OFF TO GRAZE IN OTHER PASTURES

Even when I began in the upper sixth form, I had not finally decided what I would do the following year. Would I try and get into university that next year or stay on another year at the school? At that period, one often needed to be three years in the sixth form to gain entry to University. Additional universities had not yet been opened and there was great competition for places. The universities could pick and choose - and indeed they did!

It was in January 1960 that I finally decided to try to get into London University for that coming October. I discovered that if I would have waited just a few more weeks, I would have missed the boat. The closing date for applications in most of the London University colleges was 31 January. University College was even earlier - 31 December - and so I could not apply there. In those days there was no central clearing house and one had to fill up a separate form for each college.

I put in applications for four colleges in London University, namely: King’s. Imperial, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. For Imperial I got an immediate rejection. Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth both invited me for interviews which I went to. The interview with the former went badly and they rejected me. At Queen Elizabeth College, I was interviewed by the lady Principal in her office. The interviewees sat on a large chair which was placed by the side of her desk.

I was accepted by Queen Elizabeth College on condition I passed A-level Chemistry and Physics. This College had once been part of King’s College until it had become independent. (Today it is again part of King’s College.) It used to be only for women. Now men were being accepted and to increase their numbers, they were very lenient in their acceptance criteria. It wasn’t ranked as one of “the” Colleges of London University and I would have preferred better, but after just two years in the sixth form that was it - at least for that moment.

I should mention here that Rabbi Rosen was not keen on my applying to University that year. He wanted me to stay on, presumably in the hope that I might get a state or open scholarship.

King’s College set an examination for those candidates who wanted to study Chemistry there. I and also another boy in the class who had applied to study in King’s, were invited to take this exam. It could have been taken either in King’s or at one’s school. The date was a day or so after the end of the half-term holiday and the other boy and myself therefore wanted to stay at home after half-term and take it at King’s. However Rabbi Rosen on hearing this said that we had to take it at Carmel.

There was no syllabus for this exam and so I revised the Chemistry I had been learning. For that half-term, I took home a number of Chemistry textbooks to continue with my revision.

The exam was scheduled for the afternoon but Mr. Coles gave it to us in the morning and announced that no-one could leave the school or make telephone calls until the afternoon. The paper, as expected, was above our standard and some of the questions were not straightforward. One of them involved identifying a whole list of substances on the basis of various properties and equations. One of the “clues” was that one of these substances was soluble in water. I argued that that substance was water and I thus wrote that “water is soluble in water”!

It came as no surprise when they informed me and the other boy that we were not accepted. This letter had a proviso. They said that in past years one could have appealed the decision after one received one’s A-level results, but due to the large number of applications that year, there could be no appeals. However they did leave a “crack in the wall” saying that they would be interested to hear of excellent A-level results.

That was all I could do at the time on my University applications. I had to get on with my revision and hard work for my A-level Chemistry and Physics. Without passing these exams, even Queen Elizabeth College was not open to me.

I took these exams and due to the difficult second paper in Physics was pessimistic of my chances in even passing this exam. I was even planning in my mind the letter would write to Queen Elizabeth College explaining why I had failed.

Following the exams, we started preparing for the end of year activities. Most of the boys in my year were leaving and we decided to make a leaving party on the last evening of term, after the termination of Shabbat. This would be held in the school farm mansion, where many of this class had their sleeping quarters.

Mr. Alexander asked me to write something in his autograph book and give him a photograph of myself which he would stick in this book. [When I met him at a Old Carmeli meeting in Jerusalem in 1997, he showed me what I had written nearly forty years earlier.]

A tradition of the school was for boys leaving to make a leaving speech in the dining hall during the meals of the last Shabbat of the year. This had gone on year after year whilst I was in the school. The record for the longest speech was a boy who had spoken, according to the school magazine, for 44 minutes. His speech was so long that there was a break in the middle for Birchat Hamazon! Another speech which had the school in fits of laughter and enthusiastic clapping was by a boy who had a reputation of going with girls. In his leaving speech he said, “Now there are three [name of family] in Carmel College. Soon there will be four.”

I gave my speech at the Shabbat dinner. It was nowhere near the record of 44 minutes - it was a mere five minutes or so. I began by saying that that Shabbat we read the Sidra of Masei, which deals with the journeys of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. Being in Carmel is a stage in the journey of life. That morning I had read from the Torah a portion which was 72 verses long - the longest single portion in the Torah. In my speech I mentioned how I had declined an offer by Rabbi Rosen to read it several years earlier. I went on to talk about the fact that one side of the dining hall was supported by four beams and the other side by five. As I said this, I saw Rabbi Rosen say something to the person sitting next to him. I continued by saying how I was sure that Carmel would go from strength to strength, and then praising the groups that Mr. Alexander had established that year for teaching religious songs and for “Ta’amei Hamikrah,” and ended up my thanking the various people who had specially helped me during my stay at Carmel.

It was also traditional, that after one’s leaving speech, the boy could choose a zemirah to be sung. I chose “im ain ani li mi li.” Even though it appeared the Carmel zemirot book, I don’t recollect it being sung there before that day.

As with every year, the summer term ended with the traditional speech day. I then went home to begin grazing in new pastures.

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