Moths ate my college scarf - and I don't know how I feel about it

My Van Mildert College scarf - like a hazardous recycling symbol

Time to let go of scarves past?

It is 100 per cent new wool, is dry-clean only and makes me look like a bumblebee crossed with Harry Potter when I’m wearing it. So why then, to goodness, is my university college scarf still in my wardrobe?
A somewhat unbelievable 22 years ago, I purchased this dubious accessory as soon as I entered the hallowed doors of Van Mildert College, Durham.
The 60s college may have been affectionately known as ‘The Comp on the Swamp’, but traditions were still strong and thick woolly scarves of this kind were perfectly acceptable attire. And it was freezing. Freezing in a northern way that even my upbringing in bleak and windy Peterborough could not prepare me for.
My dad, a strong influence on my academic life, had also been quite adamant about me buying myself a scarf. It was the thing to do, he said, along with playing hockey for your college and joining the mysteriously named “Union Society” (which I never did, as I never understood what it was for until too late).
And I did wear it with pride, and it was extremely warm, if a little itchy.
But reader, I have not worn it a single time since I left those glorious halls of academe. I would feel like a pompous idiot parading down the streets of Birmingham or Limoges wrapped in college colours.
On the streets of Clapham you can often spot privately educated, sporty 'rahs' (are they even still called that?) prancing around outside the Slug and Lettuce in their college or school sports socks. But even there, the college scarf is not to be seen.
And now I have a problem. My woolly scarf has started to fall victim to the many moths with whom I share my life and home. It has been nibbled in the corner, although it miraculously survived The Great Moth Plague of 2016, when the Persian rug met its maker in the loft conversion cupboard.
My husband thinks I’m a fool not to throw this insect nest out instantly. And on the one hand, I agree with him.
It symbolises my conformity, my desire to please and fit in, my shyness, my unwillingness to take risks. It many ways, it represents the suffocating noose of my school and university days where I felt compelled to achieve perfection in the name of some unknown academic gods.
So I should throw it out. Or ritualistically snip it to pieces, gathering the bits in the dustbin. I should sense the intellectual and moral freedom that would symbolise.
But something stops me. I have fond memories of Durham life, but not dazzlingly fond: I was so often overawed by my fellow students that I did not participate in university life to the extent I should, and burrowed away at my work. But something makes me cling to this black and yellow anti-fashion statement.
The Durham days, despite not being quite the golden years I had expected them to be, represented my ‘peak youth’ and I perhaps it is too painful to let go of that just yet.
Meanwhile, good luck to the moths.


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