Yep, close shave time back in 1970/1971.

At the time I was applying for universities, I got precious close to accepting an offer from Bangor, in North Wales. It was an entertaining interview, with the interviewer throwing some curveballs, including ‘How many species of earthworm are there in Britain?’

‘Over 20 I think, though I can only name Lumbricus terrestris  and Allolobophora longa.’

‘Your biology teacher is Welsh, I’d guess. Biology teachers from Wales are big on worms. What other offers have you had?’

‘University of East Anglia offered me three C grades, without an interview.’

‘Oh well, let’s make it a fight, shall we? Three Cs and you’re in here. Your choice then, isn’t it?’

I’m glad I opted for UEA, or I’d have ended up in Bangor, and that was where Susan ended up. After the debacle in March 1971, ending up in the same university town might have been disastrous. I’d probably have had to apply for a transfer to another university.

As it happened I had a backup plan anyway. Aberystwyth were plainly eager to get me on the student roster, and offered me two Es. This is about as low as it got*. But there was still the problem of proximity to Bangor, a mere 80 odd miles away. That might have been a terrible temptation with Susan being there, mightn’t it?

I got into UEA. I didn’t get three Cs, but my A, two Bs, and an E, plus Grade One Use of English, swung it OK. I loved Norwich, too, though I’d liked Aberystwyth, and Bangor too, for that matter.

I still think Bangor would have been a catastrophe. Not only because you couldn’t get a beer there on a Sunday. Presbyterians, eh? I’d likely have wanted to do some pretty serious drinking being so close to Susan.

Also, at UEA, I made a pretty sharp turn in my choice of courses, influenced by some truly memorably inspirational faculty and lecturers. And I didn’t have to learn about earthworms, so that was a plus too.

*Nowadays universities are so keen to get students they have ‘unconditional’ offers, which as far as I can tell mean you just turn up at Freshers’ Week with a big loan (and huge amount of subsequent debt). That seems to be how it works.