Disclaimer. Although Jack was spooked out by St. Andrew's and received the impression that its students felt that the world owed them a favour while simultaneously denying that there was a world, he did not actually visit the university itself, just its surrounding habit, which is mostly within arms reach of the university. Jack studied at the University of Leeds and so is perhaps biased towards large cities with a rich and varied selection of galleries, live music, theatre, commerce and nightlife et cetera.
St. Andrew's: A Quiet Life
I visited St. Andrew’s yesterday for the first time. “Why?!” you ask. Well partly to see an old friend, partly out of curiosity, but mainly because I was driving from Aberdeen to Leeds and so St. Andrew’s made a pleasant detour. What I found was a beautiful little town by the sea, with cobbled streets, a shop that sold only Christmas tree decorations, and posh boys who wore multiple scarves and held hands with their jodhpur-clad giddy-up girlfriends. No surprise really. We all know that St. Andrew’s is the picturesque university town of princes and Polo Ralph Lauren addicts (I’ve never understood why English gentry buy an American imitation of English gentry fashion instead of just raiding their Grandmother’s attic). But visiting St. A in the flesh is an entirely different experience. It is so claustrophobic and old-fashioned that I felt like walking into a thatched pub and screaming. St. A truly is Hogwarts without the magic. As I marched down the fairy-lit streets with my heavy-duty leather jacket and my platinum blond hair, I soon became accustomed to the double-take stares from rosy-cheeked redheads and groups of cherub-like academics in rugby kits. I realised what was bugging me (apart from all the people eye-buggering me)… St. A feels like school. The students even lurk around outside Tesco looking for an alcohol supplier! (N.B. – Scottish kids go to uni aged 17) St. A is a haven for those who cannot let go of that boarding school intimacy, endless mugs of tea and that innocent denial that somewhere, just possibly, there is a world. A world where people are poor, where people are hurt, where there are no affectionate choir masters or lusty matrons, just the police, bus drivers and A&E. St. A is like a haunting post-apocalypse world in which survivors recreated society using some salvaged Enid Blyton books as a guide. I drank cider in a startlingly small and low-ceilinged pub called The Raisin, which boys on the street recommended as “pretty buzzing” on a Tuesday night. We’d already walked out of another “buzzing” establishment called The Vic, which looked like a National Trust attraction’s coffee shop. Nevermind fit for a king, anyone who'd ever consumed so much as one vegetable in their childhood would never be able to fit in there. A conundrum, considering most of the boys in there looked like assorted vegetables and letted out their own gardens as farmland back home. It's something to do with smoking at a young age I feel. The dozen or so students inside The Raisin quite obviously knew I was no local, and one even plucked up the courage to ask me at the bar where I had come from. “Leeds” I replied. “Oh, yeah, it’s pretty cool there isn’t it?” he offers. “Yes” I reply “It’s a place.” Chatting later to a girl called Hattie, I mentioned the Sugababes line-up changes, after all HEAT magazine is a global language right, but no, not in St. A. People read the Jack Wills handbook, Tatler and York Notes. As I left The Raisin I noted a sign on the door that said “Vidi, Vici, Veni” …. A joke for Classics students… It was time to find the car. By all means, St. A is a lovely little place, where girls can bake tarts and take up the clarinet, where boys who didn’t make their school rugby team can finally take it up the (okay – immature sorry). Some people must relish the ‘everyone knows everyone’ atmosphere of St. A. The lovely ‘no one can hear you scream’ vibe. If I’d gone to a rough comprehensive in Felixstowe, then yeah, I can imagine how St. A must be one gorgeously soothing four-year massage, a sanctuary of hot chocolate and corduroys. But if I’d gone to study there myself, instead of Leeds University, there is no knowing what would have happened to me. Probably one of the following: 1) I would have packed in my dreams, suppressed my creativity, bought a Jack Wills tracksuit and prepared for a lovely life of marriages, mortgages, an illicit affair with my best man and then death by JCB. 2) I would have become an insane recluse and spent the nights dressed in a long white dress scrawling poetry around the walls of my room with pig’s blood. 3) I would have torn the place down, become the Aggy Deyn of St. A, thrown massively controversial beach parties and become the town’s number 1 drug dealer. 4) I would have dedicated my life to seducing people too polite to say no, knocking various Sebs and Quentins out on whiskey, pretending I own an estate somewhere and then making pathetic love to them all night under their duvets whilst trying to ignore the name labels on their socks. 5) I would have tied a rock to my ankle and walked slowly into the sea, looking back to catch one last glimpse of a Chinese girl writing a postcard to her family, before quoting Virginia Woolf to myself, gulping in the seawater and disappearing forever. Below: Prince William let's his hair down after years of solitude and bad surfing in St. Andrew's