Posts Tagged ‘university’

The offer


The letter arrived on a Wednesday morning, L’s non-working day. She sent G a text asking if she should open it. He vacillated (of course), then said ‘yes’. The envelope was thick, which L thought was encouraging. Inside was the offer to study History at Lincoln College, Oxford on the condition of achieving three A grades.

Gabe was surprised and so pleased. We had a celebratory pizza. A few days later, he went to a schoolmate’s 18th birthday, where he celebrated in more traditional style, arriving home late and worse for wear.

No sooner has his achievement sunk in than mock A Levels remind him of the task ahead.


Before school restarted, Robin and I had time for one lengthy ride. He loved it and loves his bike. He has ridden to school every day so far, bar the morning I stopped him for fear of icy roads. One afternoon, approaching home, he realised he wasn’t ready to unseat and come home, so took off for a further lap of the neighbourhood.


Eliza has found a second line of income earning, to supplement the hours she spends each weekend running birthday parties at the gym. She has picked up a baby-sitting gig, courtesy of L’s neighbourhood WhatsApp group. She has completed one assignment so far, which was uneventful.


Oxford visit


Gabe and I started the half-term holiday with a trip to Oxford. In clear, winter light we walked to and around the larger colleges – Christ Church, Magdalen, New College. Gabe was awed and, I think intimidated. We returned the next day and headed for the centre: the Bodlein, the Radcliffe Camera, and then Lincoln to meet Dr Gauci, senior fellow in his office above the porter’s lodge. Dr G chatted away, checking himself a couple of times, to ask, “But what do you want to know?” Gabe struggled to summon up a question. We toured the college and then headed to the Indoor Market. From there, to Quod for lunch with Senior Fellow Skinner, who gave us the low down on all matters relating to admissions. Again, Gabe was tongue-tied, but we obtained all the information we needed.

His response to Oxford was positive. He liked Lincoln, although said he wouldn’t want to go where I had been, perhaps another small college. We now wait to see whether the purpose of the trip will be fulfilled: to motivate him to work hard.


Eliza received a school report – a table of numbers and letters. All was, as in with her previous reports, very positive (Her higher than expected performance in PE notable), with one exception. Her behaviour in Technology was graded as ‘requiring improvement’. She brushed it off, “Oh, he hates me. Everyone talks, but I’m the one he tells off.” But it seemed consistent with the thread of stories she has started to relate about school, which feature her being sharp-tongued, even insolent. At last, a bit of a rebel in the house.


This dates from September last year, but needs recording.

Robin accepted an invitation from his old school friend, A, to go to a Friday night youth club. It was held in a church across town. I left him and returned a couple of hours later. Robin didn’t delay leaving. He was muttering and unhappy. “Never going back.. boring.. they made us listen to them talking about religion!” He explained, affronted and almost outraged.

Michael Lewis


When I realised L would be away for Michael Lewis’s talk in Manchester, I offered the spare ticket to Gabe. Later it occurred to me that Eliza had expressed an interest in studying psychology, so proposed she come with me. She was never more than lukewarm about the idea and said she thought it would be “weird” for a child to go. Finally, on the day of the talk, she agreed to come with me to the Manchester University lecture hall. 

As she feared, it did seem she would be the only child in an audience of students and adults. But I spotted a girl of about her age sitting with her mother – five minutes later I turned and saw the mother pointing Eliza and me out to her daughter. 

Lewis spoke about his book on Kahneman and Tversky, two Israeli psychologists, for an hour, providing long fluent and entertaining answers to five or six questions from the presenter; and then took audience questions for 30 minutes. I found it fascinating. Even more rewarding was that Eliza was just as positive, to a degree that probably surprised her. We chatted about the talk all the way home, swapping examples and stories Lewis told that had interested or amused us. She also declared that she would definitely opt to study psychology for GCSE.


Robin seems more settled at school, but generally adrift and prone to be unhappy. News stories, or things he reads or hears about upset him. L came home early from book group when he called her distraught about an article reporting that Stephen Hawking said the world would be destroyed in 600 years. 

More prosaically he is struggling to make an impact in his football team. For the first time, he’s spending as much time off the pitch as a substitute as he is on it. He is being played in different positions – striker, central midfield – having played wide left for most of last season, but hasn’t really convinced the coaches anywhere and is convinced that he is unpopular with one of the coaches.


Gabe is thinking about university. He has been considering which universities he might wand to apply to, studying lists of top institutions. Oxford, Durham, St Andrews and Edinburgh are in his thoughts. I pointed out that the work experience he must do next summer may become important for his application statement. We identified places he might work at that would demonstrate his interest in history: local university history departments, museums and places of historical interest. He has written a few emails, received a few refusals, but not yet got on the phone to chase up an opportunity.