Saturday, 7 May 2016

Oxford the academic era

I left for Oxford in September 1995 into a world of the unknown, along with a lot of others from around the UK and abroad.

It was a time of excitement and a place where dreams can come true. Introductions to all the new people were really good, There were nobody that I didn't dislike and I even became attracted to a few of them. This attraction wasn't mutual and unfortunately some of the friendships made at Plater faded with time and others ended when the course did.

The academic course was very intense and extremely stressful as it was a case of going from nothing to degree level in one year, I lost 2 stone in weight, thanks to the intensity of the course, admittedly I needed to lose it. There was nothing wrong with the food, the only problem was me and how I took to the course. I didn't take to the course very well as I was stressed living away from home thinking for myself, writing amazingly long essays etc. There was a counselling service that I didn't take advantage of as I saw that as a sign of weakness,  I didn't want to be seen as weak and lose my chance of doing something good in my life as I was told that if you graduate with a degree then the world was my oyster and I could do anything I want with a degree. This will be addressed in a further installment titled a degree is it worth it to get into the work place?

I was thrown mentally, by the people around me falling apart emotionally. One of my closest friends who I am still in contact with today, had to spend a few weeks away in order to get professional help for her stress. Maybe it was something that could have done with, but I was so desperate and under pressure to keep hold of the course, going home was not an option

The Oxford union society was an eye opener, upon reflection I wish that it opened my eyes a little more as it could have saved me a lot of stress in later years,  That aside I got to meet a lot of stars that were famous at that time and even when I questioned Sir Robin Day about him interviewing the next Prime Minister, his reply made front page of the Oxford Union weekly. That is a credit that I will definitely claim from then and now.

The Catholic ethos around Plater College was very good and mass or Holy Communion was available every day apart from Sunday when we were told to mingle with society. As a Eucharistic Minister I celebrated my first ever Communion service and celebrated that fact afterwards with my close friends.

The essays as I mentioned before that were the cause of all my stress and anxiety, didn't actually count for anything towards the final result. All they did was give practice and lead up to the biggest week of our lives. It was all on the exam season 4 fixtures over 3 days. The first day was 2 back to back 3 hour exam papers. The second of the first day of exams didn't go down very well as the paper changed whilst we were doing the course, something which I was accustomed to having been one of the first to complete the GCSE exams back in 1988.

I didn't worry too much about the bad exam as the other papers I felt stronger in two of the papers I took. It was said that it would be possible to pass the whole lot if you have a good aggregate score throughout the papers. Like the rumour there was brandy served for stressed out students in the exam having an aggregate score was a lie too. It was necessary for you to pass all papers in order to pass the course.

When the results came in, saying that I hadn't done the necessary to pass the course, I was so downhearted to the point of that I lost all faith in the existence of God something which you would think would never happen to some one like me but it did.

Throughout by biography you will find that I have had pretty much an on and off relationship with God and the Church. I think that when you read through it you will find out why it hasn't been the best of relationships and probably wouldn't blame me. I do have a faith in God and no matter how angry I get with him about things, not going how I would like them to have done I know that he is there for me writing a better plan for me than mine.

After a few days of despair believing that I was destined to life without a degree, a letter came through the post offering me a place at Northampton College of Higher Education.

Coming up in the next installment is my academic life at Northampton.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Biography from Hull to Oxford

Welcome to my blog. Previously I used this blog to talk about anything and everything as a grieving process after my Dad died in 2007, That was then and this is now. A new start, before I do introduce to you what I intend to use this blog for then let me introduce myself.

I was born in a town called Beverley, which is in Yorkshire, close to the city of Hull back on 21 April 1972, I wasn't the most text book of births, having presented myself to the world feet first at 10.30am and the rest of me arrived by 2.10pm. In modern day technology I would have been a C-section but back then there wasn't the regular scans like they do now. So much has changed in my life time and it is hard to keep up with the changes.

I was born to a Catholic family, who enjoyed the church very much. It wasn't a case of just mass on Sunday but mass every day and I was brought up with high moral standards.

Having high moral standards was a blessing and a curse. The curse being the tough love approach, that my father dictated to his family.  It was blessing as it has kept me outside of a prison cell. So in a sense I should be grateful that the tough love approach has kept me on the right side of the law, but I can't fully appreciate it as it has had a serious effect on my self esteem.

The childhood memories that I do have were mixed. I know that I was loved, but being the maverick that I am,, a lot of the time I was in trouble with my Dad and there was a lot of walking on metaphorical egg shells to do as after every incident there was an uneasy peace.

My Dad did do the best that he could in providing for us, I wasn't kitted out in the latest designer wear, mainly because I would grow out of it very quickly and designer wear wasn't cost effective enough to keep up with my rate of growth. At home he ruled the roost, as did his father, so I can't really blame him for how he controlled me as a kid. My father didn't have much of a roll model himself and neither did his father going up ad nausium, mainly because he came from a long line of seaman who spent most of their time at sea and didn't have much time at home which was mainly spent sorting out the problems that were left for them to look after whilst they were at sea trawling for the fish to put on our plates.

So now to my Mum, she was the calm in the storm and she put things into prospective. The good cop in the partnership. She throughout my childhood received a lot of my anger. It should have been directed at my Dad but as she was part of the duo and the weakest one of the two she got both barrels. It's something that I copied from my Dad as he didn't direct his anger to his Dad but mainly to his Mum who wouldn't intentionally hurt a fly and was so nice to all. This being nice to all attitude my Granny had was more of a curse for her, as when looking back throughout the years, she was a slave to all and I am quite certain she would have loved to have said "leave me alone" but didn't as she also was the binder of the family. When she died in 1997 and my Grandpa in 1999 that side of the family didn't have much to do with us until 2003 which was the year that my Dad become terminally ill with dementia at a young age.

They say that your school years are the best years of your life. Whoever said that originally, needs to have a lie down in a dark room in order to think about what they have said. if they still think that they are right then I suggest they repeat the process who they re-think their feelings about school years. The reason why I say this my school years were Hell on earth. When I was at school, I had a speech problem and didn't fit into the gang as I didn't have the latest gear. Another reason why I didn't fit in was because I had a faith in God and the Catholic ethos, even though I went to the Catholic schools I was bullied for being a little more active in the church than others. When you come from a family with 2 priests in the family you had no choice it was a way of life as nobody in our family knew any different.

My speech problems and low self esteem didn't help me much. I was incapable in articulating my emotions and feelings. If they were better they may have prevented me from the bullying I had throughout the Catholic school system.

After a school trip in junior school to Fountains Abbey I was run over by a car, whilst rushing home. The reasons behind it I blame totally on the pressure put on me by the teacher, this was down to the fact there was a Confirmation mass going on at the church I was baptised in later on that evening. I had a dance class to get to also, I did have a passion for Irish Dancing believing that if I continued with it could have been me on stage and not Michael Flattley.

Thanks to the school trip incident, my bullying intensified and as the years got closer to GCSE time the first available exit looked promising. I wish that I was more capable in expressing my opinions in a way that my Dad would have listened but I wasn't so I have the life I have now and not the one that could have been.

Having left school at 16 I went on the Youth Training schemes and Employment Training schemes, the rule of my father still didn't stop, it relaxed a bit but not fully stopped.

Thanks to the bullies including my Dad, I wasn't very good with money as I always wanted more so I  turned to gambling as a way to increase my income as I saw it as a get rich quick scheme. My gambling addiction will be addressed in another installment as it is an issue on it's own.

I eventually found full time work at 20,, after completing lots of training scams which promised employment but nothing materialised. I found a job at the demoralising job club, that I didn't even turn up to the interview but was offered the job anyway. When I settled in the job, I started learning to drive and thankfully passed on my 2nd attempt, the best in the family. However just before I passed my test I brought myself a car which wasn't my best choice as I was fired from my job within a week of buying the car but don't panic I was employed again within the week. So all was well on the job front.

The job wasn't the best psychologically as I am a people person and I was left alone on this job for long periods of time. On the positive I gained my Dad's respect to a degree and his psychological warfare stopped.

As a church activist, my Dad was aware that a job in Security wasn't a great career move, saw an article in the Catholic press that was the best move ever. He conceded defeat that I was more interested in Social Studies so introduced me to Plater College as it was an access course into Higher Education.

Coming up in part 2 life at Oxford