What to do if you don't get the grades you need, by a neurotic middle class mum

IT’S the moment every parent dreads – your child failing to get into their Oxbridge college of choice. So what do you do next? Overambitious parent Charlotte Phelps gives her advice.

Don’t do anything ‘stupid’

If you haven’t got into Oxbridge, you may feel there is nothing to live for. But you can still have some sort of life, maybe as a wretched little regional bank manager. However if things are really bad, eg media studies at Aberystwyth via clearing, then it’s like you’ve entered the netherworld anyway.

Contact your back-up offer immediately

Get straight on the phone to your second offer. A place studying politics at Reading is very much the booby prize, but at least you won’t be stuck at home, a constant source of shame to your parents, like Prince Andrew.


Leave in the small hours and start a new life far away, maybe as an anonymous road sweeper or a Scottish lobster fisherman. Only return home once you have made amends by getting a job with Arthur Andersen. When you’ve failed to get a place dossing about smoking weed at a top university, it’s the only honourable thing to do.

Accept that you are a failed child and sibling

If you were the favourite child, that now falls to younger siblings who may still study law at St John’s or Corpus Christi. Also prepare for a less warm relationship with your parents. If you ask for a DJ mixing desk for Christmas, expect a Toblerone.

Claim you always planned a year out

Really you’ve been forced into resits and reapplying, but this might fool some people. It can even sound quite impressive as you share your frankly worthless knowledge of Thailand. It helps if you can cadge more money from your parents without feeling shame after already costing them bloody thousands in private tutors. Don’t get eaten by a shark in Phuket, eh, Hugo?


You can always attend some intellectual and social cesspit of a university, and simply pretend you went to Oxbridge. To convince people, overcompensate by wearing a blazer and cravat, and saying things like: ‘Jolly fine punting weather, what? I say, where’s Boffo? He owes me tiffin.’

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Six utterly baffling questions posed by song lyrics

MUSICAL artists are fond of posing questions and leaving it to the poor old listener to work out the answer. Here are some you’ll struggle to answer.

Should I Stay or Should I Go? – The Clash

Like a gran trying to decide whether to get rich tea biscuits or Bourbons, singer Mick Jones dithers about whether to stay or go. Unhelpfully, no details of his circumstances are given to help you judge. However he does reveal that if he goes ‘there will be trouble’, but if he stays ‘there will be double’. Clearly the answer is to go. Basic damage limitation.

What Difference Does it Make? – The Smiths

Before becoming a far-right fanboy, Morrissey was noted for his feelgood hits about people being killed by buses and trucks. But The Smiths’ 1984 single What Difference Does it Make? left listeners scratching their heads. What difference does what make, Morrissey? A solar storm? Depressed currency markets? An outbreak of Dutch Elm Disease?

Don’t You Remember – Adele

‘When will I see you again?’ mopes Adele in yet another song about being dumped. The rest of the song is her badgering her former partner about getting back together. Badgering. Non-stop badgering. More badgering than The Wind in the f**king Willows. In this failed relationship the best answer might be ‘never’, ie. a clean break. But really Adele should ask a qualified counsellor, not her fans.

Who are you? – The Who 

If you were singer Roger Daltrey posing the question, the answer was likely to be ‘Pete Townsend’, ‘John Entwistle’ or ‘Keith Moon’. It wouldn’t even be a particularly surprising question, given the amount of drink and drugs The Who quaffed. But on a deeper level, who, indeed, am I? An individual with free will, or just a series of sense perceptions giving that illusion? They really need to consult a philosophy professor.

Are We Human? – The Killers

Are we human, or are we dancer? Perhaps the deepest question posed by a song since Haddaway asked What is Love?. It’s the kind of song that leads to the same existential angst as when you click the ‘I am not a robot’ button on a website, then wonder if you are, in fact, a robot who has been programmed to think they are human.

When I’m Sixty-Four – The Beatles

‘Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?’ Ah, the irony of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills separating in 2006 when he was 64. Heather’s departure may have been caused by the thought of knitting a sweater by the fireside, or maybe it was Paul listening to Wings. Either way, in this case the answer was a clear ‘no’.