Home > Uncategorized > The Off-Cuts – Part 1

The Off-Cuts – Part 1

Not everything written gets into the magazine, especially under the old regime.  Three issues were written, even though they were not printed – and some of those were my favourite bits.

So here’s a piece from the archive – a column I wrote for the start of last year.  I had hoped to get it into this issue, but we’re cutting down on regulars, on account of already having loads of them.

So here it is: Mature Students.

The Verve is all about the new people this month, all those people flooding in for the new academic year.

Of course, there’s something we’re forgetting here. Amidst all the incitement to get hammered (or, as I like to call it, ‘networking’), collect sexual conquests and blow the student loan on household goods you never knew you needed, one thing is being forgotten.

Old people.

Or, as the term is nowadays, ‘mature students’. I’m not quite sure if that’s to stroke egos, or imply that older students smell like an adventurous cheese.

Either way, I’m here to tell you what’s useful from an older point of view; where to go if you prefer The Clash to Puffy Diddler or whatever the kids listen to nowadays, what it’s like in class and where’s good to eat. You can thank me with beer.

After all, things are a different on the other side of the age gap. When it comes to pubs you actually want to leave at chucking out time; in the clubs you’re more Granny Smith than forbidden fruit and in the classroom, the desire to learn can feel over-enthusiastic.

Throw in the hyperactive pace of teenage life and all of this can leave a mature student feeling like they’re caught in a whirlwind. That is, if whirlwinds were constantly on the phone to their friends about something or other.

Point is, we oldies need things a little different. Coming back to uni after spending years in the Wide World of Work can feel like coming back to secondary school – and not in a good way. A lot of secondary school behaviours still apply here, most annoyingly cliques. Yes, you’re trapped in a Teen Movie and you need to get out.

Which conveniently brings me to my favourite subjects; eating and drinking. If you’re in North Campus, head out and up Holloway Road. It’s packed with great food places of all kinds – Caribbean, African, Chinese, Greek, Turkish, Indian…the list goes on. Amici (spotted up and down Holloway Road) make the best cappuccinos. And if you nip up the back, by the science building, there’s a Chinese café opposite Arsenal’s entrance.

If you prefer a more heh, liquid lunch, head out past the overpass, again up towards Seven Sisters. On your right is the Coronet, a Wetherspoons with no music and lots of old men Waiting For God. Past that, further up and on the left, is the rock bar Big Red. It’s a place where you can spend more on the jukebox than drinks and there are pool tables for everyone. Try the nachos.

If you need to pick up some food or goods before going home, Morrisons, Argos and Waitrose are on the way to Seven Sisters Road. Tescos lurks near the Highbury and Islington station and stashed up the side of Stapleton House. Getting cash is a pain – free machines are outside the Rocket, both Tescos and at Santander bank, just past Morrisons.

I haven’t been to the city campus much (twice in the last year or so), but the Hoop and Grapes on Aldgate High Street is a good pub, both for beer and food. Fortunately it does special beers at cheaper-than-average prices. Most importantly there’s a Weatherspoons a stone’s throw from Tower Hill underground.

Inside the classroom, things are a little different.

One problem I constantly rubbed up against was the silence in classes. Most students won’t say much at all if they can get away with it, especially in Year One when everything’s still new. After all, they could be embarrassing themselves in front of people they fancy. But the great thing about being mature (cheesy?), is that such concerns died off years ago. Say something. Break the ice. Even if they don’t follow your lead, you’ll get marked out as someone who is willing to step up – and a good tutor will tell you to shut up if you dominate too much. Mine did.

If there are other students who don’t like you hogging the limelight, they’re welcome to get involved too. There’s an old line about how the young know everything and the middle-aged suspect everything and I quite like being suspicious of definite statements and positions. I’m not against trying things out – anyone who’s heard stories from my sex life knows that – but being older and more open-minded really does improve the learning experience.

The last big thing about life as a greybeard in London Met is that you’re not alone. The university takes in many older students, all of them wondering if they were just as bad at that age and whether they have the stamina to do it all again. My advice is do what you want; just don’t overdo it.

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