|The obligatory graduation picture. Check out the fashion…|
This weekend I went back to my old university for a very special occasion the 75th anniversary of our department, the Institute of Archaeology. For those of you reading who are not archaeology minded this is a rather amazing place full of rather amazing people, from Sir Mortimer Wheeler (him of Vegetable, Animal, Mineral fame) through to most of the people on Time Team and many many famous archaeology types in-between. Graduates of the Institute share many things in common; an ability to dig holes quickly, the ability to make coracles, a knowledge of flint knapping and primitive butchery techniques and an encyclopedic knowledge of London’s pubs and bookshops. I loved studying there and whenever I have visited since I am always struck by how loyal everyone is to the place. In fact, some people appear to still be resident twenty years after I left.
When I went to the Institute my main worries were about getting my essays in on time and if I could muster the confidence to speak to people. However, these things did seem overwhelming at times and there were some people who I didn’t ever speak to in our year for fear of not being trendy/ intelligent enough. With the benefit of hindsight I can see how stupid that was, minor worries compared to nowadays with the responsibility of three children and a mortgage and no job on the horizon (archaeology jobs are always hit during a recession). However I did find myself slipping into those neurosis this weekend when I saw a few people that I vaguely recognised from University days and couldn’t bring myself to make eye contact. Funny isn’t it?
I think if I take myself back to the 1990’s I would never in a million years have imagined myself walking around the building, a middle aged frumpy mum trailing three children in my wake. At the time I imagined that I would become a famous archaeologist, perhaps a National Museum Director something like that. I was offered a couple of PHD’s which I turned town, such was my confidence that things would work out and I would be ‘discovered’. In a way I wasn’t wrong, as early in my career I was quite hotly tipped to do well. Then somehow I got stuck into the routine of my job and decided that it was better to settle than to live a transient existence.
The odd thing is, I can remember my days at university like they were yesterday, I can remember where I sat in various lectures, even the days certain lectures were on. I even can remember where certain books were in the library. Ask me about yesterday and I won’t be able to tell you what we had for dinner. In many ways I don’t feel older than I did in those days and in other ways I feel like a lifetime has passed, which in fact it has because I’m now further away in age from my university days than I was in age when I went there. But going around the building yesterday it felt like I had never left it.
I think one of the things I would have hoped is that my own children would be as excited and thrilled about archaeology as I have always been. I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams as a child of going somewhere like the Institute of Archaeology and talking to real archaeologists, handling all sorts of different artefacts and learning how to butcher animals using flint tools which I had made myself. However, although my kids were interested (from behind my legs) they simply weren’t thrilled with it all. It was just another trip to them. Perhaps this is my fault, they have been dragged behind the scenes at various museums since birth and the boy currently has a bird skeleton in a little box by his bed. Perhaps it’s all so normal to them.
Going to university reunions and events is always a dangerous thing. It reminds you of your failings, what might have been and what could be. It’s lovely to be nosy and see what others are doing and reminisce about the good old days. However, it gets the mind thinking and it’s hard not to feel depressed about where you are now when you are stuck at home washing up and trying to ignore the continuous background noise of one of three small children screaming. Anyone fancy sponsoring me to do a PHD?