petite anglaise

July 18, 2005


Filed under: navel gazing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 1:14 pm

In 1995 I would probably have ordered a snakebite and blackcurrant in a damp and dingy cellar nightclub, with a name like “The Swamp” or “Moles”.

This weekend’s drink of choice was a pitcher of Pimms and lemonade, the classiest of which was served in the private gardens of the Royal Crescent Hotel.

I think that sums up nicely how we have changed in ten years.

The “reunion”, which started out as an ambitious plan to reunite a whole host of fellow “eurostuds” (European Studies and Modern Languages graduates), was actually a rather a low-key, intimate affair. So much the better. There were two or three people I really wanted to catch up with properly, and not having to feel obliged to make polite small talk with lots of others meant I could concentrate my attention fully on those who mattered.

Walking around the campus alone on Friday, before everyone else arrived, with 1995 vintage Renaissance on my Ipod, I let my feet guide me to the house where I lived in my first year. The curtains in the window bore the same leafy pattern. The trees in front had grown, and now almost obscured my third floor window. I stood there for a long while, letting memories wash over me.

Going to university, for me, was about becoming a new person. Starting over in a place where no-one had ever known me as a bespectacled, swotty, shy teenager. Leaving behind the heartache of the traumatic split with my first boyfriend, and the friends who had turned out to be more his than mine. It was about re-inventing myself. The exhilaration of living my own life, far from the constraints of the parental home, going out whenever I pleased, spending my (ahem, well, the government’s money) on precisely what I chose, answering to no-one but my own conscience.

I loved my new life, my new friends and the new me wholeheartedly, and spent the happiest years of my life to date in Bath.

Ten years later, in the process of shedding my skin and re-inventing myself all over again, I stand at a crossroads and contemplate a future far from the city of light.

I like to think that ten years from now, I will no longer refer to my time in Bath as the happiest years of my life.


  1. I love moments like the one you described, as you were standing in front of the house you lived in your first year at university. When everything else doesn’t matter, when you live for the moment.

    On a sidenote, I am about to experience becoming a new person this year as well. I am almost certain that the following years will be a great time for me.

    However, I am always thinking that the near future is something awesome. Why am I doing so? I can’t tell. Perhaps life isn’t worth to be lived, if you do not believe in the benefits one can have, if you do not believe in the wonderful things that can, and probably will happen.

    Thus, I am just as sure, that in ten years time, you will no longer refer your time in Bath as the happiest years of your life.

    Comment by maradong — July 18, 2005 @ 1:25 pm

  2. Speaking as a returning mature student, the early University years are always unique, in a gloriously free way that cannot be duplicated by the more mature self. Happiness is measured in different ways at various times of life – thank goodness, or what would there be to look foward to? Good luck with the new direction your life is going in; in a full life there are many reinventions and much serendipity.

    Comment by Ruth — July 18, 2005 @ 2:43 pm

  3. I think there always is a golden age of any kind that remains unique, a paradise lost. I’m not certain that periods can be better, I can just wish ya that the best is to come.

    Comment by stephan — July 18, 2005 @ 2:58 pm

  4. oh and I forgot to ask. Did you talk with these “important” people about your blog ?

    Comment by stephan — July 18, 2005 @ 2:59 pm

  5. Petite,

    Your story is a familiar one, especially to those like myself who were the “geeky”, “nerdy” type. For me, university was the time where I started to find my own voice as well and that continued into different incarnations right up until today. If we are open to the experience, we allow ourselves to be able to change over the course of a lifetime, as painful as it sometimes can be though the results can be far more rewarding.

    I enjoy the quote from Joseph Campbell that goes: “We must be prepared to give up the life we planned in order to receive the life that is waiting for us.” I recently had to go through that again, now in my mid-40’s, and re-invent myself. It has been an extremely painful journey, and amogst other things, I am not sure my marriage will survive it, but I know in my deepest self, I am taking the right course of action.

    It is however, wonderful when you realize the joy of listening to yourself, or as Campbell also put it: “Following your bliss.” (and this saying has been misinterpreted over the years. You are a prime example of someone living that ideal.)

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — July 18, 2005 @ 3:04 pm

  6. You’ve given me a sudden desire to return to the campus of my own university. I also count them amongst some of (but not all of) the happiest times of my life. It’s been 14 years and I’ve never been back. I believe that it, and the city it’s in, have changed enormously. I would love to go back and find it just the same, and bump into the same people. But I know that’s impossible.
    However I loved your idea of walking around alone beforehand, listening to the music of that era, visiting old haunts.

    Comment by Mancunian Lass — July 18, 2005 @ 3:10 pm

  7. Uau…I am taking the Euromasters Programm starting next Oktober in Bath as well. I think I will like a place which you remember with such nostalgia, and after Lisbon and Berlin I look forward to small town college life!

    Comment by rita dantas — July 18, 2005 @ 3:51 pm

  8. Your post captures perfectly my own memories of my university years, during which, at least to my own mind, I blossomed. I explored, taking random courses simply because they sounded interesting. I became a student-athlete and discovered, to my surprise, that I was good. To this day, I consider my years as a collegiate cyclist as one of the best things that ever happened to me – but it didn’t just happend to me, of course, I chose it for myself. Living away from home for the first time is all about choosing and exploring and growing, isn’t it?

    You’ve made me miss my old campus, all the harder to visit now that I am an ocean away. Perhaps you have even made me miss my old self a little bit.

    Comment by swissmiss — July 18, 2005 @ 4:21 pm

  9. I haven’t finished with enough of my life to look back at my university years and think that they were my happiest. I, like you years before, am about to embarke on journey to France. I hope that when I’ll be there I’ll be reinventing myself and becoming a better person. Someone I like more. If I ever do leave France years in the future, I’m hoping that I can look back at my time as there as my happiest.

    Comment by juliana — July 18, 2005 @ 4:58 pm

  10. my feeling is it’s always better to look forward than to the past. I have many happy memories of my university years, but I wouldn\t ever want to go back. Life ahead has too much to offer…

    Comment by trine — July 18, 2005 @ 5:33 pm

  11. Petite – this is a fantastic post! I’ll have my 10-year high school reunion next year and I’ve got mixed feelings about it.

    Comment by yayaempress — July 18, 2005 @ 10:44 pm

  12. I am too scared to go back to my old sharehouse in East London because it represented the best and the worst of times for me. I lived with my great love there and borke up there as well. I have since married and ‘moved on’ but have I?

    Comment by Em — July 18, 2005 @ 11:25 pm

  13. i as well love this sentiment. 10 years ago i was finishing up my year in romania, and though i’m very contented now, i actually enjoy holding the memory of that time as my happiest. it may not get any better from here on out, but i don’t mind living in the past from time to time ;)

    Comment by brando — July 19, 2005 @ 3:32 am

  14. I’ve waited 6 months for it, and it’s over nearly as soon as it’s begun.

    I’m talking about H.P, naturally…
    So, *have you read it, Petite, everyone?* whatcha reckon?

    Comment by Lucy-Jane in Rennes — July 19, 2005 @ 12:32 pm

  15. Going to Uni was just like that for me as well -I was that specky, swotty teenager too. I can’t imagine going to a reunion though, the past is over and done with, apart from a very select few friends. The only reason I can imagine for wanting to meet old acquaintances would be to smug it up about how I live in Paris with a rich handsome Frog and our gorgeous kids, and to smile condescendingly when they say they haven’t left their home town. Not a good enough reason, you’ll agree, so best leave it alone, as far as I’m concerned.
    Lucy-Jane- please please please I have to wait another week for HP (it’ll be a birthday present)don’t tell me what happens pleeeeeeeeeaaase!!!

    Comment by suziboo — July 19, 2005 @ 12:44 pm

  16. I grew up in Bath! It’s such a beautiful city. Your post brought back memories of Moles and other dingy clubs there. I actually plan on visiting again soon to see how much it’s changed. And for Ben’s Cookies!

    I don’t comment much by the way, but i read your blog every day. I hope things go well for you :)

    Comment by Nancy — July 19, 2005 @ 7:58 pm

  17. very nice.

    Comment by mainja — July 20, 2005 @ 10:56 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: