Goodbye to the Champagne Cork and Public Exams


I am feeling under threat today.

I have never claimed that I was extra good at much but those few things where I seem to be above average, well, they are close to my heart. I feel I should hang onto them. They keep me feeling that I have, at least, some reason for that sense of self-worth that therapists tell us to cultivate.

So it was with despair that I read in today’s newspaper that some clever soul has invented a cork replacement for champagne bottles. Instead of the wonderfully violent champagne cork which threatens to take out that despised uncle’s eye at family gatherings, we will soon, so they say, have a cap for champagne that is a bit like a beer bottle top but much cleverer with an attached lever which takes out all the danger and the fun from champagne – apart from the bubbles of course.

I don’t want to brag but, as someone profoundly bad at many things, I have to tell you that I have always been remarkably good at uncorking the old bubbly. As if I were wringing a chicken’s neck, I can dispose of the fuss in a couple of quick jerks and silence, with one loud pop, all those folk who despair at my driving skills or mock the results of any ill-advised DIY project I am forced to undertake.

Actually, if I wanted to, I could take out any of my detractors with one well aimed champagne cork.

So if opening champagne goes the way of many other blood sports, I shall have to look elsewhere to prove my superhuman capabilities.

I guess, I can always fall back on my supreme skill as a cocktail shaker.

So they are evaporating, these talents which I keep hidden until I am let loose at parties.

The other threat to my feelings of self-worth, comes from news about the Swine ‘Flu “Pandemic” which is raging around the world taking out vulnerable ‘flu sufferers everywhere.

Several schools in Britain have closed, well five so far, because some of the pupils have contracted this dreaded pig infection. I read today that this may well lead to hundreds of thousands of lucky kids being able to skip their major public exams.

Instead of having to sit their A levels or GCSE exams, they will be assessed on their past efforts and awarded grades accordingly.

This is the beginning of the end for exams, I reckon.

I remember at school everyone saying that exams should be got rid of but then our idea was to get rid of exams so that we could all have fun instead.

In case you are wondering where this is going, one of my other abilities was doing much better than I deserved in exams.

There was always a touch of luck; the only thing I could have written about always came up as an essay title.

A touch of bravura; I invented quotes from obscure medieval writers assuming that the examiners would never have the time or the inclination to go through the complete works of Erasmus. With Erasmus on my side, almost any absurd argument held water.

I also have a very good memory.

For years afterwards, I can remember exactly what people said at parties or in gossipy phone calls. Not always an advantage, I admit, but handy ammunition at times.

At school, this allowed me to spend ridiculously short amounts of time not only “revising” for exams but learning subjects for the first time only days before sitting some dreary exam in Chemistry, Geography or Latin.

Oh yes, I would think, when expounding on the merits of Australian sheep farming, oh yes, that was on the page with an ink splodge in the shape of an exploding eye socket. I would then become world expert on sheep farming for an instant, just enough to survive the exam and before putting away any understanding of sheep farming for ever. Except, maybe, the wise advice, a real sheep farmer gave me once: there are two kinds of sheep: healthy sheep and dead sheep. Maybe that is why we haven’t had sheep ‘flu yet.

So if exams go the way of champagne corks, where can I find my feelings of self-worth?

I would never have survived in a school environment where assessment over a period of time led to my academic grades. I was far too busy learning how to open a bottle of champagne.

So what else can I do? a Savoy Tango anyone? Or maybe a Satan’s Whiskers. I think I will mix myself a little Hanky Panky. Self-worth in a cocktail glass.

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