lizetta loves

Those were the days

People often refer to their university days as the best years of their life. In my case it was my college years. Don’t get me wrong, university was good fun and I made some great friends, but college was where I grew up and got my first taste of true independence.

This morning I woke up to a message from my friend Vicky who I’ve known since college. Somehow she’d stumbled across a video of an interview with a group of us at Creamfields in 1998 for Club@Vision. Whilst I remember going to Creamfields – somehow we got free tickets through someone we knew at college – I have no recollection of the interview. Fortunately I’m not clear in shot as I don’t think I need to see 18 year old me. (Flicking through photos from the period, it would seem me hiding at the back of group photos was a regular occurrence) In fact I have very little recollection of the day – my most vivid memory is of us sitting in the car for what felt like an eternity trying to leave the site in the early hours of the morning.

Mel, Ollie, Vicky and Amy, Creamfields 1998

In the video my friends said we were looking forward to seeing Roni Size. If we we did, I don’t remember, but from looking at the event listings, memories of seeing Cornershop come to mind and I now have Brimful of Asha going round and round in my head (sorry, not sorry for the earworm). The only act that jumps out at me that I hope we did see was Finlay Quaye. I’m sure he was great if we did.

Unlike teenagers these days, and as my friend Vicky commented this morning, we didn’t really have videos of us as teenagers back then, something I’m quite relieved about!. This video has sent both of us on a trip down memory lane.

Those young and carefree days in Oxford seem like yesterday and also a lifetime ago. City of Oxford College was called Oxford College of Further Education, but we all called it Oxpens, and I pretty much spent my entire life in Oxford, even when I didn’t need to be at college. I’d like to say I worked hard and played hard, but college work definitely came secondary to enjoying myself. If we weren’t in classes we were often found hanging out in the Duke of York pub, sadly now demolished, drinking the cheapest food and drink we could get, playing pool and putting music on the jukebox. My classmates were like family. It’s where I made some life long friends. I remember walking into the pub after I’d failed my first driving test, pleased to see all the friendly faces as I drowned my sorrows.

Come the evenings we’d make the most of what the city nightlife offered. The Zodiac (now the O2 Academy) on Cowley Road became a regular haunt on Thursday nights for Disques Vogue. It’s also where I saw in 1998, before heading to a stranger’s hours party next door and ending up sleeping at some random house, instead of three of us sleeping in my little Nissan Micra as we’d initially planned.

On Saturday nights, cocktails would often be had at Maxwell’s before we’d head on to Park End, where I could always be found in the 80s room, or Fifth Avenue. I’ll never forget the night the bouncers wouldn’t let me in to Park End as I couldn’t walk in a straight line – my response “it doesn’t matter if I can’t walk, I can dance” didn’t help persuade them. The Coven was the destination of choice for a more dance music fuelled night out, though I always felt more at home at the cheesier clubs playing pop music.

Nights would end at the chip van opposite the Westgate Shopping Centre before we went our separate ways home. How we got back to our rural family homes I have no idea – taxis were not cheap. One time, after another great night at The Zodiac, we struck a deal for a taxi to get us home with all the money we had. Sadly he refused to take us any further after he got lost in the winding lanes of the Oxfordshire countryside and it was an interesting experience navigating the rest of the journey on foot in the dark! Kids these days don’t know how easy they have it with Google Maps to hand 24/7.

To fund this student lifestyle, I got what was perhaps one of my favourite ever jobs as an usher at ABC Cinemas (now ODEON) in the city centre. Whilst I was occasionally allowed to be on the ticket kiosk (the job everyone wanted), I was most often seen eating, I mean selling popcorn (including to the occasional local celebrity) or taking tickets on the door. When doing the latter, I often managed to sneak in to watch the film. In fact one day I got to watch three films for free, all whilst being paid. That job taught me a lot about human behaviour and why to this day I can’t stand the mess people leave behind them in cinemas!! Clearing that mess up was not fun.

One downside of the job was working in a cinema with only one, very large capacity, screen when Titanic came out. Three packed screenings a day, and there’s only so many times I needed to see that ship sink or hear Celine Dion’s dulcet tones as the credits rolled. When it screened for the last time, I cheered knowing I’d never have to hear that song or see the film again. Ironically, after it celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, I do want to see it again – though I think I’d still miss the middle hour of the film.

It was during these days that I got my first phone, a Nokia 6110, as my mum wanted me to be able to get in touch if needed when I was working late. I don’t think she anticipated the large bill from me texting my friend Vicky, who lived at the other end of the village to me, after she told me texting was free. Turned out that wasn’t true! Oh well, you live and learn.

When I go to Oxford now it, perhaps unsurprisingly, feels like a completely different place. None of the pubs and clubs we used to go to still exist, having either been demolished or turned into a more modern version pub or restaurant to suit the youth of today. The old Westgate Shopping Centre has been demolished and replaced with a new and improved (?) mega shopping centre which I can’t bring myself to step foot into.

A couple of years ago a group of us met in Oxford for lunch, and we were all shocked to discover parts of the city we had never explored before. I guess interests change as you get older and nowhere stays the same anyway. At least I’ll always have these great memories.

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