Tuesday, 10 January 2012
Day 10 – The Human League – The Sound of the Crowd
1981 was a pivotal year in my life. The Human League released The Sound of the Crowd, the first song from the album Dare and it serves as a reminder of that year – both good and bad.
I love the song and it reminds me vividly of a year that was a rollercoaster of emotion.
In the summer of 1981 I finished my A Levels and left school. As you can imagine, it was quite an experience. My dad made sure that I knuckled down and revised for my exams.
It was difficult and I can honestly say that I worked really hard; I had too. Maths was relatively easy and I actually enjoyed doing past papers – so much so that I did them for fun.
My other two main subjects, Physics and Chemistry proved to be very challenging. From the day my Chemistry teacher said “Forget all you learned at O Level – this is what really happens” I realised that this was going to be tough. I didn’t really enjoy Physics either but I took it keep my options open. And it too was tough.
I spent most of my time in my room trying to turn my brain into a knowledge sponge – and just like a sponge, when you squeezed it, the knowledge flooded tight out again.
I became a hermit. I gave up my job at the newsagent. And I passed the exams – all of them.
When the exam results turned up, the first person I told was my dad – who was really proud of my accomplishment. I had achieved the grades to go to my first choice university; Liverpool.
My mum was happy but I could tell that she wasn’t comfortable with my leaving home for three years.
My dad on the other hand told all of his mates and was delighted that a factory worker had somehow spawned a child intelligent enough to get to university.
Everyone was happy.
Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer that year too. The UK celebrated and every town and city in the land had a party. The pubs were open all day and my dad took advantage of this by disappearing at around four o’clock in the afternoon to meet his mates in Walsall town centre.
My mates and I didn’t have enough money to spend all day drinking so we wandered around soaking in the atmosphere in the town before finally arriving in a pub at around eight o’clock – only to find my dad there.
He was quite drunk and quite generous.
We stayed there with him for a couple of hours before he finally said “We’d better get home. Your mum will go mad.”
S, my dad and I wobbled home chatting about life and the wedding. It was fabulous – we were all merry and laughing. I remember with horror my best mate Simon asking my dad:
“Would you do her, George?”
“Would you do Lady Diana?”
“Too young,” said my dad diplomatically.
“I would,” I said at which point my dad almost fell over laughing.
The wedding was in July.
My dad died in August – he was only 44.
It is still difficult for me to get my head around how it could have happened and why an apparently fit 44 year old could die so suddenly. The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot in his leg.
My dreams were utterly shattered. The man who had pushed me to get to university, the man who was so proud of my achievement and the man who had sacrificed so much for me was gone.
I almost gave up.
I almost called Liverpool University to tell them that I would not be coming. I changed my mind when everybody who knew my dad urged me to carry on. People told me how proud he was and what he hoped for me and that it would be a complete waste for me to throw it all away.
After a lot of thought and encouragement I made the decision. I would follow my dad’s dream.
In October 1981, I found myself on a train to Liverpool with a suitcase and more fear and terror than I thought I could handle.
I got off the train at Lime Street Station and there was a party of third year students waiting to greet me. Somehow I plucked up the courage to approach them.
“I’m new here,” I said, sticking out like a sore thumb.
“Don’t worry,” said one guy. “You’ll love it here.”
And he was right.