There was something about returning to St Andrews that made me feel a bit odd, I was excited yet a bit anxious. I was visiting for just a few days, a frenzied few days in which to celebrate a friend’s 21st, to support a friend’s campaign, and to go to Dont Walk. A few days which proved to be wonderfully fun, if not physically and mentally exhausting.
But why was I anxious? Perhaps anxious is not quite the right word, maybe more apprehensive, or trepidatious. But all the same, I guess I was worried that things would have changed. Old friends would have new friends, social groups would have morphed beyond recognition, there would be old gossip that I’d been blissfully unaware of, someone shagging someone and I (god forbid) had never been told, old flames moving on, people with new stories, new dreams, wants etc. etc. You get the picture, being very much a creature of social comfort, I feared for my St Andrews, the St Andrews I knew, to have been hideously twisted beyond all recognition.
And some things have changed beyond all recognition. Like the new library and it’s lack of sickly mustard coloured carpet and its new modern feel that is otherwise so alien to St Andrews. Like The Vic and it’s trendy new decor and many an Etch-a-Sketch to play with. Like the fact that if you go to The Vic wearing a plaid shirt you’ll be mistaken as staff. Like the founding of The Kate Kennedy Fellowship and all the drama surrounding it. Like all the hideously beautiful new faces that I’d failed to see in the past. Like the fact that Dont Walk ACTUALLY had tables this year.
The list of slight, relatively minor contextual changes could go on and on, but what I really found is that nothing much has actually changed, yet the way I see and appreciate St Andrews has.
The town is, as ever, one big building site, not Market Street this year but rather North and South Street. The start of campaign week is as exciting and electric as ever, but the endless Facebook invites and harassment remains tedious. Hamish the cat continues to mooch with his slutty swagger around town. The same woman sits outside Tesco selling her Big Issue, and the same man stands outside McKays selling his. The Scandinavian kids continue to dominate in looks and style. Olivia Acland continues to be Olivia ‘Gap Year’ Acland. And the ‘wannabe hipsters’ continue to painfully be just that. The Lizard continues to seem like a good idea at the time but in retrospect is always a grave error of judgment. Louise Richardson continues to get casual general abuse from students. Dont Walk continues to sell sex in a hideously hot way. The Northpoint’s ultimate bagel remains THE ultimate bagel. And the Madras kids at lunch time continue to be an unwanted presence. And town continues to be but a sea of Barbours and Ray-Bans…
It’s the same old stories just with a few new faces, the same strength of motivation, drive and competition just fed by slightly different ambitions. Still, a seemingly global elite of students over a silent majority. Still the same cheeky gossip and licentious goings-on, just with different individuals, places, positions, details. Still me getting rather too drunk at big events and cringing at certain things said, certain things done, and certain photos posed for.
I guess that some things, and some people never really change, they just somehow become faintly different. I flirt with the idea that what has changed the most (and naturally for the better) is probably me. Through being abroad and somewhat distanced from life in ‘the bubble’ I see it through a rose-tinted yet very critical lense. And now I’m back in Vienna, sat in my apartment, and when I logoff Facebook and Skype it seems a whole other world away. A ridiculous world that I’m rather excited to return to next year.
Photo © Anna Gudnason