Hard Times


In the final year, Michelle and I moved a few streets along to East Avenue, which was a bit closer to college. It was a run-down, mid-terraced student house, but nothing a good clean wouldn’t sort out. Danny decided to move back to the halls of residence that he’d initially stayed in and so, unfortunately, we wouldn’t be lazing around watching videos so much. Danny, Michelle and I still met up regularly over our final year in Oxford.

Those times were financially difficult. My savings had just about run out and meals were getting more basic. Four slices of bread with two potatoes chopped-up and put in a deep fat fryer meant some chip butties at twelve pence a meal for two. Michele and I couldn’t afford to put the heating on much so I used to study at my desk wrapped in a duvet. We were in poverty, I guess. But some nights out were had, even if money was tight.

In order to earn some cash, I worked over the Christmas period as plain-clothes security for a shop called Next. I thought it might offer a little excitement if someone tried to steal something, but the thefts went down to zero when I was there so it was boring and my hours were cut. Within two days of reduced hours, a whole rack of leather jackets was stolen so my hours were upped to full-time again, but there were no more thefts. I got a small bonus in the New Year.

My lectures were sparse from here on in. In one term, they were all done by Monday lunchtime. Sounds like easy days, but I put in over a ninety hour week of free study to make the most of it. I studied all day, every day and working into the nights with a candle and essential oils burning so the smell of pine or cypress trees wafted around my room.

During reading weeks, I focussed on memorising law notes, cases and statutes. All socialising was dropped so I could focus. One afternoon, I wandered through the campus when a student by a stand stopped me. He was studying psychology and asked if I would participate in a test for his research. I was given one minute to look at a long sequence of numbers. I did it and he gave me a blank piece of paper.

“Now, write down as many numbers in order that you can remember,” he said.

I’m not great with numbers, but I was in revision mode, so I sat down and wrote the numbers down. I handed over the paper and stood to leave. He studied the paper.

“No one’s ever completed the test and got all the numbers right before. There are fifty randomly sequenced numbers.”

I shrugged my shoulders, smiled and walked away.

All the work paid off as my results after two terms averaged a seriously high grade A. In the legal practice double module, which was drafting, research, interviewing and advocacy, I applied myself as best as I could. Some of my performances were good, but I thought others could have been better. When my results came in, I achieved the highest grade since the course began. In the final term, I took commercial law and a dissertation on a business law subject. By the end of term, I received great feedback on my dissertation and the coursework for commercial law was graded higher than I could have hoped for. But, given my results the previous year, I didn’t know if I’d done enough.

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