In a week I’ll start my second year at UCL.
This means it’s a year since I packed my books, clothes and other miscellaneous shit and zipped down the M1 to start a new chapter in my life.
We’re all aware that time goes up about 3 gears for each year we’re alive, but this one has been extraordinarily fast. I remember vividly opening the door to my room in student halls and smiling as I took in the space that was to be home. From my window I could see the back of Euston Road O’Neills, but beyond that stood St. Pancras in all its majesty.
It’s interesting the relationships we build with the spaces around us. St. Pancras, more than any other building in London to me, symbolises coming home. Stepping out of King’s Cross after a trip home or to Newcastle, the clock tower and gothic facade of the hotel is the first thing to which I look, the first assurance that London has still been here while I’ve been away.
In a lot of instances throughout my first year, the St. Pancras clock has been my timekeeper, a quick glance out of my window would tell me to get my arse in gear, grab my rucksack and head over to tutorial, or that there was an essay deadline in a couple of hours.
Not to romanticise the whole thing too much, but I even had a favourite time of day to look at that clock face. It was afternoon in Winter, getting later as the seasons moved through Spring into Summer. As the Sun took its place low in the western sky, the clock face of St. Pancras that faced my room would glint in the sunlight, shining beautifully and proudly.
The beauty and stability of this sight is a contrast with the otherwise dull, loud, constant movement of the Euston Road, and that served to exaggerate and embellish the loveliness all the more. I sympathise with John Betjeman…
“What the Londoner sees in his mind’s eye is that cluster of towers and pinnacles seen from Pentonville Hill and outlined against a foggy sunset, and the great arc of Barlow’s train shed gaping to devour incoming engines, and the sudden burst of exuberant Gothic of the hotel seen from gloomy Judd Street.”
My halls were on the corner of Judd Street – it’s not all that gloomy, but he makes the point better than I ever could manage.
So if you’re ever walking along Euston Road late on a sunny afternoon, look eastward towards the stations and hopefully you’ll see what I mean.
It’s nice, honest.
For anyone unfamiliar with what I was just badly describing