Day 17: This Madness Mr C!

Out of the cradle endlessly rocking, Out of the mocking-bird's throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the Ninth -month midnight,
Over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond, where the child, leaving his bed, wander'd alone, bare-headed, barefoot, 
From Out Of The Cradle Endlessly Rocking by Walt Whitman. He was born May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892 and was an American poet, essayist, and journalist 

Day 17 This is Madness. Or maybe a Catch-22 situation, Mr C? My time as a Mature Student in 2007

While I’m cooking, I like to be read to by some famous people and sometimes not so famous.  It’s okay. I know that sounds crazy, but hey, I’m talking about madness here. No seriously, I enjoy listening to audio books, while I’m busy in the kitchen or doing housework.

By listening to audiobooks, I hoped to learn what I must hear when I read my own work aloud as I edit. Hearing how the words sound as well as their rhythm, and where the reader is placing the emphasis as they read. I’m hoping to learn how to construct emotions and feelings into my own work, as well as it helps me to know what sounds good and what doesn’t.

When I read a book, I can see the patterns of the words, how the pages are set out, where the changes in the storyline and chapters occurs. I can see how the author has constructed the sentences, where they have placed the punctuation, how the plot moves along, and the pace of the book.

At the moment, I’m reading James Herbert’s book ‘Others’ and listening to Joseph Heller’s novel ‘Catch-22’. Catch-22 is one of two books I believe I should read before I die, but if like me you find cult books and, for that matter, cult films very hard to understand, then try listening to someone else reading it.

Many years ago, I tried to read Catch-22 but gave up. Now listening to the audio tape of the book while making homemade bread this morning, I found I understood it.  Why this is, I don’t know. Maybe, that in itself is a bit of a Catch-22 situation.  Whether it is because I’m older and hopefully much wiser, or maybe it’s because I understand the madness of war a lot clearer now.  Who’s to say?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Talking about madness, I shall tell you about my evening class. This week was our first class after the Easter break. When I arrived, I saw Motorbike Dave sitting on the wall while chatted on his phone.  So I went and stood by our classroom door. After about five minutes, Motorbike Dave joined me.

He told me he had seen Ms 40’Something arriving. I asked him if he had done any reading or writing over the holiday. He laughed. “Nope, too busy working on my bike.”

I truly wondered why he comes along to classes.

Soon Ms 40’s joined us. As we stood waiting, we began to wonder if Mr C had also deserted us. Ms 40’s said that maybe he’d forgotten to come back from France. We decided to ask one of the other teachers if they knew whether Mr C would be taking our class. They told us to go and ask at the main reception. As we set off Mr C came round the corner. He said he hoped we weren’t deserting him.

Once we were settled in our classroom, Ms 40’s explained she didn’t have her folder as it was locked in the boot of her car and couldn’t get it out because of the central locking system had jammed. When I took some pages out of my notebook for Ms 40’s to write on, Mr C threw me a very strange look, with wide eyes and open mouth.
“Sorry, but I thought this was an English class,” I said passing her the writing paper.
“No, not that?” He said pointing at my desk, “what is it?”
“This? It’s just a short story I’m working on.”
“Oh, I suppose you want me to look at it?”
“It’s ok; you’ve already seen it. I’ve done some work on it because I want to send it off for a competition.
After he had given us his customary work sheets and read them to us in his usual dismissive tone, he then went off to print up some more for us to work on while he set up the computers. Once we had also finished the new worksheets too, he explained what he wanted us to do on the computers.

He told Ms 40’s that he thought she should try level 2 of the test.  Then he told Motorbike Dave he had given him a different test, as he wasn’t ready to work on the same level as the rest of us. Motorbike Dave worked with the classroom assistant, because he needed one to one help with both reading and writing.

Ms 40’s ask once again when we would be having our English test as her math was on Tuesday. Mr C skirted around the question and mumbled an answer. Ms 40’s unperturbed said, “You said something about it being at the end of July.”
“No, it’s sometime in June, anyway, have a go at this test and see how you get on with it.”
He turned to me and said he would look at my short story while the class was working on the computer.  By now, I really couldn’t care less whether he read my homework or not. I went over to the computer and started to work on the test.

The test involved reading some paragraphs and then answering multi-choice questions. All you had to do is make a choice from A to D then click on the answer, which you thought was the right one. If you weren’t quite sure, you could take a stab at it. There was no writing involved, even the question on spelling didn’t involve typing in words. You just had to guess out of four answers, which was the correct spelling. The question on things like punctuation and grammar were the same. I got 29 questions right out of 40 the computer told me that 27 out of 40 right answers was a pass. The program allowed you to go back and see where you had gone wrong and which one was the right answers.

When Mr C checked how we were doing he found Ms 40’s was working on level one instead of level two, so as there was some time left she went on to try level 2. I then had a go at the next test on the same level, but we ran out of time and the class ended. Mr C said we could save our places on the test until next week.
Ms 40’s said, was it ok if she finished the test as she had only nine questions to go.

I went back to my desk to pack away my things and couldn’t find my short story. Mr C told me he had it. “I’ve read this one before.”

“Yes, you have,” I said explaining I had made some changes. He asked me if I had got rid of the ending as he had told me to do when he had read it the first time.
“No, I hadn’t.” I pulled up a chair as he went through it with his red pen.

Let me explain dear reader, what my story is about; a man has arrived at his local library with his overdue library books and is being given a dressing down by the librarian.
Mr C told me what he thought I should do to improve my story. “You should describe the setting more.”

Excerpt from my short story: Shelved (now published in my collection of short stories, Days Pass like A Shadow.)
“But because of the likes of you,” There was that accusing finger again. “Who don’t return them when they should; I have to put up with all sorts of bad behaviour and flaring tempers.”

Mr C said I should change it:
‘There was that accusing finger again’ to ‘He pointed an accusing finger again.’

I said, but wasn’t that changing it from showing to telling the reader. Just the same as if I went into details about what the library looked like, instead of concentrating on my two characters. After all most people know what a library looks like. I would have thought this would weaken the storyline as well as pushing it over the maximum word count.

Soon Ms 40’s had finished her test and told us she had the same score as me. Mr C said maybe she could work on the test in next week’s lesson.

“Oh no it’s all right,” she said with a grin. “I have the disc at home the teacher Ann had given me a copy so I could practice.”

I sat there open mouthed. No wonder Mr C wasn’t bothered about teaching us in class.  The college was handing out a disc to allow the students to practice answering the questions. That way the college got higher pass rates, and then more money from the government. The government, in turn, could tell the news media it had increased the standard of adult education in the country.  But in truth the students in my adult class were being given discs to pass the test without learning anything. A Catch-22 situation?

“Catch-22 said, that if Yossarian were crazy, he wouldn’t have to fly any more dangerous combat mission. But since he’s sane enough to know he was crazy to keep on flying them, then he wasn’t crazy, and so he would have to continue flying.

That’s the Catch-22.

Photo by Kat Jayne on

Madness, isn’t it?

3 thoughts on “Day 17: This Madness Mr C!

Add yours

  1. Just a quick note, Paula. I remember reading Catch-22 in 1968 and it had aprofoubdly positive effect on me. I wonder what I’d feel about it if I read it these days? I’d hope I’d still like it as much.


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