Education, careers and Captain Beefheart – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

Religion is a compulsory subject in British schools. Every child has to be brainwashed every single day with a religious input, by law. Isn’t that absurd?

It is an archaic throwback to the days when religion was the cornerstone of society and schools were first conceived as places where children of the elite were schooled in Latin Grammar so they could read the Bible. Later, schooling became more widely available to the general public as society had progressed and there was a need for people with knowledge and skills to carry out the various tasks and careers needed by society.

But where does the concept of educating people to expand their minds fit in? A career is one thing but a questioning mind is something else altogether. I wanted my education to be expansive, fun, illuminating and thrilling. I wanted discovery, excitement and revelation. I received facts to learn for exams. I did not really count that as an education.

13.10.01

 

Captain Beefheart was on at Middle Earth up in Covent Garden in London. That was an event that would change the whole of anybody’s life. Captain Beefheart, complete with Zoot Horn Rollo, Rockette Morton, Alex St Claire, Drumbo and who knew who else. The whole Magic Band. That was worth £5,000,000 of anybody’s money!

The only problem was that it was right in the middle of A Levels.

This was a crisis.

No problemo. It was the week before my Biology. I wasn’t one for revision anyway. I always did well in Biology. Besides I needed a good night out. It would set me up for the exams. But I needed my grade to get my place at university to study medicine. No problemo. I told you, I always do well in Biology.

But this was the whole of my future!

No problemo!

There was no choice in the matter. It had to be done. Beefheart might not tour again. The world might end and I wouldn’t have seen him.

Besides – it was a whole week before.

I went. Rockette Morton was ill so they postponed. They put on Aynsley Dunbar instead. There was no comparison.

They put the Captain on the following week and made it a double bill with John Mayall, complete with Pete Green on lead.

Now that was a slight problem. That was the night before my Biology exam. But a double-bill with Captain Beefheart with John Mayall and Peter Green – who could possibly afford to miss that???

If I went I would not get back until three in the morning. My exam was at nine. That was about five hours sleep. That also meant no night before revision (the only revision I tended to do). I had this theory that it was pointless revising more than a day before an exam. You forgot it all. It really wasn’t so much of a theory as an excuse – back then my memory was very good. It was just that my mind was on other things that seemed much more important to me back then.

This was my future we were talking about! My future for fuck’s sake! My eminent career as a doctor, a surgeon even! Surely I was mature enough to understand that?

But then, Captain Beefheart might not tour again, the band might break up, and Pete Green was scintillating on guitar. Besides I always came top in Biology; I didn’t need to revise. I could breeze it.

But you had to admit that five hours sleep and no revision was hardly perfect preparation for a crucial exam.

I had to think this through for all of five minutes.

Where were my parents in all this? Where was my father’s guiding hand? My mum’s words of wisdom? I can’t remember. I think they had given up on trying to influence my choices. They had decided that I was a law unto myself. While not shining in my academic endeavours, I did seem to get by, so they tended to leave me to it.

The concert was brilliant! One of the best ever! The Magic band were storming! Beefheart was incredible! John Mayall, even with Pete Green, paled into insignificance.

The Biology exam was all right but there were a few questions that proved a little tricky. A bit of revision might not have gone amiss.

When the results came out I had missed the required standard by a grade. That could have been a single mark! One fact! One glance at one page of notes! The university was not impressed. They declined my services. Instead of studying medicine I did a Zoology degree at a lesser establishment. I went on to establish a scintillating career as a teacher. The pay of a teacher is not greatly comparable to the pay of a surgeon. But what the hell! Who wanted a career anyway? There was far too much real living to be getting on with, a whole universe to explore!

Some concerts are worth £5000,000 of anybody’s money.

2.11.01

 

Why is poetry not the only compulsory subject in schools?

13.10.01

 

There’s no doubt that nuclear energy is a big mistake in this age of global terrorism. A plane smashing into a nuclear plant could be a catastrophe.

Just imagine how many tens of thousands of terrorists, each consuming twenty tins of beans, it would take to sabotage a field of Wind Turbines?

3.11.01

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