Heraclitus on Rivers

Queen’s Part II

Heraclitus tells us that you cannot step in the same river twice. I know now for sure if I had my time again I would do things at University a lot differently.

And, in many ways looking back I consider the three wasted years, literally, in Belfast.

The wasted summers when in retrospect I should have travelled or done something of meaning. Instrad, a purely desultory summer spent in London living in a shithole in East London trying to pass myself off as a labourer. A shambolic, liquid, toxic and fairly pointless outing to America the following year. In reality I should and could have saved myself the money and hassle by staying at home. Or by doing America or Europe properly.

I spent my final year at Queen’s living in a chaotic three-story house in University Street with several close friends. Looking back it was some craic but was it. . .? It was memorable primarily for the lads that I lived with. Cormzo, Brogy for a while, Mad Dog, Fabe, Henrietta Ballbag and most bizarrely of all, a ginger haired Protestant from Bangor called Brent. And of course the late great Decky Coyle.

The old house backed on to The Queen’s Film Theatre with the bizarre outcome that we received free tickets to any film we wanted to go to. All because we let the manager park in our back yard. So if nothing was on the telly, out the back door to the QFT. The arrangement had the added benefit that the QFT was warm which was helpful when we had run out of gas, coal or wardrobe.

Those of the lads that had women they were happy being seen out in public with sober, sometimes took them there for a night out. To the rest of us, that sort of behaviour was a waste of a ticket. Occasionally fellas from other houses might look a free ticket for their own romantic nights out. They were usually rebuffed. And scoffed at.

Suffice to say, I did not attend the QFT with any girls. The ones I wanted to be seen in public with certainly didn’t have the same view of me. The others that I managed to impress were usually viewed through a fugue of beer in the Crescent Bar or the Elms. Certainly there was little question of going out on a date. Plus, any good impression formed invariably receded with the rising tide of a hangover .

By that stage our lives as students were pretty formulaic. Days spent in the library, studying, having the craic, eyeing up girls across the library table. Evening meals together with the other fellas, eating staples such as Spaghetti Bolognese (Dolmio had just been invented) or fishfingers, beans and toast. Then, passing time until it was time for another night on the piss. It was that regimented. We would go out. Every night.

Chasing women. The ones we chased weren’t interested. The ones we caught hardly worth the bother. And the feeling was entirely mutual it has to be said. They were maybe drunker than we were on spectacular occasions. The blind leading the blind drunk. Some of the lads pretended they had early lectures to get overnight guests up and out of the house before anyone spied them in the cold unforgiving glare of daylight.

One of my mates made off with a young lady from Fermanagh who didn’t notice the fact he had a piece of kebab meat in the breast pocket of his shirt. Whether he had already eaten it or not, even he didn’t know.

Serious levels of drink consumed. At various stages of value-for-money drinking, we discovered peppermint schnapps, tequila, southern comfort and others. Anyone ever drunk campari and pure orange? For some reason it was on offer and by God did we take up the offer. It was mildly palatable tasting like grapefruit juice. Down the hatch. I have never tasted it since.

I think of some of the people whose paths I crossed and whose paths crossed mine. I wouldn’t even bother apologising because I have never seen most of them again, nor do I care. I am sure the feeling is entirely mutual. You can’t step in the same river twice. Thank God for that.

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