Saturday, October 01, 2005

The University of Durham

Tonight I came back from Newcastle and on the way took these photos of the city of Durham. The cathedral is built on the highest point for miles around and is almost encircled by a dramatic wooded gorge - the incised meanderings of the river Wear. The streets leading up to the cathedral are flanked by small ancient houses converted into colleges. Modern life just scratches at the surface of this place.

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.


Blogger Jonathan said...

Thanks very much for that personal and lively account. I also went to Durham , but to Hild and Bede. I also romanticise the place in my memory and would like to go back again, not having been since 2001.

Because of Durham, I am glad that Oxford rejected me.

Sat Aug 23, 06:47:00 am  

Post a Comment

Comments are subject to moderation.

<< Home