Thursday, January 07, 2016


I am somewhat distressed to discover that the best part (and I mean the best part) of half a century after I left school, my attitude to learning remains that of a silly adolescent.

I turned on the electric television to watch a new documentary featuring the splendid Lucy Worsley.

Here is what I learned.

She has a silly walk, accentuated by her practice of wearing heels that treble her height. Her television programmes, historical in subject, feature long sequences of her demonstrating her silly walks in various locations loosely associated with the subject of her lecture, having failed to find footage of the battle of Poltava on Youtube.

She also has a somewhat distracting speech defect that causes me to wonder whether she appears in my family tree. The subject of this new series therefore appears to be the Wule of the Woyal Womanovs in Wussia, and featured sections in which webels wushed up the staircase and another wevolt was wuthlessly cwushed. The only things that stood out, if you will pardon the expression, were the large lump on the side of the nose of one of her collaborators, and the huge teeth of another (another collaborator, not another nose, do keep up, there were no people in the programme with multiple probosces).

I doubt whether what I learned would be sufficient to get me a decent grade at A Level even in these post-Gove times of academic inconsequence.

Little has changed, then, since the endless hours writing notes while Mr Yarnell did his best to instil some sort of enthusiasm in his captives. Ms Worsley has all of the advantages of multimedia materials in her attempts to educate us, but I doubt whether holiday footage of Mr Yarnell prancing round Flodden Field would have caused me to retain more data than is the case.

This vindicates the view of some chap (don’t be so damned silly, of course I don’t remember who it was) who said “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to retake the exams in November”.