It is Sunday once again. It is still the Easter Holidays. The weather in Snowdonia this weekend was mostly rain with a chance of rain so my intrepid expedition up Snowdon was called off. The leopard was disappointed. Just as well as I have a stinking head cold and this week has not been great.

First, the interview. Well still waiting for the result but I have a feeling the answer will be no. Sadly due to the unfortunate laws that govern such things, it was Wednesday that my alter-ego chose to make an appearance. And sadly no one really wants to employ him as he is an introverted, barely coherent idiot. Still I’m going on like normal Sion is any better. this is one of those times you chalk it all up to experience and move on. And at least I still have other options.

Anyway.

This week saw me get a massive reminder of how fleeting our time really is. Someone that I was an undergraduate with, who was full of life, full of love, full of the spirit of humanity that so many people are lacking, died. He was only 42. Married with 4 children. And now he is gone and the world is a very different place. His name was John and he was a brilliant bloke. I cannot count the number of drunken shenanigans we took part in together. The number of stories. The tall tales of the fireside that are all true. The crazy, crazy nights of youth. We all thought we would live forever. We were wrong.

We found out about John’s death on Thursday. The Keele alumni page had the news. The page is called “Forever Keele” and those words never rang truer than this last week. There is a point to all this so I ask you to stay with me for a while longer. By six o’clock on Thursday night I had spoken to seven people that I haven’t actually talked to since graduation. Of course we have all kept in touch by Facebook and by hearsay. But on Thursday, the phone started ringing. Friend requests from faces I used to know under different names popped up. People sharing stories and above all offering help. Wanting to know what they could do. The Catholic Chaplain from our class of Keele graduates weighed in with support, wanting to know how he could help. And that, my friends is it. It is another example of what “Students’ Union” means. I keep writing about this.  Because it is important. And you will never understand until something like this happens. And some people don’t get it, and never will. But for those who do it is a truly amazing thing.

There will be friends you make at University that you won’t speak to once you graduate. You will know them through updates on social media. You will know them through the first steps of their children and obligatory happy birthday messages you send. But. Something like this happens and all the years and all the water, snakebite and scotch washes under the bridge and you are once again standing together. And in that moment it is like no time has passed at all.

You will never have friends like the ones you make at Uni.

You will never get the opportunity to meet such a diverse body of people as you get to meet at Uni.

It is truly the best of times and the worst of times.

In my interview I was asked about my university career both past and present and for both I answered that the thing that made it was the brilliant people I was with. I consider myself blessed that both universities I have attended seem to have the same spirit.

Embrace every opportunity whilst you can. if you are in doubt, do it anyway, because really what is the worst that can happen?

I will now quote from another Keele friend who has summed it up : (credit Mark Holtz)

“I was lucky enough to go to university when simply getting a degree…any degree…was seen as a ticket to a secure job and financial well-being. Keele for me wasn’t an extension of school, but a new home, a new family, a new life. We had all the time in the world for extra-curricular activity, and for better or worse, we took advantage of it.

There were some students who cared so much about it, they paid back in through voluntary work. Not for an extra paragraph on their CV, not to climb the ladders of political power, but simply out of love. A few of those cared so much that even after graduating they kept on giving. Again. And again. And again. Elmo, you will be terribly, terribly missed, but for every student who got home safely (albeit at 90mph) at 3am because you worked an extra hour on your shift, and for every cellist who woke up in Prague wondering quite how they got there, I thank you. RIP.”

In Loving Memory of John “Elmo” Watson. Forever Keele.

One thought on “The Best and Worst of Times.

  1. I found out about John through Facebook, a friend I had from Keele university concert band. I was a bassoonist. John was the conductor and went on the tours. He supported me through some of the most difficult times and I will always be grateful that I knew him. I last saw him in 2009 and I’m so sad that I won’t see him again. RIP Elmo, you are missed.

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