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Further Up The Beach – Alumni Spotlight

Further Up the Beach is a semi-autobiographical book written by Hughes Hall alumnus, David Monk. The book was heavily influenced by David’s time at Hughes Hall and his struggles with his mental health. 

Below he tell us more about Further Up The Beach and his story since leaving Hughes Hall:

David Monk, Hughes Hall alumnus

“Further Up The Beach came about because I have suffered from anxiety – ever-present, sometimes acute – since being a small boy. But through a combination of factors, all explored through Sam’s eyes in the book, revealing this to anyone other than my wife was not possible until my mid-50s, when I finally decided to summon up every ounce of courage, and embark on several years psychoanalytic therapy.

So for most of my life, (around 5 decades), my anxiety has been rather brilliantly disguised, whilst at the same time very little understood and greatly feared.  This led me to explore in Further Up the Beach the whole idea of the disguises we sometimes feel compelled to wear, rather than reveal what is below the waterline, which can be incredibly difficult.

Hughes Hall was a very significant period in my life in that I was there to train as a teacher but, apart from meeting my wife, it ended up being a very difficult year. It became clear both to me and others that I was not cut out to be a history teacher, as a result of which I had to reassess my career plans.  I did learn on teaching practice, however, that I was drawn to those young people who struggled with school, relationships, and the demands made upon them. It became clear, too, that those who struggled on the margins of school could both talk with me and trust me to understand the things they were struggling with.

Further Up The Beach

This led me to change direction and train in social work, where I have spent many years working with troubled children and adults, as well as occupying a variety of senior management positions in probation, youth justice and the voluntary sector.  I was much more suited to social work than teaching, and I have many times been grateful for the experience I had at Hughes Hall in helping me change direction.

However, of course, my anxiety remained, and was only tackled through therapy several decades later, when, like Sam in Further Up the Beach, I also chose to return to the front-line in social work – despite many around me were telling me I was mad, and should put my feet up and retire!

So my year at Hughes Hall turned out to be an extremely important one. It illustrated above all the fact that all experiences, including those which seem largely negative at the time, can have positive consequences in terms of life’s journey.”

Copies of Further Up The Beach can be found online through various major retailers, including Waterstones and Amazon.