Monday, November 29, 2010

Don't Look Back

Yesterday, waking at the crack of dawn and with Mrs F-C away, I decided to go on a road trip.

So leaving the house at 8am I bombed down to my old stomping ground, Southampton. I spent my uni days there, three years from 1984 to 1987. I haven't been back for at least 15 years and I was looking forward to revisiting all those old haunts, seeing those student digs and taking a look around the town as my specially prepared CD containing songs from the period transported me back to a time where there was nothing to concern you but where your album was coming from.

I was excited and as I entered the city - and yes I did have Barracuda, the fast theme from Howards' Way playing at full pelt - it all came flooding back. Or rather it didn't. Everything had changed. Oh dear. 

*needle scratches across record which comes to an abrupt end*

If I'm honest I was shocked. What a bleedin' dump. I'm all for progress but it's like someone's being playing with Lego and just built wherever. As I zigzagged the city in search of memories there was hardly a thing the same. It's a jumble of Jurys Inns, flats where favourite watering holes once stood and discount superstores - and they've moved the entire city centre out of town.

So much of it has been knocked down and built over it was a miracle I managed to find my way around. What really struck me was how garish everything seemed. All shop fronts had ghastly in-your-facias wherever you looked. It all looked horribly cheap.

And as for those student houses - what once seemed rather roomy, almost elegant Victorian houses were now complete hovels. And the grafitti! I don't even think it had been invented back then.

I suppose in those days you made your home where you were, and having been a boarder I had no problem with just making the best of things. Standards and lifestyles have changed of course, and what you would have put up with back then is unimaginable now. But I don't remember it being THAT bad.

Despite all that, it was interesting and it was nostalgic - evocative street names and routes to friends' houses and pubs, etc all came flooding back. It was all rather Proustian. But it's sad to see so many memories flattened. Best not to think to hard about it. You can never go back.


BPP said...

I went back to a former stamping ground and it was exactly the same. The thousand year old cathedral was still standing, the castle was still there, the high street was the same, as were the streets around it. It was all just the same.

So you CAN go back. So there!

Mondo said...

We did a similar run to Norwich earlier in the year, in essence it still feels the same, but shop-wise it's just Any-town now. Oxford Street is usually an indicator of the way national hight streets will go, and that to ran to a mix of shabby business and corporate heavy-hitters about 15 years ago

Clair said...

Birmingham has improved 75% since I was at college there; some of the grand Victorian pubs have been demolished and the tat emporium I used to like has gone, but otherwise it's much nicer than it used to be.

However, going back to Stevenage is still awful, but it was, and always will be, SHIT.

Ishouldbeworking said...

I really like going back to my old university city - it always had a strong interesting identity, but it was very down at heel when I was there in the Eighties. Now it's smart and prosperous, but has retained its vibrancy. Best of all possibles, really.

Southampton's decline is well noted on the South Coast. They blame Portsmouth and its fancy Spinnaker Tower for stealing all their thunder. I

Five-Centres said...

And to think what Portsmouth used to be like!

Ishouldbeworking said...

Well I was there (Portsmouth) for a gig on a Saturday night two weeks ago and it was bloody scary, so it's going to take more than an illuminated tower to drag the place up.