Day 54

Social Distancing

That was a good laugh. I always enjoy a wee trip down to Mexico. It’s good for the soul, like playing with children. And, given that my business south of the border down Mexico way involved a series of meetings with Mr Joe Mc U-turn, in very many ways it was exactly like playing with children.

[You’re back! – Ed.] (Your nose – me)

Of course I had to use the usual get-out-of-jail-free card at the Garda checkpoints. I mean, I wouldn’t mind telling them the purpose of my journey if it was any of their business, but as policemen in general have very little interest in educational matters, and little or no aptitude therein, it would have been a waste of my time explaining to them the purpose of my essential journey. So I just started speaking Irish at them. As with Christian Brothers at school who were linguistically-challenged, Gardaí get embarrassed if it becomes obvious that they have not the faintest clue what you are saying in the first language of the state they are – supposedly – guarding, so they just try to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible to hide their ignorance and wave you on your way. This trick got me out of a few dodgy situations when I was at school, and basically gave me a free road down to government buildings from the hacienda. Must remember to stick in the mileage expenses form, and root out that receipt for the lunch in the K-Club. And the other one in that really exclusive restaurant which does not even have a name it is so exclusive.

[But, you’re back! – Ed.] (Look, what is wrong with you? You keep on stating the obvious. Is this a new peccadillo of yours? – me.) [But, can you explain where you’ve been? – Ed.] (What do you think I’m doing when I’m not being interrupted by you? Can we take this out of the brackets into the real world? – me.) [You know my problem with that; I need the brackets as a sort of shield between me and hoi polloi; I can’t stand the idea of dealing with the great unwashed face-to-face, and no editor should have to, anyway – that’s what sub-editors are for – Ed.] (Well, I’m taking the brackets off here: you just keep quiet and listen – you might learn something – me.] [… – Ed.]

So, yeah, yer man BracketsHead probably thinks I read this blog when I’m not typing it off the top of my head. But, as loyal readers will know, I do not even read it when I’m typing it off the top of my head. So I have no idea what was going on here during my time dealing with the examinations crisis in Mexico. But as for this idea that I was ‘away’ … I was still virtually present down there below the line in comments, so BracketsHead did not really look that hard if he was under the impression I was not available for selection, or something.

I first wrote to the Minster of Education for Mexico on 16 March, 2020, questioning his statements that the Leaving Certificate examinations would go ahead this academic year. (Proof of this correspondence is available on request, through the usual channels.) By the way, it is well past time for some jurisdiction somewhere to adopt my strategy of aligning the academic year with the calendar year. Think about the advantages for a minute. Finished? That was never a minute. Try again …

… that was better, So, you’ve got it now? With the academic year aligned to the calendar year, you do not have poor wee students stuck in their rooms studying for end-of-year examinations during what is laughingly called Summer here. Instead, they can make full use of the two or three dry days we are usually guaranteed during the monsoon Summer months, beak off school up to the Hatchet Field or somewhere, drink cider, light a gorse fire and generally act like irresponsible youth the way they are meant to. Under my system, end-of-year exams take place during the dark, boring, dreary days of December – the days of December BEFORE the real Christmas season begins, which is the weekend before the 25th, and not mid-October, by the way – and are out of the way by the time the annual religio-consumer fest comes around. Ipso facto, everybody happy, especially those teachers who do their marking of the examination papers before they marinate themselves in alcohol for a fortnight in an attempt to forget about the details of their sad lives.

At the emergency COBRA meeting involving just me, Joe McHugh, TD, the Permanent Secretary of the Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna and a captive audience of around 231 invited uncivil servants there to gasp in wonder and awe at the fineness and clarity of the workings of my mind, there was quite a funny exchange. At one stage, Big Joe said, “Maybe we should just ask you to take over the running of the whole department?” He then paused for what he thought would be an appreciative laugh from his Permanent Secretary. But, instead, there was only a pause from that corner of the triangular table I had specifically requested for the meeting in the sumptuously well-appointed room in government building reserved for my consultative meetings with the Mexicans. Eventually, the Permanent Secretary delicately cleared her throat and said, “Actually, Minister, that’s not the worst idea you’ve had in the past two months.”

Wee Joe nearly choked on his croissant. Me and the Permanent Secretary exchanged a glance, I made a writing gesture with my non-Spanish hand indicating to her that she should tell the Gayshock to amend the Emergency Legislation accordingly, then gathered my papers and left the room to a standing ovation from the assembled uncivil servants.

I spent the rest of the week in my rooms in The Alex, answering occasional phone calls for clarification from the Permanent Secretary and finally signing off the arrangements to cancel the Leaving Certificate late on Thursday night before sending wee Joe out like a lamb to the slaughter last Friday. Tchí Dia é, ach, ar a laghad, ní eisean atá i gceannas ar chúrsaí oideachais níos mó.



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