I sit here and observe a dinner time session at the refectory of my university. Recently refurbished, it is bright white, modern and clean; a clinical feeling of the environment is something that can easily be associated with the place. There is a general murmur, hum and rhubarb as the customers stroll in and make their way towards the main server to pick up their fuel for the remainder of the bright, bordering on spring, evening.
I used the word ‘stroll’ as the style of entrance they make to the public eatery and I must confess that this is a slapdash summary of the multitude of ways that these people arrive. To give you a more accurate summary, I must first give you a rough guide to the social scene at the university.
Set in the leafy suburbs of South West London it is a small Catholic, predominantly Irish, university which specialises in courses such as Sport, Drama, Media and Teaching – all of which have a certain social integrity to them. Such is this integrity that fashion and looks is often high on the agenda of many members with academic achievement placing second.
Usual attire is A & F hoodies, short leather jackets, Ugg boots, skinny jeans and cute leather bags that the girls drape around their forearm. So, as you can imagine, the dinner time session in the refectory is a place to show-off these fashion and looks, but it is ultimately the way that these are put together and displayed.
Characters walk in groups, huddles and entourages. The girls chirp chirping away to each other, flitting between their mobile phones, each other and anyone who may care to grab their attention. The lads in sports gear, hands in pockets (and sometimes further) bantering away and thrusting their masculinity to the ever watching eyes. There are walks of different tastes and suits – slight limps of injury or maybe just “total coolness”, a relaxed meander, a statement of a new item of clothing or brand new mobile phone, or, more typically, a nonchalant casual pace with the undertone of “I’m cool and don’t I know it”.
Above all this, the main overall observation is the way in which each of these people holds themselves. There is such high regard for themselves and each other which is actually very pleasant to witness, although at other times there is a real front to what the big bad world is really all about, unbeknown to many of these wrapped in their tiny, safe university nutshells.
I can perhaps be accused for being jealous of these fellow folk, for I once was myself a carefree, self-respecting meanderer of the refectory and now I am an arrogant and stubborn third year fearing the truth staring me in the face of the ‘real’ world. However, this is just a passing observation rather than a judgement, because the fact is that I have to give these people much more credit than I’ve made out. We’re all here at this institution working seriously towards a degree in our chosen profession… ahem… yeah right.