Bill Oddie (1959)
Born in Rochdale in 1941, Bill was brought up largely in Birmingham. After leaving King Edward's in 1960, he went on to read English Literature at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Whilst still at university, Bill wrote scripts for BBC TV's "That Was The Week That Was' and, on leaving Cambridge, gave up plans to become either an English teacher or the Warden of a Bird Observatory and went into showbiz, where he has been ever since. With a well-documented career spanning over 50 years, he is a multi-talented celebrity - wildlife presenter, broadcaster, writer, song-writer, musician and conservationist.
Why I am supporting the AP100 Campaign
I have to thank my father. My first "big school" was Halesowen Grammar. I went there for three years, and to be honest I was pretty happy there, except that I was a year and half younger than the average age and therefore a foot and half smaller. This meant it was hard to keep up at the various sports which I loved and indeed had a suspicion I was quite good at. The problem became critical when I could only run under Intermediate sized hurdles. Having said that, I am sure my dad was driven largely by the vow typical of fathers of that time - he wanted me to have "t'education he never had". I remember him announcing that I would be taking an exam on Friday. I can honestly say I had no idea what it was for. In fact, I was delighted to find the KES entrance paper incorporated lots of general knowledge questions, including popular music and -yes!- sport. The only detail I remember was the question: "what sport is played at St Andrews?" I put ‘football' knowing in my heart that the required answer was ‘golf'. Was that a cunning ruse to weed out the posh boys from the rest? If it was, it obviously wasn't the posh boys they wanted, ‘cos I got in.
The truth was that KES wasn't a posh school. Which is to say you couldn't buy your way in, or rather your parents couldn't. My time there was far far better than anything my dad could ever have dreamed of. More than once, I could sense him sighing on the touchline at Eastern Road and no doubt thinking "this is indeed the education I never had." Throughout my time at KES, I managed to cause a certain amount of disruption - a not unuseful talent for a satirical writer and conservation activist! But I like to think that it was counterbalanced by my contributions to school revues, sport, and even bird surveys in Edgbaston Park.
My purpose is not just to reminisce, but to point out that such activities are not parts of a conventional curriculum. I have had the pleasure of returning to school a number of times to explore such diverse topics as childhood traumas and the school skiffle group. The facilities have of course improved, from excellent to lavish, but the aura of the boys -and indeed visiting girls from next door- seems pretty much intact. It is also gratifying to see such an ethnic mix. In my day you were a foreigner if you came from Sutton Coldfield!
My school days at KES were the happiest days of my life. My wish is that everybody and anybody should "have t'education I did have."