Well fancy seeing you here...

Hello and welcome to the rambling rollercoaster of useless ponderings, strung together in what the internet calls a "blog," and the voices call a waste of everyone elses time.

Please check your sanity at the door (along with your dignity, logic, principles, good taste and prejudices against daftness.)

"I am here to seduce you into a love of life; to help you to become a little more poetic; to help you die to the mundane and to the ordinary so that the extraordinary explodes in your life." -Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Those Who Can't, Teach.

I am beginning to think that my brain is like an unmoderated version of Wikipedia. It's full of mainly-useless-but-occasionally-interesting detail that other people have added - but a lot of the information is incorrect or unsubstantiated. I don't have memories, either - just cerebral graffiti. Where I should store details like times-tables and pin numbers, I instead just have the lipstick-scrawled annotation that: "maths woz 'ere."

Despite (or maybe because of) my mental failings, I do remember being very suspicious of the cat yesterday. I still have no real evidence that she is "up to something," but this afternoon a pair of scissors did go missing. Now, I don't know how a pair of curved nail-scissors might be utilised in a bid for world domination, but they don't let them on aeroplanes anymore so there's obviously something up with them. It used to be quite a big deal when I was at school, to finally be allowed to use real scissors - instead of being restricted to those 'safe' plastic ones that hardly did more than dent the paper. Do schools still have that rule? Actually, with the ridiculously hypersensitive health-and-safety laws now, they probably keep students away from real scissors until college. (That would be typical of this country - at a time when students are taking knives into schools, they still limit them to plastic scissors.)

Another thing that used to be a notable event at school was graduating from using pencils, to writing with a pen.(Come to think of it, my school might have been a bit weird.) I was joint-first in my year to earn a Pentel Handwriting Pen. I think they were red roller-balls, with blue ink. I hated Tom for getting his the same week. He was the smartest kid in my class, and I had been as determined to beat him as he was not to come second (probably why we tied for first place really.) It was in my third and final year of Infants School, so I would have been almost seven. We were evaluated on our 'joined-up writing,' and not allowed to write with a pen until we had been awarded one. After that it was a free-for-all. My pencil case became a veritable orgy of coloured scribing implements from that moment on. I even had one of those interchangeable biro's with ten colours.

Once we got to Junior School we were expected to write with a fountain pen all the time. I resented the kids who had not passed their handwriting certficate but were still allowed to use a fountain pen. It's hard to feel superior when the teachers level the playing field. The only time the school allowed us to use pencils or biro's was in our 'draft books,' but the 'first draft' and then final 'neat copy' had to be written properly with a fountain pen. I learned quite quickly that those ink-eraser corrector-pens that dissolved fountain pen ink were very useful for removing blue splotches from fingers after changing the cartridges. I also remember being really pleased with myself when I got an engraved set from my grandparents for going 'back to school' and entering year 5. Not quite so pleased when I realised that the whole class had them, because their parents had seen the same offer in the ideal-homes-style tent at the annual Southsea Show.

The other trend that year began when W.H.Smiths started selling little plastic tubs of multi-coloured ink cartridges. I liked the pink ones, and the turquoise ones - and used to swap them with the boys who preferred the red and the blue. I used to get a good deal, because there was no way they'd be caught dead using the pink and so were eager to offload them. Alan Sugar wouldn't fire me.) I went on holiday to Weymouth, Dorset for Easter that year and found some purple ones in an art supply shop. I think I spent all my holiday pocket money on purple ink-cartridges - and then spent the next term trying to persuade my teacher Mr Mulholland to let me use them. I told him they were my "trademark." I won him round in the end because I knew his Achilles heel - Garfield. He had a real obsession with that cat, and as one of the disadvantages to being a 'nan-kid' (of sorts) is that I used to be traipsed round Oxfam shops and car-boot sales, I would get him lots of cheap Garfield comic-strip books.

There was another odd cartridge-based trend that year (remember, this was before Playstations.) We all used to collect the little plastic balls from inside them, the ones that stopped the ink coming out until you burst them by squishing them into the pen. (It was also the year before the school got the internet, okay?) This meant using all the ink from the cartridge, and then washing it out with water, before inserting it into a pencil sharpener to cut the top off and get the ball out. People used to keep them in tic-tac containers. It was a somewhat pointless, but nonetheless competitive, excercise.

We didn't learn much that term.

Though Mr Mulholland did teach me two things: the correct way to spell 'can't,' and that I was/am precocious. I learned both things during a single detention, where he had exasperatedly put me after I failed to remember the apostrophe when writing 'can't.' He told me to copy exactly what he'd written on the whiteboard, fifty times. He'd written 'There is an apostrophe in the word can't,' only he'd spelt 'apostrophe' wrong, so I wrote out "There is an apostroph in the word can't, and an 'e' in the word apostrophe." Fifty times. It meant more work for me, but also far more satisfaction. (I had considered using the red board-marker and correcting his spelling on the whiteboard as he'd done on my work, but thought he would be less forgiving of that, and more inclined to see the funny side of my alternative take on his lines.) It's probably a good job he needed me for his Garfield fix, and that teachers couldn't hold pupils back a year.

The reason for this rambling reminiscence of school handwriting is a quote from W.H.Auden, who claimed that poets enjoy their own handwriting "like smelling your own farts." It struck me that there are some quotes that don't deserve to be quoted. I take some satisfaction in the knowledge that some of you may not be familiar with the work of W.H.Auden, and will henceforth remember him as the author of nothing more accomplished than that little anecdote.

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