When I was ten I went to school in Durham. It was a huge upheaval, I think my parents had thought of having me board there - I had read all the books about boarding schools and imagined feasts in the dorm! I was desperate to go. Also we lived in a small mining town and boredom has always been the greatest threat to my well being. I have what must be one of the lowest boredom threshholds in creation. In fact Durham High School didn't have boarders any more. I was gutted.
School was not one of the best experiences of my life. I felt like the writer who talked about all those years his teachers had stolen from him. I'm sure if you want to be a doctor or a solicitor or anything professional like that school is useful but for me after I learned to read, write and add up I felt that I hadn't learned a single thing that was of any benefit to me.
My sister felt the same, which is strange are we are nothing alike but she wanted the outdoor life and horses and all I wanted was to be left in my bedroom teaching myself to type on the old black Underwood my father had so briliantly bought for me when I was ten. It was one of the best presents I ever had.
For years I was resentful of my schools but in fact it was a very good schooling for a writer. First of all I went to school in the village along with everybody else, then I went to private school along with the daughters of businessmen, professors and so on and then I went to boarding school in upstate New York and all of it has been useful for my work.
After I moved into Durham City five years ago I met one of the girls I had been friendly with at school, Mary. Mary is all those things a friend should be and more. She puts herself out for everybody, she makes friends everywhere she goes. She is the eternal optimist, the person who takes you for coffee when you're low. Mary knows when you feel low - she certainly does when I do. It's as if she has an extra instinct for these things. Mary saves me from myself.
She started the CAMEO group. I think first of all it was people she had taught with and then it grew to include others.It means Come And Meet Each Other and of course Mary thought it up.