Last week was special. It was my graduation at the Uni of Southampton. After almost 8 months I was back in my beloved Soton. You know how it is, you don’t know what you have until you lose it. And this was exactly the case.
I found it really weird booking a hotel in a place I once called home. I went from being a (temporary) Sotonian to a tourist.
Despite knowing it so well, Southampton surprised me. Eight months is not a long period of time but many things changed. When we, me and my parents, were on the bus U1A going from the Central Station to Highfield I kept pointing at several places shouting: ” Whaaat this wasn’t here before”, “This must be something new”, or “Where has that pub gone?” See, eight months is enough for change to happen.
Other than that, Southampton was still the same. Businesses come and go but the important things stay. The town quay and the docks still looked and felt like they did before. It was still windy and a bit colder there than inside the city. The Red Funnel ferry operating between Southampton and Isle of Wight was full of tourists, sea gulls and pigeons flying above our heads, boys playing basketball in Mayflower park.
Being back on campus was amazing. A year ago when I was writing my dissertation and learned that we’ll have our graduation in a year (!!!!) I couldn’t help laughing, it seemed like ages away. Now, obviously, writing dissertation feels like two weeks ago.
What I said at the beginning – the thing with not appreciating things until you lose them – I fully grasped here at the campus. I walked around and suddenly felt jealous of all the current students and especially the freshers, who still have many wonderful university years ahead of them. I was thinking how many wasted days and pointless hours I spent doing nothing. I was often at home, too lazy to go out. Stupid me. Anyway, I enjoyed it the way I wanted at that time, so I guess it’s okay.
I’ve always loved the greenery of our campus. It’s like one huge garden. And the real one (we called it a secret garden) – Valley Gardens – leaves you speechless. When I took these photos, there were ceremonies happening at that very moment and there was not a soul inside (not that there ever were many people). I was walking around or sitting on a bench and the whole place was mine. It was bliss.
Our house, number 17, was only a couple of meters away from campus. During my three day stay in Southampton I went there twice. To my surprise I found the house abandoned. The grass and the weeds in the front yard indicated nobody’s cut it for a long time. I tried to knock on the door hoping someone will answer so that I can have a quick look inside. But there was no sight nor feel of anyone living there. I knew it from the very beginning. What I found was a sad and empty house.
The second time I went there was an hour and a half before our train was departing from central station for London – I needed to see it again.
Standing in front of it, touching the door knob and peeping through windows was like saying goodbye to it all. Before I had to go I stood motionless by the front gate for like 10 minutes, trying to capture the picture of it into a visual memory bank in my head. But it was more than that. If in the future I want to recall how the house looked like I can look at the photos. What I really wanted was to capture the moment, the feeling of standing in front of it. Who knows if I’m ever going to see it again.
This time, even though it didn’t feel like it did before, I felt somehow connected to Southampton because I was a graduant – I still felt a part of the university. But from now on, whenever I make a visit, there’ll be nothing waiting for me there. I’m an alumni now, me and 200,000 other people. My old house is abandoned. Friends are gone, spread all around the globe. I’ll be staying in a hotel.
An official tourist in the second home. That’s right.