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I knew the song and I knew it was Paul Simon but I didn’t know the title. Which is odd because I know Kodachrome film very well. I’m now entirely digital but I still have a dear old Pentax so I’m more Sandisk than Kodak. Are Kodak bust? Actually I have a Kodak camera. 5MP from way back but still trogging on and great ergonomics – better than my current darling – a Sony Alpha 55. 10fps@16.1Mp – bring it!

Anyway, this is for Julie. Julie posted on Nedumaction recently so I thought I’d share some thoughts from my class-room experience. Now, I might be showing my age (I’m 40) but my “careers” lessons were a bad joke with a film-strip. Do you recall those? You get a projector, a moron and the strip. It is synched to a tape to provide the soundtrack and then it goes “Bong!” and you advance the frame. This is the theory (and by Jesus I know fucking ergodic theory and the bastarding disturbing function and if those parts of mathematical physics sound nails that is because they are). Alas we had Brian Edwards on the spool and he was thick as two short planks. His alleged day-trade was as a wood-work teacher but he was deemed too dense for that so he got the Set 1 careers gig instead and nawsed that up brilliantly. Now you have to imagine this in a high-pitched Geordie accent and by “high-pitched” I mean verging towards the end of the last cry of a less-than-aveargenaut going through a event horizon*. Now you’d think advancing a frame every time it went “Bong!” was fairly simple. Not to Mr Edwards. The quantity of huffing and puffing and (muted) swearing this veritable Manhatten Project of a gadget caused him is stuff of (local) legend, hence the phrase, “Eeeee, get out silly noise!” Fuck and all his pals know what he was doing to that poor machine. I don’t. Me and my mates just chuckled. He briefed us on our “Options” (choice of GCSEs) which was presented like it was the most important thing to plan since D-Day. He offered (and this is verbatim) this jewel of wisdom, “Eeee… man there is no point doing biology unless you want to be biology-ist”. Thicker than a whale burger.

Interlude: I was once summoned from an English class to see the Head. I was not a happy camper here and on the walk there I did the mental inventory of what they might have on me (I hadn’t. Well, quite the reverse actually). Wally Pearson, for that was his name, was chatting with kids to find out who to move to less strenuous duties said something that stunned me. He told me he believed that there were teachers at Ryton Comprehensive that were positively deleterious to education. Wow! I mean it was abundantly true but for the Head to say it to a 14-15 year old kid is Wow! Not what you expect the Head to say but there you go. I suspect Brian Edwards was near the top of that hit parade. Now Wally might have meant well but he talked the talk but either couldn’t or didn’t walk the walk. He promoted the head of Geography (who was a cad and bounder) to head of Sixth-form despite him having to have left previous schools in the area over “wandering hands” with Sixth Form girls. I know this for certain because my parents were teachers in the same LEA. Steve Brent was his name and apart from teaching geography and groping (and he allegedly did more than that) he also sold dodgy used cars from his drive. Dubious geezer if ever there was one. There were rumours of hushed-up private abortions performed on Sixth Formers. Making him head of Sixth Form was like giving George Best a bottle of single malt.

Anyway back to Brian Edwards (or “Satch” as we called him – Sod knows why). He wasn’t malicious or depraved like the aforementioned. He was just utterly, spectacularly, useless. Anyway, as I said, he taught careers for there was nothing more pointless to give him to do**. What I am going to say now I swear on the holiest of holies I am not making up.

Anyhoo. The film-strip was called “The Sponge Mix” (a shiticism that amused Satch greatly for no apparent reason but as I said we are not talking the wit and wisdom of Oscar Wilde or even Kim Wilde) and chronicled the adventures of school-leaver Neville Sponge on his quest to become a mastic asphalt spreader. I am not making this up.

Now the even odder thing is the intro song to the “Sponge Mix”. It was Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” and it goes like this…

And the opening lyrics are…

When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder
I can think at all
And though my lack of education
Hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall.

Careers lessons were an irony-laden zone. Now you have to imagine that along with Satch muttering as he fails to work a simple machine (and it was a projector, not a nuclear reactor) – “Eee, Man what’s up with you!”

Now it is not true I learned nowt at school but Dear Gods it was slow. Careers was a total wash-out (obviously), PSE was beyond a joke and RE was taught by a pair of atheists who between showing wild speculation about the Shroud of Turin wittered on about protesting the Vietnam War. What is more disturbing (because in the grand scheme of things none of those matter) is that out of a year group of c.180 only 5 of us got an A at Maths GCSE (this was well beforer A*). I was one but I didn’t know how few we were and thought myself mediocre at the subject. I disliked my maths teacher for the entirely bizarre reason that she looked like Zelda from “The Terrorhawks”. Well, I guess she must have been doing something right. I am post GCSE largely self-taught at da sums. It gives me a perspective. I guess in a way I’m glad I didn’t do A-Level Maths – though it made the first term at University doing Physics nails. It got better and I did electives in discrete math which is a heck of a lot of fun. No, seriously. I thought I would minor in philosophy but one course on Descartes did for me on that. It was utter bollocks and packed to the rafters with pretentious wankers. There was a Bellendius maximus called George who didn’t speak English. I don’t mean he was foreign. He was English but he’d never be caught saying “thinking” when he could say “cognitive processing”. Epic twat. One of them pissed off to India for a year to “meet Indian philosophers” (whether they wanted to meet him is moot) and got Casevaced back to Blighty with a case of terrible guts. I dunno if he found enlightenment (or even a toilet) but it caused me a chortle. He was so up himself and he fancied my bird – they would discuss Wittgenstein at length. And he was Welsh not that I held that against him. Not that I would have held anything against him seeing as he was “letting go at both ends” so to speak. He also claimed to be a Druid. Which is why I mentioned Welshness.

*I appreciate that ought to reduce the pitch but it was years later I was taught relativity by Stan Clough and others who like knew there stuff.
**The dole office might have been an idea but you couldn’t sack teachers just like that then. He should have done the “walk of shame”. That was my mate Mick’s term for the walk from Blaydon bus station to the dole-office and back via Kwik Save (incorperating Liquour Save) and a number of bookies through a piss-stained pub(l)ic space. Fucking shit-hole is Blaydon (where they had the races). They now have a McDonalds and a gaff that sells second-hand baby impedimenta. The only fuckers who ever missed Blaydon were the bloody Luftwaffe. I went to school with the daughter of the (Labour, natch) MP and she got knocked-up in her first year at Goldsmiths in SE London (an Academy for Bell Ends it must be said). Anyway she gets knocked-up and gives birth to – I am not making this up – a son called “Storm Bruin”. My alma mater, Nottingham, had the largest Helium fridge in Europe. That was cool. Seriously cool. My London college had space missions. Goldsmith’s had a pickler of sharks. One of my bosses at Nottingham, Sir Peter Mansfield, won the Nobel for his work on MRI. Toss-up isn’t it?


  1. XX He was English but he’d never be caught saying “thinking” when he could say “cognitive processing”. Epic twat.XX

    “Epic twat.” Did you tell him? Or were you part of the problem, “not wanting to rock the boat?”

    If someone is a twat, I tell them. They don’t like it, they know where the boxing ring is. I will meet them there.

  2. NickM says:

    I never fight an unarmed man. I prefer not to play the game. I just leave them to wallow in their own crapulence.

  3. RAB says:

    What do you then, when their crapulence has become the norm? Because it already has you know.

  4. NickM says:

    Has it? I don’t see it. I honestly don’t by and large see people getting thicker or nastier – by and large.

  5. oldfossil says:

    Is there a requirement that you have to be totally pissed when you blog for CC?

  6. NickM says:

    The stats support me. I was significantly more likely to be mugged twenty years ago.

  7. NickM says:

    No please oldfossil do please fuck off/

  8. Sam Duncan says:

    Ah, that’s what an independent education does for you: they used to put us in charge of the projectors. Training us to be leaders, not followers, see? Or they just couldn’t be arsed doing it themselves. Hours of fun mouthing the “boop” noise and pretending you were making it yourself. Or shouting “pardon”.

    But that noise was nothing in terms of hilarity compared to the accents on the Cambridge Latin Course tapes. Even the teacher was forced to agree they must have been doing it for a bet.

    And of course we didn’t have careers lessons. We had ISCO. Which was, probably, in objective terms, better, but quite spectacularly weird. It was all IQ test type things, questionnaires, and I even seem to recall one of those electric-buzzer hand-steadiness things coming into it. I half expected them to recommend a career in IQ testing at the end of it all, but they actually came up with journalism or the diplomatic service. Which I could see myself doing, to be honest. The former, certainly. I remember they passed my address on to ITN and I ended up with a folder of recruitment bumf, which might still be lying around somewhere, come to think of it. That Dermot Murnaghahahan bloke? Could’a been me, that could.

    “Is there a requirement that you have to be totally pissed when you blog for CC?”

    It’s not a requirement so much as a recommendation.

  9. NickM says:

    Oddly enough I, after similar testing, got recommended to become a Environmental Health Officer. My mate Phil did work experience as such and became a veggie because he saw a skip full of guts still doing peristalsis in a slaughterhouse. Oddly enough I was not alone. Even more oddly Gateshead had a shortage of EHOs – coincidence? I think not.

    My major malfunction… I turned down the op to be science editor of “The Arrow”, the University of Nottingham student paper. I felt too busy. Wrong – never too busy to be busy. Oh, and the editor in chief fancied me and she was well fit. But I was in love with another so… I would have been good. Ah, well. The bad thing is when I told E I wasn’t playing I knew at some level I had lost a golden op. Bugger!

  10. Roue le Jour says:

    Ah yes, careers masters.
    I told mine, (late sixties) that I had found out there were these things called computers and I thought they sounded interesting.

    No, that’s not for the likes of you. Next!

    Thanks for all your help and encouragement, Jack Carroll.

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