Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Exploring English Revisited

Are you one of those people who subscribes to the unlikely notion that schooldays were the happiest days of your life?  If so, your life must have turned out very badly indeed.

I have to admit that I harbour some fond memories of schooldays, though.  Namely ones spent on the mitch –  or playing truant, as Dennis the Menace and friends called it in the comics.

School was awful.  Being threatened, battered and browbeaten every day by bullies bigger than you.  They called themselves teachers.  

How some of these ignorant gobshites ever got near a classroom, in adult life, is a scandal.  Some came through the religious orders, some were mutton-headed Gaelic zealots who appeared little qualified in anything else.  Others were just plain incompetent.

English was OK though – one of the few subjects in which you were encouraged to think for yourself.  The Inter Cert syllabus featured the Exploring English trio of schoolbooks, compiled by Augustine Martin: short stories, prose and poetry.  

They were pretty good reads, and believe me, such an assertion is not coloured by time-tainted nostalgia on my part.  Even if, looking back, the omission of something from Joyce’s “Dubliners”– Araby,  for instance, jars a little.  Maybe it was that mention of a petticoat?

I loved to read Exploring English on my own time – admittedly, the stories I liked rather than the ones the teacher thought might come up in the exams.  In fairness, most of them were pretty good anyway.

The Exploring English series was re-issued for adult consumption a year or two back, and – much to the other half’s surprise – I got a copy from Eason’s last Saturday.  My original copy had long been consumed by the damp and mould of the Georgian childhood abode, complete with its very own bare stairs.

 There is something decidedly weird about reading stuff you last perused when you were sixteen or so.  Fundamentally, your impressions and understanding are much the same – but enriched and confirmed by having been around that “little” bit longer.  There have to be some advantages to it, after all.

Well worth a read, even if you didn’t do so first time round.

Back to Gombeen Nation main page


poneyboy said...

Are you kidding me GM - I was only recounting the joy of this tome to Mrs or should I say Madam Poneygarcon (seeing as how we're in the Hexagon right now) the other day following a txt from my brother to tell me that Hoppy had died. Hoppy or Fr Cassidy (you do the math on this one) was one fucking awesome English teacher and just about made up for all the other dog collared pricks at that Co Galway secondary school with their various implements and methods of torture. BUT SOFT we are not here to decry Francis's mob but to celebrate Gus Martin and one great book which I have re-read over the years and thoroughly enjoyed and as you say - through the more mature eyes. So many great stories - actually thought Araby was amongst them. In the Somme area and visiting the war graves - Dulce et decorum est MY ARSE.
Big love to all Gnats

The Gombeen Man said...

That's gas, PB. Great minds, and all that ;-)

RIP Hoppy Cassidy (and I've a sympathy for Cassidys!). His kind were few and far between.

You might remember Sassoon's "Base Details" from EE3, being where you are. Used to like this one.

If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I’d live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You’d see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the Roll of Honour. ‘Poor young chap,’
I’d say—‘I used to know his father well.
Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap.’
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I’d toddle safely home and die—in bed.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this? https://www.facebook.com/RevolutionIreland/posts/552813654770968

DC3 said...

GM know what's ironic, not your interesting book from an Irish educational nightmare, but when individuals look back in years to come, of the sad economic and "social" times in which we live, they will see the most mundane items associated with it as "cherished" heirlooms. The human condition...

Anon, that's painfully sad. That shows individual human dignity in an extreme place. Where is civilisation when you need it?...

See the juxtaposition, Bankers Bonuses and nobody (Ah, shall we say "really"?) cares, and good people on the breadline. Emmm savour the thoughts of celebrating 1916? Give me the UK anytime.

The best always suffered the most in Ireland...Problem is, Anon, it's no longer a NATION it's, now, a CORPORATION, and the population either dosile leery cretins or self deluded "intellectuals"...

With any chance of GENUINE CONCEPTUAL CHANGE, GONE; it's just that you are going to be paying ever increasing amounts for the privilege of taking ever increasing pain. While being told simultaneously that the amounts are fair, and the pain is largely imaginary. The Irish condition...

The Gombeen Man said...

True enough DC3. It was economially grim around the time I was sitting in the classroom, way back when. I suppose, as in Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" - his recollections of Auschwitz - we'll cling to what we can to keep us sane/alive.

Anon's link is all the more poignant in the light of a quick glance at today's property section in The Irish Times, where asking prices of 2.5 and 3 million Euro are still to be seen. In an economically (and morally and intellectually ) bankrupt country.

Wait till the market becomes flooded with belated buy-to-let repossessions.

DC3 said...

Dulce et decorum et pro patria mori.

Hibernium said...

GM, I share your same nostalgia for the old English syllabus. It was quite good. I just saw the film of the Great Gatsby, and it brought back many memories from over 3 decades ago when we read the novel. Of course, the English syllabus was a joy compared to the unadulterated bullshit that was the Gaeilge syllabus. I doubt if anyone would ever republish that, except perhaps as a joke or Halloween item to frighten ex-Gaeilge students. If you know the Great Gatsby you will remember the Valley of Ashes, a bleak dump between New York and West Egg. It could be a metaphor for the atmosphere in Gaeilge class.

The Gombeen Man said...

Thanks for that Hibernium.

I didn't read The Great Gatsby - I think we had a choice and I took Animal Farm (read in one evening, so ended up going to bed with farmyard animals on my mind. Something that might be considered to have negative connotations now).

I'll have a read of The Great Gatsby so... Could do with a good buke at the mo'.