My first visit to The Open University Campus

Deputy President of the Students Association Ian Cheyene, writes about his journey from Aberdeen to visit the OU Campus ten years ago.

It was a Saturday morning in July 2012 and the Caledonian Sleeper service from Aberdeen to London had pulled into Euston station five minutes early, a good sign.I was still somewhere in between the two locations!Undaunted, I shouldered my rucksack and trundled a smallish ‘wheely’ bag out of the station and into dazzling sunshine.

A neat little market cafe was quickly located two streets down, just off Euston Road.

‘Full English, Sir?’I scanned the menu board.

‘Can I have it without baked beans?’

‘Extra egg, sir?’

‘Please, and no black pudding.’ (They hadn’t got round to haggis yet.)

‘Extra sausage?’

‘Yes please!’

Pleasant service. Friendly staff.And a complimentary copy of ‘The Sun’, unfortunately I hadn’t studied the module which would enable me to understand the headlines! Fortified, I headed back to the station to find the booking office. It was quiet, another good sign! I bought my ticket to Milton Keynes Central comfortably in time to catch the next train.

Once the ‘city’s backside’ had been left behind I was able to enjoy the prosperous looking south-eastern countryside as the train sped through it. I arrived at MK station spot on time, this was increasingly impressive!I lumbered my luggage up a couple of flights of steps and suddenly realised that this was the first serious effort I’d made since the previous day! I stepped out into sunshine once more and was greeted by a forest of bus stances and shelters seemingly stretching into infinity. I made my way to a likely looking ‘bevy’ of bus drivers.

‘Dunno, mate!’ I’d enquired about a service to the OU campus. The information boards were not very informative.

‘Couldn’t tell you!’ A second driver’s response was endorsed by a shaking of heads from another two. This wasn’t a good sign!

‘It’s all new you see’. I didn’t!

‘We’re as confused as you!’

It transpired that I’d arrived on the day that the new bus stances had come into operation. Oh dear!

No buses were moving as I made my way between the ranks. I spotted a possible fellow traveller.

‘I’m stuck as well…where do you want to get to?’

‘The Open University campus’. We were discussing this when someone got off the bus beside us and shouted-

‘What are you looking for?’

‘The Open University’

‘Jump on here…I go past that…I’m leaving in five minutes’.

As I climbed the steps onto an apparently empty bus the driver quizzed me.

‘You’re from Scotland…Glasgow?’

‘I live north of Aberdeen’

‘Ah…I’m from India…Kerala…not today though!’ He grinned widely.

‘I used to work with a computer programmer who came from there’. We were established!

The driver assured me that he would drop me off at the right place and that he would let me know in plenty of time. The bus journeyed relatively slowly through urban countryside. Lots of trees and tarmac and roundabouts. It then pulled to a halt close to what looked like an underpass. The driver saw me move.

‘Next stop’. As the driver spoke a man I hadn’t noticed before made his way down the aisle. He looked quite old but walked sprightly as he lightly descended the steps.

The ‘next stop’ arrived and I thanked the driver very much for his help as I got off the bus.

‘Go through the underpass and it’s signposted!’

Having followed the directions, I arrived at the other side of the underpass only to meet up with the other passenger.

‘Do you know how far it is to the OU campus?’ I enquired.

‘I’m going there…please join me?’

During the next 20 minutes or so I was given a full run down on the campus and its history.Absolutely fascinating. The man, who I reckoned had to be considerably older than he looked, had been around the university from its early days. I told him that I was going to a meeting in the Christadoulou Rooms.

‘Ah!’ He said. ‘Chris’.

My walking companion (I never did get his name) had known the Open University’s first Secretary.Anastasios Christodolou had been closely involved in the formal start up. He was also instrumental in persuading the powers that be. In particular, Margaret Thatcher as Education Secretary of the fundamental value of the Open University.

My meeting on campus of the former Central Consultative Committee came and went.I’ve never forgotten, however, my first visit and my engaging encounter with the unknown Samaritan.

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Ian Cheyne


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