26 june 2018






school photos







           All original writing

           2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,            2018        Ian McLauchlin



You wonder how it's going to go when the local beer tastes like sour monkey pee. And, like everyone out of their comfort zone in strange surroundings, you default to 'finding' friends' mode.

It was a newly built Hall of Residence and we were the first occupants. The surrounding campus was idyllic and included undulating grassland, established trees and a few old buildings. The landscaping was sensitive. So sensitive that they didn't make any paths but waited to see which way people walked across the grass then built the paths to follow the lines of dead grass.That's what I call sensible.

Luck was with me from the start, especially when someone on the same course as me lived on the same staircase. So I became friends with his friends and so on. We'd meet to do crosswords or play Solo till late into the night. Oh and drink coffee, lots of it. Never had any difficulty sleeping though.

University Challenge 1962-63. Our Team Captain lived in an adjacent Hall of Residence and we used to go for coffee and a bit of celebrity inspiration. It seemed that wearing a bow tie on all occasions might help. Oh and being on nodding terms with Bamber Gascoigne. The team reached the semifinals.

First year fellow students were a mixed bunch. One spent his spare time hunched over piles of train timetables, planning imaginary rail journeys (strange that they're not spelled 'journies') cross-country - which were the hardest. Another would hobble to the workshop and ask for an oil can. "Squeak in artificial leg." He'd had the original amputated after a Rugby accident. His parents were rich and he drove a Lotus Cortina (modified for one-legged boy racers).

There was a bookshop in the campus Student's Union building. One day I was perusing the shelves when who should peruse next to me but another student, female this time. She was stunning and, unfortunately, she knew it. Her name was Sasha Lubetkin and that might conjure up an image. Well reality was ten times better. She spoke to me, probably just to see how disconcerting that was this time. Very. How do legs turn to jelly so easily and voice croaks, and why?

Saturday morning lectures. Not welcome, but it did get me out of bed and afterwards into town. Staple diet was coffee and cheese triangle sandwiches so that constituted the weekly shopping list. Occasionally I had my haircut and was puzzled to be offered something for the weekend. What could it be? I never did find out.

Just as I was becoming aware of pop music on the radio, The Beatles appeared on the scene. I heard the simple but catchy 'Love me do' and, following instructions, loved it. So did everyone else and a string of hits followed. If anything did, Beatles singles punctuated my undergraduate years. Those and James Bond.

One summer was spent in Scunthorpe, gateway to the doldrums of Lincolnshire. There was a steelworks and a vac. job. Standing next to ladles of molten steel played havoc with your complexion and one of our number sustained a blistered chin which reminded him of his time in Scunthorpe for months afterwards. Over the weeks, having nothing else to do, I devoured all the James Bond books. They were formulaic but easy reading. A summer of Bond, Blisters and Beatles.

The digs in the second year were just up the road. Handy we thought. And all the group from Hall were able to stay together. On a Sunday morning the black neighbours would ritually chase a chicken round the back yard with a cleaver. Well you need something for Sunday lunch, don't you. Soon afterwards the landlady moved house to the other side of the city, thereby negating one of the main reasons for choosing her. She never warned us though she must have known from the start . . . .

She had twins, Melvyn and Monica. Melvyn was a hairdresser and Monica majored in impressions of a frightened mouse when she met one of us on the way to the bathroom, and scuttled away. There's mileage in a study of effects of student lodgers on landlady's children. Sunday lunch also featured here. We'd sit expectantly round the table, listening to Round the Horne on the radio. That put us in the mood to react excessively to what was to happen next. Landlady bustled into the room carrying hot plates. "It's chicken today boys. I like a bit of breast, don't you?"

Everyone remembers where they were when they first heard the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated (and nobody’s heard the phrase ‘grassy knoll’ since). Especially tall and long limbed Tim. He was carrying his golf clubs down the stairs at the time. It threw his concentration and this resulted in a tangle of arms, legs, clubs and caddy wedged half way up the stairs. I think they managed to release him before L H Oswald was apprehended.

There'll be more . . . . .