14 Sep 2009

A whiff of redemption from my alma mater

I have finally darkened the door of the university from which I was expelled 39 years ago.

Liverpool University has changed beyond recognition. The pre-Heseltine saplings that littered the campus are now grown into verdant green trees, only polluted by the embarrassing number of staff and student cars sheltering beneath.

I was in Liverpool to give a talk at Tate Liverpool (an amazingly vibrant and packed event in what is one of the cornerstones of the new Liverpool).

I was given a guided tour around the campus, the details of which had not changed hugely – and where they had, they had done so very much for the better.

I visited the law faculty where my meteoric ascent as an aspiring lawyer was cut off in its prime. And although students were not in residence, there was a remarkable seminar going on, into which I was invited.

It was a group of senior military lawyers in the British army, studying the developments in human rights on the battlefield.

Each of the men and one women present had experienced sitting at the right hand of the commanding officer and signing off on targets which complied with the Geneva convention and much else. We had a fascinating discussion about Iran and other matters.

I found the city of Liverpool transformed. The new shopping centre has elevated the city from 60th most preferred shopping destination in the UK to sixth.

There are more galleries springing up, and although the taxi driver spoke of recession, it felt nothing like the city did in the boom times of the early seventies – and experience from which Liverpudlians were largely excluded.

Today the TUC is meeting in the brand-new conference centre. Somehow the capital of Merseyside has become a destination and not a place you visit by accident.

And for me, I had experienced something of a whiff of redemption, at peace with my alma mater.

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