Gary Day

December 9, 2005

Learning is much like a journey to work: filled with bad weather, tangled tights, blocked bins and delays. Well... almost

I do my bit for the planet by cycling to the station. But does the planet appreciate it? Not a bit of it. To do good for this world is mere folly. Take the other day. The weatherman said it would be fine. I don't trust weathermen. They are younger than me and smile too much. I look out the window and the sky is blue. I set off with a song in my heart, for I am a lecturer at a new university. Speeding along I feel sorry for drivers stuck in traffic. So I give them a little wave. But you can't be nice to some people, can you? They'd feel a lot less stressed if they just got out and walked occasionally.

Thunder, lightning and the kind of rain that makes you think God's forgotten His promise to Noah do not make me wish I was warm and dry behind a wheel. No, really. But it does make me curse my decision to wear cream-coloured trousers. Having to pedal so quickly because I'm late merely adds to the mud that already adorns them. Why am I late? Because I hung out the washing - a simple operation except when it involves tights. What a spin cycle joins together no man can put asunder - unless he has great dexterity. Still, I persevere and I am now capable of separating brawling octopuses, should the occasion ever arise. Well it might. According to quantum theory it is perfectly possible for a person to walk through a wall, though I prefer to use a door.

Talking of things tangled, I discover that my coat is caught in the back brake when trying to dismount at the station.Normally this is a graceful manoeuvre undertaken while the machine is still in motion. But not today.

Still it's nice to know that I've brightened up some peoples' morning, to judge by their laughter as I bounce across the tarmac. I don't hope their train crashes, just that it breaks down for a long time and that the heating fails.

My patience is exhausted after my encounter with the tights. I yank the coat. The bike cracks against my shins. A second even more violent tug does the trick but rips the coat. My bedraggled appearance would defeat even Trinny and Susannah. There goes my chance of being a manager. I kick a bollard several times. At least my shoes now match the rest of me.

I limp to the entrance. The sign on the door says "push to operate". It sounds promising. Perhaps a walk-through dry-cleaning service? But all it does is open. Typical. I should have known that anything written in the style of an instruction manual would bear as much relation to reality as Pavarotti to break-dancing.

Do I sound bitter? I am. Most people put their lost weekend down to drink or drugs, but mine vanished while trying to assemble flat-pack furniture.

If it weren't for the fact that most of life seems to consist of getting things out and then putting them back again, I wouldn't ever want to look at another chest of drawers again. I dread the day when we receive a package with the words "How to Make a Government Approved Student" stamped on the front; but it's coming.

Which is more than can be said for my train. I listen to the announcement advising passengers to keep their luggage withthem at all times or it will be removed. I'm sure suicide bombers are grateful for the reminder. How annoying when you've set your heart on martyrdom to discover you've forgotten your explosives. My solution is to arrest anyone holding on to their personal belongings. People with suitcases should be banned from travelling, if only because they're always in front of me wondering where to go. I could tell them.

And there's another thing. Midland Mainline has sealed up all litter bins on its trains. Why? Because that's where terrorists hide themselves of course. In they squeeze and then bang. The company is determined that their services shall not be diverted from the East Midlands to the afterlife. So I'll shut up about those lager cans. Passenger safety is taken very seriously. A notice on platform three at Leicester station warns passengers not to board the next train as it doesn't stop. I suppose if you've been waiting for hours you'll try anything.

And what has all this to do with education? Why the answer is obvious.

Isn't learning like a journey? Isn't the hapless use of language all too familiar in our environment? Don't things have a tendency to go wrong? Oh, all right then. The real answer is that these musings are about as relevant to education as business and top-up fees. And you can't get much more relevant than that.

Gary Day is principal lecturer in English at De Montfort University.

Please login or register to read this article

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments