning to the campus for my best mate's stag party.

Five of the 15 of us had studied there so this was also something of a pilgrimage.

We rolled up after a night's drinking and found our way to rooms in East Slope, the block I had been on in 1990/1, much as I did for many many evenings as an 18 year old.

Waking up in a cramped room with wobbly furniture and the gulls screaming outside my window, I had the strongest sense of deja vu. And with good reason.

I spent an hour wandering the paths and corridors of my alma mater, strangely quiet now that the students have returned home for the summer months.

Little changed, except the whole campus felt as though it had been shrunk somehow.

Everything seemed closer than I remembered. Long treks to bars or lecture halls were little more than a two or three minute amble.

Strangely, my memory had expanded distances between places when in fact the campus is quite compact.

Different locations triggered memories of conversations, antics and the humdrum stuff that I still treasure.

University was where I left my family and struck out on my own. It's now part of my personality, my character and it was emotional to return.

One of my university friends Craig remarked on the weekend that a "door is just a door", saying he would not be bothering to look at his old corridor, his old room.

Later that night I stood in front of the door of my old flat on campus 57c and felt drenched in so many great memories.

It wasn't even the same door from my time there - but it didn't matter a jot!


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