I’ve always thought it no coincidence that when I tell people where I went to university, most people think I’m saying “hole.” Back in that bleak and windy autumn term when we gathered for the first time in the rattling dining hall at the Lawns, the standard matt black union bar, or the towering Brynmor Jones library, we quickly sorted ourselves into soft shivering southerners who pronounced scone to rhyme with stone, and hardy northern types who were prepared to cycle into the wind on Cottingham Road. This was the only distinction that mattered.
For personal reasons that have surely been divulged before, Hull was my nearest university. It has been conveyed to me throughout my life that this was some sort of cop out. I presume that if my nearest university had been trendy Bath or frankly anywhere more prestigious than Hole, I might have been forgiven. Fact is I didn’t take my laundry home nearly as often as my roommate who had made the journey all the way from Derbyshire and was collected by her dad as often as she wanted. On the upside, my brother was close enough to take him to Spiders Nightclub for his birthday. Because most of the cocktails were milk-based, it seemed okay to supply them to one so young. I had my first cigarette in the union bar and my last in the Welly (the same night). I drank tea from red plastic teapots in the break between lectures. My mum gave me a slow cooker for my birthday and I had an illegal fridge under the sink in my room, and I learned to cook because I didn’t have enough money to buy ready meals (my roommate was a master of the Vesta Curry. She said the shops in Hole were shite, which they were, but we were the last year to get a government grant, and mine didn’t get topped up by my dad so shopping was never really a thing for me. We didn’t get along).
I’ve been back to Hole so many times, because as stated my family live nearby. It has never seemed quite so bleak as it did when I was a student. It has fancy new shopping centres and a pretty good aquarium. We took Bernard to see Cinderella with the Chuckle Brothers at Hull New Theatre 30 years after our dad took us to see Elkie Brooks there. Neither performance was flawless. A couple of decades ago Hole decided to celebrate its fishy heritage by adding sculptures and street art to do with fish, and you can walk around a trail of interesting areas that you simply would not otherwise see. Hole has a cultural heritage that includes Rick Astley and Roland Gift, Kingmaker, the Housemartins, and maybe also some good bands, who knows? It was the home of slavery abolitionist William Wilbeforce, and curmudgeonly poet Philip Larkin. Our very own Dr Pockless once had a picture in the Ferens Art Gallery, and Hull Truck Theatre brought you such plays as Bouncers, Up’n’Under and Teechers, which you might have heard of. Alumni of the university include notorious politician Tom Watson, notorious grouch Vaughan, and coincidentally my doula mentor also studied at Hole.
And that has exhausted all the nice things I have to say about the place. Your turn…