Collars and Jumper


At the end of the week, I met up with the History crowd at the Student Union bar. It was a downbeat evening. A truly awful song came on and one student began a weird dance. Surprisingly, two girls joined in. What was unforgivable lay in their attempt to move provocatively around him. I couldn’t believe it. I looked around and they were smiling and clapping in slow motion. I knew them and didn’t want to. This was all wrong, but they were caught up in the moment. As the gyrating and noise reached fever pitch, I felt embarrassed for them. I told the student beside me that I had to be somewhere else – as in anywhere else, really quickly – when I heard a conversation behind in loud, plummy voices. Continue reading

Thin Ice


I began the new course late and the first subject was Bede, a monk and scholar at a Northumbrian monastery who wrote The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. THE least exciting book title I had ever heard. I’d missed all the lectures up until then but, for the first essay, I took a few books out of the library and began a tedious read. It was no use as the monastic prose was so boring. I couldn’t concentrate for even half an hour at a time. My small student room was about three metres square with a desk near the door and single bed by the window overlooking a small car park. Continue reading

Professor Haughty


Early in the Classics degree, it became clear I would have to take Ancient Greek and Latin languages classes. As well as not wanting to be there, I would have to learn shit I didn’t want to know. This really wasn’t working out. I gave the Greek course a go for a few weeks, but couldn’t get my head around even the alphabet. I decided this degree wasn’t for me and arranged a meeting. My mind was a blur. But I turned up to a cramped room and met an ageing, plump professor who looked over half moon glasses. Wearing a brown corduroy jacket and a blue-checked cotton shirt, he had a bald head with tufts of grey hair over his ears. Continue reading

Traffic Cone Two


I settled in as a student at Newcastle, living with five other undergraduates who were either first or second years. They were okay to hang around with, but not exactly mates-for-life material. We had a really drunken night out one evening at the Student Union bar and walked back to Summerhill House through shadows interspersed with street lights. Two students picked up a traffic cone each and put them on their heads. All jolly jape student stuff. Off they went down the middle of the road, drawing too much attention to themselves. Continue reading

Off To Newcastle


The course I applied for was Classics which, according to the prospectus, was the “Study of Greece and Rome in terms of culture, religion, art, architecture and archaeology.” There was also the “Chance to study the languages of Ancient Greek and Latin,” although I didn’t fancy that much. Continue reading



Hungover the next morning, it was decision time. I’d met the offers for Newcastle University and North Staffordshire Polytechnic, but didn’t know what to do. I had avoided thinking about it all summer long and just enjoyed myself. Now I had the grades, the pressure was on to get a degree. I applied for Classics and History degrees because I couldn’t think of anything else. I didn’t have a clue about what I wanted to do job-wise. Continue reading

Feeling Pressure


I sat bolt upright in bed, drenched in sweat and looked around the room. Faint daylight crept under the curtains. Posters were on the walls. The Specials, Madness and Bob Marley in the main. I leant on an elbow and saw the card table covered in green felt which served as a makeshift desk. Books were stacked against the wall. A chart was filled with crosses, except for one circled date. It was the last day of my exams and I smiled. Continue reading

Phantom In The Forest


During the summer break after I left school, a man jumped bail at Leeds Crown Court, drove to a picnic site near Harrogate and shot a policeman in the head. The constable was found dead by the open door of his car. A massive manhunt in North Yorkshire began. The gunman went on the run to Nottinghamshire, where he broke into a house and tied a married couple together at the elbows. They were both shot in the head. He stole their car and escaped. The husband died but his wife survived and crawled to some neighbours to raise the alarm. Continue reading



One of the sports teachers was predictably sadistic and gave us a foundation course in stress positions. Minor misdemeanours were rewarded with the culprit facing a wall with knees bent and arms parallel to the floor. A piece of paper was held against a wall by the nose. If the paper fell to the floor, the victim would be beaten with a gym shoe. It had no effect whatsoever on our poor class behaviour. Continue reading

Dog Shit Heroes


I played lots of football and was in the school team from the first term. It was an unsuccessful team, even though we played only one other private school called Mill Hall. That school had a pupil whose Dad was a professional footballer and he helped coach them. We lost for years, exacerbated by the dubiously large kids who played for the opposition’s under-fourteen team. Continue reading