Haven’t written a blog for ages. Been busy: hopefully honing my writing skills.
One of my regular delights is a negative one: it’s not having to get up in the mornings. I do get up eventually of course, but not at those ghastly hours when I had to catch a train to London or motor up to some outlandish place in the north to attend a meeting or deliver a course. Nowadays, my radio belches out the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 at about 7.30 a.m. and then I just lie about cursing at the aggressive bias of the interviewers until I feel ready to take a run or cycle to the gym.
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It was on such a morning that I heard the announcements concerning this year’s UK exam results for sixteen-year-olds – the GCSEs. Hardly jump out of bed stuff, but it did send me spinning back to my own teens. In my day you received the dreaded results by paper mail. I can remember looking at mine with some disbelief.
Funnily enough I can remember the exact street in Cheltenham where I studied them. The bearer of this momentous piece of information was devastatingly disappointing: a flimsy slip of paper simply listing subjects and grades, little more than a single shred from today’s shredders. In those days grades were not that important. In ‘O’ levels, as they were called, failure was not encouraged, but it was allowed: it was the number of subjects that you passed that mattered. I did OK - I seem to remember that I got a grade 1 in something; grade 8 was a pass.
Dozing can lead to considerable confusion and listening to the radio I was – confused. Everything seemed upside down as they reported on the year’s results. In previous years they had used letters to represent grades, but this year they had reverted to numbers again. However, grade 9 was the top and grade 1 was the bottom. Seemed odd, and to quote from David Richard Getling who knows more about this stuff and is a little more outspoken than I am : ‘Of course, only someone as intensely stupid as the British government would have invented such a grading system. Top grades have always been 1 or A. We talk of something being first class, or A grade, if it's the best: and this is common throughout the world. So it takes a complete and utter moron to do the opposite.’
Those recent announcements reminded me of how hard I worked in revising for my exams. I can remember the hunted look on the faces of my teachers as exams loomed and I approached them with my incredibly long list of questions in which I tried to understand all the things I should have understood from their lessons. More topically I can recall the longing for the revision and the exams to come to end so that I could be free. Yes free. Free to do what? Instead of freedom I actually experienced what is best described as bathos, or anticlimax, or post natal depression without the baby.
Finishing reading a good book is a bit like that. Finishing writing a book is exactly like that: hence the title of this blog. Actually I haven’t quite finished, one never does. But the first draft is done, the bathos then has two sources. First, during the very creative part of researching and writing there aren’t enough hours in the day: in other words there is always something to do – and a deadline to meet. And second, now that the baby is born, one becomes protective, yet critical. Is it any good? Wouldn’t it have been much better structured in a different way? Does the title do it justice? If I start fiddling with it, will the panoply collapse and all the cross references go astray?
Though I often self-publish, this one goes off to the publishers. More worries. Is it ready? Will they like it? Is it what they thought it would be? Will their editors tear it apart and bastardise it.
Hey, ho. The journey’s been good though. There should be a song The Bookend Blues. I’ll make a start on the lyrics right now, but then would I be happy with them?