In a day, which is a close parallel to the one where I left the Sacred Machine at home and duly suffered deprivation symptoms, today I have had The Machine with me, but I have had not a single opportunity to use the thing.
The school has given itself over to the Ecstasy of Examinations and the futile thrill of photocopying page after page of fill-in-the-gap questions on (at least) recycled paper to make our kids’ lives just that little bit fuller. One of my colleagues remarked that the pupils seemed a little bit subdued, while I thought that shell-shocked would have been a better description.
Within days of returning from the Christmas Holiday the kids were hit with the start of the extended testing period which, in English, comprises not only a mock examination for their external exams, but also a regular test which goes towards the final mark of the term.
The marking of this lot means that members of staff are looking a little weary, the weariness tinged with desperation, as there is a timetable for the completion of these things, which, though self-imposed is seen as an absolute cut-off date when everything must be done and be seen to be done.
In spite of my moaning and groaning I am totally confident that I will get everything done in plenty of time; the great trick is not to let anyone find out that you have finished.
So every available moment today has been taken up with marking with the end result that I am actually ahead of myself. Such confidence is obviously a prelude to some form of educational disaster, which will ensure that the final finishing of the marking is done in a lather of frantic pen wielding.
Our school looks as though it might want to participate in a UNO sponsored Iberian version of the General Assembly: a conference which would take about a dozen of our kids and, suitably prepared, set them in a multi-school context for a series of debates on important issues.
That the organization takes itself very seriously can be seen from the details of the dress code that has to be adhered to by the participants. This includes the maximum distance that skirts should be allowed to rise above the knee – and that’s only for the boys!
Although passingly interested in this as a concept I am also worried by it. I fear that there may be a role for me somewhere in this project and I am not altogether sure that would be good news for me. Still, I shall do a bit of investigation and bide my time.
When tomorrow is done, we will have completed 20% of the term – which sounds a damn sight better than knowing that 80% is still to be done.
I am more than ever determined to get more boxed sets (3 for the price of two) and feed the discs into The Machine. I have listened to more enjoyably obscure music by Grieg and Dvorak since I bought the last two boxes than in the last umpteen years of conventional listening. I shall look on it as an educational experience and I shall also buy more of the lavishly produced and gloriously arcane medieval music championed by the Catalan Jordi Savall.
The first three records bought for me in 1959 or 1960 were on Pye Golden Guinea records which cost £1 1s 0d – hence the name of course. The one that I had asked for was The March from the Nutcracker that I had grown to like as it was played on our BBC Music Programme broadcasts in school. The short suite from the Nutcracker was complimented by the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor and The Ritual Fire Dance Music on the other side. The other two were Grieg’s Peer Gynt suites and the last was “Immortal Melodies” which included Ave Maria and a Humoresque by Dvorak.
I played these discs until they were almost transparent – and that was something because these records were solid and when placed on the automatic changer of my portable record player fell to the turntable with a very satisfying thump!
But let us talk realities. If that pound in 1960 were thought of in terms of its purchasing power then it would be worth something like fifteen pounds today! Which means that I could easily justify paying full-price for Jordi’s esoteric music – without the added inducement of one out of every three being free!
Roll on Saturday!