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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

#65: Two Degrees of Separation — Part Two

There was method to my apparent rashness. I stumbled upon a loophole in the system.

A new friend – and fellow esteemed member of the D.E.N. club, as I recall – had learned it was possible to switch courses.

As in, abandon the science-based computer geeking which had us dozing off before we’d opened a textbook in earnest, and swim back across the River Sow to the hearty homeland of the arts dept. And choose a course which would… have us dozing off before we’d opened a textbook in earnest. But was at least a subject we were vaguely interested in.

Staffs Poly offered a degree course called Modern Studies. Or Mickey Mouse Studies, as my room-mate Ian christened it.

Modern Studies was essentially A Level subjects (or most of those offered at the latter level) in degree form. With a few quirky additional options thrown in for good measure.

The course was structured so you took four different subjects in Year One; then specialized in two from Year Two. I opted for International Relations; English Lit., Sociology and, so my wardrobe-sized English-French dictionary didn’t go to waste, French.

The college had no issue with us switching from one subject which potentially offered very real career prospects – to another which would turn out to be largely useless on the ‘other side’… unless you were shooting for a career as a lecturer teaching Modern Studies at a B Grade ‘university’.

I was extremely focused in Year One of my degree. On golf, football and trying to woo Vicky, a Latin-American/Indian beauty with amazing eyes. First time living away from home. Independence. Freedom. Time to go crazy. Well, sort of.

Just before heading 90 minutes north to Stafford, I shot my best round to date – 81 – and so my golf clubs got their own spot in my hall dorm.

My second day there, I ventured out to the nearby Stafford Castle Golf Club, dragging a buddy Paul (who I'd met at the Uni opening night get-together) along for the ride as my caddy.

The golf addiction would only gain momentum during my time at Staffs Poly.

On the football (/soccer) front, I met another John (Reber) early on, during trials for the university team (one of us made it; and he was called John – that's all I can say).

He was also studying Mickey Mouse—I mean, Modern Studies and helped launch a course team, which I managed to bag a place on. We did battle against rival subjects once a week, and the matches were a welcome escape from the drudgery of the academic stuff. At least from my perspective.

Our shirts were AC Milan colours – red and black vertical stripes – and I don’t recall exactly how we attained them (though the words “back”, “lorry”, “falling”, and “off” may have played a part in the answer).

We also got the letters “BMS” proudly printed on the front of our shirts. As in, “Bachelor (of) Modern Studies”. Or “Bare Minimum (of) Study”, which was what we actually had running underneath the bold acronym.

I’m not sure BMS won many trophies, but we famously took the honours in a grudge match against F.C. BS (Bachelor of Sociology). Those guys were full of it.

And then there was Vicky. The object of my affections for at least the first three weeks of Year One.

Vicky caught my eye the first time I saw her. She was shy but sultry, and an apparent blend of Latin-American and Indian genes.

Rich, penetrating brown eyes, that could melt a marsh mellow at 10 paces (I know this as I got her to try it, claiming it was part of an International Relations project).

Vicky was generally chaperoned by her 'agent' Susan, who I got on well with, but never foresaw as a potential partner in unrestrained jiggery-pokery.

After those three weeks, I finally plucked up the courage... to ask Susan to ask Vicky out for me. She politely declined – and slapped a metaphorical restraining order on me.

At which point I took some time out before planning my next romantic disaster.

The rest of the First Year whizzed by in a flash (for the purposes of wrapping up this column). I did, however, make great progress… on the pool table (famously thrashing a Tom Cruise lookalike 3-0 in my halls of residence) and on the golf course, where I swished wildly with a Des Lyman lookalike and friends, once a week.

Cramming the night (or perhaps week) before, I was able to secure grade C’s for International Relations, English Lit. and Sociology in the end-of-year exams. All I needed was something similar in French to move on to Year Two, and… D’oh! (French for D’oh!).

I failed French.

I recall my oral exam was pretty bad. My strategy of filling gaps where I didn’t know the words (there were a lot of these) with “Hon-hee-hon-hee-hon” in the style of Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther cartoons seemed to backfire spectacularly.

Which meant I had to study/revise during my '92 summer trip to Canada (for a resit).

And take my sofa-sized (English-French) dictionary along for the ride.


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