Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Back to College

When I was a teenager, I knew everything. Twenty years later, I have many doubts. If things carry on this way, by the time I am seventy, I could be as wise as Socrates: who was certain only that he didn't know anything. 

With this in mind, it may seem odd that I have been made a mentor to the office apprentice - surely it should be the other way around? In order to become a mentor, I had to complete a short course at the local further education college.

Further education colleges have changed a bit since my day. Between 1996 and 2003, I spent a happy few years dropping in to (and out of) the colleges of Dorset and south Somerset, studying a plethora of subjects and making some good friends. The biggest change was the banks of computers everywhere and the rigorous signing in programme. I thought of the leftist anarchists that used to wander on to campus in Yeovil College for a debate, they wouldn't get very far at this establishment.

After my identity had been sufficiently verified and a VISITOR lanyard strung around my neck, I was shepherded into a glass box where another half dozen or so mentors were waiting. The glass box was to screen out the noise of the computers that filled the rest of the room. 

In time-honoured tradition, we had to wait while a technician was found to fix the link between the laptop and the electronic whiteboard. There was some uneasy ice-breaking introductory remarks. We had to say our names and what we hoped to get out of the course - "an afternoon off work" was probably the truthful answer in most cases.

I managed to alienate myself early on by making a joke that relied on knowledge of the Odyssey. The lecturer was explaining that the term 'mentor' comes from the tutor that Odysseus left in charge of his son when he went to fight in the Trojan war.

"...and we all know how it ended for Telemachus!" I quipped.

But nobody did.

So I had to explain that, upon Odysseus's return, father and son set about slaughtering all the men in the palace that have come there to court Penelope (who in fairness to them, has been essentially single for 20 years).

I kept quiet after that.
Couldn't find my copy of the Odyssey. So this'll have to do.


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