Both Magical and Maniacal

Life is sweetness wrapped in bile. It’s the fruit from the tree that, once bitten, first assaults the taste; those first few moments of regret and dismay. The tongue takes some accustoming to such unwanted shocks and the mind has to readjust to the realisation that all encounters may taste this way.

There is probably the silent vow never to try again.

But, after finite moments, the bitter gives way to the sweet and deliciously surprising. A memory is pushed to the surface that reminds you that it was always this way, always thus.

Within every experience there is bitter and sweet. We would be wrong to imagine that they are separated by time or any other divide that we wish to construct to organise our understanding. The polar ecstasies of unreasonably unpleasant and unrestrained joy are part of the same moment.

Yesterday I was allowed an insight into how this works with two people, separated by four decades.

Both came to see me; one out of the blue and one only just announced. The only just needed me to explain myself and my teaching. She is one of those odiously annoying types who wishes to build herself up in the eyes of others and herself.

She asked me about schemes of work; this to a man who does not plan for the weekend. She wrinkled her nose at my reply that I didn’t use them. She asked me another twice and still my answer was the same. She wrinkled her nose some more so that most of her face appeared to disappear into it.

“I’m confused,”she said.


I wanted to help her (dramatic irony).

“How can you teach without schemes of work?”

“I don’t know. I just do.”

“But surely, you wouldn’t know what you were doing.”

“I do. Perhaps that’s the trick. I remember,” I said, pointing to my head.

She shook hers and I smiled. Her face disappeared some more into the black hole left by her infinitely wrinkling nose. I thought about the Wizard of Oz and the woman from the east.

“All very confusing,” she attempted to summarise.

“Yes, unless you’re not confused,” I summarised.

She got up to leave, preceded by her tutting.

Once she had gone, safely gone, I went to the door of my classroom. Outside stood one of the brightest and nicest students that I have taught. She had a shiny blue present bag and a smile.

“I just wanted to thank you, Mike, for everything you done for us.”

The bile had been banished by the beautiful taste of appreciation.

Inside her present bag was a card that said that I had been a brilliant lecturer, who had managed to save her grades, and a novel by James Joyce, Finnegans Wake. He would ahve liked that.

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