Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Leeds (3)

 This one’s being a bit troublesome.  Through the eyes of anyone who wasn’t there, my three years at Leeds might seem pretty mundane, not to say dull.  Should I try to make them interesting, or would I then be writing fiction?  Or should I simply record the mundanity, hoping that this somehow generates its own interest?  I don’t know.  I’ll just have to write and see.

You have to remember that being at university in 1960 wasn’t what it became a few years later.   The linkage between the words ‘student’ and ‘rebellion’ may just about have started to be forged, but it was still a delicate filigree and hardly cast a shadow.  Nor  did the more formal side of varsity social life appeal much, once I’d tried a few things out.  I’d have loved to get involved with some kind of music scene, but ‘popular’ music, let alone the idea of making it, was considered impossibly vulgar .  The only acceptable form was jazz, which I couldn’t and still can’t play.  The one time I turned up for a ‘jam session’ at the Union organised by the third-year jazzo clique to spot talent, I was unceremoniously rejected for playing an unashamedly rock’n’roll solo, on a borrowed guitar, to ‘Scrapple to the Apple’, a Charlie Parker tune which, I was solemnly advised, was “just like 'Honeysuckle Rose', but much faster”. 

I went to the pictures a lot, two or three times some weeks.  The Clock cinema, which showed current second-time-around releases and the occasional obscure art film, was conveniently located just across the road from the digs, and cost, I think, the equivalent of a half-pint at the Gipton, the nearest pub, where we drank Tetley’s and played darts. 

There were a few girlfriends, naturally, drawn mostly from the local catchment rather than the student body.  I discovered that Northern girls seemed on the whole to be ahead of their Bournemouth counterparts, at least in terms of speed and distance; but by the same token they tended to move, or be moved, on more quickly.

There was an intellectual side, though, it was just that it had very little to do with what I was meant to be there for (Economics, in case you’d forgotten).    Under the tutelage of my roommate Marcel, who was a year ahead of me, I developed an interest in philosophy and literature.  Even here, though, it wasn’t what it would become over the next ten years, when genuinely original thinkers and writers (McLuhan, RD Laing, Pynchon and the like) appeared.  We had to settle for Sartre, Camus, Bergson, Kierkegaard, and a few Russians.  Most Anglo-Saxon writers talked bollocks, we agreed.  Which didn’t stop us from talking our own bollocks, of course.  But it was newly minted Leeds-born bollocks; and more importantly, it emerged from this freshly discovered process called ‘thinking’.

And what of the Economics, you might be asking.  Well, Economics and I were never going to fall in love.  I’d decided, even back in school, that dismal though it certainly was, a science it certainly wasn’t.   The more I learnt of it, the more I found this to be true, and I hold to that to this day.  The constant plaint of economists was, is, and forever will be “Don’t blame us if the real world fails to conform to our theories!”  (I see a rant lurking here, and I’ve sworn off those for now, so nuff said.)

So how the heck did he manage to get that illustrious Third Class Honours BA, I hear you wonder.  It must have been the system’s grudging recognition of talent unmatched by hard graft.  Later, I learned that it was mainly due to my Essay paper (on the heavily trailed topic of ‘Union’, it being the time of one of Britain’s numerous failed attempts to join the Common Market), which Professor Maurice Beresford told me was apparently used as an exemplar for future generations of students.  (He wouldn’t give me a copy though.)  I just remember cramming in as much as I could of all the stuff I had discovered over the three years.  So all that mugging up on everything but my subject came good in the end.  I think I even managed to work a bit of Economics in there too.

Andy Jenkinson and I had entered into a pact whereby if we both failed we'd backpack around the world.  As it was, he got a First.  So it was back to Southbourne.



  1. A distinct tinge of modesty crept in there, Tim. You're underselling yourself.

  2. I thought it was interesting. I read all the words right to the end.