This won’t mean much to people who weren’t at the University of East Anglia, but never mind. We’ve all got bits of nostalgia floating around in our brains.
When I arrived at UEA back in October 1987, there were five options for living on campus. Norfolk Terrace and Suffolk Terrace were the award-winning Ziggurat-shaped constructions dominating the area around the UEA broad. Orwell Close and Wolfson Close were much smaller and more exclusive, probably best suited to mature students. Finally, there was Waveney Terrace, a snaking four-storey building constructed mostly from unpainted breezeblocks.
I lived in Waveney Terrace for two years, and while I was sad to hear of its imminent demolition, I can’t really say I’m surprised. Students expect more luxury from their halls nowadays, so the en suite rooms of Nelson Court and Colman House (which would dominate the foreground of the picture below if you saw that view today) are going to be a much more pleasant prospect. Even at the time, the news that you’d been given a room in Waveney would produce looks of shocked sympathy on the faces of your friends. Little breezeblock boxes, arranged in long corridors of around twelve rooms, with the shared kitchen and bathroom at one end. Even when they painted the walls in time for my second stint, they got it horribly wrong… industrial grade semi-gloss paint in a fetching shade of “gents toilet off-white”.
But you know what? I loved the place.
During my first year, I was allotted a room in Waveney before I’d really seen the campus properly, but when I came back after my year abroad, I actually *requested* a room there. I’d done my homework. I knew that, beneath the bold modernistic architectural veneer, the Suffolk/Norfolk terrace rooms were a good few inches smaller and the furniture was bolted to the floor. Pah! To think those laughing-faced fools dared to call Waveney a prison… I rearranged my functional Waveney furniture with the gleeful abandon of a FREE MAN! Maybe it’s all to do with the “creativity born of restriction” thing I’m always banging on about (in relation to music, anyway) but the forbidding appearance of the Waveney rooms seemed to inspire people to make more effort with their rooms.
But of course the main thing was that we didn’t know any different. Even the properly plastered walls of the other residences didn’t represent a particularly huge leap in the luxury stakes, especially not by modern standards, but that didn’t matter. It was all about personalising your little space, listening to your favourite albums and making new friends over a two-litre plastic bottle of cheap lager. I suspect that sort of student life has now vanished for good, along with the notion of higher education for its own sake, but that’s market economics, I guess…