This is a book that puts, and keeps, a smile on your face. It keeps your interest if you like to sit and read books straight through but, with each chapter relating a self-contained incident, it’s also ideal to read a bit at a time. It would make perfect bedtime reading with its gentle humour and well-drawn characters giving you that warm, feel-good factor at the end of a hard day.
Whilst the students in this book are a little more civilised and hard-working than those I remember, they make wonderfully likeable characters and keep you feeling nostalgic about the “old days”. If you lived through those days then you must read it. Like me, every chapter will have you saying, “Yes, I remember when …”. If you dance or are involved in folk music it will remind you of the days when folk was fashionable and, if you just want a book that you can sit back and enjoy from cover to cover, then this is one for you.
This book has definitely solved my Christmas present list. Go on, read it, I’ll guarantee you’ll do so with a smile on your face and, if you’re of that certain age, with a warm glow of nostalgia.
[University of Wales graduate, retired teacher, lapsed Morris dancer]
by Steve Thomason
A Matter of Degree – Colin M Andrews
Colin Andrews’ first novel, A Matter of Degree, cleverly evokes life in a teacher training college in the mid-seventies, from the queues for the one public phone (no mobiles then!) and the highly segregated college accommodation (including some familiar ways to circumvent it) to the petty politics of clubs and societies and the sometimes bizarre experiences encountered on Teaching Practice.
If, like me, you trained to be a teacher in those days, much of what Colin writes will cause a wave of nostalgia to flow over you again and again as you read this account of student life. Rob, Jake, Dan, Benji, Sunny, Kissy and the others are very believable characters, and their adventures, often caused by the hare-brained schemes of ring-leader Jake, are well-written and amusing.
Colin’s own interest in Morris dancing and the folk arts manifests itself in some of the friends’ activities – the folk club, the mummers’ play and the Border Morris team – the latter of which helps to supplement their bar expenses as well as giving them an opportunity for a camping holiday together.
There is plenty here to entertain, and each chapter stands very well on its own, so the book can be read in chunks, rather than as a straight-through narrative, if that’s what you prefer – though I must admit that I was reluctant to put it down until I had reached the satisfactory (for Rob at least!) conclusion. A fine first novel, and one that I shall recommend to my friends.
by Barry Goodman
A MATTER OF DEGREEE
Anybody wishing to relive those halcyon student days before our country became distinctly sourer, must read and become totally immersed in this, generally happy-go-lucky novel. The Author recreates life when people still mattered in a delightful world before we allowed technology to replace unadulterated humanity which frequently incorporated raucous fun because it usually seemed “like a good idea at the time” ! Nowhere are these values more clearly illustrated than on higher education campuses whereby, apart from those sad souls who preferred to go on political ‘demos’, the vast majority of students just worked hard and played hard – living their youthfulness to the full ! Invariably, this involved copious quantities of beer which was often resulted in spontaneous ‘sing-songs’ of rock/pop or folk music, or otherwise, in College ‘Union’ bars and pubs.
My own College days of the late 60’s were just a shade before the early 1970’s of this book – but the ingredients were just the same. They remained so until the 80’s ‘rot’ set in transforming Britain from one kind of place to another – where “kill or be killed” seemed to replace compassion and fun. ‘A Matter Of Degree’ recaptures a student sense of that earlier British ‘wartime spirit’ of sometimes cheeky naughtiness (without any harm meant) and of tolerance towards other people. Above all, it shows young people who interact using social skills that still engage with real life, without a ‘social network’, surfing the net, texting, or living on a mobile phone ! How much nicer and more natural it all was, then. Despite a few tears, the inevitable boy-girl relationships, with ‘one-night-stands’, romances and break- ups are still conducted with a ‘degree’ of decorum and, apart from frequent innuendo, there is no actual sex – although there is ultimately a huge ‘twist’ !
All of the razzamatazz of earlier University life is here. The novel richly features rag stunts, parties, ‘bops’ and Morris Dances as the hero ‘Rob Kiddecott’ and his Student Teacher mates are dragged through one escapade after another – chiefly instigated by one of them - ‘Jake’, a larger than life coloured lad. My only slight criticism of this unputdownable book is its tendency to ramble in a few places – when you are itching to find out what develops next. Overall, the novel is a nostalgic romp. Enjoy !
by Alan S. Blood
I found reading "A Matter of Degree" thoroughly enjoyable. It was easy to love and cry with the characters, and I thought Colin Andrews captured the easy going early 70s very well. The students get up to some predictable and some less common antics and schemes. all very good hearted.
The book will strike a chord with anyone who has fond memories of their student days. There isn't quite a laugh a minute, but there are plenty about. So if you want an upbeat book to help you over a rainy day or are planning a trip to the beach, take this book along and enjoy!
by Mecki Testroet
This is a brilliant story. A "Last of the Summer Wine" for students in the 1970s. The life and dramatic exploits of a farmer's son from Devon is the basis of the book, and his attempts at conquering the opposite sex (always thwarted) provide a great deal of tension and humour.
A gentle, amusing, delightful tale told with great skill, this book is a delight!
by Michael Jecks
Do you remember what it was like to be a student in Wales in the 1970s? Colin M. Andrews most certainly does, and with great charm his novel recounts three years in the life of a young aspiring undergraduate teacher. For me, episode after episode of delightfully written and often hilarious narrative bring back those times better than any photographs. For anyone who wonders what life was like at that time, this is the book to read! It set me wondering about how different things were then, some things have improved enormously, others have not, but above all I felt that the book vividly depicts how much our lives then were filled with simple, honest-to-goodness fun. The story rolls on, almost like a trip around Wales, and I found that the author never allowed it to stray too far off track. If you are after a “holiday” from all the crime novels and doom and gloom currently on sale, this book makes a refreshing change. Read it!
It was fascinating for someone like me, a former teacher, to hear about going to college in Wales. The author obviously did attend college in Wales, a country not many of us on this side of the Pond are very familiar with. It was a delightful read, full of singing and dancing without the intrusive emphases of so many novels featuring money, sports,
gratuitous sex and crime. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
by Janet Ranton