There are places I remember…Which, because of rock and roll law means I wasn’t even there. And we frequently doctor our memories, anyway, in order to tell ourselves we’re smarter/kinder/cooler/less psychotic people than we actually believe ourselves to be.
Some of my most contented memories are less of specific locations and more an amalgam of similar locales that were my natural habitat. Stages, of course, but my fondest recollections are not only about venues I played. Indeed, when you factor in stage-fright, the anxiety of rushing from work to gig to party to dawn to two hours sleep to work as well as the expectations of crowds, hangers-on and management, gigging was rarely a relaxing experience. The highs could be too high, the lows far too cavernous: rock and roll is more like an extreme sport for nerds in tight pants.
Lecture halls and seminar rooms, on the other hand, were calming, enlightening, edifying and enriching. Youth was wasted on me when I was young so I’m very glad I went to university in my thirties and could fully appreciate the sheer joy of geeking out over books. The rush of cerebral wonder is cleaner and far less bipolar than the adrenal ups and downs of live performance. At least until you start on your doctoral research, at which point sanity deserts you and isolation taunts you creaking brain.
It will be a genuine pleasure and reconnection to a much missed period of my life when I step into a familiar lecture hall later this afternoon to attend the inaugural address of Exeter University’s newest professor of English, A.R. Yes, she does have names attached to those initials but she sees no need to splash herself all over the internet so neither will I. Suffice to say she has been a treasured mentor and friend for the last twenty years and I cannot think of a finer candidate for professorial promotion. In fact, I’m just surprised it’s taken the department so long.
One bittersweet note will sound, however. The lecture is taking place in the same auditorium where I learned of the stupidly early death of a mutual colleague and friend some sixteen years ago, almost to the week. But maybe that’s entirely fitting as it was with his passing that I began to realise that A.R. was more than one of my tutors, she was a very dear friend.
And to fully complete the interweaving of heart and soul into academic memories, I am attending with Olly, the finest friend university ever bestowed upon me. Having said lecture halls were scenes of more stable success and pleasure I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I find this afternoon is actually full of the feels.