And the results are in….

University of Portsmouth

University of Portsmouth

On 15 August 2013, many A levels students received their results.  They are now accepting their offers of university places, or joining the mad scramble that is Clearing.

For my 17 year old daughter it was the day we received her AS results, and with it the predicted grades that a future offer of a university place will be based on.  During this past year there have been a few exam slip ups, notably the time when a modular exam went so badly wrong that it resulted in a U grade!  But thankfully she was offered the opportunity of a retake.  In the run up to Results Day, and since the end of her exams, she has been pre-warning us not to expect too much.  At one point we were even warned to prepare for the possibility that she might not even achieve sufficient grades to enroll into the second year!

When the fateful day arrived, after a nervous struggle logging into the college email system, I left her on her own to get that first glance at her future!  Called in a few moments later, there it was, B, D, E.  (She’s only studying three ‘proper’ A levels, the fourth subject was a one year BTEC in music.)  Thankfully the higher graded subject, Maths, is her chosen university subject.

So, not the results to set the academic world on fire, but the first thing to say is that she should, with any luck, be able to enroll into the second year of college.  And on that basis, the results aren’t as bad as they could have been.  Having visited two potential universities a few weeks ago (see past blog post), it is useful to gauge her realistic expectations about possible offers for this time next year.  If universities use the AS grades as an indicator of predicted grades, then it’s highly unlikely that an offer of a place at Oxford Brookes is on the cards.  Portsmouth may be achievable but she will need to work hard to improve her grades, and probably convince her college tutors that she can do it.  So perhaps we are setting our sights far too high for her, even with these modest universities (with no disrespect to their status in the university rankings).

The dilemma for us now as parents is do we continue to invest our time in the round of university visits in the possible knowledge that she won’t even get a sniff?  And, to be honest, my daughter doesn’t seem to be the slightest bit concerned about the modest grades or what university she would like to study at, she is a teenage after all!  But at least she does know that she wants to go to university, or is it that she desperately wants to move away from home!

There will be a few searching questions and phone calls to the college and universities over the next few days.  Over to Dad…….

The inspiration that is Steve Evans

Richard and Steve

Richard and Steve

I first heard Steve Evans speak on the radio, talking to Richard Bacon on BBC Radio Five Live. As I work part time (allegedly – another story!) I often leave for home at around 2pm, when Richard’s fabulous show starts.  I can’t remember how long ago this was, but I do remember being mesmerised and full of admiration for this straight talking, funny guy with the Brummie accent. Actually, Steve hails from Wolverhampton so I’m not sure if I might be insulting him by labeling him a Brummie!

You see, Steve was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer some months back and given just a short time to live.  Naturally devastating news to anyone, and Steve is no exception.  But what Steve did, and continues to do with that crushing piece of information, is turn it into a positive, in as much as Steve has used his natural charm and humour to not only cope with his own situation, but also campaign for better drug treatments for cancer sufferers.  Working with “The Prof” as he calls his oncologist, Steve has been receiving drug therapy normally used for treating other cancers, but has had to fight hard to receive it.  That, and the continued rounds of chemotherapy and checkups has meant that Steve’s tumour is being kept at bay.  Clearly, without his tenacity, fight and positive outlook, Steve wouldn’t be here today.

But I am so pleased that he is.  Not only is his fight helping many other cancer sufferers and survivors, but his easy going and hilarious personality has allowed us all to benefit.  Steve is now a regular feature on Richard Bacon’s show, popping up from time to time for the weekly moan-in, where callers are asked to express their moans and receive points for humour and creativity.  The winner with the most points is crowned the Moana Lisa! Hilarious!

Steve has also joined Twitter as @steveevans51, which is where I and many others keep up to date with his life and his fight.  Steve’s Twitter followers, over 700 of us now, follow his progress and offer support on Chemo Days as well as hearing about his fishing exploits!  But it’s not all plain sailing for Steve, and while we all admire him for his upbeat and cheery nature, as he recently reminded us, “being terminally ill is shit”.

As someone who has survived cancer, I can’t really know what it must feel like to be in Steve’s position.  But on my dark days, and we all have them, I can only imagine.

Steve being Steve then apologised “sorry for sharing a down moment”.  There is never a need to apologise for being human, even if he is superhuman!

Steve is an inspiration to many, and long may it continue.

An evening with Tim Vine



As Patron of our local arts centre in Raynes Park, the Lantern Arts Centre, the epic master of the one liner Time Vine took the opportunity to preview his new Chat Show before taking it to the Edinburgh Festival.

I first saw Time Vine many years ago in pantomime at Wimbledon Theatre, playing alongside John Barrowman in Cinderella.  As the comic character Buttons, Tim had me in stitches and has done ever since.  His classic one liners are award winning and legendary! He also co-wrote and starred in the BBC sitcom Not Going Out with Lee Mack, a great double act the pair of them.

The Lantern Arts Centre is a great venue.  Within walking distance of home, the venue has taken up residence in the majority of the space of the Raynes Park Methodist Church.  When I dropped off my payment for the Time Vine tickets I was lucky enough to receive a tour of the place, courtesy of Artistic Directors John and Georgie Talbot, a couple of fabulous actors who I have known for a number of years through my links with a school theatre group I commissioned as part of my work as Graffiti Manager at a London local authority.  I was amazed at the volume of ‘stuff’ around the place, rooms, theatre space, props, and a newly opened costume store, where anyone can hire one of the many fabulous performance costumes.  Anyone for Widow Twanky?!

But getting back to the main man Time Vine….actually I can’t remember any of his jokes.  Is that good or bad?  I remember laughing as much as I ever did, his one liners were as sharp as ever, with the added value of impromptu gags at the expense of members of the audience, who had been asked to volunteer to join Tim on stage before the start of the show.  You know you’re in trouble if you put your hand up for things like that, and I did wonder why a couple of people bothered!  You certainly wouldn’t get me doing that, well not sober anyway!

You can check out Tim on his web site, which also includes a number of his YouTube videos.  You have been warned!