The years between 1977 and 1986 were fairly knotless. 1987 was a big knot year which culminated in me applying to go to Bangor University to do Religious Studies.
Having no A-levels, I was very sceptical that they would even give me an interview, let alone offer me a place. But my brother (who'd made the initial enquiry - being in situ) said they looked quite kindly on elderly applicants with no previous! So I trekked up to North Wales. I really wasn't sure what to expect from the professor, but what I didn't expect was a little man in dungarees with half an allotment under his finger nails! It seemed he'd been gardening and forgot the time - after all it was the summer vacation. He was a sweetie. We chatted about this and that and he asked me what happened between 1964 and 1969 (when I was allegedly being educated at grammar school)? I came clean and told him I'd wasted my time and he offered me a place there and then! I found out later that this prof was new to the post, as the previous one had unexpectedly done a runner to Australia (I think a woman was involved), and they were a bit desperate for bums on seats that year. If I'd applied a year later, I don't think I would've had a chance, as the department was oversubscribed with applicants who were actually qualified!It seems theology was getting to be the thing to study. After all when you think about it, it does embrace quite a lot of disciplines within its bailiwick - philosophy, sociology, psychology, anthropology..... For all those who think theology is a complete waste of time, I would counter by positing (you can't be a proper scholar if you don't posit!) that if you want to understand the human condition, look at attitudes to belief and worship. It is very illuminating. Really, theology is anthropology with a cassock! So I sold my two up, two down in Buckinghamshire and bought a bungalow in Menai Bridge, Anglesey. At the age of 34, it really was a new start.
There followed the three happiest years of my life, even though it was the first time I'd engaged my brain cell in any kind of intensive cerebral workout. Another thing that amazed me (and my tutors) was that I rather excelled at classical Hebrew!!! It was a bit of a slog to start with, until I twigged it would be easier to understand if I tried reading it from right to left. After that, I flew. Even though I knew the job opportunities for a baby Hebrew scholar would be a bit thin on the ground after graduation, I was so chuffed at actually being good at something, I gave the future scant thought.
My contemporaries were a mixed bunch and some were more mixed than others. Maybe I shouldn't discuss them too much here - well, you never know! There were plenty of would-be vicars and budding academics among the motley crew and some have since achieved great things - particularly, I note, the young girl who went on to become chaplain of St Davids in South Wales and who allegedly unfrocked the Bishop just prior to him becoming defrocked! Then there was the two lads who became two lasses and then one of them became a lad again just before taking his finals.
A little cat retrogression at this point. It was during this period that I got my first cat (as a fully grown up person!). Yeah I know it was a bit late, but then I've been a late developer at pretty well everything! I didn't exactly choose him, he was foisted upon me by a well meaning neighbour. He was a ginger and white feral (or so it transpired) cat and he arrived in a cardboard box one day when I was least expecting it. My neighbour felt I needed a companion, but did I really need this companion? I called him Riley. He was a good looking creature but with no social skills to speak of. In fact it became apparent quite early on that he was a bit of a sociopath. He attacked me, he attacked my friends, he attacked the other neighbourhood cats and he could have only been about 12 weeks old! He was a menace to society. People stopped visiting, or they arrived with complete top to toe body armour. Being rather more fond of my friends and my skin than this furry fiend, but not wanting to give up without a fight (literally), I called in the RSPCA for advice.
A very nice inspector arrived. Riley attacked him too! After I'd attended to his wounds, we had a long(ish) discussion which culminated sadly (very sadly) in Riley being frogmarched into a carrier and removed from the premises. I was heartbroken that I couldn't tame him, but I was running out of excuses and friends (not to mention the fortune spent on TCP and sticking plasters!).
Not long after I was adopted by a kindly brown tabby kitten (much like Tigger). I called him Harry and we lived together very harmoniously.
He helped me with my studies and soothed my anxious thoughts, especially when I was trying to grapple with such diverse subjects as Kenotic Christology, the complexities of Hegelian thought and the ambiguous hermeneutics of the waw-consecutive in Genesis 1. Eventually (and that word covers a multitude of sins!)
I achieved a lower second class honours (with Hebrew rising) and I was off to Israel. Harry, who had been my rock through it all fell in with a couple of fat cats and moved to Ipswich.