At the third stroke, your student loan will be …

At the third stroke, your student loan will be …

I left university in 1988, so I was a little surprised when a student loan ‘statement of account’ found its way into my mailbox.

More on that in a mo. First, here’s a snippet for fans of Gerry Anderson’s wobbly puppets.

The UK’s speaking clock has recently celebrated its 30th birthday. Why on earth anyone would ever pick up a phone to find out the time — as opposed to, say, approaching some attractive stranger in the street or, here’s a thought, buying a watch — is beyond me, although an astounding 100 million calls are made to the thing every year. However, it’s the perfect opportunity to recall that the current ‘voice’ belongs to Brian Cobby, who was the voice of “Thunderbirds are go!” Ah, happy days …

Much like varsity — except, of course, for the studying and exams part. As for my own flirtation with tertiary education, the mid-1980s had a style all of their own; which, mixed with the many dimensions of a student’s life, was fun. Having the internet, iPods and cellphones would have been a bonus. We did have computers that doubled as buildings and apartheid to get our angst-hungry teeth stuck into, but no student loans. These were still a mere twinkle in a future government’s eye when my fees were kindly paid for by the taxpayer.

Mum and Dad helped out a lot; McDonald’s chipped in as well; and my overdraft has bumped along ever since. But (thankfully) no loan. Or so I had thought, all these years — until this account form turned up.

Was this some retrospective tax? An IRD ploy to get me to admit to all sorts? I called the 0800 number handily provided at the top of the statement.

“I don’t have a student loan.” I calmly and clearly made my opening gambit.

“Oh,” said the voice at the other end. “Let me check.”

I was about to regale the young man with a few tall student tales when …

“Have you employed anyone recently?”

Well, er, yes, sort of, just some sub-contracting bits and pieces.

“This is just some paperwork for your accounts,” was about the gist of the reply. “It’s not your loan,” he continued for good measure. He probably added “you idiot” under his breath.

The responsible, grown-up, shareholding, tax-paying, law-abiding, life-assured side of me was happy the matter had been so easily and painlessly resolved. Nevertheless, I must admit I was strangely left feeling somewhat sad. It might have been all a misunderstanding, yet it had brought back some fond memories and unexpectedly rekindled thoughts of, well, a life of learning.

Thinking about it, I’ve now lived more years since leaving varsity than I did before that — and if that’s not enough to bring on a few mid-life questions, I don’t know what is.

Perhaps then, I should have been glad that this happened; a wake-up call for the young whipper-snapper who still lurks within. Would it be such a bad idea? What would I like to study and broaden my horizons? An IT-related subject or something just for the hell of it? Hmm.

Where’s that Open Poly prospectus that was lying around …?

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