7 January 2021
This time of year always makes me think back to living in Cambridge, in a cold, grand old strangely-arranged hall of residence at Anglia Polytechnic Uni. I was only there for one academic year, but what a year to have chosen.
Watching the news last night (well, switching to CNN during each ad break of Beat the Chasers), I kept thinking about how it felt watching 9/11 unfold on the news, and the disorientation of it all. Last night was nothing like that really. The opposite of surprise, the opposite of disorientation.
Moving into that draughty building just a week later in September 2001, one of my new - not flatmate exactly, as the floors of this building were arranged with bedrooms in a sort of horseshoe shape around a communal kitchen, so... kitchenmate? One of the other people unpacking their things into the kitchen at the same time of me remarked “cuh - what about all that stuff in America, eh?” I didn’t know how to answer. Was there even an answer? Would there be one today?
I stand in front of the fridge wondering what to make for lunch and think about the CNN reporter who was reminiscing last night about George W Bush, and how statesmanlike he seems now in comparison to Trump. He said “W, who lived and served through the Iraq war...”
I snort and choke a little on a mouthful of ferrero rocher (a treat Gareth ordered for me along with about 24 alcohol-free bottles of Heineken for himself), caught between my mouth and nose whilst in disbelief I try to exclaim “lived through it?! He started it!?!”. Gareth sniggered and threw another shiny gold round treat into my lap, like a puppy reward.
I make a quick, simple, student classic for lunch. A can of tomato soup heated on an unreliable ceramic hob, with a cheese toastie cobbled together from some leftover Christmas cheese and a slightly odd-tasting bread the milkman left us for free, as an apology for not having what we’d ordered. I slice through the oozing cheesy sandwiches and the satisfying crumbly crunch reminds me that this is still the same little wooden chopping board I unpacked into my assigned drawer in that chilly shared kitchen in September 2001.
“What about all that stuff in America, eh?”