The two of us were nearly back to my residence when Manfred turned to me and said, “Why don’t you come with me tonight, Alan? Come down on the train.”
“But I can’t,” I replied. “I’m taking my own train.”
“But why?” he said. “Your parents are on the continent. Who are you going home to?”
I thought for a moment, and Manfred did make a good point. The idea was suddenly tempting. My parents and younger sister would not be back in Sudbury for another fortnight.
“I would have to wire them,” I then said, “and also Mrs Appleby, next door. She knows I’m due tonight.”
“Then do it,” said Manfred, laughing, “and come on down to the beach house with me.”
I thought some more, and concluded, why not? My parents would not mind; in fact they would encourage this. They were always saying I was too serious, that I should get out more and enjoy myself. It was a perfect opportunity, and as Manfred and I had become good friends throughout the year, I agreed.
We entered my residence, which was suddenly a very busy place, with fellow students packing up and getting ready to head home. The general feeling was one of jubilation; even the dull, grey walls of the accommodation now seemed vibrant and cheery, and the weakness of sunlight that leaked in through the tiny windows could not dampen spirits. Manfred, of course, had his bag packed already, so I quickly packed mine. There was then little left to do but say some quick goodbyes and be gone. We slung our bags across our backs and headed off down the narrow path. It took us away from the college, followed the meandering route of a quiet little brook, and brought us eventually into town.
The walk from there to Waterloo Station was another twenty minutes. It was a walk I always enjoyed immensely. I loved the old-style architecture of the major buildings, but equally, the pokey little storefronts and narrow, cobbled streets - indeed the whole atmosphere the city created. To me, there was an air of mystery about it. Every building meant something to somebody; they either lived or worked there, and others still were connected by business, or by some other association. Each address was a part in a play, a piece that interacted with the piece next to it, or with some other piece somewhere else, as a result of those who went there for whatever purpose. There were so many complex lives going on in this one jumbled maze, all reacting and interacting directly or indirectly with each other, and in ways I would never know.