Saturday, March 12, 1983

Interminable suburbs

I didn’t sleep much last night; my mind was too active. I woke up early and was soon packed and ready. My room looked dismal and bare with all the posters down and I left with the farewells of Shelley, Penny, Gareth and Shawn ringing in my ears.

My bags were really heavy and I struggled down to the train through campus, which was swarming with conference delegates. I caught the coach at eleven: it was a pretty boring journey, chugging slowly through Wimbledon, Wandsworth, Putney, London’s interminable suburbs (“too many niggers here” the whispered observation from an elderly woman seated behind me), the streets crawling with people, the dismal sunshine giving everything a depressing, tarnished air.

I got back to Easterby at eight thirty and as I trudged through the streets my heavily laden figure caused looks and the occasional comment. An elderly off-duty train-driver, brusque and prickly, said he knew Watermouth: “One half o’ town for them that’s rich, t’other for them that’s poor . . . that’s Watermouth.” I got back home at nine to find the house empty. Mum, Dad, Rob and Carol were out celebrating Mum and Dad’s thirtieth wedding anniversary.

The joys of a well-stocked larder and fridge! Five weeks of decent food, clean crockery and cutlery, regular meals—meals at all!—and no more of that crappy kitchen. I watched all the shit on telly and gorged myself on fruit. 

I rang Grant when I got back (he’d just gone out) and at ten Mum, Dad and co. rolled up. Lots of comments about my hair and Carol kept teasing me about the hints of a ‘southern twang’ in my accent. Everything at home seems much as normal, more books piled about than last time I was home perhaps. I noticed with interest that Dad has Kerouac by Ann Charters out of the library (today is Kerouac's sixty-first birthday). The axolotls in the tank upstairs look perfect and delicate.

It’s weird to think of Shelley, Penny and Rowan still down there and it's hard really to think of Uni as real at all—everything is so different here and the two worlds feel so far apart. My mental tortures, spasmodic outbursts of frustration, druken slumberings and all-too public escapades seem so far away and unreal now, unnecessary even.

In the term just gone I managed to spend all but £67 of my £560 grant—I spent £351 on food, booze and records, etc.

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