Last summer I turned 30, and I couldn’t have been happier. My 20s were an incredible journey of discovery (both about myself and others), but I often felt as if I was playing at being an adult. I'd been catapulted into the semi-independent world of uni and then the working world, far from the comfortable, protective bubble of home. This initiation into adulthood resulted in some of my highest and lowest moments, which I still ponder over today.
It seems to me that your 20s are a period of accumulation – a time for collecting skills and habits that you will spend the rest of your life practising and refining, like cooking without using jars of premade sauce, and how to emerge from a failed relationship (relatively) unscathed. As each year slipped by I became more balanced, more confident, and more aware of my treatment of others. At 30 I'm by no means perfect (far from it in fact), but I feel as though my approach to life is more measured and more mature.
During my 20s there were delicious, tingling, heart-quivering moments that I cherish and savour, and there were woeful, wretched, nauseating moments that I’d prefer to forget. When I finally reached 30, with so many peaks and troughs put to rest, it felt good to finally close that tumultuous chapter, and welcome in a new decade, which I'm convinced will be steadier, humbler and altogether happier.
2014 marks 10 years since I graduated from Nottingham University, so a few weeks ago Frank and I took a little trip to visit the city that marked my rite of passage into adulthood.
When planning our little excursion, I wanted to take in some of the sights, smells and sounds of my university days, but I also wanted to have new experiences in contrast to the memories of 10 years ago. After plenty of internet research, we came up with the perfect itinerary, which took in plenty of old haunts, new finds, scrumptious eateries and exciting walks.
We arrived in the early evening and headed to Memsaab, an award-winning Indian restaurant that would have been beyond my student purse strings. Against the grain of my usual strategy of ‘sticking to what I know’, I ordered a Goan Fish Curry, which was the most divine thing I’ve tasted in a very long time. Bliss. Sadly I wolfed it down before there was time to take a photo.
On our first full day in Nottingham, we walked through the university campus, over to the Trent Building, which holds a very special place in my heart. This was not only the building that housed my departments (Theology and English), but was also where my grandmother studied 70 years before.
Here’s my grandmother (second from right), sitting on a wall outside that same building in 1932.
There’s a huge lake in front of the university, which I used to walk round whenever I needed solitude. The wooded areas were teeming with furry little squirrels, busily gathering morsels and willing to clamber up your trouser leg if you weren't too careful.
On the other side of the campus we headed into Beeston, where I lived in my third year of university. We revisited my old house, which I shared with three friends, before heading into Beeston for lunch.
Any trip with Frank inevitably involves a real ale pub of some sort, and Nottingham boasts the oldest in the country. We nipped into Ye Olde Tripp to Jerusalem and bided our time sitting in the tunnels drinking locally brewed beer.
We also made a visit to one of my old haunts – the Canal House, which splits right over the River Trent and has a canal boat in the middle. You have to walk over a little bridge to get to the bar, and it now features a huge real ale selection (very different to when I was at uni!)
The Christmas lights on Market Square were beautiful, and a flood of fond memories came rushing back as I ventured into this central town hub.
Since I left uni a whole wave of quirky eateries have popped up over the city. The next morning we went to Delilah Fine Foods for brunch, where I had eggs benedict and Frank had some delicious eggy mushroomy thing. The bottom floor is a beautiful little food hall, but sadly the prices were so inflated (more expensive than London!) that I refrained from buying anything.
Our last full day in Nottingham was spent on the tourist trail, visiting the castle (there actually isn’t any castle left to speak of, but ho hum), and the cave system that was linked to it. We splashed out on a very posh dinner that evening before heading back to London the next day.
Despite being a wonderful weekend, I wasn’t prepared for how emotional I would feel revisiting my university town. All those memories of my late teens and early twenties had been neatly compartmentalised in my mind, but merging them with my 30-year-old self was strange. I realised that while at university I never ate in a restaurant, or visited the theatre, the castle or Sherwood Forest, and I felt sad about the wasted opportunities that my 30-year-old self would relish. It also brought back a painful realisation that if I could do it again, with the hindsight of adulthood, I would have done things very, very differently.
That said, the point of hindsight is to learn from it and apply the lessons to our current lives. And if there’s one thing I’ve taken from this weekend, it’s that I should treasure every adventure I have in London while it lasts.