Friday, 17 January 2014

Ferreting Away

I work at a university.  In Finance. 

But wait, I hear you cry, didn’t you get your degree in Classics?  Well, yes, thank you for bringing that up, I did in fact, get my degree in Classics, which, you will probably be surprised to hear, features very heavily in the work I do.  I bet, for instance, that you didn’t know that the Romans invented spreadsheets.  Well, you may not have known that because it is not entirely true, but you were willing to go along with me for a bit there weren’t you?  No, oh well, can’t win them all.  In reality my work has absolutely nothing to do with Classics, and a lot to do with spreadsheets full of numbers. What is true is that the cardinal truth about working at a university is that you must never underestimate the students.  Every now and then they will stun you by doing something that you never expected.  Today was such a day, twice.

Our department is in the same large office as the team who are responsible for administering the exams for the university, they deal with everything from room booking to cheaters, but today was something special.  I caught wind of something going on at their end of the office when I heard a peal of laughter.  This was followed by the sound of someone expressing great astonishment.  It transpired that a student had had the bright idea of bringing their 8 month old child into an exam with them (bet you thought this would be totally off topic for the rest of the blog didn’t you?  Well I managed to sneak a baby in there, just didn’t happen to be my own.) This was bizarre enough and leads to all sorts of questions, which I asked at the next opportunity.  Noone really knew what this student had been thinking or how they expected to get away with it.  But this wasn’t the end.  In the course of my investigation into the baby incident it transpired that an even stranger thing had happened the day before. 

Picture the scene, you are invigilating an exam.  Students have obediently placed their bags down at one end of the room and are sat working away at some exam.  You don’t really care what it is and are daydreaming about your next holiday when suddenly you hear a scuffling sound from behind you.  You glance over your shoulder to spy one of the bags appearing to jiggle.  Surely not you think and turn round again to watch the students.  Only the noise happens again, so this time you turn all the way round and stare at the bag until you have convinced yourself that it is definitely moving.  What do you do?  Clearly a student isn’t using the bag to cheat as it is safely with all the others, only it seems to be attempting a bid for freedom and no bags have ever tried that before.  Steeling yourself you cautiously approach the bag and quietly unzip the top only for the furry face of a ferret to peer back out at you.  Now I’m sure that ferrets are great pets, I would be surprised however if they made great exam partners, or even revision buddies.  How much really can you expect a ferret to remember about the Spanish inquisition or the molecular structure of a lentil?  Perhaps I underestimate them?  Anyway, this was a little off piste for the blog but it tickled me enough to wish to share it, and remember students may look unruly and like they may not be in control of all their faculties, let alone their limbs, but they will never fail to amaze you.


  1. Now Matt, I really love your blog but I cannot cope with this on/off love affair for much longer. Please tell me it is here to stay!

    1. Thank you very much. It is terrible isn't it? I am trying to make more words happen here on a more regular basis, although a proper schedule will probably elude me for a little while yet.