A break from chasing global corruption and scientific horror stories, time for a trip down memory lane. My teenage years were spent growing up in Surrey, the white middle-class suburbs of not much happening. Perfect is you love horse riding, Barbour jackets, pub rock bands covering an ear bleeding version of Eric Clapton and donna kebab fights (always the salad, never the meat thrown?). If really fortunate you could even get a taxi to the worst night club in the world, buy a shot for £5, witness lunatic girls crying over men in the toilet, then bust some moves to ‘It’s raining men’, ‘I will survive’, or Womack & Womack ‘Teardrops’. Followed by strange ‘follow on’ party invites, whilst waiting for a taxi home. …Ah happy memories. Within this domestic dwelling, there was a friendship made at school with a girl who lived down my road, she became one of my best friends. She, a refined scholar of the classic arts, me a socio-political spectator of all times, she Oxford material, me more pub landlord debate (taxi driver philosophy – truly more reliable than media).
Anyway, skipping on, as I entertain myself, we shared many interests in common, from entirely different perspectives, yet many of our views agreed at points. She was probably one of my most interesting friends. At 18 I went to a small university in Bath, because I liked the place, she went to Oxford because she was Oxford material. One weekend I went visit her in halls of residence, it was quite an experience. I met all her new friends, within 1 minute I knew I was going to be a social embarrasment. It was like visiting Hogwarts, only sterile, the architecture beautiful, but the atmosphere? Pompous is an understatement, delusion swelled up through the floor boards and seemed to contaminate the oxygen in the room. I was left gasping for some common sense and frankness. The pressure to be intellectual was greater than showing any unique intelligence. The bigger the words, the more nodding of heads. Rather than talk, I decided to observe this unique situation. As someone was talking a “yes, yes, you are so right”, kept being repeated, along with head nodding. It went on like this….
After this was over we went to a quaint pub with an open fire and a warm vibe for dinner, just me and my friend. Looking at my friend’s wrist, there was a large mark that looked like a recent burn. I enquired as to how she got it, “stress” she replied, she had been scratching her wrist in stress because of her workload and managed to infect it. Looking at my reaction she said, “don’t”. I said “that’s the price for keeping up with the Joneses, is it worth it?” She never replied to that, instead we changed the subject and went on a tour of Oxford. Amazing place historically to view. But I’m thinking about Oxford university and I have a criticism, it institutionalises students to believe they are intellectual over inspiring with insane intelligence. Insane intelligence comes from addicts of their craft, their passion oozes out and pulls people in to learn. People can’t wait to be around them to study, they enjoy the work they set to challenge them, even put in extra work to impress. They don’t scratch their wrists in stress, they expand in enthusiasm. I wonder about this iconic reputation in outstanding education, seems like a brochure experience to me. Very much I like the building, it’s missing all the learning blocks of atmosphere though. The atmosphere is the learning experience.