My next offering for the writing group, topic was ‘Doctor’
I’ve almost come to believe that Dr Chivers never existed, that he was a figment my imagination. However, I know he did exist – if he hadn’t then I wouldn’t be sitting right here, right now, coffee to hand, writing on my mind.
All through my childhood I thought I’d go to university; however, although I lived in Cambridge I going there was an impossible dream. However, without being boastful or immodest, I knew I was clever enough – but my temperament let me down; lack of focus, wandering mind, weird inspiration, misreading things, unleashing my mental hobbyhorse would not get me the results I needed.
At school I was forced to take Latin despite being spectacularly useless at it but getting into Uni to read English depended on it. I wasn’t helped by being away from school for six weeks with glandular fever the first term of studying the blasted subject. I was not helped by there being a monster of a head teacher (think Miss Trunchbull without the physical violence but with plenty of other sorts of spite.)
I scraped through my A-level, but in any case, I’d had precisely zero offers of a place to study anything at any Uni. I could’ve gone to teacher training college in Matlock, in the depths of the Peak District, but I didn’t want to be a teacher. Yes, I know, funny how fate conspires! I didn’t get into journalism college, and in fact I didn’t know what I was going to do.
I realise now my parents must have been very understanding about my disappointment, and although no doubt worried which way my future would lead, they knew that I’d get a job and work hard at it.
The summer holidays when everyone was getting ready to go away from home to study, I was in Cambridge with relatives. I had a wonderful time and fell in love – which definitely took my mind off my academic future.
I returned home and on a particularly sunny and lovely day w the phone rang. Dad called me through – someone wished to speak to me.
I couldn’t imagine who it might be, but a hearty and cheerful voice greeted me and introduced himself as Dr Chivers of Manchester Polytechnic. He was inviting me to an interview for a place on a degree course in English, History and French. I felt as if I was standing in a brilliant shower of sparkling sunlight as I gabbled something, an acceptance of the invitation, and the date rest of the day, but no doubt my parents were as thrilled, delighted and excited as I was.
This was in the days before many polytechnics, and in fact Manchester Polytechnic was brand new and I – if Dr Chivers accepted me, would be among the first students there! My granddad had been to London Polytechnic before the first war, He would’ve been so proud to think of me attempting to follow his example. I’d been to Manchester University on an A-level English course and had loved it; the thought of going back was thrilling beyond words!
I arrived at Piccadilly Station in Manchester with absolutely no idea where the Poly was and got in a taxi. The driver was similarly baffled and asked if I meant the Institute of Technology. Polytechnic/technology, same thing, innit? He drove me to the Institute of Science and Technology about a quarter of a mile from the station – I could have walked there quicker than it took to negotiate the traffic and find somewhere for him to stop. I climbed the steps of UMIST; there was barely anyone about because of course term hadn’t started yet. I asked a porter and he asked his mate and they asked a passing person and no-one had heard of Manchester Polytechnic.
It’s the Faculty of Commerce, I explained. Oh the College of Commerce!! Yes, go over that crossing, turn right and it’s just there on the left, a big, grey tower block!
Within minutes, I was bounding up the steps in my brown, belted coat, a little gold orchid broach on my lapel and an excited and nervous look on my face. I took the lift up to the eighth floor, along a narrow corridor with squeaky lino, and knocked on the door which had the name Dr Chivers inscribed. It was opened by a small man with a bald head and an exceedingly jolly face and sparkly glasses. It must have been the light reflecting off his lenses, but to me the sparkle spoke of magic and mystery.
I must have been so keen and enthusiastic! I must have been so thrilled at being there, being interviewed by him, and maybe he hadn’t got it in his heart to disappoint me, or maybe he saw something in me which convinced him I was worthy of a place. Maybe the Faculty of Commerce was so desperate for students that anyone who showed the slightest enthusiasm would have had the offer shoved into their desperate hands. Whatever, Dr Chivers asked if I would like to join them on the following Monday!
I was going to do a degree! I was going to be a student! I was going to Manchester!!
I can’t find any trace of Dr Chivers now, in fact I can’t find any trace of the College of Commerce, it may have become a Premier Inn. There isn’t much about Manchester Poly on-line either, as it’s now Manchester Metropolitan University. But my life was changed there.
Thank you Dr Chivers, I’m forever grateful, and I forgive you the comment you made on an essay of mine – describing it as journalistic bombast. No doubt as usual I was carried away with over-enthusiasm and excitement and wrote a lot of nonsense about one of Napoleon’s campaigns.