Once we had done our usual job on the Chinnor home – new kitchen and bathrooms, new floor coverings, new lighting and decorated top to bottom – I needed something to keep me occupied. Fortunately for Jane, I found the Open University.
Jane had got a mature degree, Sarah and Matt had both earned a degree, so I was the only one in the family without one, I decided to remedy that. Never even paused to think about a science subject and opted for a BA in History. The course required you to do six modules and many students do one a year for six years, I felt that sounded too long-winded (and did I have that long?) so instead did two each year to complete the BA in three years.
The shock was that at each year end there was a written exam. See above how tough it had been writing to Jane from KL in 1996. Back then it had been thirty years since I had written a letter, now this was the first written exam I was to face in almost fifty years. I bought several books to practice in terms of both the act of writing and the timings for essays.
In the first year, one of the modules was a general Arts course that included music and poetry, neither of which featured high on my agenda, but they turned out to be two of the most memorable elements. On music I had to write an essay on The Specials Ghost Town – I had an edge over many of my fellow students, because I had actually lived through those early 1980s, the demos against unemployment, the city riots. On poetry we had an essay to compare Seamus Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist and Ted Hughes Bullfrog, which I also thoroughly enjoyed.