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After a longish period, with not much happening at all, the last week has been a particularly good time for reviews of my 'nostalgedy&#...

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Forty Years On (and counting)

With everyone starting to think about their summer holidays, I thought this series of articles that originally appeared in the Derby Telegraph last year might have some relevance.


It comes as quite a shock to discover that it is forty years since a particular point in your personal history, like it being forty four years since we last won the World Cup, for example, and yet I can still remember watching the game on our black and white TV.  In 2010 we celebrated our Twentieth Wedding Anniversary, and yet it only seems a year or two since we were cutting the wedding cake as the February rain lashed against the windows of our village hall.  However, it came as quite a surprise to realise that, in September 2010, I had known my mate Kev for forty years.  Thoughts come tumbling through your mind, like; How did that happen?  Where did the time go?  And, thank heavens he’s given up smoking so I’ll never have to give him back the cigarette I cadged on the stairs of Burton Technical College.

This is the start of a story that culminates in a very silly holiday in Majorca but also celebrates a friendship that endures despite geography and advancing age.  However, before we get ahead of ourselves, I need to explain how I came to be on the stairs of Burton Technical College in the first place.

Anglesey Secondary Modern in Clarence Street, Burton had a great reputation for achieving what it was founded for - to provide sufficient vocational and academic training to fit its pupils for work in the brewing, printing or engineering industries.  The brightest boys achieved apprenticeships with Rolls Royce, whilst others gained employment with Bass or Ind Coope.  Some went to Darleys or Tresises, others to BTR or Briggs.  One particularly over-achieving student had gained a post, at the personal invitation of Sir Clifford Gothard, to his accountancy business and was spoken of in hushed tones by staff and students alike.  He floated around the school on a cloud of success, viewing the rest of us scruffy scholars with disdain.  I often wonder what happened to him.  Is he now a force to be reckoned with in The City, or does he wrangle supermarket trolleys, muttering about what might have been?  Anyway, as a school, it was not really designed for academic prowess and had pretty much done everything it could with you by the time you reached 14 or 15.  The few of us who had gone on to sit GCE ‘O’ Levels, had nowhere to go if we wanted to continue our studies.  We had to find some institution that would accept us into its Sixth Form.

The options open to us were, for the boys, the Grammar School, for the girls, the Girls’ High School, and for both genders, Burton Technical College.  As the Grammar School was where I was supposed to be heading before I made an unexpected mess of my 11+, it was assumed that I would gravitate there.  I was less sure, particularly after a visit there made it apparent that I would be expected to wear a uniform again (the rules for this were relaxed at Anglesey for us in the Upper 5th) and to take an active part in the playing of rugby and other sports, as well as P.E.  Given that it had taken me five years to finally extricate myself from all of this at Anglesey (and I had never grappled with rugby), I wasn’t entirely sure that this pursuit of academic excellence was worth the candle.  Fortunately, the Grammar School apparently viewed me with the same distaste, as they decided to forego my kind offer to study with them.  This was not quite the blow it might have been as I had now visited Burton Tech. and had seen that there I could smoke, drink tea and coffee (instead of school milk) from Perspex cups in the Refectory and generally be treated like an adult (which I was not, but aspired to be) as opposed to an overgrown schoolboy (which I was, but didn’t like to admit it).

All I had to do now was to fill in the yawning gap between leaving Anglesey and joining Burton Tech., of which more next time (Putting the lid on it)


You can find more stories from The Slightly Odd World of Phil Whiteland in e-book format - Steady Past Your Granny's - Kindle Edition (UK) or Steady Past Your Granny's - Kindle Edition (USA)