Television programmes in the UK were a wondrous revelation to me as in SA I had been fed on a steady diet of Maya the Bee and American series imports. I revelled in British humour which made more sense to me than much of what I had seen back in SA. Now I was introduced to the joys of Monty Python, Lenny Henry, Rising Damp, and many many more.
While watching the gogglebox I wasn’t aware I was undergoing a subtle blossoming of character. This was never more evident than when I went off to university in Salford. This was by no means a straight forward journey. I had to go back to school at the age of 20 as all the documents charting my educational achievements at private school were lost at sea. No, that’s not a metaphor. They were stuck in a trunk on a freight ship heading for Canada.
I went back to school to do GCSEs then A’Levels. All it involved was reading, something I already loved doing. And then writing a bit about what I was reading. It was here I first got the opportunity to share my creative writing with people other than my parents. I wrote a short story about two boys living on a remote farm in South Africa. They loved each other but there were several drawbacks, the first of those being one was black and the other white.
The private school I attended in SA was highly academic. I aced the English part of the entrance exam but barely scraped through the Maths. That and Science would always be my nemeses. I just about passed my final exams and that only after a resit. But now I was in the UK and suddenly had the opportunity to try subjects I’d been urged to consider hobbies back in SA. I saw a glimmer in the deep and I dived.
I discovered I had an adventurous spirit I wasn’t even aware of. It had been lying dormant just waiting for the tiniest of nudges to assert itself. Suddenly I was going off on painting holidays in Perthshire, putting together poetry collections and writing, writing, writing.
GCSEs & A’ Levels in the UK gave me the opportunity to realise I was not the dunce I thought I was. Suddenly other students were asking for my help. But what was more important – I knew how to help them. This I believe, was the start of my move towards teaching even though I didn’t realise it right there and then.
Teaching would in turn lead me to pursue my writing on a more full time basis. And while at university I was indoctrinated into the true ways of being a student, namely watching a minimum of 2 soaps a day, spending time in pubs, lying in bed till very late in the day (something I was never able to accomplish sadly) and learning about appropriate things to watch and read by fellow mature students. They knew their stuff. Age definitely equals wisdom. They introduced me to the delights of Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Tad Williams, Douglas Adams, snooker, cheese boards, Belgian fruit beers…
I think you get the idea.
The pearls I found at school and university may have been tiny but the pile was steadily growing. The smallest yet most significant pile of pearls are barely enough to shape into a bracelet. Luckily I’ve got very skinny wrists and those pearls would turn out to be diamonds in disguise.