Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Friday, September 23, 2005

Virtus vera nobilitas...


Aged eleven I went to a comprehensive school in Stevenage. It was an all-boy's school and a bit of rough old place really. The pecking order was established fairly early on by fights amongst the kids - an example set for us by the sometimes violent staff (expulsions for threatening behaviour by both staff and pupils were not uncommon). Being a sensitive child I was petrified. But despite, and possibly because of, that I kept my nose in a book and studied quite hard. I consequently did quite well exam-wise (12 O-levels, 5 A-levels) - helped along by the fact that I fancied the pants off my maths teacher (male) for my first three years and then both my physics teachers (one male, one female) in the fifth and sixth forms. I was very eager to please. A swot, basically. And my parents, while never what you might call pushy, were too very proud of my results. Neither of them had ever been to university. They were overjoyed when I was encouraged to stay on and do a seventh term in the sixth form and take the Oxbridge entrance exam (no one had done that at our school for over twenty years). Much to my surprise (no, really!) and what I can only put down to luck I won an entrance award (something called an Exhibition) to study at Trinity College, Cambridge. An Exhibition is when you do rather well in the entrance exam, better than a mere pass but not as good as say a Scholarship. As I say, I didn't say I was actually clever. Just lucky.

Socially my three years at Trinity were initially fantastic but descended into probably the most difficult, and in many ways the unhappiest, three years of my life. I find it hard to talk about it even now. I can't really bring myself to go into the details of what happened but I had my heart broken and am not proud of how I reacted. I was also threatened and bullied in my final year which rather ruined the whole experience.

Academically I faired somewhat better - studying cosmology, advanced quantum mechanics & general relativity (yeah, yeah I know, easy options, huh?). The entrance award had given me better lodgings and also money towards accommodation. As a result I was able to live in college all three years. It was a sheltered existence which meant I didn't have to face the real world - far more gown than town life.

So what did I get out of the experience? Well, officially I am the not-so-proud owner of letters after my name. To be precise they are MA (Hons) Cantab MBCS. But that's not much to show for three years at university. I have no friends from there - no one I keep in contact with. Not one a single person. Sad really. And if anyone asks about where I went to university I tend to just keep it quiet. I don't like to talk about Cambridge. I'm frankly embarrassed I ever went there.

Which brings us to today. And given my hatred of the place just how can I explain that in six hours I am going to my first college reunion at Trinity College, Cambridge? 21 years after swearing I'd never go back there I'm currently packing a dinner jacket, bow tie and cummerbund. I shall be having tea with the Master, drinks with the Fellows, attend dinner in Great Hall and stay the night in college. Oh, and there's all my contemporaries to see.

So why am I going? I was contacted. Via Friends Reunited. By Sarah. Someone I was at college with. And she persuaded me to go. Using the powers of logic. "You have to come", she said. And she's right. I do have to go. Damn logic! Gets me every time!

So here I am waiting to go. I'm nervous. Churning with emotions. And actually genuinely afraid. I must be mad. But this is the new me. I do have to go. I'll be 44 on Monday for God's sake and it's about bloody time I lay some of these ghosts to rest. About bloody time. So it's carpe diem all the way. Virtus vera nobilitas.

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