Friday, 4 March 2005

Being happy

Lab

Seven years ago, I sat in a top floor chemistry lab in the Uppingham school science block; if my memory serves me correct, I was heavily engrossed in drawing a Yorkshireman copulating with a sheep on my science folder. The unfortunate animal had an expression of shock and horror on its face, as if it had been happily grazing and unsportingly caught unawares. Suddenly, into the room walked Dr Roberts, my form four chemistry teacher and notorious hothead. I discovered later on that he was in the midst of an extremely messy divorce, but back then I wasn’t to know. He began to converse with the teacher who was taking our class. All of a sudden he stopped abruptly and shot a death stare in our direction. ‘Be quiet, stop giggling!’ he shouted. Clearly the science department was to be no place for sweetness and laughter. I looked up from my bestiality drawing, I was proud of my creation and I believe I had a smile etched across my face. It was an unfortunate expression to have at that juncture. I could see that something was up, Doc Roberts had turned a rather unhealthy shade of purple and was staring with a look of pure hatred in my direction. ‘Get out’, he screamed, ‘GET OUT, GET OUT GET OUT’. It was clearly time to excuse myself from the assembled company, I gingerly hoisted myself off the uncomfortable wooden stool I was perched on, and walked out as quickly as I could. Standing outside in the sparsely decorated corridor, I hoped against hope that Roberts would calm down before he next saw me. I was to be disappointed. The door to the laboratory opened with a bang, and out stormed the indignant teacher. He ushered me into an adjoining room and pinned me against the wall, I could see he was still livid with anger. ‘Do you realise who I am?’ he shouted at me, drops of phlegm raining from his mouth, the veins on his forehead nearly bursting at its seams. I concluded that this was not a question that was meant to be answered and decided to stare back in silence. ‘You’ll regret this’, he went on, ‘I’m going to make your life a living hell!’. Being a happy person clearly has its penalties.

I could have told him that all he needed to do to achieve this was to continue teaching me chemistry, to force me to sit in the science block amidst the pungent vapours that are the result of years of pointless schoolboy experiments; to make me perform fruitless investigations into the nature of solids and to ponder the hopelessly abstract concepts of chemical bonding and electrolysis. To be forced to watch sterile educational videos –all filmed in the early eighties- that detailed the ins and outs of Britain’s doomed coal industry. To waste precious hours of my adolescence attaching wooden clips to the teachers lab-coat when he wasn’t looking. At the end of the lesson I would have drawn impressive diagrams of circles and crosses interacting with each other on my sheet of paper, but I still wouldn’t have the foggiest idea what was going on. Parent’s evenings were usually disastrous. ‘Humphrey is a strange boy’, the schoolmaster would recall with considerable contempt –as if he were describing a particularly vile strain of bacteria. ‘He generally sits there in silence, staring at the periodic table, occasionally you can see dribble appearing at the corner of his mouth’.

In truth I have never been very good in class, I prefer to sit back and let other do all the boring discussion for me. My only ability is to be able to absorb large amounts of information and store it in my brain over a 48-hour period, this proves extremely handy when it comes to exam time. I need to be on top form in the next month because I have to take seven three-hour exams in June, on a series of monotonous and dull topics that could bore, even an Althussarian Marxist into submission. If I fail, I will have waste a considerable amount of time and effort and will no doubt be forced to commit Hara-kiri with my grandmother’s fencing sword. If I succeed, then I can continue building my C.V of extra-ordinary magnitude that will aid me in my quest to suck greedily on the udders of capitalism.

Law has served a valuable purpose. There’s something about reading tedious amounts of contract law that concentrates the mind, and makes you focus on the important things in life, that strengthens your resolve to break out of the cycle of monotony and strive for the things that really make you happy. Life stretches out before me with all its possibilities, and the path to happiness is clearly visible. All I need to do now is strike down the obstacles in my way and tackling Land law seems to be as good a place to start as any. Time to grow up.

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