I went to university here when I was nineteen - I wanted to go as far away from home as I could - not that I was running away, I just wanted to see what it was like to live somewhere else. My college was St Aidan's - a modern structure outside the city - over Prebend's bridge with its notorious flasher up a steep slope then many steps. The science departments were close by - also modern, so visits into the city itself were infrequent - perhaps that's why this old part retained its majesty for me. Bill Bryson is the new vice-chancellor of the university of Durham and seems as impressed with the place as I was.
I studied geology in my first year before swapping to chemistry and one of our first field-trips was a tour through the city. Inside the cathedral we paused by some ornate dark pillars, each one decorated with gracefully curving white fossils - 'dibunophylum bipartitum' our lecturer told us and I liked the sound of these words so much I practised them until I could remember them.
This other picture is clearer, the train window less dirty - to the left of the cathedral is the castle which is part of the original first college. I went to a ball there once and at dawn a solitary piper played from its walls. When I think of that now it seems like it was another person that was there, not me. All I remember are snatches - the piper on the wall, and a walk home in the dawn to catch some sleep, the early light of day difffusing through trees and the cathedral watching us.