“A missed opportunity that turned out to be for the good”

A hard one this, Tony, but one thing comes to mind.


When I was at university there were adverts all over the place for scholarships to various places. I would look at them and think nothing more of them – I didn’t consider the possibility of ever getting one. Confidence was never my strongest point and when I saw my fellow students being paid in effect to gad about the world I wasn’t even envious. Or surprised. They deserved it and that was that.

One day I was talking to one of my professors and asked him out of idle curiosity who had got the year long scholarship to Ann Arbor, Michigan. He looked at me for a while and then asked me why I hadn’t applied. I told him the truth, that I hadn’t stood a chance. That’s where you’re wrong, he cried. No one applied. You would have got it, even if there had even some competition. I was aghast. and angry. and annoyed. Imagine.

But I got over it. I went to Spain for a year as planned and wasn’t very happy, came back for the enter EU referendum and continued with my life. Began to teach, had children and so on.

I was teaching in a boys’ school which was about to close. No one knew what they were going to do. The summer was hot, we spent a lot of time whiling the hours a way in various nice pubs and disconsolately discussing our plans for the future.

I was late to school one day and the head was quite understandably cross. He called me in. I was annoyed with myself and with him, because that morning a brochure had arrived in the school offering grants to teachers to do work experience abroad – in school time. Fabulous idea. I thought I’d go for it.

Meanwhile the deputy head had thrown the brochure away I’m afraid I had to choose my moment and rummage in the bin for it. I had suddenly remembered my missed opportunity 15 years previously at university and I wasn’t going to let this one go. I fished it out, read the relevant details and realised I had about two days to apply.

So I went into the head’s office for my scolding. Eyes down, suitably abashed and ashamed I apologised. I was dismissed. But I didn’t want to leave the room just yet.

Can I just ask you something? Can I please go on work experience to Spain?

When? What? How do you mean?

Oh not now, I said breezily, In the summer; (this was November).

Oh, that’s all right, then, said the head. Where do I sign?

And so I left the room, suitably chastised and proud of myself that I had taken my future into my own hands – at least for a fortnight.

The summer came and I worked or rather work shadowed in a bank in Madrid.

the account of the work experience itself can be found here:


What opportunities have you missed with good consequences?

3 comments on ““A missed opportunity that turned out to be for the good”

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