My Niece is at the University (University College of Swansea, Wales, 1960) – Robert Nisbet

Come on, Uncle Ivor, if you’ve won the miners’ scholarship and your award in the Brangwyn’s not till seven, you can get a bus down earlier and I’ll show you round the college.

I called at her hostel, her Hall, Beck Hall, prompt at ten and met her in the hallway, they couldn’t take men to their rooms, she said
(Well that’s fair enough, I thought)
and the Warden came down to meet me, shook my hand, but then there was the sight of them, so many girls in jeans. That’s casual for a university, I thought.

But soon we walked down through the Uplands and called for the two books she’d ordered, Far from the Madding Crowd, I think, and Ulysses by Joyce, and then I saw the second thing ..

.. girls in jeans in a bookshop, and loving it, absorbed.

My father and my grandfather paid in pence to see these children go to university. They’d have been glad to see those girls and boys browsing round bookshops, and having the time for it.

On then, to the university, the coffee bar, the JCR she called it, and it wasn’t so different from Bracchi’s back in Ton, tobacco smoke and a few heads down over games of cards

(My father and my grandfather asking, What the hell is this?)

but then she told me about some of them, the rugby boys (odd bursts of Oh, Sir Jasper, so I’d worked that out), the union reps, the poetry magazine, and Soc. Soc.

and Soc. Soc., she told me, were the Socialists, they had two hundred members, the Liberals had forty, Conservatives had just two

and there in my head were my father and his father, their caps flying, cheering, Yes!

and I saw them, heard them, those girls and boys, talking of poetry and politics, and she told me that the thing with universities, they felt, was ideals and improving things, you shouldn’t be a capitalist at twenty.

I’m sure the pretty smile was part of it, but again, in my head, I could see and hear my father and his father, there in Elysium, my father choking a little at that, saying, You gather your rosebuds, girl. Good girl.
robert nisbetRobert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has been published frequently in Red River Review, San Pedro River Review, Red Fez as well as many magazines in the UK.