Wednesday, 23 December 2015


From a student essay: 'Cloud computing provides extra hard dick capacity.'

Saturday, 19 December 2015

The End Days

That’s it for 2015. The teachers’ room is dark and silent, and the elevated discourse that is customary there (‘I had a packet of them McCoy Thai chicken crisps. They were fuckin’ rank.’) will resume but fitfully in the new year: there’s very little work before Easter. Yesterday was the final day of the last course of the year, and students were given their test results.

‘This are not my result!’ says Nawaf indignantly when I hand him the slip that tells him he’s nose-dived again. 

Yes, they bloody well are.

‘No. This are my result from the last course.’

Why the fuck would I be giving you those again? 

‘No, no. This is no the true. This is false. This is injustice.’ 

Fortunately it is not I who must remonstrate with him: the centre director and the academic coordinator are waiting in their offices, sitting ducks for the tearful, the indignant and the obstreperous. Go and see one of them, Nawaf. 

No, one of them, not me. 

Nawaf is a bit odd, to tell you the truth. The following is a sample of the kind of exchange he and I have been having over the past ten weeks:

He: (indicating an article he’s just read) I agree with this. Very good.

Me: What is it you agree with?

He: Well, he says A, B and C. Very good.

Me: But where does he say A?

He: (airily) I dunno. Maybe here.

Me:  Look at the topic sentence of the paragraph. Is he going to say A, do you think?

We establish via a few minutes of Socratic midwifery that the author actually says the opposite of points A and C, and that point B is entirely absent.

He: Well, yeah, I know!     

Me: Know what???

He: (as to a half-wit) That he’s saying X, Y and Z! And I agree with this. Very good.

Anyway, Nawaf and a handful of other litigants depart to see the people I’ve palmed them off to, and I go to the teachers’ room and faff about on the Internet so as to keep well out of everyone’s way. When after an hour or so I venture out again, Nawaf is still wrangling with the academic coordinator about his grades, which had been maliciously assigned. How could it be else, given that his essay had been perfect and his presentation trenchant and skillfully executed?

The fact is, Nawaf, that your essay was merely word salad and your presentation pointless, which is why they failed. Get it? It had nothing to do with the assessing tutors being in league to wreck your career. I had told everyone to keep their PowerPoint slides simple, but you put your entire introduction onto one slide and read it out word for word, likewise the conclusion. Between the two, we had a few random observations touching on weather and food prices in the UK and the USA. Or something. It was the ninth presentation of the morning, my mind was wandering and nothing you said brought it to heel. 

Anyway, by the end of yesterday morning Nawaf was told that his results would be passed on to the faculty he hopes to join in January, and it would be up to them to decide if they will accept him or not. I think they probably will. They don’t strike me as overly fussy: Christ knows how some of the overseas students manage to do degrees, given their lousy English. Nawaf’s English isn’t lousy – far from it. But his mind is a hall of mirrors in the form of a Mobius strip. Picture that if you can.


And now the good news. As of last week, my nephew (above, with my sister) may preface his name with ‘Dr’. If you are having problems with your laser – and they can be the very devil, I'm sure you'll agree – he might be able to sort you out, but don’t be pestering him with your piles or sciatica, he isn’t that sort of doctor. Well done, lad.   


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