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July 2024 From the author’s desk…

2 July, 2024 in From the author's desk

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF UNIVERSITY SIXTY YEARS AGO…

Ian gently laid his beloved Raleigh bicycle, gear side up, on the gravel to the left of the front doors of Widcombe House, and pulled off the two bicycle clips securing the bottom of his trousers. He wrapped his hand around the patina of the bell pull and pulled it downwards.

In his study Marcus Rose recalled the critical telephone conversation with Howard Edginton earlier that morning.

“Are you sure?”

“Positive, I’m afraid, the hospital almoner called me last night, no further operations are feasible; the original cancer of the stomach has spread everywhere.”

“How long?”

“The surgeon says certainly not more than twelve months, probably less, she has been weakened by so much surgery.”

“Have you told Ian?”

“No, not yet. Morris still believes she will make a full recovery, and his exams are still a year away.”

Marcus thought about the headstrong teenager.

“Leave it with me, Howard. If nothing else, it’s the least I can do for a very courageous woman. I will call you after our meeting this afternoon – I assume he is still coming?”

“Yes, he should be with you soon after lunch. Thank you, Marcus.”

The colonel decided the drawing room was more suitable for the forthcoming encounter and was still thinking how best to tackle the subject of Ruth’s prognosis when Ian arrived. He rose to greet him, and they both settled, facing each other in the beautiful French chairs, as Jennings left, quietly closing the door after him.

For a moment he regarded the boy in silence and then he came to a decision.

“Ian, I would like to you a very important question.”

The boy did not answer, but grudgingly nodded.

“Following your failure at Hornchurch, the matter of how you propose to earn your living is both relevant and urgent.”

“What do you mean?” There’s ages before I have to think about that. Why worry about a job until after I have graduated from university? That’s another four years away.”

“You are sixteen?”

“Sixteen and a half. I will be sitting A-Levels next year and then go on to Cambridge to read Physics.”

“And how on earth are you going to afford living in a Cambridge College, where is the money coming from?” Rose was becoming impatient with the boy’s lack of reality.

“Oh, I hope to get a scholarship, and I can always work in the holidays.”

“And then what?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I haven’t really given it any thought, but there must be plenty of good research jobs around for someone with a Cambridge physics degree.”

“And what about your mother while you study and earn nothing over the next four years?”

“No problem, the Lady Almoner has spoken to the St John’s Charitable Trust in Bath, and they will find us a small rent-free flat when she leaves hospital. There is the money from the Employment Exchange until she goes back to work, and her widow’s pension. That will be about £2 per week.”

The silence was broken as the small brass carriage clock on the mantel piece over the fireplace chimed the quarter. Marcus Rose trod carefully.

“What do you think are your chances of getting a Science Scholarship to Cambridge?”

“Pretty good, I reckon.” Ian blushed. “I’ve always managed scholarship exams before.”

“Young man, for your own good, stop daydreaming!” Rose had lost patience with the boy. “Firstly, you stand very little chance of getting into Cambridge, and secondly, there is absolutely no way you could get a scholarship. Cambridge isn’t an English public school, but perhaps the finest university in the world.”

 

 

An extract from chapter forty of – ‘ Go Swift and Far – a Tale of Bath’ The first book of The Westcott Chronicles

 

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Reviews

“Extraordinarily interesting for many different reasons …These books made our stay in Bath an even more exciting experience … As a university lecturer in English Literature I am fascinated with contemporary stories of life in Bath … I could not put the book away. Ian’s life is such a captivating story.”

Ewa Welnic – Bydgoszcz, Poland

“A compelling story of the ups and downs of a Bath property developer. A great evocation of time and place, providing a fascinating history of beautiful Bath Can’t wait for the next instalment.”

Dr Tim Bamford

‘What a superb follow up to Go Swift and Far! Born and raised in Bath the highly descriptive locations and quality of writing allow one to truly live and feel part of the story. Eagerly awaiting book three!’

Helen Beer

‘A great yarn. Douglas Westcott is a natural storyteller who very successfully weaves Bath’s history into a page turning tale.’

Michael Symons

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