Saturday, 15 September 2012

Dire Sraits

I love writing my blog, writing about my cancer is very therapeutic for me, helps me get things out of my system and I hope helps others either who suffer this horrible disease or know people with it and helps them understand what their relatives or friends are going through. I have been complimented on my writing, which is a real boost to my morale and thought you may like to hear how I acquired my writing skills.

I went to an all girls grammar school, I passed my 11 plus by the skin of my teeth, solely because I had been coached in maths which I was never any good at and still only tolerate it for basic needs! I was always out of my depth at the school, I should have gone to a technical school as I am much more practical. Because I was always out of my depth I played around at school, always the class clown, but I excelled at sport and in the gym and on the sports field I felt at home. I left school with no 'O' levels and no real idea of what to do, my hopes of being a P.E. teacher had gone with my abysmal results. I liked children and went to work as a classroom assistant at an independent school for profoundly deaf children in London. After 4 years I decided I'd like to work abroad and as the school took in children from abroad as well, I was asked to go and teach a 5 year old profoundly deaf girl who's father worked in the American Embassy in Tehran. I lived in Tehran for a wonderful year, met some fantastic people, visited amazing places and grew up!

When I came back to England I was taken back at the school for the deaf, but this time employed as an unqualified teacher, a job I held for 7 more years. I realised during this time that I really needed more qualifications and enrolled at my local college of education to redo my English Language and Maths 'O' levels. It was a big step for me, it was 1974 and I was 21 and definitely not an academic, but I wanted some qualifications and hoped that further education would be right for me. On the first evening of my English language course, I sat in the room looking at my fellow students, there were a lot of young people straight out of school who for some reason or other needed to resit their 'O' level, I remember one couple, who were there to study and take the exam, so that they could experience what their son who was about to embark on 'O' levels would encounter so that they could help him. I really admired what they were doing and could never imagine my parents doing the same!

So we were all there ready, wondering what we had let ourselves in for and I was desperately hoping that our tutor would be someone who would be able to 'get me through the year and the exam at the end of it'. So, I was bitterly disappointed when through the door came a scruffy, long haired individual, not much older than me, wearing the smelliest afghan coat (those children of the '70's will remember them!) and carrying a guitar. My hopes of passing went down the drain in an instant! It just goes to show how much we judge people by their clothes, hair etc. He introduced himself..... he was then the unknown Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame. He was working as a journalist for a local paper at the time, his dream was to be a famous rock musician and he was always broke, hence the evening job teaching English! I soon realised through his individual ways of teaching that I could understand exactly how he was trying to teach us to write, we were told to write from the heart, as if we were having a conversation with someone on the telephone who needed a full description of everything. He told us that he wrote songs and that was how he wrote the lyrics. He would often play us a new song at the end of the class, trying it out on us and asking for our thoughts. As he and I were of a similar age, we would often sit together in the canteen, discussing our hopes and dreams, he told me I was a good writer and to carry on once I left the college. He had no car, so as he lived on my way home I always gave him a lift, he still owes me petrol money!

The English Language 'O' level? I passed with an A* grade and for the first time I had a little belief in myself!


  1. Coached too for maths to pass 11 plus!! never felt i missed out on it......great blog!

  2. Super writing Alison and well done on going "back to school" to further your education. And well done on the A grade! Woohoo. Now I want to know what you DID with that A in English Language. (Apart from write a blog of course!)

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