Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
In 1977, at just about this time in August, I hopped on a plane to London. (Elvis had just died.) It was going to be the fabled Junior Year Abroad, and, boy, was I stoked. I was twenty years old and had spent the entire summer poring over a big map of London and reading Sherlock Holmes stories.
I’d be living and studying in Bloomsbury, just a block away from the British Museum, at 7 Bedford Place, which was the London campus of a small college in Iowa. Four of us who’d been on the same plane shared a cab in from Heathrow, and when it pulled up in front of No. 7 we were all thrilled. The air smelled of diesel exhaust. The din of traffic echoed off the old brick facades. Our cabbie reminded us that a tip was not included in the fare.
We entered our new home and were immediately — well, disappointed is not the right word. It’s just that the place was a little worn out and maybe in need of some paint and new carpet. And when I entered my temporary room (which turned out to be my permanent room after a two-week stay with an English family), I was stunned to find four sets of bunk beds there and hardly any room to stow my suitcase. Eight guys in one room? I felt like I’d stumbled into a Dickens novel.
When we returned in a fortnight, I found I’d been paired with just one roommate. Things were looking up. He turned out to be something of a misfit, just like me, and we became life-long friends.
In fact, he’s the one who forwarded me this YouTube video, made by another alumnus of 7 Bedford Place who’d gone back to revisit the “old dump,” as he puts it, in 2001. It was still pretty much the same as I remember it. With this short cinéma vérité tour, he sent me back thirty-six years through a wormhole, and I’ve been basking in memories of that year for days now. In fact, the way the video is shot is a lot like my mental flashes of the place, with odd perspective and lensy distortions — something like dream images — but what it awakens inside is timeless.
Thanks for this, MacNutt. It hit the spot.
(Note 8/2014: The maker of the video took it private, unfortunately. Now it has to live in my head again!)