The New College Experience, Soft Cell and ‘Bedsitter’

It’s a fair while since I posted anything new around here and I can’t help but compare my current blogging output to that of the same month last year. Back then I had very ambitiously decided to come out in support of my college chums, who were embarking on NaNoWriMo, and decided to attempt 30 posts in 30 days. I was never going to write a novel so this was my blogging equivalent. Amazingly I got to day 18 before calling time on my challenge, more down to the worsening ache in my neck and shoulders rather than any lack of inspiration, and I actually outdid some of the wannabe novel writers in the class in terms of word count.

But here we are a year on, and suffice to say I’m not myself at the moment. I don’t know about you, but I’ve not been a fan of 2021, which is ironic considering what hit us last year. My old life has gone and isn’t coming back any time soon. Considering I use this place as my web diary, as well as a place to share music from my past, probably best that I’ve stayed away for a while.

My college course has all been online again this year, but no mention of NaNoWriMo this time around and few now drop by for the ‘live’ lectures. We seem to be just going through the motions to get the grades, and the institution appears to prefer it that way, so this will now be the future of higher education in my neck of the woods. Lectures are now finished for the semester and only one assessment still to submit but I haven’t got to know a single person from the new class this year and only know what three of them look like (ironically the other more mature students). I fear the younger ones who would have been excited about ‘going to Uni’ back in September, will have been disappointed.

At times like this I often hark back to when I last was a student, around 40 years ago. Back then the idea of gaining a degree without ever leaving your room would have been unthinkable. It was probably a really inefficient use of our time, but many happy hours were spent in the library sourcing material and copying it out in longhand before decanting to the refectory for food, or to the student bar for a very sociable drink. Wherever we went there were hundreds of people and you got to know a great many of them during that first term. Now, not so much.

I think many of us of a certain age have kind of lost the plot when it comes to new music and what young people are listening to at the moment. 40 years ago however I was in my final year of completing a really enjoyable degree in geography and was pretty familiar with everything that remotely made it near the charts. Looking at the chart from this same week all those years ago, here is something that jumps out at me, Bedsitter by Soft Cell. This was only their second single release after the massive success of Tainted Love earlier on in 1981. This time however it was self-penned and it reached No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart.

Bedsitter by Soft Cell:


I look at the lyrics in this song and think of some of today’s students holed up in their rooms for most of the day, rarely venturing out. We had to write a piece in the early weeks of this semester about a typical day in our lives, and some of the submissions shocked me. Other than popping to the supermarket for a pizza, most students now spend all day in front of a screen, as when the studying ends, gaming and the watching of YouTube clips takes over. Unlike Marc Almond who just seemed to spend his time in bedsitter land in between going out clubbing, I don’t think our town’s nightlife has really got started again yet after the pandemic. With covid restrictions still in place and the mandatory wearing of facemasks, perhaps a life lived online is still preferable, and more than Marc had in 1981.

Sorry I’m not on my best form at the moment, but decided to not hold off any longer before sharing something new. I’ve had quite a lot on this month and have more stories to tell so will return with them in due course. It’s been a crazy couple of years and we’ve all had our ups and downs. Hopefully I’ll pull myself out of this down sooner rather than later. In the meantime I have that last assessment to finish – Onward and upward.

Until next time…

Bedsitter Lyrics
(Song by David Ball/Marc Almond)

Sunday morning going slow
I’m talking to the radio
Clothes and records on the floor

Memories of the night before
Out in club-land having fun
And now I´m hiding from the sun
Waiting for a visitor
Though no-one knows I’m here for sure

Dancing laughing
Drinking loving
And now I’m all alone
In bedsit land
My only home

I think it’s time to cook a meal
To fill the emptiness I feel
Spent my money going out
I’ve nothing I’m left without
Clean my teeth and comb my hair
Look for something new to wear
Start the nightlife over again
Kid myself I’m having fun

Look out from my window view
I’ve really nothing else to do
Read a book and write a letter
Mother, things are getting better
Watch the mirror count the lines
The battle scars of all the good times
Look around and I can see
A thousand people just like me

Dancing laughing
Drinking loving
And now I’m all alone
In bedsit land
My only home

I’m waiting for something
I’m only passing time

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

19 thoughts on “The New College Experience, Soft Cell and ‘Bedsitter’”

  1. I don’t know what’s more depressing, that higher education is going this way… or that younger students are happy for it to go this way. Well done on continuing to shout at the sea, Alyson. I hope things seem a little brighter for you soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is what it is and it’s not lost on me that I myself spend an awful lot of time in my house nowadays and love blogging because of all the interaction with virtual blogging pals. Not so different from the youngsters really but I can’t help compare my experience first time around to this experience – The pandemic of course made it much worse but even before then, the aim was to do most of the teaching and learning online. It has now come to pass.

      Sorry for being a Moaning Minnie of late – I’m working on it trust me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, I don’t think I’ve commented on your blog before. I live in Ottawa now but was born and raised in Greenock, Scotland – around the same time as you were. Love the Bedsitter inclusion – I probably wore out my copy of Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret. What an album and band!

    Cheers,
    Derek

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for dropping by Derek and apologies if the mood in this post was a bit negative. I hope to return to form soon.

      If you are from Scotland and are around the same age as me you will recognise most of what I share around here and will no doubt have similar memories. I hadn’t thought of Soft Cell for a while but that Bedsitter track really jumped out at me when I was writing this post. Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret seems now to be hailed as one of the best albums of the ’80s. Just listened to, and enjoyed, Say Hello, Wave Goodbye again, which was another really successful single for them. Marc Almond still pops up on things today and he looks scarily similar to his ’80s self – A new album released last year too – Quite a career.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So glad to see you posting, Alyson. I was worried. Hope the transition to 2022 brings better times for you. I won’t comment on “Bedsitter” as I’m not familiar with the song and barely know of the band. The late ‘70s early ‘80s were not major years for my music appreciation. I guess work, starting a family and moving from one side of Canada to the other took up a lot of my time. My Uni years (68 -72) created way more musical memories. I believe that you also consider these years special in your musical memories. So sad to hear about the mechanical process of passing courses and earning a degree that you are witnessing. This experience should be so much more. Remember the discussions, especially the ones that didn’t become debates?
    The books, the music, the stories that we were told. Hopefully some of them were true. 😊
    If not the best years of our lives, pretty darn close.
    I hope your local college gets back to normal soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was conscious of the fact I usually post weekly and it had been a while, but thanks for the concern. It’s actually been quite a busy month but I’m also struggling a bit at the moment so didn’t want that to come across in the blog – Too late!

      Sounds as if you were a student exactly 10 years before me but the experience would have been very similar. No tech whatsoever, loads and loads of people, and full lecture theatres. I look back at those years now with great fondness and of course so many musical memories but there would have been hiccups along the way no doubt, which seem to get erased with time.

      My local college is one of 13 which make up the University of the Highlands and Islands. With new technology, it was always the intention for most of their courses to be online so that students could study from their local area. Being local to the biggest college I preferred to go in, but since the pandemic that path is now closed to us so I’ve not met anyone this academic year and it seems this will be the way we study from now on. The ‘old normal’ has gone for good I’m afraid. The ‘new normal’ is now ‘normal’!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The stoic keyboard player and extroverted singer – You are right and an idea for a future post perhaps. Vince Clarke was the stoic keyboard player for several bands and of course who could forget Sparks’ Russ and Ron Mael from a few years earlier.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Life is hard, right now, isn’t it, and odd too – everything feels out of whack. Important, then, to grab the flashes of normality and/or brilliance when they are at hand. And speaking of brilliant, what a great song you’ve chosen for today’s post – thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Life is so much worse for many other people and overall I got through last year quite well. Towards the end of this year though I’ve really started to struggle – As you say everything still feels out of whack and I spend far too much time in the house. We have more restrictions up here too, so the small pared down wedding we went to last weekend was challenging indeed. Mask wearing throughout and standing around in the cold outside until kick-off. No party with dancing afterwards either which would have been the case originally. A covid wedding and in the years to come the photos will remind the couple of that.

      Was reminded that blogging always cheers me up though, so hope to get back into the swing of it again – Really enjoyed revisiting that song and album by Soft Cell.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Sadly it’s very definitely going to be a permanent fixture but maybe I’m just old and out of touch. I see the students I started with on social media and they’ve most definitely bonded over the years (I’m part-time so a new batch every year which hasn’t been ideal).

      I feel I’ve made some very good friends via blogging, despite never having met many of them, so the irony of my post is not lost on me! Changed times.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely to see you posting again, and so glad blogging gives us this outlet. As Martin says, life is hard right now and out of whack, I’m sure most of us are feeling it one way or another. We’re so much more tired now, tired of keeping on trudging through this nearly 2 years on, and what with all the other stuff coming out from Boris & co and bigger global worries it’s all feeling somewhat dark, isn’t it… The places where we used to find our light are hard to come by right now. But yes, the real-life college experience was one of them for me! I went back to mine as a mature student to do my part-time MA and it was a similarly social and a hugely important element of the course. I just can’t imagine doing it without that camaraderie (we all suffered huge insecurities during it and that support network was essential! Tears were mopped up!) I do so hope the social aspect comes back, it can’t be healthy for those students who’ve never experienced it. But I’m very glad you’re still persevering with your course in spite of that and keeping your creative skills honed!
    ‘Bedsitter’ (and the whole Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret album) is incredibly evocative. I get a funny feeling hearing it again… as if for the first time – a little melancholy but alright. Mr SDS was frequently mistaken for Marc Almond in those days too (the hair, stature and clothes being a big factor) – we used to have fun with that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s been a while but have been reminded what a great stress-buster blogging is and the interaction with people is such a bonus. I say I’m not myself at the moment which is true and much of it down to the relentlessness of dealing with the new world order, but very selfishly also because of more age-related issues I hadn’t ever considered. Suffice to say I’m not a fan of my new haircut!

      People of our generation always think the students of today must be really missing out on the whole experience but maybe we’ve got it wrong. I do know a lot of them do part-time or even full-time jobs on top of the course just to be able to pay for it all, so the recorded lecture route is the only one for them. Also, I have a feeling some of the younger ones are part of group-chats etc, so they probably do interact between classes, just not in the way we would have done back in the day. I have one more semester after this one to get a qualification and then think I might call it a day, as it’s no longer what I signed up for. Shame.

      Funnily enough I thought of Mr SDS when I was writing this post because of that one picture you’ve shared of the two of you in your younger days. He certainly did look like him back then so yes, you must have had some fun encounters. I know what you mean about the melancholic feeling when listening to something like Bedsitter. Again, all down to the aging process I think – It’s from 40 years ago but so much of it still evokes memories of those times today and we feel nostalgia for them. Bet you recognised some of the things in the video clip (old style Fairy Liquid bottle!) but I didn’t ever have clothes that matched the wallpaper – A nice touch from the film-maker.

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  6. Good to see you back in the saddle Alyson.
    Liked Soft Cell back in the day but not enough to shell out £60 plus booking fee for a ticket to their recent Glasgow show!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now and again I think I might have run out of steam, but once once you’re back in the saddle again it kinda falls into place. Wish I could be a bit more jolly around here but hopefully that will come.

      Soft Cell have had a long career and just noticed they were in Glasgow earlier in the month. After a dearth of live concerts over the last year and a half there will no doubt have been plenty of takers. Marc still looks scarily like his younger self – I suspect a bit of hair dye enters the mix nowadays.

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  7. Thanks for taking the time to put this post together at a time when you’re not feeling like your normal self. Your memories of student life – the library, the refectory, the bar, the music, meeting lots of people – brought back similar memories for me, and I realise how lucky we were. I’m sorry that your student experience is so different this time around, and as you say, it’s tough for young people doing their first degree, who are missing out on so much, My son is one of them – his university campus closed for months both this year and in 2020, and most of his lectures have been delivered via Zoom

    Like you, I’m not a fan of 2021. It has been a bleak and surreal year – I’m still coming to terms with the loss of my wonderful mum eight months ago. Several other people I’ve known for many years have died since then – and three of them were younger than me. I’m hoping for happier times in 2022, and I wish the same for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for putting up with me when I’m not my normal self! I’m starting to think that with time we forget how things used to be and we forget how WE used to be. The ‘new normal’ is fast becoming the ‘normal’ for both life and people, so we’ll adapt I’m sure.

      Sorry to hear your son has missed out on so much of campus life – I sometimes start to doubt myself and feel it’s only because I had such a different experience first time around that I think the youngsters are missing out, but it just doesn’t feel natural never meeting up with real-life people. Hope it gets better for him. My daughter’s course finished in 2019 and she had a graduation ceremony in the autumn of that year – There have been none since, so she timed it just right.

      Sorry to hear you’ve had such an awful year of loss. Losing your mum is a tough one and you’ll still be getting over it. I too have had people of my own age pass away recently so a sobering thought. Since my big birthday I’ve been acutely aware of how hard it is to plan for retirement as you have no idea how long it will last. A tough one indeed and sad for those who didn’t even make it to retirement.

      On a happier note, yes, let’s hope for happier times in 2022. I do know I want to keep this place going, so with luck, lots more trips down memory lane.

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