In the late 1940s and early 1950s there were t many ways for a labourer to get into Oxford. Unless you'd been to grammar school and passed your exams, you were stuck - like the author. But he dreamed as he swept the streets of Cowley, and he burned, and he yearned to write. Then a portal appeared, in the form of Ruskin College, a sort of halfway house, offering scholarships to late students like John Boyles. This is the story of John's desperate attempts, like Jude the Obscure, at self-improvement, his WEA evening classes, his shy love of girls from afar, and his boundless enthusiasm for literature and music. Could he make the grade? Could he get to Ruskin and proceed to a degree from Oxford University itself? This is a revealing and salutary tale of hard graft in a harder age, when the middle classes owned the culture, and the working people huddled in freezing homes of a winter evening, listening to the wireless. What mother today would tell her son, when he gets a place at college, 'you don't want to go there and mammer your brains'? JOHN BOYLES WAS BORN IN 1922 INTO A WORKING-CLASS FAMILY IN OXFORD. HE COMPLETED HIS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL EDUCATION AT THE AGE OF FOURTEEN AND BECAME AN ERRAND BOY UNTIL HE WAS EIGHTEEN AND OLD ENOUGH TO BE EMPLOYED BY OXFORD CORPORATION AS A ROAD-SWEEPER. HE WAS CONSCRIPTED INTO THE ARMY, RETURNING TO ROAD-SWEEPING AT THE END OF THE WAR. IN THE WINTER OF 1946 HE STARTED GOING TO EVENING CLASSES, AND WAS ENCOURAGED BY ONE OF HIS TUTORS TO APPLY TO RUSKIN COLLEGE. HE TOOK THE STATUTORY TWO-YEAR COURSE AS A FULL-TIME STUDENT AND FROM THERE WON A SCHOLARSHIP TO WADHAM COLLEGE WHERE HE READ ENGLISH. AFTER TAKING HIS DEGREE, JOHN SPENT THE REMAINDER OF HIS WORKING LIFE TEACHING IN FURTHER EDUCATION. HE MARRIED IN 1956 AND BECAME THE FATHER OF THREE DAUGHTERS. HE DIED IN 2001.