My mother went to university but left as she got pregnant (or lucked out on the Biology practical, as one of Stephen King’s characters says somewhere).
My father went to Oxford, read Greats and got a first (of course!)
1sis went to several universities and eventually got an Arts degree. I think it took her 10-15 years, on and off and more than one university but may be wrong.
2sis went to Bristol to read theology. Neither of which are considered prestigious by my father’s standards.
So of course my father told me tales of his Oxford days, what fun and larks he had, except of course that he didn’t do fun let alone larks. My parents got married there and it was all wonderful.
You can imagine therefore the pressure I was on to go to Oxford since my sisters had failed my father and I was the last one left. He took me on occasional visits to Oxford although never to meet his old tutor as 2sis recently did. What with everything else going on, it was hardly surprising that my academic results weren’t going to get me in. I did sign up and go round visiting a college. The school was not happy about it as there were two of us going for the same college and they didn’t like that competition. But it didn’t matter as my mock results made .it clear I wasn’t going to Oxford. What a relief. I had no real idea what I would have studied there, having tentatively put PPE down.
Onto the next generation, my eldest dropped out of school at 16 and never made it back in. He’s just been offered a place in September to do an Extended Diploma in Performing Arts and is considering how to pay for it. 2son is not at school at all although there is much news on that front. 3son has the academic mind most like my father’s and excites him greatly.
But my eldest nephew, who falls between 1son and 2son in age, has just passed his baccalaureate with marks sufficient to get him into Oxford. My father rang me up excitedly to tell me the thrilling news, reminding me that he had taken eldest nephew to Oxford for a visit, as he had 1son although obviously that memory had faded. Not that we’re comparing of course. My father finally has one of his offspring, albeit second generation at Oxford. Nothing could make him happier.
I can feel no joy for my nephew. I’m sad at that as it is a huge achievement that he deserves to be proud of. However he has parents with fairly unlimited resources; the backing and support of a private school; regular European holidays so that he has seen the arts in situ as well as learned an awful lot else. The last few times I saw my two nephews I thought they were insufferable stuffed shirts and I blamed it on their upbringing. Anyone who gets made to listen to Rolf Harris on 10 hour car journeys has to have a warped mind, right?
He’ll probably do brilliantly but part of me secretly and maliciously hopes that he enjoys his independence so much he does too much sex, drugs and rock’n roll and crashes. And yes I feel bad for thinking that, let alone saying it.
It just feels like a kettle has been boiling for 30 years and someone has finally taken it off the heat. All I can hear is my father’s pride and my sister’s one-upmanship point scoring and crowing. None of which is my nephew’s fault of course.