Having left school I led a charmed life. I submitted sentences to sub-editors who humiliated me into writing better sentences – a simple process. Then, against all my instincts, and using nothing more than the threat of draconian punishment, the RAF forced me to absorb the rudiments of electronics, an applied form of physics. Suddenly I had educational depth! Anyone more biddable might have concluded I’d been chosen and guided by a larger force. Perhaps even A Larger Force, with capital letters.
Yesterday I saw the movie of Alan Bennett's play The History Boys wherein Sheffield sixth-formers are prepared for the Oxford-Cambridge entrance exam.
These are very clever lads, already diverging from nuts-and-bolts school learning. In an easy-flowing yet competitive meritocracy they are, I suppose, employing their intelligence to develop their intellect. For the first time ever I saw being taught as an enjoyable process. I fancied my chances among them.
A delusion, of course. I was imagining myself as I am now - the product of decades of higgledy-piggledy experience - instead of what I then was: a surly seventeen-year-old length of gristle. Gristle too that had unbelievably triumphed over the barriers preceding A-levels. Even so... I was drawn to that noisy, jeering, well-read, broadly talented group of show-offs. Convinced I’d have fitted in.
Well it didn't happen and I’m not complaining. I'm fairly satisfied with the way things worked out, even if I do lack trained analytical ability and a mental database arrived at logically rather than willy-nilly.
But there's this worm that's nibbling away... they call it envy