From Anger to Aardvark, Christ it's fun

30th January 2004 at 00:00
Yet another student poured scorn on my PCW the other day. Yes, I still have an Amstrad word processor in the corner of my classroom and, once they have ascertained that it is "Windows Nothing" and doesn't download games, everyone dismisses it.

So would I, were it not for two things which save it from the skip. First, it contains a format for my report writing, so, until it breaks down one last time or the school decides to change our reports, it will continue to have a use. Second, and this is far more important, it provides me regularly with a magical escape ladder on to the roof garden of this wilderness we call education. I refer, of course, to the spellchecker.

I don't know whether the boffins who devise modern spellchecking programs have got wise, or whether the people Alan Sugar (founder and CEOof Amstrad Computers) employed all those years ago had a fiendish sense of humour, but my spellchecker rarely misses the mark when it gets its hands on the names of my students.

Today, instead of enjoying a relaxing lunch break, I am completing report preparation, giggling helplessly in spite of the tedium because the Amstrad suggests to me that the most belligerent pain in my Year 11 should really have been christened "Anger Prickle". Also, the girls who never have a hair out of place and constantly check their manicures and hair elastics, yet are somewhat loud, are really called "Emery Salvo" and "Daintily Keen".

It gets better. The boy whose work is always first on my desk, before the deadline, is "Be Ahead", while the lad who sits near him, moodily deep and rather shifty, may be known to the law as "Pail Felon".

The checker offers Freudian glimpses of another life. Is that quiet girl who sits demurely really "Nicely Boarish"? Another young lady at the back could hardly be more charming, but she carries a huge bag everywhere, so maybe she is "Rebel Waggon", and I know about "Gain Kipping", because I always have the feeling I am waking him up when I speak to him. However, I will take some convincing that the stolid, polite individual in front of her can really be "Phallic Web".

Who is "Aardvark Tangle"? He certainly gets confused when redrafting his essays but he does make a huge effort. The last one poses few problems. No coursework produced in 18 months and adamant that he will never need a GCSE in English as long as he lives. Every time I encounter him and his cheery idiocy, I want to shout what my Amstrad says is his real name: "Christ".

So, think twice before you throw away your old hardware. Hours of harmless fun may be going in the skip too, and we need some harmless fun these days, don't we?

Colin Padgett

Colin Padgett is head of English in an Essex comprehensive

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