A Short Story from the March 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard
My Dear Daphne,
It was very nice to see you the other day and to see you looking so well. Your mother and I were pleased to hear that you are settling down so well at university but since you went back I have been doing a bit of thinking (I get a lot of time for that nowadays) about some of the things you said to us.
I am probably more anxious than your mother, about the pitfalls you must be wary of in your future. You told us about all those layabouts at university, who go there only to have a rest for a few years and who do only enough work to get a pass. It made me very angry, that I am paying to keep these people in idleness. We have always taught you the value of hard work, in the moral sense, and this applies whether you are at university or in a job. It applied to me ever since I left school, all through my time in the army and in the jobs I’ve had since my demob. So when you talk about trying for a good degree and then going for a big job with a large firm, one of the stable ones which are not going to pack up, I think you are on the right lines. You will be set for life.
By the way when I took you back to university the term before last I did not notice any of those layabouts among your friends! In fact I liked the other students you introduced to me. Although they were young they seemed to have an instinctive respect for me and they were quite happy to just let me sit in your room while they got on with their chat. A pity they are not all like that. I think your idea, to make the first examination the stiffest and the last the easiest, instead of the other way round, would weed out a lot of the layabouts and make sure that universities are places for people who want to work.
I hear so many stories about what goes on at universities these days. Drugs and sex and communists stirring things up. I know you are a sensible girl. Your mother and I have told you right from the start that you must be on your guard against all men, who are interested in only one thing from you. Up to now you have taken our advice and we hope you carry on like that. You know that drugs are just filthy and you only have to start on them, take the smallest piece of cannabis for example, to get addicted and end up in an early grave. As for the communists, they are another kind of drug really and just as destructive. Just after the war, when I was still in the forces, I voted Labour because everyone was doing it then but I am glad I saw where all that would lead me. We cannot afford to relax in this free world and you in a university where the communists are so active must be really on your guard.
I am not grumbling at you because we know you are sensible and we are very proud of you. You have always listened to what we have said to you and we think that provided you watch your step over the next few years you are all set for a good career.
You were not the only visitor I had last week because Stan Bloomfield came to see me. It was mainly to clear up one or two details from the firm, like me keeping up paying into the pension fund and settling my holiday pay. I think Stan knows what it means to be told you are redundant after all those years with a place but I know he appreciates that I worked my notice properly and left the job in apple-pie order when I left. I hope soon I can think about another job and I don’t see why I shouldn’t get one at the same managerial level. Do you want any good kitchen hands at your university? (Ha ha).
I think I’ll close now. Don’t forget to write to me and come to see me again as soon as you can. If you cannot manage to come before the next holiday don’t worry too much because I shall be here for a while yet. The tablets they are giving me are making me a lot calmer and when I start the electric shock treatment next week I hope for a really big improvement but the doctors say it will be a few months before I will feel well enough to go home.
God bless, from your affectionate