LET THERE BE MUSIC
After years of being asked “which was the worst group you ever taught?” Well, here goes.
As we were walking towards reception to meet the External Vilifier, sorry, Verifier, the examiner sent into the college by the awarding body to verify students’ marks near the end of the year, the boss looked at me with ashen face. “What are you going to say to him?” she asked, clearly not wanting to hear the answer in the mistaken belief that what she didn’t know about she couldn’t be blamed for.
“Don’t worry about it” I replied as reassuring as I could fake. “I’ll think of something”.
Accompanying us was Geordie Girl, my diminutive sidekick, who started to smile knowingly.
“What?” the boss snapped glaring at her.
“He’s got a plan. I can see it in his eyes”, Geordie Girl replied prompting the boss’s hands to start shaking and her eye to twitch – a condition that seemingly afflicted her only when told I had a plan – still twitching when we met the examiner in reception, grabbed a coffee from the café and led him to a room where, under normal circumstances, the desks would be stacked high with students’ work. But not today. Today the desks were bare, any work that had been handed in long since ripped into squares and deposited on the back of lavatory doors across the college in case of emergency. I would have burned it but the Sites Manager refused permission for me to throw excrement into the incinerator.
The first year had been a disaster from the start, a gaping chasm opening up on the very first day between those who enrolled on the course to work and those predominantly Neanderthal males who, in the mistaken belief that they were already the dog’s b******s, felt they didn’t need to. Nothing could have been further from the truth, their written work being badly spelt, badly punctuated, barely decipherable garbage. And as for their practical work, give a chimp a camera to wave around and it would come back with better video footage.
As was customary in the second year (they only advanced after the examiner fell ill and failed to turn up the previous year) they were given a whole group, collaborative assignment to produce a filmed drama and decided they would do a musical, throwing themselves into the task with unexpected enthusiasm, vigour and application. For five minutes… or less… barely any time at all before they got bored and started to give up. Even so, by some miracle they eventually finished the film and announced it ready for screening.
Three of us attended the screening, Geordie Girl, my mate Ken who was our technician and me, each of us relaxed and genuinely pleased they had finally achieved something. The lights went down, the film started and… it was immediately apparent our faith had been misguided. Part way through Geordie Girl jumped up declaring “you’ve got to be kidding me” before marching out of the room in search of a fag to calm her nerves and two minutes later Ken followed her, disgustedly muttering “what a bunch of wankers” as he exited the door. And me? I was forced to dutifully sit there unable to say or do anything until there was a sudden ear piercing screech and the film ground to a halt in the middle of what I could only presume, but was by no means certain, was a scene. And that was it. Finito. The end. The torture was over.
“Well, what do you think?” one of them asked with a cocky swagger of misplaced superiority as he beamed like a Cheshire cat.
“What do I think?” I mumbled barely able to speak. “I think… I think it’s the biggest pile of shite I have ever witnessed, an utter and compete load of b******s.”
“I didn’t think it was that bad” he snapped without any hint of apology.
“No, no you’re right… it was worse. Much worse. A total bloody disaster from start to finish. There was no story, no structure or direction. Pictures were out of focus, panning shots bobbed like a bare arse in a bordello and… and wasn’t it supposed to be a musical?”
“But it didn’t have any music” I screamed finally finding my voice. “Not a friggin’ note. No theme song, no incidental refrain, nothing over the titles and… and I don’t suppose there would have been anything over the end credits if you’d bother to film them either. It was a friggin’ musical and it didn’t have any friggin’ music you demented cretins”.
“The dialogue wasn’t bad though”.
“Wasn’t bad?” By now I was starting to sound like the bloke who, just before they threw him in the harem, had been castrated with two bricks and a piece of string. “Wasn’t bad? The only thing not drowned out by the overbearing hiss of static was the director yelling action every now and then and the continuity girl screaming “f***ing pervert” as she slapped somebody’s face and stormed off set in a hissy fit”
“Alright, so it needs a bit of tiding up” he shrugged like I was being picky.
“A bit of tidying up? It needs burning, that’s what it needs. Destroying before anybody has the misfortune to pick it up, watch it and ends up having nightmares for the rest of their life. It’s embarrassing. Shameful. If it ever gets out, if you ever show it to anybody I’ll…”
“I already uploaded it to YouTube” he said finally starting to sound guilty.
I took a deep breath, a moment to compose myself… and started to cry.
“Did you drive up or come by train?” I asked as the examiner looked around the room, clearly curious as to why he’d been deposited in Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.
“Drove up this morning” he replied. “Left at four-thirty to get here on time. Hell of a journey, torrential rain all the way. At one stage I seriously thought about turning back and going home”.
“Pity you didn’t” I said. The examiner frowned quizzically and the boss whimpered pathetically. “Cos’ you’ve had a wasted journey. I don’t have anything to show you. Well, I do, but I’m not about to embarrass you, me or the college by letting you see it. It’s a complete pile of shite!”
The boss, shocked at my bluntness and honestly, grabbed a Gregg’s bag, clamped it firmly over her nose and mouth and wheezed into it for the next half an hour while I discussed with the examiner ways to move forward – apart from lining them up against the wall and shooting them which was my preferred option. And when it was over, when the examiner had left happy that we had a salvage strategy in place, Geordie Girl stood up and announced smugly “see, I told you he had a plan” which caused the boss to exhale air far too hard, the bag to burst and her face to be covered in sugar from the doughnut I had presented to the examiner to have with his coffee… no, it didn’t, I’m making that bit up, she just sat there is a state of shock.
And me? I went straight out and bought a length of three by two that, henceforth, sat next to my desk in case anybody ever embarrassed me like that again.
Fortunately, I never needed it… at least, not that I’m admitting to.