Colouring Outside The Lines

“Yeah, I know, but I had to try
A man can crawl around or he can learn to fly
And if you live ’round here
The ground seems awful near
Sometimes I need a lift from victory”

  • Dave Sudbury’s ‘The King of Rome’

Up until very recently the last time I’d submitted an exercise or assignment for grading or correction was in 1984 when I sat my Leaving Certificate. In the English paper the largest percentage of marks were for the essay. We were offered several titles and then given free reign to write what we wanted. One suggested title was ‘Tis A Mad World My Masters’. This leapt out at me. I’d been listening to Led Zep IV a lot and the inside album cover featured a hooded figure on a rocky mountain top holding a staff in one hand and a lantern in the other. I had this figure in mind as my narrator in the essay and proceeded to chart the history of mankind with liberal references to Oscar Wilde and Frankie Goes To Hollywood for reasons that escape me now.

I finished the exam in a state of elation. It doesn’t happen very often , but sometimes , you just know in your bones, that what you’ve just written/built/crafted is good, bloody good. Mam collected me from school and I hadn’t even closed the car door before I started telling her all about the essay. She listened until I’d talked myself out and then calmly asked “But what if the examiner doesn’t know , or like, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, or that they find your assertion that organized religions have held us back, offensive ?”

It was a long summer waiting for the results. At that particular juncture in my life I did not need any particular result from the Leaving Certificate as I was not pursuing an academic or commercial career, long story involving a shocking Holy Ghost, but I was crippled with anxiety to know how the English paper had gone. I felt I’d done OK-ish in the poetry, prose and general parts, it would be the essay that meant passing or failing.

I got a B !

I was absolutely thrilled.

Mam was thrilled too, and took most of the credit, as she claimed that it was her prayers to St.Jude, the patron saint of hopeless cases, all summer that meant my paper was marked by a liberally minded, kindly natured, fan of Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

The lesson I took from it was that when you know yourself that what you’ve done is good, it is indeed good. And that should be good enough.

This lesson from 1984 has proven to be both a blessing and a curse as I applied it to my recent foray into academia. It generally served me well. If in doubt go with your gut. All seemed well. Module 1 came and went , results were good, all was tickety-boo. Covid came along in March and meant that most of Module 2 was conducted online. This actually worked well, and because most of us had gotten to know each other in class earlier we still managed to have a bit of banter and the camaraderie we’d had may even have grown.
The only real hiccup was that we did not get any results or feedback on Module 2 assignments as we launched into Module 3. In fact the modules overlapped and we had completed Module 3, and it’s assignments, without results from Module 2. We had been such a confident group all through the course, but towards the end we became the living embodiment of needy creatives, to wit “I need your applause!”

Imposter syndrome reigned supreme.

But one or two of us pointed out to the others that we started the course for ourselves, we knew what we were doing , so lets get on with it. This proved to be terrible advice !

Similarly to my Leaving Certificate English paper, in our Module 2 assignments, the largest percentage of marks, 50% in fact, went towards a Lean Business Model Canvas, or LBMC as we airily called it, with accompanying explanatory slide deck. I threw myself into this exercise with wild , fun filled abandon. I modelled it on the old classified advert section of the Northern Standard. It was bloody good. I went outside the box. I coloured outside the lines. I knew in my bones that it was class.

We got our results on Tuesday. I did well in every part…except the biggest part ,the LBMC. I noticed a small error in my results and let Joanne, our long suffering nanny/course programme coordinator, know that I may have got the wrong marks. She replied immediately, saying that a number of students had got their results mixed.

“Phew!” I thought. I felt sorry for the poor sap that had got that poor result, but was now looking forward to my proper result, and appreciation of my truly awesome wonderfulness.
The email came a few moments later, and I opened it eagerly, everything was the same, except the LBMC mark. This time it was even lower !

Bollix !

I was taken aback. I tried to tease it out rationally…and said ‘Bollix’ a lot. Within our student WhatsApp group we shared our disappointment. I proffered the theory that our LBMCs had been graded by Marvin, the Paranoid Android, from Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. My other theory was that the examiner was a jealous, bitter, soulless, anti-Monaghan bigot, from Cavan.

I moaned and moaned to Colm about how I was simply misunderstood….

And then …. I stopped.

Bollix !

I’m going through the whole Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle ! Jeebus ! I’m such a cliché !

Denial – I’d got the wrong results.

Anger – My examiner was a depressed robot with no sense of humour.

Bargaining – Reaching out to the class WhatsApp group and poor Colm, explaining why my results were wrong.

Depression – Well I didn’t really care about them anyway….There’s nothing I can do…WHY ??

And now I’m in the ‘Acceptance’ phase. Maybe , even though the assignment I submitted was brilliantly funny, cool, and wonderfully weird, just maybe it wasn’t exactly a business model. Maybe. And maybe the examiner isn’t a depressed robot called Marvin…but I still have my doubts.

It’s taken me two days to get to this point.

And then I started to scribble in a notepad.

 These scribbles will be parts of chapters in a book wot I is ritin’….

*these scribbles are written here as a postscript to the  blog, so if you’re reading this on FB or LinkedIn you’re missing out*

Having read the scribbles back I thought, not bad. Great idea, needs a bit of polish, but getting there. Some confidence restored. I could feel it in my bones…although at my age that may be early onset arthritis.
And then it hit me.

Bollix !

Most of my Module 3 assignments were based on what I’d submitted for that damned LBMC.

Extra Double Bollix !

What to do ???

O most holy apostle, Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus,
the Church honoureth and invoketh thee universally, as the patron of hopeless cases,
and of things almost despaired of.

Pray for me, who am so miserable………”

So, that’s that sorted.

Email me something you did that you thought was wonderful , but , perhaps, few others did. I’ll send the drawing for today’s blog to the best/most pitiful reply.



P.S. This is brilliant , After The Rain by Dream Wife.

P.P.S extract from ‘the book’

The Purpose Inspector tapped his quill agitatedly against his clipboard. He was doing it in such a frantic fashion that his glasses had started to slide down his nose. Eddi hated any visitors from the Master Dimension, but particularly hated the visits from the Purpose Inspectors, P.I.s.

“And what is the purpose of that ?” the P.I. demanded.

Eddi stopped tickling the semi-visible Hoppi and glared at the P.I. , this one had been a chore from the moment he arrived and Eddi had given up on being civil or polite, which was most unlike him.
“Isn’t it obvious ?” he snapped back, “He likes to be tickled ! That’s why he’s flipping between dimensions.” He let out a frustrated sigh.

“I can see that that he likes to be tickled. But what’s his purpose ???”

“TO.BE.TICKLED !!” Eddi roared. The startled Hoppi disappeared completely. “Oh bugger ! Now look what you’ve done. It’ll take me ages to find it now.”

“What I’ve done ? But…” The P.I. was exasperated and scribbled furiously on his clipboard, making the multi-dimensional disapproving ‘tsk,tsk’ noise.

Eddi knew he was in trouble. Just then there was a clatter and Jake appeared. The P.I. was still so annoyed that he hadn’t noticed the new arrival. Eddi motioned silently for him to be quiet and to go away. Jake shook his head and beckoned him to come closer. Eddi had no choice but to comply. “What ?” he hissed as he got closer.

“We’re in trouble.” Jake replied.

“I’m already in trouble !” Eddi whispered loudly through gritted teeth, nodding his head towards the P.I.
“That’s nothing.” Jake said and grabbed Eddi by the wrist before he could reply , pressing his watch at the same time and they shifted from the lab. They were immediately somewhere and some when completely different. It was warm, not unpleasant, there were buildings and trees, little traffic, lots of people , young people.
“Jake ! I was under inspection and I’d just lost a Hoppi ! This really couldn’t have waited ? I’m going to be sanctioned now.” Eddi groaned.

Jake whistled into his watch and instantly Eddi’s Hoppi appeared, wagging it’s …they’d never actually determined what it was that the Hoppi wagged when it was happy, but having seen a regular common dimension pre-war dog, they called it a tail. Eddi bent down and tickled the Hoppi and it shimmered and was half invisible again. “Now listen Eddi, this is Provo, more accurately the Brigham Young University and we have to retrieve something. Urgently.”

“What and why ?” Eddi asked, happier now he had his Hoppi back.

“This university is helping out with conservation work on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Today they are about to unwrap one in particular, 1Q27, which was badly deteriorated and up until now they didn’t have the capability of unfurling it without destroying it. We have to retrieve it before anyone can read it.”

“Fascinating” Eddi replied sarcastically. “The Dead Sea Scrolls, wonderful, but what’s so important about this one and why do we have to do this ?”

“Because, Brother Eddi, if they ever did unfurl this particular scroll and managed to read it, they would no doubt notice beside the beautiful Hebrew text of The Book Of Mysteries, in the margins, a note , clearly written in English, which states “I’d murder a Coke”, that’s why !”

“Oh, yes, I see.” Eddi was less cocky now. ”In fairness, it did seem funny at the time.”

Jake wasn’t laughing…..

Author: paul

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