Humanities Fight Club

Humanities Fight Club

Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais wrote a hit TV series in the eighties called Auf Wiedersehen Pet about a gang of Geordie brickies working away from home. Being at Europe’s largest Poly in Manchester around the same time was a steep learning curve. As fate would have it, doors opened immediately and as I discovered later, many students not just in Manchester were lonely and unhappy. My fellow humanities and social studies compatriots came from different backgrounds. This was a polytechnic not Oxford or Cambridge and there were a variety of permutations in terms of individual subjects to study. How did you make friends? Through the Poly coffee bar or ‘Friday Night Bop’ or due to your shared accomodation or via the numerous clubs that it was fashionable not to join. My digs were in Chorlton, a modest but growing suburb three miles south of the city centre. The house comprised of landlord and landlady, their three kids, Sam the dog and six students, all from different courses. We had a garden, Sam to exercise, a local churchyard for football and a large degree of freedom – though no girls upstairs, please. We all got on fine, were well fed and had a wide range of student parties to choose from every weekend. At the end of my first year, I realised I didn’t know anyone off my course. In my second year, with only eighteen hours of education narrowed down to two subjects with four tutorials a week, I made a real effort to get to know my fellow politics and literature students. Soon there were three scousers, all named Steve and Neil from Ireland. I had family in Liverpool and the old Scottie Road/docks where my Grandad had worked, plus the faded glory of this old port city with its great writers, musicians and poets like Roger McGough fascinated me. MY newfound mates were into politics, music and fashion, alternative as it was known then – underground and leftfield. Commercial success on the music scene was not cool. If a new Liverpool singer like Pete Wylie and his Mighty Wah band made Top of the Pops, they were struck off. They had sold out. Unlike Auf Wiedersehen Pet, although these boys were proud of their working class roots, there was little camaraderie. It was all about image. I started listening to The Velvet Underground, Sector 27 and Echo and the Bunnymen. Neil took me to his brother’s house in Fallowfield. There was a large IRA mural in the hallway, armalite rifle and philosophy. His brother later became a politics writer and lecturer. I felt very welcome and because Neil and I were big Man City fans we became good friends. I invited my Humanities mates to a house party on Albany Road, a big three storey scruffy red-brick house for students with Gustav the polish baker living in the attic. There were all sorts there – geography, business studies, graphic design, hotel and catering – an eclectic mix of students, plus Macca our landlord who brought home brew. The party was going well when a fight broke out over a vinyl record. We listened to pop, some heavy rock, Bob Marley and reggae in general, but the easy-going party atmosphere had changed. A fracas developed when one of the humanities lads tried to change the music. A pane of glass in the front room smashed and a melee ensued. All of a sudden there was a mighty roar and up stepped Macca the landlord and Big Al, ex-politics student and Man City apprentice from Longsight. Rising above the stampede, they ejected my humanities pals effortlessly yet forcefully. I shyly looked around, thanked them, supped some homebrew and slipped OMD back onto the turntable. A lesson had been taught that night, that a real world with real Mancs existed outside of studentland. MACCA WHO DRANK BODDINGTONS OF A SATURDAY NIGHT, TOOK HIS WIFE TO THE LOCAL TRATTORIA EVERY SUNDAY, BROUGHT UP FOUR KIDS, DROVE A BMW BIKE AND HELD DOWN A STEADY JOB FOR THIRTY YEARS, HAD RISEN TO THE OCCASION. I DIDNT MIX MUCH WITH MY FELLOW HUMANITIES STUDENTS IN MY FINAL YEAR. TRUTH BE TOLD, THERE WASN’T MUCH INTEREST ON EITHER SIDE. APART FROM A BRIEF FLING WITH A PRETTY GIRL CALLED CALLED JULIET WHO WAS ALSO STUDYING POETRY, THE HUMANITIES SOCIAL STUDIES SCENE NEVER REALLY ENCROACHED AGAIN.

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