A few weeks later, we were having a house party. Rog and I hired two blokes to mind the door and deal with any trouble. Unfortunately, the party got a bit too enthusiastic and the bouncers left after only two hours. Rog and I tried to keep order.
The Bullyboys gate-crashed at around midnight. For fuck’s sake, that was all we needed. Rog immediately started a fight. He was no innocent this time, but it was soon broken up. A stand-off ensued with them at the open front door, Rog halfway up the stairs and I was at the end of the downstairs hallway. One of them ran down the hall at me. It all happened so fast. As he head-butted me, I swung my head sharply to the right. He caught my left cheekbone with his forehead. The left side of my face stung, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. His body glanced off my left shoulder and he fell on the kitchen floor. Adrenaline coursed through my body. I moved toward him, grabbed a handful of hair and dragged him back down the hallway.
He screamed and scurried on his hands and knees, trying to keep up. I hurled him through the open front door. The noise of the party spilled into the night as he hit the path and slumped. I stood in the doorway and rest of the Bullyboys peeled him off the ground. Moving forward, I faced them all and glowered. They hesitated, then turned and walked away.
More positively during this time, I enrolled on a two year part-time Higher National Certificate (‘HNC’) in Business and Finance at Teesside Polytechnic as continuing development for my job. I had misgivings about this, given my less than exemplary performance at Newcastle University. But I met another student on the course called Kaz, who was tall, thin and had an infectious sense of humour. We were about to have a good laugh.
The first year involved introductions to business theory and practice, as well as modules on statistics and accounting. I was never any good at maths, but I performed well enough. I completed the assignments and gave the set presentations, but one subject captured my imagination. It was law. I listened to the introduction to business law and also a smattering of criminal law, despite it not being on the syllabus. I hadn’t really thought about the rules governing society before and I was fascinated. This was less vague than at Newcastle and I worked hard. I was actually enjoying studying and wondered if law might be for me. I averaged a high merit for my first year’s efforts.
However, my life seemed to be a blend of the destructive and constructive. I sat down with Rog in the pub one evening and we discussed the boredom of our jobs and the trouble in our social lives. Things would have to change. The only good thing appeared to be college as we were both studying part-time. We made a pact to leave the North East of England with a firm handshake and smiles. I had to get my life on track, so I looked for business and law degree courses. But I wanted to stay away from traditional Universities as I felt scarred by my brush with snobbery at Newcastle University.
I applied for a business degree at Sheffield Polytechnic, which was not ideal because it didn’t contain enough law. Within weeks, I received a call from the course leader at Sheffield Polytechnic who said he’d been looking for someone to do an intensive programme of study to receive the Bachelor of Arts degree in one year. It seemed an odd proposition and I wasn’t sure anyone would ever believe it if I got a degree that quick. Anyway, I’d be back in the workplace far too soon. I was a bit bruised by my experiences at work and I wanted to enjoy myself at college, not study myself into the ground only to go straight back to work. I declined the offer.
Then I found a perfect fifty-fifty business and law split at Oxford Polytechnic and applied, requesting an exemption from the first year. I received a conditional offer to enter the second year of the degree, provided that I got two distinctions and three merits in my final year HNC subjects. This felt right.
I made a big effort during the next academic year, mainly in economics and law. Working to candlelight and incense sticks into the early hours several days a week, I received positive feedback and pushed myself harder to get high grades. The studying was interspersed with Kaz and I having great nights out. We sat in Teesside Polytechnic library one afternoon talking about my offer from Oxford Polytechnic. Kaz turned to me.
“Man, that will look amazing on your CV.”
He grabbed a pen excitedly and scribbled on some paper. Turning it toward me, he nodded with a ‘There’s nothing more impressive than that’ expression across his face. On the paper was “Ofxord.” We were silent for a few seconds and burst out laughing until we cried. Dirty looks from some students in the library signalled our time to leave.