Tuesday, October 21, 2003


I sat my Open University exam today. Three hours, three essays on politics, governance and society in the Asia-Pacific and my brain hurts.

It was completely unfair. Everybody else in the room seemed to get the fun exams. The geology paper consisted of a pile of rocks which they had to identify followed by a stoning round the back for someone caught talking ("Two with points, a flat one and a packet of gravel"), while a sneaky peak at the maths question revealed my worst fears about the dumbing down of education today:

"Using the keys of your pocket calculator, spell the words 'SHELL OIL' and 'BOOBIES'."

Now here comes the confession. Exams and Scary don't mix. I can't handle the pressure, and let's face it, when the rest of the class is sitting at home revising, I'd much rather be doing something far more interesting, such as sitting at home watching TV (mock O-Levels), sitting at home composing electronic ambient classics (real O-Levels) and sitting at home reading pornography (two year A-Level course AND retakes).

Now, in normal circumstances, this wouldn't be a bad thing as I always seemed to muddle through somehow, gaining barely adequate passes to make parents and teachers alike shake their heads with woe. However, my wing-and-a-prayer attitude to studying didn't always pay off. Remember this time last year when a certain person who is neither scary nor a duck won a certain Best British Blog Award on the strength of his writing? An award where the judges gave this duck impostor a shedload of cash with the praise, and I quote, "Magnificent - well-written, focused and insightful... the best writer of the bunch, the content is excellent." With me so far? Let me take you back to June 1982 and my English O-Level then...

Woe! Don't talk to me about woe! I didn't read half the books. Shakespeare bored the shit out of me, Huckleberry Finn got eaten by the dog, and I was far too busy pre-dating the Aphex Twin by a good ten years to be bothered with My Family and Other Animals. In the exam I was asked some bollocks about Henry IV Part One, so I drew a nice picture of a penguin called Gilbert, and seemed well pleased with him. I failed my English O-Level, and now I have been asked to judge a writing competition. Heh.

So, back in the present, I was forced to hand in all my notes, my mobile phone and my fake broken wrist cast with all the answers cunningly disguised as people's signatures ("Asian Values are part of a constructionist theory of identity. Best Wishes, Brian"), and all I could think about was small, flightless birds and the problems of sending them through the mail. Faced with the question paper I had, you would too:

'Discuss the role of government-business relations in economic performance in the Asia-Pacific region in the 1990s.'

So I drew them a nice picture of a penguin, and they ought to be thankful for small mercies.

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