I don’t know why I stayed on at school to do “A” levels for I had no intention, no pre-plan, no life ambition of ever doing “A” levels or a need to have them for any future career that I may be considering – for there was no future career that I was considering.
In the summer of 1973 the band of 16 year old boys that made up Form 5S of Leeds Modern Grammar School drifted away into obscurity never to see each other again until 40 years later and some geek invented Facebook for the sole purpose of reuniting many of those lost boys in one boozy/curry night in Leeds in January of this current year.
But all of that was the stuff of science fiction back in the summer of 1973 for back then we had been sent home just after the Easter break and told to revise for our “O” levels and not return unless we had an exam, thus the school conspired to not have a “final day” for the next two months we drifted in and out of school to take various random exams, and then there was a day when the exams were finished and the realisation set in that you didn’t have to go back anymore, not only that but there had not been one final day when we would all be together to bid each other a fond farewell, good fortune in any future career – and perhaps burn down the school, there was method in their madness clearly.
So at 16 years of age most of the boys in our class, and there were four such classes in our year, left clutching a clutch of “O” levels and bought a copy of The Yorkshire Evening Post in order to peruse the jobs section and think about what they may wish to do for the next fifty years of their life, or pick the first job that needed a 16 year old for barely no money at all, which is what most of them did.
Only a handful of boys ever stayed on to go into the Sixth Form and study for another two years to sit their “A” levels for the only reason that you needed “A” levels was to go to University and the only reason that you needed to go to University was to procure a career in “a profession”, and so it was that all the brainy kids in the class (about five of them) had been pre-selected, pre-ordained years ago by parents and/or teachers to train to be lawyers or doctors, or accountants and professors of hard sums, like Vaz did.
And me, “Why” you may well ask, “did it come to pass that in September of 1973 you found yourself back at Leeds Modern Grammar School applying to join the Sixth Form to study for two “A” levels, you being one of those boys who would not normally be classed as “intelligent” by any measure of educational success that you would wish to run by me ?”
I have no answer at all to this question, I knew not then and I know not now what made me go back to school to study for two “A” levels, Art and Geography, for I had no need of an “A” level in either art or geography and no plan of what I’d do with them later, and no plan for later at all, I had not the slightest hint of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and no intention at all of sitting more bloody exams, but going to work for a living seemed like something that I definitely didn’t want to do and so Art and Geography “A” level it was then.
I almost got away with it too but a couple of months after getting into the more relaxed regime of a Sixth Form and its ethos of self-study, serious introspection and a discipline of working hard towards a future career and lifestyle I was called to Gus Scale’s office, Head of Sixth Form and pompous twat with it, to be told that it had been noted that my choice of two “A” levels fell approximately 33% short of the required number of “A” levels that all students were expected to take and that furthermore I was not availing myself of the opportunity to take up a couple of extra “O” levels like most other students were, and furthermore it was also noted that I only had four lessons a week and seemed to be tossing off the year at home, why most days I didn’t even need to come to school anymore.
I had to admit, it had been a perfect plan up until that moment, my parents thought I was the first child in our family history to “stay on” at school to study for “A” levels and that surely my heroic sacrifice at not joining the workforce would be rewarded by a fine job in the professions and my mother would boast for evermore of how her eldest son had made the family proud by becoming the first ever Nobel prize winner for Art and Geography, but no, Gus Scales hadn’t been a senior school master for 120 years for nothing and he knew a shirker when he spotted one, and there was one such specimen sitting in his office right this very day, I must enroll on another course to fill up at least four days schooling immediately, or leave this emporium of education on the very next bus.
So it came to pass that I re-took my Maths “O” level that year (surely I could improve on the E grade that I had received the year before) and enrolled on “Human Biology” simply because Burty and Smig were doing it for a laugh and it might contain some filth when the subject of reproduction came around, and of course the course was being taken by Soapy Luxton, probably the softest most easily manipulated school master who ever walked the aisles of a biology laboratory – and incidentally also the man who kept his wifes placenta pickled in grey formaldehyde on the top shelf of the laboratory, possibly the most disgusting thing I have ever seen and which never failed to initiate a “gip” whenever you glanced that way.
And there was another reason why staying on into the Sixth Form to study Geography was a plan – you got to go on a week long field study to Cornwall with the three Geography Masters, and one of those Masters was the fragrant Sheila Cockayne, a female aged only a few years more than ourselves, freshly qualified from teacher training college and with an arse that filled a pair of jeans in a way that Levis Strauss could only have dreamed of.
But look, we’ve run out of time…
…to be continued.