What did you plan to do when you were 16?


This year Jack is taking his GCSEs – I find it hard to believe he's now 16 and ready to move from school to college. There's so much more pressure on children and exams these days I think, which ultimately is a good thing. George Bernard Shaw's belief that 'Youth is wasted on the young' was probably truer then that it is now. 

When I took my O levels it was the summer to end all summers… 1976. Do you remember that year?  We woke up to bright blue skies and sunshine one morning in May, and it stayed that way until September. 

I used to revise in the garden in my bikini, or at the Upper Deck swimming pool in Hampton Court, and what I couldn't read while laying down getting my back brown had to wait until the evening! The temperature never dropped below the high '80s and this was even taken into account when marking the papers that year… could have been a completely different set of results for me if it had rained! 

But you know the most poignant thing of all is that I remember so clearly how I felt about life then… how scared I was about leaving school, not seeing the same people I'd spent the last five years with, and not truthfully knowing what I wanted to do with my life. As my mum was on her own she'd told me that unless I could decide on a career I'd have to leave school at 16 and get a job… which I did. 

Commuting to London that September as the blue skies finally clouded over, the rain set in, and my working life began, I often dreamed of where I'd be in say 10 or 20 years time.

What did you plan to do when you were 16? What was the dream job you always wanted? Did you find it? Do tell!  I'd love to hear from you, as it's something that always fascinates me – where we begin, and ultimately where we end up.

Well I've ended up with an ironing pile the size of the Eiffel Tower which I must attend to, but see you later today and over the weekend. 

Look forward to hearing from you,

Ali x


  1. joyce farnsworth May 16, 2009 at 3:31 pm -  Reply

    hello alison i have just written on annes’ blog and said i am a baby to this. yes i remember summer 76 as i was off to my upper sch from middle school which incidently had only been open a few years before so all us leaving lower sch where first to use it. when i was 16 i knew what i wanted infact all my growing up years i wanted to be a hairdresser or nurse(my brother became a psyciatric nurse)hair dressing was my biggest choice and when left school i said i will have a job in h/dressing by age 17 and yes i did 1wk before infact. children came along and that career tell by wayside.

  2. Steven May 17, 2009 at 6:41 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali
    I am 25 now and I currently work for HMRC – the dreaded Inland Revenue. My Dad is also a vat man. Some family eh :)
    If you had said to me ten years ago thats what I would be doing I think I’d have been disappointed. I wanted to a sports Reporter when I was young but I was put off by the fact you had to be a news reporter first before you could do the sport. Looking at some of the journalists now I maybe had a lucky escapse.
    Liked your wee story and it’s an interesting topic I think.
    Speak soon x

  3. Margaret May 18, 2009 at 12:14 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison, enjoyed reading about you in the seventies, what was I doing ? well I was a young mum with two toddlers and I seem to remember we spent most of that fab summer in the paddling pool in the garden, oh for some of that sunshine now.Didnt have to much of a dream then of a career as my working life started in the wonderful sixties and all we seemed to want to do was get any job that paid fairly well so we could go out and buy great clothes , I was a MOD and they were very happy days where I met my wonderful hubby and we are still together and we celibrate our 42 years together this year. The only thing we used to argue about was I was mad about the ROLLING STONES and he was a BEATLES fan , love them still.Well back to the housework , Best Wishes Margaret.

  4. alison keenan May 18, 2009 at 4:18 pm -  Reply

    Hello Joyce, Lovely to hear from you and to hear that you did follow your heart and pursue a career that you’d always been interested in. Mind you with the hours and the working at weekends I can totally see why it would have fallen by the wayside once the children came along! I have over the years lost three stylists once they became mums. I’m sure you’ve still got the skills though, even if you don’t use them nowadays…. besides being a mum is a full time job I find :) Enjoy your week and keep in touch. Ali x

  5. alison keenan May 18, 2009 at 4:27 pm -  Reply

    Steven, at least you’ll never be late with a Tax Return! Seriously though I didn’t get into radio until I was 28, and was in my early 30s when I started in TV. You could always begin by offering to help out at a local radio station at the weekends, and letting them know of your interest in sport. I used to work with a Mike Naylor at BBC Radio Shropshire and he got into radio as a weekend presenter and ended up a Sports Reporter on Radio 5 Live! There’s hope for us all. I would agree though with your last comment about some of the journalists – scary!
    Thanks for writing, it’s lovely to hear from you.
    Have a good week,
    Ali x

  6. Magda Chetty May 18, 2009 at 8:04 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali First let me tell you that you have the best presnter blog, I can not help but write to you. And you are always great and write back to everyone, thank you so much for that. The summer of 76 I worked so hard at learning English and saving money to come to England for my 21st birthday in 1977, (I am from Egypt) and now live in Mallorca as you know. I came to London in 77 to study and I had a dream to become an air hostess, but on the flight from Cairo to London I found that I get very bad case of air sickness, so that did not work out.
    Still I stayed in London and met my husband and did not move till 8 years ago when I came to Mallorca. Still I did work at a travel agent, and traveled a great deal with the help of air sickness tablets.
    As for the youth being wasted on the young, I have a friend who said that it would have been great if we were born at 80 and grew young tell we became babies, I think that is a great idea, we will sure enjoy and make the most of our youth.
    Take care, great lady.

  7. Steven May 19, 2009 at 6:34 pm -  Reply

    Ha Ha the comment about the tax return made me laugh Ali. Thanks for your tips and advice. I really like your blog too I have to say. Always plenty of interest in it. Keep up the good work and thanks again for replying
    Steven xxx

  8. alison keenan May 20, 2009 at 1:38 pm -  Reply

    Magda, what an interesting life you’ve led, and thanks for sharing it with me. Im glad you combatted your air sickness to be able to fly – I’ve bet you’ve got some stories to tell about those trips. A friend of mine worked for British Caledonian for a while as a stewardess and she had a ball! Even married the captain! Do you ever go back to Egypt to visit family? It’s a country I have never visited but would so love to. I have been to Mallorca several times – the first when I was 14 years old and mum saved up all year for us to go. The sun shone, we ate calamari and I got kissed in the lift by a waiter called Manuel…. happy days :) Must fly – fab launch tonight from Casual and Co. Take care and do keep in touch, thank you for your kind words – much appreciated.
    Ali x x

  9. Pam Richardson May 20, 2009 at 11:37 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison
    Reading your memories of 1976 took me right back to that glorious summer. Like you I was 16 and remember finishing my O levels on the Friday and wimbledon which I loved to watch started on the following Monday. The gorgeous Bjorn Borg won the first of his titles and rain didnt stop play once. Life did seem really simple then compared to now and having lived through GCSE’s with 4 children there definitely wasnt the same pressure on us as there is now. I started work that September in an office in Liverpool and stayed there until I had my first daughter when I was 24. 1976 was a wonderful carefree year despite the exams, my best friend then is still my best friend and I only have to hear You To Me Are Everything
    by the Real Thing to be transported back to that beautiful summer.
    Hope i havent waffled too much. Best wishes Pamx

  10. alison keenan May 21, 2009 at 11:20 am -  Reply

    Hi Margaret, Thank you for taking the time out to write – I hope this little bit of time away from the housework gave you a breather! And congratulations to you and your man for celebrating 42 years together! Fantastic. Obviously a match made in heaven – although I’m sure the old record player was the cause of a few arguments as in who put which 45 on when! I have to say I’m probably in your hubby’s camp when it comes to music – I love the Beatles although if Brown Sugar is ever played I feel the need to get up and jig about :)……to a unanimous roar from my kids of “Sit down mum!”… happy days. Thanks again for writing, and do let me know how the anniversary celebrations go if they haven’t happened already.
    Ali x

  11. alison keenan May 21, 2009 at 11:27 am -  Reply

    Pam, you’ve given me goosebumps reading your message! That song by The Real Thing took me back to the school field where we used to lie in the sun listening to the transistor radio Julie Piggot smuggled in to school! We used to talk about who we’d marry and how many children we wanted….ironically never how many men we’d marry – but maybe that was just me :) Very thoughtful of Wimbledon to hold off the tournament til we’d finished our O levels wasn’t it? To be honest I preferred Illie Nastase from a year or so before and Jimmy Connors… we lived and breathed the tennis as my brother Peter was a demon on the tennis court – beat all the teachers at school and was even spotted by Buster Mottram’s dad, who said with the right training he had a future…. sadly wrong time, wrong place, and no finances, but I’m pleased to say he’s made a fabulous life for himself in Australia and does still occasionally play tennis. You had your daughter just a year before I had Lucy, but you managed one more baby than me :) Well done on getting them all through their GSCSEs… no mean feat. Lovely to hear from you, and do keep in touch.
    Love Ali x

  12. alison keenan May 21, 2009 at 11:29 am -  Reply

    And thanks to you Steven for taking time out to read. Should hopefully have some moving film on here soon – fab TSV camcorder coming up and they’ve promised to let me loose with it..could be interesting!
    Ali x

  13. Pauline JOHNSON May 21, 2009 at 7:33 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison at sixteen I was engaged to be married and luckly forty years odd later we are still together, you and Julia seem to be good friends and lets face t times we all need that special friend at times.

  14. alison keenan May 23, 2009 at 8:10 pm -  Reply

    Pauline – how lovely to hear from you and to hear that you are one of the lucky ones – to find everlasting love so early on. Congratulations to you and your husband for the past 40 years. Yes, Julie and I are very good friends, and when it comes to finding someone who understands you, accepts you for who you are, and will be there whenever you need her, then I have found all those things in her. Thank you for taking time out to contact me – to stay in touch.
    Love Ali xx

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