An Out of Durham Xper1ence

George Grillo gives his view from a seat on the infamous X1

durham tab George Grillo stockton the tab durham university of durham X1 bus

Every Friday morning I leave the house moaning to my housemates that “I’m off to Stockton”. They dutifully make sympathetic noises and I walk out the door an hour and a half before my lecture starts. The complaints and sympathy are seemingly well placed.

I’m entitled to moan because one lecture is a four hour odyssey. Because it’s miles away. Because it’s grey and grim. Because it has 1000mm of rain per annum and ceaseless biting gale force winds. Because it’s Stockton.

Yet this fate was self-inflicted. Naive, blasé, foolish? “It’ll be fun”. Good God what possessed me?! Presumably some peculiar sense of enjoyment derived from a Stockton module, which I will with trepidation attempt to expound…

The bus journey is like any other on a public bus – drivers are unsurprisingly cheerless and possess an extraordinary ability to lurch at junctions like the tongue of a chameleon at insects – except this journey takes 45 minutes, a much greater undertaking than a jolly along the King’s Road.

The X1; siblings with the chameleon’s tongue.

Conspicuously more scenic too; as the hills of County Durham torment the bus’ beleaguered engine, the passenger is granted a painful amount of time to admire their surroundings.

And it’s free! “Well it bloody well should be if it’s part of my degree”. If that philosophy were applied in Bath, where three different companies charge for three separate tickets for 10 minute hops from campus to town, the students there would be devoid of any BSc’s at the end of their years.

Durham University have clearly recognised that gentle encouragement is required to get their students to attend Stockton and have – thankfully – accordingly eliminated the excuses.

Stockton does fail to live up to the nightmare reviews. Sure, the campus is eerily quiet on a Friday afternoon, reinforcing the sense of subverting norms by your mere presence, but Stockton High Street is bustling, pleasant and in the process of a handsome re-development.

Stockton town centre

My module contains a 65 year old who sleeps through lectures and pipes up with unquestionable authority even if he is not addressing the matter at hand; as well as a 45 year old woman with more balls and charisma than Boris Johnson.

The Queens branch of ‘YUM’ sells its usually unjustifiably priced sandwiches at £1, and when you jump back on the X1, if you’re lucky it’s a double-decker. All good honest fun, unlikely to be found in Durham City.

It is here I must offer a caveat. Much like canine Spaghetti, a Stockton module is not a dish best enjoyed alone. Unless your name is John Keats and you enjoy poetic loneliness with your romantic countryside, the 45 minute journey is far more agreeable with a companion.

Secondly, I hold the luxurious status of a 3rd year social scientist, and with it the mere six hours of contact time per week to negotiate.

Happily then, I have the time to enjoy that which is rare for most student residents of DH1 – an out of Durham Xper1ence.