Andrew

by The Composer

Chapter 13

The end of year exams went well. I managed my GCSE in maths, which was one you really had to get. I started my final year preparing to do A levels in subjects which I didn't even have a GCSE for. Mrs Cox was still determined to make me do things in the school. I got a bit annoyed when she asked me to be a mentor for a new pupil. When I met him, I realised why. He too was black. He took one look at me, and I could see the expression on his face. He might have been black, but his family had been in England for the past fifty years, and the idea that he needed any help from me was ludicrous. I told Mrs Cox that, and she conceded the point.

Her next bright idea was to make me a lunch prefect. Various members of the teaching staff were delegated to keep an eye on things at lunchtime, and some senior boys and girls were supposed to help them. It was all fairly tedious stuff, making sure that people didn't barge their way into the queue, and that they cleared the tables after themselves, and so on. I found myself working with my history teacher, Mr Patterson.

I thought he was brilliant in class, but I knew that he was not a natural disciplinarian. What it did have was the ability to pick up on a comment which might have appeared to be a side line, but he would pursue it, and then bring back the discussion to where he wanted it to be. He was also generous about lending out books. I had discovered various second hand bookshops on the Internet, and he provided me with long lists of reading material. That room of mine needed more and more bookshelves – I never slept there, but it was where I did all my work. We had to write essays for him, and I found mine getting longer and longer. He also went through them thoroughly. At the start, I had no real idea of how to write an essay. He would tear them apart with a load of red ink and scrawled comments. Slowly I learned how to structure an essay; how to express myself; and how to put all this together.

Standing in the dining room, he asked me what I was intending to do after school. I told him I have no idea. He turned to me.

"Virtually everyone here will be applying to university."

I have no real idea what a university was. Was it just like more school? I didn't even know how to apply. I made some noncommittal reply, but when I got home I tackled Charles.

"Is university like school?"

In his usual manner, he took a second or two to think it over, before saying, "Yes and no."

"That's helpful."

"One of the main differences is that you are supposed to be self-reliant at university. You won't have teachers telling you what to do. You're supposed to know what to do."

"I could live with that."

"There is another aspect to it," he said carefully. "Almost everyone going to university leaves home."

I stared at him. "You mean – leave here? Leave you?"

"Yes. During term time."

I have been with him for so long now that I couldn't imagine anything else. Not just the sex, but living together. There were times when I felt like a wild animal that had been tamed, domesticated. But I took it for granted that each evening we would go upstairs together, and undress, and shower, and get into bed. We would wrap our arms around each other. We didn't have to have sex. We tended to save that for Friday nights and Saturday mornings. The idea of being away from him was horrendous. Charles could see what I was thinking.

"It might be good for you to have a change of environment," he said carefully.

"You want to get rid of me already?" I said rather thickly.

"Don't be stupid. I would hate it if you had to go away." He stood up, and pulled me to my feet, and put his arms around me. "I would hate it. But it wouldn't be for ever." He relaxed his grip a little. "Have you never thought about the future? What you might do?"

I hadn't. Moving here and dealing with all that it meant had been sufficient. When I was younger, the future didn't exist. It was a day-to-day existence, being shuffled around from care home to care home, from school to school. And now for the first time in my life, I had someone who loved me, and I had a home. A home of my own.

I went back to Mr Patterson. "Suppose I wanted to study history at University. How would I set about it?"

"One of your troubles is that you have made a very deep study of a relatively small part of what might be called history. The first thing you have to do is to find a course which plays to your strengths." I stared at him. I had literally no idea how I would do that. "Your work improves all the time. And, you might not like me saying this, but you do have quite a few bonus points when it comes to a university application." Again, I had no idea what he was talking about. "Universities these days are expected to have a more" - he made air quotes with his fingers - "diverse intake."

"Meaning?"

He said carefully, "Meaning people from deprived backgrounds, from ethnic minorities, and other minorities."

"Like being black, an orphan, from a care home?" He nodded. "I suppose if I were gay, I would get all the points going?" He smiled at that. "My uncle had to do a lot of special pleading to get me in here."

"I remember," he told me.

"I'm going to have to do that to get into a university, aren't I?"

"It would probably help if you were to apply to a university which simply didn't process applications on a conveyor belt."

"Meaning?"

"There are some universities who put quite a considerable effort into getting their intake correct. They would perhaps interview you, ask for a sample of your work. But there aren't many who do that. I have one in mind." I looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "Oxford."

I couldn't help it – I didn't want to be rude, but I just burst out laughing. "Me? Oxford? You're having a laugh."

He shook his head. "I'm not having a laugh. I remember a year ago, when you joined us, and you wrote those essays which were semiliterate, but I could understand what you were trying to say. The amount of reading you do is extraordinary."

"My uncle doesn't have a television," I said, deadpan.

"Most boys your age would be going out at weekends, to parties, or whatever."

"I've had enough of parties," I said rather sourly. I was convinced some of those photos and videos were still circulating.

"Okay," he said, amused. "I take your point." He looked at me. "Do you want to do it?"

I hesitated. "Can I talk to my uncle?" He nodded. "Charles went to Oxford, as well."


Charles was distinctly amused when I told him. "Diversity is getting to be a big thing in certain quarters. Oxford and Cambridge always get slammed because they don't take enough people from state schools, or enough minority students."

"Think of all the diversity points that I can get. I could even go wearing a T-shirt saying, 'Out and Proud'. Think how many more points that would get me."

"I think you'd have to be slightly more subtle that."

"So do you think I should do it?"

"Does Patterson think it's worth doing?" I nodded. "There is an advantage going to Oxford," he said slyly.

"What's that?"

"The terms are only eight weeks long."

"That's it then. Oxford it must be."

It was a Friday night, and we both knew what that meant. I grinned at him and opened my arms. "Uncle," I cried. "Ravish me."

"Drama queen," he muttered.

But he still ravished me.


I told Mr Patterson that I would do it. "Good." He smiled at me. "I always relish a challenge." That was not particularly reassuring.

But it meant that I had to do even more reading, to give myself more of a background. I found myself reading about Anglo-Saxons, mediaeval kings, the Tudors and the Stuarts. They meant a good deal less to me. Somehow, I could understand the workings of the minds of those dead twentieth century politicians, even those Tory aristocrats or Labour trade unionists. I could never quite get myself into the minds of many of those kings and queens and the rest of them, fighting wars over religion.

I also had to prepare some work for the college I was applying to. Mr Patterson told me that if I wanted to do it properly, I should go and do some original research. He had written books on British defence policy after the war, and gave me some references to go and look up in the National Archives. This too I found extraordinary. I read an original copy of what was called the Strath Report, which was one of the first attempts to describe what would happen if Britain were attacked with nuclear weapons. At the end of the document, there were three initials written in red ink. W.S.C. It took me a moment to work out whose they were, then I realised that I was reading a document which had been read by and initialled by Winston Churchill when he was Prime Minister.

My references were written by Mrs Cox and Mr Patterson. They asked me if I wanted to see them, but I said no. My application went off, but to be honest, I wasn't expecting much. When a letter came for me, Charles just saw the name 'Forsyth' on the envelope, and assumed it was for him. It wasn't. They wanted to call me up for interview.

I wasn't entirely sure whether I wanted to go. Did I want to go to university, and be away from Charles for all those weeks? If I didn't, what else would I do? Try and find some job around here? What sort of job? I didn't really want to be a shelf stacker.

In the end, it was Charles who persuaded me. "Even if they do offer you a place, you don't have to take it if you don't want it. Oxford is not for everyone."

There was another factor as well. Mrs Cox and Mr Patterson had done their best for me. Turning Oxford down would be letting them down. Reluctantly, I agreed.

Charles said he would drive me up. He had been at that college too, and knew his way around. He said he could stay in a hotel for the night, whilst I was being interviewed.

I was intent on demonstrating that I actually was gay – more bonus points on the diversity score. We thought a T-shirt was a touch over the top. Charles browsed through the Amazon website, and came up with something bizarre. It was a cravat in the standard rainbow design.

"No one's worn a cravat in the last fifty years," I protested.

"If you wear one of these, you would look like a proper poofter," he told me. "You'll certainly be making a statement wearing one of those."

"You're going to have to show me how to tie it," I told him.

"That's not a problem."


I had never been to Oxford before. Charles said he would take me there a few weeks before the interview, so that I would know what I was in for. We parked outside the city, and took a bus into the centre. It was crowded with people. At a guess, most of them are students, and they moved around as if they knew they belonged, and as though they knew what they were doing. Charles had told me that the college I was applying to was not one of the grander ones, but even so, it was all very daunting. We walked down from the city centre, and turned and passed a church. The road was cobbled. I had only read of cobbled streets in history books. We turned into this little gate, and Charles walked up to a glass window, and started speaking to the man behind the glass. He was what he called a 'former member', and so they let us in. There were people coming back and forward all the time, and again they looked as if they belonged, and they looked as though they knew what they were doing here. I didn't.

Charles took me by the elbow, and started steering me forward. We came out into this square. All the buildings around it were made of this golden yellow stone. There were these boxes hanging from the windows full of flowers, and in the middle there was this grass, neatly trimmed and mown. According to Charles, this was a 'quad'. He steered me along and through another gateway, and there was an even bigger quad. I gaped at it.

"You really want me to come here?"

"It's not what I want. It's what you want. You coped with Parklands School. You can cope with this if you really want to."

"Yeah, right," I muttered. "Look at them all. They all look as though they belong. You really think I can belong here?"

"It's up to you. I think you can do it. In fact, I know you can do it."

We walked on. He took me into something which he called the Hall. I stood looking inside, and suddenly started laughing. "It's Hogwarts, isn't it?"

He smiled. We had both watched the DVDs. "They should have filmed it here."

We went back outside, and I could see that that there were a couple of people, probably students, who were staring at us rather curiously.

Charles remembered the advice I gave to Alan. "Head up, shoulders back, and for the moment, none of the black boy swagger," he told me.

"The trouble with you," I told him, "is that you know me too well."

"Are we talking about your body or your mind?"

"Both."

We walked past them, and I could see Charles giving them a nod as we passed. You had to have confidence to do that, and I haven't yet got that confidence. In this setting, I found myself reverting to that boy in Gosport, and if he had had the temerity to come in here, he'd have been thrown out before you could blink. "Charles."

"Yes?"

"Take me out of here. Anywhere."

He led me out of the college and down some narrow streets to a coffee shop. Oxford seemed full of fancy buildings and coffee shops. This was another of them. Charles pushed me towards a table and went to order. He came back with two mugs, and put one in front of me.

"Thanks," I muttered.

He said nothing, but stirred his coffee. I did the same. We weren't looking at each other.

It took a long time before I whispered, "Sorry."

He shrugged. "It's my fault."

I put my mug down hard. "We've had this argument before."

He looked up, surprised. "What do you mean?"

"About me going to Parklands School."

He looked bewildered. "So what's all this about?"

"I told you then. I'm a kid from a council care home. All this …" I waved my hand about "… this is utterly foreign to me. You might as well take me to Outer Mongolia."

He looked at me carefully. I could feel the tears prickling in my eyes.

"Do you want me to take you home?" he asked.

"Bollocks to that." I stood up. "You know when we got off the bus, in the centre of town?" He nodded. I looked at my watch. "I'll meet you there at four o'clock."

I walked out. I was going to do this by myself. I have been a young boy when Charles first took me under his wing, but now I was older – whether I was wiser, was another matter. I loved Charles as much as I ever did, but there comes a time when you have to make your own decisions. This was one of them. I walked up and down those narrow streets, and then back to that college, and walked in through the front gate without being challenged. I walked around those buildings. I knew that if I were given the opportunity, I would live here, I would work here, I would study here. Did I want to do that? If I did, then I would have to get to grips with the place. They may have been fancy buildings, but that's all they were – just buildings. I looked at the people, the students. They walked around as though they had lived in places like this all their lives, but they couldn't have done. They had adapted to it. I would have to adapt to it.

I remembered a book I had read. It was on Charles' bookshelves back at home. It was by Evelyn Waugh. I had thought that was a woman to begin with, but when I began reading it, I realised it couldn't be. I remembered some of the opening chapters that were set in Oxford. Not this Oxford, but an Oxford of more than a hundred years ago. But these buildings hadn't changed. The people might have changed, but the buildings hadn't. I remember how he wrote of it, and you could feel the nostalgia, the yearning. Would I feel that if I came here? I sat down on a bench and took in the view. It was impressive.

A man came walking past, and he gave me a quizzical look. "Can I help you?" he asked.

I had had that sort of reaction in the past. I got to my feet. "I'm looking round. I don't know if I belong here."

"You're not a member of College?"

I looked at him. "I'm thinking about it."

"Really?"

"Really. I've got an invitation for interview. I'm not sure whether I should take it up or not. I'm not sure whether I belong here."

"The only people who belong here are people who deserve to be here. If you come for interview, and we offer you a place, then you deserve to be here."

He was looking at me steadily, and I knew what he was saying.

"Thank you." He tilted his head on one side. "I needed someone to say something like that to me."

He smiled, nodded, and walked on.

I walked around the college a little more, then went out into the city. I could see why it had appealed to that long dead author. I tried to imagine it without all the crowds and the cars and the buses. It must have been beautiful. I could see all the students hurrying backwards and forwards, clutching books, clutching bags. There were crowds of tourists which I did my best to avoid. I suppose I too was a tourist, but with a little more purpose. Eventually, I walked back to our meeting place. Charles was there, and at the sight of me he gave a smile of relief.

I knew we were in public, but I could not help myself. I walked up to him, and took his hands in mine. I stood close to him. Charles was not a man for public affections, but he continued to smile at me. "I had to do it," I told him. "I have to do it by myself. I love you as much as I ever did, but this I have to do by myself." I surprised myself and I surprised him by wrapping my arms around him and hugging him. I pulled away. I didn't know whether people were staring at us, but I didn't care.

"You've grown up," he said.

I nodded. We smiled at each other.


Somehow, our relationship had shifted. Up to now, Charles had guided me through this new life I was expected to lead. But I was acquiring an independence of my own. I had been ignorant as to what schools could offer. Now I knew. I had been ignorant as to what universities could offer. Now I was learning. Maybe Charles could help me here, but I wanted to learn for myself.

The time came for the interview. I agreed that Charles could drive me up there, but that would be as far as it went. I had that rainbow cravat, and he showed me how to tie it. It was making a statement. I was making a statement. I had decided that yes, Oxford was where I wanted to be. It would mean being away from Charles for weeks at a time. What other alternative did I have? But, of course, it depended on whether I would get a place.

When the day came, we drove up to Oxford, left the car, and took a bus into the town. We walked as far as the porter's lodge, and then I turned to him. He knew what I was saying. From here on, I was by myself. We hugged, and I melted into his arms, then pulled away. He gave me a slightly sad smile, and squeezed my arms, then he turned and walked away. Then I too turned, and walked into the lodge, and told them who I was and why I was here.

I was given a map of the layout of the college, and told which room was going to be mine. We had to meet together in an hour's time. I took my bag up to a room which was a little bleak, but then I imagined someone living here during term time, and having to remove everything at the end of term. It was like one of those boarding school stories which I had read.

I put my bag on the bed, took out the map, and worked out where I should be next. I went along to the staircase where I should have been, and climbed up to the room. I knocked on the door, and was told to come in. There was a man in an armchair, who I assumed was one of the dons of the college. There were eight chairs laid out in a semicircle, and most of them were occupied. There was a mixture of boys and girls. Someone came in behind me, and between us, we took the remaining two chairs. The man in the armchair started off. He introduced himself as Dr Taylor.

"Nice to see you all here." He smiled a slightly different smile. "There are eight of you here. We have places for four, possibly five, undergraduates." The subtext was obvious. Half of us were going to be eliminated. "First of all, I want to know about you. Not just how good you are at history, but about you in general."

I smiled. I have more diversity points than the rest of them put together.

The boy on the far left began. If you had to produce a stereotype of what an Oxford student would be like, he was it. He lived in Surrey. He was at Charterhouse. Although he didn't actually say so, I suspected that he been in private education all his life. I could imagine him with Mummy and Daddy, and perhaps a little sister, and a labrador which they took for walks every afternoon.

Then a girl. She was at some school I'd never heard of. She came from Yorkshire, and you could hear some of that in her voice. So, maybe some diversity points there.

I was number six, and I could see them looking at me curiously. I thought I would go all out.

"I first went into a council care home when I was five. I don't know whether my mother abandoned me, or social workers took me away. As my father – I have absolutely no idea who he was. Apart from his ethnicity, of course. I don't even know whether he knows I exist or not." I could hear the intake of breath from around me. "I was in care – so-called - until I was sixteen, when my uncle rescued me. I'm not sure how many care homes I've lived in, perhaps a dozen or so. And the same for schools. When I used to go, of course. Most of the time I used to bunk off."

"Didn't the schools report your absence?" asked Dr Taylor.

I shrugged. "No idea."

"Didn't the people at the homes check up on you?"

"To call them 'care homes'" – I made air quotes with my fingers – "would be a complete and utter lie."

"Didn't they have social workers?" asked one of the girls.

"Social workers?" I said with derision. "I wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire." I suddenly realised what I'd said. "I'm sorry. That was crude and vulgar."

"But I suspect that summed up your feelings quite adequately," Dr Taylor remarked. I couldn't help it. I grinned at him. "So, if you didn't go to school, what did you do all day?"

"Walked the streets. Went into libraries." I told them the story about the big library in the town centre, where Mrs Cook allowed me to sit all day, reading books.

"Anything else you want to tell us about your personal life?"

I shook my head.

One of the boys said, "Is that thing around your neck some sort of statement?"

I grinned. "Gosh! How did you work that one out?"

"Thank you, James," said Dr Taylor rather dryly. I'd pushed the boundaries a little too far.

Things rather petered out after that. We were to be given tours of the college, but I'd already seen quite a lot of it. Then it was dinner in Hall, and the group of History hopefuls took one end of the table to themselves. I was doing a little of my black boy bad boy act, with a bit of a swagger thrown in. It's never a bad idea to psych out the enemy.

We started eating in silence, and then that boy from Charterhouse looked across the table towards me. "Was that true, all the stuff you were telling us?"

"Nah, I was just making it up. That's what boys like me do, innit?"

"So you found an uncle. What about the ones who didn't?"

"Well, most of them end up on the streets, either selling themselves or selling drugs."

"What you mean – selling themselves?"

I stared at him. "Are you really that naive?"

"You mean selling themselves – to men?"

I put my knife and fork down with a clatter. "What else do you think I mean? There are those who sell themselves for a fiver a fuck, then there are the lucky ones who find themselves a sugar daddy."

I had this knack of bringing the conversation to a complete halt.

Eventually one of the girls asked, "What you mean by a sugar daddy?"

"Look," I sighed. "There are certain men who like boys. You're familiar with that concept? Well, most young boys have a family to look after them. Boys in care homes don't. There's no one to show them any love or affection. And so care homes are like honeypots to all those pedos out there. Someone who will actually show them love and affection." I paused. "You can always tell when a boy has got himself a sugar daddy. He might come in these smart new trainers. They're a big thing with teenage boys, trainers. I never saw the attraction myself, but, yeah, they're a big thing. Then the boy might get something like a Man U jacket. He might start grooming himself, getting a decent haircut, and all that."

I looked across at that girl. "I'm going to tell you a story. We start off with Mike. Mike is what you might call an archetypal skinhead. He hated anything gay. He was one of your original queer bashers. And then there was Kevin. A nice lad, friendly, didn't say anything nasty about anyone. And then it became clear that Kevin got himself a sugar daddy. He was nicely dressed in all those fancy clothes, and a decent haircut. Everyone knew what you have to do to keep a sugar daddy happy. It involved being fucked up the bum, but that's the price you paid for getting affection and for getting all those fancy clothes." I could hear the intake of breath, but I was on a roll. "Then Kevin comes into the common room one day. He had bruises all over his face. From the way he was walking, he was obviously hurting. But that wasn't the worst part about it. He looked – crushed. He'd been this nice pleasant lad who never said anything bad about anyone, and now he was this sad crushed figure. He went to sit down in a corner of the room, and he began crying. Very quietly. And Mike was in the room. Mike the queer basher. We were all sitting there, but it was Mike who went over to Kevin, and very gently put his arm around him, and comforted him.

I paused. "He'd had a bust up with his sugar daddy. A big time bust up. And got a beating from him. A real beating." They were all listening to me. "I met Kevin on the stairs next day. All the bruises had come up on his face. I was going to give him a hug, then, I thought that might not be a good idea. Instead, I walked up to him, and gave him a kiss. On the lips. A bit more than a peck, but not a full-scale smooch. It was the first time I ever kissed a boy. I could tell he was surprised. I don't think he really was gay, but he knew that the kiss I had given him was nothing to do with sex, but for comfort."

I stared down at my plate.

"What happened to him?" I heard someone whisper.

"Kevin? He disappeared after a few weeks."

"Disappeared?"

"Boys from homes are always disappearing. They drop out. They go and live on the streets. The care home will tell the police, who come and ask some stupid questions, and then go away."

I stood up abruptly, and picked up my tray, and headed for the door. It was dark outside, and I could see lights from the windows around the quad. What was I doing here?

There was someone standing by my elbow. It was that boy from Charterhouse.

"I suppose all this sort of thing is familiar to you," waving my hand at the scene in front of us.

"Yes."

I turned to look at him, and he looked at me. I suddenly grinned. "I'm already spoken for," I told him. He looked puzzled for a moment, and then grinned back at me.

"It's okay," he said, "I wasn't making a move on you." He was silent for a moment. "You really are gay?"

"As gay as they come." It was probably the first time I had admitted it both to myself and to someone else. Apart from Trevor, that one time. Charles didn't count.

"I'm not sure what I am," he said quietly.

"When it happens, it happens out of the blue."

"Really?"

"It did with me."

He was silent again, then, "I don't even know whether I really want to be here. My parents would like me to be here. The beaks at my school would like me to be here. But I'm not sure whether I want to be here."

"Do you like history?"

He considered that. "Yes. I suppose I do. What about you?"

"I had no clue about university until a few months ago. I had no idea what I would do when I left school. You know the worst thing about coming here?" I turned and looked at him. He looked back at me, inquiringly. "It will mean leaving my lover for eight weeks at a time, and I'm not sure if I could stand that."

"Really?" I could hear the wonder in his voice.

I smiled at him. "It probably sounds absurd to you."

He was a little like Charles, I realised. I could see him digesting that, and thinking about it. "For me, well …" he looked out into the darkness "… I've lived a life where everything has been neat and tidy and organised, and there are times when I am sick of it."

I shook my head. "No. Be grateful for it."

"Really?"

"The alternative might not be as boring, but it can land you in hell. Ask Kevin. If he's still around."

I walked down the stone steps and across the quad to my room.


The next morning was my specialist history interview, and again it was with Dr Taylor. I had submitted some pieces of work, and I could see them on a side table. He gestured to them. "Nice work. Were the topics your own choice?" I nodded. "Interesting. Not everyone would have chosen to have written about civil defence in the 1950s."

"I did get some nudging on that one. My history teacher has written a couple of books on British defence policy. It was he pushed me into going to the National Archives," and I told him that story about finding Churchill's initials on the report.

"And what else did you learn from your visit?"

"The way people thought in those days. We don't think of nuclear war today in the same way that they did then, and the best way to find that out is to read the original documents." He nodded. "The second was a feeling of frustration." He raised his eyebrows. "There was one document which was quite fascinating, but it wasn't signed, and there was no indication as to who had written it. And reading some of those files is a bit like hearing one side of a telephone conversation." He nodded again.

We moved on, and I had to confess my lack of knowledge of large areas of history.

"Not surprising, given your background."

He went back to an essay I had submitted, and I could see that there were some scribblings on it. He started taking it apart, and I found myself having to defend what I had written. I suddenly realised why Oxford had the reputation that it did. He was relentless in chasing down loopholes and weaknesses in my arguments, whilst I was doing my best to justify them. I don't know how long this went on for, since my focus had narrowed down to those few pages which I had written.

Finally, he looked up and smiled. "What have you learned from this?"

"That I going to have to work hard if I get a place here?"

"You would cope. You were doing well there, justifying yourself and what you had written."

I suddenly realised the interview was over, and we stood up.

"We'll let you know as soon as possible."

I nodded my thanks.


Basically, it was all over. I texted Charles to tell him to come and pick me up. Although it was winter, there was some pale sunshine, and I sat in that Quad looking around me. Frankly, I have no great hopes. I could imagine these well-educated kids from schools like Charterhouse would have run rings around me. Still, it was nice to dream.

I saw Charles in the distance, and gave him a wave. He walked over and sat down on the bench next to me.

"What was it like?" I asked.

"What you mean?"

"Being here. As a student, I mean."

"I was never that sociable, but I had a group of friends. We've all moved on now, and it's ages since I've seen any of them."

I could see that boy from Charterhouse coming out of the staircase where we had been interviewed. He saw me, and turned in my direction.

"How did it go?" he asked me.

"Absolutely no idea," I told him.

He looked curiously at Charles, but didn't say anything. Then he reached down and held out his hand. I looked at it, surprised, and then realised he wanted to shake. I held out mine, and rather formally, we shook hands. "I hope I'll see you in September," he said, and with another curious glance at Charles, walked off.

"Home," I said.

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[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead