On results day, I got three distinctions and two merits, and accepted the offer for the Oxford Polytechnic degree in business and law. I deferred the place for a year so I could save some more money. Kaz also passed and we celebrated in the Middlesbrough pubs. By the time the goodbyes were over, I was pissed and skint. I couldn’t get a taxi back to the house so I walked over to the riverside to sleep at work. It had been raining and I walked through an industrial estate along the wet streets lit by the glow of streetlamps.
I don’t know how long it took me, but I made slow progress. Eventually, I fumbled for my keys and got inside. I downed a few pints of water and settled in to sleep under my desk. Suddenly, there was an almighty commotion. I got up and was confronted by about a dozen policemen and women. They told me there was a report of a break-in and asked why I was there. We went through a whole elaborate series of questions and answers, about me working for the company in these premises, etc., during which a policewoman asked what was on the other side of a doorway. This side of the office wasn’t alarmed, but the other side was. I told her to find out, so she did. The whole place erupted with deafening bells. I motioned the officer in charge over.
“Call the police!!” I shouted, standing in my boxer shorts, laughing.
He was angry and demanded my boss’ telephone number. The call was made at about 1 a.m. and the officer explained who he was.
“It appears an employee of yours has been sleeping in the workplace. Could you describe him to me so we can verify his identification?… Excuse me?… Oh, yes I suppose so… Thank you Sir.”
The senior officer looked irritated as he got off the phone and ushered his people off the premises. On the step, he said “You have a bad attitude, son.” I smiled and slammed the door on him. Later, I found out that my boss’ description of me was “Does he have really short hair and is he rude?… Yes, that’s Callum.”
On graduation day, I turned up for a quick look around, but didn’t intend to take part. Everyone there was dressed up in suits, gowns and mortar boards. I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. My law tutor spotted me and tried to persuade me to formally collect my certificate, seeing as I’d come top of the year. I chatted and told him how grateful I was for everything he’d done for me. But I refused to graduate with anything less than a degree. Kaz and I went for a quiet pint instead.
Then I signed up to do A-level law to see if I was good enough for higher education. It was a one-year course and I enrolled with my friend Krish. We took it in turns to attend classes because it clashed with circuit training and I wanted to keep fit. We alternated for the two terms of lessons about the legal profession, court system, tort and criminal law. As the third term about contract law began, I decided to stop turning up for any more classes. At this point, the teachers were changing and the new person in charge set an off-the-cuff exam question. The next week, I turned up just to hear the test result and was taken aside by the new teacher.
“I was told to look out for one person in the class and it’s you.”
“Sorry, I‘m not sure what you’re talking about.”
“Look, I’m a solicitor and I’ve taught law for years. I’ve never given a student 100% on an assessment before. And you didn’t even have the chance to prepare. Do you have a degree?”
“No, but I’m about to go and study for one.” I explained that I wasn’t turning up to any more classes because I reckoned I could pass with the notes I had so far.
“Well, I wish you all the very best.”
There was something about him that I’d only ever seen before in Corporal Steele and Sergeant Hunter in the Paras. It was a belief in me. I was surprised. He didn’t have to do that. I thanked him and we shook hands.
Over the next three months, I revised hard using mnemonics. A series of semi-arbitrary letters gave me lists of information. This technique helped me to learn my notes. But I had quite a good memory and began to memorise a law book to precise detail. At work, someone tested me on A-Level law. He opened the textbook and asked a question. I answered by quoting the text verbatim and gave the page number, which side of the book it was on and the paragraph. When I was in the exam, I could flick through my notes and the textbook in my head. I got an A and felt ready for a degree.