Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The history boy - final part

If I'd taken the trouble to study the syllabus I might have known there'd be a problem. Twentieth century novelists were my passion. Okay, I loved Shakespeare, admired Ben Johnson, Marlowe, could see the point of Edmund Spenser and laughed at Thomas Kyd. But sixteenth century Scottish writers - it just wasn't my thing.

And it got worse during the third term. I'd gone to university to study English because I wanted to be a writer. Okay, I know I was being naive and that there isn't necessarily any connection between the study and the practice. No-one else was making the connection either. To make matters worse I was passionate about reading. I loved literature. As it turned out passion and love were about to become proscribed emotions in literary studies. There was, for some reason, a big drive on in the dept to make the study of Eng Lit as scientific as possible. I think they were after credibility. They wanted the study of literature to be taken seriously, like physics or chemistry, be a part of the white hot heat of technology and all that Harold Wilson stuff.

The end came for me at the final lecture of Prof G I Duthie, the retiring Head of Department. Prof Duthie was a noted Shakespearean scholar, widely published, who specialised in textual critiscism. At the end of his passionate and opinionated lecture two hundred students stood to applaud him, me amongst them. We were informed later that if anyone followed his "line" they would be failed in the end of term exams. He was, apparently, old hat. Emotion was out. Structuralism was in. The objective correlative was all the rage. The whole department had turned on the old boy and stabbed him in the back. I viewed them as traitors and treated them with contempt from then onwards.

I clung on to my life as a student for another three years. It was better than working. A lot better than going home. I drank and womanised, living high on my full grant. For some obscure reason I got diverted into Geology and Sociology. In the end I left without a degree, thoroughly disillusioned with life, a failure at twenty-two.

What I didn't know was at that very moment the first oil was being discovered in the North Sea. Americans - Coonasses, roughnecks, roustabouts and toolpushers - were descending on the town in droves, waving their Stetsons in the air. Boom times were coming, fortunes were going to be made, the oil industry was about to transform Aberdeen forever. And I was going to be part of it, right in at the very beginning. Damn, just think of it. If I'd gotten that degree I could have been a teacher, become respectable, made something of my life.

In fact, the only downside to my university education was that it was ten years before I could bear to read a novel again. Not that I had time to read. I was too busy living, riding the whirlwind, prospecting for black gold.

1 comment:

  1. I think you've found a reason to keep the blog going Bill - can't wait to hear about that black gold

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