Cultured or Second Class

I have been trying to get a bit of culture in my fairly ordinary life.
This sounds like it should be a relatively easy exercise if it weren’t for
the fact that I am a full northern male with, what was rather
discouragingly called, a secondary education.

Perhaps this title isn’t meant to imply a sub-standard academic
environment; however the address given by our deputy head master at our
opening assembly certainly did.

We sat before him as a group of gangly eleven and twelve year olds looking
for the kind of pedagogic inspiration we have become accustomed to in our
primary schools.

‘At an establishment down the road’ he began, referring to the local
grammar school. ‘They are being trained to be the cream of society’ he
continued as if imparting wisdom. ‘I want you to know, however, that you
are not second class’.

Until that assembly I had never considered that I was, being glad to
attend a school that played both football and rugby.

Now, as I approach fifty, I consider it is never too late to become
cultured. So as I waited for Mrs M to finish her nursing shift last week I
listened to Pavarotti’s performance of Nessun Dorma.

At the same time I surfed the Internet to find the words. This didn’t
completely prove fruitful, as I didn’t learn Italian at my secondary

Fortunately the World Wide Web is not limited by my lack of education and
provided me with an English translation.

It turns out that Puccini was an old romantic and the song contains a very
moving lyric.

My computer didn’t stop there in trying to bring me culture. It seems that
those who know about such things are very passionate about naming their
favourite performer of this operatic masterpiece.

It seems that Britain’s Got Talent contestant Paul Potts doesn’t please
the opera going public of these fair isles.

When my bride finally arrived home I shared my newfound knowledge with her
and insisted that we did our own comparison by listening to several
one after another.

Mrs M wasn’t immediately keen on the idea but soon came round and so we
listened, and we listened, and we listened.

After hearing nine tenors I had two conclusions; Firstly, Pavarotti was a
genius. His performance stood out above the rest. Secondly, my education
was, to some degree, secondary because our deputy head master never told
about the brilliance of Nessun Dorma during any of his assemblies.

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