My parents would be in their eighties now. Neither of them went to university but almost no one from that time did. They went into work, marriage, children, building a patio, growing geraniums, all that stuff.

Of the drinking buddies I have at the Legion who fall into the same age bracket as my parents, only one went into higher education. Times have, of course, changed, and now everyone and their mother has a degree.

But, having not gone to university, and knowing very few people who’d got as far as A-levels, my parents thought the best sort of preparation for my higher education was starting me on the Telegraph crossword from around the age of six. Possibly earlier. I’m sure there were fewer clocks in the eighties.

Anyway, as time moved on, I got very good at the Telegraph crossword. As previously reported, my mother tried to teach me French, with freckles of Norwegian thrown in for good measure. When I was a teenager, she bought a Test Your Own IQ book and had me try it out at different times of day – in order to discover that my IQ ranges from 129 and 168, depending on my caffeine intake.

In my early twenties, my uncle used to visit quite frequently and he would do the crossword with my mother. In the morning, with a cup of tea, it was all very polite and my mother would bite her tongue in order to let her brother get as many clues right on his own as possible. After twenty or so minutes, I’d come in with a strong coffee, slightly blurry-eyed, and finish the last few clues for him.

I never did go to university, but I think my mother was quite proud of how quickly I could polish off the crossword. And having this kind of brain does help when the word is elusive.

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mrsdoyle