Saturday, 25 October 2014

New poem: Chair

I was in the barber. When the barber had finished

cutting my hair, I got up and looked down at the

metal plate where my feet were, it was the metal

plate joined to the chair I had been sitting in. The

writing on the plate, said, ‘UTOPIA’. I put my jacket

on and stood at the bus stop. I wondered if I had

just been sitting in Utopia. Was that where I was?

Had I just had a moment in part of a perfect

society? I thought about what it had just been like.

Someone was cutting my hair. He comes from

Turkey. He used scissors. He also cut my beard.

He did that with an electric beard-trimmer. He

also blew some hot wet air into my face. It came

from a hot wet air machine. When it was all over

I gave him some money. Then I saw the sign on

the chair. So far, this didn’t sound like Utopia. Not

like a whole vision of the best possible society. I

was just sitting in a chair and someone was cutting

bits of hair off my head. Unless that’s what Utopia

is: people sitting in chairs having their hair cut.

And their face steamed. Then getting up and

standing at the bus stop. Actually, there were

some other things. They gave me a cup of coffee.

The young man who made it was learning

English. And learning how to cut hair. And there

were some newspapers on the table before I had

my haircut. I read them. And there were some other

people there. We talked a bit. That was before the

haircut. And, like I said, after the haircut, I waited

at the bus stop. Not for long. A bus came along

pretty soon.

Friday, 24 October 2014

New poem: Bread

I opened up a packet of bread the other day,

took out a slice and as I put the butter on I

noticed that there was a hair in the bread. Not

on the slice. It was in the bread. It wasn’t

very long. I didn’t fancy eating it, so I put the

slice back in the packet and put the packet

in the bin. In the morning, I was looking around

for something to eat for breakfast, and I didn’t

have anything in, so I thought, ah, maybe I

could fish that loaf out of the bin, pull the

slice with the hair in it out of the packet and

maybe eat one of the other slices. So I got

it out the bin, opened up the packet and the slice

that had the hair in was on the top. Now

it had several hairs. I looked closely at it and

I could see that the hair was growing out of the

bread. This wasn’t mould. I know what that hairy

mould looks like. This was hair. It was a browny

colour with little blonde touches. I put it back in

the bin and went off to work. When I came back

from work, I got the packet out again and

sure enough, it had grown more hair. Now there

was enough hair to make it look like it was the top

of someone’s head. All growing out of one slice.

It even had a parting. Then, without knowing

why, I picked up this slice with the hair on it

and started to eat it. I was right about the hair.

It was hair. The bread had changed though. It

didn’t really taste like bread. More like something

made out of walnut. I ate it and pulled the hair out

of my mouth. It wasn’t really hairy. More furry than


Thursday, 23 October 2014

New poem: Trains

I noticed that there have been some improvements

at the station I use: streamlining of services.

A couple of years ago they figured out that we don’t

need indicator boards which tell you of every single

station the trains go to. All they needed to do was

put up the names of the last station on the line. This

meant that getting a train became an interesting kind

of guesswork. Would the train to Bigtown stop at

Littletown? Or would the train to Redtown be the

right one for Littletown? It was great. You could stand

on the wrong platform at the right time. Or the right

platform at the wrong time. Or the wrong platform at

the wrong time.

Then, they figured out that the indicator board thing

was a luxury. So they did away with them. Now, You

arrive at the station and guess which train might be

yours. Sometimes, you can wait on one platform, a

train comes in on another. You think it might be yours.

You dash along your platform, down the stairs, along

a tunnel, up some stairs on to the other platform, the

train is leaving. You dash back down the stairs, along

the tunnel, up the stairs, back to the platform you were

on in the first place.

Other people get up in the morning and think, I wonder

where I’ll go today? They head to the station and just get

on any train that looks like a train they might want to get


New poem: Cucumber

There was a cucumber in the lost property office.

It was found near the ticket barrier at the station.

No one came in to say it was theirs. The cucumber

sat on the shelf. It started to go soft. But still no

one came. Then it started to flatten out and go

mushy. The skin stayed more or less the same.

A bit wrinkly but still like a cucumber skin.Inside

the cucumber became goo. It was smelling quite

strong. A fruity earthy smell. After a bit more time,

it started going dark grey. And fruit flies flew around it.

Then, about six months after the cucumber was

put in the lost property office, a man came in and

said, ‘Have you got a cucumber?’

The lost property office assistant said, ‘I’ll have

a look in the book.’

He got the book out and it said, ‘Cucumber.’

‘Can I ask you where you think you lost the

cucumber?’ he said.

The man said, ‘No, I’m sorry. I got on the train,

got off the train and went home. When I got home

I looked in my bag and the cucumber was gone.’

‘Can you tell me which station you got on at, and

which station you got off at?’

‘Well, my problem is that I got on and off at quite

a few stations that day,’ said the man, ‘and I can’t

remember them all. You see I deliver stuff for


‘Do you deliver cucumbers?’ said the assistant.

‘No,’ said the man, ‘the cucumber was for me

to eat.’

‘Can you describe the cucumber?’ said the


‘It was green,’ said the man.

‘If I said to you,’ said the assistant, ‘that this

cucumber was found at a ticket barrier, do you

think you could tell me which ticket barrier that

might have been? You see we have to make sure

that people don’t come in here and claim things

that don’t belong to them. You might come in

here and say that you lost a gold watch. I can’t

hand you a gold watch, just because you say

you lost one.’

‘I haven’t lost a gold watch,’ said the man.

‘I didn’t say that you did,’ said the assistant.

‘I lost a cucumber,’ said the man.

‘So you say,’ said the assistant.

‘Can I ask you if anyone has come in here and

handed in a cucumber?’ said the man.

‘I can tell you that someone has indeed come in

here and handed in a cucumber.’

‘That’ll be mine,’ said the man.

‘No,’ said the assistant, ‘what you don’t know is

whether many people have come in here

and handed in cucumbers, in which case we

would have the problem of finding out which of

the many cucumbers belongs to you.’

‘Have many people come in here and handed

in cucumbers?’ said the man.

‘No,’ said the assistant.

‘Well, that one lone cucumber must be mine,’

said the man.

‘Not necessarily,’ said the assistant, ‘someone

else could have lost a cucumber and it’s their

cucumber that was handed in.’

‘Oh, yes,’ said the man, ‘I didn’t think of that.’

‘Well,’ said the assistant, ‘if you can’t think

where you might have left the cucumber, I’m

afraid I can’t give you the cucumber that we’ve

got here in the lost property office.’

‘OK, fair enough,’ said the man, ‘thanks very

much for your help.’

New poem: Flats

Some new flats are going up near me. They’re

overlooking a car park. I don’t mean a car park

for the flats. It’s the big car park for the shopping

centre. The idea is that people who live in flats

like overlooking. So there are flats overlooking

the sea, overlooking rivers, overlooking canals,

overlooking railway lines. Now there are flats

overlooking car parks. They say that it’ll give

people something to do: they think that people in

the flats will be able to stand on their balconies

and watch people parking their cars. Or watch

people coming back to the car park, getting

into their cars and then driving off. The aim is to

build bigger car parks so that more people will

park their cars and then they’ll build more flats

overlooking the car parks and this will build up a

sense of being part of something big and

interesting - like parking cars. And car parks.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

New Poem: Exam Marking

Here at NormCheck, we are looking closely at the principles

of exam marking. We regret that many people are under the

mistaken impression that exams serve the purpose of enabling

individuals amass a specific amount of knowledge in an

important field relevant to what will be that person’s life beyond

and after the exam. We work very hard to eliminate as much

‘usefulness’ from the exam system as we can. We are also

extremely vigilant in eliminating what progressives have called

‘transferrable skills’. In the world outside the classroom, it may

well be the case that people’s ability to interpret data in unexpected

ways, to invent new ways of doing things, to know how to

investigate something unfamiliar, to co-operate with colleagues

and strangers - are all useful but that’s of no concern of ours.

At NormCheck we are putting a great deal of effort into ensuring

that education - that’s to say exams - are solely concerned with

core facts. Luckily, at the Department for Instruction, we have

people who know what these core facts are. They have all studied

eitherPPE, pure economics or law - and, thankfully, all had some

experience of a private education.

So, to recap, he exams themselves are not for the purpose of the

individual to acquire and retain anything useful. They are solely

for the purpose of us to grade, select and segregate people. This

is why exams aren’t tests of what people know on a given day. They

are a means by which we can draw a line across a group of people

and say, all of you above that line are a success, all of you below

that line are a fail. What we do at NormCheck is move the line.

That’s our job. Each year, we meet up, have an extremely nice

lunch and spend the afternoon working out where we’ll put the line.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with whether this or that pupil

knows anything or not. It is entirely to do with where we decide to

put the line. This depends on such things as what the Secretary of

State at the Department for Instruction thinks, which itself is usually

dependent on what the Daily Mail thinks.

New Poem: Examz Inc. - or why it's important to have exams that prevent you from remembering anything

Here at Examz Inc., we’ve been doing some blue sky thinking

about Projectile Vomiting (PV) . Here’s the definition: “vomiting that

is sudden and so vigorous that the vomit is forcefully projected

to a distance”. We’ve commissioned an extensive study on the

application of PV principles in the assessment field. First reports

suggest that we have a lot to learn from this important work. In PV,

it’s essentially a matter of w.g.i.c.s.o. - what goes in, comes straight

out. It’s the most efficient system known to man of the ‘return’ principle.

Almost nothing is wasted. Our researchers applied this principle to

fact-consumption and fact-delivery.

What would be the most efficient PV replication in the education field?

It turns out that for many years we’ve been nearly there, but not there.

Schools and exam boards have been content with what in the field of

physiology would be, say, spitting out, dribbling and slow vomiting.

In all these cases, there is a lack of efficiency: slow return, inefficient

delivery - and more importantly - a persistent danger of residue,: small

amounts remain inside the person.

If we apply PV to the education situation, we bolt teaching to instruction

and not waste time with any activity that might obstruct PV-type delivery.

So, quite clearly, the best known system of PV delivery in the assessment

field are lengthy exams in which there are only right and wrong answers

and uncomfortable seating arrangements.

Preparation for PV delivery exams should consist of PV delivery practice,

once a week. For four days of the week, the instructor instructs

with the PV material, that is to say, the consumption side. Day five is

PV day, with all-day instruction on how to eliminate repetition, hesitation,

deviation, discussion, co-operation, investigation, invention, interpretation

and compassion followed by a two hour PV exam. Research suggests that

when PV is applied, it is the most efficient way of guaranteeing that pupils

retain as little as possible of what they have consumed. This is part of the new

Empowerment Agenda much favoured by the new Department for Instruction,

who argue that PV style learning is the world’s most proven method of

enabling disadvantaged children to fail exams.