Alma Mater & Me

The years 1975-80 were not the happiest of my life, in fact much of that time I was utterly miserable.  So when I walked out of school and into a pub on a sunny day in June 1980, I vowed never to go back.  Little did I know that nearly forty years later I’d be invited to give a talk on character and storytelling to a class of Year 13 Media students.

It’s an honour and I’m sure it will be a pleasure, but given that it means so much to me, my diligent preparations have unearthed some ghosts and daemons as I’m forced to explore what I’ve actually achieved in all those forty years.

Among other things I’ve been an engineer, a salesman, a mystery shopper and a writer, I’ve been married twice, have four children and two grandchildren, seen the world, experienced the glitz and glamour and sometimes the grind of the television industry, enjoyed the feasts, endured the famine, become an orphan, found myself homeless for a time, seen my football team go up and down like a yo-yo, and got my first grey pube.  I’ve also been diagnosed with lifelong depression so have realised it wasn’t simply the sherbet dip dab addiction, the acne and the sexual frustration that were bringing me down in the classroom back in ’77, when the race to lose my virginity was more crucial than gaining O Levels.  Anyway, to summarise these examinations, I’ve had some passes and some monumental failures.

Somehow, I feel that when I retrace my steps down those ancient corridors I won’t be able to stop the memories and the words from bouncing off the walls.  And some of those were very harsh, like the time my history teacher told me I was a lout and I’d never amount to anything.

I wonder is he still alive?  I wonder is it possible I might bump into him tomorrow?  How much has he changed?  How much has the school changed?  How much have I changed?  Have I really changed at all apart from the grey hair and the quitting of the dip dabs?  And have I in fact amounted to anything?  I don’t know.  All I do know is that while my pubescent desultoriness wasn’t altogether happy in that place, returning will be an interesting experience and one I’m very much looking forward to.  On this Valentine’s Day, I should also say that back in ’77 there was a day when cupid first shot his arrow for me and it finally landed so it can’t be all that bad.  And if my history teacher was right and I haven’t amounted to anything, I just know that if I can say something tomorrow that inspires at least one student, the future will be bright and it will all have been worthwhile.

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