Ridgefield Road, Oxford
Just before the next academic year began, I moved into a house on Ridgefield Road with Michelle, Danny and Ade. It was in Cowley, a student area of Oxford where we knew a lot of people. The unkempt house had a musty smell of dust and old carpet. There was a brown, threadbare sofa in the living room and the kitchen was dirty. The bedrooms each had old, chipped tables to serve as desks. This would be home for the next year. We all got on well and I settled into my studies. I had the sole aim of getting a First in this degree. But, mid-way through the initial law subjects, I lost a bit of confidence as I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to get high enough grades. I knuckled down to some hard work.
Having made the decision to try for a legal career, I had to think about whether to go for solicitor or barrister. In an attempt to experience life as a solicitor, I applied for summer placements at City law firms and most rejected me. The others never bothered replying. I went to a law fair and asked a barrister at a stall about qualifying as a barrister. He said that he qualified so long ago, the course was no longer the same so I should speak to a younger barrister. I hung around, talking to a few friends and that same barrister approached me for a private word. He said that he’d been watching me, how I spoke and other people’s reactions to me. He thought I would make a good barrister and asked if I would apply for a work placement at his set of barristers’ chambers. I agreed, applied and was accepted within days for a mini-pupillage.
I went to London for a weeks’ work experience at his chambers, which was a very formal, corporate environment. The barrister I was assigned to specialised in criminal law, so we were in the criminal courts around London all week. It was hard work and the court proceedings were really interesting. The barrister was measured and talkative. It all made for an absorbing week, at the end of which I decided that being a barrister would be a good thing to do. It also convinced me that criminal law was not the way ahead as I preferred business law.
During this academic year, I considered joining the Officer Training Corps (OTC). I’d thought about it two years previously, did the interview and they formally accepted me. I understood that previous military experience entitled you to wear a different beret, so I applied to wear the maroon beret. But I was informed that I’d have to wear their black beret instead. Under no fucking circumstances was I going to wear a crap hat, so I declined. However, I turned up to an open day with an open mind and decided to see if it might be worthwhile after all. I went to a hall in Oxford with Michelle and Danny, who were also interested to see what it was all about. There were military vehicles, camouflage netting and various groups of OTC people demonstrating radio sets and explaining military things. I saw an OTC bloke in his mid-twenties holding a self-loading rifle (SLR) and walked up to him.
“Can I have a look at your rifle mate?” I asked.
To my amazement, he handed the SLR to me, complete with magazine. I was taught that you only hand a weapon over when the magazine was disengaged and you showed the recipient that the chamber was clear. He explained its various parts, when I swung the butt into my right shoulder and peered down its iron sights. He was surprised that I looked like I knew what I was doing. Then I flicked a lever up, cocked the SLR and a blank cartridge flew out and bounced off his crap hat. Admittedly, the trajectory was more by luck than judgement, but it was effective. He stood there in shock while I shoved the rifle into his chest.
“Never give anyone a fucking loaded weapon,” I snapped and walked away to Michelle and Danny’s stifled laughter. I decided the OTC wasn’t for me.