The street where I lived; the seat where I sat

Yesterday, whilst I was at the site of my former university  hall of residence, I gave myself a mind’s eye tour of my small room in the hostel. I remembered my bed, with its bright yellow bedcover and, at the window, my red and yellow tartan style check curtains; my desk tucked in the corner of the room, where I laboured at my handwritten essays and painstakingly counted the required number of words, one by tedious one. There were dictionaries and books around me, and above me on the shelves, and not a computer in sight. Not a phone in immediate sight either, although there was a phone booth  at the end of the  corridor. At the other end of the corridor were the toilet and bathroom facilities. This was student luxury,almost, for my time.

I like to believe that I have near perfect recall of every room in the houses of my life but, as I write, I am suddenly perplexed as to whether my room was on the second floor, or the third floor of the building, and were the bathrooms really on my floor, or were they on the ground floor? If they were on my floor, why do I have memories of traipsing up and down the stairs in a dressing gown.  Unless I have written such details in my ancient letters, now stowed in the attic, I will probably never know for sure. With the building long  gone, there are no easy means to  physically verify my memories.  Does it matter? Not much, unless ,in future years,  people are moved to investigate  the hygiene habits of hostel students in the 20th Century with as much dedication as we currently study the bathing practices of Ancient Romans. Stranger things have happened. The point is not my tiny personal memories, but the memory process itself. It seems to me that as the building goes, so goes our memory. Fallen and fickle.

Still pondering on how  our already flighty, tenuous memories become increasingly loose and lost  without walls to secure them, I visited another site today, where once I rested my head, placed my desk and supped my student suppers, (bread porridge in desperate times!). And where the bathroom was on my floor, but the toilet was reached by going downstairs, through the living room, past the kitchen and out the back door to the outhouse. Now, that I remember clearly! Especially the trips in winter frost and chill.

Once again,however, the old building I lived in is no more.This is what remains. Gravel and a gate.Gone When my cousin and I lived here, our residence was owned by the Public Trust and we paid a next to nothing rent.  Later, many years later, the building was lovingly restored by others and became The Under the Red Verandah cafe. The well-loved old building was destroyed by the recent earthquakes. These days the cafe, Under the New Red Verandah, operates from transitional buildings at the back of the property. Hilariously to me, the toilet block, though new, seems to occupy the same position as our old outhouse and laundry did! Is that my imagination on overdrive, or an accurate  memory trapped in plumbing systems?Under the New Red Verandah.

As I was taking photos, I discovered, to my great delight, that the bench seat, where I used to sometimes sit, under the verandah,  whilst  waiting for the bus, was still in place. Oh, the memories of freezing and freezing, and waiting and waiting and waiting for that bus, early morning after early morning, so that I could travel to the wind whipped central Square and wait ,yet again, for another bus that would deliver me close to the university, hopefully, on time for my first lecture of the day.  I sat on the bench again, viewed it from every angle and smiled goofily for the joy of finding the seat where I sat, on the street where I lived.

The seat where I sat;

The Seat where I sat

The street where I lived;The Street where I lived

The garden, we never had The Garden

and the cafe which,unhappily, wasn’t on our doorstep to spare me the sadness of bread porridge.Where was it when I needed it?

By the way, in the house that is no more, I still had my yellow bedcover, but my bedroom curtains were blue, my study curtains beige  and my trendy desk was a lively green and was slotted together without nails or glue. I had a red, round transistor radio; a phone downstairs in my cousin’s smoke-filled den, and a fabulous desk chair made entirely from cardboard. And, once again, no computer.

11 thoughts on “The street where I lived; the seat where I sat

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Was that in Christchurch? I think there is still hope that the old building that used to be the hostel for the dental nurses may be saved from demolition. I am not sure of the fate of the Nurses Chapel at the main hospital. I do hope it will be restored.

  1. Clanmother

    I do love stopping by for a visit. I met a friend for coffee this afternoon and I reminisced about my days at university. Looking back, I remember the sense of beginnings and forward movement. I lived in a small apartment that felt like a mansion.. I had nothing, but I had everything. I find that I have come back to exactly that moment in my life, only with a more conscious and joyful knowledge of why I felt the freedom of youth. And it is a good feeling – every day is a beginning. And there is still that forward movement.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I love that you stop by. Right now I am making a plum coffee cake. A piece is yours 🙂 Yes, our present illuminates our memory of the past and allows us to understand where we are now and where we are going. Forward, but not too fast that we forget to take time for coffee with friends.

  2. The House of Bethan

    Wow. I’ve loved reading your experience of returning to a place that you used to know, yet the only structure that exists now is the one in your memory. And such clarity! It reminds me of when we found out that an old Celtic settlement used to exist in the meadowland around my mum’s house. Everyone there died of the plague and the wooden structures all returned to the earth. Its so strange and romantic and spine-tingling to think how the past overlays the present like some old photograph or holographic image. xx

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      oooh, I like your idea of old photograph or holographic image. And I am glad there was clarity in my post. When I was writing it, the memories were slipping in and out of focus all the time and I felt quite fuzzy brained after awhile. How did you find out about the old Celtic settlement? Did you find some buried treasure? Does the place feel sad or at peace with itself?

      1. The House of Bethan

        Hello lovely! Funny – I was racking my brain to remember how I discovered the Celtic settlement thing and in the end went and asked my mm. Apparently I got it wrong. It was actually a Medieval village. She said that the info came from a few different sources – a neighbour involved in archaeology amongst them. There is a thatched cottage down the road which is the oldest thatched building on the Isle of Wight and the farm next to it used to be a fish market. You would never know now as the place is just rural countryside. Does it feel sad? No – not at all. The area where the settlement was used to be farmland that surrounded our house. As a child I’d climb over the fence and lay down in the corn, look at the sky, dream my little dreams and write stories. Later my parents purchased the piece of land and now it is wild and meadow-like. My favourite place in the world! Main feelings – freedom, peace, timelessness. Sorry for epic reply! xxx

        1. Gallivanta Post author

          What a delightful place. I am happy to experience it through your words. I am lying in the corn, looking at the sky and thinking of your peaceful place in the Isle of Wight. 🙂

  3. Sofia

    Oh, nice reading. I love the garden you never had! Beautiful. 🙂 I never had a garden like that either… (btw, you blocked so many spam!!)

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am glad you enjoyed reading my post. The garden at the property now is very pretty. I would like to know the name of the purple flower. I haven’t seen it before. And I hate spam. I am sure my spam counter makes no difference to the spammers but hopefully it makes readers aware of how much of it is around polluting cyberspace.


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