Elizabeth Pamela Mary

It’s funny how the day that A-level results are out is the same day as my late mother’s birthday. Elizabeth Pamela Mary – ‘Pam’ – Edwards would have been 86 today.

It’s funny, because she was someone who was a teenager during the Second World War, who aced her School Certificate at the age of 14 in 1942 (it was meant to be taken at 16 and was like a set of GCSEs) but couldn’t carry on into further education because the War forced her into work.

As far as I’m aware from family lore, one of her jobs was as a telephonist in Hawker Siddeley, North Wales. Hawker was a founding member of British Aerospace and it made Hurricane and Spitfire aircraft that were instrumental in the Battle of Britain. Her telephone voice earned her the moniker ‘The Girl with the Dark-Brown Voice’. Or maybe it was just my dad that said that, I’m not sure.

Anyway, I grew up with a mother who was clever. By the time I knew her properly, she was a housewife who helped my father run his newsagents in our town, Holywell in North Wales. But my early memories of my mum include her racing through the hardest cryptic crosswords, doing my maths homework backwards to prove that the answer was right (!!!) and being annoyingly good at shouting out the answers to University Challenge or Mastermind before anyone else could.

Gah. She was good.

When it came to my O- and A-levels I struggled with the pressure. She never pushed me, never put me under any further pressure, because I put myself under enough and she could see that. I did well at O-level but fell down at A.

I don’t know what happened – I was getting good grades in coursework but tried too hard to learn everything by rote for the exams. I could practically recite Hamlet from memory, but it did me no good.

I needed to think for myself.

I then spent the next four years teaching ballet and tap in what is still an amazing dance school in North Wales – the Whitton Morris School of Dance. I forgot about academia as I plunged myself into technique and tutus, thinking I’d end up being an examiner for the British Ballet Organisation. My mum supported that path I’d decided to take, and I think she enjoyed having me at home.

But something switched in my brain in year three of that time. It seriously felt like a cog had inched round in my head, and the message was loud and clear – Go To University. I found a dance course at Roehampton, which I paired with English Lit because you had to choose something, and that was it.

But that wasn’t the whole story. I started to do much better than I thought I would in English essays. I remember phoning my mum from the halls of residence telling her that I’d got an A* for my first essay. Then another one. And another. She was so delighted, and I felt delighted that I could do what she hadn’t been able to do.

Back when I’d done dismally in my A-levels, my mum had told me that ‘there is always a time in your life that is right for studying, and it’s not necessarily when you’re at school’. How right she was. And when I got my first-class degree, majoring in English, I was on the phone to her straight away, and she was joyous.

And my career in publishing started back then when I started the Roehampton Arts Review magazine with a couple of friends. I caught the bug and never looked back.

I only ever look back at Elizabeth Pamela Mary and say, Mum – it’s all for you and it always will be.

Happy birthday.

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Fifty-five-year-old woman flying solo since 2010. Freelance writer, editor, hiker, traveller, yoga teacher. Alcohol-, child-, and hair-dye-free.

11 thoughts on “Elizabeth Pamela Mary”

  1. Happy Birthday Pam. Loved the dancing photograph.

    What an interesting and transforming part of your life. People learn differently at all ages and when you are at school you can’t help comparisons.

    I couldn’t.

    I had the opposite learning school experience to your O and A level experience, I managed 8 ok to good O-levels and felt that I had failed compared to my contemporaries. I always knew I was a bit crap at remembering facts compared to others, I knew I had to try so much harder than my friends to retain facts, I had to bully them in there, repetitive head banging syndrome and they still fell out.
    I had a a light bulb moment in the UVIth, I somehow remembered everything one teacher taught me, it just went in my brain and stayed there, wow, it was delivery of information, not the information that was a problem it was a relevation that it wasn’t just me being crap or lazy, in one subject with two teachers and a class of only 6, in one segment I was getting A’s and the other D’s and E’s, however much effort I put in. I knew it wasn’t me being dim. Life changing.

    When I was revising for A-levels out of sheer desperation I wrote a few sides of A4 lines for each subject to memorise exactly and could for the first time remember and quote confidently, it was like my own little notebook of quotable back up arguments. I could remember it all. I had finally found a way round my crap bit by limiting what I could learn word for word and it freed me to allow thinking, it let me talk about the subject and draw my own conclusions. It seemed like a huge risk and I didn’t tell anyone what I did because it was the only thing that I could do, I distilled 2 years of notes into 4 pages of tightly written A4, then hammered that into my brain, oh god I hammered it in but there simply but there wasn’t an alternative. It was the first time I took control of how I learnt and how to use it in the best way that used my talents and found a creative way round my deficiencies. It was liberating! It was like having my own secret thesaurus on each subject of translated taught facts, and I could then build my own thoughts around it. I played a game and won, luckily it paid off. It was a huge confidence boost that propelled me to the top few of my year in academic results (unexpected), it set me up from feeling average to feeling clever and conniving, knowing I just had to find a way round any big wall, it’s how I was when I was 7, it just took a while to recover my flexibility to conquer a problem.

    It wasn’t how much I knew, it was knowing the right things, not everything, I wasn’t a dustbin anymore, I could edit.


  2. I do enjoy your writing and am glad that you’re sharing it witch us in this way (just had a bit of a catch-up).

    Our mums came through fire in an age of change, and our role now is to follow that through. Don’t worry about being the oldest in the room, it can be fun!


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