Friday, 1 June 2012
Don't do anything embarrassing
My 18-year old daughter, and youngest child, intends to pursue a degree course in the autumn. Last month there was an open day for Sheffield University (one of the institutions on her short-list) and initially both Mrs Jones and I were intent on accompanying her.
“You’re not both coming,” Becca whined, “I’ll look like a right retard!”
“Well go on your own then, if we’re such an embarrassment” I said, fishing for reassurance that my baby girl might feel a sense of pride at the prospect of having her old man by her side on this foray into alien terrain. She didn’t bite.
“I’m not goin’ on the train; I’ll never find my way from the station.”
As Mrs Jones had a competing commitment (shopping with her mother) on the day in question, I was nominated as chauffeur.
“Is that arrangement to my ladyship’s satisfaction?” I asked, not yet having given up on landing a minnow.
“Yes, thanks; but don’t do anything embarrassing.”
So 7.00 am on a Saturday morning we set off for Sheffield. I had hoped for some quality banter with my second-born on the outward journey, but it was not to be. The previous night Becca had been out with her mates (not just out, but “out out”) and had had no more than three hours sleep. Consequently, she adjusted her passenger seat to almost horizontal and slept. Two hours later I roused her as we drove onto the campus.
As we queued in the refectory to register our arrival, Becca eyed her prospective fellow students (She later informed me she was differentiating the “human from the geeky”). I took the opportunity to point out the future scholars who had brought both parents along and hadn’t, as yet, shrivelled with humiliation.
In a troupe of around 150, we had a guided tour of the university, taking in the sports hall, library, lecture theatres and student accommodation, during which I had a couple of senior moments when my mind travelled back 35 years to my own undergraduate days. Particularly poignant was the sight of an existing student in a hall of residence kitchen; unshaven, hair wild and uncombed, his eye squint suggesting light sensitivity, a tell-tale sign of the previous night’s over-indulgence. Ah, happy days! A period in one’s life when you feel invincible, bullet-proof, immortal – a time when that sneaky bastard called Age has curled up behind you to hibernate, outside of your awareness, for the next quarter of a century.
Following the guided tour we all gathered in a large lecture theatre to hear a talk from the course directors. At Becca’s request, we sat on the back row. We dutifully listened to the reasons why Sheffield is the greatest university in the world. PowerPoint presentation completed, the senior lecturer asked the audience of students and parents whether they had any questions. A parent on the front row asked about what specific topics were covered within the psychology module of the criminology degree. A prospective student (one that would probably fall into the “geek” category of my daughter’s sophisticated classification system) sought as to the possibility of switching in-year from being a straight sociology student to one studying sociology/criminology combined. A mother queried the closeness of the links between the Social Science faculty and potential employers.
Questions duly answered, there was silence in the large lecture theatre as the university academics awaited further queries. I raised my hand. To my right I heard a sharp intake of breath as all the muscles in Becca’s body hardened as if she’d glimpsed Medusa.
“How come there’s no Student Union bar on the campus?”
It was a long drive home.