It was 1992. The summer was promising to be a good one and the leaves on the trees were out in force for the time of year and the time of year was May. The previous months I had spend cramming information into my brain half arsedly. A’levels (qualifications Brit kids get for completing years 12 & 13) were looming and my laurels were there for resting on or so I thought. By this time I’d sent off my UCAS form and had received a conditional offer from Queens University in Belfast. That was all I needed as that is where I wanted to go.
Careers guidance in Saint Francis Xavier College for Boys, Liverpool was basically non-existent for people of my ilk. I was in the top class and we were fed the idiom that because we were the brains of our year we would all go to university and go on to become the rulers of the planet. Or the like. Dole or Youth Training schemes were for those less fortunate in the education ranks, HNDs and City and Guilds for those unsuited to life in a red brick university, Polytechnics (for they were still in existence) for those not quite sharp enough to get into more traditional Universities. Computers were a passing fad that only those fit for manual work would be using. The school was stuck in the 1970’s. But to be fair, at this time in Britain, not everybody who left school at 18/19 would go to university. There were still opportunities for those wishing to seek employment instead of a further 3 years of education (Nowadays the government prefer you to go to University or college after school to keep the unemployment figures down).
Because we were in the top class in fifth form (year 11) it was deemed that attending careers fayres and doing work experience would only disrupt our studies especially as we were to go on to do A levels and then fuck off to University anyway. God forbid if a brainiac decided that they wanted to learn a manual trade instead of going to university! Hell that might affect the school figures! But we didn’t know better then, John Major was still in power and there was a recession on. Not that we noticed.
Anyway, I swatted but only half arsedly. After all, I was one of the clever ones. A levels would be a breeze but only if we put a bit more work in than what we did for our GCSEs. (I did 3 weeks revision for GCSE and did quite well but not spectacularly well). Most boys in my year wanted to go on to do law, science or medicine in university. I wanted to be different though. I wanted to do psychology. Not because I knew what psychology was about but because it seemed interesting and right. Like I said, careers guidance was virtually non-existent. A conversation with Mr Brophy the careers/sports teacher went something like this:-
Mr Brophy – So then Gnomepants. What is it you wanted to see me about?
stegzy – I’d like some information on psychology. What careers are open to me if I complete a degree in psychology and what I might do to better my chances should I need to apply again next year?
Mr Brophy – Oh…well…I don’t know. I have this leaflet. Oh and have you done Cascaid?
stegzy – Yes sir. It said I should consider brain surgery or accountancy.
Mr Brophy – Nothing wrong with accountancy!
Like I said many times before in this entry. Careers Guidance was non-existent. A desert of knowledge for the Foreign Legion of brainiacs. But don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t blame the school for the lack of education in this matter. Times were different then and opportunities for young people were sparse and a dog-eat-dog attitude prevailed which was good for competitiveness (unlike now where most of the proles want “it” (house/partner/car/kids/flat-screen TV/internet) handed to them on a plate from the government).
Like I said. It was May 1992. I was due to leave school prior to sitting my A’level exams. A lovely spring bank holiday was spent in the company of a former acquaintance, his girlfriend and a blind date for me. Nice girl. Helen her name was. She was quiet and shy but underneath that there was a dark streak but this is not the post to discuss that.
My acquaintance, Ray, suggested we escort our lady friends to Southport for a day out. Which is what we did. We went on all the rides. Chatted. Ate burgers and candyfloss and then adjourned to the pub. We had several drinks before catching the train south and back to Liverpool in time for more drinks at the club by which time it was late and time to see Helen home (Ray’s girlfriend, Lesley, was spending the night in his bed).
It was about 11pm. School the next morning. I was keen to get home before midnight to prevent a bollocking from the olds. I walked Helen to the bus stop and made sure she got on the 81 to take her to Hunts Cross where she lived. I had my bike so as soon as I saw her onto the bus I headed off home on my bike.
I felt warm and fuzzy. It was time to get up surely. I must have fallen asleep at the bus stop and everyone must have gone home without me. At least I fell asleep with my legs round my bike because someone might have pinched it. I felt dizzy. My head hurt, possibly from a hang over though probably not because this felt different. It hurt and felt weird to move my arm. I must have fallen asleep on my arm. I still had a mile to go to get home. Most of it was down hill though.
I still felt odd. I tried to use my right hand to see why my head felt wet. Had a dog pissed on my head or had I fallen asleep in a puddle? It hurt. “Thats odd it shouldnt hurt to move my arm”I felt something warm and sticky. Dirty bastard! I’ve got shit on my head!
I stopped cycling and looked at my hand. Eventually it came into focus in the soft orange sodium street light. “That doesn’t look like dogshit. And no…it smelt metalic…like iron….blood maybe?”
This wasn’t good at all.
I tried to move my arm and something inside my shoulder moved that shouldnt have moved. I felt ill. I rode back to the nearest telephone box I could remember. Why had everyone left me at the bus stop like this? I was going to have to have words.
stegzy – Ray mate. Why did you leave me at the bus stop?
Ray – Ste mate where’ve ye been? Your mums been calling are you ok?
stegzy – I don’t know. I think I’ve been attacked at the bus stop. I’m confused.
Ray – Where are you?
stegzy – Blackwood roundabout telephone box. I’ll ring my mum.
I used my next 10p to call my mum
Mum – Where the hell have you been?
stegzy – Mum…I feel funny
Mum – Do you know what time it is? I’ve been worried sick. You’ve got school tomorrow you know.
stegzy – Mum…I dont think I’ll go to school tomorrow I feel funny. Can you…
Mum – Are you ok?
stegzy – I’m bleeding from my head and my arm clicks at the shoulder. I’m at Blackwood Roundabout Telephone box will you get a doctor for me please?
The world then climbed inside a long tunnel. A long dark, street light lit and echoey tunnel. I remember Roger the Lodger turning up with Ray at the same time as my Mum and dad. I remember parts of the interrogation my mum gave to Roger the Lodger who had only come to see if he could help Ray.
I remember being in Broadgreen A&E (now closed) which was a wooden hut in a muddy field off Queens drive. I remember being in really bad pain. I cannot remember how my dad got my bike home and I cannot remember how I got home. I remember being told “Fractured Collar bone” and slight concussion. I remember feeling really shit. Like “Oh shit my exams start in two weeks” shit.
The next six weeks involved lots of pain killers. Dictating my exam answers to the school librarian (the school wouldn’t let me defer to the following year. Something to do with having already paid for the exams and tough titty to me). Trying to draw a straight pencil line between two dots with my left hand for the multiple choice parts of my exams and a lot of “If you’d have stayed at home”, “It’s your own fault”, “I never liked that Ray he’s a bad influence”.
A month or so later and my exam results came through. All the subjects I’d actually put effort into Biology – N; Chemistry – N; Music – N. This wasnt good. N was like one above U. U was like “fucking dickhead” N was like “dosy bugger”. I didn’t get the 3 C’s for Queens. I did however get an E in General Studies. The one subject I didn’t revise for in the slightest. Typical. Ah well. No uni for me I thought and set about thinking what to do next. Do I sign on and look for work? Do I resit? Do I go to a different college? My mum looked sad. She had hoped that I would be the first of her boys to go to university and get a degree.
Then the phone rang.
It was from the clearing department of the new Sheffield Hallam University previously Sheffield City Polytechnic.
“Mr Gnomepants” said a voice “We would like to offer you a place on our HND Chemistry course”
I looked at my mum’s sad face.
I thought hard.
I saw only one option left
“I’ll take it” I said.