Thursday, August 19, 1982


A fine clear windy morning with blue skies but I felt sick inside. I set off to school at nine, leaving Mum as nervous as I was.

I met Jeremy and Deborah on the way in and we laughed and joked nervously, but Deborah looked deathly pale and she seemed pretty worried. We had an agonising wait outside Barkston’s office until, finally, Mr. Elson opened the door clutching a handful of plain brown envelopes with our names neatly biro-ed on the front. He put them down on a table in the hallway—a mad scramble ensued as we grabbed our envelopes—and Jeremy, Lee and I rushed downstairs to the common room.

I couldn’t bear to open mine. . . . A jubilant shout from Lee; a ‘B’ in English. . . . Fearfully, I tore at the envelope . . . an ‘A’ in English . . . a ‘B’ in General Studies . . . an ‘A’ in History . . . a ‘B’ in Art. I just couldn’t believe it!

My amazement was immediately tempered; there was Elaine Buckley crumpled in tears, comforted by her father after four fails, Deborah white faced and desolate after three fails and an ‘E’ in English, Mark Pittock with two ‘E’s and two fails. And I cocked about all last year and yet get this! I felt guilty and any pleasure I might have felt was offset by the unhappiness all around. Lee had mixed feelings about his B, C and two Es. Jeremy got BBCD, Duncan ADE and F (his ‘A’ in Eng. Lit.). I feel like such a fraud.

At home Mum and Dad were both very pleased but I just couldn’t be like Dad  (“I can’t understand your attitude. Everyone should look after themselves first!”). A few minutes after I got back Grant rang, his voice resigned and shivery as he told me of his two Es and a fail in English. This only made me feel worse.

After I got home from Tesco, I got into a blazing row with Mum & Dad over my reasons for going to University. Dad asked if a Watermouth degree will be “as good as a degree from Oxford for finding a job” and I answered (rashly I suppose) that “I’m not going there for purely mercenary career reasons.” This soon escalated into a why-are-you-going-then? argument before Dad stormed off to bed. I was angry at their intransigence and stubborn misinterpretation of what I'd said.

I do understand their point of view; they're making a big commitment, but should I be tied to their wishes for ever because of this? I see now that this is going to be an area of howling dissension between us over the years, a “rift” as Mum puts it, with them condemning my apparently aimless drifting to and fro.

But why am I going to University? I don’t really know, but it is definitely not just to carve out a secure little materialistic niche for myself.

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