The consultant loads the scans on his computer and takes some time to review them. I’m studying his face and panicking. After an agonisingly long time, he turns to me. Continue reading

Bye Bye Tumour


Later that day, I think about the shock of being told I have cancer and the best possible result of my scans. For a bad situation, it doesn’t get any better than this. I’m lucky. Then I think about something that stays at the forefront of my mind for a long time. It’s better that I have cancer and not Michelle or the kids. Forty-two is not too old for a clash with cancer. And I’m best placed to deal with this – fit, strong and pig-headed enough to be convinced I’ll get through. Anyway, I really wouldn’t know how to handle it if someone I loved got this terrifying illness. I’m up for the fight. Continue reading



After brief snatches of sleep, it takes a moment for me to recall where I am. Sluggish, I recognise my surroundings. The house we’d recently moved to. My wife, Michelle sleeping beside me. Our bedroom would have to be redecorated. Thinking about the past was good as far as it went. But I needed to instil a fearless frame of mind. Continue reading

Getting Off The Track


A few days later, I had a meeting with the course tutor and received a roasting for producing a sub-standard essay. She was right, of course, because my essay was rubbish. She ordered me to read the set texts again and produce better work. I took it on the chin, left the room, went slowly down the stairwell surrounded by wooden panelling and onto the pathway outside. It was a breezy November morning as I walked, the imposing History building to my right and walled gardens to the left. A few students mingled around the benches. Others sat on a low wall. Continue reading

A Tale Of Two Plates


The reality of my financial situation soon kicked in. I didn’t have any money of my own. My parents gave enough for rent, bills and food, but nothing to socialise with. I was eighteen, living away from home for the first time and going out was high on my list of things to do. I could have tried to get a part-time job, but was struggling enough with the studies. Continue reading

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