12 Feb 2019 / #Arvon50
In May 1984, my O levels were finishing and I couldn’t wait to leave school behind and start my life in earnest.
I knew my results would be disappointing, they could be little else, given my scant revision for any subject other than History. I was confident of doing well in English (Lit and Lang) as they were the only subjects I enjoyed or was any good at. If I’d pushed myself or been more mature at the time, I may have seen the value in studying hard and paying attention in class. But I wasn’t and I didn’t and, looking back over the years, I’ve often regretted my stupidity.
Naturally, my parents insisted I get a job. At the time, my limited options included joining the Youth Training Scheme (YTS). As I enjoyed writing stories and had seen one or two appear in the school magazine, on the application forms I indicated a desire to be a journalist. I assume the scheme went through the applications, matching potential trainees with firms whose businesses were compatible with their interests and skills.
That exhaustive process was obviously the rationale behind why they sent me to work for a sign-writer. I suppose they were more than happy enough to have matched my passion for words with the ‘writer’ part of sign-writer.
My YTS supervisor, a lovely chap called Alwyn, was determined that I enjoy everything the scheme had to offer. When, shorty after joining, I mentioned that my school had, unexpectedly, put me forward for a week on an Arvon writing course, Alwyn performed a marvellous obfuscation of YTS rules and its training criteria to ensure I could attend the course at Lumb Bank.
So, on September tenth 1984, I found myself in the small Yorkshire village of Heptonstall, just half an hours bus ride from my home, in the company of a group of teenagers who were delightful to be amongst, but whose names have long since deserted me. However, one girl, Sarah, I can never forget. We hit it off immediately and, over cosy log fires and discussions about poetry and during wooded walks talking about books, we spent most of that week together.
Sarah and I have been inseparable since first meeting at that Arvon retreat and, four years to the day after arriving at Lumb Bank, we were married. This September tenth we celebrate thirty-four years together and thirty married.
I owe a huge debt to Alwyn for his efforts in ensuring I made it onto that writing retreat because, when I met Sarah, was when my life truly began.
Arvon turned 50 in 2018 and to celebrate we have collected the stories of writers far and wide who have a tale to tell about Arvon. The collection is published in our anniversary booklet and featured on our blog. This contribution is by Gavin Dimmock.
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