All Change

Last weekend made me feel very old! My son, Hassan, came to visit me with his son, my 2nd grandchild Sean who is 18 and in the throes of applying to Universities. Hassan had told me before Christmas that he intended coming for a weekend in February and when Sean was invited to an Open Day at Swansea University that fixed the date. Sadly it did not coincide with the visit of my daughter, Carrie and her daughter Georgia the previous weekend but it was still very enjoyable.

Swansea Bay CampusThey arrived on Friday night having taken my daughter-in-law, Narju to stay with an Aunty of hers who happens to live in Swansea town. Narju is a town person, finds my place difficult to cope with and being scared of dogs does not help! This way she was able to relax and enjoy the weekend. Then on Saturday I went with them to see the University just out of interest. I expected to go to the campus in Singleton Park where I worked for a term covering maternity leave and which is next to the Hospital where my late husband had much of his treatment. It was only as we sailed past in the car that I discovered there is a whole new campus out along the bay towards Port Talbot and that that is where Sean will be based if he chooses to come to Wales.

It seems that BP had a redundant storage facility right on the seafront. When it closed they cleaned up the land and gave it to the University which was becoming rather constrained on its old site with nowhere to expand into. The upshot is that the new campus only opened 3 years ago with the faculties of Engineering and Business (which includes finance and economics) in the vanguard. A building for Computer Sciences, which is what Sean is interested in, is nearing completion and another for Law is taking shape, whilst even more student accommodation blocks are being added.

50 years ago I started at Keele University studying Maths and Biology with Computer Science as one of my subsidiary subjects. THE computer occupied a whole air conditioned room in a small building at the back of the campus. We were allowed in once to see it but thereafter submitted our hand written programmes to a white coated attendant who turned them into punch cards. These were run on the machine and the result returned to us – usually an error code! It could do simple calculations (when we ironed out all the errors!) and nothing else. It had less capacity than a small, hand held calculator does these days. Word processing, digital media, email, the internet, let alone wi-fi were unheard of. As students, the lowest of the low, if we had a complicated, repetitive calculation to do in biology, for instance to determine if a set of results was statistically significant, we were given a choice of log tables or a machine which had rotors which you set for one number and then you turned the handle, counting carefully as you did so, to multiply by the other. Those were the days! On Saturday we listened to a small section of a lecture given to first year students and I was glad it was Sean not me thinking of studying now!

Part way through the afternoon there was an earth tremor and as a precaution we were asked to leave the lecture hall and go to the assembly point until security staff had checked the building. There cannot be many Universities where that means standing around on the beach! Everything was handled very professionally with regular updates on the cause of the tremor (an earthquake a few miles away) and how long we might expect to be outside. Once we were allowed back in, the rest of the afternoon was compressed but there were plenty of staff and students on had to answer questions afterwards if anyone had things they still wanted to know. Tomorrow he goes to an Open Day at Lancaster and then it is decision time. Guess where I am hoping he will choose!

So just as Sean’s older sister, Shorna, graduates with a first class degree (no pressure then Sean!) in Events Management and Chinese and starts her first full time job in London, he leaves home. My next grandchild in order of appearance, Sam, my daughter’s firstborn, will go to FE college this next year and only Georgia will still be in school. It’s a good thing chitting the seed potatoes I bought today will be the same as last year, and the one before that! All this change is making me feel my age and I am clinging to the stable things in life.

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