One of the few things I actually do remember doing during this officially sanctioned twenty-four month work avoidance scheme was to write ‘articles’ which I posted on the Sixth Form Notice Board for the entertainment of my peers and educators. The internet (along with mobile phones, laptop computers, pocket calculators and Salted Caramel Mars Bars) did not exist, but this cork wall became my blog. I was regularly encouraged by tutors to stop ‘posting’ on it, but I was never prevented from doing so. I live with the hope that somebody gleaned something from what I was doing, other than the conviction that they were in the wrong job.
On the first day of my Sixth Form studies, the impossibly old history tutor told me that he considered that ‘as I was now an adult’ he would be setting no home work, but he would rely on me to hand in essays on subjects of my own choosing for his appraisal at will. Consequently, adult that I was, I didn’t hand in a single one and failed the subject abjectly*. I did scrape a pass in Art despite handing in ‘coursework’ all of which was started the night before in an orgy of Coca Cola, Chipitos and poster paint. Believe me, I take no pride in this, I am ashamed of my behaviour, but I can’t go back and change it. I am stuck with that past and it has dictated my present. The ‘missed opportunity’ has provided the framework for my entire adult life. I have had only three full-time jobs in my life, giving me a total of forty four years continuous employment without even the slightest hint of ambition. I have only ever attended one job interview and I vowed that, despite getting the job, I would never attend another. I have been head-hunted twice, which probably says far more about the paucity of heads around here than it does about me.
Having seen both my children through University I decided to find out if I was capable of doing it myself and, having discovered that I really can apply myself when there is no conceivable benefit in doing so, I now have a Degree of my very own, of which I am very proud even though it merely makes me ever more aware of what I could have achieved forty years ago with just a little application. (No, I am not talking about Clearasil.) Who knows what I could have become (a pompous prig I fear). Would I have been happier? No, I’ve been married for more than forty years and my wife still talks to me from time to time. We have two brilliant daughters and four life-enhancing (though energy-sapping) grandchildren – I’ll definitely settle for that. Would I be richer? Possibly. I may have retired much earlier, but then again, I may have died. Would I be more fulfilled? It’s very unlikely unless my university education involved developing strategies for not losing interest in what I have written at the very second I have stopped writing it. I don’t really bother with even the pretence of ‘sending stuff off’ these days. Old Git Lit has never proved to be the Book Club draw I thought it might be and TV and Radio are currently only interested in what you have to offer if you are already famous for doing something else – tying knots in cherry stalks with your tongue on Tik-Tok or being third-last voted off Love Island. I fear the proof that it is not merely my lethargy that forms a barrier to success, but a complete lack of talent, might just kill me.
At least as it is, I always have something to write about. Let’s face it, disappointment is always good for a few hundred words.
*I offer, as some kind of mitigation, the fact that the set text was the God-awful ‘Origins of the Second World War’ by A J P Taylor, an exciting subject for a post-war eighteen year old, rendered into blancmange by an English academic – the foremost historian of his time – of, I estimated, at least a thousand years old, with all the writing verve of a Grattan’s Catalogue compositor.