take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Full circle 

February 1991

An 18 year old student waits for the London train with her boyfriend on one of the platforms of Cardiff Central station. They are eating burgers from the Wimpy just outside the station. This is the first thing she has eaten for days. For her, at this precise moment in time, the quarterpounder with cheese tastes like nectar from the gods. She hasn't been well, but all of a sudden she's better now, so much better. She's singing: "I'm coming home, I've done my time...", capering around the platform and grinning in the cold February air.

The previous night, he had made a phone call. She couldn't do it, couldn't face it.

"I'm going to call her. You can't go on like this. I'm calling your mum and I'm taking you home tomorrow."

A shiver went down her spine at the thought of it, but she knew it had to be done.

January 2006

A 33 year old corporate wage slave alights from a train at Cardiff Central station. On her way out, she notes the Burger King where the Wimpy used to be. That Wimpy where she'd bought that burger which she'd eaten on that platform all those years ago.

She walks up Park Place towards the venue of her exam and notes the buildings which are still strangely familiar. The grand, civic buildings on her left. The student union and Cathays station on her right. Vaguely remembered gatherings outside grey buildings, waiting for lectures to begin. Going to the Humanities library to "revise" and waking up an hour later with the mark of a jumper sleeve on her forehead. Pointing at her friend who was in the exact same predicament and laughing. Turning up one hour early for a lecture after a schoolgirl error during the weekend when the clocks went back...

Almost exactly 15 years ago I dropped out of my university course after 5 months. I had high hopes of university life. My siblings had all had (and some were still having) a whale of a time. My expectations were clearly too high.

I just didn't *get* students. The desperate attempts to be non-conformist whilst absolutely conforming to the student formula. Middle class kids playing at being poor but knowing that there was always someone to bail them out if they got into trouble. The relentless need for alcohol and the beginnings of a dependence which will follow them through their adult lives. I just didn't feel part of it, didn't understand it. Alone and bewildered, I thought there must be something wrong with me.

Then I started to get ill. One thing after another. Viruses, infections, lethargy. Psychologically and physiologically, I was a mess. He was right; I couldn't go on. He took me home on that day in February and delivered me to my mum. I got myself better, I reapplied to a London university for the next academic year so that I could live at home, so that I could be a student without really *being* a student. That was the way I wanted it and it's one of the few decisions I've made in my life that I haven't regretted. Not one bit.

So going back to Cardiff on Monday evening, the eve of my exam, was an interesting experience. It was there where I started my foray into higher education. And it is also there where I will hopefully have finished it.

The exam felt okay. I didn't panic, my nerves were in check. I feel I produced some decent pieces of work. There were a few difficulties on each text which I dealt with as best I could, but I know the marking on these papers is very strict and rightly so. A mistranslation, in the wrong place, could have catastrophic effects. I just can't predict whether what I did will be good enough to pass.

Just 14 weeks to wait for the results now...

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