Origami Mark's Photos

Album:School and College Days
Here are some pictures of when I was at St Nicholas C of E Primary School Cottesmore, Oakham School, and then at Westfield College, London University. St Nicholas Primary School is still going strong, as is Oakham.
By virtue of it's expensive location, Westfield was always struggling to keep its head above water financially, and merged with Bedford College about three years after I left.
All I can say is that it was a brilliant place to advance an education.
It has gone through various partnerships since, and is currently paired with Queen Mary College, I think.
Breaking news is that the Westfield College campus has now been demolished for redevelopment, so there is no longer any physical evidence of those brilliant, formative years.


Number of photos in the album is: 17
Click on the thumbnail to open up a bigger image

  Image Notes

  This is me in the primary school head master's garden holding the plaque we won competing in the local inter-diocese scripture quiz competition.
Every few weeks during the school year, three teams of three from different schools in the diocese would meet to test each others' knowledge of religion (Christian religion in those days - no other existed).
I was the captain of St Nicholas C of E Primary School, not because I was a religious fanatic or anything, I just had a good memory.
As part of the trainiing, the headmaster Mr Jones used to literally drum religious facts into us, and woe betide us if we got anything wrong. It would put you off of religion for life, and was proof that far from being loving of his flock, God was a vengeful S o a B.
For the big final, I had to get special permission to take part, because I had technically left the school when the final took place.
the final all came down to a very exciting tie-break as all three teams had the same score. To decide the outcome, each captain had to write down the answer to a question, and spell it correctly. I got the answer right, and spelled it right too.
What was the question ? It was 'Which convicted murderer was released so that Jesus could be crucified in his place ?' Charming.
Know the answer ? ... of course it was Barabas. Got it ? I did, and much to the relief of the team and supporters, won the competition
As well as the school winning this plaque, each team member got to choose a book from the 'winner's table'. All said books were religion-oriented. The losers on the other hand got to choose from another table, where all the books were much more exciting, and not religious at all !
  This is the team that won the inter-diocese scripture competition. I can't remember much about it except the girl was the headmaster's daughter, and the other boy's surname was Booth. I'm not bitter ...
They were both younger than me, but obviously better fed .. I made up for that later.
  This is me as a not so spotty fifteen year old. I'd just started wearing glasses, and was known as 'Joe Ninety' apparently.
  This is the earliest Oakham School photo I have been able to find. At this time, Oakham was an all-boys school. This changes later when I am in the sixth form.
In common with many grammar schools, Oakham was divided between boarders and day boys. I was a day boy, because I passed my 11+ exam, and so the local authority financed my passage through Oakham, where the boarding fees were, and still are, eye-wateringly high. The pupils were further divided into 'houses'.
For the day boys, there were two junior houses, Seargants and Hodges, occupied by boys who were most likely to know each other, as they came from similar areas.
It was the custom to take a photograph each year of each house.
To further enrich the story, inmates were identified by surnames and first initial only where possible. In my case there was another Plant, who had the same first and second initial as me, so he was known as Plant Malcolm A, and I was Plant Mark A. We are not related.
This is a House photo of Sargeant's House when I was in the second year. Plant Malcolm A at this time would have been in Hodges House.
I am standing, second from the right on the second row, next to another of my good friends, Bilby C (Chris).
Not sure what became of Chris. We shared an interest in music (The Shadows and Elvis) and Eton Fives (where we played against each other, and also as a pairs combo, when required). Not sure whast became of Chris after school. I think he became a prison warden. I understand he also lost all his hair ...
  Third year at Oakham, and I have moved up to Johnsons House.
My time in Johnsons saw me as a House Prefect, specialising in the supervision of the more junior boys, and a member of the House rugby team, playing variously hooker, wing forward and wing.
I am sixth from the left, as you look at the picture, on the second row.
  This is a picture of Johnson's House rugby team. I am third from the left on the front row.
For the observant, yes, there are seventeen in this picture. We did not lose very often !
Scarily, some of these guys are now dead.
I have tried to remember their names, and this is what I have come up with ...
Back row:Carter B (dead), Owen I (dead), Walton R, Plumb C, Hall ?, ?, Walters A, Blake ?
Front Row:?, ?, Plant, Mark A (me !), Hodges S, White J, ?, Mien J, ?, ?
If you see yourself here and I have not listed your name, please forgive me and let me know via the Feedback page, so I can correct this.
  This is me and my good friend at the time, Raymond Rudd (Oops, sorry. I mean Rudd R), being photographed for a local newspaper piece on our work with computers, which were very novel at that time - about 1971 at a guess. We were regarded as serious boffins in the making, and I owe a lot to Raymond ... Rudd R ... , as it was he who introduced me to the world of computers. I haven't looked back since, basically.
Our 'computer' comprised a big grey 10 character-a-second teletype (which was pretty damned fast at the time, and is just visible behind Rudd R), with a roll of paper to print on and a paper tape punch/reader to input/output our programs. You can see me and Rudd R holding this stuff in the picture. This device was connected via a modem the size of a suitcase (which you can just see behind us) over an ordinary dial-up telephone line to a KDF 9 in Leicester, which we rented time on.
The paper tape was treated with some kind of oil, so it smelt funny and seeped into everything. Storing data and programs on the computer was possible, but horribly expensive, so we had to use the paper tape reader to read in our work before we could run anything. Very advanced for its time, though ! I carried various boxes of paper tape with me at all times.
My claim to fame was:

  • A suite of educational programs, that sent the teachers all gah-gah
  • A suite of games which took advantage of the computer's ability to generate pseudo-random numbers, and
  • A computer dating program


  • For the dating program, I had to collect as much personal information about potential datees as possible, feed them into the computer, and wait for it to match people up. This was one situation where I got special permission to store data on the computer !
    And the inhabitants of the school were clearly in desperate need of a bit of romance, as even the teachers joined in - i'm pretty sure this would be illegal now, but back in those primitive times ...
    When I ran the program for the first time, one girl (Trayner T. The school padre's daughter) scooped almost all the males on the system. Suspecting a bug, I checked the code several times, and got Rudd R to run his more experienced eye over it, but did not find a problem there.
    Trayner T was clearly highly compatible, and thrilled skinny when she got her results, comprising a list of almost the entire male population of the school, in alphabetical order.
    Not sure what happened to Rudd R or Trayner T. If you see this, please say hi !
      Left hand part of the School House photo. It is too long to fit in my scanner. When I figure out how to stitch two photos together (as always, I am open to advice on this), I will replace this picture so you can see everyone. This puts me in the Sixth Form. We didn't have to wear school uniform in School House - preparing us for the real world, or something like that.
    I am fourth from the right on the cross-legged front row.
    By now, Oakham had gone all modern and co-educational. The first female pupil was Lorber, D (Diana, if memory serves). My goodness, she was a brave girl !!!
    I was studying Mathematics with Computing, Business Studies and Physics. I wanted to do Art as well, but was prevented from doing this because the school class scheduling system (one of the teachers ... I think it has been proved that this type of thing is mathematically impossible to automate) categorised you into two streams - Science or Arts - and the twain could not cross over. The Head of Art (Mr Walton - a wonderful man !) offered to take me on privately, but it got too much hassle, what with one thing and another.
    Besides, at this stage I was pretty much established as the Computer Room Manager, so it was thought I had plenty of non-curricular activity on my plate.
    This was the first time I noticed I was being exposed to females using their attributes to advance themselves. I shared a Maths class with another guy who was a bit of a Maths prodigy, but his Computing ability was not as good as mine. There was also a girl who used to try and play us off against each other to get her homework done. She was seriously miffed that I did not bite, but I remember the other guy did. In the end he started batting for the other side anyway, so all's well that ends well.
    On leaving school, after amazing everyone, including myself, with 3 grade B A-Levels, I remember feeling completely desolated. I had been warned by one of the teachers (Mr Webb - another great guy) that this would happen, and was completely normal, even though I knew where I was going next, having secured enough good grades to guarantee me a place at University.
    During the summer holidays I got a job at the local sewerage works as a sewerage plant operator. This is not as bad as it might sound, as altough it did involve becoming intimately involved with the brown sticky stuff, it was an opportunity to get very fit shovelling the stuff around. One odd side-effect of all this was that it made me very hungry !
    When not shovelling s**t, I worked in a Swedish plastic bucket factory in Oakham called SuperFos. The buckets were destined for various functions, ranging largely between holding ready-mixed Polyfilla to Frytol cooking oil. I was lucky to get the night shift, which meant a higher hourly rate, and an opportunity to mix with a very odd bunch - night-owls !
    Sometimes I was manning the production line printing labels on the buckets - either offset lytho printing for cooking oil or screen-printing for polyfilla - or cleaning the ink off the buckets where the printing had not worked, and the buckets were sent back by the customers' quality control. This was not just a few buckets, but whole pallets !
    Other shifts saw me manning the handle production line, where we had to put metal handles on the buckets as they were spat out of huge injection moulding presses the size of trains.A bucket starts life as a pile of plastic pellets that are melted and pushed into a die.
    The place was busy, and the staff friendly and helpful. I used to cycle to this job on my Mum's bike, which was great, as going into Oakham involved going down a huge 1:10 hill ! Cycling back was harder, but eventually I trained myself to cycle all the way up without having to get off. The advantage of working nights was that my weekends was great !
    Suffice it to say I saved enough money to keep myself in beer money for the time at Uni. I left with just over 60 in my bank account. This was long before Student Loans !
      This is me in another rugby team - this time the School House one. I'm the modest, good looking one third from the left on the front row, as if you need to be told !
    I have just noticed that there are only twelve in the picture, and a rubgy union team usually has fifteen ... no wonder we lost so often !
      ... and so we leave Oakham School behind with 11 O Levels and 3 A Levels (all B's) to go to Westfield College (London University) reading Mathematics and Computer Science. This is me as a relatively fresh-faced student at Westfield. My stay there was 'in halls' throughout, living in Kidderpore Hall in Kidderpore Avenue, NW3.
    Yes. you read that right, gentle reader ... NW3 ... Hampstead ! It was an idilyc place to study and play, as you can imagine.
    I heard recently that the area has been redeveloped, and so many memories are now just that.
    Kidderpore Hall was theoretically made up of 2 all-male and 2 all-female sections comprising single and double rooms.
    I say theoretically because there was a problem with peeping toms trying to catch our lovely girls in compromising situations. As a result the house wardens used to turn a blind eye to the presence of the guys from next door after lights-out, as long as we kept the noise down. I think the girls were very reassured by our presence as well, and was an ideal opportunity to put the girls into compromising situations.
    We never took advantages of this opportunity - honest !

    This is my student union membership card photo, proudly sporting my BOS pin.


      I shared a room with Adrian Ashley in the first year, but got my own room for the other two. The rooms were all the same very basic but adequate design, with bare brick walls to allow us to stick stuff on them, whilst saving money by not plastering and painting them.
    Outside the lecture hall, I enjoyed playing Tiddly Winks, where I was the team captain, and Judo, where I was the president of the club and also team captain. Through Gina, who we will meet later, I was also an honorary member of the Christian Community, not for my God bothering ability, but more because I could look after myself, and hence other members, and I cooked a fantastic Spag-Bog for forty people one time. Every little helps ...
    Not sure whose room this is but I am pretty sure it's not mine. Maybe my girlfriend through college - Gina. Ooops, what a give-away ! I recognise the mug on the bookcase ...
      Here we see me in philosophical mood ...
    That was one of my favourite shirts, and those jeans never, ever got washed.
    Serious belt holding them up, eh ?
    At that time I was 5' 8", 10.5 stone, with a 32-inch waist. Hard as they come, and gorgeous !!
      This is my room in college. A picture of my desk, actually. Note the presence of my trusty cassette-tape player, and a rather advanced calculator for the time. God knows how we managed in those days before mobile phones and personal computers ?
      And finally a snap of my special chums at college. I'm not quite sure what happened to the lighting here ...
    Left to right are Mike, Gina (you meet her at last), Sue, Greer, Martin and Liz ... holding up a picture of Leonard Cohen in his younger days. I am still in occassional touch with Mike and Martin, but not sure what happened to the girls.
    Those were the days, for sure !
      This is Cecilia, taken on the last day of our time at Westfield, I think. It must be an important day, because Cecilia has got her legs on ! Most of the time she dossed around in jeans and tee-shirt. Not that there is anything wrong with dossing or jeans and tee-shirt ....
    Cecilia must be one of the most enduring friends I have had through my life
    By that I mean we have kept in touch, and have met up whenever she comes over from Hong Kong to see her relatives here in the UK. Always a joy ! Love you, babe !
      Here is a pic of me out with Gina, her parents, and some of their friends, probably on some Rotary-related event. I was seriously out of place with these guys !
      Here is a pic of me out with Gina, her parents, and Gina's step-sister, probably on some Rotary or Rotaract-related event. I was seriously out of place with these guys ! Brown zip-up boots with black-tie ... Tut, tut ! But, nevertheless, very important to be seen in the right company.
    Suffice it to say Gina dumped me for a bigger fish, with some encouragement from her parents, no doubt, when we left college. I heard the other guy was the captain of the rugby team of the Rotaract Club Gina belonged to. My loss was his gain ... no doubt about that !
    She went on to be a Lab Assistant for Cancer Research, and I joined the John Lewis Partnership as a Trainee Programmer. We did cross paths at various times for a couple of years since college.
    I don't know what she is up to now, though. Doubtless doing good deeds in the name of the Lord.


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