Dear Brandon Lee
A 32-year-old spent a year at a Scottish school posing as a 17- year-old. Return to a nightmare or dream come true?
Wednesday 20 September 1995
A minute after opening the paper and seeing the awful questions swim unanswerably before my eyes, I wake up in a muck sweat. And, after a moment, when I realise that I won't have to face my father after all, I thank God that all my worries - the children's education, the mortgage, whether Eric Cantona will be sent off in his first game - are as nothing compared with the gut-grating awfulness of exams. I send up a little prayer of thanks that I will never need to sit A-levels again.
Then I read that you, aged 32, apparently in full possession of your faculties, returned to the nightmare, re-enrolled at your old school specifically to resit your A-levels (or since you are Scottish, your highers). And what a star you turned out to be: laden down with top grades, you headed off to Dundee University to read medicine.
The local education authority seems embarrassed that you managed to kid the teachers at Bearsden Academy that you were 17. There were several practical obstacles you must have had to overcome: the way you had to skive double chemistry every Thursday in order to sign on, the fact that you could never invite anyone back to your gaff - but looking 17 was the least of them. In the glandular hurricane that is late adolescence, 17- year-olds look all ages.
There was a bloke in our sixth form who could easily pass for 40. "You're getting old before your time, Cooke," the gym teacher said, taking in the sight of his hairy chest and receding hairline. And very popular Cooke was too, thanks to his unerring ability to get served in the pub.
Popularity is, I think, the root cause of why you did it. Many a time have I fantasised about playing for the first eleven now I have learnt that if you tread on the opposition forwards' hamstrings early on, they tend not to play that well for the rest of the game. I might even be able to get an article or two in the school newspaper. And it's less likely I would be reduced to tears of frustration by the history master's sarcasm if he were eight years younger than me.
But I only fantasise about doing it. You actually went back.
In the process you became the school star, schmoozing away in the school production of South Pacific, and winning a place to read medicine. Most significant of all, though, 15 years more experienced in chatting up than your fellow pupils, you persuaded two sixth-form girls to go on holiday with you. The thing is, if all you wanted was to get your leg over on holiday in Tenerife, going back to school for a year seems a touch unnecessary: two pints of sangria is usually enough.
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