I made an uncomfortable 47 year-old undergraduate banished to the University of Birmingham to finish my degree, and to do so properly this time around. The youngsters resident at the Manor House gradually became used to my presence, and gladly found me a role as their housing advisor for second year. I was shocked that parties of four were prepared to budget £2000 a month for self-catering flats that charged £11 per person per week in 1985/6. Overall, however, middle-age “study” was a lonely experience, and I squandered much time alone on a swing in the grounds of my hall of residence. I also completely forgot to attend any classes on campus, so failed my degree a second time.
Every time we visited the guest house on the Isle of Lewis there was something new. On this occasion I opened a ground floor door that led into a massive bathroom the size of a school gymnasium. I wondered why it hadn’t been sub-divided into bedrooms, or at least refitted as a family suite. A set of blue Russian dolls sitting on a shelf caught my eye as I closed the door behind me.
It was becoming more and more difficult to maintain the charade that all was well between me and TPR. I’d asked him to meet me for breakfast so that we could at least present a united front at the start of our day in the Outer Hebrides. When he failed to turn up I had to track him down. I proudly resisted asking DT and MY (my flat-mate from Paris) if they’d seen him, and eventually found him standing next to a chest of drawers. I shouted his name and ran over. When he pulled me into a warm embrace it felt wonderful to be pressed against his body again. But then I noticed that this “TPR” was younger and taller than the usual one, had brown hair, hazel eyes and dressed in double denim(!) I demanded to know where he had been. Hopeless at lying, he blurted out a feeble response: “Harrods?”