In my last job a student gave me a Jay and Silent Bob poster as a thank you - in fact a Bluntman and Chronic one. For many years it has been on my office wall, although it now needs remounting, and I'd misfiled the student's name. That's a disjunct there - I will have taught five hundred, maybe a thousand or more students since them, and they can't all be remembered. But still.
And thus on Thursday I returned for a flying visit - I avoided the college itself, but I met up with G, who I taught and who (as far as I can tell) replaced the person who replaced the person who replaced me. It's weird, because he's crossed the professional divide, and whilst we were perhaps more social with selected students there than I am now, the relationship is bound to be different. And it's more evidence for the shift from young turk to old fart.
At first the town centre looked much the same - I didn't get that thrill of recognition I get with returning to Nottingham and Hull, or the sense of disjunction from Birmingham or Leicester - and it remains a market town that's lost its market and not found a role. That is until you get into the former Octagon Centre, which has been renamed and expanded, with an Identikit mall splice on its western end where the bus station used to be. It spills out over a lost pub, and a couple of car parks, and has the usual run of shops that would be expected. No trees, no water, no art, no life, few places to sit, and an ambivalent attitude to be public or private space. but there was a Cafe Nerd, which is where I met G, before we adjourned to a pub that I'd not visited when there. (I didn't get to my usual haunts bar one - meant to get back to the Bell but didn't, have boycotted the Antelope since Jon was sacked/resigned, and the Falcon and O'Neils were about the company, not the pub. I did have a quick time kill in the Hobgoblin.)
G caught me up with the college, and basically it sounds like management has destroyed everything that we'd set up and made work through incompetence, reorganisation and I suspect bloodymindedness. I am so glad I got out when I did, because now I know I would have been dead by now. Dead and unemployed. G shot off to get ready for his gog; I checked into the guest house and scratched tea together from Tescos.
I walked back to the Nag's Head, and realised it had been the Pride when I lived here, and that this was the venue where the Sex Pistols played an earlier gig. (And if everyone saw that who claimed to have done, it must have been much bigger then.) G's band was on third, but I had missed the first act, and the second group were fine if a little noisy. Xenon Codex featured G in white suit and loud shirt, a guitarist, a five string bass, a drummer, and a two octave keyboard wired through twenty pedals. They played two songs and an encore, over forty five minutes. Ah, he's learnt the seventies prog rocks rules well.
Afterwards I sat outside for a while before I went to refind G. He introduced me to B, who apparently was scared of meeting me and didn't believe I was there. God rot my memory. It was
B, of course, of the Jay and Silent Bob poster. She told me how much she looked up to Mark and myself, and of course that was very flattering and touching. But still. It's such a mismatch. I can't remember them all. But it did come back.
And the next day, a day as grey as Thursday was Sunday, I caught the bus out to a secret location, and, arriving earlier than planned or necessary, I sat at the pond and communed with the ducks. lamentables
arrived at about the time I thought I was going to, and we wander across to the shop. There followed two hours of scouring, and taking out and putting back, and frowning at British reprints editions, and dark looks at the Irish guy who was whistling the first verse of some hymn or other, before we got to the closing for lunch point. We paid for our purchases - well I dealt with the paper money and lamentables
with the shrapnell, one of us having taken the precaution of a cash point raid - and made for the Red Lion.
In the past we might have gone back to the shop for a further hour, but we had run out of energy, and I had run out of cash. We chatted, instead; it's been a while, and it was nice to soak up the sun which had burned through. Then back to the station.
My ticket failed to work in any turnstile, and I managed to catch the slow train down to home. Memo to self - it is possible to be overtaken on that route.
And now I have another legacy of the trip - two foot of books to catalogue.