20 March 2004

First Draft: South Shields. The End in Sight

Time was fast approaching to re-sit my Theory examination papers and I think this time I was prepared. Towards the end I eased off study. I had been over and over my notes, attended lectures and I felt reasonably confident.

At last the day of the first Examinations came along. I remember feeling pleasantly surprised after the usual 10 minutes allowed to reading the questions through. I picked up my pen and ploughed steadily through the first 3-hour paper. I did the same with the 2nd paper. The practical examination followed and then all I had to do was wait for the results.

When the results were promulgated I found I had passed all with a reasonable margin. The pass mark was 60%.

I became a fully-fledged Radio Officer at the young age of 17 years and 3 months old and my qualifications were dated the 29 May 1951.

I remember well that day 53 years ago. I came down into the dining room at 47 Lawe Road and noticed some mail for me. I knew as I picked up the official letter, it was the results of the Exams. I opened it, unfolded the letter and as I scanned it my eyes riveted on the word Passed. I remember I just stared at the letter. I was I think, in a daze. I couldn't sit down; I couldn't scream, "I've passed". I couldn't do anything or settle; my mind was in a whirl. I went upstairs and grabbed my topcoat and I went for a walk, a long walk to release some steam. I wanted to be on my own and think.

It was a blustery, cold day and I walked up Ocean Road and on to the Market Place and Mill Dam then as I retraced my steps, my mind was still churning over. As I came to the bottom of Lawe Road I didn't want to go back so I continued down and round towards the South Pier breakwater and I came to the Groyne... an artificial construction built out into the harbour to prevent the shore washing away. It was concreted flat on top and had a low lighthouse on its short stubby end.

I slowly walked along the Groyne on this cold, blustery day and in the open aspect the wind was blowing fully in my face. I stood for a while taking in the harbour entrance scene and slowly a complete sense of utter relief seemed to envelope me, it seemed a large weight had been taken from my shoulders. As I stood I thought if you want something hard enough and try hard enough you could achieve anything. I then started to feel as though I was 10 feet tall. Still standing I remember distinctly stretching my arms upwards as far as I could reach and again remembering the words that I shouted, "I've done it, I've done it " at the top of my voice.

The words were whipped out of my mouth by the wind and carried by the wind but no one heard, just me. Anyway there was no one else foolish enough but me to be down on the Groyne on such a blustery cold day as this. I continued standing there for a few moments longer and suddenly I felt drained, completely drained and I retraced my footsteps slowly to Mrs. Greenwell's at 47 Lawe Rd.

Yes, I remember all as if it was yesterday; 53 years ago this coming May.

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