It's wonderful how small things can remind you of distinctive times in your past. A couple of weeks ago, while down in London, I was lying on my hotel bed when The Field Mice's "If You Need Someone" started playing on my laptop. It triggered a set of memories all at once and the whole feel of 8 years ago when I first heard that song. I was in my second year at university and among my friends I was the one who'd first gone and spent my 15 on the completely untested Field Mice best-of. We'd missed their heyday, but tweeness was of the zeitgeist as evidenced by Belle and Sebastian, and hell, best-of's have their own mystique in the right situation. My memories of that time are so distinctive - a second, more confident year in college, nights at the Q Club, discovering My Bloody Valentine and Stereolab via the college CD library, sleeping in, "getting" quantum mechanics, reading Snow Crash, playing Goldeneye, doing the radio show... It was a golden time for me, and in the traditionally cliched way, that's something I've only appreciated via the magic of the retrospectroscope.
Anyway, how have the last 8 years gone? Pretty good, I think. One pair of friends have passed through the first phase of London life and are now very sensibly rating happiness and cartoons above power suits, consultancy and paperclip shuffling. Another set have two kids and despite being stuck in Norwich for the time being, seem very happy about it. The unique entity known only as Harris has all the patent law he can eat and an allegedly wonderful girlfriend. I'm much more out of touch with others than I'd like to be --- seeing them will be a high point of the wedding for me.
And me? I think I've landed on my feet at the IPPP - it gets me among theorists without having to do any explicit calculations, which is absolutely ideal. Also, switching my focus within the field has given me a research topic much more attuned to my tastes. At some point I have to reconnect to experimental collider physics: that's my main career concern at the moment, aside from the usual postdoc/late-20s nagging doubts that surely I should have done something wildly significant by now / why is my salary still rubbish? / should I be doing something more socially responsible? / etc. etc. Durham is a lovely place to be, though a bit far from decent rock climbing, short on genuinely good restaurants and completely devoid of any music scene to get involved in... well, I'd still rather be here than in Cambridge. And I'm getting married in a mere 6 weeks: enough said.
This reminiscing is probably, at least in part, triggered by the rapid approach of the 10 year anniversary of leaving school and going to university. More significant was leaving Northern Ireland and discovering people in Cambridge who actually thought the same way as I did... always a troublesome point up till then. The result for me has been that I'm a much more rounded and confident person than I was while at school... and I think more than I would be if I'd spent the last decade in Belfast. Meanwhile, my school has continued in its lamentable tendancy to disappoint me, by perverting the opportunity of a 10 year reunion into a seated formal dinner with little opportunity for catching up with anyone who I actually want to see. I suspect I'll not be going, which is a shame since I've been secretly looking forward to it for about the last 9 years! My hope is that, much as Cambridge life was such an improvement on my life at school, the Churchill College reunion will be a step up from the Campbell one. It shouldn't be hard.