A Level Results Day: Good Luck All, And My Courageous Story

As we speak thousands upon thousands of teenagers open up small envelopes wherein are contained their hopes, their dreams, and their whole futures, their lives encapsulated in a piece of folded paper and adhesive, with the little slips telling them their destiny. And their General Studies grades. That as well.

Good luck to every single young person standing in line in feverish anticipation to receive their A Level results. Hopefully all that hard work will have paid off handsomely, and your next step, be it university, college or a job, will be a positive one. Such things reminds a veteran of a previous campaign of his storming the beachhead of Results Day, and the daring battle he fought with the envelope to liberate the tiny bits of paper within. That veteran, naturally, dear reader, is myself, and here is my moving and emotive account of that fateful day, four years ago this week.


My results day was a very odd affair to say the least. To get their I had to travel over land and sea. Or more accurately, railway tracks. By some quirk of fate, a trick of the calendar and flat out bad holiday planning, my summer holiday that year had been booked during the week I would receive my A Level grades. I was incensed. I would miss the jubilation and commiseration of my peers, the jokes and the tears, and all that general hubbub they show on the news which, frankly, while you’re happy for the kids, you wish they wouldn’t shove a camera in their faces and say “what did you get?” On top of this indignity was the destination. Where would one go that to miss out on such a formative experience would be worth it? The Bahamas perhaps? Thailand? Australia? No, no, and hell no. The location: Norfolk. Great.

To any readers from Norfolk, forgive my rudeness. I’m sure your county is lovely. I found it to be not so. Massive expanse of countryside with not a bird tweet to be heard (it may be to do with the pesticides, and the cumulative poisoning we learned about… in GCSE Science!), very little to do and an alleged holiday cottage in the middle of a council estate where obese children ride around on small bicycles, looking through the windows at you. That is the Norfolk I know (and the one with ridiculously rude placenames, like Cockthorpe and Stiffkey- oo er missus!) So for the time I spent there I was thoroughly miserable. But, a cunning plan had been hatched, and would be gloriously executed.

I decided that I wasn’t missing Results Day, and that was the end of it. So I did what I haven’t done before or since; I left the holiday. Now, this isn’t actually that dramatic at all. Basically we booked passage on the train coming out of Peterborough for the Wednesday evening, so I could get home, sleep in my own bed and head off bright eyed and bushy tailed for the Day of Judgement And Social Science: Citizenship Marks. This did mean killing time before I headed off, with a visit to Norwich being particularly disastrous (ever walked past the main shopping district in a city? We took a wrong turn, never found the big shops, and were very much annoyed). While Holkham Hall was a highlight, I was glad to be going home.

My dad drove me to Peterborough station, and waved me off. The train was crowded, and so I sat opposite a young woman trying to read a magazine (I think it was Heat) while a strange middle aged man kept talking to her, whom she politely tolerated. How weird was this man? Well, at one stage he was talking about how he wanted to join the police, as he would be good sorting out criminals and by dealing with all those crime scenes and murders and CSI type stuff. Then he revealed that he couldn’t join the police, because he had a mental illness. That went down like a lead balloon, and the rest of the journey passed in silence. He got off a few stops after Peterborough, much to my relief. In no time the train was there: Birmingham, city of the gods.

A swift taxi ride home brought me to the bosom of home, and Heroes on BBC2 (this tells you how long ago this was; not only was Heroes on, but it was still appointment viewing). The next day, off I went to the schoolhouse, picked up my envelope and opened it. I received top grades in History and English Language and Literature, but rather than be delighted with these I was seething from my Fine Art grade of C. Art was probably my favourite subject, but the departure of our two brilliant teachers, one through illness the other maternity leave, meant they were replaced by a newly qualified teacher who knew nothing and an American who had been teaching in the Middle East but had no people skills. So I let one bad grade (which wasn’t even that bad, and probably what I would have got in any event, as a B at AS Level was apparently hard to maintain, never mind improve on) rather sour the whole day. That and a planned visit to a drinking emporium that was overruled because people “didn’t think we were definitely doing that” despite me having a) planned it, and b) still been planning it from the back of the taxi the previous evening. So, it was a fine mood I was in. So I did what any self respecting person would do. I went to my nan and grandad’s house and spent the day with them, and a very good day it turned into too.

That’s my courageous story. So, you young pups, who have dodged the draft for so long, listen up, and take heart from the example of your elders. Don’t let a bad grade ruin your great day. Don’t assume anything when planning trips with friends, however small. Don’t go to Norfolk. These are the cautionary tales ye must heed. I could take this opportunity to shill for my satirical film about higher education Graduate Decline (visit my film page NOW NOW NOW!!!) But now is not the time such raging self promotion/bitterness. Best of luck to all of you. May your grades be good, your friends be great and your future marvellous!

2 thoughts on “A Level Results Day: Good Luck All, And My Courageous Story

  1. Great blog Dave, not only did I enjoy reading your account of that day but also reminiscing about my own experiences. Much like your anger over the C grade in art I feel almost awe struck and bemused at how massive I seem to remember thinking it all was and how small (and dare I say trivial) that feels now. Perhaps there should also be a note for those who do not achieve greatness today that there is always something else and that education does not stop with academics.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. There’s a bit of a hothouse environment with education, pressuring you to get the best grades, so everything seems like a massively big deal, even if in hindsight it isn’t. One of my biggest issues with education (and reasons for Graduate Decline that you good fellows lent your lovely music to) is that academic learning isn’t for everyone, and the way the system tells everyone you must get X grade or go on to Y higher education option regardless or not it’s right for them. Great people didn’t necessarily do diddly at school or uni, so it’s a good point well made. Glad you enjoyed it!

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