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Loneliness of the A-level overachiever.

November 25, 2015

Alan Sillitoe in 2009

I might have saved myself a great deal of pain if I had read Alan Sillitoe’s “Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”, before Warrington Grammar School Head P.M. Jackson began his machinations to get me to apply to his preferred university. The relationship between Jackson and me could be compared to that between the Risley Towers Borstal governor and the young offender, Smith, in Sillitoe’s story.

Headmaster Jackson, educated at a private school in the South of England, owned the power. As a thinking, feeling person, I was of no interest to him. His masturbation obsession was more than just a peculiar eccentricity. He used it to confuse through his repulsive behaviour, so he could pretend concern yet avoid asking questions like “how do you feel about Oxford?”, and “what would you have done if I hadn’t locked you in the examination room when you arrived late for the entrance exam?”

I took part in a school visit to Warrington’s police station once. The constable showed us a hatch in the door, and told us that only one person had ever escaped through it. The constable said it was a petty offender he identified as little Reggie Pugin (not his real name). Reggie Pugin used to live next door but one from us in Broadhurst Avenue.

Manchester University seemed very keen to have me. They gave me the same A-level offer as Hertford – 2 “E”s. To Manchester Uni., I wouldn’t have been a disposable object in a social experiment. They would have taken me seriously as a student, and would have valued my 3 “A”s. If they had a chemistry “open” scholarship to offer, I doubt they would have given it and the associated accommodation entitlement to Manchester University chemistry professor’s son.

Headmaster Jackson wanted to brag about sending proletarian type students to Oxford. Going to Hertford College was a rotten, lonely, alienating, damaging outcome for me.


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