Me, Dingo and Jane all set off on Sunday to go to Wye in Kent, the place where I met Jane and where I studied for my degree. We met up with Harriet and Kunar, who are also friends from college. When we got there, I discovered that the college had shut down.
Wye College, as can be seen from the picture above, celebrated, in 1947, 500 years as an educational establishment. 60 years later, it is gone. The buildings are all there, but emptied, to be boarded up, unused, at the end of September.
Seeing the place unused, falling apart, the village round it succumbing to the inevitable decay that removing a vibrant student population from it has wrought, brought me some very mixed feelings. On the most immediate level, it was sad. There can be no denying that the degree I achieved was a good one. I have fond memories of some marvellous lecturers: Mike Copland and his inspirational Entomology lectures; the bumbling but lovely Tom Wright; the frighteningly intellectual Alison Burell... I have some lovely memories of friends - some of whom I am still in touch with after 25 years. I have some horrible memories of drunken arrogant slobs, sexism, racism and homophobia; of bullying and fear. (Over 80% of the students came from private schools and didn't quite realise that the college was the first step into the world, not another level of school.) As Harriet accurately surmised "It wasn't the happiest place for you", yet I still feel sad at the loss of the place.
The weekend was great fun. It was lovely to see Harriet and Kumar and to see how their children, Daisy and Molly, have grown since I last saw them about 8 years ago. They've turned into very charming, well-adjusted young women. The only downside was the AWFUL hotel we stayed in. During my time in Wye, we frequently went to the King's Head pub. It was always a fairly ordinary place with good beer, so I thought it would be OK to stay overnight there. How wrong I was.
Under no circumstances should you make the mistake of staying here. Especially not if you plan staying in a double room with your same-sex partner. The hotel is horrible: the rooms are furnished with chipped and broken MFI type furniture; the carpets look as if the Rug Doctor might pronounce them DOA; the bed was like a blancmange with lumps; the bedding smelled of excess of cheap washing powder; the single bedside lamp had a 20w bulb in it; the shower had no hot water and a surfeit of pubic hair; and even the TV remote control was broken. We hardly slept at all, it was so nasty. Breakfast continued the horror, with piss-weak coffee, one small glass of orange-juice, white supermarket-bread toast and boiled eggs which were so soft that the whites were still liquid. For the privilege of such contemptuous treatment, we were charged £55. A Travel-Lodge would have charged the same and would have been comfortable, if a little bland. I know which I prefer.
After Wye, we went on to Sissinghurst Castle to see the Vita Sackville-West gardens there. They were lovely though a little bit too busy to enjoy properly. And as with all National Trust properties in the UK, solidly white, middle-class and very overpriced. Still, we enjoyed ourselves and Jane "acquired" some seeds for her garden at home!
Hopefully off to see some sound-mirrors at Dungeness tomorrow.