What planet are you on?

17th November 2006 at 00:00
Carol Gow lectures in media at Dundee College

I'm quite a fan of the pathetic fallacy. It's good to know that the weather is on your side. Last week, skies were blue and summery and I was much the same myself. This week, try gusting winds and storm clouds heaving - as dark and stormy as my working life.The weather was in sympathy.Indeed, it took the pathetic fallacy to extremes.Not content with being outdoors, that sympathy extendedinside the building.

As my class pored over an analysis, the leaves on the tree at the window shook and, one by one, fluttered down.At the window may be misleading. I'm talking a huge indoor potted tree, and gusting winds that seek out gaps in the windows of our old and soon to be vacated building, bringing outside in. In the afternoon, Helen was distracted from her representations essay."It's raining," she moaned.Yes you're ahead of me.The rain was running down the wall inside our room.Look, it was saying, I'm on your side, trying to be sympathetic and helpful.

We're very much in tune with the elements in our aged campus.In fact, it's like that newly-discovered planet Upsilon Andromeda (pictured).Oh come on, pay attention.You know the one, 40 light years away from us?They've charted the weather there and discovered that it is a two-faced planet of extremes, hot as fire on one side and cold as ice on the other. One half is turned permanently to the sun and is fiercely hot, and the other is turned to perpetual night, and deathly cold.ust like Graham Street campus, in fact, where the south-facing side is kind, and the north side is cruel. Sometimes you can find yourselfon the cruel side, and yes, we're talking physically and metaphorically.Timetable changes, staff absence and please takes, losing your keys and finding someone's eaten the Walnut Whip you were saving for break... suddenly you'reon the wrong side of the planet, with the wind howling and the rain lashing in sympathy.

"This class you're taking over, they're very nice.Very young,"I was told, in a tone which suggested that being young was some kind of crime. I soon found out that "young" involves repetitive dialogue, such as "Please Miss, Suze keeps poking me in the arm with her elbow" and "It wasn't me".You have blundered, it seems,into a reception class.

Each class is strange in a different way.In a group of quiet students, one of my learners wears a tiara. She has cat's whiskers drawn on one side of her face.The effect is, well, engaging, I guess, but distracting.It makes me ponder duality again.Does painting whiskers on one side only give her two faces to meet the faces she meets? One of my colleagues found a green and gold wand in the corridor and propped it up next to the absence sheets.(Welcome to the strange world of further education).No one has claimed it.Yesterday, as I was filling in absence reports, I found myself twirling it around - absently, of course - and hatching a plan.I'll ask if I can borrow my learner's tiara. Armed with tiara and wand I'll try,Canute-like, to tame the elements.Unlike the old king, though, I want it to work.

So if as you read this, the weather has turned balmy and calm and surprisingly mild for this time of year, then that'll be me.If it's not, then you'll know I'm still having a stormy time of it. But look on the bright side.Next month I could send you a postcard from the dark side of Upsilon Andromeda.

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