Wednesday, 14 December 2016

When Nostalgia Goes Right

If you're one of my older internet friends from Flickr or maybe even Instagram (hello friends!) then you might know that I used to live in St Andrews. It's where I did my undergrad, I lived there for four years, and it is one of my most favourite places in the entire world. I graduated in 2012 and hadn't been for a return visit until last month. I was sort of afraid it would be weird and emotional in a bad way, or disappointing, or seem less beautiful, or be somehow less than I remember. But it wasn't! It was perfect.

(Before we start, just to let you know I've gone wild with linking back to old stuff on my Flickr, so watch out for links! You'll have to excuse how embarrassing some of it is. I'm still glad it's there, even so. It's true: you'll never regret taking more photos. Go wild! Also, I don't think any of them are set to friends and family, but let me know if they are and you can't see them.)

East Sands is one of our old haunts! It's where Gavin and I both used to live (and where we met, I guess, back in 2008! Here's a photo I took when I first moved.) and is the less famous of St Andrew's beaches, probably, but I think it's the best one. You can join the Fife coastal path from one end of the beach, and we used to walk along there a lot. There's a little hidden cave, if you know how to get to it. We used to go there with marshmallows and disposable barbecues.

I have included this vaguely awkward photo of us on the pier because it's the only one I got of both of us. I jumped off this, as tradition demanded, when I finished my exams! It's.... obscenely high... I have no idea how I did that. Also, it looks super dangerous?! There are rocks really close to it so not only are you dropping a good few metres you have to propel yourself off the pier a few metres forwards as well. What a horrendous idea.

... and I suppose that's how I know I'm an adult now, and not a young, carefree (daft, impulsive) student willing to fling myself happily into any old body of water.

St Andrews has the best ghost stories. This hole in the wall supposedly has the ghost of a lady who grabs your hand and tries to pull you in. Gavin is demonstrating this very helpfully for you here.

The cathedral is one of my favourite places in the world, I love it so much. Here I am right after I graduated, and here's one when it snowed and became even more magical. I hosted Amelia the travelling Blythe and visited for some photo ops. Even had an impromptu dolly day with Emma of Emuse!

The PH initials are another weird little St Andrews tradition - it's where Patrick Hamilton was burnt at the stake. Because religion. Anyway, it's considered bad luck to step on them until you've graduated, because you'll fail your final exams. (You can atone if you slip up, however - by taking part in the May Dip.) I never once stood on it until I graduated, where it's pretty much a rite of passage. It must be pretty easy to spot the alumni, I had to have a little jump up and down on it for old times sake.

We also got to see the now famous Hamish McHamish statue. Hamish was still kicking about when we lived here, he was a lovely cat.

You can't stop in St Andrews without going to Janetta's, it's criminal. I used to live basically above this cafe, which was ace. I also noticed this new plaque that had been put up by where I used to live:

For context: James Boswell wrote a book about his travels in Scotland with Samuel Johnson, in which he was generally very condescending but spoke very favourably about St Andrews. (Samuel Johnson of course was also famously rude about Scotland. I'm sure you've heard the oats quote.) We studied it in my first year and it became a bit of a running joke in my tutorial group. I am delighted to find out that this was (sort of) where he stayed. It might have made living in a cupboard more awesome. (Ok, so it wasn't literally a cupboard, but not far off.)

In my last two years, I used to spend a lot of times in Lade Braes and up by Hallow Hill, you could even walk up as far as Craigtoun Park. I took so many photos there! A lot of them were toys. It's sort of a weird place to visit but I really wanted to go back. It was lovely. 

I was a funny little oddbod with a lot of toys, and we both have less hair than we used to, but it felt so weirdly familiar to be back. I wasn't always deliriously happy living here at all, there were ups and downs and lots of personal and academic stress, and spending seven hours on a bus without toilets to and from Glasgow every week to see Gavin... but I always loved living here, and I'm not sure I've ever felt quite at home anywhere else. It was so lovely to go back and find that it was just as beautiful and cute and tiny as I remembered.

Thank you for making it through this strange, self-indulgent nostalgia-trip of a a blog post, which could easily have been a thousand times longer and more involved, but I think I'll leave it here. Goodbye, tiny cute weird town, and let's not leave it four years this time!

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