A very long day today.
Up at five in the morning after a short night to get ready for an early train journey to Durham, site of my recent Music Residential Summer School with the Open University A214 course.
Eldest grand daughter is interested in attending Durham University to read Law in a year’s time: her younger sister is also thinking ahead, she fancies reading Medicine and is also beginning to consider her options, so I arranged a day’s fact finding for us all.
Some time ago I rang various colleges, and booked two College Tours, and then a General Campus Tour: our schedule today was for one college tour at 11.00 am, a second at 1.0 pm with the general tour at 2.0 pm. So we caught the 7.24 am train out of Sheffield to Durham with one change of station en route. We were due to arrive at 9.30 am, catch the bus up into town and then amuse ourselves until the first college tour.
All went well until we were due to catch the first train: the girls had forgotten to bring the Family Railcard with them: I had booked our tickets in advance in the assurance that we had this railcard which gives each adult, ie me and eldest girl a third off the full price, and 60% off the price for the younger girl. I had contacted the family three times, the last being last night, to check that they had found the rail card, and would bring it with them! I was not amused to find they had left it at home. In fact, as I discovered later in the day, they had forgotten all their student travel cards so no discounts on buses or trams either.
The information kiosk said that all I could do was speak to the train manager for each train before we got on and ask if they would let us travel on these tickets in the circumstances. Otherwise they guards were within their rights to charge us an extra two to three hundred pounds!!!!!!!!!!!
So for the first two legs of our journey I had to put the girls on the train, find the train manager, explain our predicament, and throw myself on his/her mercy, then get on the train myself. When the guard came round he was kind and said that since I had approached them before boarding they would let us travel on those tickets, but if we had just boarded and then tried to travel they would have made us pay the extra. The guard on the second train advised us to go to the information desk at Durham and either buy a new Railcard or upgrade our tickets or other guards on our way home might not be so kind and we would have to pay a very great deal of money. So that is what we did, and had to pay a bit extra, but only 16 pounds.
We had a good journey otherwise, pleasant views and weather and chat: the bus driver let us pay the reduced fees without the girls’ student cards and we ended up back at the Cathedral and Castle at 10.20 in the morning.
Then a quick coffee and snack in the restaurant, tour of the Cathedral and off to the first college, Hatfield, a Georgian college, for a tour. It was the same college I had stayed in when up here just a couple of weeks ago. It was so strange to be back , with a new set of students here. As we walked round I met Donald the course director who had come back for the last week.
A very useful, helpful tour round the college with about twenty other prospective students and their parents. Then back up to Palace Green, a walk round and back into the Cathedral. We met a Canon who stopped to ask the girls if they were up here to look round and talked for a while about his University experience here in Durham and his wife’s in nearby Newcastle.
Some salad and veg. all round for lunch (the girls are both vegetarians) a further look round the Cathedral and off to the next college, University College known locally as Castle because the students live in the Castle! We walked across the Bailey Court, past the Keep (below) where the students’ rooms are, and up the main stairs and into the Great Hall where Formal Dinner is taken twice a week with gowns ‘de rigeur’. Past the stone plinths where the trumpeters used to blow the fanfare for the Bishop Princes as they entered, past the suits of armour and weapons, along the long gallery to the C16 Chapel. I heard a gasp from the eldest girl as she saw it. Then up the medieval staircase to the upper gallery where the student officers have their rooms, down the circular stone staircase to the Norman Chapel built in 1087, into the gorgeous student bar and common room with a TV the size of a small wall and into the college library. No guesses which College grand daughter preferred, but so do many other students.
If you are a graduate of this college you have the right to marry here and have your children christened here too if you so wish.
Then a walk down into town to look round, check out which shops they had and where, walk down and over the river and jump into a taxi to whizz us off to the afternoon tour. We arrived just in time, got settled into the brand new lecture theatre with three hundred other keen prospective students and families to listen to a presentation of about forty five minutes, on the University and how to apply. A really good talk, with lots of information which will be helpful both for applying to this University and others in fact. Then we were divided up into groups and taken off by older students to look round these outer parts of the campus and see other bits of the University. We walked off at a cracking pace, just like a long school crocodile, me talking to other parents and the students as we went. Up steep, cobbled streets in and out of college grounds, over a stately bridge over the River Weir also used for Harry Potter when riding the hippogryph,
There was a problem with a broken down train further down the line and the trains were all in a queue waiting to get round. We feared we would miss our connection but that train was also stuck in the train queue, behind us, so all was well. A tremendously helpful train conductor who looked after us very well.
Finally back into Sheffield where we caught firstly a tram, then a bus, back to the girls’ home for two large cups of tea and a debrief! Finally home about 10.00 pm exhausted and another debrief with husband.
We had all talked ourselves hoarse during the day, walked our legs off, and imbibed so much information that our heads were bursting. But it was all helpful, useful, pertinent and greatly helped our focus. Everyone we encountered was so kind, friendly and interested. Durham was always top of her list, but is now even more so. Excellent tutorial support, student support, academic support, pastoral support, lots of choice, good accommodation, renowned degrees, just a mere task of getting the correct grades now.
We all really enjoyed each other’s company and are hoping to plan a trip to London for the three of us before the end of the summer holidays, to see the Natural History, Science and Victoria and Albert Museums, and perhaps the Sherlock Holmes Museum in 221b Baker Street.
But for now, we are all hoping for a really good night’s sleep. Oh to be starting out again, I would have loved such a chance. This is the first time I have ever longed for another life: but it was not to be. I never had the support, or chances that lie before the young today! But I am getting so much pleasure trying to help others achieve their ambitions, it is nice to be an enabler, and to live this vicariously without the work or debt involved. I really had fun today.