‘What a waste of an afternoon,’ says Ren, as they walk out of the Psych building, with the rain starting to fall. ‘There’s no point properly researching these topics, Balderstone is just going to fail anything that’s done right. One of us is just going to have to hold their nose and write the sort of fustian nonsense that he wants.’
‘That sounds like you,’ says Miles. ‘You know more about this sort of thing than any of us.’
‘Alternatively, we just use Burroughs’ cut-up technique,’ says Ren. ‘We write out all the right buzzwords, cut them out, and then randomly draw them from a hat.’
‘Sounds good to me,’ says Miles. ‘An afternoon’s work that we can use for years.’
‘But is any of us really going to stand up in class and say such words?’ says Ren. ‘And defend them? I just can’t do that.’
‘I’ll do that if necessary’ says Lily.
‘Let’s just go get a drink,’ sighs Ren. ‘Shall we go to the staff club, or the student bar?’
‘I have to go get a train,’ says Lily, putting up her umbrella.
‘Going to your love-nest in London, I expect?’ says Miles.
‘I’m meeting up with Jason, yes,’ says Lily.
‘A fuck-fest in a love-nest,’ says Douglas.
‘Douglas!’ says Ren.
‘Sorry,’ says a sheepish Douglas.
‘You boffins do come out with the most disgraceful sleaze,’ says Ren. ‘I shan’t be sending any of my illegitimate children to study science. First you have J. B. S. Haldane talking up Stalin, and now we have Oram, his career barely underway, already casting slurs on the reputations of fine young ladies.’
‘Actually, we’re going to see the ballet,’ says Lily.
‘Heavens to Betsy,’ says Ren. ‘Two lesbians. I never would have defended your honour had I known how sordid things had become with the bluestockings.’
‘Bye-bye boys. Enjoy your drinks.’
As Lily goes off, Douglas says, ‘The student bar? Mind you, I’m not really in the mood any more.’
‘Neither am I,’ says Ren, trying not to stare too obviously at Lily as she disappears into the distance.
‘I’ve got too much work on to go drinking,’ says Miles.
‘Well, we’re a sorry lot, aren’t we?’ says Ren. ‘Let’s just go and work on a Friday night then, and say goodbye to our youth and freedom.’
‘I’m not even going to do any work,’ says Douglas. ‘I’m just going to go to bed early. And I barely had a youth, or freedom.’
The umbrella-less trio separate, and trudge off in the rain (from which there is, of course, no shelter, as this is Britain). The glow that all new lecturers have for the first few months is starting to fade. Ren passes undergraduates, not that much younger than he is, chattering excitedly to each other as they head to the bar, and he realises sadly that already there’s a vast gulf between them.
‘This old man, he sings. ‘He played one…’