An MA in Creative Writing? At my age? What would the other students think? What would they see when they looked at me? After a stern pep-talk from Daughter and a third outfit change I was ready to face them all.
On campus I was surrounded by students wearing red lanyards, bearing their plastic encoded ID. It was over 30 years since I had graduated from Leicester University. There were no plastic encoded cards in those days, never mind lanyards around people’s necks. Doors were opened with keys, metal ones, and our student ID card was just that, a card, folded into a booklet with our photograph stuck inside. I still have my old ones and have been known to use them as after-dinner entertainment. It was the hair. Year 1 shows me with straight, dare I say, boring hair. In Year 2 it had become a little more ruffled but by Year 3 I was sporting a full-blown, shoulder-length, curly perm, chestnut black with a hint of red.
Just the sight of all those red lanyards made me childishly enthusiastic at the thought of sporting my very own. The large hall in the Charles Wilson Building was set up as a temporary ID issue point. From the door I could see members of staff handing over lanyards with the regularity of a car production line but, as I entered the hall, I was stopped by a security guard.
“Can I help you, Madam?”
“I’ve come to collect my ID card.”
“You mean, you’re collecting one for somebody else?”
My eyes narrowed. “No, it’s for me.” I was trying to keep the anger from my voice.
“Oh!” he said. “How…”
“Don’t!” I snapped but he continued anyway.
“How very brave of you. Well done.”
I was lost for a suitably stinging retort.
“I’m doing an MA!” I barked as if that explained it all, as if there was anything that needed explaining. I thrust my head up and strode past him into the hall. I queued at the wrong desk and then, lanyard hanging awkwardly around my neck, tried to exit through the entrance door. It took a coffee, a strong one, for me to half-recover but I was still seething. I needed a good experience to end the day. Would I find it in the library?
I now had my seemingly endless reading list and I asked the librarian how many books I could take out. She checked my ID card and replied, but it was noisy in the reception area and, please remember, I’m not as young as I was.
“Pardon?” I said. “Did you say 14 books?”
“No,” she grinned. “I said 40.”
Forty books! A perfect end to an almost perfect day. MA in Creative Writing? I’m ready for you now.