These little green men observing us from above – on a futile search for intelligent life – must wonder at how we fill our days. Granted such a short time on Planet Earth, we, largely, occupy ourselves with the mundane. So it was that, today, I have been to several retail establishments in search of our chosen provisions, witnessing the queues, the masks and the sometimes farcical. Ironically, there is only one establishment which stocks my favourite wine and, I assure you, it takes guts to venture in! Friday. Of course, there was a queue as the tabard wearing, very important security guy gave it his all. Those behind me, however, were apparently displeased (I did recognise some of the words used) as they were, supposedly, only there to ‘enjoy’ the café – if only I had known of its existence! Anyway, venturing towards very important security guy, one of them let it be known that she and her family (definitely family!) were only there for the excellent cuisine and, thus, very important security guy told them to ditch the queue and go straight in! Brilliant! Where were these little green men now? Going to the café and just happen to be taking a trolley … Genius! Meanwhile, there I was in the long queue for my wine. The moral? Never judge a book by its cover.
Shops and garage, that has been my day so far. Do enjoy the garage, though (EMS, Fife), for, as I relinquish yet more of my life savings buoyed by the knowledge that another of our old cars will live to fight another day, there is the opportunity for some humorous repartee. Service with a smile! Continually, plugging my blog, I did question Grant as to whether he had a very large family in Argentina but he denied all knowledge. So, no further forward as to my sudden popularity in South America, last Wednesday, over the space of two hours! More to the point, where are they now?! Argentina has disappeared off my Google Analytics map of readers and, therefore, I can only surmise …. What, exactly? Not sure. They didn’t like it? Ridiculous! They didn’t understand it? Who does?!
It was past Gin o’clock before I even sat down to write but the servant must be on a go-slow. Not to worry. I shall continue in anticipation … What has this week brought me? Little, other than a welcome hair cut! As to the ongoing study of my fellow race, I was alerted, once more, to the ambiguity of the English Language. Forgive me but I thought Freedom of Speech was still operative in this country – the United Kingdom? That being so, one is entitled to one’s own opinion and, if one chooses to write about said opinion, then one is free to do so. No? Well, apparently, there are those who see themselves in my words and take offence. I accept no blame. My mind is my own; my opinions, too. I am well aware that much of what I write is controversial and there will be many who disagree with my views or my stance but isn’t that what makes life interesting? God forbid a world of sheep unable to recognise the value of criticism and, moreover, who are programmed to take offence (nearly wrote ‘a fence’ which, ironically, may have been more appropriate). I do find it fascinating, however, that those who feign disinterest in my weekly ramblings are always the ones who just happen to read about themselves! In the early days, I used to sign-off with the words, ‘Nobody forced you to read it!’. The sentiment remains.
In this COVID-19 bubble formerly the world as we knew it, my bugbear, this week, has been the utterly despicable fiasco that is the exam results – both in Scotland and England. I suspect it is the nonchalance with which the outcome has been addressed which irks the most. In summary, in the absence of exam performance, pupils were to be awarded a grade for each subject based on course work and prelim result. Not ideal but one would assume that the individual teacher was best placed to make the decision? Obviously. At this point, however, the appropriate exam governing bodies wade in banding the words ‘statistics’, ‘averages’, ‘past years’ etc. and, suddenly, the grades awarded by these teachers are lost in a sea of politics and 40% are downgraded to balance the books, as it were! Unforgiveable. Whatever happened to merit, to fairness? To justice? When did life become so cold and impersonal? Sweepingly downgrading 40% of the results is sweepingly changing the lives of 40% of these students, without a thought. I heard William on the radio, struggling to hold back the tears, as he told how he was predicted straight ‘A’s in his ‘A’ Levels only to be awarded a ‘B’ and two ‘C’s! He had lost his place at the university of his choice. Without question, in choosing to play God, Ofqual has changed the path of his life.
Of course, there are those who, in order to smooth the waters, insist that these results will mean nothing – be forgotten – in years to come. Insignificant. I beg to disagree. In the dark ages, I chose to take French as one of my subjects in First Year – against the advice of my Director of Studies – and failed it, twice! (Not that badly, I might add, for someone who hadn’t done any French since Higher – I got 45%!). Nothing more was said and I was offered a place to study English to Honours only to have it withdrawn, subsequently, because I had failed French in First Year and thus fell short of my quota of points! There is much to be said about what ensued but, suffice to say, my mother always insisted that being deprived of the chance to do Honours would mean nothing in years to come. How wrong could she be! It did change the course of my life and it is something, I am sure, I shall regret for all time.
Let me loose on the SQA, though. French may have changed my life but Manny’s Higher results definitely changed his! His O-Grade results were excellent and, hoping to follow his sister, before him, to St Andrews, he worked really hard. Collecting him from every exam, he had cracked it and, thus, when the dreaded envelope came, I was unafraid. Seriously! I was convinced he would get 5 ‘A’s. How naïve! I still believed in merit; in fairness. Instead, he won’t mind me saying – well, he might, so I won’t – he didn’t get the ‘A’s which were rightly his! He was so sad; we all were. What’s more, he went on to fail his driving test that day – still one of his worst ever! My point is that I could never understand it; never believed these results. Surely there had been some mix up? The SQA was not infallible. Now, I know. We, all, know, are aware of the ‘corruption’ that goes on in the name of statistics and averages. Those were not Manny’s results. I guarantee, now, that they were downgraded. The damage? He didn’t get in to St Andrews, the university perfect for him. Instead, his confidence was totally shaken and he was forced to choose another path, full of pot holes! I know exactly how the parents of the afflicted feel and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. There is no justification for playing God with someone else’s life. These are not numbers; these are people and the consequences, I can assure you, are far-reaching.
On that note …
‘I sometimes think that God, in creating man, somewhat over-estimated his ability.’
Personally, Oscar, I think that is somewhat of an under-estimation!
This is Trish, signing off.