I still remember the very first song I played as I put up the art postcards in my bedroom at uni. The tinkling piano notes played as a marimba to Kate Bush’s warbling voice, crying out over Wuthering Heights, as I began the first row of Marlene Dumas paintings. The window overlooked green grass, and a tree that looked like a dandelion seed head, behind which stood the Sainsbury Centre — something I had been really excited about living next to when I first found out about it. The following year, I was living next to Aldi, half an hour’s walk from uni, and so I felt some slight regret at not going more often.
I compiled a mix CD for the three hour journey to Norwich, during which I began reading a novel called You Had Me At Hello. From then on I would continue reading it during every journey to and from Norwich. It was an 800 page novel, but it flew right by with its unfaltering optimism, and dialogue that’s about as bubbly as cava. In fact, as I sit typing this in my bedroom at home, about to go into my third and final year, I know I’ve another forty pages of the novel to read when I head back up — the very last section of the novel.
I remember driving past the Norwich sign, and seeing all the other students dragging suitcases up to the student village. Outside Constable Terrace, SU helpers were ready and waiting to help with my suitcases; they are the annoying old Samsonite kind where the wheels are so close together, that they keep toppling over as you pull them along.
I can still think back to that moment two years ago, standing alone in my bedroom for the very first time, and feeling that sense of liberation which comes with independence, and of feeling just right being amongst people my own age – all mixed with repressed fear, and not knowing what was around the corner.
The second day was different, in a weird sort of way. My first night hadn’t gone too badly in terms of sleep. But waking up the following morning, thinking ‘I’m gonna have to feed myself all of today,’ and then coming downstairs to an empty kitchen for the first time, unsettled me a little. Thankfully, the spirit of the first night returned later that evening.
And what was my first dinner? Brazilian BBQ Steak… in a Pot Noodle.
I spent most of my first semester walking across the broads listening to This Mortal Coil. There was a kind of fragile, tender beauty to be found in adding a soundtrack to my walks across the dew-frozen grass. One moment, I was in sadness, and slightly homesick. The next, I was in a house that came alive after dark, what with all the dancing, and all the drinking, and all the joking. It was a great balance.
During my first semester I discovered curly fries — aka. UEA’s ambrosia, come straight from the Food Gods of East Anglia – and every Sunday morning I would take a black bin bag full of dirty clothes across the UEA broads, past the Ziggurats, and then buy myself a sausage and bacon bap and an Emmi cappuccino from the shop, sit in the launderette, and read the week’s book. It was a routine that I missed during my second year — the year I stopped drinking coffee and alcohol, and when food from the gods now also came with chicken goujons.
But I was just so glad I was at UEA.