My first sight of the imposing Accrington redbrick Edwardian ( Ingress Bell and Aston Webb) architecture of the University of Birmingham ( c.1900-09), crushed my spirits and filled me with dread. These were the domes of an industrial Xanadu with its ‘great hall for mechanical, civil and electrical engineering’, and I had never felt more ‘out of place’. My father’s bitterness that I had turned down a place – on the building site of the equally off-putting very new University of Sussex – had confused me even more. There, at my interview, I had met and been intimidated by the sight of the uber- sophisticated Jay ‘twins’ in their Paco Rabanne boots – and had fled.
Thankfully, ‘Freshers’ Week’ lessened my fears. The Philosophy Department had only a tiny group of students – and we huddled together. I warmed immediately to a girl called Pat Wardle from Newcastle-upon- Tyne, a stunning blonde, who announced that she had come to Birmingham purely to find a husband. Her wishes were rewarded, when three years later, she graduated with a third class degree and a young trainee dentist called Mike Bellwood in tow. They married the following year in Durham cathedral. At least Pat knew exactly what she wanted in life.
Another passionately ambitious Geordie – two years ahead of me – was Andy Allan, who graduated with a First, and was to become a major grandee of Central TV; and, who was later to jilt me six days before our intended wedding on August 31st, 1968.
But more of that later.
Here I was, a naive,18 yr-old pitchforked in to this dazzling new world, clutching my copy of Gilbert Ryle’s Concept of Mind, pretending to like beer and deadly No.6 ‘gaspers’;doing grown-up things like joining Amnesty, CND, and the Debating Society,and feeling utterly lost in spite of the good friends and company around me.