Growing up expectations
Growing up as the fourth child of five to parents who were German and French teachers was brilliant. I had a really happy childhood, the house was always busy with laughter, shouting, fighting, tears, visitors and mayhem! However, for me there was always an added expectation to do well at school and in exams. This was not forced on me by my parents, as I believe my elder siblings had broken down barriers in that respect, and by the time it was my turn my parents were too worn-out to give me a hard time to get results. I’m not saying they didn’t care, but I didn’t get pressured and so long as I was doing well and going to go to St Mary’s 6th Form then I was pretty much left alone. So, I did the minimum at school, filled my spare time playing football and golf and working at the local Driving Range collecting the golf balls and working in the shop, instead of revising.
Realities of revision
My year group were first to sit the new GCSEs, May 1988. The shrewdies amongst you have worked out my age, I know, it’s unbelievable isn’t it!?! I had done ok in my mocks and was expected to get mainly A-Cs. Approximately two weeks before my exams, Dad asked to test me on my French. After a careful line of questioning, he was suitably unimpressed and proceeded to tell me off and said there was no way I would pass a French exam. Naturally I was upset and decided to study just French for the last two weeks, to the detriment of Physics and Chemistry, sorry Messrs McCullagh & Markey.
I sat the exams and enjoyed a long hot summer until results day in August. I was at school early to pick them up and nervously opening the envelope read down the list of subjects – Maths B, English B, Economics B, History C, French A!! Sacre bleu!!! I had done it. Lighting up the page like the neon lights of the Folies Bergere; like the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur lit against the Paris night. My ARC DE TRIOMPHE!!
I walked home head held high, chest out ready to claim my prize, to bask in the glory of being the only sibling to get an A in French. As I walked in the front room, Dad was in his chair, headphones blasting Beethoven or Berlioz, surrounded by a cloud of Golden Virginia smoke from his pipe. He took the results, read down the list and without taking off his headphones nonchalantly said, “it must be a mistake.” I turned and went to show mam in the kitchen, she said “eeeeee well done pet, now nip to Newboulds for some bacon and sausage will you, there’s a good lad”!
It still makes me laugh to this day and also to be thankful for three things; firstly, I never got uptight about exams after that, my A levels, Banking Exams, Financial Services exams. Secondly, I have been to France on numerous occasions and can get by with directions, shopping, finding the swimming pool and library! Finally getting Ds in Physics and Chemistry so I didn’t have to study them anymore!
Thanks Dad, sorry, merci beaucoup papa!!