2 December 2008


Right: Coronation Road
Sunday afternoon I drove down to Birmingham - killing two birds with one stone. Firstly, to meet up with our daughter whom regular visitors to this humble blog will remember is at university there. Secondly, to attend an exam board training meeting at the Novotel on Broad Street. How cunning of me to cause this co-incidence...

Last year, Frances was in "halls". This year she is renting a house with six other students on Coronation Road in Selly Oak, less than half a mile from "uni". And no, I didn't say Coronation Street - after all that is in Weatherfield, a suburb of Manchester.

I had not visited this terraced house before. For a few fleeting moments, I was transported back to my own university days in Scotland. Was it really thirty two years ago? There was youthful energy in her house, a sense of going places and getting on with life. Socks and T-shirts were drying on the banisters. Scattered all over the entrance hallway were takeaway pizza mailings and free newspapers that would have taken around twenty seconds to gather up and place in the recycling bin.

Frances's academically brilliant housemates clustered on the sofas, glued to a little portable TV as they munched unhealthy looking slices of pizza and oven chips. They were delighted with the two folding chairs I had brought from Homebase. It meant that at least they could eat at the table sometimes. The chairs cost me £8 each. Why hadn't it occurred to them to make such a useful investment?

I gave our daughter's room 4/10 for tidiness. The wardrobe appeared to have burst open, spewing clothes all over the floor. The double glazed windows that the "kind" student landlord had had fitted last spring were as draughty as a church bell tower because someone had forgotten to run some sealant down the middle joint. Note to self - remember sealant gun on next visit!

With lovely daughter in car, we revisited The Balti Triangle for dinner. A pre-meal beer in the old-fashioned "George" and then into the superb "Al Frash" for the best lamb balti this side of Bombay. The nan bread threatened to float away again. We spoke about her placement in America next year - at Birmingham Southern College in Alabama. She's so excited about it and I am so jealous.

Back at Coronation Road, the other "stewdies" had no idea where the Balti Triangle was or even that it existed. As "Strictly Come Dancing" flickered on the little box, and student excitement rose, I headed off for the £38 a night Etap Hotel to finish some marking before bed. I remembered the parties, the booze, the intense late night conversations, the emotional ups and downs, the essay deadlines, the women, the unmade bed, the burning of the midnight oil but most of all the faces imprinted on my memory like ghosts from "The Titanic" - friends and lecturers, cleaners and porters - a university library of faces - stored in memory.


  1. Your post has left me smiling with pleasure - and especially at the similarities to my own Uni ('varsity) days...and my boys' flats!
    I don't suppose you were at St Andrews were you?

    Thanks for your polite enquiry YP, not quite ready to share yet.

  2. hmmmm I never did much schooling..... spent considerably more time on the canal banks and golf courses, armed with fireworks and bits of string. Had already organised myself a job while in my final year of schooling (which of course was a voluntary year to retake my o levels that I moosed up) - came away with a YTS (remember those?) on 37 quid a week and six o lvels!! GENIUS!!

  3. KATHERINE - Stirling but my son's girlfriend is currently at St Andrews
    ARCTIC FOX - If you had been in my class I would have mesmerised you and persuaded you to walk the path of righteousness. By now you would have been a brain surgeon or a media mogul with an apartment in The Algarve or maybe Withernsea...

  4. I'm sure my sisters lived over in Selly Oak at one point> One was at Uni and the other working for a big chemical firm then Deloittes. Both knew of the Balti triangle (thankfully!). The Uni one is now is London and the Deloitte one has forsaken the corporate life for self employed life in France. I think it is a matter time before the other one follows her out there...

    Memories of student life. I loved my days there. Enjoyed your post, YP.

  5. I think I like the weather more here in Cabo!

  6. I like the way you have a theme running at the moment...First Beer then curry Yummy.

  7. Ahhh! happy memories. Our lovely son-in-law Gareth is not of the tidiest (he's now 22 and still not) but when he was a first-year student in Bristol, Emily visited him there: they both looked for a chair for her to sit on but could not find it for some time under the assembled chaos.


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