As I write this, I'm sitting in the Learning Zone, a new building designed so that students at Lancaster University can study, work, talk, eat and hang about, all twenty four hours a day. One end of it is covered with long, large windows, looking out into Alex Square, the centre and hub of the university. In the interest of putting off doing my work (I've written about 700 words of yet another dissertation chapter and think I can take a break), I thought I'd describe what I see and offer a snapshot of university life.
Across from me sits Lindsey, friend, flatmate, fellow student, slightly insane and not a little bit dopey either. She's more engrossed in her phone than in her work and occasionally looks up to offer me yet another update re. her job, her manager and the rota. I listen with one ear. Around us are various other erstwhile students, some diligently working, others sprawled out on the sofas with their iPods plugged firmly into their ears. Today, the windows are closed, so it's quite warm in here. So warm, in fact, that I've taken my hoody off. Gasp. In England, too.
Outside, in the Square, which is actually more of a very long rectangle surrounded by shops, banks, passageways and trees, it's still light, though the sun has vanished. Very English. Two girls sit on the steps, smoking. Two boys appear to be enjoying a couple of milkshakes. I'm tempted to ask them where they got theirs, because I tried getting a Diggles milkshake not fifteen minutes ago and was told they were closed. A girl dressed, apparently, for the Antarctic is passing by, her hood so dense it could probably shelter Lindsey, me and the rest of the Learning Zone, were we to feel the chill. Someone's getting money out at the cash machine. A group of first-years are laughing over sandwiches. I can tell they're first-years because only first-years wear skimpy clothes in the cold and laugh that loudly. Trust me. The rest of us have too much work to indulge ourselves. (Okay, I confess to mild sarcasm.)
As early as it is, I can give you a snapshot of the Square tonight, or on an average university night. Girls in short, pretty dresses and coats totter on high heels, already drunk, to get the bus or a taxi. Boys make sure they look steady and reliable, to prove they are men and can hold their drink. Occasionally, someone will try to climb a tree and break an arm. The buses will take them into town, where they'll dance for hours at Cuba or the Sugarhouse or one of the other clubs, and they'll drink till they're silly. I do this frequently, so I know.
Yes, that's university life. Work, drink, dance, play. Work some more. Work whilst nursing a hangover, whilst suffering stomach cramps, whilst being sick, whilst contemplating tomorrow's night out. Then go out. Then work some more. That's the final-year student's life, anyway.
Steve is driving up to see me tomorrow. Am very, very excited about that.