I had an e-mail over the weekend from a journalist in England who’s writing something about people who studied at Bath University. Give me 300 words he said. I don’t know if this is 300 words but, for the record, here’s my version of my time at University. With apologies to Nick, Vaughan and Ian who didn’t get a mention but should have…
It wasn’t till the end of my first week at Bath I realised what a terrible mistake I’d made. I’d just spent 8 years in a single-sex boarding school and discovered I’d signed up for a six year course at a University where 80% of the student body was male and had wrapped itself in an anorak. Determined to put a brave face on it all I signed up for the hockey team and was picked for the 3rd XI. The practices were notable for the lack of attendance and at our first match I was asked to play for the opposing team as only 9 of their players had shown up. I got the message loud and clear and quit.
As I was studying Architecture I needed a drawing board and didn’t have one (or any funds) so I decided to ‘borrow’ one from the school and smuggle it up to my room in the halls of residence. Late one evening, and helped by some fellow smugglers, my luck changed. The security man arrived with his scowl and his large torch as we were in the middle of our illicit borrowing…and held the door open for us while we spirited the vital equipment into the night.
At the end of the first year I received an awful phone-call: one of my best friends from school had committed suicide. The terrible news coincided with my birthday and the release of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. From room 715 I looked over the campus and the city in the fading light and played Great Gig In The Sky at blistering levels over and over while the people complained next door and the tears rolled endlessly down my face.
The gigs were frankly disappointing (John Martyn – stoned and abusive onstage, the Camel ‘Snow Goose’ tour) but Thursday nights were amazing. In the main student room there was one TV and about 700 of us would squeeze ourselves in there for a night of wonderful TV: Top Of The Pops, Monty Python and Colditz. By far and away my best memory of the place.
In the holidays I stayed in my flat on Rivers Street and worked on construction sites in town and helped build a shopping precinct down by the railway station as a scaffold erector’s mate. I visited Bristol and saw Steely Dan and Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust tour at the Colston Hall little knowing that the keyboard player would later play in my own band. One Christmas I worked in a hotel as a bell boy and spent two weeks helping the Hotel Manager hide his affair with the waitress from his wife, the Hotel Manageress, as if my job depended on it – which it did.
I needed money so I started Tiny’s Disco (what a terrible name!) and played gigs all over town for a pittance playing Golden Earring’s Radar Love and Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz back to back because they had the same drum riff. It was another ploy to meet girls and it failed miserably though I certainly watched a lot of other guys hooking up to my music.
And then after four years I left and never earnt a penny as an Architect.
It wasn’t till much later that I missed the cold and soggy mornings walking across Pulteney Bridge in a hurry trying to get a bus up the hill or the wonderful summer I spent working as a waiter in town where I got to wait on Princess Margaret, Roddy Llewelyn and John Phillips from the Mamas & The Papas while wearing silver shoes and overalls. They were all very stoned and gave me a ten pound tip which I spent on a Led Zeppelin album.
One day my destiny discovered me and I became a video director. The first big act I worked with was Tears For Fears for whom Bath was, of course, their home town – and at last it all seemed to make sense. However I suspect that deep down inside they detested me for being a student – one of those penniless people who trudged home through the dark night after the last bus and defiled the peace of their beautiful city.