So the kids are getting ready for the new university year. Two at once this time, with the youngest into VI Form. How very ancient I feel.
I remember the terrible stress and anticipation of leaving home for the first time, of getting away from the suddenly incredibly suffocating place I was in to discover a whole new life in a brand new place. Shiny and exciting, thrilling and exhausting. Keeping a smile fixed on all the time and meeting more people in one week than in my whole lifetime before that point.
So when I left home I went to university, the first person in my family ever to do so, and one of a small number of people privileged to do so. The university I went to was Leeds and it was 1980. Within a short space of time a female student was murdered by the Yorkshire Ripper and we were all living in a strange land indeed.
The young man I was going out with at the time claimed he found the body of Jackie Hill, the Ripper’s last victim. It was incredibly close and immediate, just along the road from where a number of my friends lived. I walked past the place whenever I went to see them, usually to watch Brideshead Revisited as they had a TV.
Suddenly we were surrounded by journalists, identifiable by their willingness to be out at night alone and ready cash for drinks. Even the boys were nervous. We girls all arranged to travel in groups, or to use a taxi. The taxi drivers were incredibly kind, never driving away until we were in the front door.
When Peter Sutcliffe was caught suddenly the world lost interest in us. It was like all the kindness and care vanished; it was still not always safe for female students to travel alone at night but now no one was so keen to help and providing transport was seen as a luxury.
So I wave my children off to university hoping they will have fun and meet amazing new friends, and that they will be safe. They feel the narrow confines of their old lives, but who knows what the future will bring?