Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ordinary Life 5

Bottom row, second from left.
Careers advice then led me on to study Pure and Applied Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry at A’level. While I don’t regret the latter I still wish I had studied something apart from Chemistry. I had a flair for languages then and I think I would have done well in A’level French. At the time this was seen as ‘too far outside the box’ when students at A’level tended to be pigeonholed. I guess they still are. The divide between arts and sciences in particular is still a prejudice that lets down school timetables in my opinion.
Once again I was a relatively undistinguished student, relying on my natural ability with subjects and things mathematical to coast me through the exams, eschewing the extra that hard work might have given me. Not that I ever saw virtue in hard work for its own sake.
I came top of my school in Physics, did as well in Mathematics but was a poorer Chemist. It just seemed like a tedious series of observations that could only be learned parrot fashion to me at the time. With the exception of organic chemistry, which by its nature was more amenable to analysis from first principle and calculable result. I suspect this aspect was what gave me any dignity that a grade D deserved. I can see more merit in it now.
As well as A’levels the school was enlightened enough to offer a series of short minority courses. I learned a little of the history of modern art, how to program a computer, conducting orchestral scores, taking and developing black and white photographs, lateral thinking, and I came again to enjoy my own artistic efforts. I can see roots of many of my adult interests in these courses and the early experience of computers shaped a lot of my life.
I left my last exam on a skateboard in the June of 1977.
I didn’t leave the school entirely behind on that day though.
I had split up with a girlfriend of about two years before Christmas.
On the eve of my eighteenth birthday I was enchanted by someone new. Francine, a young French student a year or two older than I, was doing her years study abroad. She was partly employed by my school to practise language skills with O’level and A’level students. She showed me sweet romantic nights in her Bristol flat. Introduced me to music and love. She took me to film clubs and fed me French treats. We smoked Camels under the open window, along the back of Ravenswood Road, and listened to the sound of summer in the city.
After just a month her father came to drive her home to Paris. At the time this was an insurmountable distance. By the time she came back in to my life I had foolishly found someone new. We had made no promises beyond birthday wishes but I still feel I let her down.
Years later, when I became a teacher myself, it occurred to me that we might have made a scandal in the papers.


headless chicken said...

I do envy you your flair for languages. My Dad has the same natural aptitude but unfortunately I don't....I failed my French '0'level rather spectacularly! The only two subjects which held any real interest for me so therefore I did well in, were English and Art. Luckily both Rosie and Jake are far more academic than I ever was and are both very good artists too.
As I've said before, I find your Ordinairy Life posts fascinating and your writing brilliant, always leaving me impatient to read more!:)

gmh said...

Humph. The only language I was ever much good at was Latin.

Let's just say that attractive women didn't speak Latin.

Rosy said...

My worse subject in school was math, although I still somehow manage to make it through, Art, Music and History was my more better grades.

I find that your life is very interesting, and for that I am also finding to be glued to your life stories and I hope you don't stop here if that is possible!

Rosy said...

Thank you for dropping on in at my other blog and leaving a nice comment there as well.

And yes there is more to come on my life story. Looks like to be a book in the making?

I must give thanks to you and others for getting me started at sharing my life. :) "So thank you"

sablonneuse said...

Thank you for another intriguing instalment. Did I understand there is a fuller version due to be published? If so when? I'll be ordering a copy.

Sally Lomax said...

Languages and sciences.....I worry that you are possibly hubby under another name. Looking forward to meeting you so that I may know otherwise!

headless chicken said...

I meant ordinary not ordinairy....I did pass my English 'o'level honest!!!

Anonymous said...

I like your "éloge de la paresse", but you needn't be so modest. Beyond your "ordinary life", I wonder if there is another. Do you know Leonard Cohen's song "In my secret Life"?

meredic said...

headless chicken – It was an aptitude ( if indeed that is what it is?) driven by lust I am afraid. I am glad that you, and obviously others enjoy the secret life posts. I guess that the snippets that other people show us are important for some reason.

gmh – Greetings! Attractive women speak so many and varied languages. I cant believe that Latin isn’t among them. Perhaps the time and place were wrong?

rosy – no I wont stop there. I am finding a lot inside me that needs outing as it were.
I guess telling our stories helps us shape our past and make some sense of who we are now.

rosy - I look forward to more of your own story.

sablonnuese – a couple of people have put the idea in my head that writing down a fuller account ( and boy have I missed huge chunks!) would be interesting. I am currently wrestling with the idea that the appeal of this is probably just vanity. Plus I know it would be a lot of work….

sally – that dl fella. Does he spend a lot of time away from home in North Wales?

headless chicken – at least it was an O’level and not a GCeasy!

anonyme – A secret life.
Hey I may need that for the second book!

Right then. I am off on my holidays for three weeks. See you all soon.

buffalodickdy said...

Your grading system is a bit different than America's. Because of proximity to so many different languages, I'm sure there is a greater need/focus on them. Our educational system is in sad shape, as they choose to "lower the bar" so nobodys' feelings get hurt. Until you get to college where you pay for a education, there are very few challenges for students.

Sarah said...

Oops, a bit late with my comment, as you are probably already on holiday... Anyway, like everyone else I just wanted to say that this is another great post about your "ordinary" life, and look forward to more on your return.

bittersweet me said...

As delightful as ever, especially the suggestion of sweet romantic nights. Is there more of your French Treat to come?

I agree with you re: the divide of science and art. I did maths, physics and chemistry too, but stamped my foot and added art to my timetable which became an intolerable squeeze to the school administrator.

Lori said...

In addition to your amazing writing skills you have a great memory for the past. I don't recall nearly as much as you do from my school days. I wish I did! It sounds like you went to a good school.

Jayne said...

I've enjoyed catching up on your blog.

My memory is terrible and I could never remember so much detail.

sablonneuse said...

Talking of scandal, have you seen Pat's comment on my post about Whale?

Keith said...

Is that Jesus on your left in the picture? Or John Lennon?

PI said...

I thought you were in France?