Tag: Hope Hall

My 18-year-old self’s comfort objects

I seem to be in the nostalgia and reminiscing zone at the moment. Perhaps it is age. Yesterday I was reminiscing about secondary school and today, it is the turn of university.

Hope Hall, Exeter University

Hope Hall, Exeter University (where I watched two episodes of Brookside)

It occurred to me earlier today that it is, give or take the odd day, 25 years since I arrived at the University of Exeter (probably the best university in the world, as the car sticker says) as an excited and nervous fresher. My 18-year-old niece has just started her Freshers’ Week at Loughborough University (incidentally, Freshers’ Week in 2015 is a very different beast to what it was in 1990 but that is another blog entry). I am also about to experience Freshers’ Week as I am on the cusp of starting Year 3 of a BA (Hons) degree at the University of Wolverhampton (not sure I will be out drinking and dancing until 2am this time, I might just have half a pint somewhere). So all these things combined: my niece, my own impending studies, and a major anniversary since my first attempt at studies (I scraped a 2:1) have got me thinking back.

Me at university, at the end

Me at university, at the end

My weird thought relates to ‘things’. I am a big fan of ‘things’. Most of my art practice of recent months has centered on objects or things. Many of my weird thoughts and other blog entries are about ‘things’. I read a lot of books about ‘things’ and our relationship with such things. In fact, books are one of my own ‘things’. We need things in our lives. Things bring us comfort. We surround ourselves with the things we love and those things might not necessarily be the sort of ‘things’ normally regarded as comforting things. Without our things, anxiety and depression ensues. We may kid ourselves that we could live without things so long as we had health and family. Nope, not true. We’d fall into a well of loneliness without our things.

One of my favourite things

One of my favourite things

My current must-have things are: a black furry blanket purchased half price in Tescos, my current book, my sketch pad, real coffee, a black pen, a cushion (any cushion but preferably a velvet one), my children and husband (yes, people can be things), my cat and my hula hoop. These things are very different to the things my 18-year-old fresher self needed to have close by.

My 18-year-old things were: Brookside, my best friend Jane (sorry, Jane, for describing you as a thing), a duvet, tea, my favourite Top Shop trousers, my cat Crackers and my mixed tapes.

Can Brookside be a thing?

Can Brookside be a thing?

When I arrived at Exeter (a long way from home), I couldn’t take all my things with me. I certainly couldn’t take my cat Crackers and my best friend Jane. The others, I could just about manage. I sneaked a small black-and-white TV into halls but not having a license I only ever watched it under my bed when my two roommates were out. I think I only manged about two episodes of Brookside during the first term. So with just a duvet, my Top Shop trousers and my mixed tapes, I was a bit lost. I didn’t have my things with me, or at least not all of them. However, as time passed I adapted and found new things to love: my new friends, the library and books.

Yes, there was even an Exeter University BT phonecard

Yes, there was even an Exeter University BT phonecard

I wonder what my niece’s Freshers’ Week and beyond ‘things’ are? Perhaps the only correlation with my list of essential objects would be the duvet and feline company. I shall ask her. I suspect ‘phone’ or ‘laptop’ would feature in the 2015 student’s list.

A 'can't live without' thing

A ‘can’t live without’ thing

Why I love Facebook

I was having a debate with my husband yesterday about a mutual friend of ours who has given up Facebook. She gave it up for one month to see if she missed it. As the month ended, she decided that she hadn’t missed it and has now given it up entirely.

I argued with my husband that I couldn’t imagine giving up Facebook. There is a lot of debate in the world today about the evils of Facebook but I see it as a good friend in my life. Facebook does a number of things for me: it replaces my need for soap operas (I can’t remember the last episode of EastEnders I saw), it has brought me back in touch with friends who before Facebook I had lost (and for that I am extremely grateful) and it works to amuse and entertain me and, I hope, allows me to amuse and entertain in return. I also use it to promote my art, gain feedback on my art and annoy friends with my art. Finally, I also use it for news (the ‘end of the news’ type news, that is).

Friends lost and regained thanks to Facebook

Friends lost and regained thanks to Facebook

Then I had a a weird thought: Facebook is like university. Facebook is everything I loved about university. Being at university for me was like living in a non-virtual social network (weirdly ironic, I know), particularly when living in halls of residence. What I enjoyed about the university experience was the instant access I had to friends – I could pop into their rooms for a quick chat (instant messaging), leave a note on their door (leave a note on their wall) or just go to to student bar for half a cider and a packet of wheat crunches and listen to, and perhaps join in on, the conversations of acquaintances (scroll down my news feed).

The joy of finding a phone message left on your door at University - are those days now long gone?

The joy of finding a phone message left on your door at university – are those days now long gone?

Living in halls is a sociable experience, Facebook is a sociable experience. You don’t have to make a huge effort to be sociable in either location. It is there, omnipresent. Access is instant. When I think of the gulf of time between leaving university and logging on to Facebook for the first time I think of a time of relative solitude.

Too much time on our hands (perhas the time we'd spent on twitter now) - hand-written silliness from 1993

Too much time on our hands (perhaps the time we’d spend on twitter now) – hand-written silliness from 1993

I have no doubts, however, that the university experience is very different now to how it was in 1990. Perhaps now the virtual and real world are so close as to be almost identical.

My first year halls

My first year halls

In 1990, we had one phone between 20-odd people (a Mercury phonecard was a prized possession). We hand-wrote our essays. We read books in the library. Parties were organized by word of mouth. TV was viewed in a ‘TV room’ (and Twin Peaks enticed forth a large audience – the student bar was always empty on Twin Peaks night).

Prized possessions in the early 1990s - where are my Mercury phone cards now

Prized possessions in the early 1990s – where are my Mercury phone cards now

Facebook fills that need in me for instant friendly ‘banter’ or ‘bantaaaar‘ as the youngsters of today would say.

I could neverĀ  be like my friend, I could never give it up.