We’ve come a long, long way together

We returned to my old Oxford college yesterday for what was described as a ‘family fun day’. I’m still not entirely sure exactly what the event was for, but it was an opportunity to arrange to meet up with old friends and that was good enough for us.

Inspector Morse died here. Really

Inspector Morse died here. Really

Things have changed a lot in the 20-odd years since we first met. Expanded waistlines. More salt than pepper in the hair. Three weddings, four sons, four daughters and three people carriers between us.

And, of course, the students get younger with every passing year. There is no way we were ever that young – some of them looked as if they might still be in nappies, let alone have actually left school.

Then again, they probably looked at us and wondered who these senile old fogeys were. To be fair, they’d have a point. As far as the history of a 700-year-old college is concerned, we’ve long since faded away – even more so than some of the chalk markings celebrating past Eights Week glories.

Literally fading away into history

Literally fading away into history

Despite what these photos of Toby and Kara might suggest, they did actually enjoy the day.

We sat in the college garden drinking weak coffee and watching on as the kids ran around playing games and being entertained by a magician. I don’t know if he actually did any conjuring tricks, but he kept a group of about 40 kids completely transfixed for a good half-hour. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

We adjourned to a restaurant for lunch – table for 15, anyone? – and then for ice cream before heading our separate ways. Toby contributed to the fun with a comedy ice cream moustache and a quick play in a child’s Mini can’t solve. (What’s not to like about finding a Mini pop-up shop?)

It was one of those good days. Where the grown-ups don’t have to try too hard, even though in some cases it’s a good two or three years since we last saw each other, because you’ve been friends forever. And where the kids either form new bonds immediately or pick up exactly where they last left off, as if it was only yesterday.

Coming up and living among the dreaming spires as a freshman student – 25 years ago this year in my case – I’m not sure exactly what hopes I had at the time for how life would turn out. And although I’ve had plenty of low points and setbacks since then, it’s impossible not to feel that things have turned out pretty well. Sometimes, though, you need to revisit the past to remind yourself how far you’ve come since then.

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Dreaming spires

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10 thoughts on “We’ve come a long, long way together

    • Thanks Deborah. In a similar vein, as someone very wise (not me!) once said, if we don’t learn from the past we are destined to make the same mistakes in the future. Words to live by – the past is an important part of appreciating today and shaping tomorrow.

  1. Beautifully put… did you manage to corner the magician and ask how he transfixed that many kids at once? I’d pay good money for the secret! ;)

    I dreamed about going to Oxford Uni when I was a teenager – I ended up going to Plymouth. I’m scared to go back there in case it ruins my memories of those years.

    • I wish I had asked – I bet he’d be a great babysitter!

      In truth, as I’ve written elsewhere in the past, I had a lot of bad experiences during my uni days. But I also had many good ones, and they’re the ones I choose to remember :-)

    • It is indeed. We lived there for a number of years after leaving uni, and we’d happily move back there in a shot (although they would have to drop property prices somewhat first …)

  2. Oxford Colleges all look alike to one not actually a former student! However I have fond memories of a six week stint when the company I worked for took over the Examination Room and several colleges for a vacation-time international conference that I somehow was involved in organising! Thanks for the memory – and good to meet a fellow UK blogger!

    • Thanks for popping by Isobel. For sure, many of the older colleges look quite similar. I remember when I was at university Inspector Morse had only recently started on TV, and we used to laugh when Morse would take a completely unreal route to drive from A to B, or Lewis would scale a wall in one college and land in a completely different one half a mile away. He must have been one hell of a long-jumper … ;-)

      As noted in my photo caption, though, Morse died in the front quad of our college. It’s a claim to fame of sorts.

  3. My bunch of uni chums meet up once every couple of years for a cottage weekend. I really value these times – it’s as you say – you don’t have to try too hard because you’ve known each other so long, and that makes for a wonderfully relaxing weekend. And I love that our kids all seem to get on so well too. Could do with hiring that magician though for the witching pre-bedtime hour when there’s about 15 under eights running around madly!!

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