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The Origin of Species: 'The dirtiest book I've ever read'


The sixth form bliss
Redmond O'Hanlon Writer
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Well, yes, wonderful friends there. And these are friendships forged under duress, as it were. And harsh conditions, which were meant to be like that. But what a wonderful place. There's the Wiltshire Downs, there's Savernake Forest, you have a bicycle. You ride a bicycle. If you get a moment, you know, out you can go. And when I worked out the way that... you know, in cricket, if you're the captain, you go in and field first, and then you get bowled out with the first ball, then you've got a lot of time. You can piss off.

That, but the real point... I mean, later, in the sixth form, of course you don't see it like that. You don't realise how bloody lucky you are. You have no distractions, no home to go home to, no girlfriends allowed, much. I mean, one in the town, but you're completely isolated, monastic life, and even if you do get nicked on your motorbike, bringing in all the things that the upper classes aren't allowed, or middle classes, like beer and chewing gum and so on.

And anyway, you get beaten for that sort of thing, and having a motorbike. But you have a key to the labs. You, a boy, have a key to the labs. Trusted completely. Go out for that prep, as it were, for your biology A-levels, S-levels, and immerse yourself. And you might be alone in this vast lab. And you put the lights on and there are all the microscopes lined up. You can do... repeat any experiment you want to. It is just fucking magical. I couldn't believe it. And then you're a bit carried away.

And it feels wicked, which is always essential, because you shouldn't really be up that late. So you put all the lights out and you do all the right things, and you put your specimens back, and then you can't go into your house by the normal door, it's two in the morning.

So you go up the fire escape and in through the window you left open. And that just seemed... well, I'm 61 and I've never fucking forgotten that. Just wonderful. Such a privilege somehow. So big change once you are in the sixth form.

British author Redmond O’Hanlon writes about his journeys into some of the wildest places in the world. His travels have taken him into the jungles of the Congo and the Amazon, he has faced some of the toughest tribes alive today, and has sailed in the hurricane season on a trawler in the North Atlantic. In all of this, he explores the extremes of human existence with passion, wit and erudition.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: youth, school life, childhood, bicycle, friendship

Duration: 2 minutes, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: July - September 2008

Date story went live: 01 November 2017