Day 264 - Andrew (3rd person I approached)
September 21, 2014 - A somewhat symbolic day today. The last full day of summer, and it was gloriously warm and sunny. Almost October and still comfortable enough to wear a teeshirt and shorts outside; such bliss! Today also marks one hundred and one days left of The Stranger Project 2014. So many thoughts and feelings about that. But, another time.
Andrew was sitting outside a coffee shop, looking at his phone when I approached him. I told him about my project and asked him if he would chat with me.
He agreed to chat, telling me “I’m not doing very much right now.”
Andrew was born in Edenfield, a small village of about two thousand people, situated in the Rossendale district of Lancashire, England.
“It really is a tiny village. I mean unless you’re from there or have been there, you’ve probably not heard of it. I lived there until I left to go to college when I was eighteen,” he said.
There was no primary school in Edenfield.
“I had to go to the next village to go to school. That was only about two and a half miles away, in a village called Ramsbottom. I would take the bus there and back again,” he said. Andrew was raised a Catholic, and the school he went to was a church-funded Catholic school.
“It was a rather frightening, Dickensian experience. Students would get the strap to maintain discipline, and it was strict and stuffy. We went to church every Sunday, and I had confirmation and all of that.” He is the eldest of three children, with a younger sister and brother.
“I am five years older than my sister and about seven years older than my brother. We weren’t particularly close, in part because of the age difference,” he told me.
At that time in the English school system, students did what was called the ‘Eleven plus.’ It was a test which, based upon the results, determined the path the secondary schooling would take.
“I did well enough that I was either going to go to another Catholic secondary school, or a grammar school in yet another village. I knew enough about the Catholic school that I told my parents I would not go there. I don’t recall the name of the order of priests that ran that school, but they were, essentially, right bastards,” he says in a gruff whisper.
“I went to a grammar (public) school in the village of Haslingdon, on the the opposite side of Edenfield from Ramsbottom. It was about the same distance away, and was in a breath-taking location, It was like something from an English novel” he said.
“I wouldn’t say I was a particularly good student. I listened in class, but I didn’t do any homework. I guess really, I found it quite boring. But I did well enough, getting eight ‘O’ levels (subject-based qualification as part of the GCE, General Certificate of Education),” he said. Andrew stayed on at school, going to ‘sixth form’ as it was called. Sixth form represents the final two years of secondary education, usually ending at age eighteen. Many students in England leave school by age sixteen.
“I was Captain of the football (soccer) team, and a Prefect,” he said. ‘Prefects’ are considered student leaders and role-models in fifth and sixth form, chosen through a rigorous selection process by the school’s faculty.
After completing his ‘A levels’ (GCE Advanced level), Andrew went to Keele University, near Newcastle, in the north of England.
“I did what would be similar to a double major, or dual honours as it's called. Studying Geography and American Studies and completing both programs in four years,” he said. He then went to work as a computer programmer for the British Ministry of Defence, in northern England.
“It wasn't a particularly exciting job. Run of the mill computer programming, fairly standard stuff. I was there for five years. Then I went down to London (England), and went back to school to get my Master’s degree,” he said.
Andrew studied at the University of London and after getting his Master’s in Geography, he continued on and got his PhD, also in Geography.
“I had always liked Geography. After getting my Doctorate, I went to work at Liverpool University. I was there for almost twenty years, before coming to Canada,” he said. While teaching, Andrew had also being conducting extensive research and was branching into demography; working out the mathematical formulas for service delivery of health care for senior citizens.
“There wasn’t a dedicated field in Gerontology at the time, so the demography sort of combined Geography with Gerontology.”
During the course of his time at Liverpool University, Andrew had developed teaching and research links though collaborations with numerous universities, international organizations and governmental agencies around the world.
“I was offered a position with SFU (Simon Fraser University) and that brought me here to Vancouver,” he said. Andrew was appointed Professor and Director of Gerontology Research Centre at SFU.
“I’ve been looking at the service delivery models for seniors health care.” We spoke about the differences and similarities of healthcare standards and delivery between the USA, Canada and England.
“Canada has a service delivery equivalent to, or at least somewhat similar the US. There just isn’t enough of it. Britain has far more service delivery, but not to the standards of Canada or the US,” said Andrew.
We also spoke about accents.
“Coming from the Lancashire area where I grew up, there are so many different accents. I can tell where someone is from just by the way they speak. It might be different than someone who lives say, five miles away from them. When I’m in England, people know by my accent that I’m from the north of England. No one here in Canada can tell the difference,” he said.
And then Andrew looked at his watch, stood up and said
“I’m sorry, but I really have to get going!” I quickly took his photograph and thanked him for his time. We shook hands, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. #notastranger