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Further Education
by Roger Pattison

It was recommended by a friend. Well, I thought he was a friend.

“OU is the way to go” said my friend. His name was Abacus Brainstorm. No, really.

And I thought, with a name like that, he was bound to know what he was talking about. But his name bore a similar relationship to reality as does the toothpaste tube that tells you it protects your teeth from plaque, cavities, discolouration; enables gum health, straightens uneven molars, promotes remote mastication of inedible metals; everything except preventing them falling out in fact; which is just what they do as soon as you finish reading the tube. It did take a year or two to get through reading it, after all.

All this gets us to the mini.

Abacus Brainstorm advised when I enquired the whereabouts of this seat of learning, the OU, that it was in an open space; somewhere. I should have been at least suspicious, but then again, I was looking for further education and if I knew everything already there would be little point. Would there?

I thought, for about the length of time it takes for an amoeba to get fed up, that he had gone French. It was the ‘ou!’ that did it. But no, it was just a piece of advice; in the same vein that ‘go jump off a cliff’ is excellent advice to anyone wanting a breath of fresh air. The same piece of advice can be either dangerous or great fun, depending on which side of it you happen to be standing.

He lent me his mini to get to the Open University.

Quite apart from having no road tax, insurance; or paint, particularly, I also found it wanting in the brakes department. This was an invaluable exercise in further education in itself. I found out that you never know when brakes aren’t working until you need to stop. By which time it’s too late to bother. We could say that for a lot of things of course. Take swimming for instance. If you never went near water you would never know that you can’t swim.

Anyway, I found a flat route to the nearest open space and watched it sail past my driver’s side window as I pumped at the brake pedal. A peaceful sheep watched from the middle of the field while meditating on a bent strand of ryegrass. Meanwhile the mini had ingeniously wrapped itself round a lamppost, and surprised me as to how suddenly one of those things can stop. This might have been useful for my Open University Entrance Exam, which I decided there and then to take up with the Principle of the Open University; who was obviously the sheep, as there was nobody else there. 

Having questioned the sheep extensively, with little response other than for it to wander around seeking interesting bits of grass, I suddenly realised that it might only speak sheep. So I decided to try a few phrases in sheep.

“How are you today?” I asked. According to my sheep phrase book that was “Baa?”

Then I noticed that all the phrases in the Open University phrasebook were, “Baa.”

That clinched it. I clearly knew everything already and Abacus Brainstorm was an arsehole.