Back to School


Many of us, on turning 45, decide that we desperately need to do a Masterate, and just like that we are back at university, such is the ease of enrolment, extramural study, access to money and the luxury of real thinking.

Back in our first degrees, some of us hung on by the skin of our teeth. We’d reached the end of seventh form, barely scraping through those five external examinations…

So, in summary, and conclusion, Raphael was influenced by Perugino to the extent that alot of the works look the same.

…we’d had the end-of-year party during the day, we’d tapped the keg of destiny, we’d worked the god-forsaken holiday job at the elderly rest home, and now it was time to step into the world of unpacking meaning, trying to make friends with your tutor and managing to attend the labs on Friday morning after a heavy Thursday night.

Wonderful though it was, it was harrowing. A Bachelor of Arts degree was a wasteland of epic proportions, and there was always an older lady in a pashmina at the front, relentless in her questioning…

Is it essential we have the prescribed edition of the novel, it’s just that I…

This discourse could go on for the whole lecture, and you didn’t even care as you just wanted to hit Shadows Bar for a swift jug or seven to forget the embarrassing fact that you didn’t even have the novel yet, you were just going to use the Coles Notes and watch the BBC dramatised version starring Brenda Blethyn; no-one would know, least of all your Oxford-educated professor of English lecturer.

Later on as you ambled through life you yearned to repair the hot mess of your first degree. If only you could have your time again, it would be done much better, you thought. This time you’d get invited to the University Club instead of just Shads, you’d forget the idea that Queen Street backpackers’ had all-night bars and that it would be fun to continue drinking and dancing with Argentinians until 4am on a Monday;  that all those Head Like A Hole gigs in the Union that cleaned you out of both borrowed money and hearing weren’t a great idea…

You found yourself far more focussed than ever, in fact you had turned into a virtual version of the pashmina-woman; all your assignments were turned in unspeakably early and you’d become an all-round Jean Rhys specialist, of no more use now than it was then.

Sadly, you were boring, and the university clearly forgot to make you do the compulsory course called “Shutting The Fuck Up About Your Study After 45”. In fact they couldn’t get rid of you, and you kept going, finishing your completely self-centred fantasy degree at age 97, and appearing as a regular on University Challenge.

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