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9 September 2008

Souvent Me Souvient

After over four months of hunting and searching and exhausting trips down to London, it seems that my ticket out of Nowheresville has finally arrived--the lease has been signed and the keys have been handed over and as of Saturday, I will be a resident of London W1 and my beloved Marylebone High Street cafes and shops will become my locals. I will have a shower of my own and central heating when I need it. I will be able to sing out loud and to play music after 10.30 p.m. and I will be able to use the tumble dryer whenever I want--well, I would be able to if there were a tumble dryer; looks like I'll be stuck using clothes racks.

It's strange but somehow fitting that I spent so many years of my life trying to get in to Cambridge, only to spend the past six months plotting to escape. It seems funny that I've been living here now for almost six years--the university years, at least, were broken up by long summer vacations and the short terms meant that I definitely felt as though I was bi-residential. For the past two years, I've been a full-time, permanent resident and much as I have enjoyed the time I've been here, it's definitely time to leave--how could it not be when every single place in town brings up memories of people, events, stories and scandal past? I try to avoid my old college for this reason as
 it takes me back to that difficult period before, during and after finals, where goodbyes were said--some more final than others.

I still remember the first day of university, when we drove up in the (then) paternal RangeRover (my poor Ka would never have coped with all of my worldly goods). The first glimpse of the town I got was of the beautiful monstrosity that is the university library, glowing in its power station-like lustre and visible from the motorway. The M11 was as jam-packed as ever and we got off one junction too early, which meant sitting in traffic as we sidled, inch by inch, down Nowheresville's only hill behind every other new student and their parents. After parking in St Jocks', Maman and I unloaded the car while Papa "directed" (as ever). I met two guys--a Mancunian and an Essex boy--both of whom were very nice and offered to help with the unloading. I was just thinking, "!boys!" and wished my parents would disappear. Both ended up being among my best friends in the first year, even though The Mancunian said I was the poshest person he'd ever met (ridiculous given that he also knew Prince Charming).

My room was on the top floor and it was huge. I was expecting a box rather than a living-room/bedroom suite (with views over the beautiful gardens at the back of college). After the parents had helped me unpack, I quickly dispatched them and w
ent right out to Dixons to buy a CD player (which was barely used given that I discovered the joys of file sharing within about two weeks of being there) and I also embarrasingly bought a copy of Avril Lavigne's album (excuse? S said that he really liked the song Complicated and that she had a cute voice...).

Dined in that gourmet establishment that was the college cafeteria, along with Manc, Essex Boy and several others. Progressed to the bar and met some second years. Spent several hours trekking round various "room parties" in college (being chased, always, by the porters who were out to enforce the "if you have more than 12 people in a room at once, it's a party and the dean must be informed" rule). Tried to go to Life (now Club 22)--this was the closest I got to the dire Nowheresville club until my very final term at university. No great loss. Went back to Essex Boy's room. He was a big Bryan Adams fan (for some reason) and we listened to some choons, got talking. He had a girlfriend back in Essex; this didn't bother me but it still bothered him at that time. Also, I was missing S, whom I had left behind in The Ford after a stolen walk along the river, which finished with us climbing up a tree for more privacy), only two days earlier. 

And that was it! That was university. That was Nowheresville. It feels odd to be saying goodbye to a town that I am not really leaving, given that I still work here, but then I've never really said goodbye to a place before--I was too young to remember much of leaving the Big Smoke, chicken pox ridden as I was and Oxford still feels like home. After my third year, people from my group of ten closest friends started leaving--some graduated before I did and another batch left after I graduated. For the past two years, there have been just four of us and by Saturday, there will only be two. I really ought to be a better correspondent and stop losing touch with people but my inner circle has a maximum limit and to allow anyone new in, someone old must get pushed out. At least London is more central to the rest of the world. Monsieur Exquisite and I will be about three and a half hours, door-to-door, apart, which should facilitate some Parisian excursions. I like Paris. I have fun in Paris. I have good memories of Paris.

Now that I'm leaving, I'm of course much more cheerful chez moi and I think Doktor Landlord will be sorry to see me go. He will miss my sarcasm and my
 alleged sluttiness and blokiness and the abilty to mock the way I live my life as a means of making him feel better about his. He will miss me coming home and then talking at him for about 30 minutes, barely pausing for breath, and giving him little insights into my world. He will miss the version of me I play up to be when I'm not in the mood for being myself (a similar version to the me character that appears in the majority of my novels). He probably won't miss me moaning about being cold, refusing to have dinner parties with his friends, mocking him in front of his (now ex-) girlfriend, not taking the bins out, not doing chores, not helping in the garden, disturbing him by being noisy in my room when he's trying to sleep, and generally being a bitch.

The last photo I took before leaving St Jocks' on Graduation Day; the motto is rather appropriate. 

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