Non-PC relationships can be so hard to handle

7th September 2001 at 01:00
Week 12 Monday

Mid-test (Databases) I stopped a moment (I'm cruising) to take in my surroundings. I was in a great hall of computer islands. Each island has eight divisions into which the PCs nest. From the back of each computer, wires extend to the core and from there, into ducts in the carpet. When I finish the Database test, my score comes back within minutes. I pass. The invidulator then stamps a kitsch facsimile passport recognising this achievement and I'm on my way with an excuse to come back. I could take all the tests in one go but technological onanism is setting in; I can't get enough. The computer hall leads out through a high-ceiling mall decorated in swirls of coloured lino. The walls are vibrant, and display cases show off the treasures of widening participation. Tin-foil garments, papier-mache masks and ceramics from the art department, cups and trophies won by college sportspersons and certificates and awards, citing local partnerships and Government initiatives. The college has a shop too, which sells signed photographs of the principal. As I pass into the main foyer I notice a door to the outside and there scattered across the car park are a dozen or more people in little groups. Smokers pushed outside to take their lung-awaited breaks. I find admissions and ask for a college prospectus. It's a small, handy-size edition, expensively produced with lots of photographs of suited employees aiding smiling students. I could take a further IT course or even branch out into computer-aided design. Everything is on offer here from Hindi to window cleaning. On the back is a signed photograph of the principal.

Tuesday

Today I break the mould and ring instead of text the hairdresser. I ask her if she wants to enrol in an evening course with me but she says she is losing interest in the online course. She has met someone through an online dating site and doesn't think she'll have the time. Pained, I go back to the online course room ostensibly to work but really to find someone to take the CAD course with. I find a message asking about absolute and relational referencing in spreadsheets and reply, explaining this particular aspect. Damn I'm good.

Wednesday

I get a reply by way of thanks and another query this time about IF functions. IF only, is what I'm thinking, and imagine that my latest e-interlocutor is none other than Kate Moss sitting at her computer in a Versace gown and flicking through PC Guide, looking to upgrade before jetting off to Milan.I explain IF Functions to Kate Moss. She has only just signed up for the course and is struggling. I offer to help and we start to meet up each evening after work. Not for real, of course.

Thursday

I am now buying every PC magazine I can get my hands on and reading voraciously.I have even discovered some hybrid journals not readily available in WH Smith, like Laptop Angler, which combines consumer reviews of the latest portable computers with useful instructions on how to catch big fish and, of course, what to put in the bait. These seemingly diverse worlds conjoin with a handy database form design incorporating fields such as type of fishtype of baitlocationweight. Then there is the little-known and salacious Hard Drive with full-page pullouts of the latest computers displayed on shag pile rugs and satin bedspreads. The erotic stories depict passionate trysts involving keyboard flexes and mice and usually a nubile blonde with a weekend job at PC World.

Friday

Actually my new online friend is called Jane; a disappointing moniker, which makes me think of librarians or primary school teachers. She won't tell me what she does though, which only makes me more curious. She doesn't have time for the evening course either but does agree to meet up at the college on a test day. Success at last, I think. Panicked, I consider postponing at least until after a few month of Instant Messenger or text messaging - anything rather than face-to-face contact. I comfort myself with the latest edition of Hard Drive and set a date with Jane.

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