In 1978 I enrolled on a higher degree course. ‘Welcome’, said Brenda, showing this new part-time M.A. student to her desk and shelf space in an office. So I went to lectures from Howard, ate sandwiches in the Reading Room with Harold, and drank coffee down town with Dennis. I discussed Symbolic Interactionist work, and, looking for a new view of things I walked across corridors overlooking Square Three. Meanwhile I refilled the coffee percolatator, deferred payment and, sitting in lumpy and unbelievably shabby sofas, exchanged secrets with my friends. Sadly, I found I couldn’t continue, although the fees were £50 a term.
Fast forward to 2001. ‘You’re a graduate ‘, he said at Registration, ‘You know about computers’. ‘Welcome’ said Brenda, showing me to an office. ‘Which desk is mine?’, I asked a fellow student. ‘None’, she said, ‘We share’. I talked about Post-Modernism and listened to lectures from a young man called Rob. At the end of term an irate librarian asked the reason I hadn’t responded to her email. Email… I had received about 900 and did not know I even had a student address. Nobody else had noticed and I’d missed nothing. One day the Reading Room reappeared, resembling a dental reception room. No more intimate conversations snuggled in velvet cushions. Prepaid coffee from a machine which I never had to re-fill. As for sandwiches, I had to bring my own. Brenda retired, and this time I did graduate. So did thousands of other students, all on time.